Polarize – 10.6

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“You threatened her and she forced your hand?  This is why you can’t play games with dangerous lunatics,” I said.

“I can.  It’s doable,” Tattletale answered me, leaning back in her seat, sticking her tongue into her cheek so it poked out.  “Doesn’t always work out.”

“The issue is when others suffer because of the games you’re playing,” I said.

“Here we go.  Sanctimonious heroes being sanctimonious,” she said.  She rolled her head back, heaving out a sigh.

“I’m not arguing for morals, Tattletale.  I’m arguing for sanity.”

“Yeah.  That’s overrated too.”

Was it possible to respect the fact that she’d been capable enough to take over and keep a city, and yet have zero respect for her as a person?

I knew she prioritized sanity – or she prioritized stability.  She’d gone into laborious depth about how she was working to those ends when we’d first met in New Brockton.  But now, because she was hurt or because she was petty, she shrugged it off and pretended it didn’t matter.  Tongue in cheek, joking, but still so tone-deaf.

“What else do we need to know?” Rain asked, stepping up because I hadn’t followed up.  A small part of me had been content to let the awkward comment hang.

Tattletale sat up straighter.  She saw her henchman coming, carrying a tiny paper cup like the sort used for ketchup in fast food places and a regular paper cup for water.  She took both, drawing out the pause before she gave her response.  “You, Precipice, need to make a decision when it comes to March.”

“I picked up on that.”

“I’ve had to deal with her more than a few times, because that’s the price of having Foil with us.  As a professional she is efficient, dangerous, and dramatic.  She’ll almost always be in the right position, she’ll almost always hit, and she’ll almost always kill whatever she hits, provided she wants to.  Her underlings support her well.  She combines that professional effectiveness with being petty, unhinged, and lopsided in her focus in non-professional things, and lets the two things bleed into each other.”

Gee, I wonder what it would be like to talk to someone like that, Tattletale, I thought.  There might have been something in the look I gave Tattletale, because she rolled her eyes slightly.

“Unhinged in person, still dangerous,” Rain said.

“I’ve had to deal with some incredible pains in the ass in the course of my villainous career,” Tattletale said.  “Some were on my team.  March?  She ranks up there.  Trust that I know what I’m talking about when I’m telling you this stuff.”

“Sure,” Rain said.

“My advice?  The thing you need to know?  If I were in your shoes, with the same relationship to that bunny-eared train wreck, I’d suck it up, say goodbye to your little team of damaged, overzealous heroes, and join March’s group.”

“No way, that doesn’t make any sense at all,” Lookout said.

“It really doesn’t,” Rain said.

She doesn’t make sense.  She’s this fixated on Foil, and Foil has barely interacted with her.  She actually did you a huge favor, Precipice, getting involved when she did, providing sanctuary, and saving you from the Mathers witch.  You owe her and if you give her an excuse, throwing that debt you owe in her face and ignoring her?  You will become her focus.”

“Is this your power talking or is it just you?” I asked Tattletale.

“Both.  It’s always both, and anyone who tells you it’s one or the other is lying to your face.  The powers always tie in.”

“If everything you’re saying is true, it seems like it’d be more dangerous to stick with her,” Rain said.

I respected the ‘if everything you’re saying is true’ part.  It showed he wasn’t getting sucked into Tattletale’s vortex.

“Hon, she hunted down and recruited the Graeae twins for a Foil-related reason.  I’m certain of that.  Let your imagination run wild as to why.  Think of the most sketchy of the ‘kiss’ applications of that power, I’m sure Victoria can come up with something if your imagination fails you.  Then think of the most sketchy ‘kill’ application.  Start with how she can functionally keep Foil alive forever.  Then combine the two ideas.  That’s when she likes Foil.  If you cross her, Precipice, then she won’t like you.”

Victoria can help you come up with something.  The words went past barbed to being something else.  Bitter, even monstrously ugly if I considered that she’d been there when I’d been eaten alive by acid, and she knew what had happened after.  She hadn’t been able to resist getting the dig in, for cleverness’s sake.

Chris had been the same, when I’d first met him.  Jessica had warned him.

No wonder that she was alone at a time she was this hurt.  There was no friend at her side to make sure she was okay or to get her her medications.

Dwelling on that was easier than dwelling on the words themselves.  Things were just a little bit less ‘turn around and she could be there’ than they had been in recent weeks, but nothing was fixed.

Rain leaned back- he was still at the foot of the long staircase to the high-ceilinged basement area, and leaning back meant resting his tailbone against the end of the post that was the railing.  He didn’t talk, and with his mask on, his expression was hard to read.

“I can’t help but feel you have ulterior motives for approaching this this way,” I said.  “What was it you said about having multiple reasons for everything you do?  That’s how you have to operate at your level, isn’t it?”

“It would be, but maybe I’m not in charge of New Brockton while March is on the warpath, and maybe I’m operating on two fewer cylinders.”

Her hands gently touched her knees, indicating the injured legs.

“‘Maybe’ is such a weak word, and you used it twice,” Swansong said.  “Be straight with us.”

“I’m being remarkably straight, considering you came here of your own accord and possibly led March to me – we’re going to find out soon,” she said.  She winced.  “I should have asked for more pain meds.  I did have multiple motives, yes.  I’ll be straight: when you do what I do, you end up playing games of chess with other masterminds, and that’s its own thing, but you also end up playing five simultaneous games of chess with lesser players.  March doing what she’s doing has forced me to stand up and take my eyes off the boards.  If you want to be on top of this, you need to be on top of that.”

“Watching chessboards?” Swansong asked.

“No.  The moment I had to stand up and walk away, they got to make their moves, knowing I couldn’t respond.  Big plans can unravel.”

“Your plans,” I said.  “You’ll have to give us more details if we’re supposed to think that your plans are our priority.”

“Ashley knows how a sudden void in the criminal structure can shift the landscape.  If I’m not there to supply key information or resources, then others will.  People will move into New Brockton, and they won’t be as nice as I am.  Other people are going to move outward.  This will have ripple effects, and when a city is held together with yellow duct tape, ripples can rip.”

“You want to use us to protect your position?” I asked.

Tattletale sighed loudly.  “I didn’t invite you to come here.  If you want my opinion, you want to use yourselves to protect my position.  You want to protect the status quo, keep things sane, as you put it.  You brought up how I aimed to do multiple things at once.  Apply that to yourselves.”

“You think we aren’t?” Swansong asked.

“We’re in the middle of other things, and this plays into it,” I said.

“I know what you’re in the middle of, and you know I know.  You’re organizing the heroes, sharing information, making sure that the city still has a way to deal with the real threats, when thrown-together prisons don’t have what it takes.  How well do you think that’s going to go over when you take the initial steps and then the crime rate jumps three hundred percent?”

“And clearly the answer is to throw our lot in with yours and help you,” I said.

Tattletale put both hands on the seat, lifting up her upper body a fraction so she could adjust how her ass rested on the seat’s surface, her face momentarily screwing up.  She eased herself back down.  “Clearly it’s going to happen whether you help me or not.  But if you work with me on this, then I’ll point you in the right direction, so you can work against the ripples.  You can get ahead of this problem.”

“And we finally see what she’s after,” I murmured, keeping my voice barely audible.

“It’s not the worst deal in the world,” Sveta murmured back.  “It’s sharing info, which we wanted.  And we know she’s good.”

“It’s sharing select info,” I kept my voice quiet.  “If a police chief has his officers focus on majority-black neighborhoods, those officers end up acting in support of someone else’s bias.  If we target specific criminals that Tattletale points out for us, what does that mean?”

“It means we get some easy catches,” Rain whispered.  “We’re not locking ourselves into anything.”

“It’s not that simple or easy,” I murmured.  At a normal, louder volume, I addressed Tattletale, “It can’t be you listing them one by one and us picking them off.  You give us the information, we decide what to do with it.”

“It’ll take me a bit to pull together.  I can do that, with one caveat.”

“Caveat?” I asked.

“What does Caveat mean?” Lookout whispered Ashley.

“Stipulation.”

“Rule?” Lookout whispered.

“It’s a condition, a drawback,” Tattletale said.  “I’m going to give you that full list, that’s fine.  Known locations, associations, some details on powers.  You’ll have it as soon as I’ve finished typing, and you can distribute it to your team.  But.”

She placed emphasis on the ‘but’.

“The caveat,” I said.

“I’m going to give you all one very strong suggestion for who you specifically go after first.  Take it as motivated or me serving my interests if you want.  You can think it over for the next few days, ask a thinker to double check, whatever, you’ll find it really isn’t.  It’s just sensible.”

“Who?” I asked.

“Love Lost.”

Why?” Ashley asked.

“Because if March tells Cradle the quote-unquote ‘secret’ to taking over the cluster, Cradle has two options.  One is to go after Precipice, who is expecting it, with an organized group at his back. The other is to eliminate Love Lost and co-opt that power.”

“She has a team at her back,” Ashley said.

“Disorganized and reveling in that disorganization.  And Cradle can get close enough to bypass that team and stab her in the back.  Her team is also violent and swiftly rising to the top of the public’s most wanted list.  They’re just high profile enough to grab attention, they’re striking from a visual standpoint, they’re noisy, they cause property damage, and they’re vaguely reminiscent of the old Slaughterhouse Nine.  People want them gone.”

“And getting them gone wins us points with the people?” Byron asked.

Tattletale shrugged.

“What’s the secret?” Rain asked.  “You said you told people.  How are the Lady in Blue and March breaking the balance of their clusters?”

Tattletale smiled.  “I could ask for a favor or payment for this information.”

“I’m going to find out somehow,” Rain said.

“You might find out because Cradle or Love Lost use it on you.  Knowing helps you to avoid it.”

“Tattletale,” I said.  “If we’re helping you by taking out your potential rivals and leaving you alone, you can throw Precipice a bone.”

“When I first met your team, Vicky, I commented on Precipice and how I don’t think he’s a great person.  Cradle is twisted up inside in a way I’d need a whole lot more time to wrap my head around.  Love Lost is an emotional wound so open that the contents pour out to people nearby.  And Snag is dead.  All thanks to him.  Through his inaction, he condemned people to die.  Children died.”

“You act outraged, you have morals, but sufficient money, favors, and-or necessity let you put that outrage and those morals aside?” Sveta asked.  “That doesn’t seem right.”

“Are you trying to convince me not to help him?”

“I had to face down people like that once.  At least have the decency not to act.  Do the victims that much respect,” Sveta said.

“It’s the other way around, Sveta.  Tress.  Garotte.  I am bothered.  I don’t trust him.  I’ve seen his type before.  If I’m going to give a teenager of that particular type access to a whole new level of parahuman power, I need to double check things.”

“Then why ask about money or favors?” Rain asked.

“Cauldron sold vials with powers in them.  They created things like Sveta, Weld, Gregor and Whippersnap on their way to making those vials.  The vials were expensive.  Why, when they had a man like the Number Man working for them?  He could conjure money from thin air.”

She’d named a few of the other case fifty-threes.  I looked- Gregor and Shamrock had long since moved on.  Faultline seemed okay leaving just the mercenaries who were hanging around the area to watch us.

“Why?” Tattletale asked again, for emphasis, her right eyebrow piqued.

“It limited things to the people who really wanted the powers,” Sveta said.

“Yes, but it also ensured that the people who got the powers respected the impact of it.  If your team is willing to pay my price, then I know they’ll walk away from that payment just a bit more mindful.  Every time the pocketbook smarts, you should think of him.”

“How much?” I asked.

Tattletale paused.  Her eyes searched me.  “Not money.  You seem fairly confident you can pay.  That’s interesting.  Do you have a sponsorship?”

“What do you want, Tattletale?”

“I’d ask for access to your information network-”

“No.”

“No,” she said.  She nodded.  “I want a ‘get out of jail free’ card.”

No,” I said.

“Let me clarify.  You have a way of imprisoning the parahumans we all need gone.  ‘Disappearing’ them.  Fine.  Undersiders are exempt.”

“Scared?” Swansong asked.

“Yeah, a bit,” Tattletale said.  “Vicky has a grudge, and I wouldn’t one hundred percent put it past her, in a theoretical future where this worked you streamlined the process, and you had me at a disadvantage.  Frankly, the idea of teenagers being the ones to arrest, judge, and condemn should scare anyone.  And yes- let me interrupt you before you get started or figure out if you’ll say something.  I know you’re not making all those decisions.  I know you have lawyers and you’re talking to the city.  I also know who some of those lawyers are and the kind of people we have running the city right now.”

That last line was punctuated by a serious look Sveta’s way.

I saw Sveta nod slightly.

Tattletale continued, “It’s still scary.  I want exemption for my people.  If we help you here, you don’t do that to us.”

“We don’t do it to you?” I asked.  I thought for a second.  Most of the Undersiders could go in a regular jail.  In a theoretical universe where the villain team that took over a city was well and truly arrested.  Take Rachel away from her dogs, put Imp in a sealed cell with the right kind of monitoring, put Tattletale in jail and limit her human contact, limit Parian’s access to materials…

I looked at the others.  Byron nodded slightly, then switched out to Tristan, a nod.

“Can’t guarantee that another team won’t push for it,” I said.  “You meet us halfway.  Stay out of the kind of trouble that makes people want to ‘disappear’ you.”

“Okay,” she said.  “You have twins and a clone on your team.  You should know how shards map things out.”

“You’re talking about agents?  And they use DNA.”

“The Corona and the tendril of shard-ness that the shard extends to the person are kind of the real-time location tracking.  It’s as if they’ve got a hand on your shoulder, and if you travel halfway across the world, their hand still on your shoulder, they have an intuitive sense of where you are.  With some exceptions and special cases in there.  But the DNA?  That’s the bar-code for the verification check.”

“I’m supposed to put my DNA inside them?” Rain asked.

I looked at Sveta, who was next to me, raising a hand to draw her attention to the line.  She only nodded solemnly.

“That sounds way more kiss than kill,” Tristan said.

“Huh?” Rain asked.

“I’m pretty sure Rain doesn’t like boys that much,” Lookout said.

“Oh, ugh,” Rain said.  He looked at Tristan.  “Um, not ugh because boy-boy, but because Cradle.”

“I get it.”

“Also, pretty sure Love Lost is twice as old as I am.”

“I can’t believe I got Capricorn’s line before Precipice did,” Lookout said.

Tattletale butted in, “You’re getting ahead of yourselves, little miss precocious especially, you’re about three years too early to be getting that.”

“Two years maybe,” Lookout said.

“Whatever.  Back to the subject at hand.  Step one is confusing the signal,” Tattletale said.  “Location?  Close proximity, for a long period of time.  Think staying within arm’s reach for days, even weeks.  Probably with no interruptions, breaks, or time apart.”

“The Lady in Blue got one member of her cluster back and the transfer was immediate,” I said.

“Signal was already confused.  The means of transferring power were already established.  When shards kick down doors, through second triggers, some trump effects, whatever, the doors never go back to the way they were.”

“So step one is kidnapping someone and keeping them close for a long time,” Rain said.

“I can see why Foil wasn’t interested,” I said.  “Sleeping next to March for a long while?”

Tattletale smiled.  “Step two?  DNA.  When they check their paperwork and see that one person has four different powers, they check the bar-code.  You want them to get the wrong ones and kick down the doors.  The go-to method seems to be a blood transfusion.  That’s if you’re lucky enough to be compatible.  If you’re not, then you can try doing the Bathory thing, go full cannibal, you can try other things to confuse the signal like borrowing skin or other tissues, or you can be patient, and hope the signal confusion occurs without you going that far, though by the time you’ve spent weeks with someone like that, you might be ready to end it and wrap yourself in their skin, bathe in their blood instead.”

“Jesus,” Tristan said.

Tattletale shrugged.  “Helps if you leave the other guy weak as part of what you’re doing.  Means they can’t fight it, they dwindle, and you grow comparably.”

I nodded.

“I don’t think I could do that to them,” Rain said.

“No, probably not,” Tattletale said.  “But they might be willing to do it to you, and now you know what to look out for.”

“Thank you,” Rain said.

“Don’t thank me.  Just don’t throw me in that alternate dimension of yours and lock the door behind you.  And unless there’s something more pressing… let me get my Russian nesting doll back.  These gunshot wounds hurt enough that I’m willing to dilute my existence down and kind of not exist.”

There wasn’t anything more pressing.  We all had food for thought, and we had things to do.  We left her be.

It was like a weight came off my shoulders, leaving an underground meeting with Tattletale, even though it had been a brightly-lit, high-ceilinged base of operations.

The snow was swirling around us, and the air was cold, but it was a refreshing cold.  Below, with heaters going and a winterized costume on, I’d been a touch on the warm side.  Now I was finding a happy middle ground.  I’d probably find myself on the cold side when the light sweat chilled, but for now I was happy enough.

Our breath fogged around us, with Sveta as the exception.

“Gregor had to go somewhere.  Do we have a pen and paper?” Sveta asked.  “I’d like to leave him my contact information.”

“I’ve got some,” Lookout said.  “My scratch pad for tinker ideas.  Give me a second.”

Lookout rummaged and then took dictation.  The others joined me, leaning against a bike rack that wouldn’t see much use for another few months.  Tristan in his Capricorn armor, Rain, and Swansong.

“Deal with the devil,” I said.

“As the resident expert on devils, I don’t think she’s a devil,” Rain said.

“You’re the resident expert on a lot of things,” Tristan said.

“Yeah?  I fucking earned it,” Rain said, without any hostility in his voice.  “And before you get annoyed with me for going easy on her, Victoria-”

“I’m not ann-”

He didn’t stop talking, despite my interruption.  “-I’m also the resident expert on shitty human beings.  And I don’t think she’s a great person.  But she’s trying in her own way.”

“You’re an expert on that too, hm?” Swansong asked.

“I’m- aren’t we all?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “Difference is, I’ve never known her to apologize or acknowledge the things she did.”

Sveta joined us.  Kenzie had run off.

I had my concerns about that- Kenzie ducking out of sight into a hive of villainy and mercenary tendencies.  We’d talked very recently about how tinkers were prime targets for that sort of predation, being used for their powers.

Sveta seemed to notice.  “She ran off as soon as I said I was done, sorry.”

I nodded.

“What do we think?” Sveta asked.

I looked in the direction of the stairwell.  “What she said about the power dynamic?  I can believe most of it.  Location and DNA?  It fits with things we’ve seen before.”

“Things like Byron and Tristan,” Sveta said.  “Proximity.”

“And twins and clones,” Tristan added.  “Same barcode.”

Swansong nodded.

“You said most,” Rain said.

“Who?” Sveta asked.

“Victoria.  She said she could believe most of it.”

“She said the process works best if the person being drained is weakened.  Bled out, skinned…”

“You don’t think so?” Tristan asked.

“I think it makes sense if you don’t think about it.  I also think that powers tend to target the disadvantaged.  Victims.  Trigger events target them.  Second triggers do.  When your power fluctuates because you’re in a mindset aligned to your trigger?  It’s rewarding that mentality.”

“Tattletale misled?” Sveta asked.

“Or she was wrong,” Tristan said.  “How sure are you, Vic?”

I had to think about it.  “Fifty percent.”

“That’s not helpful,” Sveta chided me.  “That’s the opposite of helpful.”

“If we ever find ourselves in a position to consider doing that, we should be aware of the risk.  Weakening one person risks a second trigger, and it might work the opposite way.”

“Great,” Rain said.

“There’s an upside!” Sveta said, encouraging.  “If they get you… you kind of have a chance, whatever they do?”

Rain snorted.

From the stairwell, Lookout emerged.  She had Chicken Little with her, as well as Whippersnap and the lace girl.  I could see the defensive body language in the two case fifty-threes.  Whippersnap folded his arms, while the lace girl stepped a bit behind him.  Her hand found Whippersnap’s.

“…shot a target and all of the smashed-up bullets came out looking like birds,” Chicken Little said.

“That’s crazy.  But you know, that’s a trick of the eye sometimes.  Like when you look at a cloud and it looks like something?  I remember when I was really young, in those good old days when you were automatically friends with whoever was the same age?”

“Yeah,” Chicken Little said.  “I remember those days.”

“Yeah!  So we were pulling bits of concrete away from this ruined wall with cracks running through it, and every single piece had a pattern in the broken side that looked like a face.  That’s the effect I’m talking about.  I experimented with it, when I was working on my cameras.”

“I think I have one of the bullets in my pocket.  It’s sharp so it’s sometimes useful.  Here.”

Chicken Little reached into the front pocket of the coat that had been built into his costume- it had tails at the back like an old fashioned coat, but the tails had a feather-like cut to them, like a bird’s folded wings.  His mask was full-face, with beady black eyes set fairly low, in a way that made the forehead and the crest at the top stand out more.

He produced a bullet, like a soft slug pried out of a wall or floor, or out of a bullet-proof vest.  Sure enough, it had broken up into a shape that looked a hell of a lot like a robin in flight, the splits separating head from wing and wing from tail.

“Oh wow.  That really does look like a bird.”

“So do all the others.  If I catch her going to the range again I’ll see if she can do another.”

“Or other things,” Lookout said.

“Oh yeah!  Like an elephant!  I like elephants.”

“Imagine if you controlled elephants.  That’d be nuts.”

“I couldn’t, though.  They’d get hurt and that would suck.  Aunt Rachel’s dogs get hurt or die a lot and it sucks.”

“Aunt Rachel?”

“Bitch, or Hellhound, but she doesn’t have a secret identity, obviously-”

“Nonono, obviously.  Yes, I know her name and everything, I get it.  I just blanked.”

“Chicken,” Whippersnap said.  “We should let them go.  They’re waiting and they have things to do.”

With eyes that bulged out, each looking like there was too much moisture inside them, to the point they weren’t quite round anymore, he still managed to glare.

“Okay,” Chicken Little said.

“You’re lucky that you have people around your age to hang out with here,” Kenzie said.

“Maybe you could come here and hang out sometime, and-”

There were noises of protest, muted and not, from more than a few corners.  Whippersnap was louder.  Sveta, Ashley and I were at different places on the spectrum of dissuading and the more logical pointing out of issues.

“-or not,” Chicken Little said.

“Security issues,” Whippersnap said.  “And we’ve heard enough about her to know she’s a walking infosec breach.”

I really liked how the young teen was using words like ‘infosec’.  The company we keep.

A bummer, that Kenzie couldn’t meet up with a potential friend.

“Maybe neutral territory,” I said.

Whippersnap’s focus seemed to remain primarily on Sveta.

“What’s your name?”

Swansong, addressing the lace girl.

“Does it matter?” Whippersnap asked.  “What do you care?”

Swansong shrugged.  “I just like the dress.  It’s pretty, and I’m a fan of the style.”

As if to indicate, Swansong’s fingers brushed against her own skirt.  White fabric, like the lace girl seemed to be covered in.  Swansong only had a bit of lace, though.

The lace girl nodded, lips set into a firm line behind her veil.  Her hands looked like they’d been covered in gloves, then had the lace pattern punched in repeatedly, passing through glove and flesh both.  Most of her looked that way, and the parts that didn’t just had extra layers, with only hints of it.

“When a case fifty-three can’t choose their appearance, pointing out even the parts you like about how they ended up can be disconcerting,” Sveta murmured.

“Sorry then,” Swansong said.

“I did make it myself,” the lace girl said.  “Most of it.  Thank you for liking it.  I’m Chantilly.”

“Swansong.”

Chantilly smiled slightly.

Whippersnap shielded her with his body, as if we had guns and she was in danger.  He looked at Chicken.  “Come on.  You should go downstairs.  You’re a target too.  Tilly, let’s go.”

I saw Lookout start to take a step forward, then stop herself, rocking back on her heels.  I put a hand on her shoulder.

“Hold on,” Swansong said.

The trio stopped.

“Do any of you want to share emails, phones?  So you can see about the meeting on neutral ground?”

Chantilly shook her head, quickly.

“I will,” Chicken Little said.

I could see Whippersnap’s active impatience, as Chicken Little wrote down a number or email on Lookout’s scratch pad.

As soon as he was done, he was ushered away along with Chantilly, Whippersnap continuing to be protective, shielding the lace girl from us as if from a physical danger.

“I know your rules say you can’t ask or push contact on people,” Swansong said.

Lookout nodded.  “I wanted to so badly.”

“It’s good you made a friend.  That looked like a good conversation.”

“I didn’t talk too much?  Or say anything weird?”

“Nah,” Tristan said, from the side.  He looked at me.  “We should go.”

I nodded.  “Things to do.”

The snow continued to fall, done its frenzied dance higher above, where our proximity to various portals and the weather they stirred up made the snow travel in wild courses.

“How do you feel about going after your friends?” Tristan asked.

“Friends?” Rain asked.

“Swansong, going after the members of Love Lost.  If that’s what we end up doing.”

“It’ll be nice to see them again.  Nicer to show them what I’m made of.”

“That simple, huh?”

“Not simple, but I like where I am.”

“I like where you are too,” Lookout said.  “And I like that Chantilly liked you too.  The white dress comes with its upsides, huh?”

The conversation continued.  Tristan asking Lookout if she had a map, so we could find her family’s van.  She had a tracking chip inside it.  Because of course.

Tristan swapped out for Byron, because Rain had asked a question, and I heard my name, a ‘Vicky’ tossed into it – a question aimed at Byron.  On answering, Byron swapped out, and Tristan said something about how quick that had been.

My focus was more on Sveta, who was staring off down a side street.

“Sveta,” Tristan said.

“Hm?”

“What do you think?  Love Lost?”

“We can.  We’ve fought a lot of them before.”

“Tonight, you think?  Or do we plan more?”

“I’m fine with whatever.  Weld gets back super late.  Crystal too?”

I nodded.

“It would be nice to tell him we scored a big win.”

“Tonight then,” Tristan said.

“Okay,” Sveta said.  She looked off to the side again.

“See something?” I asked.  I saw the mild surprise on her face.  Before she could answer, I said.  “Come on.  We’ll check it out.  If we’re being followed, it’s important to know.”

“Do you need help?” Swansong asked.

I shook my head.  “Stay put, or go to the van and wait there.  Keep an eye out.”

At the nod, I took Sveta’s hand, and I pulled her along with.  She used her tendrils, reaching out and grabbing things, hauling herself further down the way.

Once she was on a rooftop, she waited for me.

I looked back at the others, who were smaller in this new perspective.

“Come on.  We’ll loop around.”

“I didn’t see anything.”

I brought her along with.  She gripped my arm and in the doing she held my injured hand.

We stopped on another rooftop.

“I thought we could use a break,” I said.  “Get away.”

I saw her expression shift slightly.  The slip, the facade going back up.

“I’m sorry that sucked.  Whippersnap.  Chantilly.”

“I barely knew him.  He was a kid in the group.  But he was supposed to be like a brother to me.  Like how he said brother Gregor.”

I nodded.  “Yeah.”

“He was supposed to be mine, not possessive or anything… but they’re the only family I get and I don’t get to have them.”

The facade slipped away.

“And Chantilly, yeah.”

“Yeah!  Fuck!” Sveta said, angry.

“Fuck,” she said, sad.

I hugged her, and she buried her face in the crook of my neck, mumbling now that she was talking into cloth.  “She wears a white dress and that gets her points with Chantilly, but I’m the outsider?  I’m the odd one out?  What the fuck.”

Yep.  Better that the anger get out now than in a release of bottled-up feelings.  Especially when we were going up against an emotion manipulator.

I had tears in my own eyes, now, just listening.

“And she shows off her hands?  I’m happy for her, I really am, I’m not that much of a bitch that I wouldn’t be, really.  I’m sorry.”

“You’re not a bitch at all,” I said.

“But she’s smug and showing off about how they’re practically indistinguishable from regular ones and what the fuck!”

There was a thud at her chest, then a thousand more.  A hundred fists striking against the shell, the inside of the cage, protesting, unleashing pent-up feelings.  It was only my grip around her shoulders that kept her upright.

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153 thoughts on “Polarize – 10.6”

  1. Ah, Tattletale. Always being Tattletale. Also Victoria being overly judgemental. Tattletale has friends, they just aren’t making sure she gets her medication because that’s a minion job.

    1. She has coworkers and subordinates. Is there anyone left that Lisa can really treat as an equal and be close to emotionally? I keep going back to when we saw the Undersiders gathering for the Fallen attack, and the rest of them were talking and exchanging hugs, while Lisa, the social extrovert, just sat back and smiled rather than join in. Rachel hates the constant smiling, Lily and Sabah keep her at arms length due to being much more moral people, and she and Imp seem to mutually antagonize each other.

      1. And let’s face it. Lisa probably hasn’t taken losing Taylor too well either. She put a lot of work into trying to keep Taylor from destroying herself. And Taylor was probably the only person Lisa would open up to, and genuinly try to not feel smarter than.

        1. My guess is that Lisa never fully opened herself to anybody but Taylor may be partly because she likely never met another right person, but in part because Taylor left Lisa soon after knowing well what it meant to Lisa. It is possible, that Lisa has not tried again, because she is affraid to be hurt like that for the second time.

      2. Can there be a person Lisa can be truly and mutually close to? It would have to be someone immune to her power but whose power doesn’t allow the reversed issue or whose power Lisa is also immune to.

        1. Taylor wasn’t immune to her power, and the two of them were extremely close. Lisa went out of her way to help Taylor after seeing that she was on the same road Lisa’s brother had been on before he killed himself, and because of this Taylor was prepared to put up with a lot of Lisa’s shit, something which very few people who didn’t work for her were prepared to do. This allowed the two of them to become mutually close.

        2. How can Lisa not look for such a person? For all of her power she still has the same emotional needs as anyone else. If anything her power only makes for a more difficult and desperate search. She is a bright girl, and she found Taylor once. She will figure it out again somehow.

  2. Yeah… tattletale losing friends has nothing to do with her being snippy.
    She lost them, because they died saving the world… and the ones that didn’t are busy trying to live “Normal” lives. Bitch isn’t interested in TT’s big schemes now. Neither are foil or P.
    Imp is busy looking after the kids, and might help out, but fundamentally, TT is the only one who is actually INTERESTED in the big picture (to the best of our knowledge).

    Yeah, lashing out at V about the “kiss” detail was petty, but aside from that…

    The fact that RAIN is the one calling V out on this, despite the fact that TT was helping out Cradle earlier…. bloody hell Vicky…

    Also, I’m glad SOMEONE is calling the team out on the plan for “disappearing” people.
    And that Kenzie and Chicken Little get along.

    1. Not really calling them out, just asking to not get the treatment themselves.

      The harshest thing she said about it was that it was “scary”.

    2. I had a thought, given Tattle said Victoria would be able to have an idea of what that twisted kiss/kill situation was like. Is it possible that Vicky and Amy have entangled agents, in a manner similar to but not quite identical to a cluster/multitrigger? They spent a lot of time living close to each other; Vicky was under Amy’s power for a huge amount of time while she was disabled; Amy was under Vicky’s aura for even longer when she was adolescent.

      Amy’s got the kiss, and Vicky’s got the kill, and both of them are struggling hard against it.

    3. The whole disappearing people is autoriarian as hell. Breakthrough basicly made a huge power grab and already they are judges, jury and executionners (they did pretty much execute Monokeros).

      With how focused Victoria is on appareances and control, we have a para-military police state in the making… with literal cameras in your bedrooms.

      As much as I want to believe in the protagonists, those are pretty much fates worst than death :

      “Take Rachel away from her dogs, put Imp in a sealed cell with the right kind of monitoring, put Tattletale in jail and limit her human contact, limit Parian’s access to materials…”

      I mean, those are downright cruel.

      1. Limiting Tattletale’s contact with people could be cruel, but note that Victoria said limit, not eliminate, so it depends. Similarly, keeping Imp confined to a cell could be cruel, but that really depends on the size and amenities of the cell. And it is totally routine to separate prisoners from their pets, keep them under surveillance, limit their access to materials, and put restrictions on how much contact they have with each other, staff, and the outside world.

        Calling these fates worse than death is extremely hyperbolic.

        1. Umm, Bitch’s dogs aren’t “pets” to her. They are far, far more than that and “worse than death” isn’t a description that far off. It would be incredibly cruel.

          1. I don’t see what difference it makes whether she views her dogs as pets or children. We send violent criminals to prison without their children all the time. That’s not cruel, and it’s especially justified when the criminal is directly using their children for crime, such as by transforming them into monsters and ordering them to attack people.

          2. They’re closer to children, and more than that, they’re the only ones that are really capable of understanding her and being understood by her, given how her power rewired her brain.

  3. Since when did Tattletale start calling them “shards”? I don’t remember any human ever calling them that in Worm (or even having the perspective to think of them that way) – Bonesaw/the Undersiders called them “passengers”, Cauldron called them “agents”, and nobody else even knew what was going on.

    1. Well, Glastig Ulaine called them Faerie but no one listened when she was talking. Valkryie calls them agents and fragments in her interlude, so I guess agent is the standard Warden term.

      Tattletale probably calls them shards because she gets to learn things she has no reasonable way of knowing.

      1. Scion did show them all a trigger event during the finale. And ‘shard’ is an English translation, not the original language. It’s just as good as Agent or Passenger, even though I like them better.

    2. Tattletale was the person who figured out how the whole system worked right before Gold Morning started, after seeing Aiden’s space-whale drawing. I bet she revised a lot of her vocabulary after that.

  4. Something that surprises me is how little the team seems to want to just wait and prepare things. It isnt necessarily planning, but this team has one very powerful tinker and one below average tinker and they just got funding. Plus Lookout hasnt had her full workshop but now would have materials, and Rain spent time in jail with nothing to do but think about ideas. I expected them to spend a few days just tinkering up and working on their own projects and Sveta and Ashley. Plus Victoria is still healing from her wounds. I get wanting to stay ahead but if you took a break and “powered up” theyd be sooo much more effective. And none of this is even counting the possible tinker sharing between groups in their network

      1. Victoria is justified in not listening to someone who likes screwing people with words and deception. Also Lisa’s barely been sleeping and taking care of herself, and lost a gamble with March, who she shouldn’t have made a gamble with in the first place. Doesn’t sound like sound judgment.

        1. What would have been sound judgment? Handing Foil over to March?

          As for gambles, March is the one who lost, not Tattletale. TT made a threat, March gambled that it was a bluff, and TT carried through. Note that March then chose not to kill TT. Why? Probably because TT has shared the information. If TT dies, her machinations will ensure that the rest of the clusters in opposition to March find out how to monopolize their powers. Since March can’t kill TT, she aimed to disable and cause pain, and TT gets to live to continue the fight from the shadows per usual. She’s being hampered, but compared to the alternatives of either dying or losing Foil, this is a success for TT.

          Meanwhile, March has lost one of her capes, has gained a powerful potential enemy in the cape who siphoned the powers, and has been forced to use more caution in how she deals with the Undersiders. Additionally, her retaliation made Tattletale look sympathetic enough to Breakthrough that they’ve sided with TT even though Rain has far more reason to side with March.

          Tattletale is not the one who has exercised unsound judgment.

      2. Lol at thinking Taylor has “sound judgement.” Taylor was good at tactical thinking, but was completely blind to her own biases and frequently made terrible decisions. Victoria certainly has her own issues, but she’s at least closer to having a good head on her shoulders and has some much more difficult trauma to excuse the issues she does have.

        I feel like Scion’s defeat not even being the result of Taylor becoming Khepri was sort of wildbow’s way of driving that point home. It was the idea of using powers to imitate the other Entity – something that didn’t even require Taylor “ascending” – that ended up causing them to win.

      1. Actually right now the city is at the most stable its been in a while isn’t it. There aren’t many pressing issues other than teacher and I guess the portals. And the hero network is allowing better response times and stuff. One team taking 3 or 4 days off wouldn’t cause it to fall apart

  5. So that’s what the Graeae twins are for.

    Also, anybody else think Tattletale’s leaving out some important details about how the process works? Like I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the drained and bled clustermate who ended up with the powerup in most cases. Or if it just averaged them together and there was an entire extra step needed to make sure it went the right way. Or if it was completely random and Goddess only got it to work because of her cluster’s schtick. Or if it required inducing a second trigger …

    1. Re:twins – you’d think that bodypart-swapping shard would update DNA tags correctly so other shards don’t get confused… Guess not. Looks like worms suck at secure authentification.

      March also called Tattletale’s bluff, to her detriment; so Tt’s info works for a minimum of 3 clusters (Goddess’, March/Foil/???, and another who pulled it successfully and got March pissed off).
      She might have some inaccuracy in her explanation but it might just be a power issue – she can pull some irrelevant details together when she works without enough initial data.
      The key points are likely solid, but it’s actually pretty hard to prevent them. I mean, kidnapping is just a matter of throwing the right capes at the target (coughSpeedrunnerscough) and then the hard part is keeping the target incapacitated long enough for the confusion to start.

      I actually find it kinda crazy that Lisa didn’t reveal that vulnerability anywhere public yet. She likes selling info at a premium, but that stuff is just stupidly dangerous in the wrong hands.

      1. “Looks like worms suck at secure authentification.”

        They’re really, really bad at infosec in general. That’s their main weakness as far as I can tell.They’re leaking information everywhere, they just trust the client side, they’ll randomly connect to stuff etc.

          1. It also wouldn’t be such an issue if they were still around to undo data breaches and block exploits, as they planed to do.

  6. “Gee, I wonder what it would be like to talk to someone like that, Tattletale, I thought. There might have been something in the look I gave Tattletale, because she rolled her eyes slightly,”

    Tattletale’s double meaning here went way over Vicky’s head. Its so frustrating seeing her do all the things she hates in other people.

      1. No, I’m sure Victoria is utterly mentally sound, as there’s hardly been any traumatic events that would leave her with deep emotional scars, or a family that just seems to live to press those buttons.

        Vicky’s flawed, she’s got her blind spots and her prejudices. Most of the time it works out okay but… Well it’s like TT’s power. Sometimes she gets the wrong conclusions and sticks with them. Sometimes those key details she misses because of her bias or not having the right info and not realizing it matter.

        1. Sure, every single cape is traumatized, but using unhinged make me think more of March, Jack Slash, Bonesaw than of Kenzie, Labyrinth or Byron.

          1. Kenzie is a walking trainwreck.
            That’s going to GET WORSE with puberty.

            She’s about as bad as Bonesaw’s need for Jack’s approval, she just hasn’t fallen into evil hands YET.

      2. Victoria was thinking of TT as being similar to March, IE “petty, unhinged, and lopsided in her focus in non-professional things”

        I’m pretty sure we can all agree that TT is not unhinged, isn’t ACTUALLY petty (she just pretends to be as a negotiating technique), and is actually VERY good at being professional.

        TT has plenty good reason for believing that Vicky is lopsided, reasonable grounds to believe she is petty, and potentially some grounds to think she is unhinged.
        My guess is that the emphisis (from the point of view of both characters) is that they think the other is petty and lopsided, but not necessarily unhinged.
        I think, at least with respect to the Vicky-TT interaction, it is fair to say that Vicky IS lopsided, and somewhat petty (although dealing with Tats brings out the petty side of everyone).

      3. As in “unhinged” isn’t a strong enough word?

        I guess she was that when introduced in Worm and after the Amy treatment program is now something else.

  7. I really, really like where the story is at right now, lots of interesting stuff going on. I freaking love tattle

  8. Typo thread:

    “Vicky has a grudge, and I wouldn’t one hundred percent put it past her, in a theoretical future where this worked you streamlined the process, and you had me at a disadvantage.
    -where this worked and you streamlined the process

    -I looked at Sveta, who was next to me, raising a hand to draw her attention to the line. She only nodded solemnly.
    To Rain’s line?

    “How do you feel about going after your friends?” Tristan asked.
    “Friends?” Rain asked.
    “Swansong, going after the members of Love Lost. If that’s what we end up doing.”
    -Maybe Cradle instead of Swansong?

    1. Took me a solid minute to figure this out too, but it was written as intended I’m pretty sure. Tristen was talking to swansong, she worked with Lovelost’s gang when she was undercover in hollow point, and Tristan is asking her how she feels about going after people she worked with. Rain wasn’t sure who Tristan was talking about.

      1. In this case does not make sense Rain’s comment about Love Lost’s age and Lookout’s comment that she understand reference before Rain.

    1. Yeah, that could be bad. Rain’s going to have to rob the Cradle eventually, though. Grabbing a two-for-one instead of bagging them separately would be nice.

  9. “Yeah, just join the band of crazy mercenaries trying to kill my friend, giving them one more Parahuman and even more information to use against us.”

    Wow, great advice Tattletale, you truly are a strategic genius :V

    At least everyone managed to act civil.

  10. This was a mixed feelings chapter. Victoria and Lisa still being assholes at each other and talking past each other half the time. Aidan and Kenzie bonding and yay for toy ships! Sveta’s breakdown was the sads, but she can’t possibly be the stoic supportive Mama Sveta 24/7, can she?

    (On a second thought, *does* Gimel have 24-hour long days? Slower/faster day cycles are an expectable Alternate Earth thing, no?)

    1. I would think they’re a low-odds alternate thing. It’d require a major event to alter the rotation of the Earth and the ones which are suitable for human habitation and have a recognizable ecosystem probably have not encountered any such events since the point of divergence.

  11. I would be pretty pissed if i was Tattletale, she’s basically been running Brockton since they took down Coil, who she outsmarted.
    The big thing i feel between her and Vicky is that TT did try to help the dallons, but they ignored her right until PanPan snapped, and sure you can say she helped cause that, but at most it would have been slightly delayed.

    And the hypocrisy, how many killers are on Vicky’s team again?

  12. I’m getting really concerned with how Sveta is acting. She’s right on the tip of a nervous breakdown and severe outlashes towards people she cares about. I still fear that Yamada was referring to Sveta as the loose chain and how the team could be potentially disastrous, probably because of how, while they still have their own issues, they are able to deal with them with their support system. Sveta doesn’t do that. She bottles it up immensely and would have blown up at Swansong if it wasn’t for Victoria stepping in.

    I really hope they don’t have to kill Sveta. I really don’t. But Sveta really needs to back off of Breakthrough before it’s too late.

    1. They REALLY better not even try to kill Sveta. She’s my fave. She got such an incredibly raw deal, and I love seeing her in a better place, and I want to see her get at least a semi-happy ending.

      (Not to mention…COULD they even kill Sveta? Maybe Ashley, I guess, but her durability has been remarked on multiple times.)

    2. Poor Sveta, she really needs Dallons to patch themselves together, so she can have a fammily.

      There is also the fact, that Sveta is a key part of the support system. If she is gone, the entire team may unravel.

    3. I kinda agree with Sveta being potentially an issue. It’s easy to forget how immensely fucked up her situation is; not only is she trapped in a body even worse than most Case 53s (or whatever the number is), but she has the memory of having violently killed many people.

      I dont think they’ll need to *kill* her (kinda extreme), but I do think she’s been bottling a lot of things up and has shown herself to be extremely vulnerable to any sort of stress (I feel like her intense reaction while under Goddess’s effect was a sign of this).

  13. So in cheerier news… Kenzie and Aden got along well. But I just feel like the case 53’s attitude towards Sveta is… Butthurt. Yes like butthurt teenagers.

    And no, I do not want a Sveta breakdown. That could get… Messy. Like a mop and a lot of bleach, and nobody shine one of those forensic lights over the floor. Or walls. Or ceiling.

  14. Compraions time

    Antaras, Tress, Precipice, Swansong, Lookout, Capricorn

    Tattletale, Bitch, Imp, Parian, Foil, Chicken Little, Snuff

    … One of these teams has some dangerously unhing and immoral/amoral people on it with a string of crimes committed. the other team is the Undersiders…

    1. Morally speaking, Tattletale the villain was a better person than Glory Girl the hero. Tattletale robbed rich people and stuck to white collar crime, most of it when she was forced to by a megalomaniac with a gun to her head. Glory Girl brutalised people on a semi-regular basis and used her emotion-effecting aura to pressure her sister into covering up for her.

  15. TT is the true sibling Vicky never had to deal with growing up. One so similar and yet so different you can’t help but butt heads.

    Also don’t think TT told everything to the processes, perhaps intentional, or not. But parts she did reveal are probably accurate enough to guard against, or dissuade from trying.

  16. I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that one of Lisa’s side games is to make amends to Victoria. All the references to Amy are habituation therapy. The consistently domineering manner (even for her) is building a “don’t be like Tattletale” model in Victoria’s self-identity, helping push aside the remnants of the Glory Girl persona. Victoria shows her worst with Tattletale because Tt is purposefully evoking and adjusting it.

  17. I wonder how much like Skitter’s power Chicken Little’s is. Because if he can do the eye-in-the-sky thing and multi-task, he’d be as aware of what’s going on as Kenzie, if not slightly more so. Whilst he’s got the Heartbroken to play with and compare powers, they’re all Masters with abilities that focus on humans, with maybe a few Strangers/Thinkers thrown in, but still focused on humans.

    I know they’re a bit young to play match-up, but I think there might be some interesting results overlap between their powers, were they to actually find themselves on the same side of a battlefield.

    1. I seem to remember it was implied that his control isn’t as fine as hers – more like he can give general pushes to groups of birds. Don’t know if her can see out of their eyes though.

      1. As I recall, unlike Talor it’s one or the other. He can give birds or groups of birds commands, or he can see and feel through them, but not both at the same time though he can alternate.

        1. I believe he has this much control because he got got a child-shard of a doubled triggered and matured one.
          But i believe that if Taylor hadn’t double triggered in the beginning she would have had less control than Chicken Little does now.

        2. For flocking birds, that would be about the same. Direct the flock, and see through the eyes of various birds in the flock. Sure, they could leave the flock if they wanted, but they’ll never want to do that.

          I still think the best upgrade for CL would be to find a universe in which dinosaurs had not gone extinct. It would take a lot of cockroaches to be as useful as a T-rex…

          1. The problem with a T-Rex is that it’s a big, single target with multiple points that can completely incapacitate them (heart, brain, spinal cord) as well as many points that can partially incapacitate them (tendons, joints, limbs). That means they’re weak against sufficiently strong, focused attacks. Somebody like Victoria would defeat a T-Rex without much trouble, as would a soldier with a powerful rifle or RPG.

            A swarm, on the other hand, has no single point of failure except the cape controlling them (who will almost always be harder to find and target than a T-Rex). The good news is that the insects are individually a lot weaker than a T-Rex, so weak wide-area attacks become very effective. The bad news is that very few capes and weapons are actually good at this. Most are too focused.

            So where I’m going with this is that Chicken Little shouldn’t settle for just a T-Rex troop. Pad it out with a big flock of Utahraptors and a veritable swarm of little Velociraptors.

  18. Are people really saying Victoria is biased against Tt? Haven’t you read worm? All that she says is perfectly understandable given what she knows. Tt became a better person throughout golden morning and genuinely cares about saving the world, but it’s still someone who relies on manipulation, mind games, bickering, and moralising whenever it suits her needs.
    And for all the black and white views Victoria has, Tt has a us vs them mentality that complemented Taylor’s perfectly.
    For all the talk about sanctimonious heroes the fact that Tt can’t ever escape the stupid duality inerent in the system is telling (still refusing to see herself as something other than arbitrary labels).

    1. Well, she’s a bit young for the label, but probably not friendly enough to get called “big sis”. So aunt it is. The scary aunt who threatens to turn you into dog food if you misbehave.

  19. Some possible implications of what Tattletale said about roles of DNA and Coronas, and questions that pop up.

    Panacea can apparently create something like the Wretch without significant changes to DNA, and it will be stable for years. Victoria should probably still be worried about transplants, but at least she should be pretty much human as far as DNA goes. There may be some small changes, because mutations, viruses and the like happen all the time, so Shards’ identification system needs to account for some genetic drift, but likely Victoria’s DNA at no point was modified enough to be unrecognizible as belonging to the same person.

    On this topic can Panacea even manipulate DNA, and if so – to what extent? She did stop Bonesaw’s plague. Could she do it without genetic manipulation? If she is limited in this aspect, than this is one more area at which Nilbog’s power seems superior. Otherwise Dot would never happen.

    Did Valkyrie need to go on a DNA-gathering mission before she could bring back any of her shadows back to life? It could potentially limit who she can bring back.

    What if you surgically remove someone’s Corona pollentia, and use some power or Tinker device to keep it alive? Can you gain a degree of control over that person’s power? For examle could you keep the power docile until you decide otherwise? If such power goes berserk, would the effects be centered only on or around the Corona or also the person the Corona was extracted from? How would such power behave? Would it respect Manton Effect for example? The Effect seemed weakened, when Panacea weakened the connection betwean Taylor and her Corona.

    What would happen if parahuman’s Corona died, but it’s bearer survived? Would the power just stop, or go berserk?

    1. One more queston. Do case 53s, changers like Chris and such still have their old DNA, or was it modified, when they triggered? This may potentially affect measures needed to reverse their conditions, or even feasibility of such process.

    2. we do know that removing/destroying the coronna does not “turn off” the power, bonesaw said that, the coronna is more to keep the power under the persons control, so if the coronna was removed the power would go on but more under control of the shard, for exemple as when taylor was hipnotised by valefor or 13th hour and her power kept going by itself. but if the coronna was surgically remove and implanted on someone else? i don’t know

      1. The scarry thing is that as far as we know Taylor’s Corona may have been removed, and kept in a way, that does not activate her power. If that is true, than whoever did this could possibly kill her or people around her just by activating it. Even if it is not the case with Taylor it could happen with someone else.

        Another question would be – if a power is shared between multiple people, what would happen if one of them loses their Corona. What if those people are indistinguishable by their DNA? Take maternal twins, who unlike Tristan and Byron don’t time-share a body. If one of them loses their Corona, could the other one use both their bodies as centers of their power for example?

        1. Forget the maternal twins. If we see it happen, it will likely be with Ashleys. Generaly all of those interactions between DNAs, Coronas and powers have a lot of potential to be as nightmarish as broken triggers. What makes it even worse is that a lot of them can be cased intentionally by someone with enough knowledge and right powers or tools.

          1. Possibly. We don’t know what sort of damage those shots did exactly. All we know is that they were apparently needed to safely disable her powers without killing her, but we don’t even know if they are gone for good. Worm’s epilogue contains a scene that could be read as a foreshadowing of their future return.

          2. If anybody else then Contessa shot Taylor, I would agree with youExejpgwmv, but with Contessa’s power everything is possible. The way I see it Wildbow intentionally left the question of what happened to Taylor’s powers as open as possible, and in the epilogue teased as with Taylor’s ignorance and doubts on the topic just to let us know, that anything is possible in the future as far as Taylor’s powers, and her future in general are concerned.

    3. The wretch exists because Victorias force field was around the wretch for two years. It persists because the wretch is still how Victoria sees herself.

      1. Yes, but this time by the Wretch I meant not the forcefield, but actual Victoria’s body as it was in the asylium. That body was Panacea’s creation, and my point was, that it somehow managed to last for two years without significant changes or medical problems despite apparently making proteins based on fully human DNA.

        1. You can get pretty creative with existing DNA, though.

          DNA’s not so much a blueprint as a bunch of chains of executable code. That’s literal: transcription factors work like a Turing Machine crawling along the strand of DNA or RNA, printing out either a different strand of RNA or a product (like a protein) base on what it reads. The code looks quite a bit like early object-oriented FORTRAN, too: lots of “do” and “goto” statements, local variables in the form of binding proteins and folding that cinch off segments of the strand. It’s pretty darn cool, and all highly modular, for better or worse.

          For instance, I have a friend that lost the thumb and all fingers on one hand in a farm accident, so the surgeons transplanted several of his toes to the hand. Immune system sees the cells have the right identifiers, so the body just goes “okay, apparently those are fingers now” and carries on.

          On the other end of the spectrum, most of the problem with cancer is that even when it’s making bone in the middle of your liver, the DNA is still yours, just with glitched-up regulatory systems. It’s using the same materials the rest of the body uses, so the body treats it with the same “Huh. Was that always there?” approach as when you replace fingers with toes.

          So really most of what Pancea (and her agent) have to do is use a little shard-mojo to bypass the cutting-off-and-reattaching process by changing the activation settings on existing cells’ DNA, and accelerating growth and synthesis. So long as she’s set up a vaguely stable metabolism at the end, normal biology will roll with it. True gene editing only needs to come in when she’s doing something extreme like using non-human tissues to fix Victoria, making the counter-virus, or creating Atlas and the relay bugs.

          1. I did not try to suggest, that you can’t do what Panacea achived what she did with Victoria’s body without manipulating her DNA, or at least without doing it extensively. I am aware, that your interpretation or something close to it seems at least plausible in light of our current understanding of biology (or at least as far as I understand biology – I’m certainly not the expert in this field).

            What I was trying to say is that on one hand Panacea’s power seems to understand biology much better then it would need to if it could “cut corners” by modifying DNA to achive simmilar results, and at the same time I wanted to point out a possible limitation of that power in that it may be unable to extensively modify DNA (or possibly only DNA which serves as a key to another power for example) – something that may become relevant later in the story.

            I’d also like ro note, that if there is such limitation to Panacea’s power, probably few people know about it. It may even be possible, that Amy herself is not fully aware of it.

  20. I just gotta say, I love the callback of Tattletale remembering her confrontation with Jack Slash, at the same time as Victoria’s misinterpreting it as making light of the situation

      1. The very beginning. The comment about playing games with lunatics, poking her tongue into her cheek, and adding that it doesn’t always work out.

  21. So, I’ve been doing a bit of thinking based on this chapter, and I think I’ve figured out how Aegis could have saved the world.

    He gets a blood transfusion from one of the other Wards, and gains a copy of their power once his body adapts and incorporates their genetic material. He then goes and asks for permission to gain blood transfusions from the other Wards, and gains copies of all of their powers, too, along with Shadow Stalker’s “survival of the fittest super-predator” drive.

    This lets him do things like use Kid Win’s modular tech to adapt Dean’s energy beams to have other riders based on his other powers like Vista’s spatial distortions and Clockblocker’s timestops, or to adapt Dean’s empathy-sense to sense things like space-time distortions. Further, when he activates Shadow Stalker’s Breaker form, all of the tech he’s carrying gets integrated into his body; this may well give him an idea about physically integrating them into his body, and over time the Tinker-tech may well get covered by his original multifunction adaptability power – allowing him to give parts of his body Tinkertech functions (e.g. his nerves carrying data signals, or his blood transferring power to his Tinkertech implants).

    And, as he leans further and further into these additional powersets, the shards start influencing him more and more – and eventually, he decides to go and hunt the weakest gang around and drain their blood while harvesting their Coronas to steal their powers. He goes after the Merchants, and he kills them and takes their powers – Skidmark’s velocity manipulation zones, Mush’s ability to create extensions of his body using trash, and Squealer and Trainwreck’s Tinkertech. He then combines them with his existing powers, and by extending portions of himself (e.g. blood) along Mush’s trash-body, incorporates them into his power’s understanding of his own body – at which point he uses his original power to turn the trash into modular Tinkertech armor. And, since he’s acquired three Tinkertech specialties (prosthetic armor, modular tech, and bulky vehicles), he incorporates all of those elements in his new Tinkertech body – turning himself into what is essentially a body horror biotech Transformer, able to change between humanoid and vehicle modes.

    A body horror biotech Transformer that has a litany of other powers, some of which synergize well with others, like Vista’s spatial distortion zones and Skidmark’s velocity distortion zones. However, this act of murder and power theft is likely to cause him to have significant issues remaining with the Wards, and he leaves to become a violent vigilante, tracking down villains with Kill Orders so that he can kill them and steal their powers for himself. Villains like the Slaughterhouse Nine, who have multiple powers that synergize strongly with his existing powerset, like the multiple different Brutes and Tinkers they had at that point.

    And, likely, he just keeps snowballing until he hits an obstacle like Scion that he can’t immediately snowball his way over. How Scion would react to a proto-Entity of this sort is something I’m not entirely sure of – he might try to stop it as a threat to the Cycle, or he might shrug and figure that it’s his best option to repair the Cycle in the absence of his partner.

    1. I’m pretty sure the whole DNA thing only works for cluster capes who share shards, not any Parahumans. Since Aegis wasn’t a cluster, blood transfusions wouldn’t do jack.

      1. Cluster capes might have it easier since there’s already a degree of interconnection, but the way Tattletale described it, I think it might be possible for non-cluster capes to pull it off as well.

          1. Honestly, I can’t even remember. I think I got in a few arguments with people over political correctness or something? It was a while ago, and forgive and forget.

    2. That was literally Bonesaw’s plan with Panacea. Merge like a hundred powers together into a massive Capeshoggoth and use it to kill an Endbringer.
      I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have worked like that with Aegis. You need to be a cluster, so the powers are already merged together, or a DNA-check will never occur. You can transplant a power with biotinker surgery, but even Bonesaw had limits that she would have needed Panacea’s power to surpass.
      The only problem with this was that Panacea didn’t want to join the Slaughterhouse 9, which is really the same problem that keeps everyone else from having nice things. Lack of cooperation. With the right combination of powers you can do damn near anything, but good luck trying to get the right combination of powers in a room together without them killing each other. Once Khepri got everyone working together, the solution became trivial.

  22. Victoria should really stop using words like “disappeared” if she’s not actually taking people out over the ocean and dropping them into shark-infested waters. Pinochet has ruined that euphemism for everyone.

  23. Foreshadowing to what’s goig to happen with the rain hunters?

    If it’s that simple it almost seems like kiss/kill is intended to transfer powers between cluster mates

  24. Yeah, this power-swapping method doesn’t make sense. If this is how it works, how did the Goddess’ power-battery clustermate get her power back? This doesn’t seem like it leaves open a method for reversal. It also isn’t immediately clear to me why this would ‘steal’ someone’s powers. Shards have shown themselves to be plenty capable of keeping multiple links open at once (see resident case study: Ashley), so I can’t see why tricking them into linking fully to a new clustermate would make them stop linking to the previous one. It seems to me like the shard would more likely go “… huh … so there’s two of you now … I guess that’s a thing now, alright both of you get to have powers”. But that’s pretty clearly not how it worked between Goddess and her clustermates.

    Yeah. I feel like Tattletale is either misinformed, lying, or omitting a huuuuuuge piece of the puzzle.

    Then again, maybe it does just work like this. There’s been quite a few moments so far in Ward where I’ve thought “there’s no way that’s right, there’s got to be a twist” and then there just isn’t and I’m left feeling really confused. I mean, the ankle bracelets not having some kind of deadman switch really threw me for a loop; this being the actual power-stealing method would be small potatoes in comparison.

    1. Well, the probability of Tattletale lying or being mistaken has already been pointed out in-story. Pretty sure there’s more to it.

  25. Imp and the Heartbroken vs. Monokeros – how might that hypothetically play out and resolve? Would Monokeros prefer that brand of justice to what she’s been served at Breakthrough’s hands? Is that better for society? Is it more fair? Is Tattletale envisioning Breakthrough as a future dictatorship? She’s cutting deals rather than standing up to tyranny? Is Antares genuinely grown past the thug Vicky once was?

    At the end of Worm, Khepri set Vicky down next to Amy, presumably to get healed, or to set right what past wrongs she could perceive, partly related to what she, and Lisa, had a role in bringing about. Did Lisa take that as Taylor’s last wish? She, who was so concerned with what Bitch could understand of intent and the connectedness there, who was possibly jealously guarded of her own closeness to Taylor, might seize on the gesture as her mission. Who else would respect Taylor enough to take on such a mission? Who else could effect any scheming towards that end? So to Lisa, it could be the way of honoring Taylor that alone holds any relevance to who Taylor was, at her best, and what Lisa shared of that with her. Tattletale as catalyst for therapeutic catharsis? Oh, but there was also the Teacher slap down, and that seems to have translated into a Tattletale mission as well…which raises the question of there being more legacy carrying-ons?

    1. I have been wondering, about Lisa’s reasons for focusing on Victoria as much as she does, and I think there may be something to your explanation. Lisa does feel guilty about Victoria’s and Amy’s situation, but guilt alone rarely motivated her to help people she does not consider “hers”. When she did – it was usually if not always, because Taylor asked her to do it.

      On the subject of Teacher however, while I understand why Taylor pushed him away, I wonder if it was not a mistake in a sense. Considering what we know about the conversation between Teacher and Contessa from Interlude 29 of Worm Teacher may have taken over as a head of Cauldron not just to accumulate power for the sake of power itself, but to save humanity at all cost, and without letting morality to get in the way just like Cauldron always did. Only this time it is the humanity, that is the biggest threat to itself.

      1. I’m pretty sure Teacher is a madman who wants to be a god and would at most incidentally save humanity by absorbing them into his thrall hivemind. He was probably a dead end against Scion; presumed natural trigger so Eden would have used Path To Victory to ensure he could not defeat them. Scion was killed by Khephri using Foil, but I’m reasonably confident in tracing that back to the Simurgh; her Madison attack led to Cauldron fortifying their compound and the Irregulars forming and attacking it, leading to Taylor going there, seeing Eden, and surviving. Without that, humanity could not have won. Sting was the only Shard that could kill Scion, and he set his “automatic victory” power to let him evade Foil’s shots flawlessly.

        As for humanity as a threat to itself, Teacher is the very manifestation of the cause of that. A parahuman who thinks regular humans are mere tools, who has vast power and no ethics to constrain him. Hatred of parahumans is born out of fear, and it’s Masters and Thinkers people fear the most. Sure, Legend can break cities, but people know where he stands. Teacher, Tattletale, the Number Man? Who knows what they’re up to, hiding behind puppets like, uh, all the serious mayoral candidates. People don’t know that specifically but they do know it’s a thing that could happen.

        I’m pretty sure Cauldron’s plan had been to smoothly transition into a parahuman oligarchy without letting the public realize that until it was well-entrenched, backing Coil and Accord and the like, and establishing the PRT to have alleged unpowered people in charge while actually having Alexandria in charge. Like most Cauldron plans this did not survive contact with Endbringer.

        1. I’m not saying , that Teacher is sane in a conventional sense. I’m pretty sure he is a psychopath. I’m not however entirely certain that his end goal is creation of some sort of absolute totalitarism, by enthralling everyone, and keeping them that way. If his interactions with Scapegoat is any indication, he is actually researching ways of breaking his hold on other people.

          There is also the fact that Marquis warned Teacher about risks of taking absolute power, and Teacher seemed to if not believe then at least seriously consider that Marquis may be right. If Teacher decided to seek power despite this warning, it may mean that he sees power not as his ultimate goal, but as a way of achieving something worth taking those risks.

          1. Now that I think about it, if Teacher is indeed a psychopath it may be what made Contessa think he is qualified to run Cauldron. Doing what Cauldron needs to do has to make an enormous emotional toll on anyone capable of normal empathy. Remember that she wouldn’t have a problem preventing Teacher from taking over if she chose to do it.

            Contessa herself does not strike me as a psychopath. She is more like Taylor only to an even greater extent – someone who commits lesser evils to prevent what she sees as a greater one, but still feels remorse over what she did. We saw that empathy and remorse in little fortuna, when she left her fammily to a terrible fate, so she could kill Eden, and I think we saw them, when she decided to let Taylor live – remorse over how Cauldron directly and indirectly harmed countless people including Taylor, and empathy for what she probably sees as a kindred spirit.

            Contessa probably decided, that she can’t bear such emotional burden anymore, but since humanity still needs Cauldron, she put it in hands of someone who could – namely Teacher, and left. It is possible that she never had an emotional fortitude to do what Cauldron did without a psychopath to keep her from collapsing emotionally – Doctor Mother strikes me as another possible psychopath.

          2. Oh, and yes I do understand the irony of leaning on psychopaths for emotional support, but if you need to do thing as horrible as Cauldron does, they paradoxically may be the only option. Who else, if the emotional burden is too heavy even for someone like Fortuna, who of her own free will become something akin to a child soldier-slash-assasin-slash-torturer?

          3. Well…what does humanity need Cauldron for? The original Cauldron’s ultimate goal was to stop Entities from ending the world; it served its purpose. “Saving humanity from itself”, whlie it might be needed, is a very different task requiring very different methods. And Teacher has even stated his future goals explicitly as the end of Worm, and they have nothing to do with saving anyone.

          4. At the end of Worm Teacher also basicly said to Ingenue, that he does not want to have power “just because he can”. He also seemed spooked by what happened between Lung and Simurgh.

            It is obvious, that he collects capes, especially those who can be used to control other people, so he probably intends to build some kind of dictatorship, but since he also considers working with heroes, and is researching means of freeing people from his thrall, he probably sees it as a temporary measure to achive some other goal. As to what this goal might be, I still think it could be something like “saving humanity from itself”.

            Dictatorships have historicaly sometimes been used to counter anarchy that comes with revolutions, armed uprising etc. Of course after it was over dictators usually found ways to stay in power, but sometimes they did the right thing – helped establish laws and institutions, that let more democratic government be stable, once they were elected.

            It might be that Teacher is attempting something along those lines. Even if he does not care for other people a possibility of humanity destroying itself by parahumans going unchecked and people in general going rampart is a threat to himself, so of course he may be trying to do something like that.

          5. Of course he was spooked! If he were not afraid of having crossed Simurgh and probably having his ass disintegrated afterwards in some convoluted and interesting way, he would be too dumb to live. As for his stated goals, he told Marquis that he’d like to try to create an Entity “just because he can” (if he can). That’s actually a perfect plan to prevent humanity from destroying itself – you just have someone else do it first 🙂 Of course, attempting to do it without any means of control whatsoever is FAR too dumb to live, so it makes sense at least to gather parahumans who might be useful for it. + they will be useful along the way for building a dictatorship, a secret society or whatever else. And he was researching means of *transfering* his influence rather than freeing people from it, which aligns well with the rest of his goals and methods.

          6. The way Teacher said it to Marquis it could be read either as an intention of creating a new Entity, or as an intention to create an organization encompassing most if not all parahumans (his dictatorship).

            Funny thing about making Entities though. A couple of hours ago I posted my theory about making new Entities elsewhere. Long story short is that I suspect the Thinker Entity seeing it’s impending death set things up in such a way that Eidolon would become a core of a new Warrior Entity, while Valkyrie would become a core of a new Thinker Entity. Look into this comment if you want to know the details: https://www.parahumans.net/2018/11/13/polarize-10-7/#comment-54238

          7. That’s an interesting interpretation of his words 🙂 Didn’t come to my mind. Though still unlikely, in my view, with him saying about putting the whole _back_ together.

            As for your theory – also interesting but far too complex. The same result could be achieved with Scion/Valkyrie. She even intended to become a new Entity and resume the cycle, until Scion disappointed her by being too human.

          8. Putting powers back together could obviously mean making a new Entity, but also putting them back in a sense of Khepri’s swar.

            As for the Scion/Valkyrie pairing it wouldn’t work in my opinion because the Warrior and the Thinker were supposed to work as partners, and there could be no equality in this pair.

          9. Now that I think about if Teacher isn’t trying to go the Khepri route (trying to create a “swarm” of brainwashed or similarly controled capes as a base of his new dictatorship), but is trying to create a new Entity or Entities instead, it could mean that he is trying something similar to what I described as the Thinker Entity’s plan with Eidolon and possibly Valkyrie as cores of new Entities. It would explain why he was so unhappy to see Lung boil the clone Simurgh created in epilogue of Worm.

          10. One big piece of the puzzle we are missing is Teache’s motive – why would he want to bring the powers “back together”? It would make some sense if he just tried to remake Khepri’s “swarm”, but he must understand just how dangerius it would be, especially with the warning from Marquis. If this is something he is trying to do, he must have some bigger aim in mind we don’t see yet. Something worth the risk. What could it be?

            If he is trying to recreate an Entity or two, he either thinks he has some way to make himself the core (possible, but seems unlikely at this point), or thinks he can ensure his, and possibly entire humanity’s safety during the process of collecting fragments by Entities. Again seems very risky, and at this point nothing seems to indicate, that he has any way to ensure this safety.

            Bottom line is that at this point we probably don’t know enough about what Teacher knows, or thinks he knows to tell what motivates him to do what he has been doing post Gold Morning. All we know is that he probably wants to bring the powers back together, but there are just too many unknowns to tell what it could mean precisely, why he does it, how it ties to the rest of the story, or even how successful he has been so far.

            I meantioned elsewhere that since in the epilogue of Worm he had a proposition for Amy he discussed with Marquis it is entirely possible, that he is the mastermind behind Chris and Amy in which case he pretty much won the battle for the prison, and all of his overt attacks there were either his plan B or a smokescreen to ensure, that nobody suspects his involvement with Amy and Chris.

          11. Glastig Ulaine’s entire motive for fighting Scion was to mess him up badly enough he goes into hibernation for 300 years and then the cycle will be completed and she’ll collect every Eden and every released Scion shard and then she and Scion will hash things out and swap shards and then they are the Champion and the Queen Administrator instead of the Warrior and the Thinker.

            Also I’m pretty sure Glastig Ulaine is the backup plan for Cauldron happening. In her metaphor she is the third princess of the Winter Court who was raised in the Summer Court just in case the entire Winter Court nobility was slaughtered so there’d be a backup Queen of the Winter Court. Key point: Glastig Ulaine knows everything about the Cycle. If you disagree with her plan it is you who are wrong

            Also I am sort of having a coming out experience and I decided the best metaphor for my entire four-day-long disconnected ranting on that forum was to tell them my gender identity is like Glastig Ulaine/Valkyrie and I am getting therapy and in a few days I will be Valkyrie and together we can help sort out what the hell Glastig Ulaine was saying.

            And, uh, let’s just say that they didn’t get the reference and they decided to lock off my posting privileges and revoked my PM privileges and then the moderator I’d been chatting to locked the private thread and then told me to PM moderators for official buisness and locked that thread, and then when I tried to find ways to get them to unlock pm privileges…

            Last warning, I attempted to explain this to a moderator for a forum for an obscure company that has an ironclad ban on making games with only a male protagonist under their main brand so they could explain this for me. And they didn’t get my Worm reference that I’d been Glastig Ulaine and now I’m getting therapy and when I’m done I will become Valkyrie, and basically tell everyone my last four days of posts were me telling them my gender identity via mad delphic ramblings and they decided I needed to stop posting and get professional help.

            As of two hours ago they told me they’re not qualified to handle mental breakdowns and I should wait until I get medication, and that was the last straw and I went on a rant about how I’d gotten professional medical help yesterday and I want them to just shut up and explain my prior post to the community, and since I’d just been misgendered to my face I also wanted an apology for bungling figuring this out so bad that I was still mad about the first time it happened on October 3 where someone implied they knew my gender better than I did, I tried to correct them, and then someone outright told me they knew my gender identity and I cannot understand what it’s like to not be a male. And I told them they apologize or I delete my account and all my posts and refund every game I still can and never buy another game from them ever again just as soon as I’m coherent enough to be sure that is a good idea.

            So, don’t try to talk some sense into me right now

            This is helping calm me down as my medication kicks in; best thing to do is to not respond just now; present projection is by Saturday my personal Dr Yamada will pronounce I’m ready to put on my Valkyrie costume, and just remember that I know this is a metaphor.

            Wildbow, if you think I’m spiraling instead of improving, what my psychiatrist thinks is the best way to handle that is for the highest local authority figure, i.e. you, to politely tell me that I should rest some more. Anyone else, well, go see Worm, interlude 7, and imagine you are Miss Militia during her trigger event and talking to me is equivalent to walking forwards and praying you don’t step on a mine.

            I am sufficently recovered my mad delphic ramblings are references I am pretty sure my audience will get, but on the other hand yesterday morning I’d been ranting that I was Amaterasu-no-Okami and the only reason I am not raining fire and brimstone is that Amaterasu-no-Okami responds to being pissed off by taking her Sun and going home to sulk so she’ll gently inform you your tea is two degrees cooler than she would like until she snaps and goes to cry and eat ice cream except instead she’s ideal so she will calm herself down by being serene until all of the Eight Million Gods figure out how to get her to come out because she’s the Sun and they need the Sun.

            So I was five beers in and telling the bartender he can’t cut me off because I am God except female and Japanese for roughly twenty hours straight before they realized this was professional therapist time, and suddenly I know exactly what kind of trigger event Goddess might’ve had if she were solo and only got Alignment. And I am rambling here because now I understand I loved Worm so much because Glastig Ulaine was a metaphor for who I am and Valkyrie is a metaphor for who I want to be.

            So give me until Saturday before you question my interpretation of Glastig Ulaine’s ramblings. Then I can have this conversation. My metaphorical trigger event was twenty-four hours ago, and it is a Master trigger and when I’ve cheered up I will try to add it to the list of Weaverdice triggers. If at the end of the therapy someone asks Valkyrie “what gender are you?” and she says “man and woman and both and angel”, well, uh, Wildbow has permission to make that canon but not before December and only if my psychiatrist thinks I’m stable.

            It turns out the real reason I like Valkyrie more than all the other capes is not because she’s stronger, it is because her ability to summon the right ghost for the job and then dismiss it when it’s no longer needed but they all report to her is a metaphor for my gender identity.

            On Saturday I will be able to explain this without resorting to references; meanwhile “in wine truth” even if this isn’t the right place. I picked here because I am sure you will not get me fired or committed if you think I need to tone it down, not because I am really ready to explain it.

          12. Oh, I am also metaphorically Furcate, don’t be metaphorically Moonsong right now, intentionally or not. That’s my warning.

  26. “I’m supposed to put my DNA inside them?” Rain asked.

    “Also, pretty sure Love Lost is twice as old as I am.”

    Semen and egg cells contains only halfs of DNA, so it may not work. But powers of 2nd generation capes shows that it could be relevant…

    I also think that powers tend to target the disadvantaged. Victims. Trigger events target them. Second triggers do.

    Unconscious cape should not second trigger.

      1. > And an attempt to render a cape unconcious risks a second trigger.
        Yes, but dart with tranquilizer should render most of capes unconscious and risk of second trigger in that case is significantly lower than “doing the Bathory thing” while cape is conscious.

  27. Been thinking about the drain process; it strikes me as unlikely Tattletale is critically mistaken in an obvious way and I doubt she’d sell Breakthrough totally false information on purpose.

    What strikes me about the process as described is that it’s both oddly inconsistent with how twins and clones work and seems counter-productive from the Entities’s perspective. It’s a pretty straightforward way out of the kiss/kill dynamic and it reduces the information the Entities obtain because it consolidates powers. So I’m thinking maybe the key isn’t to confuse the Shards, it’s to persuade them that the other person is no longer of interest. Such as by Aligning them so they’re no longer acting independently. Or incapacitating them in a way their powers cannot get them out of. Those conditions change, power reverts.

    1. Definietly a possibility, but I’m not sure if twins or clusters are that useless or counter-productive to Entities. Pitting different expressions of the same powers could still bring useful data about them – which expressions fare better in conflict for example. Identical clones like Ashleys could indeed be less useful, or at least bring diminishing with extra clones.

        1. Interesting example. Identical or almost identical as far as power expressions went, but unlike Ashleys had entire lifetimes of different, separate (if simmilar) memories. They were less interchangible the moment they triggered then S9 clones were when they were activated (although if I remember correctly there were subtle but noticible diferencess even between those) wonder if from Entitys’ perspective they counted as completly redundant, or it was some attempt at fine tuning the powers, or checking how sensitive their effectiveness is to slight changes in starting conditions. Testing for butterfly effect so to speak.

          Ultimately the question may be how different two power users and their circumstances need to be to be considered data points different enough to both be considered worth keeping. If fate of majority of S9 clones is any indication then if they are too simmilar they may be considered redundant and swiftly eliminated. Makes me worried for Ashleys. Perhaps they should try to be as different from each other as they can just for the sake of their self-preservation?

          The problem is figuring out what it means for two people to be substantially different from the perspective of a highly evolved worm, but ultimately still a worm motivated strictly by basic biological imperatives of preservation of itself, and it’s species.

          1. The planning of exact trigger events was a little loose and definitely thrown off the rails; Taylor was planned to trigger in a bar. They probably got buds off the same person so they had the same Shard to start with and similar trigger events so they got similar powers. If Taylor had an identical twin and they both got triggers like the locker except the twin’s involved rats you’d get Skitter and Scurry.

          2. Apparent problems with planning who, when, how, and how many people trigger are certainly interesting things to consider, when trying to figure out how clusters, twins and clones work. I’ll need to keep it in mind.

            At the moment though I’m more interested in figuring out when people who get the same power are to simmilar for the Entities to be useful (or even if they can ever be seen by the Entities or the Shards as such), and what are (if there are any) ways to get rid of people unnecessary from the Entities perspective. I think that we may learn a lot if we consider how people who share powers end up, how long it takes, and what (other then powers) are the similarities between those people.

            My current theory about the entities is that they evolved inteligence, and the ability to consciously guide their evolution too quickly to understand higher emotions or morality for example. Their problem is that they are still guided exclusively by basic evolutionary imperatives of preservation of themselves, and their species.

            They understand (or believe depending on how much they know) that multiverse while big is ultimately just as finite as the planet they come from. This means that while they have a lot of time, they must keep evolving, because sooner or later there will no longer be enough resources for everyone, and they will need to start killing each other again to prolong the existance of the survivors, and that they will continue to do so until only one of them will be left to die in the multiverse completly stripped of resources necessery to survive.

            If we assume that each of them prefers their own survival over survival of anyone else, and that they still have a lot of time, their plan should look like this:
            – at first cooperate to ensure survival of the species as long as possible,
            – at the same time try to evolve traits that increase their individual chances when they will need to start killing each other again; as long as there is lots of time left do it slowly and carefully so that no change diverts them from this plan (and especially does not weaken their basic imperatives).

            This means, that they would be very careful about incorporating such traits as higher emotions mentioned above. While such modifications may give evolutionary adventage it is not a safe bet, and as long as the Entities are not pressed for time (and they are not at this stage), they will not risk of letting higher emotions influence their behavior.

            This means that while Scion was equiped with an ability to feel human emotions (probably unlike the Warrior before it split) as part of the plan to mimic humans, a lot of predictive abilities of both partner Entities went into ensuring, that there would be no situation in which he would actually feel them, and so he was not equipped with any ability to deal with them (something probably difficult to comprehend, much less establish by Entities, who likely have very shallow if any understanding of emotions so different from anything they ever expirianced themselves).

            Since the two Entities obviously did not plan for Eden’s death, and for the cycle to be broken (meaning that Scion was doomed to die relatively quickly too), Scion was exposed to a couple decades of denail followed by his bout of grief and hysteria that nearly destroyed humanity, but has at the same time been the key to his defeat.

            What all of this may mean in current situation is that since the Entities likely had no capacity to feel or truly understand human emotions or morality before they ejected their Shards and transformed into Scion and Eden, the Shards themselves also have no way of understanding those emotions or making decision based on them.

            This in turn means that if someone like a pair of clones (like those of Damsel the First or Number Man) needs to convince their respective Shards that despite having practically identical powers and a lot of shared memories they are different enough from each other that they are both worth keeping alive and enpowered, then they probably can’t do it by differing on emotional or moral levels, as the Shards don’t understand the difference.

            In Ashleys’ example the fact that they use different hands giving them different manual dexterity and different levels of control over their powers likely means more to their Shard then the fact that one of them stayed a villain, while the other decided to try to be a hero.

            In other words Damsel should probably not ask to be equipped with more human-like hands Swansong uses. If my theory is correct it may not end well. They should be especially affraid if something bad happens to one or both of Number Man’s “younger brothers”. They are likely in even worse situation, as they seem to always act and probably also think in perfect sync.

            I may also be completly wrong, and Shards don’t care about the duplicates, but considering how long most of the S9 clones survived, I must say I’m worried.

          3. There is also the fact, that it could be more “interesting” storywise for the Number Man’s clones and at least one of the Ashleys to die, then to keep all of them alive.

            Probably an even bigger reason to worry.

          4. I don’t think the Entities are really micromanaging Shard distribution; they’re experimenting and there’s no point in experimenting if you already know the results. And Shards grow in power and multiply on their own once attached, spawning new buds, so there’s no strict resource limit. The things they’re shown to be concerned about in their interludes is the risk the Shards will just kill their hosts right away and the possibility the humans will turn the Shards against them and kill them, and that’s what they meticulously plotted out with their precog powers before it all went to hell. So they carefully crippled Thinker powers that might reveal them, and I’m pretty sure Eden watched Sting and Valkyrie’s Shard very closely. So Foil is in a cluster trigger and has an Entity-killer, but she can’t beat Scion by herself unless he lets her. It’s straight-up impossible; Scion’s automatic victory power will trigger and he will dodge. Valkyrie is so strong she and Eidolon backed Scion into a corner unassisted, and she just knows basically everything everyone else painstakingly learned, but I am pretty certain it is not a coincidence that she spent her time chilling in the Birdcage and no one listened when she just up and told them the answers to all the mysteries. I strongly suspect that she was specifically recruited; she gets to be that strong and know that much because she’d voluntarily spend three hundred years hanging out collecting loose Shards to return at the end of the cycle. Even on Golden Morning she wasn’t aligned with humanity as such; she wanted to force Scion into hibernation and get on with becoming New Eden and continue the cycle.

            So there’s no need to specifically eliminate duplicates just because. If they had an actual problem like mass-production Foils, well, Eden picks a Tinker 15 and makes him build a doomsday tower and rip all the oxygen off the Earth they’re being made on.

            As for the fates of the S9 clones, I don’t think the fact that they were clones had any bearing on it by itself. They died because they had standing kill orders and Dragon’s Singularity was well under way and the Protectorate called up everyone they didn’t think might turn out to be the apocalypse. Plus, they were all basically rookies, not used to their powers, early in Crawler’s growth sequence, etc. and Siberian is a puzzle boss they’d already solved. No match for Protectorate/Dragon kill teams.

          5. @guy
            “Taylor was planned to trigger in a bar”
            Could you please clarify on that? What bar and where this plan was mentioned?

          6. Whoops, I actually conflated her and Imp; it’s from Scion’s Interlude. He’s planning out his Shard releases and iterating connection plans, and he sends a Shard at a male shielding his daughter from a gang of men making threating sexual gestures, and then reassesses and sends it to the daughter instead and sees her get a power that makes her vanish from the awareness of the men around her, i.e. Imp. Not sure on her trigger event but I don’t think the one Scion saw quite tracks with her home life and no sign of Endbringer.

            The bar was just Queen Administrator being sent to Danny and I’d misremembered that as being the one that jumped. Taylor’s apparently was not checked at all by Scion because he’s a bit surprised and pleased to see her; her Shard is a bud from Danny. The other scenes we see Scion check are trigger events and Danny never triggered, but that could just be Scion decided to toss it in as a bud source and not necessarily trigger it

          7. @guy Taylor isn’t a bud. The shard was meant for Danny but it saw that he would make a poor host and then jumped to Taylor instead, similar to how Imp’s jumped to her from her father.

    2. > So I’m thinking maybe the key isn’t to confuse the Shards, it’s to persuade them that the other person is no longer of interest. Such as by Aligning them so they’re no longer acting independently.

      If that were the case, Rain would lose his power in the Goddess arc, when he was aligned and his clustermates were not.

      1. No, I think he didn’t because Goddess is not his clustermate.

        Generically I think the power drain is meant to allow a cluster member to win Kiss/Kill and gather all the powers. And there’s a bonus prize for rendering a cluster mate unable to oppose you without killing them so there can be a loophole for them to escape and regain your powers so it resets

  28. Ok, so the power transfer has been more or less explained. What’s still unclear is the imprisonment Victoria’s talking about. None of Breakthrough’s powers seem to be fit for it. Have they managed to build a power-resistant prison somewhere offscreen?

      1. Not just any empty world, but the one with Monokeros, I reckon. That’s where the Teacher-door was intended to go, so unless Kenzie can figure out how to redirect it, and how to look through it to find out what’s on the other side, that’s the best option.

        1. Err, do they have control over Teacher’s portal now? I thought that Teacher had his hands on it all the time, and Kenzie could only jam its signal so that the portal would be opening several hundred meters down into the ground.

          Besides that – the world with Monokeros is the same world where the prison was. And it’s connected with Gimel via 2 stationary portals. It would be an incredibly bad idea to just dump there all the criminals who you want to ‘disappear’. (Not that leaving Monokeros there was a good idea either.)

          1. I thought the jammer was a re-purposed Teacher door, not a seperate device.

            If Monokeros is on a world with a portal to another world with a portal to Gimel, she could still come back, and that’s something Tristan was very sure would not happen. So one or both portals have been closed, or blocked, or redirected. Possibly by Mortari, who would have recovered Monokeros if they knew she was there, which they don’t because Tristan says they killed her.

          2. Well, Tristan isn’t exactly a good example of making sound decisions 🙂 No one said anything about blocking or redirecting those portals, and there is no need to do so unless you know there’s something dangerous out there (and so dangerous that you’d close the portal and abandon the whole world beyond it for good rather than eliminate the danger. if Tristan told Mortari that Sleeper invaded that world, I’m not sure they would buy it:))

    1. Actually, I thought about possible applications of Breakthrough’s powers. Lookout’s specialty is surveillance and counter-surveillance, especially in large boxes. So you might imprison someone in a box which simulates the outside world for them, Matrix-style, while concealing the box itself with counter-surveillance measures. Though the problem of them using their powers might remain.
      (another theory is Lookout figuring out where Capricornspace is, and understanding it so well that she can banish people there, but that’s too crazy)

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