Polarize – 10.10

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“Bluuuuurggh,” Crystal said, as we left the station.

“Blurgh,” I responded.  “Cold enough for you?”

“It was seventy-four degrees out where we were stationed!  What is this?  Why can’t it be warm all the time everywhere?”

I smiled- not just because Crystal was being silly, but because I could see the crowd filtering out of the station.  I was pretty used to the looks a cape got in public, and Weld, Laserdream and I were all costumed or known capes.  It was pretty obvious when I compared the attention we got from some compared to the lone individuals who didn’t give half as many shits.

The latter group had either worked closely with capes for a long time, or they were capes themselves.

“So,” Crystal said.  “How you been, cuz?  Because I can’t help but notice that you went and hurt your other arm.  Hand.  Whatever.”

“We ran into a parahuman who burns powers.  Sets forcefields and auras on fire.  That was a thing.  And Lung was there.  I don’t suppose you had any access to Gimel news?  TV?”

She shook her head.  Her expression was nearly blank, but her eyebrows were up toward the center, creating a line of wrinkle on her forehead.

“Don’t make that face.”

She reached up and adjusted her hair a bit, so the part that swooped down over one half of her forehead and one eye now covered the eyebrows and some of her other eye.  Still making the face, just hiding it.

I elbowed her while she was still adjusting, and her hair came loose of the hairband.

“It was a thing.  Goddess against Teacher.  Gimel caught in the middle.  Monokeros, you know her?  She was a thing a while back.”

She took a second, bending over so her hair draped down, so she could then comb it with her fingers and arrange it, before fixing her hairband into place to lock its position.  A single finger helped adjust the curve of hair to where it tucked behind her ear.

She straightened, and then gave me a serious look.  “You know what you sound like right now, right?  But it wasn’t a dream!  It was a place!  And this guy was there, and her, and him, they were all there!  But they couldn’t have been, Auntie Em!”

Crystal put her hands to her cheeks as she finished it.

“I wish it was a dream,” I said.  “It was a mess.  I’ll fill you in on it later.”

Great.

“Or not.  You could find out by browsing the web-”

“Blegh, internet.”

“-finding a video of our tv appearance-”

She perked up.  “Oh hey!  That’s good!  Neat!”

“Not good,” Sveta commented.  “Necessary, but not pretty.”

“Oh no,” Crystal said.  She’d gone from excited to crestfallen in a second.  Even borderline horrified.  “Because ‘necessary‘ always means good things.  We just finished a stint of necessary.”

“They were pulling a media hit job on one of our team members,” I said.

“Who is they?  What group, or what show?”

“No idea and Hardboil.  On Lookout.”

Crystal made a face.  “Even if it was them, why wasn’t it pretty?  You’re supposed to be good at this stuff, cuz!  And you have Capricorn!  He’s done media appearances before, and he’s good at it!”

Someone looked him up, I thought.

“Sorry to butt in,” Sveta said.  “Didn’t mean to get you in trouble, Victoria.”

“No,” Crystal said.  “No, you’re fine.  You can butt in all you like.  You’re as good as family.”

Sveta blinked.

Weld put one arm around her.  “I heard about the TV show.  The prison.”

“It’s nice to know they keep you in the loop,” Crystal said, sticking out her tongue at him.

“Leave that group of yours and join the Wardens.  We’ll take care of you,” Weld said.

“Tempting,” she said.  “Prison?”

“It was one thing among… a lot of things,” I said.

“I’m glad you’re not too badly hurt,” Weld said.

“Somewhat traumatized, but we’re mostly fine,” Sveta said, hugging him back.  “We lost a teammate.  Cryptid.  Not- not dead.  But he left.”

She’d stumbled over her words in her haste to clarify that ‘lost’ wasn’t dead.

It put me in mind of the Leviathan attack.  ‘Losses’.  The word had haunted me for a while, until other moments and things had taken over.  Such a horribly ambiguous word.

“Half of you didn’t have names when I left,” Crystal reminded us.

“One of the younger two.  Not the camera tinker.  Our changer.”

“I vaguely recall.  I might be sharper if it wasn’t nearly midnight.”

“It’s past midnight,” Sveta said.

“Fucking time zones.  So you were on television and you fucked it up-”

I elbowed her again.  “It wasn’t great from a PR standpoint, but we did what we needed to.  Got heroes on our side, saved Lookout from being the focus.”

“Fine.  Conceded.  But you fought our hometown dragon boy and lost, judging by that burn-”

“Won.  I did pretty fucking awesome, actually.”

“You won against Lung.  Right.  Really helping your case, here, Miss ‘this wasn’t a fever dream’.”

I moved to elbow her again, and hit a square of forcefield.

“Fought Teacher, fought Goddess.  I have a hundred texts from Aunt Carol, who was no doubt trying to see if she could reach me and use me to steer you back on course-”

“No comment,” I said.

“And twenty texts from your dad, who was interpreting Auntie C’s actions or crisis managing.”

“Fair bit of crisis managing, I think.  I saw Amy,” I murmured to Crystal.

“Oh,” she said, and the levity where she’d been making fun of how hectic we’d been and complaining in good fun was all gone.  “How was that?”

A very careful, neutral question.

“Not well.  She left.”

“Left…?”

“Gimel.  She and Marquis left to take a leadership role in another Earth.  With Cryptid.”

Crystal nodded.  “Your dad said Marquis was active on Earth N.  It would make sense for him to take a firmer hand, go to Earth N-”

I was shaking my head.  Sveta added a, “No,” for good measure.

“Another uninhabited Earth, using the skills he learned, then.”

“Inhabited,” Sveta said.  “Shin.”

Crystal’s uncovered eye bugged out.  “That’s Goddess’.”

“Was.  Amy, Marquis, Cryptid now.”

“We don’t know how far they’re going with it,” Sveta added.

Crystal didn’t have a retort for once.

“It’s okay,” I said.  “That’s a mess that’s going to have to be dealt with sometime, but not today.  As shitty as it is to say, it’s a load off my mind that she’s not here.”

“I don’t think it’s shitty,” Sveta said.  “You’ve been more at ease since all that.”

I shrugged and gave Sveta a smile.  I turned more attention to Weld, who was apparently pretty content holding his girlfriend, his attention half on us and half on the crowd.  He saw me looking.

“Vista.”

I perked up, looking.

“She’s just talking to her dad now.  She was with her mom earlier, and her parents can’t stand to be in the same place at the same time.”

“And even when she sees each of them separately, it’s about who she saw first, who she saw longest…  I guess that’s not better?”

Vista was out of costume.  She looked so different.  Her hair wasn’t straight, she had eyeliner on, and she had a fair number of freckles – more than usual.  No waterproof makeup covering it up and changing her complexion, nose, and brow shape either.  There wasn’t a trace of the old green and blue of her costume in her outfit, either.  She wore a black sweatshirt over maroon scrubs that might have been medical scrubs, and wore a jacket and scarf over that.  Given her age, she would be pretending to be part of the medical block student group.  Helping out with supplies and first-aid for special credit?

Whatever the excuse or story was, she looked just enough like someone with a job that it didn’t draw attention, and the job wasn’t one that got in the way of her personal identity.

It sucked to see that her dad was showing so very little joy at seeing her, though.

She looked our way and I gave her a little wave.  I didn’t want to break her cover, but-

-But apparently that was excuse enough for her to break away from her dad.  She hurried off, and not toward us.  She nudged some other people, and they headed our way.

These people- not familiar to me.  I was left trying to guess who they were.  A guy and a girl.

Browbeat?  Couldn’t and wouldn’t be Chariot.  Too young to be Trainwreck.  He looked military-esque, but he was also… sturdy.  Not so fat, tall, or muscular in a way that I could point to any one of the things being responsible for my estimation of him, but a fair bit of all of those things.  His choice of clothes didn’t work against that, either.  Beanie, a leather jacket that was less fashion and more the kind of thing a blue collar worker bought if he expected to work outside, jeans that weren’t slim-fit or even regular fit, and heavy boots.

And he looked wholly comfortable in all of it.

His lady friend was a stark contrast.  She wore a white wrap coat with gray fur trim and a silver chain extending along the front like a piece of jewelry that had been built into the coat.  There were other decorative elements at the wrists.  Black jeans, and gray suede boots that I could hear as they tapped on the ice and road.  Her hair was in a ponytail, but I could see wisps of black hair escaping.  It was rare to see hair that fine and that black.

“Hi big V, hi Crystal,” Missy said, after she had dragged them along enough.  She was still fairly petite, though far less than she once had been, obviously, but it stood out with the company she kept, especially the guy.  It didn’t help that the two were so straight-backed, and Missy was hunched over against the cold.

I hugged her.  She smiled as she broke the hug.  “Hi Missy.”

“You can call me whatever.  This is, uh, Theo and Ava.  I just realized I didn’t ask first about identities.”

I put out my hand to shake theirs.  Theo accepted first.

“Glory Girl, hi,” Theo said.  “I was a fan when I was a kid.  Laserdream, wow.”

“I think I win,” Crystal whispered.  She threw up a forcefield, expecting a jab that I didn’t bother to deliver.

“I’m Golem,” he said.  “And I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t know the name.”

“I know the name,” I said.

“I know too,” Sveta said.  “But if I said how, you’d think I was weird.”

“Weird why?” Theo asked.

“If I said J.Y., would that mean anything to you?  Staff?”

“Yyyes?”

“She was one of a very small number of people who looked after me.  So when she said she went to a town, I looked up the teams there.”

“Ahh,” Theo said.  He wrinkled his nose.  “Not too weird.”

“I’ll settle for that,” Sveta said.

“Cuff,” Ava introduced herself to me and Sveta.  At Sveta’s handshake, she extended a look down.  “That’s quite a hand… shake.”

“You’re the Chicago Wards,” Sveta said, matching Ava’s tone of intrigued surprise.

“When a lot of people make that connection, they’ll add something to it,” Ava said.  “Chicago Wards, Weaver’s team.  Or Chicago Wards, the people from the New Delhi video.”

I shook my head.  “Chicago Wards, did what few teams besides New York were doing and organized a roster with a strategy.”

“That was in the New Delhi video,” Ava said.  “I’m pretty sure.”

“If it was, it was something you guys were doing before the video, before Weaver, and I was paying attention back then.”

“Well, on behalf of Tecton, I’m touched,” Ava said.

“It’s tough.  Damned by association, like Brockton Bay and the Undersiders,” Missy said.  “Theo’s from Brockton Bay originally.”

“When did you get out?” I asked.

“Around the time the Slaughterhouse Nine arrived.”

“Good move,” Crystal said.

“I like getting together with all of the old Brockton Bay people,” Vista said.  She huffed breath into her hands, then adjusted her scarf.  When it didn’t adjust the way she wanted it to, she warped its dimensions.  “Feels like I’m putting a puzzle back together.  Everyone always has questions they never got to get answers to, you know?  Except Rachel Lindt’s one of the people I keep meeting up with, and she’s not a question and answer kind of person.”

“Tattletale’s the one I keep running into,” I muttered.  “She is a question and answer kind of person, and it sucks.”

Vista smiled.  “Doesn’t it?  I tried to reach out, get her in on the reuniting thing.  Offered my hand in friendship, and she went straight for the jugular.  She seems happy being a villain.  Same type as Shadow Stalker, I think.”

I shrugged.  There were a hundred things I could say to that, and figuring Tattletale out was something I could see a whole lot of merit in, if Vista ever wanted to get together and compare notes, do what she was talking about and getting answers.  But that felt like a whole-day thing to unpack and figure out.  Not a well-past-midnight thing.

But on the surface?  I’d known Shadow Stalker briefly, and she had been kind of nice to be around when she’d had reason to be nice.  I could believe that Tattletale was the same.  But I knew just how shitty they could be when upset- Shadow Stalker broke faces, and Tattletale destroyed psyches.  Shadow Stalker stuck relentlessly to a path and as shitty as she was at her core, however easily or excellently she could be a villain, she valued being a vigilante-type, and from what I knew about her, that wouldn’t change, however she was tempted.  Being a vigilante served her ends, it served her ego, and it validated her at her core.

Tattletale had helped the city and in some twisted world where the chips had fallen down differently, she could have been a hero.  There was a distinction, even, that she cared about shit that wasn’t herself a lot more than Shadow Stalker ever had.  But being a villain served her ends, it served her ego, and it validated her at her core.

The others were chatting.  Talking about the travel.  Vista looked happy, and Sveta seemed very content.

Amusing to see that Theo was just a little bigger than Weld in physical dimensions.  Weld was usually the heavyweight in the room.  He still was, by a wide margin, but someone squinting their eyes wouldn’t have known it.

“Do you guys want to go somewhere warmer?” Crystal asked.  “I bet we could find a place willing to serve us drinks-”

“I’m still too young,” Vista said.

“Coffee then?  Anyone?”

I saw Sveta and Weld exchange a look.

“I’m looking forward to getting home,” Weld said.  “Getting warm.”

“The cold bothers you?” Ava asked.  “I didn’t think much did.”

“Slows me down,” Weld said.  “A little stiff in the joints.”

“Let’s get you home to a heated mattress.  I got everything out that we set up last winter, tested it, made sure there were no shorts in the wiring,” Sveta said, breaking away from the hug, taking one of Weld’s hands in hers and swaying a bit.  “Some heated blankets with metal plates, music.”

Please.  You’ve got to catch me up on what I missed.”

“I’ve been saving stuff, mister,” Sveta said.  “As requested.  Doing what little I can to look after you.”

Weld pulled his fist close to his chest, and with Sveta holding onto it with both hands, drew her close enough that he could put his other arm around her.  He looked to Crystal. “Drinks another time.”

“Another time for sure.  When’s your birthday, Missy?”

“Not soon.  May fifteenth.  But I’ll be eighteen then.”

“Let’s do a Brockton Bay reunion then.”

“We’ll take you for a first drink,” Crystal said.

“That sounds nice.  I know this is a weird question, but what would you think if I invited Rachel Lindt?”

“Do you think she’d accept?” Theo asked.

“I don’t know.  She might only swing by if I bribe her.  But I think it would be important if we could show her that we don’t have it in for her.”

Missy looked at me as she said the last bit.

“You’re vouching for her?”

“Yeah.  And Miss Militia would too.”

“Then sure.”

Missy smiled.

Sveta and Weld said their goodbyes.

“I am catching a ride with… someone,” Vista said.  “Procrastinating on that decision.  No coffee for me.  I’m just glad I get to say hi.”

“I wanted to say,” Theo said.  “Victoria, uh… thank you?”

“For what?”

“This is a weird thing to bring up.  But back when I was just in my first year of High School, you went after the gangs pretty hard.”

I winced.

“The Empire in particular?”

“I regret how I went about that,” I said.

“You shouldn’t,” he said.  “You know how you can be raised one way, and you don’t second guess it until you have a reason to?”

I thought of Rain.  I nodded.

“I was raised by those guys,” he said.  “I don’t know how much I believed, but I went along with it for a while, because I was still in that kid state of mind, where you think if you don’t get something and the adults act like they do, they’re probably right?”

“Sure,” I said.  “I think I can relate to that.”

“I remember when one guy, Thor, no powers, he just changed his name from something lame like Lester, he got carted back with a few broken bones.”

“You were that close to their operations?” I asked.  I connected two thoughts.  His power- “You’re second gen.  Allfather?  Or would you rather not say?”

“I don’t mind saying.  Nah, not Allfather, that would have been weird.  Kaiser and Heith.”

“Oh yeah.  I guess I pictured the older guy having a kid instead of the… twenty year old, I guess?  Thereabouts?”

“Yeah.  Thereabouts.”

“Sorry, I’m getting nerdy and… inaccurate.”

“Very inaccurate,” Crystal said.

“It’s late,” I said.  “Sorry.  You were saying?”

“The guy came back hurt and I was happy about it.  Fucker deserved it.  Realizing I was happy wasn’t when I realized I didn’t like the Empire.  But it was step seven or eight in ten steps?  I don’t know how I would have ended up if I hadn’t had that.  If I’d missed a step or two or three.”

I nodded.

“Some of them ended up in the Shepherds, y’know?” he asked.

“Yeah.  That came up at one point.  I haven’t run into them yet, but I did have a run in with the Shepherds.”

“I remember you geeking out one time,” Crystal said.  “Remember?  You were telling me all about how Masters have interpersonal problems and Shakers have issues feeling secure-”

“Ahem,” Vista said.

“-and tinkers dwell…”

“You got shakers wrong,” I pointed out.  My phone was buzzing in my pocket, so I pulled it out, without looking at it.  “What are you getting at?”

“Maybe.  I’m starting to think you’ve got a Brute thing going, Victoria.  Because you have run-ins with everyone and crash through everything.  Everything.”

I rolled my eyes.  I checked my phone.  Kenzie.

“Gotta take this,” I said.

“Yeah, you know I got your goat.”

I waited until I was mostly out of earshot to answer.  “I’m here.”

Kenzie’s voice came across with both enthusiasm and a slight hush, like she didn’t want to wake up someone nearby.  “Hi.  Sorry to call so late, but I see you’re still at the station, and something came up.”

I looked around for the camera.

“Seven and a half o’clock, if the station entrance is twelve.”

I turned myself around, looked, and spotted it.

“What happened?”

“Okay, so um, first of all, Tattletale was peeking in.  I tried to say hi, open a dialogue, and she went dark.  But I thought you should know.”

“Watching us?  Okay.”

“Watching everyone, I think.  The camera wasn’t too interested in us, and when it looked like it was, I thought I’d do the digital handshake.  I might’ve stepped in sooner but I was changing for bed and brushing my teeth.”

“You need to go to sleep sooner.”

“I know!  But I wanted to organize my stuff, take apart my broken camera and sort the components away, and I got carried away.”

“What’s the other thing?”

“Dead bodies.  Heroes from your tracking program.”

I found myself holding my breath.  “Who?”

I didn’t want to hear.  I didn’t want to know.

“Slingstone, Nailfarer and Scaffold.”

“Navigators.  That’s not far from Brockton Bay.  Tell me where.”

“I can give you coordinates.  I’ll send it to you and you can click the link to have it go up as a flag on your map exec.”

“Thank you.”

“I’m glad to help.  Um, and Victoria?”

The tone suggested she was preparing to deliver more bad news.

“Hit me with it.”

“There’s chatter on the lines.  Villains know it happened, and they seem split on what they’re going to do about it.”

“The game.  I know it doesn’t count for much these days, but… there are rules we all follow.”

“That’s the chatter.  Some like the decisive action.  Some hate it.  They’re calling a halt to all activity for now and they’re going to hold a meeting tomorrow to figure out how to handle this.  Whether they allow it.”

Or encourage it.  We need to figure out how -we- handle this.

“Thanks, Kenzie.  But you should really be in bed.”

“This is important.  I was going to ask if I should stay up.  I can be comms.”

“How long would it take you to get a message out to all the teams?”

“A minute.”

“Tell them to stand down.  If the villains are going quiet, it should be fine.”

“Can I say it’s an emergency?”

“Yeah.  Might be good.  Have someone who’s awake double-check what you wrote before you mass-send.  Not Sveta.  Let her have her night with Weld.”

“Got it.”

I rejoined the others.

“You look serious,” Crystal said.

“Some capes got killed.  Heroes.  We were trying to interconnect, share information, figure out a way to deal with the villains, now that the prison is gone.”

She cleared her throat.  “Gone?”

I sighed.

“I’ll come.”

“You just got back from-”

“From classified,” she said.  “I’ll come.”

She wasn’t the only one who wanted to.

We were close to Brockton Bay, and a part of me had hoped we’d run into Senior Trooper Littlejohn again.  I’d at least established some rapport with him.

Police cars had been stopped around the site, and though the sirens were off, the lights did flash.  The scattered parts were lit up with the stark glare of headlights from one side and strobing red and blue from another.

It was only thanks to Vista that the truck could keep pace with Crystal and I.  We’d arrived on the scene as a group.  I was out of costume, because I hadn’t really planned to get into any trouble.  I floated, so I was an obvious cape, but that was it.  The others had changed.

To a horror scene.  People butchered.  Cops standing by and trying to stay warm while the wind whipped aggressively past us, some techs were pacing the field, planting little yellow flags by each piece of a body, and the lights being almost solely from the cars made the scene an isolated image on a page otherwise painted black.

What did it say, that of Vista, of Laserdream, of Golem, Cuff, and I, we’d seen bad enough things that an unrecognizable assortment of human parts wasn’t enough to shake us?

“Who’s in charge?” I asked.

Fingers pointed.

I floated over, so my feet wouldn’t contaminate the scene.  A new face, a new set of expectations and prejudices to wrangle.

“Can we look?”

She seemed to take her time considering, until Golem flashed his Wardens badge.

“Be my guest,” the woman said.  “We’re taking our photos and our notes, but this looks like costume on costume crime.  We’re not equipped for it.”

“They were heroes.  These ones were good guys who saved lives,” I said.  “They worked with the system, they worked with police.”

“I’m sympathetic, I really am,” she said.  “But we’re not equipped.”

I was left kind of speechless.  A shift in the light drew my attention- Vista was enlarging the car headlights, and it looked like she was bending the beams, illuminating the scene.

“I’ll put it back before we go,” she told the officer driving the car.

No response.

The Navigators had passed through Hollow Point briefly.  They’d been just far enough away that we hadn’t had much more cause to interact with them.  Too small, too narrow in their focus.

Nailfarer had a weird name, but it was based in legend, and she’d been candid in interviews about why.  She had talked about her trigger event at a time when such things had been discouraged.  Her parents and aunt had boarded a ship to America, convinced by shady individuals that it was by legitimate channels.  Mock tests, mock papers, and fair amounts of money.  They had boarded a ship and then been shuttled into a cargo container.  One of several.

She and her family members had been let out to work the ship or provide services to the crew.  They were slated to be slaves, and this was a beginning to their new lives.  She saw her oldest family members die, heard from others that they’d been thrown overboard.  She’d seen younger family members die too – alive but dead inside.

She’d gained powers, she’d fought, and she’d lost against sheer numbers.  She’d been beaten into submission and made to serve for three months as an enforcer before fighting her way out.

For ten years, she’d been a hero.  Her name more a reference to where she came from than her ability to turn dead tissues into doors.

Fuck,” I said, as I looked over the scene.  She’d been torn into fifty pieces.  Some were in the branches of a tree above, now brightly illuminated after Vista had adjusted the light.

“Found a murder weapon,” Golem said.  “Shovel, wooden handle.  It’s buried.”

Police officers jogged over to investigate.

Didn’t narrow things down, I was pretty sure.  Nothing jumped to mind.

Slingstone… he hadn’t been as cavalier about his background.  He’d gone after the big guys.  He was ex-Haven and hadn’t been open about why, and he’d dodged the Shepherds, presumably being close-mouthed about his decision there.  He was ‘boring’ by how he looked on paper.  A blaster, a single shot at a time, softball sized ‘stones’.  They flew in straight lines at high velocities and were really, really good at breaking through and shattering the inorganic, including armor.

But he’d fought Endbringers, traveling overseas to do it.  A year before Leviathan had hit Brockton Bay, Slingstone had been hurt in an Endbringer fight, and he’d taken a break.  He’d resumed activities just in time for the world to end.

The individual pieces of his body were mixed in with Nailfarer’s and Scaffold’s.  Streaks of blood suggested the directions by which they’d been thrown.

Multiple sizes of footprint suggested that members of the team had waded through the gore of the first one to die… or that there had been multiple attackers.

“Cuff, do you have any metal?  I need a chunk you don’t care about,” Laserdream said.

Cuff tossed something to her.

The team hadn’t been much of a cape against cape group.  They’d focused more on mundane gangs and criminal organizations, with Slingstone being the one to go up against Endbringers and challenge the powered enforcers.

In a lot of ways, they’d been closer to police than capes.  They’d been offered positions in the Guild, an international organization rooted in Canada, very cause-driven and mission-focused.  They’d turned it down, allegedly because it was still too much about image, and they just wanted to work.

Who or what came after you, and why?

The location was important.  That I’d been pretty fucking close to here in the last twenty-four hours was important.  I knew it was bad to decide who the culprit was before all the evidence came in, but Love Lost’s group had members who were willing and able to do something this savage, and she wasn’t situated that far away.

March’s group could blow people to smithereens and take people to pieces, and they’d been close, earlier in the day.

“Victoria,” Laserdream said.

I flew over in her direction.  Below her, Scaffold was more intact than the rest.  Head and torso were impaled on the mangled architecture that he’d created with his power.  His parts were strewn about as the others were, red and glistening.

Created and altered building layouts.  Slide a wall this way, raise up a wall where there was none.  Trapdoors and cover as it was needed.

General use wall and forcefield powers, as I understood it, came about most often from trigger events that involved ambient, environmental threats to people or things the trigger victim wanted to protect.

Aunt Sarah had it as a power.  So did Crystal.  So had Eric.

Me and my mom?  Not so much.

Well, I had something closer to my cousins than anything, now.  It had changed.  I couldn’t quite allow myself to think it counted.

Scaffold had been in a bad place and wanted to protect someone from the place or situation.  Probably.  He’d dedicated his life to going up against gangs and criminal organizations, though he’d been alone in the group in being as vocal as he’d been about corrupt governments, police departments, hero groups, and school administrations.  He’d been the original reason the Guild had reached out; they liked causes.

Laserdream had Cuff’s piece of metal set in a bowl of forcefield, and was firing a laser at it.  The metal glowed white hot, and she had her hands cupped around it with the one middle finger pointed more in than the others, to supply the laser.

“The cuts,” Laserdream said.  “Those are claw marks.”

I flew closer to see, while she floated above, warming her hands with a grim look on her face.

“I know your eyes aren’t as good as my one eye, but I see footprints, Victoria.”

“Point?”

She provided a thin beam, laser pointer style, to indicate.

These footprints weren’t human.  Long and two-toed, pressing deep into the frozen ground like the source was heavy.

“Minion?” I asked.

“Could be.  Could be, um, do you remember mentioning that Prancer was bringing in some Case-fifty-threes to screw with Sveta?”

“It’s possible.  A bit of a reach- they didn’t come to the Fallen raid and I think they left.”

The shovel.  One had had a shovel.  Sveta had mentioned her, but hadn’t mentioned if she’d lived.

I winced.  Cross that bridge when we came to it.

Scaffold had been lifted up, and thrown down onto his namesake construction.  Had he been clawed before or after?  If it was before, then this had been for the drama of it, to create a show.  If it was after, it suggested something personal, retaliating or expressing anger in a futile way.

One claw swipe had practically severed head from upper body.

Finished off?  Given a merciful death?

I saw how red the blood of the wound was.

I looked at the cops, many hunkering inside their cars or by the doors, trying to stay warm.  At Crystal, who was holding her hands above the heated metal.

“How long has the scene been like this?” I asked, raising my voice to be heard by the woman in charge.

“We arrived half an hour ago.”

The blood was too red.  It hadn’t frozen.  Snow had collected on it, but it hadn’t frozen.

Shit,” I said, with enough vehemence that just about everyone stopped in their tracks.

I flew straight to Scaffold.  I put my hand over his mouth.

No breath, but I could feel the warmth.

At the wound in the neck- there, I could feel the breath.

I touched his face, and I wiped the snow away from the eyes.

“Hey!”  This from the woman in charge.

I ignored her.  My eyes were fixed on him.  Scaffold, half his stomach, one arm, and everything below the waist missing, his jaw unhinged, crushed his eyes closed, then opened them.  His eyes met mine, wavering like he couldn’t really see me half the time.

“We need medical attention!” I shouted.  “He’s alive!”

Oh no, I thought.  He’s alive, and he has no power that’s anything like that.

He had no right or ability to be alive, which meant-

Horror surged through me as I flew over the field.  People were rushing to Scaffold, and I was rushing to find a piece of meat that I could recognize.

A quarter of a human head, a fragment of mask clinging to it by stubbornness and the stickiness of gore more than by mechanics.  A single eye.

I turned it, so the eye faced the headlight.  The pupil narrowed.

“They’re all alive!” I shouted.  “It might be every piece!”

They’d been hanging back, everything happening slowly, sticking together for numbers against a parahuman threat, and to provide light.  Now they were acting, everyone in motion.  Nobody with any idea what to do.

The woman in charge had to shout at people who were heading to the bushes to throw up, because pieces had been strewn so far and wide across the field that there might be some in the bushes.

When she was done shouting, and when most people had their orders or had decided they’d be useless, the woman was left leaning against the hood of her car, hands in her pockets, her eyes wide.

“They said something was off,” she muttered.  “I figured powers, right?”

I pressed my lips closed, watching.  At this stage I wasn’t sure what to do that wouldn’t put me in the way.

“What do I even do?” she asked.

“We see if we can put them back together, or if we can give them mercy,” I said.

“I meant… this is going to be a nightmare, with everything that’s already going on.”

I could picture Love Lost’s group.  I remembered Sidepiece’s words about the state of the itinerant villain.

“Don’t tell anyone anything yet.  Get your guys to keep quiet,”  I said, my voice low and quiet.  I met her eyes, incredulous eyes, and then I explained just why it was necessary.

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129 thoughts on “Polarize – 10.10”

      1. “Probably not – the Navigators are going to need more than 3 days to come around.”

        Unless Victoria reaches out to her sister. Amy could fix them up right quick.

        1. Honestly, I would think someone who gifts regeneration, like Othala or maybe Lizardtail (I don’t think his power was fully explained) would be more helpful. The Red Queen needs biomass, and there’s no guarantee that they can find all the pieces. Regeneration gifters might be able to, pardon the pun, circumnavigate that restriction.

  1. While everyone else is reeling from the old ultraviolence, I am now wondering who the “one family member” that Vista lost during the Dark Time of Brockton Bay was if it wasn’t a parent, as per her PHO post in Arc 19 of Worm. Common fanon was it was a parent, but apparently not?

    In other news, if this is split bits, isn’t it that body-part shuffling cluster from March’s menagerie? Which begs the question of why and how and whyyyy.

    But also: a nice Brockton Bay reuinion, ruined. Y U do dis to us, WB.

    1. She has parents who can’t stand each other, presumably divorced – it’s possible that the lost family was a newer partner of one or the other.

    2. The Graeae in March’s group could swap body parts. Heck they swapped Aisha/Imp’s arm with one that had a bullet wound. It seems strange they’d do that to her if they could have just done this but TT has also indicated that if March had wanted her dead at the truck stop instead of injured, she wouldn’t have simply hit her legs.

      Feels like a March plot. Villians hear about heros getting killed and meet to decide if they’re going to throw away the rest of the unwritten rules and go all out. Maybe thats the fear Victoria and TT now have with what Sidepiece was saying.

      I wonder why Victoria wants this kept under wraps… Make the villian believe the victim’s continued living was missed and force them to come out with it? She understands why this was done (presumably by March) and if trying to foil her plot. I’m guessing the cop initially thinks Victoria just wants to cover it up to prevent stoking the fears of the anti-parahumans.

      1. Likely she wants the coverup for the culprit to act as they intended to while she leverages Kenzie’s backdoor into Tata’s systems to find out about the meeting?

        What better place for someone to strike at the ineffectual, rule-abiding villains, than the very meetings that make them so vulnerable?!

        1. The rule-abiding villains are exactly the sort you want to leave alone. If a group of villains is obeying the unwritten rules, the heroes should on the whole leave them alone.

  2. > Browbeat?

    Teasing us with the fan favorites I see

    > I turned it, so the eye faced the headlight. The pupil dilated.

    > “They’re all alive!” I shouted. “It might be every piece!”

    Ayyyy what the actual loving fuuuuck

    1. I knew it was Golem the moment I read the description of him. I couldn’t remember Browbeat’s appearance, but I knew it was him first.

      But then, he was mentioned as present by Tattletale; Browbeat wasn’t.

        1. I can’t remember. But dye and wigs exist. As do weird power shenanigans changing hair colour as a mutation. Happened to Alabaster.

          Most likely dye; Veronica notes ‘It was rare to see hair that fine and that black.’

          1. I’m bad at names, apparently. Not the first time I’ve made that mistake; first time it’s made it to me pressing the ‘post’ button.

            Just don’t ask me what her team’s name is. I kept calling it Breakout when they first picked it.

      1. There’s a theory that Browbeat died at Echidna, as that would make more sense if Vista was including him in a list of dead people in interlude 19.

        1. Nah, that was clarified as referring to him leaving that cursed city.

          It’s only a matter of time before New Brockton drags him back though

          1. He was so pissed that nobody ever remembered or cared about him, he went off and did his own thing.

            His second trigger was a thing of legend.

            On that day, Sleeper was born. Nobody’s ever forgotten about him since, but they try their very best not to think about him.

          2. @Jack Baxter

            No second trigger, at least none that I’m aware of. noodle is making a joke by coming up with an outrageous origin theory for the Sleeper. If you don’t know much about the Sleeper, that’s by design. He’s some insanely dangerous S-Class cape whose powers Wildbow intentionally never clarifies. He’s kept mysterious to the readers although the he’s a famous danger known to the characters and they presumably have at least at rough idea what he can do.

            It’s a bit of a game among some readers to come up with wild ideas as to his powers and other details. Noodle was using the fact that Browbeat basically fell out the story to use him as part of the next Wild Idea That’s Obviously Not The Truth

          3. @David Hunt

            I am aware of that. I was referring to the Merchant cape Whirlygig, who gets forgotten by everybody in the fandom far more than Browbeat does. If Browbeat second triggered by everybody forgetting who he was, then Whirlygig absolutely must second trigger too.

      1. @ZW
        Your post should’ve probably been a start of a new typos thread, not a response to Ridtom’s post.

        @everyone
        SloppyBones reported the same issue many comments bellow, but since he did it as a beginning of a new thread, I would suggest reporting any future typos and problems of similar nature in this chapter there just to keep all such reports in one place.

    2. S-class horror writing.

      I was so caught up with the great character arcs of Rain, Kenzie, and Ashley, I forgot the horror genre was in the mix. And after a comfortable team-building arc too, sucker punch.

  3. Could this be the mystery cape included in the safety deal between Tristan and Byron? Feels like it’d fit with the description of what kind of living hell was waiting for them. I think that cape was mercenary so dunno who’d the client be.

    1. My thoughts exactly, but others are raising a good point that March (who we seem to be having an arc centred on) has the Graecae twins.

    2. Absolutely not. Because if one of the twins is in this kind of hell, the other one will be in it too. The safety deal would be something painful but not disabling.

  4. Great chapter, my favorite yet! Excellent atmosphere, winter horror, new mystery and and Brockton Bay reunion not any less for it. Hope these characters stick longer and that we see Rachel, Vista and MM together soon, wonder what kind of relationship they have developed now post Worm epilogue. Also Theo and Cuff, missed you! Nostalgia feels.

  5. Sveta has actually met Ava and Theo, in the Cauldron base. I guess she wouldn’t bring that up easily, but — nice to see them still together, anyway.

  6. Well, this just got more interesting. My first thought was that WB was now bringing in Wendigo from Department 64, and then when a shovel was mentioned I was really confused about why Gully would butcher some heroes.

    I guess that if both of Vista’s parents are still alive, then she must have had a sibling or cousin that died. I guess it could have happened after Leviathan, though I think she would have mentioned that in her interlude, so it is equally likely to have been a side casualty during the Slaughterhouse Nine attack or her clone targeting family members.

    The real question is, if this isn’t March’s capes, is it a new villain trying to make their mark? Perhaps some of the clones are trying to reform the Slaughterhouse Nine, as a parallel to the plot of the original Worm? I personally hope not, as I think that would be narratively unsatisfying.

    1. Might be somebody working for the anti-parahuman squad. Butcher some heroes, ones who have never upset a major villain organisation and do charity disaster relief (with one member campaigning against corrupt governmental bodies), using powers to keep them alive, and then frame the most obvious capes around- the Case 53s. Once people hate the obvious capes, it’ll be easy to direct it to the less-obvious ones as well.

        1. Nobody in Love Lost’s group is known to be able to inflict non-lethal lethal injuries in this manner. And whilst Love Lost does have claws, her claws are noted to be really really good at ripping through barriers (or at least Vicky’s forcefield). If Love Lost did this, she’d need somebody else to keep them alive.

          And if you know you can do stuff like this, you probably don’t hide it. It’s a great psychological weapon, and since you aren’t killing them (yeah, this is probably worse), you can’t get done for murder and sent to the Birdcage. Other things, yes, sure. Even this, since it could be argued as ‘attempted murder with a parahuman ability’.

          1. > since you aren’t killing them (yeah, this is probably worse), you can’t get done for murder and sent to the Birdcage

            Well, if no one knows this is even possible, and then you do this – probably you could avoid the Birdcage this time (and even then your lawyer probably would need parahuman abilities of his own to win this case). After it’s already known, it’s an obvious patch to the laws.

    2. I am extremely certain Moose was a rebranded Wendigo (if I read it right, both he and Velvet bit it in the Hollow Point vs Fallen battle), so your comment confused me in the extreme.

    1. Jessica Yamada is my first thought. Therapist for the Wards and Protectorate, as well as employee of the Asylum. The PRT moved their therapists around to prevent attachments, which Jessica thought was stupid and pointless. She was, however, Weaver’s favourite therapist.

  7. Quick thoughts.

    1. It looked like Victoria has been procrastinating as much as she could about Amy, and then it turned out she was more concerned about the returning heroes getting some sleep, which is why she avoided mentioning the prison at all. Looks like she is getting more and more over her issues with her sister.

    2. I guess even if the Navigators didn’t happen, Crystal wouldn’t get much sleep this night. Even with Sveta’s explanation (which is probably only at most partly correct by the way), she must be thinking “What has changed Victoria’s perception of Amy so much in such a short time?”.

    3. Golem seems to be very comfortable with the heroes from Brockton Bay. He even got into details of his past with the Empire on his first meeting with some of them! Guess he still has a lot of fondness for his old town.

    4. Finally! One of my little speculations has been confirmed. Kenzie was indeed slow to react to Tattletale’s cameraman in part because she was distracted.

    5. Big V, you really need to compare notes with little V! Not some day, ASAP. Also don’t wait until May to meet Miss Militia, and Rachel. Those two can also open your eyes to a lot of things you should see.

    6. As horrible as what happened to the Navigators was, at least it lookes like the local police is good for something. They can miss a shootout, but at least they react quickly to what looks like a gruesome tripple homicide.

    7. On the subject of guersome. Does not it look a lot like what Bonesaw did to Grue? Should we expect second triggers?

    8. A’propos second triggers. Could it be that Wretch is not a Manton effect gone haywire, but a result of a second trigger? It could mean that there may be much more to the Wretch than Victoria suspects.

    9. A’propos triggers in general. When will people learn that they happen, when you torture someone, and it is the torturers that get burned for it first? Nailfarer’s story is just one more on the unending list of examples.

    10. Wouldn’t Panacea be just perfect for the Navigators right now? Some people will probably only now realize just how much losing her means. You should’ve treated her better when you could Wardens and Co.!

    11. I thought, that Vista’s powers had only a temporary effect, but now we see not only the scarf, but, probably even more importantly, the headlights of the police cars, and Vista’s quick explanation to the policemen. Is Vista just used to offering this white lie to both calm, and mislead people around her about her capabilities, or are there plenty buildings out there with walls that have nothing to do with being either flat or vertical anymore?

    1. Re 8: What happened to bring about the changes in Vic’s force field was NOT a second trigger. Her internal dialogue is explicit about that in one of the later Daybreak chapters. She’s certain of it and I don’t think she’d have had one and not noticed. She notes that her field had previously gone from being entirely skintight to protecting her costume as well. The field simply didn’t change back when her body did. This probably comes from some complex identity issues for our dear protagonist.

      1. She could’ve triggered when her ability to make new memories was turned off by Amy. In that case only Amy would know, and the sisters are not exactly on speaking terms yet.

        1. I’m not aware of a time when Amy restricted her ability to make memories. She was unconscious through the process that had Amy mutilate her, iirc. When Amy fixed her body, she suppressed Victoria emotions so that they could have an objective conversation, but Victoria vividly remembers that and she’s not going to have a second trigger event without emotion. What are you referring to?

          1. I don’t remember exactly where I read it, or if I read it correctly, but I seem to recall some Victoria’s flashback to time when Amy has been healing Victoria and subsequently manipulating her body after Victoria has been burned in battle against Slaughterhouse Nine in Brockton Bay. The way I remember it Victoria has no memories of most of this time until the moment, when heroes (or was it the PRT?) came into the room Victoria and Amy have been in, after Amy realized she can’t restore Victoria to her original form, and decided to call the authorities, to release Victoria to them, and to ask to be sent to the Birdcage.

          2. Thanks Jack Baxter. Do you remember in which chapter (or at least roughly in which part of the story) the flashback is described, or did you just find this information about Brandish and Lady Photon in Worm, where I think it was presented from perspective of someone other than Victoria, and probably did not contain information about memory block? I think the flashback was somewhere in Ward, but I completely fail to remember in which part, and it would be very helpful if someone could narrow it down for me.

          3. Alfaryn, it was Brandish’ interlude: 15.x
            Beyond that, I don’t know where any flashbacks were off the top of my head.

          4. Not the perspective I was looking for. As I said, I seem to remember reading about that moment from Victoria’s perspective, described as a flashback. Thanks anyway Jack Baxter.

            I’ll try to keep this discussion in mind, and if I run into the flashback I’m describing I’ll post relevant chapter number here. I think I won’t spend too much time intentionally looking for it. I would have to go through pretty much all Victoria’s flashbacks, and this would pretty much require me to re-read the entire Ward, since I’m really bad at pinning down those flashback scenes while just skimming the text.

            I tried to look at Amy and Victoria’s entries in the wiki, but as expected I found no references to this scene other than the interlude in Worm you told as about.

          5. Ha, ha, ha, found it! It is in chapter 9.11 of Ward:

            > But to act as Glory Girl, to have Amy so easily take that away, all over again? It made me feel like my essential being, my heart, wasn’t even there anymore. That heartless emptiness inside me wasn’t anything new. But it had never hit me to this degree at a moment that I felt like I was functioning.

            > It wasn’t me that I heard or imagined with that small, nothing-left fuck, but her on the other side of a room, as someone banged on a door. A scene framed not by wood, but by a length of my body, by hands that reached up, groping at the air, toward her.

            > The moment after she’d let me start registering memories again.

            That was one crazy search strategy. I figured, that a flashback about inability to register memories would contain a word like “memory”, or “memories”, so I used my browser’s function to search for a chosen string of characters to look for “memor”. Looks like is the moment when Brandish came for Victoria and Amy, and was about to enter the room, as it was remembered by Victoria.

            Looks like I remembered it more or less correctly. Victoria indeed does have a hole in her memory from that time – ending when Brandish came for her, and beginning probably as soon as Amy got her hands on Victoria in chapter 14.6 of Worm:

            > Amy knelt by her sister and touched her hand. Glory Girl’s back arched as if she’d been electrocuted, and then she went limp. Paralyzed, unable to resist.

            Amy probably originally intended it as a form of anesthesia, and as a way to allow her to modify Vicroria’s body, first for curative purposes (creating a cocoon we see in chapter 14.10), and later well… We saw it in the interlude 15.x Jack Baxter pointed me to (which by the way contains Amy’s own admission, that Victoria can’t remember those few days):

            > She didn’t move as Amy’s spoke from behind her. “Please, let me explain.”

            > Brandish couldn’t bring herself to move or speak. Amy seemed to take that silence as assent.

            > “I wanted to see her smile again. To have someone hug me before I left forever. So you wouldn’t have to worry about me anymore. I- I told myself I’d leave after. Victoria wouldn’t remember. It would be a way for me to get closure. Then I’d go and spend the rest of my life healing people. Sacrifice my life. I don’t know. As payment.”

            > Lady Photon had made her way upstairs. She entered the room and stopped just in front of Brandish. Her hands went to her mouth. Her words were a whispered, “Oh God.”

            > Amy kept talking, her voice strangely monotone after her earlier emotion, as if she were a recording. Maybe she was, after a fashion, all of the excuses and arguments she’d planned spilling from her mouth. “I wanted her to be happy. I could adjust. Tweak, expand, change things to serve more than one purpose. I had the extra material from the cocoon. When I was done, I started undoing everything, all the mental and physical changes. I got so tired, and so scared, so lonely, so I thought we’d take another break, before I was completely finished. I changed more things. More stuff I had to fix. And days passed. I-“

            > Brandish clenched her fists.

            > “I lost track. I forgot how to change her back.”

          6. @David Hunt

            The way I interpret the bits I quoted Victoria’s body was paralyzed at least at the beginning, and she was unable to form any long-term memories, but she was likely perfectly aware of herself and her surroundings, and thus perfectly capable of triggering.

          7. Crap. I missed the rest of Victoria’s musing about the Wretch including her real opinion as to what happened.

            >It felt thin, as theories went.

            >The second theory was that it was the Manton effect, that broad-as-bells term for the built in protections and limitations of the power. The theory was that the built-in protections of the power only protected what I saw as a part of me, and it had taken some time before the costume was that much a part of my identity.

            >That that was me, now, as much as the costume I wore.

      2. @Alfayrn,

        That must have been a hell of a passage to find. Okay, there was a period where Victoria couldn’t remember. However, her powers were exactly the same when that period was over: Force field, flight, aura. The force field was still hugging her body just like normal. Therefore, no second trigger. When her body was put back to the shape it was before Amy messed with her, that’s when the wonkiness started by her field still acting like she was still a tragically uncoordinated collection of body parts. This doesn’t sound like a second trigger to me, but even if it was, that’s where the “change” would have happened and she’d remember it. Or at least that my opinion. It’s also Victoria’s opinion. From Ward 1.7:

        >Not a second trigger. I was well aware of that. When I’d first had my forcefield, it hadn’t protected my costume. I had two theories as to why.

        >The first theory was that I’d grown, and the boundaries that the forcefield used to define ‘me’ had changed. I’d breathe out, breathe in, gain a pound here, lose a pound there, and it would adjust for the maximum bounds. It didn’t explain how my skirt was often protected, but I’d mused on that too, that my legs moved, my hair had been long at one point, I’d been shorter…

        >I’d been that, the forcefield had adjusted, and that was the new upper bound of what I was, forever with me.

        1. Yes David Hunt, I remember those theories Victoria has about why the way her power works the way it does now, and they are indeed plausible. All I wanted to point out is that they are not the only possibilities.

          If Victoria didn’t remember she triggered, then the only way for her to realize how they work now would be to experiment with them in ways that would make it obvious that something has changed. For Grue it has been easier – he remembered triggering, and as soon as he tried to make his darkness afterwards it must have been obvious, that it was slower to make than before. I guess however that he figured he can copy other people’s powers only was when another cape was encompassed by the darkness.

          After Amy let her go, but before Gold Morning Victoria used her powers in very limited ways – her aura to express her sorrow and her force field (when it still fit, and couldn’t move on its own) to protect herself from Sveta. After Gold Morning she still avoided using her powers. She got more comfortable with her flight, and possibly her aura to a lesser extent, but she is still feels unsure when’s using her force field, because it is the most clear reminder of her past condition.

          If there is a new power tied to one of her existing ones, like Grue’s new power is tied to his darkness she could’ve missed it because she’s failed to use her old powers in a way that would make it apparent, and since the force field is the one she uses the least, and also the one that seems to have changed the most (like Grue’s darkness has changed – becoming “heavier” and slower to make), I feel that the field is the most likely to be the one that could have some new power tied into it.

          Of course I could be wrong. Victoria explanations you quoted are like I said plausible. It could also be that the conditions in the cocoon could have been wrong to cause her to trigger. Remember that at least some people trigger only after being exposed to specific sort of trauma. As traumatic as those few days in the cocoon must have been for Victoria (even if she couldn’t remember any of them – the paralysis, the cocoon, misshapen body, and loss of ability to make long term memories alone could be stressful enough to cause a trigger) they might have been the wrong sort of trauma for her to trigger. It is also possible that she simply couldn’t trigger then either because she’s never had a capacity for a second trigger (it is as far as I’m aware still unclear if everyone who can trigger can potentially do it twice or not), or because she went through her second trigger together with the first – her wide variety of powers she displayed from the beginning might be a result of not one, but two trigger events happening so close to each other, that everyone mistook it for a single trigger.

          A quick note on what Amy may know. Earlier I wrote, that if Victoria triggered while in Amy’s “care”, Amy could be unaware of it. Victoria’s hole in memory is many days long. It is almost impossible that Amy stayed close and aware for all of this time. She had to take bathroom breaks, sleep, eat, possibly scavenge for food and more “material” for Victoria. In fact those times when Amy left Victoria alone could be the most likely moments for Victoria to trigger, considering that her first trigger had a lot to do with a sense of abandonment.

          My bottom line is that while I consider it most likely that Victoria did not suffer the second trigger when she was left with Amy for any of the reasons stated above, I do think it is not impossible that she did, and is just unaware of it now.

          Let me just add a quick note about the way my search for the quote from chapter 9.11 of Worm worked, because I think it may be useful to some of you if you want to try something like this in the future, and I suspect that not all of you may know about this method.

          The fastest way to do it in Ward, that I can see is to open the top page of Ward (the one you get by typing just http://www.parahumans.net or clicking on the banner at the top of the site, when you are on its any other page). This lets you display 10 or so last chapters of Ward without any comments. There are also buttons at the bottom of the page which let you display other parts of the story in similar large chunks. At this moment it means you can display the entirety of the already published part of Worm on just 14 pages.

          On any of those pages you can search for any string of characters (a word, a part of a word, or a few words in sequence for example) using your browser’s string-search function if it is equipped with one. I can’t find such function in the browser that comes with my tablet, by on my go-to PC browser it is under CTRL+F. I suspect it could be the same shortcut in most other PC browsers. Then you just type a string you suspect should be in the scene you are looking for, but should otherwise be rare in the story (remember that while it shouldn’t be case-sensitive it is sensitive to sequence of words, punctuation marks etc.) in my case it was “memor” with “remember” as a second candidate. Then you just click through all instances where this string appears on the page to see if any of them is in the part of text you are looking for. If you don’t find it on the first page, you repeat the process on the other pages. If you chose relatively rare string it shouldn’t take all that long. It is just 14 pages to cover entire Ward at the moment after all.

          To do the same in Worm go to any chapter, and from there click on any of the “Stories” buttons in the table of contents on the sidebar (“Stories 1-10”, “Stories 11+” etc.) – this lets you display ten Arcs of Worm at a time without comments. From there you can search for strings of text the same way as in Ward. It should be even faster, because the entire Worm is broken up into just five “Stories” this way, so it is only five pages to go through instead of fourteen or how many Worm will happen to take up when you run your search.

          I hope it hepls.

          1. ^ It was supposed to be “Hope it HELPS.” just above!

            As in I hope it helps someone find some quote buried somewhere in the storied quickly one day, just like I managed to find that Victoria’s flashback in chapter 9.11 of Ward in under one minute once I figured out how to look for it.

            Sigh… One thing at a time… I’ve figured out a new method to quickly look for certain things in Worm and Ward. Surely one day I’ll figure out how to spell, won’t I?

          2. @David Hunt

            You pointed out that Victoria thinks that apparent her lack of any new power excludes the possibility of a second trigger as a possible reason behind the changes in the behavior of her forcefield. This is a very good argument, but I think not an incontestable one, so here are some more reasons why I think Victoria may have suffered a second trigger despite apparently not displaying no new power.

            First – remember, that it is not only her forcefield that has changed. Her aura also seems to work differently. It seems to never cause awe anymore, only terror. I even remember Victoria noticing it at least once. At first I thought that since before her Asylum days she either has not used it on anyone who should have a reason to feel awe instead of terror, or the fact that this is always only terror now reflects the way Victoria herself feels about her aura, but I’m less sure now.

            At least some of the team Breakthrough members have been exposed to that aura by now (during the talkshow in chapter 8.12 for example), and their lack of comments on the matter afterwards seems to indicate they felt terror not fear. I think at least Kenzie would have commented it somehow at some point if Victoria made her feel awe (and if the aura worked like it had been working during Glory Girl’s days in Brockton Bay Kenzie should be hit with awe not terror then), and I don’t remember any such comments. I know that it is a very weak argument, but I’m starting to entertain a possibility, that the way Victoria’s aura works may have indeed changed and not becouse of the way Victoria feels about her powers now, but becouse of a second trigger.

            Remember that second triggers may not only give new powers, but also modify existing ones (like Grue’s second trigger not only gave him ability to copy powers, but also changed how his darkness behaved). I’m not saying, that the apparent changes to Victoria’s powers (and at this point only her flight seems completely unchanged) must indicate a second trigger, but considering how Grue’s darkness reacted to his second trigger, I think that a second trigger could be as valid explanation to changes of Victoria’s old powers as the explanations she thought of.

            This leaves only the question of the apparent absence of any new powers Victoria should have gotten from her second trigger.

            If Victoria has indeed triggered for the second time then it could explain apparent changes to her known powers in a completely different way that Victoria suspects. Those changes could be tied to her new yet unidentified power, just like changes in Grue’s darkness were tied to his ability to copy powers, which came with his second trigger. The fact that Victoria’s hypothetical new power has not, or seems to have not manifested itself yet, does not mean that it does not exist.

            As Taylor’s case shows, the fact that a second power that is technically there may indeed remain undiscovered for a long time. In Taylor’s case it was probably because any manifestation of an ability to fully control people probably violated some restriction similar by Manton Effect, and this restriction has been removed when Panacea messed with Taylor’s Corona Pollentia. It shows how sometimes powers may apparently fail to configure themselves in a way, that their expression becomes impossible for them to work at all.

            Another possibility is that a power may work in a very subtle way, or require conditions that it’s user avoids or simply never runs into. In such situations it could take a lot of time for the power to manifest in a way, that even it’s parahuman would notice. Imagine what would happen if Grue was afraid to cover any people with his darkness, because he felt it may harm them somehow. If that was the case he could never learn about his ability to copy powers. “The powers want to be used”, so their Shards should avoid putting themselves into situations, where their parahumans are unlikely to discover their powers, but since a Shard can apparently be dumb enough to give someone a power that is completely neutered by a Manton Effect-like restriction (like it happened in Taylor’s case), then who says Shards can’t be dumb enough to grant powers that only do anything in situations their parahumans are unlikely to ever find themselves in?

            And what if Victoria has gone through a second trigger similar to Grue’s in the sense, that it modified her existing powers in a way, that they become a delivery mechanism or a conduit of her new power for example? Since Victoria avoids using her aura in most situations nowadays, and generally used her forcefield only in certain conditions she deems “safe”, there are lots of possible simple scenarios in which those powers could be used to trigger some new power delivered by them, that Victoria has not tried yet.

            Bottom line is, I think it most likely, that Victoria is correct in thinking that the changes to her powers are not the result of a second trigger. I do however allow a possibility (as unlikely as it seems even to me) that those changes are a result of a second trigger that has modified her forcefield and possibly her aura to somehow with her yet unknown new power.

          3. Gah… I’ve just compared my post just above with my arguments in the wall of text two posts higher, and it turns out that about half of my points in both of those posts are essentially the same, just worded a bit differently. One of those walls of text coud’ve been half as long as it is.

            Sorry for that. I guess it shows that I should sleep at night instead of taking time from midnight until morning to write things like those posts.

          4. We have also seen that in some cases powers appear to change over time without second triggers being involved. The nature of the material that Byron/Tristan produces has varied over time, seemingly in relation to their overall emotional states; a change in an emotional aura power going from awe to fear would be a similar minor variation which doesn’t require a second trigger.

            Also I think you’re off with your interpretation of Taylor’s later abilities as a second, nonfunctional power that Amy unlocked. Her power was always to control and perceive through other beings; Amy just removed the limits on what she could use it on (and recalibrated it somewhat). If I had to guess I’d think that Taylor’s first trigger gave her the perception, and the second trigger gave her control.

          5. Taylor is pretty much confirmed to be an early second trigger. Look at this bit Number Man said to Taylor in chapter 29.7 of Worm:

            > “Or it’s already in your reach. You can’t have a second trigger because you already had one,” he said.

            > I blinked.

            > “Given the signature, it’s very possible you had two trigger events in quick succession. Not uncommon. The horror of manifesting your power, it prompted another trigger.”

            Also it looks like we may missremember what second triggers do. They don’t have to grant you new powers. They remove limitations on existing powers instead. See what Taylor said to Bonesaw and Panacea in chapter 29.9 of Worm:

            > “Second triggers are about knocking down walls,” I said. My eyes fell on Bonesaw. “Removing restrictions the entity put in place. If this part of the brain is a part that the entity shaped to help regulate powers on our end, then I need you to de-regulate.”

            It seems that unlike what Victoria seems to think, David Hunter seems to suggest based on her quotes, and what I assumed in some of my posts, Second Triggers don’t necessarily give you new powers. They remove some restrictions placed on the powers you already have. Victoria just seems to be unaware of this fact. Not surprising given that Panacea and Bonesaw seemed to be unaware of this fact until Weaver told them at that point. It doesn’t seem to be a common knowledge among capes.

            So, Carcer made a good point about Bayron and Tristan, and he made a good point about Taylor possibly never having two powers – just one with some restrictions lifted later (which apparently happened to her twice – once as a result of an early second trigger, and once as a result of Amy’s intervention), but at the same time changes to Victoria’s powers (her forcefield in particular) may be a result of a second trigger just as much as they could be a result of a slower, Capricorn-style evolution. Victoria just dismisses second triggers as a possible cause, because she thinks, that second triggers are supposed to give you new powers, but it is just not what they in fact do.

            It could even be, that Grue’s ability to copy powers is also not a new power per se, but an aspect of his original power which had been locked by his pre-second-trigger restrictions.

          6. By the way, things like this Taylor’s quote from chapter 29.9 of Worm I posted above, are a big part of the reason, why I think Taylor without her powers could still prove to be a tremendous asset for anyone who wants to do something with the powers or the Shards themselves.

            While Victoria geeked about capes, Taylor obviously did all that, but also seriously researched powers themselves. Her knowledge in this field is probably exceeded only by the knowledge of the surviving members of the Cauldron’s inner circle like Contessa, Number Man and possibly the Custodian gained thanks to their experiments, and by the knowledge Valkyrie got thanks to her power. And with Taylor’s intelligence and ability to take extreme risks if needed (like the risk of having an experimental brain surgery by Bonesaw or Panacea) some of her insights or ideas she could propose could even go beyond those of the Cauldron or Valkyrie.

            Considering that Teacher seems to be very interested in powers themselves and how they work not just as means of building an empire, but to do something bigger with them himself, he should be very interested in Taylor (at least if he is aware she is still alive), because, depending on what he wants to do specifically and why, Taylor (again even without her powers) could become one of his greatest assets, or his most dangerous enemies.

            Same goes for others who mess or want to mess with the Shards themselves – like Valkyrie seems to do, or just want to understand powers, Shards and Entities from a more academic point of view. They should also have a good reason to keep close attention to Taylor if they are aware that she’s alive, and just how much she can understand on the topic.

            If Victoria ever has a chance to go to meet Taylor, she should probably forget about reapplying to that university in megalopolis. Taylor could probably teach her more than a legion of university professors.

          7. I should’ve said “If Victoria ever has a chance to WORK WITH Taylor[…]” in the last paragraph above. I don’t mean to imply, that Victoria has to go after Taylor, and couldn’t meet her in some other way.

            What is important for Victoria is that the ladies would need to have a reason and an opportunity to compare notes on powers, and their sources. This is what would give Victoria a chance to learn.

    2. Re. 10, just so I’m not misunderstood. I am aware, that the person who could do the most to keep Amy from leaving is Victoria, but considering what she went through herself, Victoria is perfectly excused in my eyes. The second line would be the other New Wave members, but it is obvious that they were also not up to the task (each of them for different reasons).

      Someone in the Wardens should’ve noticed what’s gonig on with Amy, and stepped in. If they thought that they were also not up to the task, they should have asked for help from someone who was. This is the type of situation when you should send someone like Ms. Yamada in. I don’t care how filled is Yamada’s, and other specialist’s schedule was. There must be someone for Amy who is not only a heartbroken girl, but also an invaluable resource and a potential S-class threat. Best thing about it is that Victoria told Yamada precisely that almost ath the beginning of the story, and Yamada apparently ignored it. It may turn out to be Jessica’s worst mistake yet.

      On top of it nobody in the Wardens thought, that maybe keeping Amy on a leash not much longer than Riely’s probably wasn’t the best idea, especially when Amy was in such a bad place psychically already. Guess that people chose to see former Birdcage inmate, and nobody thought why Amy ended up there exactly.

      So yes, Wardens could react in time, they just turned out not to be sensitive enough.

      1. keeping Amy on a leash not much longer than Riely’s
        …huh? You got a very different impression of Amy’s situation than I did.

        1. All of her work was still closely monitored by Bonesow, and don’t tell me nobody would rise an issue if she stopped regularly reporting her whereabouts to Warden HQ. That’s no freedom.

          1. I think you’re confusing things. It was Bonesaw who had all her work checked by Panacea. Not the other way around. That’s a mark of trust, but suspicion. And given that she had regular meetings with Marquis, I’d say she was allowed a great deal of freedom of movement. She was living in an apartment complex that housed Warden personnel, but I interpret that as a perk of what she did for them and not a restriction.

            I’m pretty sure that she was working as an independent contracter — a rogue.

          2. The way I see it Bonesaw and Panacea were checking each other’s work. I can also see why they would agree to this. They both understood, that they’d done horrible things in the past, and they may potentially snap again. It is a danger they will likely never be fully free from – they allowed their powers to overtake too much of their personalities once, and as long they have those powers it can potentially happen again. They needed someone to look them at their hands, and they were the only ones who can do it for each other right now.

            Those two, and Nilbog (who is prone to the same sort of madness) are in a very similar situation, and not just because of similarities between their powers. All three of them agreed to various degrees of oversight and other limitations of their freedoms, because they accepted the fact that they did and potentially could do it again. That they kept each other company was because they understood not only each other’s powers, including destructive potential of those powers, better then anyone else, but because they could use this understanding to keep each other sane.

            And I stress, that those limitations put on Panacea, Bonesaw, and Nilbog were ultimately self-imposed. I do not believe that any of those three couldn’t escape their current situation if they put their minds to it. It is just that they realized that if they did it they could end up slipping, and doing something they would regret later. The fact that Valkyrie found both Bonesaw and Niblog peacefully working with everyone next to the Wardens HQ is the best proof of that. They passed up a perfect opportunity to escape. Especially Niblog could rebuild his little kingdom in whatever world the HQ ended up in without any problem, and return to his old ways. The fact that there were not so many people around could be a problem for Bonesaw, but I’m certain she could work aroud it if she wanted to escape.

            Amy ultimately chose to escape at Niblog’s prodding, because her situation ultimately became unbearable for her. Her strongest motivator, and at the same time the reason she is susceptible to giving her power too much control over her actions and personality is her obsessive love for Victoria likely largely caused by addiction to Victoria’s aura.

            It is impossible to tell how much of it is love, and how much is addiction, but since addiction is almost certainly involved Amy is just as unable to let go of this love, as Victoria was unable to stop loving Amy after her emotions were alterd. In fact Amy’s situation is likely even worse, because she probably does not even suspect that addiction is involved (neither does Victoria suspect it for the record), while Victoria knew the reason behind her state of feelings. How do you fight against addiction if you don’t even know you’re addicted after all? The other reason that Amy’s situation is worse is that Victoria’s artifical love could be cured by Amy, while Amy’s powers can’t affect herself, and there seems to be no one else available at rhe moment, who could and would be willing to magically cure Amy’s addiction/obsession with Victoria even if they knew about the problem.

            What Amy did was puruse the object of her love/addiction, until it became clear that getting it would be impossible. At that point she tried to run not from the Wardens, or the system that put unfair restrictions on her, but from Victoria. She run both because she fears what she will do if she is constantly reminded of Victoria’s presence while being unable to be with her, and because this constant reminder hurts her so much. Of course as long as she is not strong enough to resist her obsession/addiction she will probably keep trying to find a way to get back to Victoria one way or another.

            The only way to deal with Amy’s problem is for her and likely also for Victoria to realize what the source of this “love” is first, and then to get professional help. Confronting Victoria once they realize the nature of the problem would probably help both of them a lot, as much as it would be painful for them, especially for Victoria who would need to face the fact that she inadvertently manipulated Amy’s feelings just as severely as Amy manipulated hers.

          3. For what it’s worth, Wildbow has come out and said that while Vicky’s aura had a part to play in Amy’s original attraction, the fandom overemphasizes it by a huge margin. It is a little detail for the observant, but it is incorrect to say that Amy’s feelings are entirely the result of the aura or in any kind of way an addiction to the aura. The idea that Vicky accidentally mastered Amy through repeated exposure to her emotion aura is false.

          4. @ Trebar

            I would also very much like to see this WoG, if only to check the exact wording Wildbow used. What I wrote about isn’t exactly directly a power-based mastery after all.

      2. I’m super curious on the ‘why’ of Jessica apparently ignoring Victoria’s warning/pleading/request to give Amy some much needed therapy.

        Could be the timing just didn’t work out, but could have definitely averted quite a lot of issues we now find ourselves in.

        1. Well, Jessica was only human, a very overworked human, and overworked people are prone to making mistakes. In this situation it was easy to make one. Jessica knew that Victoria is hardly fair in her assessment of Amy. She could have not taken Victoria’s warning seriously, because she knew that those were Victoria’s emotions speaking, and not good emotions too. Unfortunately even if someone is emotional and not necessarily fair about assessment of other people, it doesn’t always mean that they are wrong.

        2. Yamada’s specialty was capes who were also minors. It’s unlikely that she would have been the person to treat her, plus I can see problems given that Victoria used to be her patient.

          I wouldn’t be surprised if she’d made a suggestion to get her access to a therapist, but resources were thin and Amy may have simply refused to talk to one. I doubt that I’d ever be able to work up enough trust/courage to bare my soul to a therapist and I haven’t done anything remotely like Amy’s done.

          1. The thing is…. we have S class threats. Amy is an S class asset. (The only other one I can think of Dragon)

            Just as when an endbringer fight is coming, the heroes throw everything at it… they should have thrown everything at Amy.

          2. Amy is not an S Class threat. Amy has the power so be an S Class threat, but she’s never done actually anything that would justify that classification, with the possible exception of making fertile relay bugs for Weaver. If being powerful was enough, then they’d be putting a lot more restrictions on Valkyrie. Plus I think S Class Threat means that they are hunted down and summarily executed if possible.

            I’m getting off topic. Amy appears to be under no legal restrictions. Due to the Second Chance, she’s free and she doesn’t have a history of horrors that prompts the Wardens to lock her up like Nilbog or monitor her every move like Bonesaw. She’s an adult and she gets to say whether she’ll accept seeing a therapist. If she says no, there’s not much they can legally do.

            Finally, I think only a month, tops, passed between Victoria saying that to Yamada and the Portal Disaster. She might not have found someone who could find any time available for a new patient. At least not anyone really good.

          3. I tried to post a lengthy response to David Hunt’s earlier comment and for some reason it has not gone through. I don’t know if i just missclicked something, or if one of the terms I used was flagged by some automated moderation algorithm. A term which in some other contexts could possibly warrant such response. If it was the latter I think what the term was. It was something I used to describe what I feel Victoria’s aura really did to Amy, and what the true nature of Amy’s “love” Victoria is. Let us just say that this is not a healthy feeling at all, might not be what we would normally describe as love, and may require a specialist intervention, long (possibly life long) therapy, and possibly a controlled confrontation between Amy and Victoria at some point. The sad part is that neither if the sisters seem to be fully aware of the nature of the problem at this point, and they will be devastated once they find out, but it needs to happen for Amy to begin healing, and possibly for Victoria to fully forgive Amy, because if I’m right all that’s happened between the sisters was at least as much Victoria’s fault (inadvertant, and unwitting, but still…), as it was Amy’s.

            Because of the risk of being flagged again I won’t discuss this line of thought in more details in this post. I’m sure most of you can connect the dots at this point anyway. Instead I’ll try to answer some other David Hunter’s points, both those I tried to respond before, and those he posted later.

            > I think you’re confusing things. It was Bonesaw who had all her work checked by Panacea. Not the other way around. That’s a mark of trust, but suspicion.

            I think they checked each other’s work. It happened not because (or at least not only because) of lack of other’s people trust. It is because they don’t fully trust themselves. It has to do with apparent close relationship between Panacea, Bonesaw, and Niblog. I’ll discuss it in more detail in a second, when I answer other relevant David’s points.

            > And given that she had regular meetings with Marquis, I’d say she was allowed a great deal of freedom of movement. She was living in an apartment complex that housed Warden personnel, but I interpret that as a perk of what she did for them and not a restriction.

            > Amy appears to be under no legal restrictions. Due to the Second Chance, she’s free and she doesn’t have a history of horrors that prompts the Wardens to lock her up like Nilbog or monitor her every move like Bonesaw.

            The thing is that with the amnesty neither Bonesaw nor Nilbog should be under legal restrictions either. The Wardens HQ doubles as a sort of black site which serves to imprison, and keep an eye on people like Niblog and Bonesaw, who given their history, and potential to become S-class threats again can not be left without any sort of constant supervision. In case of Niblog it is something akin to a high security prison. In Bonesaw’s case it is something closer to house arrest.

            And the thing is most of the points to keep an eye on them apply to Panacea as well. Given her history she is put under something closer to police surveillance, or probation – she can move freely, but she is expected to keep the Wardens informed of her whereabouts, and especially about what she is doing with her power – this last point can be archived only thanks to Bonesaw’s cooperation.

            The best thing is that I think all of the above restrictions put on those three are voluntary (or were in case of Amy) at least to some degree. The fact that Valkyrie found both Bonesaw and Niblog peacefully working with everyone else right outside of the world-displaced Wardens HQ. It would be especially easy for Niblog to escape and rebuild his kingdom if he wanted after portal explosion, and before Valkyrie found them.

            The reason why they agreed to those restrictions despite being legally free people is that they recognize that they are capable of making a great deal of damage, if they suffer mental breakdowns similar to ones that let their powers dictate their behaviors in the past with catastrophic consequences.

            They know none of them is mentally stable enough to accept the the risk doing what they could do if they slip into power-influenced madness again, when they can do something they, and possibly everyone else, would regret – from very personal things, like what Amy did to Victoria, to becoming S-class threats any of them has a potential to be.

            They kept each other company for many interconnected reasons. They understand each other’s situation, and each other’s powers better than anyone else. Because of this understanding they have not only a lot of things to discuss with each other, but can also watch each other for early signs of returning insanity.

            The reason why Amy decided to break free, and because Niblog suggested her to do so is that her restrictions stopped playing their role in keeping her sane, and at the same time made her very unhappy. Being tied so closely to Wardens, and the life in megalopolis in general constantly reminded Amy about Victoria, and what Amy feels for Victoria (or possibly it would be better to say what Victoria’s aura makes Amy feel) only leads her toward a new mental breakdown. She tried to deal with it by reaching out to Victoria, but since she realized, that Victoria hates her, or is so scared of her that she will never react with anything else then fight or flight, Amy simply couldn’t stay. To do so would only mean to be constantly reminded of Victoria’s presence, which would make Amy only more unhappy, desperate, and prone to breakdown she absolutely needs to avoid.

            So she run hoping she would be if not happy, than at least free of Victoria. The big problem is if what I think Amy’s feelings for Victoria really are, Amy will likely never be free or even safe, at least not before she realises the true nature of her problem, and gets professional help I wrote about above.

          4. @David Hunt. I didn’t say Amy was an S class threat. I said S class ASSET. ASSET. As in helpful.

            To get what I mean, look at Dragon before Golden Morning.

            She built and was running the Bird Cage. She has massive amounts of disposable non lethal robots capable of fighting parahumans. She coordinated the Endbringer responses. She worked for the good guys.

            If Dragon disappeared, she was literally irreplaceable. If losing you is an S class threat, then you are an S class asset.

            Most people didn’t know she was AI. They thought she was an Agoraphobic Canadian tinker.

            I can’t imagine anyone in the PRT and Protectorate going… “Wow, Dragon seems sad and listless. Let’s ignore it because we have higher priorities.”

            Dragon would be first in line for resources, psychological help, communications, etc. (I’m actually surprised that they haven’t pulled her out of retirement yet.)

            Anyway, Amy is the same way. They only have 2 parahumans that we know of that can heal the injuries that we have in this chapter and Riley was part of the Slaughterhouse 9.

            It makes no sense that she was just given an apartment and told to fuck off.

          5. From my post above:

            > I tried to post a lengthy response to David Hunt’s earlier comment and for some reason it has not gone through. I don’t know if i just missclicked something, or if one of the terms I used was flagged by some automated moderation algorithm. A term which in some other contexts could possibly warrant such response.

            It looks like I was probably right about some form of automated censorship. The comment I wrote about has finally gone through. It is the one, that begins with words

            > The way I see it Bonesaw and Panacea were checking each other’s work. I can also see why they would agree to this.

  8. Welp, I’m just going to lie down now. Just… Wow. I thought Grue and Bonesaw had dulled my feelings of what even but then this happens.

    Oh wait, I shouldn’t lie down there, that’s somebody’s collar bone… with flesh attached… oof.

  9. “The pupil dilated.”
    Pupils dilate to let in more light. V pointed the eye at the light and the pupil dilated. Doesn’t make sense. “Responded” would be fine.

    1. Vicky’s not a medical professional, and ‘dilating’ is often used by people who don’t know the correct terminology for expanding or contracting in the eye. So whilst it could be a mistake, it might just be Vicky showing that, despite being a powers nerd, she isn’t much better informed about the human body than the next person.

      1. Well, one thing she admitted was that she had little medical knowledge for a cape, considering that first aid was usually covered by Panaca.

      2. That’s reasonable, but I don’t think it’s deliberately written to be a mistake on Victoria’s part. Speaking as someone who’s a terrible writer and not fit to check Wildbow’s grammar, it would be bad writing to have her make that type of mistake. It means that the reader is told that what is happening is the exact opposite of what is and is needlessly confusing, making them see something different that what she is seeing. It’s like saying that something turned widdershins (counter-clockwise), when you mean deisul (clockwise). If Victoria doesn’t know the proper term, I’d think it would be infinitely better to have her use simpler language “it got smaller or whatever the term is for that.”

  10. Thought number twelve. I can’t believe I forgot to write about it above. A second member of the New Wave confirmed Sveta’s adoption. Looks like it is official now.

  11. Wildbow has made me pretty blasé about body horror. Like, being torn apart and remaining alive and sentient? Grand. Still not as bad as the body snatching fetus.

  12. Aaaaaa

    Vista, Golem and Cuff! Yay!

    Aaaaaa

    Crystal being insanely nice to Sveta for taking care of Victoria. Yay!

    Aaaaaa

    One of the most disturbing bit of Body Horror in any Wildbow’s works! Why?

    1. Well the bloody horror did remind me of some of the things Slaughterhouse Nine did in Brockton Bay, and I did say a while ago, that I predict that March’s arc will be as much a counterpart to Slaughterhouse Nine in BB arc, as Goddess’ arc was a counterpart to Leviathan’s attack. If I were you, I would prepare myself for more horrors like this in the near future.

  13. Wildbow. Man. Buddy. Come on.

    Can you go one book without mauling at least one character in some horrible way?

    You’re a legend. Keep it up.

  14. God. I have no idea who is going to be the major fight of this arc.

    March is in play. Little Midas has gotten a little more screen time than the others, suggesting an appearance. Prancer makes sense based on the Case-53s possible foot patterns. Barcode could rip up bodyparts like that and have them still be alive. Love Lost has reason to go berserk. Cradle could be ripping up bodies for torture methods for Rain and Love Lost. I honestly have no idea who is the boss of the arc.

  15. ha.ahaha.ahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

    o..ohhh, you precious,sweet naive Child- you actually think SS had motives other then traumatising people? that she actually valued being a face past it giving her an excuse to beat people up?

    DAMN, Victoria didnt just Critically fail her Sense-motive roll regarding that psycho the first, second, and 16th time they met, she’s failed every one since-and shadow stalker was PATHETICALLY bad at hiding her true face >.<

    im pretty sure that bitch shattered more psyche's then Lisa ever will…

    1. I’m not sure what you are talking about. All Vicky is saying is that Shadow Stalker liked being a vigilante, as opposed to the hero or a villain, because it serves her motives. Presumably, her motives are to pat herself on the back for “doing good” while smacking the “bad guys”. Which, from what I seem to remember, seems like an accurate description of her.

      She uses Shadow as a simile to Tattletale, in that Tattletale sticks to being a villain because it serves her motives.

      1. … i misread on the first time through >.<
        downside of scanning- comprehension is spotty till the 3rd-4th readthrough

        the angle i was thinking is, that Shadow Stalker did far more psychological damage to people then Lisa ever did-she literally created an Endbringer…

        to my knowledge, Lisa never traumatised anyone enough to trigger-and as far as we can tell, Miss Herbert was only one of her victims- and given her actions, i wouldn't be remotely surprised if she actually allready had a kill-count by the time she locked her in that locker

        1. She did. Shadow Stalker’s interlude has her mention to Emma that she’s killed people (plural), and Word of God mentions that it’s less than five, but with double digits of people ‘screwed up in the extreme’.

        2. What Endbringer did SS create? The endbringers were created by Eidolon, and the only other possibilities I can think of would be Echidna or possibly Kephri (in the right light). Echidna started because Coil died, and Kephri was due to Amy messing with Taylor.

  16. >“Theo’s from Brockton Bay originally.”
    >“When did you get out?” I asked.
    >“Around the time the Slaughterhouse Nine arrived.”
    >“Good move,” Crystal said.

    Poor Theo.

    1. Goes to show that even optimism isn’t always a good thing. Crystal had no way of knowing, or even suspecting that Theo was visited by Jack, and how this visit went. She should however understand that some people left not because of what they feared Slaughterhouse Nine could do to them, but because of what they did to them already. Crystal just opened her mouth optimistically assuming that Theo belonged to this first group, and didn’t think how her words would sound if he did belong to the second.

      1. To be fair, Theo is obfuscating a little bit. “Around the time the Slaughterhouse Nine arrived” has a different implication to “Around the time the Slaughterhouse Nine left”, and the latter would be more accurate in his case.

        1. Well, not quite. Jack met Theo when The Nine were nominating their candidates. They stayed for a few more days and were most active after they selected their candidates – when they were playing “the game” Taylor suggested to Jack.

      1. Yes, but as he explained it in the current chapter he was largely mentally prepared to leave at that point because of all the mental steps he had taken before. Considering how passive and submissive he was until Purity and her group left him, choosing not to come back was almost as good as leaving. Same with taking Golem as his name – it meant announcing that he had formally abondoned the ideology behind the organization. They may have left him in physical sense, but mentally it was he who has left them.

        1. I mean… there’s also a pretty big difference in that Purity was actually NICE to him. Crusader treated him pretty decently to.

          Doesn’t change that E88 was super racist evil Nazi’s, but unlike the fallen camp, they at least treated there own reasonably well.

          ….
          Also oh god, I just realized WB has created a universe it is a legitimate to say “Well, sure, they were racist Nazi’s and all, but at least they weren’t THOSE guys”…

          Man… do any of you remember reading Purity’s interlude for the first time and not realizing she wasn’t a hero until the end?

          1. Well, I never said there were any differences between Theo and Rain’s situations. There are obviously quite a few, and comparing notes would be just as important because of those differences, as because of the similarities.

            As for Natzis, they are obviously almost as diverse in their behaviors and motivations as any other people. Just don’t make a mistake of thinking that if they’re nice to somebody they’re automatically good people. There were plenty of people in very high places directly responsible for the Holocaust and other Natzi atrocities who were known as good, loving parents.

          2. I obviously meant to say “Well, I never said there WEREN’T any differences[…]” in the first sentence of the post above.

          3. I do remember that. And I think she saw herself as a hero, too, and would have probably taken advantage of the amnesty to join the Shepherds… If she wasn’t stuck in a time loop.

            I think she started as a hero, too, before she met Kaiser, who started pointing out how the obvious drug pushers, prostitutes and pimps in Brockton Bay were all black or Asian, and convinced her racial cleansing would be societal cleansing as well. If she’d been in another city, she’d have been a hero to look up to, maybe, instead of a villain within a particularly vile organisation. Maybe even a major player in the Protectorate; she was the fastest flyer in BB, and her lasers were really potent as well.

            Huh, if she’d triggered later, or met the uncle of Victoria’s who was dating Fleur before he met Fleur (and hadn’t met Kaiser), her powerset would have matched pretty well with that of New Wave.

  17. Really hoping a) that Vic and Rachel meeting up and having something resembling an actual conversation happens, and b)that Vic’s grown enough as a person to not make the sadly common mistake of thinking “inarticulate = stupid”. There’s also a c) there, where she actually gains enough insight out of it to get some idea of why TT is making so many Bad Decisions these days, but there’s only so much optimism one can maintain at any given point.

  18. Victoria considers that Theo might be Trainwreck, is that a typo? Trainwreck was a C-53, he wasn’t considered a hero and he died during the Slaughterhouse Nine visit to Brockton Bay.

  19. Oh my holy fucking god. That was unexpected.

    By the way, I guess that dismembering people like that is perfectly situated for power transfer between clustermates, as Tt described it.

    1. I don’t know. On one hand I don’t think we had any indication that any of the Navigators belongs to a cluster. On the other hand there’s what you said, and the kind of violence here does seem to fit kiss/kill case.

      1. I didn’t mean the power transfer from the Navigators specifically, I just think that the ability used on them is well suited for that purpose.

        1. Maybe someone used Navigators as test subjects, to see if they would live through the process for example? If you already need to hit heroes, and do it in a way that inspires fear for some reason, why not use it as a chance test a terrifying method of dismemberment you plan to use on someone else later?

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