Blinding – 11.10

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We picked up the three mercenaries, lifting them into position on a dog’s back.  Each was out cold.

Sliced and diced a bunch of your buddies.

Sveta.

The others were caught.

“Do we go after her?” Precipice asked.

“March?” I asked.  I had my phone out and was typing one-handed as best as I could.  “I don’t like how our guy here phrased things about slicing and dicing-”

My fingers weren’t hitting all the keys right.  My hand shook annoyingly.

I kept my voice level.  “I’m texting Vista.  We’ll see what she can do.  If she thinks their team can handle it, we might have other options.”

“Them thinking they can handle it is different from handling it,” Foil said.  “It’s March.”

“We’re going after the others?” Precipice asked.

“Gut feeling?  Yes.  We know where they are.  The disc should be working now that we’re out of Nursery’s range.  We get to them, maybe we can get enough answers to steer things.  There’s no telling who exactly is where, though.”

“You’re thinking they’re dead?” Rachel asked.

“I’m thinking worse than dead,” I responded.  “You didn’t hear what happened to the Navigators?”

She shrugged.

“Chopped up into cubes, but not allowed to die,” Foil said.  “They might have done that to some of ours.”

Rachel’s expression hardened.

“I know,” Foil said.  “I’m not good with this stuff.  I can suck it up if I have to, but I swear, if it happened to the kids?  To any of our friends?”

“I”m getting flashbacks to the Fallen attacks on the portals,” Precipice said.  “The stakes, the distractions.”

“Some of the same people are involved,” I pointed out.  I put my phone away, tapping the disc on the arm.  Still, my hand shook.  Only our team red was findable, but the setting was screwed up.  Lookout’s team tracker seemed to be working under the assumption that the entire team was together.  Our team red was split in two, which meant it was very, very zoomed out.

“We could try going after March.  Resolve the hostage situation after,” Foil said.

“Do you want to?” I asked.  “Really?”

She shook her head.  “Only if it makes sense.  I’m just putting it out there.  We know she’s split off from the larger group.”

“The problem is that March never makes sense,” Rachel muttered.  She was at the back of the group.  Chastity was walking beside Rachel’s henchman, who was sitting on a jutting outcropping of bone at the dog’s shoulder, one hand on its side to help her maintain balance.

“Foil,” I said.  “What’s March’s fixation on these time effects?  I’m trying to wrap my head around all of this.”

Give me something I can break down.

“I don’t know.”

“She has enhanced timing as a power, but I don’t think that factors in.  What’s driving her?  What’s the focus?”

“She wants to wrap Foil’s skin around a rocking horse and ride it all day long,” Aroa said.

“Ew, weird, and no, I don’t know.  I’m a focus but time effects have nothing to do with me.”

“Multitriggers,” Precipice said.  “She collects them.”

Why?” I pressed.

“Because I think she gets them.  She understands it, she’s good at finding us out in the wild, she’s good at figuring out weird, wild shit like the power transfers.  The Goddess thing.”

“Because of her power, somehow, or-”

Foil shook her head.

We headed back, flying, jogging, or, in Rachel and her henchman’s case, hopping up so they hung onto the side of dogs with one hand while the dogs did the work of padding through snow and over ice.

Chastity had a suggestion, “Natural inclination.  Some people are good at music, and they were going to be people who were good at making music before they even picked up an instrument or sang a note.”

“Maybe that,” Foil said.  “Maybe she’s been focusing on that stuff while I was getting started as a Ward, getting my gear, doing patrols.”

“Do you know anything about her?  Do you get insights through any special… dynamics?” Precipice asked.

Foil shook her head.

“Bleed-through?” he pressed.  “Emotions leaking from one person to the other?”

“Terrifying idea, but I don’t think so.  Unless-”

She finished her statement there.

Unlessss?” Candy asked, drawing out the word.

“It’s nothing that would be helpful.”

“She’s a thinker primary,” I said.

Precipice nodded.  “Like I’m a blaster primary, it’s the strongest of my powers, and Foil is-”

“Striker, technically,” Foil volunteered.  “Not that the otherworldly things that put these powers in us really categorized everything so neatly.”

We had to get up a hill to get back toward the parking lot.

I continued to find my refuge in geekery.  “March’s a thinker first.  Mental powers come from mental triggers.  Powers that grant skill, perception, information, they tend to stem from self-centric things.  Dilemmas, complexes, obsessions, delusions.  Can I ask what the circumstances were around your trigger?”

Foil jogged at a light pace, considering.

“No obligation, but it would help,” I said.

“It’s weird that there are so many people here and there’s only one that I don’t know well enough to trust telling,” Foil said.

“I’m the odd one out?” Precipice asked.  “I’ll cover my ears.”

She reached over to his arm, pulling it down before he could.

“I’ll skip over details, but I know you’re roped into this.  She’s after you, right?”

“Technically I owe her a favor,” Precipice said.

“She won’t make that easy.  The more you know, the better,” Foil said.  She drew in a deep breath.   Then she hesitated.

Which was annoying, but annoying was better than freaking out over what might have happened to Sveta.

Answers, we find them, we help the others.  If needed we break all of Cradle’s limbs and get him to tell us how to undo what he did to the Navigators.

Through that, maybe we can stop March before she does whatever she’s planning.

“I didn’t mean for it to be a big thing,” I told her.  “I know triggers are heavy.”

“No, it’s okay.  I need to, and if anyone has insights or perspective, it would help,” Foil said.  “Even if it’s power wonk stuff.”

“Alright,” I said.

“I was fostered, entered into the system.  I had older siblings who weren’t.  Subway platform in New York, I get attacked from behind, and it was one of my sisters, homeless, and so- so angry.  It was like she lived in a completely different, warped reality, where I was to blame for everything, I’d sold her out, I’d taken something she was owed.  She tried to push me but I caught myself, and when she tried again, she pushed other people down onto the tracks while pushing me down to the ground, put my head in the way of any incoming trains.”

“March was one of those people on the tracks?” I asked.  “Her timing power… and an imminent train?”

Foil shrugged.  “All I know is I triggered as the train hit my sister, convinced she’d killed me.  March says our third was a friend of my sister, but I barely met the woman, and I didn’t realize why she was important or what she meant when I did.”

“And March?”

“There were people on the tracks.  Never got off, just… backed off enough that they could hug the wall while the train passed.  Or she got under a ledge, or she was pulled up and something else led to the trigger”

I nodded.

“Does that really give someone powers?” Chastity asked.  “Being off to the side and having a train pass within a foot of you?”

“She might have thought the same thing as Foil.  That she was about to die.  But thinker triggers are tricky.  They’re all about what’s going on in someone’s head.”

Precipice was staring off to the side.

We’d have to talk about Cradle at some point too.  Deciphering that.

Foil’s family situation had gotten other people caught up in it.  That explained a bit of March’s fixation or degree of blame, maybe.  Or the worship, if March saw Foil as responsible for vanquishing their attacker.  Or something.

“I always wondered if my sister was on something, or if she was under the effect of a power, or if she was just that angry.  They were supposed to do a full autopsy and send things in to get checked- it was even a request of mine, when I joined the Wards.  If they ever figured it out, they didn’t tell me.  All I ever heard was that it was still in the works, there was a backlog, the department didn’t see it as a priority.  It stung.  A small part of my reason for wanting to get out of New York was to get away from the dynamic where I was just another face in a very crowded department.  Of course, I picked Brockton Bay, and we all know how that went.”

Foil was fixated on her end of the trigger, but I was left to consider March’s.  Thinker triggers were hard, because they took place in a person’s head.  What served for one person to trigger might not work for another.  The only evidence available would be the course of action before, and the course of action after.

“Power involvement would complicate things,” I said.  “And explain things.  Like your power’s tendency to go through anything, not just through things.”

Foil nodded.  “I’ve talked about that with some power testing people.  They didn’t talk about the thinker side of it though.”

“What was your first meeting?” I asked.

“She joined a villain group my Wards team was already dealing with.  Low-level, nonviolent, safe enough that our bosses were okay letting us try.  She made them more effective and she blew up enough things that our bosses withdrew that permission.  We moved on to another sanctioned target, and March joined them.”

“After you from the beginning.”

Foil nodded.  “She would disappear for months at a time, then show up with friends.  What got me was that I was trying to treat the cape stuff like a career, right from the start.  Getting away from… from whatever pulled my sister down.  For March, it was always a game.  Not the usual way, where it’s a specific meta-approach to crime and criminality.  Like an actual game.”

“Sometimes you have to approach it that way,” Candy said.  “The worse something is, the more you have to treat it like it’s nothing.”

“Yeah,” Foil said.  “It’s just fucked up when she ropes me and Parian into it.  Or the other Undersiders.  Or civilians.”

I saw Precipice start to raise two right hands, like a student in class who had something to say but wasn’t sure about it.

He stopped, dropping his hands.  Not the time for it.  We had other immediate concerns.

Our driver was leaning against the door of the van when we returned from our excursion, smoking.  All was well until we drew close enough that the streetlights illuminated our group, and the driver saw the three bodies we’d draped over the back of Rachel’s dog.

There were a few directions one could go, when their immediate peer group had just been taken out by the scary people with powers.  Fight, which meant drawing that gun and doing as much damage to us as possible, flight, which meant hopping into that vehicle and trying to drive away…

His hands went up.

Freeze is another option.  For the guy, not for us.

Other people couldn’t afford for us to freeze.

“I’m going to knock you out while we figure out what to do,” Chastity said, as she drew closer.  She drew out her whip.  “Don’t do anything stupid.”

“I don’t know what they said, but I’m not part of it,” the driver said.  He backed up a little.  The hand closest to his gun dropped a couple of inches, still raised.  “I’m new.”

“He is new,” Chastity said.  “It’s true.”

“Don’t announce that you’re going to bitch slap a grown man and then fail to follow through,” Aroa said.  “It makes all of the Heartbroken look bad.”

“Is there a way forward where we don’t take him out?” I asked.  “Because I’m really not keen on running interference while someone else drives on icy roads, so I can grab it if it starts skidding.  It’s nerve wracking.  He seems to have the driving down, at least.”

“It’s what I do.”

“Shh,” Rachel shushed the man.  “You don’t have to whine about guarding the car.  My dogs can handle that.”

Whine?

“You have Yips with you, and Yips is barely a dog,” Candy said, pointing at the gangliest of the monster dogs.  Rachel glared at her.

“All I’m asking is who drives, if he doesn’t?” I asked.

“I can drive,” Foil said, at the same time Precipice volunteered with a, “Me.”

They exchanged looks.

“Enhanced timing and accuracy with my power.”

“I’ve been driving since I was old enough to see over the wheel, most kinds of weather.  I don’t have much going for me, but I’ve got that, at least.”

I put my fingers at my nose, pinching the bridge.

“Why haven’t we beat down the merc?” Aroa asked.  “Priorities.

“Because we don’t know what we’re doing, hon,” Chastity told her.    She flicked her hand, the motion traveling down the length of the whip that draped across the icy road.  “These things take negotiation.”

“No,” I said.  “Knock him out.  Precipice drives.  Dogs will run interference, but they can’t do it alone.  The road between here and where we’re going is busier, and other cars on the road limit what the dogs can do to stop the van if it goes off course.  I’ll be overhead, helping.”

“I can drive,” Foil said.  “I know he’s your teammate, but-”

“But we need you shotgun, in a position to shoot if we need shooting,” I said.

She considered, then nodded.

Chastity looked at Rachel for confirmation.  Rachel nodded, and Chastity flicked out her whip without turning to look at the driver.  He brought up an arm, protecting himself, and the whip encircled his wrist.  She hauled back on it, pulling him toward her- and he went with it, charging her.

A dog butted forward, moving to intercept.  The driver couldn’t pull back or get away before the dog rammed him with its head.  The impact was heavy enough that Chastity had to let go of her whip instead of being pulled along with.

“I don’t have enough shots for my crossbow,” Foil told me, even though the situation with the driver wasn’t yet resolved.

“We have other weapons,” I said.

“I guess,” she said.

“How much time have you spent at the range?” I asked, flying over to the dog with the knocked out mercs draped over its back.  It shied away, stopping as Rachel made a disapproving sound.

I pulled a pistol from the mercenary’s holster, handing it to Foil.  Off to the side, Chastity bent down over the mercenary,

“Not enough.”

“Enhanced timing and accuracy, at least.”

She nodded.

I gave a hand in getting the knocked out soldiers into the back of the van.  Lord of Loss was already in the back, under the bench behind the passenger seat.  As we’d done with him, we positioned the mercenaries, zip tied their hands and feet, then had Foil use her darts to fix their clothes to the surroundings.

It was crowded work, so as soon as my portion of things was done, I checked on Lord of Loss, making sure his hands weren’t cold and that circulation was there.  Which was probably nicer than anything the asshole would do for us.  Sticking people’s faces into Nursery’s power.  Fucker.

I shivered involuntarily.

“I should cancel out my power on them sometime,” Chastity said.

“They’re knocked out until you wake them up, right?”

“But if that tackle had hit me, they’d be awake and I’d be out, and I wouldn’t be useful to you for a while,” she said.  “We have to assume it’s going to happen.”

I nodded.  “Maybe wait until we’re closer to where we’re going.  It means Lord of Loss talks less.  He’s kind of ridiculously annoying.”

She nodded.

“We could tape his mouth shut,” Aroa said.

“That’s a hazard if he pukes.  Which he might if it turns out he’s very claustrophobic.  Which he might be, since I’ve never known him to go indoors while in breaker form.”

“Ah, I know someone like that.  Except not being tied up.  She freaks out and sometimes even barfs every time she gets tied up.”

“Puke and taped mouth means not being able to breathe.  For now, let’s keep it simple,” I said.

“As funny as it would be to see him freak?” Aroa asked.

I pushed her the rest of the way into the van.

The other two Heartbroken climbed into the back.

“The dogs will help keep you on the road.  Don’t pull too far ahead,” Rachel said.

“Got it,” Precipice said.

“You say dogs,” Candy chimed in, “But Yips is barely a dog.”

Rachel slammed the door in Candy’s face.

“Yips?” I asked.

Rachel indicated one of the animals.  The smallest and gangliest of the monster hounds.  It was still large enough that when it walked by the van, its spine was level with the top of the vehicle.

“Where to?” Rain asked, leaning out the window.

I checked the disc.  “Direction of Fairfield, looks like.”

He nodded.  The armored van started up.  It rumbled to life, then started forward, a little jerky.  It almost immediately braked, skidding a few feet.

Even from outside the vehicle, I could hear the heckling from the Heartbroken.

“Problem?” I asked, raising my voice.

“Checking the brakes, getting a feel for the weight of the vehicle.”

More heckling from inside.

Rachel still hadn’t left.  She was bundling up, drawing a blanket that I’d taken as a saddlecloth around over her legs instead, so the corners met at her lap, the blanket covering her legs.  She had leather mitts that looked comically oversized, more like boxing gloves than regular wear, and added protection for her face: a hood with fur trim pulled up, ski goggles for the eyes, and a face cover for the lower half, a dog’s features stamped onto the cloth.

Her henchman had a similar setup.  Where Rachel rode the largest beast, the teenager rode the middle one.

Rachel’s voice was muffled.  “If we have to body check the van, you’re going to need to pull your leg up.  Don’t lash in too tight.”

“That’s terrifying,” the henchman said.

“There’s still time to ask to ride inside.”

The henchman shook her head, pulling her hood up and hunching over, mittened hands at the chains that served as reins.

I flew up to the top of the van, standing on top as it pulled out of the parking lot.  Being grounded and in contact with it helped keep me in tune with its movements while I checked my phone.

No signal.

The van picked up speed, which made standing on top harder, the wind against my hands cold.  I’d have to trust.  We had sent a message to Vista, urging her to be ready for March, and we’d told her to pull strings and cut all communications for now, at least until they’d weathered the initial attack.

The wind whipping over the top of the van caught my legs, sweeping them off the roof.  I started flying the instant they were no longer touching, staying close.  I wrapped the Wretch around myself, to shield against the cold wind, at the cost of making it harder to fly straight.  Shifts in air resistance, a lopsided body.

If March couldn’t call other teams or mercenaries, then she couldn’t coordinate timing.  She would still have an advantage, but it would be predicated on having the information to exploit.

The disc at my arm glowed.  I checked the status.  I wasn’t sure how to tune the default settings, because pulling up our red team still brought up a painfully zoomed out view, with three red dots miles away from another three red dots.  I had to take nearly a minute to focus the view on one group of three, zooming in close enough to make out any pertinent details, and it looked like I’d have to do it every time I wanted to check.  If I wanted to check on the other half of team red, then I had to reset, then zoom in on them.

Swansong, Lookout, and one of the Heartbroken kids were in custody.  Bags over heads.  Hands bound.  Swansong had the power to free herself, but she couldn’t use it.  Lookout had been positioned just behind her.  Using her power would obliterate her teammate and friend.

The heartbroken kid, one of the younger ones closer to Kenzie’s age, was being managed with a long pole attached to her restraints.

An indicator showed the direction to them.  They were to our west and were traveling west.  We knew they were heading to a portal.

They were near Fairbanks and were heading in the direction of the screwed up portal that had once led to Earth N.  In the same neighborhood as Kenzie’s old house.

An attempt at checking on the other group provided only static.  We’d known they were at the university, and that wasn’t far from the portal in question.

Was this a trap?  That we could only see one target for the time being?  Love Lost was a tinker, careful enough to have security on everything tech and traps riddling everything that wasn’t tech.

It was hard to imagine her not expecting us.

“Let’s try to intercept red team before they’re taken to where the larger group with Cradle is!” I called out.

I got a signal of assent from Foil.  Rachel, to my right, nodded her head.

At least she wasn’t fighting me.

“Rachel!” I called out, trying to be heard over the rush of wind.  “Can you hear me!?”

I heard her grunt.  I wasn’t sure if it was in the affirmative or the negative.

“What’s going on with Tattletale?  She didn’t catch this with the mercenaries?”

“She’s an idiot!” Rachel barked the words.

There wasn’t any elaboration.

“Victoria!”

It was Foil who called out through her open window.  She’d heard me.  She leaned out the window, one elbow poking out.  The hand of that arm had a gun in it.

I flew close enough to hear, which meant being close enough I couldn’t wrap the Wretch around me.  It was cold, but I could deal in the short term.

“I don’t know if you can relate,” Foil said, “But sometimes you get stuck in  a place that isn’t you.  Where everything you do is a drain on you.  It brings out your worst traits.”

My face was so cold I was worried about frostbite.  I turned my head around, one gloved hand going to my hood to keep it up as a shield against the wind.  All the same, I flew sideways, one eye closed.

Foil said something, and I had to cup a hand by my ear to hear because the wind whistling past the van was too much.

“Tattletale’s in that place, trying to help the city,” Foil raised her voice.

“She took over Brockton Bay!” I had to half-shout to be heard over the rush of wind.

“She didn’t!  Not like you’re thinking!  Coil took most of it over, set most of that stuff in motion!  Skitter did a lot of the rest of the work when it came to the taking over part!  Tattletale isn’t a warlord!  She isn’t a chessmaster!”

Eerie to hear one of her allies say it.  More uncomfortable to have to recontextualize my mental picture of her.

“What the hell is she, then?”

“She’s an idiot!” Rachel shouted.

I was surprised she could hear.

“She’s a manipulator!” Foil called out, raising her voice in response.

“She’s an idiot, but if you start talking shit about her-”

“I’m not, Bitch!  It’s not shit,” Foil said, the latter half of what she said was a normal speaking volume.  “She took over what Coil started and she steered that.  She’s good at that, but the farther we get from that setup of his, the harder it is.  She steered the group, helped Skitter, helped Imp!”

“And Rachel?” I asked, looking at Rachel.

“You don’t manipulate her, or you get your head torn off!”

Rachel turned her head to stare at Foil.  With the protection against cold weather, her expression was hidden.  I was going to assume sheer hostility.  It seemed to stay the case, unless she was being sweet to the Heartbroken kids.

“She was always at her best dealing with the smaller scale and the biggest, most abstract stuff,” Foil called out.  “Fights and powers, conspiracies, not running cities!  That was always her sticking to someone else’s game plan, manipulating the parameters.  She was best when she was taking care of the Undersiders.  When she had to look after herself, because not being at her best meant she might not be able to manipulate and steer her friends.”

Skitter and Imp?

“Except they’re okay now!” Foil’s expression had changed below her visor.  She was almost smiling, but it was a sad smile.  “Imp’s okay!  Rachel’s okay now!  Parian and I are okay!  Heartbroken are less broken than ever!  New Brockton was even okay!  The ones who aren’t or who couldn’t be okay are dead!”

Rachel snarled.  When I looked, she was just goading her dog to keep running and to run harder.  Tough going in the tall grasses and bushes that ran along the side of the road.

Or at least, the goading and tough way forward was a good excuse.

Losing teammates was- I could sympathize with that.

“She has no purpose?” I asked.  My hand was cold where it was holding my hood up.  I pulled it down, using my other, and drew closer so I wouldn’t have to strain my throat yelling.  “How does that lead to a screwup like not knowing what her own mercenaries are doing?”

“She has a purpose, but it’s killing her,” Foil said.  “She looks after the city.  It’s that thing that drains her and brings out the worst in her.  It doesn’t fill that need she has, but she does it because she has to.”

“She did it, past tense,” I gritted out the words.  I’d have to bail in a second to throw the Wretch up.  “She keeps talking about how she’s bailing, she’s out, she doesn’t want to get involved.”

“Yeah.  What’s she doing instead?”

“Looking after Chicken Little.  Do you mean he’s her project now?  Like the Undersiders were before?”

“Except he’s okay too,” Foil said.  “Most of the way to okay.  And she’s trying to steer him when he’s already on course to being a good- whatever he ends up being.  And that drains her, I think it surprises her how much.  She doesn’t accept input, not from me, most of all, not from Imp, Rachel doesn’t give input, and I think everyone that’s paying attention is pretty sure she’s going to either get him hurt, drive him away, or get herself hurt.”

I thought of the little man I’d felt so much like I’d wanted to coach and guide.  The boy with the birds.

“She looks like she’s in her element but she’s not.  So she puts more of herself into it-”

“And ignores the things that are in her element?” I asked.

“Yeah.  Just so you know, I don’t have the most charitable view of her, though I’m really trying here, I’m glossing over a lot of general bitchiness,” Foil said.  “Take what I say with a heaping of salt.”

“I don’t-” I winced at the cold air that rushed its way to my sore throat, colder than most of the air I was intentionally taking in.  “I don’t have the best view of her either, I don’t know if that means there’s no need for any added salt, or if I need an extra heaping.  But it makes sense.  What you say makes sense.”

“She’s out there,” Precipice said, from the driver’s seat.  His hands were on the wheel, the smaller mechanical arm on the shift.  “She’s helping our team yellow.  I’m not saying you’re wrong.  Just… to me that looks like she’s really conflicted, that she’s saying one thing but only halfway committing to it.”

“I’m not going to tell you that you’re wrong,” Foil said.

“But you want to?”

“She’s given me so much flack about being conflicted where I am…”

I didn’t hear the rest.  Foil was talking to Rain now, not me.  I peeled away, far enough from the armored van that I could use the Wretch.  Close enough I could step in if needed.

A bit of relief, but it didn’t make the cold parts of me warm, it just stopped them from getting colder.

I checked the disc.  Again, I had to zoom in.

I flew in closer to the others, holding the disc up.  I saw Precipice glance my way.  I put my arm out across the disc, hand flat, pointing the way.

“Be careful of a trap,” I told him.

I saw him and Foil nod.  Foil undid her seatbelt.

“Watch for ambushes,” I told Rachel, “We’re conspicuous.”

“I heard you already,” she said.

Her henchman did give me a salute, though.

“And Precipice?” I asked.

“What?”

“Same thing as Lord of Loss.  Hit me.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yeah,” I said.

We had to catch up to the hostages and the group of mercenaries or whoever that had caught them.  They’d beat Imp, they’d gotten around Lookout, and Swansong hadn’t taken them down.

Every car on the road was a potential threat.  Every person on the street, every alley was a potential direction of attack.

I rose higher, scanning the surroundings.  So many people wore black for their winter clothing, or they wore white, and they were camouflaged against a background of dark pavement, gray concrete, and white snow.

I checked the disc.

They weren’t far at all.  A couple of blocks away.

Rachel’s dog barked.  A warning sound, one that the others picked up.  I saw her reorient-

I sprung to action before I even had a good view of what was happening.  In the dark, it was hard to see the particulars, but I could see the outside context.  A car turning around a corner, only to hit a barrier.

Naibiter’s claws.

I was already descending, and taking action meant a trajectory change, the momentum already there.  I struck the claws from above, driving them down toward the ground.  Though rigid, they bowed beneath the pressure from above.

She was the escort, running alongside much as Rachel and I had been doing with the van.  The difference was that we were making sure Precipice didn’t drive off the road or slide into incoming traffic, keeping an eye out from where we were.  Nailbiter was running interference.

Buying time for their vehicle to get away with their hostages.  Our friends and teammates.  If they reached Cradle-

I caught the nails, and I lifted, hauling them up, so they wouldn’t be a barrier for the van.

Nailbiter’s distant figure barely moved.  But the ‘nails’ came hard.  More than fifteen, pale and narrow, passing me, stabbing into the street, stabbing a nearby building face.   One hit the Wretch, and the other hit me, grazing the underside of my fucking foot.

In the same moment I reacted, the fingers I was gripping withdrew, slipping from my grasp.  Too fast, too silent, no cues, and it was too dark to see what I was fighting.

She wasn’t the only one running interference.

Another flier, coming at me as I tried to take evasive action.  Nailbiter, off to the side, was scaling a building, preparing to come at the van or come at me from the flanks.  I focused on the flier for the time being.

She had a silvery glow about her, long, wild hair made wilder by the fact that she wasn’t human any more.  I could see the veins running across her body, the fact that her body had incorporated her costume- maybe clothes.  A high collar that could have been a hoodie or a collared shirt.  A ridge at the hips and waist that could have been pants, with a pair of horns decorating the ridges halfway between where the belly button should have been and the nethers- by placement and protrusion, I was guessing belt buckle.  The solid mass in the midst of the silvery nimbus was a dark purple.

Breaker.

Breaker meant on-off powers, ones that tended to ‘break’ reality.  A breaker power meant there were other powers in the mix.

Hers was creating a foot-long blade at each hand, black, to contrast the silvery glow, flickering and shimmering.

I flew closer.  I saw her stop in mid air, faster than any flier I’d seen, then immediately set off in another direction.  Direction change on a dime.  To turn that abruptly, I usually had to land, hit something, plant myself on some solid ground and then fly off.

Not as fast as me, it seemed, but far more maneuverable.

I drew in closer.

She hit me, and I didn’t see what with.  A flash, an impulse.

My head was flooded with information.  Everything and nothing.  Every priority I had.  March and the time effects, Love Lost and the hostages, Cradle and the people he had apparently butchered, who would be stronger if Love Lost got close.  The team, the dynamic with the Undersiders, the Heartbroken, the kids– I couldn’t help but go to that.  And from there my brain leapfrogged to the Major Malfunctions to Fume Hood and the other low-level capes who had been so neglected.  To the major teams and that I still had to prove my worth to them.  To the organization I was trying to set up- not in the sense that I wanted an institution, but I wanted to organize, and that meant something vaguely institutional.

I wanted to stop anyone from being hurt like I’d been hurt.  I wanted to stop every Amy out there.  I wanted to save every Glory Girl, stupid and barbaric as they might be.  I wanted to help Jessica help Breakthrough and I was worried that by failing to stop Chris I’d failed her.

A surge of feeling, of paralysis and motivation in overwhelming measure.

And I’d been driven back by it, because it had tapered off as I’d pulled away.

Which meant the flier was free to continue.

I saw her course, and I had a pretty good idea of what she was capable of now.  I halfway knew what she was doing before she used the black energy blades at her hands to swipe at a lamp post, severing the post that held up the glowing head.  The metal crashed to the ground, and the van rolled over it, bucking, almost leaping into the air.

Rain steered, and navigated the traffic that was freaking out, people stopping midway down the road without pulling over after hearing the crash.

The van was almost recovered when Nailbiter struck again from the alley.  Rachel’s dogs leaped, crashing into them, and instead of striking dead on or through the windows, they raked along the top, still forceful enough to topple the van, knocking it onto its side, directly in the path of incoming vehicles.

I swooped down, curving as I descended.  I was almost flying horizontal as I hit it, knocking it out of the lane.

I heard a door pop open.  Foil, climbing out the door that was now facing sky.  She had the gun in her hand, for all the good it would do here.

I really hoped Chastity had revoked her power from our captives.  Else we wouldn’t have her, and we’d potentially have an escaped Lord of Loss.

Mutant dogs snarled as they turned, facing the alley where an elongated Nailbiter was stepping out, a leering, stretched out smile of rusty nails plainly visible.  Rachel shushed them, and for a moment, the only sound was of passing cars, and the crackle of the nimbus of energy around the breaker that flew above us, suspended in the air.

Those powers… what the hell had Love Lost done, to add another member to Rain’s cluster?

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149 thoughts on “Blinding – 11.10”

    1. An altered state where she’s *really* suited to hanging with the person she’s chosen to be loyal to. A bit on the nose for a trigger-power relation but it’s effective enough.

  1. I somehow failed to see that coming, although it seems like a good thing to have guessed in hindsight. I wonder what the next dream room will look like.

    Also, for fuck’s sake Foil, just Sting Nailbiter and take the blades off of Colt’s arms. Now is not the time for this shit.

    I wonder if March plans to ADD someone to Alabaster’s cluster, somehow.

    Final thought: Does this mean Natalie can join Foil’s cluster?

      1. My thinking is actually Colt’s got a second-gen cluster trigger. Not part of the cluster, as such, but like Antares has a forcefield from her father and flight from her mother (and an emotion aura from her boyfriend, who was watching when she triggered), she’s got some powers from Love Lost and maybe some from Cradle, with her own powers balancing in the middle. Probably not a thing that’s ever happened before, either, or only rarely.

        Alternately, her breaker state ‘imprints’ on someone and gets their powers, and she’s imprinting on Love Lost.

        1. From the descriptions we got in the Boston interlude, Victoria’s forcefield doesn’t seem terribly different from her mom’s energy weapons and breaker state. I doubt it comes from her dad, in any case – he just throws light grenades. As far as Colt, Cradle’s the one cluster member whose primary ability she hasn’t demonstrated a variant of. If anything, she seems closer to Jonathan: flight by falling, weapons charged with heavy emotions, and destruction of nonliving objects.

          1. I’m thinking either the dark section in the dream was simply a shard which was in on the cluster but hadn’t connected until now or Jonathan’s shard has connected to a new host.

            Whatever the case it feels like a colt has a far greater balance of the powers but really it’s just Jonathan’s mover power which seems the greatest in strength. I guess the blades could be longer and the emotions have more range from her person.

          2. I always get the members of New Wave mixed up. Uncle Neil, Uncle Eric and Vicky’s Dad I just can’t keep straight.

            At least with Empire 88 I only forget which is which out of Othala and Rune.

          3. Perhaps a mnemonic will help. Rune’s name feels closer to Terra, ergo she’s the Terra knock off. Othala’s name has the same first letters as “other,” so she’s the one whose power gives other people abilities.

            When it comes to the male half of New Wave, my mnemonic is “Fuck this; lemme check the wiki.” 🙂

          4. I will remember that for Othala, but I don’t know who Terra is so that bit about Rune doesn’t actually help me much.

    1. Heroes keep the kids gloves on longer, and Wildbow loves to have as many handicaps as possible for his protagonists. It’s not a win if it’s not a grueling win.

      The villain’s are definitly exploiting the unwritten rules and bending them as far as they’ll go. Nothing new here. Let’s face it the Undersiders did that when they had to. But there’s also a sense that pretty soon that bending is going to snap back in their faces, and the Wardens and affiliates are going to stop playing as nice with Love Lost, Cradle and all their associates. In short the bad guys are going all in, but if it turns out this isn’t a clean win with the gamble… Sooner or later there’s got to be the blowback.

      1. They have outright pissed over the rules, using guns and making unrelated capes into puzzles, as well as undirectly killing a lot of people by stealing vital supplies

      2. Agreed- that “slice and dice” obscenity was strategically MORONIC- they’re NEVER going to have a moment to breathe when word spreads around the cape community’s- they’ll be hounded by heroes and villains alike, though the reasoning will differ- some cause they crossed one HELL of a fucking line, others after they build up a bounty, and a good chunk simply wanting them dead before the stupid bastards lash out at them for reasons as weak as the motivation for the attack on the navigators-

        At the nationstate level this kind of tactic has ALLWAYS backfires, and on a smaller scale, I can see the backlash kicking in even more widly…

        Wait. What if that’s intended? They’ve being manipulated/used to ramp up local conflict past where the unwritten rules would usually lead to folks backing down?

        1. Maybe it wasn’t all that moronic? Maybe Cradle expects that whatever will happen to the city will be so bad that there will be no one left alive or at least able to chase him for what he did?

  2. How did Victoria figure that out in like two minutes? It makes sense I guess.
    Blaster can shear through stuff.
    Mover has a stupid amount of agility while flying.
    Thinker can overload people temporarily.
    Idk maybe the swords are her tinker thing?
    Also how are rains powers so weak?

    1. I guessed it from the moment she summoned two blades, as thats how Rain maifests his power.

      And I think Rain is weak due to a lack of confidence, creativity, and his cluster denying him those tokens that represent his “share”

      1. Precipice is weak because his version of the Mallrats’ dark place’s Trump power makes its targets miserable enough to constantly seek new ways to improve their powers. Antares loves it, because that’s her kink; she just asked for a second helping. Precipice never intended to do this, but he has been unconsciously spamming his cluster with this ever since they triggered. He feels enough misery on a regular basis that it didn’t occur to him to hit himself with it.

    2. Rain isn’t weak.

      He got a non-Manton-limited Blaster power that works at whim, when the others are stuck with Striker powers that work best in combinations with Tinkering. To be fair, this is his main power, so it should be good. Still.

      He got the ability to make perfect neural interfaces between human and machine, while LL and Snag mostly seem to have bland damage applications. They’re nice in a fight but not so much elsewhere, and they mostly seem impressive because they synergize with the other secondary powers (emotion shurikens or supernaturally sharp claws). Rain is way more versatile, and he’s great for team synergy. Cradle is a better Tinker, but then it is his primary.

      LL and Cradle have nice parkour skills, but Rain can tell various fundamental laws of physics, “You stop.“ What are the implications for momentum, kinetic energy, thermodynamics, even relativity? He’s obviously synching himself to a specified frame of reference. If we trick his perceptions can we specify different frames of reference? A powers researcher would go wild over that power.

      His doubt zone might suck, but he also has a lot more voluntary control than the others (including its owner, LL). It’s at-will, targetable and free of visual tells.

      Rain’s problem is that he’s Rain, not that his powers are weak.

      1. Rain is also the only member of the cluster who does proper prosthetic limbs, too. Love Lost does gauntlets, Snag did extensions with his hands inside, pressing buttons and stuff, Cradle does… His cat’s-cradle mech thing.

        Also, Snag’s shuriken were, I thought, part of his tech, possibly built with help from another Tinker. Kenzie was able to capture a couple for study after the Fallen fight. I think they were emotion-sponges which Snag filled with his touch-range feelings of loss power and launched from his wrists. Much like Snag could use his breaking stuff power on his extended arms to punch through walls.

    3. Even if she is a tinker (and if she really belongs to the cluster now, she probably is), she probably didn’t have enough time to do any significant tinkering yet. Chances are we have yet to see this aspect of her power.

  3. I am pretty sure a quantifiable 30% of all the stress in my life comes from this story. Adding new cluster members? What the fuck, March?

    On an unrelated note, as a theme of this story seems to be emotional self-improvement, I would love to see Tattletale overcome her problems. I’m not entirely sure I buy Foil’s perspective though, I don’t think you can successfully run a city for two years (maybe more, if you count Old Brockton Bay) without at least being a little bit in your element. Her inability to make friends and be vulnerable sucks though, maybe we can have a wholesome Victoria/Lisa friendship by the end of this story.

    Assuming that Lisa is still alive, of course.

  4. A super interesting perspective on Tattletale. And apparently Foil is a lot more charitable to TT than TT thinks she is.

    Could it be TT’s power is interpreting Foil in a more negative manner? It reminds me of clinical depression, wherein every phenomenon is seen in a darker light.

    1. Well, the entire Tattletale’s interlude seems like a one big record of a depression. Even the way she thought about her supposed asexuality reminded me about her own comment from Worm interlude about how the thinkers are supposedly particularly good at lying to themselves. It is a big part of the reason why I said there that I’m not certain that she is indeed as asexual as she thinks.

      A big part of this depression seems to come from the fact that she probably realized that her power seems to want to push her into conflicts she wants to avoid by giving her information that while technically true, is designed to put her in conflict with everyone around her. She is constantly analyzing what her power says to her, how it presents facts, what it omits, etc., and she is second-guessing her own thoughts and decisions based on information given by ger power. In other words – she is always unsure of both her own thoughts and her shards motivations behind any bit of information it provides her.

      She hasn’t felt safe in her own head for years, at least since the time she managed to figure out what the passengers are and what they want – of course even without her concerns about people she wants to help it would have worn her down to the point of depression, and the fact that, as Foil noted, she is constantly worried about those people, and it reminds her about her “failures” with her brother ant Taylor, only makes it worse.

      1. Not to mention that as a result of second guessing both the information she gets from her shard and her own thoughts and decisions (constantly askinng herself “Is this really something I want, or should think, or is it something my passenger wants me to do or think?”) she ends up deliberately ignoring a lot of input from her power – especially input that paints her own teammates in bad light. Just look at her interlude and see how her behavior towards Foil completely did not match what her power was telling her about Foil then. This is probably the main reason why she missed the moles – her power probably did give her some clues about a possibility of their betrayal at some point, and she chose to ignore them.

        One thing that still disturbs me is how her mercs knew that this is the right moment to betray her. Did they know her that well? Did some thinker tell them that it is relatively safe to do it now? Or they didn’t know and were just so ignorant, stupid or desperate to try it anyway? The answer could be different for any of them – for example any new guys in her employ (Rachel’s man was probably new, since he didn’t even know about Candy’s power) could act from ignorance about her power, but the same can’t be told about the veterans – they had to act because at least of one of the other reasons.

    1. I would also consider other configurations, like a possibility of cohabitation with one of the existing cluster members – for example Colt could be trapped in the same space with Love Lost.

      1. She saw a pit in her vision, so if she’s in any of the existing spaces I think it’s the same one Snag saw in the 5th slice

  5. Fucking great. Colt force added herself to Rain’s cluster. Well I guess that’s a thing you can do when the shard is broke. She’s got a cutting power, a mover power, an emotion power, and a breaker power. Presumably she’s another tinker too. The breaker power is presumably from the fifth member.

    The only question is if Colt can do this to other people and if Colt will show in the dream.

    1. I’d assume the breaker power is Colt’s, since that was the main thing going on with her trigger (drugs and altered mindstates).

      If Colt really did force-add herself to Rain’s clusterfuck trigger, then Rain should also have a shiny new breaker power added on to the rest of his nonsense.

      If he doesn’t have anything new though, then it’s more likely Colt is just a breaker who copies powers, probably with a certain degree of randomness.

      1. Does everyone in the cluster get a new power? A breaker power for everyone, or some non-breaker expression of that power?

        1. I… dunno? I’m making a guess based on how I think multitriggers work, but to be fair none of that is based on *adding* someone to an already existing cluster.

          But then again, if shards can ‘break down the walls’ like they do with the Goddess effect, then I’d expect that adding a shard to a cluster should maybe share that power out with the rest of the group? Again, this is just a guess, and who knows how accurate it is?

          Theory is: each shard in a multitrigger gives a less-than-normal power to its parahuman, then gives a different and halfassed version of that to the others. By extension, another shard adding itself to the cluster should follow that rule, just going by what a cluster is.

          Hence why I’m thinking Colt is just a power copier, and just happens to have ridiculous synergy with Love Lost’s cluster because, for whatever reason, the Rain/Love Lost/Cradle/Snag wombo combo doesn’t act like it follows the normal rules for a multitrigger. Colt copies Love Lost, gets the whole power pie instead of one power because that’s how LL’s cluster works, then curbstomps Imp and friends because she basically used shenanigans to become the equivalent of four or five full parahumans at once.

          Random guess: Colt’s power might need physical contact to copy? LL was pissed at her for some reason after the fight, might’ve been because Colt had to touch her before going breaker for the copying to work?

          Anyways, the only saving grace here is that, for all intents and purposes, Colt probably can’t take advantage of the tinker power because she (hopefully) can’t keep her powers turned on long enough to build something. So, she’d be one short when compared to Rain.

          1. We know of at least three other shards that seemed to collect other shards into a greater whole. Valkyrie’s, Eidolon’s and Butcher’s. I wouldn’t put it outside realm of possibility that Rain’s cluster is doing something similar. It does seem to be very unusual or broken somehow.

          2. Given the “parceling things out in the dream” thing, it’s possible that other cluster members wouldn’t get their variants of the breaker power until after they had one of those sessions (assuming arguendo that Colt has properly joined the cluster and added a breaker shard of some sort, which I don’t think is the best bet at this point).

          3. Rain at least already has a variant of the Breaker power. Remember? He can immediately halt his momentum. Clearly a minor version of what Colt does with her breaker flight.

          4. Rain’s power to stop on a dime is the Mover power he got from Snag, not a Breaker power (which is unfortunate, because if it were a breaker power we could make some brake puns with it). By Victoria’s logic, Colt’s flight is another spin-off of that same Mover power.

            The Breaker power that has people questioning Victoria’s theory is the fact that Colt is in a transformed state right now:

            She had a silvery glow about her, long, wild hair made wilder by the fact that she wasn’t human any more. I could see the veins running across her body, the fact that her body had incorporated her costume- maybe clothes. A high collar that could have been a hoodie or a collared shirt. A ridge at the hips and waist that could have been pants, with a pair of horns decorating the ridges halfway between where the belly button should have been and the nethers- by placement and protrusion, I was guessing belt buckle. The solid mass in the midst of the silvery nimbus was a dark purple.

    2. From what we know of powers…

      – She triggered in a situation where there were lots of powers going around, when she was specifically under threat of being hit with one of the heartbroken’s powers. That suggests a Trump power of some kind is likely.
      – She triggered while in an altered mindstate caused by drugs, however the trigger itself wasn’t induced by drugs (like, say, Lung’s was). May or may not mean that she gets the ‘conditional’ aspect of drug-induced triggers.

      Of course, she also had a borderline broken trigger, and we don’t really know what the parameters for that are. It’s possible that her power is just a trump power, which lets her jack into the connection between shards and individuals, creating a proxy connection which grants her powers related to the that shard…which could, in effect, let her join a cluster.

  6. That guilt aura is pretty powerful now that it’s being used properly.

    Victoria can see through battle tactics, analyze powers, and correct mistakes unnaturally fast now.

    1. Apparently Colt’s [Motivational Overload] can override Rain’s [Pressuring Criticism] at least temporarily.
      Victoria didn’t note how “she wasn’t good enough” even once!

      1. I understand why she asked Rain for this again, but is it really a good idea to expose herself to his power every time?

        Did Colt only provoke those thoughts in Victoria, or could she also read them? If it is the latter case, her power is indeed very powerful (as was suggested in Colt’s interlude) but may badly backfire on Love Lost, as there is a good chance that Colt will quickly change sides depending on what she thinks about what she saw.

        And I don’t think that Colt’s power managed to “override” Ran’s power, at least not completely. I think that contents of that Colt-provoked flood of Victoria’s thoughts was still strongly influenced by Rain’s power.

        1. Forgot to add that even if Colt’s power doesn’t let her see other people’s thoughts, she may still take the tale about Nailbiter’s disappointment with Lustrum as a suggestion to leave Love Lost’s group, though not necessarily to join the heroes or to side with Rain.

          In any case she unfortunately probably won’t be going home anytime soon though…

          1. Yeah, mind reading? She’s OP enough!

            As for Rain’s power – it’s not like you can get addicted to being super hard on yourself, the extra push just helps with the Warrior Monk training (and possibly, under circumstances, even mental health recovery). Even if you do happen to wear some thought pattern grooves for self-criticism into your brain, it’s not all bad, as long as you keep it constructive.

          2. Well, Colt thought her power is strong, so why not mind reading?

            As for exposing herself too much to Rain’s power, I wasn’t thinking in terms of addiction, but in terms of provoking an emotional breakdown in a worst possible moment, or becoming overconfident while not under effects of his power.

            Sill… If prolonged exposure to Rain’s power could have an effect comparable to an effect of Victoria’s aura on Amy, then I wouldn’t rule an addiction out completely.

    2. It’s not being used ‘properly’. Victoria’s figured out an application that helps her fight by focusing on her failures and the lessons she’s learnt. That’s like using an unstoppable arrow to pin somebody’s clothes to the floor- you can do it, the power does work that way, but it’s still not what the power’s intended to do.

      I’d say Rain’s proper application would be to hit the morale of his opponents, make them panic or run.

      1. There is no proper use of a power, there is only the power. It’s up to parahumans to figure out the best uses, but none of them are “correct”, only useful given a situation.

        The whole point of the shards is to find new uses by throwing their hosts at each other.

      2. Except it doesn’t do that.

        Rain has tried using his power offensively on opponents and it has had a negligible affect if any at all on their morale.

        This application has been the most beneficial by far.

  7. I’ve never started a TYPO comment before.

    I continued to find my refuge in geekery. “Foil’s a thinker first. Mental powers come from mental triggers.

    I suspect that the reference to Foil was supposed to be to March.

    1. > “I”m getting flashbacks to the Fallen attacks on the portals,”

      I’m

      > Then she hesitated.

      Too many spaces before this sentence.

      > But sometimes you get stuck in a place that isn’t you.

      An extra space between ‘in’ and ‘a’. (I expect that space will not be preserved in my comment, but it is in the chapter text itself).

      > I could see the veins running across her body, the fact that her body had incorporated her costume- maybe clothes.

      >A ridge at the hips and waist that could have been pants, with a pair of horns decorating the ridges halfway between where the belly button should have been and the nethers- by placement and protrusion, I was guessing belt buckle.

      > To the organization I was trying to set up- not in the sense that I wanted an institution, […]

      Spaces before dashes.

      1. over the mercenary, > over the mercenary.
        Except not being tied up. (should this be “Except for being tied up” or “Except for not being tied up”? also, maybe change the wording to avoid repetition of “tied up”)

      2. Also isn’t it high time to do something with the sidebar and the table of contents page? They are both stuck on chapters 11.1 and 11.8 respectively.

          1. Considering that the “next chapter” links were not always properly updated (at least those at the beginning and the end of the chapter text, the ones below the comments section have always been fine as far as I can tell), I think you may want to just open the front page of the website (the one with multiple chapters displayed on it) in a separate tab, and just keep refreshing it from time to time until you see the new chapter, at which point you can hit the link showing the number of comments already posted (or just inviting you to leave yours if there none yet) to access the comments section of the new chapter.

            I find this method both faster and more reliable then waiting for the “next chapter” link to become active.

    2. “She’s a thinker”
      “I’m a blaster”
      “March’s a thinker”
      “thinker triggers are tricky.”
      “about the thinker side”
      “Love Lost was a tinker,”
      “A breaker power”
      Capitalisation, unless categories are lowercase now ?

      “something else led to the trigger”
      Punctuation.

      “Chastity told her. She flicked”
      Extra spaces.

      “Naibiter’s claws.”
      +l

      “The team, the dynamic with the Undersiders, the Heartbroken, the kids”
      Second ‘the’ is italicised, while ‘Heartbroken’ isn’t.

    3. > I really hoped Chastity had revoked her power from our captives.

      Was ‘I’ supposed to be italicized in this sentence?

  8. Interesting thought occurs.

    Colt looks like a power-copying breaker, yes? Because if she actually did add herself, I’d expect Rain to have a new breaker power, too.

    The thought is this: how do power copiers usually interact with multitriggers? Do they copy a person’s whole powerset, or do they copy powers by shard?

    My assumption would be that they copy by shard, since that’s where powers come from. If we go with that, then the question becomes if they copy all iterations of that power among the cluster, or just the version held by whoever they’re copying?

    I ask, because one or two chapters ago I’d shared an idea that Rain’s cluster was actually a broken trigger, and there was only one shard behind the whole thing instead of four or five. Exactly like the first broken trigger shown, where everyone was getting powers and dying horribly, but only three survived after… but it was all one shard, and three people had powers after the trigger event. Then they died, but that’s beside the point.

    Anyways, I say this because, assuming power copiers copy by shard, and assuming Rain’s “cluster” is actually a single shard, then Colt copying Love Lost or Rain would get ALL the powers instead of one or two. Plus whatever chicanery her own power does, which looks like it may vary how they work on her end. Rain’s silver blades become black swords (except with insta-slicing instead of buildup), and then there’s Snag’s ‘falling with style’ plus Rain’s ‘screw momentum’, and an emotion power that’s seriously stronger than Rain’s is… hell, that’s kinda what I imagine one of them might look like if they forked all of their chits over to one person.

    Also, I’d just like to add how Colt’s emotion came out as paralyzing indecision. Love it.

    1. Ah, meant to add: if the power tokens thing counts as a power too, and Colt copied that, except she didn’t have anyone to share the tokens among except herself… yeah. We might be looking at the Gyarados to Rain’s Magikarp.

      1. Interesting analysis, but I don’t think that Rain’s cluster is based on a single shard. If it was, all powers in the cluster would probably be similar in a way all powers we saw during the construction workers protest were. I don’t however exclude a possibility that there is some connection between Rain’s cluster and broken triggers.

        1. Very good point. I think the question to ask is just how versatile a shard can be when giving out powers. Or, alternatively, if everyone in the group has a point of commonality behind all their powers, which might indicate that it’s all the same one.

          There’s Precipice’s side, which seems to involve rending stuff. Then there’s the ‘leaky vessel’ emotion power from LL. Snag has momentum/gravity control (screwing with the laws of motion?). Cradle has something that’s either prosthetics, or is related how the brain controls limbs.

          … I guess not. Too many differences, nothing that would indicate one idea being played out in different ways.

          Maybe the real question is just who or what the fifth member was, and what their power was supposed to be? Snag’s interlude had him saying he doesn’t think it was a human, and it’s the only one with a power that isn’t present in the group. Which would… kinda break the ‘rule’ of multitriggers? The fifth member might’ve been a broken shard, which screwed up what would otherwise have been a normal cluster? The fifth “member” might not have even had a host? Because Snag is still communicating despite being dead, so what reason would there be for a fifth member to not speak if they died after triggering?

          If there’s a fifth member, then where’s the fifth power? Where’s the fifth person? The difference with Rain’s cluster is their dream sessions, which features an empty seat where a fifth person should be, but isn’t. Idea: the shared dream is the fifth power (and fifth shard), which is doing weird shit because it’s the point where everything broke. It’s also the mechanism behind the tokens thing, since that only happens during the dream.

          Which… leads back to my original question of what usually happens when a copier tries to copy a multitrigger? Do they get all the powers, or just the power from one shard? If it’s the former, then why did Colt end up so god damned strong? If it’s the latter, then why did Colt end up with all the powers instead of only one?

          If the former, Colt would’ve gotten the broken one as part of the package, and just dumped all available points into herself. If the latter, Colt would’ve gotten the redistribution power (assuming that’s what it really is), which would’ve… probably not done anything impressive, unless that power inherently comes with a connection to all the other shards. Which leads back to the first case anyways.

          I guess it works out either way? But the KISS principle would favor the first, since it requires the fewest assumptions and fewest moving parts (barring “Love Lost force-added someone to the cluster”). So: power copier would get all the powers of whoever they’re copying if copying a multitrigger, copying Precipice or LL includes the “fifth power” which lets them redistribute tokens, power copier gets to redistribute what would normally be spread out over a whole cluster into themselves. On top of that, Colt’s power might do the thing where it makes variations of whatever power it’s copying.

          Also known as: Precipice has a critical weakness against power copiers. Remind me, was Spright (or whatever his name was) there when Rain was?

          1. I don’t think that Colt simply copies other powers. It is possible, but where would her breaker form come from?

            I guess a lot of those questions will be answered if we see Coltin the dreamspace (and where exactly she will end up there), or if she puts herself somewhere in the Kill/Kiss dynamic of the cluster.

            As for Rain and power copiers, I admit I don’t have any idea what you are talking about. Could you say something more specific about the event you are referring to, or provide a reference to some source to jog my memory?

          2. Spright can only copy Mover powers. Love Lost’s wall-running, not her rage-scream.

            And Alfaryn, Colt’s breaker-state is how she copies powers. She adopts the state and copies powers… Of the nearest person? Does she touch someone, adopt the state with their powers? Can she switch from breaker to person to breaker to copy new powers?

          3. Maybe Colt’s Tinkering is the most terrible thing we’ll never get to see, and she got luckier on the other rolls ?

          4. Like I said – it is possible that Colt is a breaker-trump, who copies powers, but considering that Love Lost and Nailbiter expected her to trigger, and that Love Lost, Snag and especially Cradle seemed very interested in figuring out how their cluster works (working with March, Old Onetooth or what was their name…), I find it very likely that they have indeed found a way to add a new member to the cluster or otherwise cause a trigger that would permanently connect Colt to the cluster in some other way.

          5. As for Rain and power copiers, I admit I don’t have any idea what you are talking about. Could you say something more specific about the event you are referring to, or provide a reference to some source to jog my memory?
            I’m trying to reason something out, but am caught on two sticking points:

            1. If a power copier tries to copy a multitrigger cape, do they get one power or all of their powers, and why?
            2. what the hell is the Rain cluster’s fifth power, and how does it factor into the others?

            The rest of it is hypotheticals based on different assumed answers to those questions. For #1, if the answer is “the copier gets all of one person’s powers, including other powers from multitriggers”, then that would explain Colt having the blades, momentum manipulation, and emotion power, but doesn’t explain why they seem as strong as all of the originals (Precipice’s version of the blades, Snag’s version of the mover power, LL’s version of the emotion aura).

            For #1, if the answer is “the copier copies the shard behind the power they’re copying”, the idea was that it’d be explained by Rain’s cluster being from one shard, but I’ve dropped that idea after the point you raised earlier. Then there was the other side of it, where I was wondering what if Colt copied one power, which was the fifth member Rain and crew were apparently still connected to, but that’s overly convoluted.

            For #2, I’m hypothesizing about who or what the fifth member of Rain’s cluster was, what the power would’ve been, and why it isn’t present in everyone else’s powerset like all the other powers are. Because, really, the only wonky and broken part about the cluster is everything related to their shared dreams, and everything else seems normal besides that.

            Basically, just ignore anything I’m saying if it doesn’t make sense, because it’s stuff I’m trying to make sense of.

            Spright can only copy Mover powers. Love Lost’s wall-running, not her rage-scream.

            She adopts the state and copies powers… Of the nearest person? Does she touch someone, adopt the state with their powers? Can she switch from breaker to person to breaker to copy new powers?
            I highly doubt he can only copy mover powers, just that he’s better at them than others. When he’s asking Vicky and Sveta if he can copy one of their powers to get where he’s going faster, he talks about how he doesn’t have to copy the whole power and can take just part of it if he wants. He’s feeling Vicky out, and he starts going into her force field a bit, which is when Vicky cuts him off and says to just go with the flight by itself. Somewhere in that conversation Sveta says she doesn’t recommend copying her power since she’s a case 53, but Spright says he can ‘push past that’ and, later, ends up only copying the parts of her power that work correctly instead of taking the whole package (he mentions that her power’s “coding” is weird, but that he can push past that to make it work anyways).

            This is similar to how Grue’s copying worked, in that he was really shit at thinker powers or all the secondary stuff that made powers intuitive, but still copied everything else.

            But! You raise an interesting point about Spright only copying one of LL’s powers instead of all of them. Which would seem to imply that if copiers are trying to mooch off of a multitrigger, they have to pick one instead of getting everything, and Spright just went with the category he’s good at which was mover. And in that case, Colt would break that rule, because she copied either LL or Precipice and got everything instead of one thing. Might be a case where she’s copying everyone she’s touching and just hasn’t figured that part out yet, and touching a multitrigger necessarily includes all the powers that multitrigger has? Though, once again, that raises the question of why she has variations of Rain’s blades specifically, and Snag’s flight, instead of using LL’s versions of those powers.

            If I had to guess randomly (which is what I usually do anyways), I’d guess Colt’s power is different because it’s connecting to the shards instead of just the parahuman? So Colt would touch LL, then would hook up to all four/five shards connected to her, and from there could pick the best of everything?

          6. Okay, how do I quote correctly? I keep trying and I keep messing it up like an idiot.

            Is it

            quoteblock?

            Q?

            If either of these works, then nevermind, I’d have answered it myself.

          7. I’m actually about to go to bed, but- We have never seen Spright copy anything that isn’t a mover power.

            Well, that’s not true. We’ve never seen Spright copy anything that couldn’t be interpreted as a Mover power. Even Vicky’s forcefield- ‘grasping limps, pushing and pulling’. Nailbiter he copied, because her stilt-limbs makes her get around quicker. We’ve got no evidence that what he said about only copying part of the power wasn’t him lying about his abilities to make the others feel better.

          8. Also, I would not suggest necessarily myself too much with particular circumstances of Colt’s trigger and nature of her power. Those rules apply mostly to natural triggers, and Colt’s trigger is probably not very natural. In fact that drug she got seems like it could be something some tinkers and thinkers could come up with between study of old Cauldron vials, and a scan of Teacher’s power.

            Considering that March does seem to have some direct or indirect connection to Teacher’s Cauldron, I think it is pretty likely that Love Lost knew quite well what powers Colt would trigger with after taking the drug, and if she had a chance to add Colt as a member to her cluster, I think she might want to do just that.

          9. Sorry, my comment just above was meant to be a continuation of my own previous comment above that one. Looks like we are all posting at such short intervals that the sequence of comments in the thread is getting messed up a bit.

          10. Could we all pretend that I said “I would not necessarily suggest myself” instead of “I would not suggest necessarily myself” three comments above? Sorry for this nightmarish syntax, and thanks in advance.

          11. It seems plausible that LL knew Colt would trigger. If so it’s also plausible that she engineered the circumstances according to March’s advice. In that case, given that she is exhibiting the powers of the cluster, she seems sure to be the tool (sacrificial pawn?) for transferring all powers in the cluster to one member of the cluster.

          12. You mean that drug contained DNA of Rain’s cluster member(s)? An attempt to gather some of the cluster power in Colt, so it may be sucked from her instead of for example Rain who knows the risk, and may defend himself if you try to do it to him directly?

          13. At this point we can’t say exactly what the mechanism is, but we know that Goddess stole all her cluster’s powers, March claimed to know a method for that, and when TT figured it out Foil declined to use that method. Now suddenly LL’s disposable minion has “triggered” and seems to have all the cluster’s powers, turned up to 11? It seems too coincidental to be mere coincidence…

          14. The idea that the drug Colt took was a Tinker made, not by Bitter Pill but Cradle/Love Lost using part of their own DNA and a scan of Bitter Pill’s power or products did occur to me today. Which just might work to add someone to the cluster.

          15. If March used to work with Teacher directly before the split in his faction, the basic design of the drug could even come not from Cradle or Love Lost, but from Teacher’s battalion of tinker and thinkers working with March. All Love Lost would need is to just add the appropriate DNA to the drug.

          16. It isn’t like Teacher, to create a tool that can be used without him (…or perhaps even against him or one of his powered minions?). He isn’t a Thinker, but he does have a certain low cunning. That’s not to say he wasn’t involved somehow, but probably not in so straightforward a fashion. Besides I thought we were supposed to think he’s got his eyes on more important matters? Like opposing the Entities’ ultimate goals for humanity? Am I remembering incorrectly?

            Of course maybe Colt is just an experiment along those lines, not intended to actually assist March or LL or Cradle or anyone. In that case it could be Teacher behind it all without showing his hand (he can make minions with long-term goals and tactical freedom: has anyone been acting single-minded enough to remind us of Saint?), or it could be New Cauldron, or anyone who has both vision and power. Perhaps not Valkyrie, because this episode is probably related to her big fear. (If Valkyrie is afraid of something that could oppose the Entities, is it because she’s afraid she would screw it up or because she’s still on their side?) Definitely could be Dinah, because this episode is highly likely to kill everyone involved with it while making her long-term survival slightly more probable…

          17. Hey what if the fifth member is an animal or something. I could see someone thinking of a bird or cat as a “what” instead of a “who”

          18. Didn’t Taylor basically force Teacher to surrender his “skeleton key” (in chapter 30.3), and later successfully use it to get into the C.I.U.-held world? If that was possible, why would theft be so difficult to believe? My working theory is that the drug was created by Teacher’s students with a possible March’s cooperation (if she was a part of “his” Cauldron earlier).

            My suspicion that March could cooperate with Teacher’s at some point comes from the fact that she seems to know way too much about clusters for a person with her particular power. Her fixation on the topic of clusters in my opinion isn’t a sufficient explanation of all of this knowledge if she were to try to gather it all by herself, but is a great explanation of a motivation to take a risk of working with Teacher and his students to learn more on the topic.

            Teacher’s motivation to work with March would come from the fact that he is interested in putting “the whole back together? At least in part?” (see epilogue E.5 of Worm), and researching clusters seems like a natural step in this direction whether he wants to put an entity together, or prevent it from happening. Who would be a better partner for him in this task than March, who not only is a cluster cape, but also seems obsessed with clusters in general?

            Later they disagreed on the topic of time-related effects, and March left Teacher’s Cauldron with a batch of the drug and research documentation regarding it – something she could further modify to suit her needs with help of tinkers like Cradle of Love Lost.

            I’m assuming here that creating a substance that can cause triggers reliably (something only Cauldron has ever managed to accomplish), modifying such substance in a way that would cause a particular kind of trigger (one linking Colt to Rain’s cluster somehow) could maybe be accomplished by a bunch of tinkers working outside their specialty, if they have an access to the drug and tinker notes describing it – something March could provide in this scenario. Love Lost and Cradle are two such tinkers, and we know that they work with at least one more. It is even possible that they have an access to a tinker who does specialize in this field, like Bitter Pill.

            When Colt asked if the drug was made by Bitter Pill, Nailbiter said that no tinker was involved in its creation, but if the drug did manage to cause Colt to trigger, and if Nailbiter and Love Lost expected it, there is a good chance Nailbiter simply lied.

            Of course I may be wrong, and the drug has nothing to do with tinker tech. Even in this case some parts of my theory could be true – some villain thinkers (March and Teacher’s students are likely suspects again, though not quite as likely, since no access to Cauldron foils would be needed), could figure out how to cause a trigger by a combination of a “regular” opium based drugs (remember that Victoria’s group found those in Love Lost’s place) and a strong enough stress – something Nailbiter and Love Lost intentionally exposed Colt to.

            The only wrinkle here is that if no tinkering was involved with the drug, there would probably be no control over the kind of power Colt would get, which makes it more likely that Aname is right, and Colt isn’t a part of Rain’s cluster despite what Victoria thinks.

          19. Sorry, my post directly above was meant to be a response to Jess. It took me so long to write that I don’t see Noelle’s comment before posting it.

          20. Ok, here is an alternate tongue-in-cheek theory about March. One that explains her vast knowledge about clusters without any Teacher or Cauldron involvement. What if before triggering March was one of the best professors in Department of Parahuman Studies of a local university? One who was always late for her own lectures? Her power “solved” her problem, except it did not (like powers always do) by letting her always come to her lectures exactly on time, if she did not have to abandon her civilian career completely to focus on making Lily’s life a hell instead.

    2. I would think she’s just getting the powers at full capacity instead of the weakened form the cluster gets right? Don’t they get their primary ability at like 75% and the rest at like 25% or something? So colt got all of them at 100% and that’s why she’s so powerful.
      I mean, assuming she DID actually join their cluster, and isn’t just borrowing their powers somehow.

  9. Foil’s trigger is really one of the most NYC trigger events I could ever imagine, considering how many people get injured or killed by the subway here each year, I wouldn’t be surprised if a decent percentage of capes from NYC had subway-related trigger events.

  10. 1. My thought at the beginning of the chaptter – Victoria, Victoria… No concern for anyone except Sveta? I understand how much she means to you, but expected that you would spare a few thoughts for the others too.

    2.

    “Bleed-through?” he pressed. “Emotions leaking from one person to the other?”

    “Terrifying idea, but I don’t think so. Unless-”

    What is this emotion Foil is so unwilling to admit? Her dislike for villains like Tattletale or Skitter? Something to do with her relationship with Parian? Or maybe, just like Rain, she used to be a worse person before her trigger than she is now, and suspects that her change for the better is a result of something she got from her cluster members?

    3. Apparently March knows their third cluster member. Did she know that person at the moment of her trigger? Did she trigger because of some emotional connection she had to that person, and seeing whatever was the reason for that person’s trigger? It could explain why Foil doesn’t remember March as one of the people on the tracks – maybe March wasn’t there, she just saw “the third” there.

    Of course “the third” could have triggered not because of danger to them, but because seeing the death of Lily’s sister, but how would March’s trigger factor into it?

    Did March or “the third” do something to cause or otherwise provoke Lily’s sister’s attack? Did they do something to prevent the autopsy from happening? Or maybe Lily did at least one of those things? Maybe this is what makes her so unwilling to talk about certain details related to her trigger and her cluster, especially next to Rain who is in similar situation? Maybe, like in Rain’s case, it is a proverbial skeleton in Lily’s closet that is the reason for her cluster’s Kiss/Kill dynamic?

    4. Any idea of what Yips could be, and why Candy calls it “barely a dog”? An offspring of Bastard and a dog? Some other non-dog canid? A result of some bio-manipulation? Or just some very small breed, like a Chihuahua?

    5. Looks like we finally got to see people, who seem properly prepared to spend a lot of time outdoors at this time of year, or maybe even survive it in a tent or a similar light shelter. And it is no wonder. Rachel and her henchmen probably were the first people who did it on Gimel.

    6. Victoria still thinks of her barrier as a “lopsided body”, not a “forcefield”. It is probably one of the major reasons why the Wretch still looks the way it does. She may not look like it to a casual observer, but in her mind she certainly still feels like she is something akin to a C53. And she can hardly talk about it to anyone except a therapist, because she would feel like she’s not being fair to actual Case 53s, including her friends Sveta and Weld. Worst thing about it is that those two would probably understand her, and wouldn’t hold this sentiment against her. Sveta probably understands pretty well already, though Weld could still be as clueless now as he was in chapter when he said this nonsense about Victoria’s “complete and total recovery” that Jessica didn’t (and to be fair couldn’t) even dignify with a response.

    7. Wow! Foil appears to understand Tattletale much better than Tattletale’s interlude and Relay’s comments during the last big hero meeting led me to believe.

    So why does she appear to be so uncomfortable when it comes to the Undersiders, and especially Lisa? Is this about Lisa’s tendency towards manipulation, about her inability to run New Brockton and the team long-term, about the fact that Lisa’s not taking care of herself properly, about her willingness to keep manipulating people (especially Chicken Little), who in Foil’s opinion don’t need to be manipulated for their own good anymore, or just about Lisa’s unwillingness to listen to anyone’s advice, while being perfectly fine with giving such advice to others in her not-so-gentle way?

    Most if not all of those problems with Lisa could be read from Foil’s little talk, but which ones of them (if any) are the reasons for her dislike of Lisa?

    It also looks like Tattletale’s power is misleading her again, and deliberately ignoring Lily’s concern for her.

    8. It looks like Foil either still isn’t privy to Bitch’s, Imp’s and Tattletale’s little secret from the Worm epilogue or has no problem lying about it to Victoria. I suspect the former, because if Foil isn’t a pathological liar, it would probably be easier for her not to mention Skitter at all otherwise. Victoria is her friend after all, and most people don’t like lying to friends.

    9. Foot injury this time. Anyone else thinks that if Victoria will just keep accumulating those small wounds, they will come back to bite her hard in a worst possible moment? What would sepsis for example mean with her supposedly not entirely human biology? On that note – was just swallowing half a bottle of that medicine (likely much more than a recommended dose) during last chapter a good idea?

    1. Re. 2. Here’s a scary idea. What if romantic or sexual preferences can be a subject of the bleed-through? What if the bleed-through is reverted with a death ofa a person particular emotions or personality traits come from? What if death of one of Foil’s cluster members would mean the end of Foil’s relationship with Parian?

    2. Re 1: I mean, Vicky knows that the Cradling thing doesn’t kill, so everyone should be fine even if they’re taken out of the fight for a while. SVETA, on the other hand, could end up a disjointed field of flailing death-tendrils. And that would be a nightmare for her and anyone trying to fix her

      1. It is possible, but I think Victoria is worried about Sveta so much not because Sveta would be more difficult to “put back together”, but because Victoria has a particularly strong emotional connection to Sveta – stronger than to any other member of Breakthrough, not to mention Tattletale’s people. Remember that:
        – Sveta was Victoria’s friend during her stay in the asylum,
        – Sveta was the first person Victoria has shown the Wretch to – even Yamada didn’t (and still doesn’t) know about Victoria’s misshapen forcefield,
        – when the team was looking for Kenzie’s camera after the fight in Lyme Center, Victoria wanted Sveta to find it, so Sveta could “have a win”,
        – Sveta was the person Victoria chose to bring to a meeting with her parents at the beginning of the previous arc,
        – Sveta was also the person Victoria decided to stay with, when Breakthrough decided to split when they were shopping in the following chapters.

        And so on, and so forth… The only case I can think of from the top of my head when Victoria had to inform the entire team about something, and she deliberately put Sveta among the last ones informed was when Victoria had to tell everyone about Chris’ dirty secret. And that was done in an attempt to lessen the blow to her.

        Generally I think that whether Victoria realizes it consciously or not, Sveta is much more important to her than any other member of her group. There is nothing wrong with having a favorite person as long as you don’t forget about other people around you, and about the bigger picture. My concern is however that the situation can become so bad that Victoria may have to choose at some point between helping Sveta with something bad, but manageable without Victoria’s help or going after some other goal which from rational point of view is far more pressing. I’m afraid that faced with such choice Victoria may choose what her heart, not her reason would dictate, and if the other situation is bad enough, Victoria’s choice may have catastrophic consequences for everyone.

  11. Pretty sure it’s not actually adding another member to a cluster. It doesn’t make any sense, and even less if we remember the scene of Colt’s trigger. There was no connection whatsoever to Rain’s cluster, besides Love Lost just being nearby. And her powers: cutting blades, aura, mover and…breaker? No breakers in the Rain’s cluster so far.

    I’d rather guess it’s some kind of a trump power. Maybe working with clusters in some way. Maybe even reaching into the well and through it into powers of Rain’s cluster and hell knows what else. Victoria’s guess isn’t exactly reliable data; remember Grue’s second trigger, when Skitter assumed he got a whole bunch of unrelated powers out of nowhere.

    P.S. Something weird is going on with posting comments. At first I could not post it because I was posting “too fast” (the first time I submitted it as well), and then it rejected my comment because it was duplicated.

    1. While I don’t exclude the possibility that Colt is not a new cluster member, I think that if she is, it means that everyone in the cluster will get a new power corresponding to Colt’s breaker power. I don’t think we don’t know enough at the moment to determine the nature of relationship of Colt’s power and Rain’s cluster, but there seem to be plenty of interesting ideas about it above already.

      One thing that comes to mind is that it doesn’t need to be an either/or situation – there can be a link that connects Colt’s power to the cluster in a way that doesn’t make her a member of the cluster in a way Rain, Love Lost, Cradle and Snag are (or possibly were in Snag’s case – it is probably an open question if, and in what manner, he still qualifies as a cluster member).

      I had similar problems with “you’re posting too fast” message in the past myself. Sometimes it works as it probably should. Sometimes I would post a ton of comments in quick succession, and not get the message even once. Sometimes it would complain after my second or third comment within many hours. So far I haven’t figured out any logic in this behavior.

      1. I haven’t tried checking if this is actually the case, but I suspect that the too-fast thing is based on everybody, not individuals. As in, if several people post in quick succession, maybe the whole comment system locks down for a little bit. I need to remember to check the timestamps of the most recent comments the next time I encounter it to see if there’s merit to this theory.

        1. It is possible, though I think I remember it happening it to me once during early morning. If I remember the time correctly then it is probably not the problem with too many people posting at once. Remember that I live in Central Eastern Europe. An early morning for me is middle of a night for everyone in America. Most people who regularly post here were probably asleep at that time.

          1. Still, maybe we should check those timestamps, I could be wrong about it happening in the morning.

            Of course if this site is somewhere on a server containing plenty of similar blogs, then even checking the timestamps here could be not enough to explain what’s going on. It could be that server locks up not because of increased activity on this particular site, but on all sites/blogs hosted on it.

  12. So, this is just a guess, but I’m thinking that Colt is a Breaker Trump that inserts herself into various Cluster-triggers, mimicking how she constantly finds herself forced into bad situations with no real win. She Breakers and selects a nearby cluster, like Love Lost, and benefits from all of the powers of the group, also hearkening back to the fact that Colt seems to benefits from the group without really contributing much in return.

    Hypothetically, she can probably latch onto the Subway Trio’s cluster and get her own Thinker/Striker/Blaster power set. By forcing herself into horrible clusterfuck situations.

    1. That’ll carry the hidden advantage of keeping her power rating high due to repeating her trigger’s conditions. She might also start using that drug on the regular to bear it all, with a similar side-effect.
      Poor life choices, but since that way she’ll feel useful to LL…

  13. Another thought which has occurred to me is Colt is two classes of Trump. She’s a copier, who has variants of a nearby power, and a booster, who enhances the power she copies. In this case, she’s probably copying Love Lost, and boosting- maybe only slightly- the powers she’s getting there.

    This would probably be very unusual, as most copiers/boosters only do one or the other, and the last Trump encountered who directly influenced the powers of others was the Biker Boss who cancelled powers temporarily, one at a time, back at the Fallen attack.

    1. Ehh…

      Seven – Chaos, rotation, cycling through variant powers, unpredictability rewarded with power.
      Trigger: Crazy, chaotic situation, many powers actively in use.
      (Bystander during an endbringer defense, henchman of a villain with a kill order and a dozen powered manhunters on his heels)

      Doesn’t need to be a booster, being stronger is apparently part and parcel with having less control over the power. Copies powers, except they’re stronger than the source at the cost of being unpredictably different somehow.

      So, she’s literally stronger than three parahumans put together, and also is different so the same counters might not even work. Overpowered would be an understatement; if there are any weaknesses to the power, it’d be in whatever’s holding the breaker state itself back. (Incidentally, here’s that one.)

      Note that Weaverdice technically isn’t canon. At least, I think that’s what WB said, but then again I tend to be consistently bad at comprehending things. That said, several of the capes in Worm and Ward are Weaverdice-compliant, and the fluff goes so far as to explain the reasoning behind why entities would hand out given power types at all (which has no bearing whatsoever on roleplaying or gameplay), so make of it what you will.

    2. Okay, so I tried to post and it didn’t go through. Maybe if I try one more time?

      Can’t remember what all I typed out the first time around, so I’ll just put this here and hopefully it’ll make sense.
      https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jvj6T84NB9Uq81y71MIgb9tk9lQ80cORFj9z2o5OB8c/edit#heading=h.4iammk6uzyxv

      Seven – Chaos, rotation, cycling through variant powers, unpredictability rewarded with power.
      Trigger: Crazy, chaotic situation, many powers actively in use.
      (Bystander during an endbringer defense, henchman of a villain with a kill order and a dozen powered manhunters on his heels)

      Short version, Colt isn’t a booster. Her trigger event just had a strong emphasis on chaos (from the powers involved), so her power is stronger but at a cost of being less predictable and/or controlled. She’d copy a power, except it’ll be stronger than what she copied, but also different. Which really just means the same counters might not work on here.

      Then I think I said something about how Weaverdice’s canonicity might be dubious, and I don’t exactly recall what WB said on the matter. But also that a bunch of characters from Worm and Ward are compliant with WD rules, so I guess it’s up to you.

      Oh, and here’s the one for breakers.
      https://docs.google.com/document/d/1B5IJ6M0jl3Qavz5rgCiUhbhnf1LlS5brd54_zc5gysw/edit

  14. Huh. Colt’s a second-generation multitrigger cape? It looks like it reshuffled things around by adding on a Breaker tinge to them. I don’t think she’s a power-copier, because if she was, she probably wouldn’t have Rain’s blades.

    1. But she also has Snag’s flight, or at least I think that’s what was going on, there. She’s flying, and Snag is the only one who did that.

      And if she did forcibly add herself to a multitrigger cluster, then she wouldn’t have Rain’s blades any more than Love Lost or Cradle do. She’d have her own ‘main’ power, and then ‘secondary’ versions of all the other powers, just like other multitrigger capes do.

      But she also has variations of those powers instead of being actually them, because her blades are black and cut through stuff immediately instead of setting them up to be fractured later, and her flight can stop her momentum outright instead of changing its direction like Snag’s did.

      I really don’t think she’s a “second generation multitrigger.” It just doesn’t make sense, not from what we’ve seen of her power, or of what a second-gen is. In a second-gen, the shard buds and that bud finds a new host. In a multitrigger, a bunch of shards group up to spread their powers over the same number of hosts. In order for a cape to be a second-gen multitrigger, all of the shards in the multitrigger would’ve needed to bud, and then all of those buds would’ve needed to join up in one single person. Which we already know didn’t happen, because there was only one shard in Colt’s vision.

      Although… it’s not impossible that she’s a build-your-own multitrigger (or even a build-your-own Goddess). If she can copy more than one power at once (which she is doing right there), and then gets variations of those powers instead of exactly the same thing, that’s not all that different from being like a multitrigger. Except, apparently, all the powers are full strength instead of only one of them.

      I mean, “have any three powers, except they’re a little different and also stronger” is still pretty- oh holy shit, Eidolon!?

      1. I don’t think she “added” herself to the cluster. She just got a bud off of Love Lost, that reinterpreted the powers that Love Lost has, the same way that Victoria’s shard reinterpreted Manpower’s power, or Amy’s shard reinterpreted Marquis’s power. It took the powers that already existed, and changed their parameters a bit. I’m also not certain that she got a quartet of “full power” powers, either, like you’re thinking she does.

        She got blades like Rain, but possibly without the ability to throw them or the delayed effect; she got flight as her movement power, and we know that the shards regard flight as a weak power which is why they can just give it as a bonus power to flying brick or artillery capes like Victoria, Alexandria, Purity, etc. She hasn’t demonstrated a Tinker power at all, and her emotion power disorients people for a few seconds but doesn’t seem to have a lasting effect. It’s entirely possible that *all* her powers are secondary powers, or that her Breaker form interacts with how they work – maybe she gets half of a power for her secondary powers instead of a quarter power, at the cost of being powerless when she’s in her normal form.

        Also, remember that the entities are communal organisms – when you combine shards together you get one, bigger shard. The fact she only saw one entity in her trigger vision doesn’t mean that she isn’t connected to the multitrigger network via a bud off of Love Lost.

        1. This assumes that one shard from the cluster will keep the connection to a multitrigger cluster it had previously, though we know from WoG that it won’t.

          Powers from multitriggers are from a mix of shards. The shards, instead of going all-in, give up a small to moderate portion of themselves, and then leave the rest of themselves to develop normally while taking in info from multiple sources, just like a shard would naturally gather info and eventually reach the point where it could bud. Except in this case, the shard will usually just go find another host, maybe with relation to one of the multi’s, maybe not, and empower them.

          Link here; if it doesn’t work then just google the above quote and it should be the first result: https://www.reddit.com/r/Parahumans/comments/4ea77x/trigger_events_questions_multitriggers/

          So, I don’t think that Colt has an inherent connection to the Precipice/LL/Snag/Cradle/??? cluster. What I do think is:

          1. Colt’s a power copier who can copy three powers at a time, minimum
          2. The copied powers are different somehow
          3. The exact rules on what, when, or how powers can be copied are currently unknown
          4. There might be a bump up in power involved somewhere, whether just from being a breaker and/or due to the chaotic nature of the trigger event (as per the weaverdice docs for trump seven and for breaker).

          At the absolute least, she’s strictly better than any one cape she copies, which includes multitriggers. Can’t say I’d buy that she only has half-powers, though: she’s sporting not only Snag’s flight, but also a strictly better version of Rain’s momentum-stopping. Or, whatever version of their mover power she has does both of those. The thing here is that, flight’s weakness or not, out of four people only the primary mover had flight, and Colt got something better than that. She also got a version of Rain’s blades that aren’t as finicky or conditional, and a version of Love Lost’s power that flat-out disables instead of sends people into potentially backfiring violence frenzies. She’s better in a lot of ways.

          Maybe she decided to ‘copy’ Snag (or… fill in for Snag?), and then got something like his powerset but boosted in one or more powers. If she didn’t get the tinker power though (I’m just assuming she doesn’t have time to use it), then I’d question if she’s connected to the group at all.

          1. Snag didn’t have flight. He had falling. He could pick a direction and fall in that direction. It’s not as potentially fast as flight, since it stops at terminal velocity, and we don’t know how/if he absorbed the momentum of the fall. Snag also tended to fall toward a physical object; he rarely fell directly upwards, possibly because he needed something to fall towards, possibly because he was scared about accidentally falling into near-earth orbit, possibly because he has rather limited manoeuvrability compared to other sky-capable movers, since he’s only able to fall in straight lines, and near the ground there’s things to hit, lose the momentum, and fall away from.

          2. > Snag didn’t have flight. He had falling.

            So when Rain killed him, the faller fell to the Fallen. 😛

          3. @Earl of Purple

            Right, got it. So, Colt is displaying a mover power that is at least two steps above Snag’s: it has stop-go turning speed, and is either actual flight or is the same directed falling but with instant acceleration.

            Then she has the striker power that’s at least one step above Rain’s: it shears through things immediately instead of requiring a follow-up hit within a narrow time window, and the blades seem to be persistent instead of vanishing, but we don’t know if they can be thrown or not.

            And the previous point about the emotion power stands, with it being outright disabling instead of being less useful when there are fewer targets. So far, Colt’s shown outright better versions than the primaries of each cluster mate. Which is what’s interesting, because she presumably only had access to Love Lost, and maybe Rain depending on her range, so you’d think she wouldn’t be able to top Snag’s power like that. She’s cheating somehow, which is where I assume the broken shard comes in.

          4. @ Aname: I’m still not fully convinced there’s a broken shard involved in all this. It’s fanon everyone repeats, because of the well, because of the dream room, because of many things. But every trigger is different, and neither the mall nor Colt’s trigger events actually displayed the same level of random destruction as the broken trigger at the worker’s strike or the one in Bitch’s epilogue. The paradog was a broken shard, but one which seemed to function far better- the power worked, and didn’t kill its host, but the aiming was wonky. If the mall or Colt had a broken shard, that would be a broken trigger, yet this ‘broken’ shard seems to be working exactly as intended, without killing its host, and it seems to be aimed properly, too. That strikes me as unlikely in a broken shard.

          5. @Earl of Purple

            I highly doubt there’s only one degree of broken when it comes to powers, and the paradog is a good example of that. There was maybe one or two things that weren’t working correctly, with everything else being just fine.

            And we don’t know how functional Colt’s power is or isn’t, but Colt’s narration implies there’s something wrong with it, and it references another broken trigger. If that’s a wrong conclusion, it’d be because it was put there intentionally as a red herring.

            And what we’ve seen of her power is screwy regardless: if she is a copier, she’s copying at least one dead person. If she’s butting into a multitrigger, that in itself is screwy. Her breaker state might not even be properly on or off, as her narration suggested something more like a sliding scale.

            Her power’s borked, that much is safe to say. The question is where exactly the borkage is, and how that affects her ability to use it.

  15. And all this nonsense is just so they can try to rescue HALF of red team. The other half is…somewhere else? And then of course yellow team is essentially already screwed. Man, this is not going well.

    1. Remember that Victoria’s group probably isn’t the only rescue party. Vista most likely organized something on her end. Of course it probably isn’t a purely good thing, considering that it will pull heroes from dealing with the situation on New Brockton/Brockton Bay front, and it seems they are very much needed there right now.

      1. In other words- expect the cavalry to arrive when things will look really bad for Victoria’s group, but also expect a very high price to be payed by everyone in the city for this rescue. Chances are the heroes will win the battle to save Breakthrough and the Undersiders, but lose whatever they stand to lose in Brockton Bay.

          1. Who says we won’t see him? What if for example March was his super-secret significant other of some sort, and he will join the dark side villains now?

          2. Oh, come on, don’t despair! It is precisely because the heroes may (and probably will) lose in Brockton Bay that Dauntless may come back. Remember that the heroes went there to prevent the villains from messing with time-related power effects (like the stasis bubbles), not to do it themselves.

          3. Personally I can’t wait to see the people trapped in stasis and time loops react to news about Gold Morning, destruction of civilization on Bet, and post-apocalyptic multiverse. It will be even more interesting with people whe were trapped during the battle with the Leviathan, as they don’t even know about Dinah’s prophecy, not to mention such “minor” topics like the takeover of BB by the villains, or Jack’s little troupe’s stop in that city.

  16. Ok, as people said, Victoria is still using the kid gloves… which is her personal brand. That the undersiders are still taking that lead makes no sense.

    March has shot them and caused permanent damage. Imp and the heartbroken should have been killing people.

    Foil? Foil should be killing people too. She was the one who actually killed Scion (under Taylor’s control) and I feel like no one respects that.

    Cradle: Who the hell are you?

    Foil: You know. You all know exactly who I am. Say my name.

    Cradle: What? I don’t have a damn clue who the hell you are.

    Foil: Yeah, you do. I’m the lady with the crossbow. I’m the woman who killed Scion.

    Cradle: Bullshit. Khepri got Scion.

    Foil: Are you sure? That’s right. Now. Say my name.

    Cradle: You’re Foil

    Foil: You’re goddamn right.

    Also, Nursery needs to die. Her power is literally filling you with babies through every orifice and she’s done it dozens, if not hundreds of times. Yes, her trigger sucked. But imagine if a guy (unpowered) raped and impregnated hundreds of women… there would be no question on the death penalty.

    How she doesn’t have a standing kill order is beyond me and kind of hurts the story. The way Victoria and others just sort of laugh it off with mild distaste afterwards is not plausible. The story kind of gets into it with Victoria’s questions to the mercenaries, but that doesn’t address why any hero team has let her live.

      1. But she, or rather tinker tech based on her power was involved, so wouldn’t it be that much of a hyperbole for Foil to say that she did? She needs to say something to make Cradle fear her, doesn’t she?

    1. Tell me, if someone ties you up, drugs you so you can barely control your own muscles, then forces a gun into your hand and uses your finger to pull the trigger to kill someone, are you responsible for the murder?

      Ergo, Foil did not kill Scion. Khepri did, using everyone as the gun.

      1. During the Scion fight, Foil’s power was the only one that Scion feared.

        Taylor realizes pretty early that Scion has to actively use the path to victory to avoid it and she figures out that Foil’s power penetrates into all possible worlds.

        “His future sight power wasn’t like Contessa’s. Narrower, lacking imagination, but he’d set up contingencies. If X happened, then the power would automatically kick in.

        Apparently the cost of being hit by Foil’s power was worse than whatever it cost him to use that power.”

        Foil didn’t have the gun forced into her hand… she was the only gun that would work.

        “In the moment that hope died, the girl with the injured hand used her power on the iron rods. Infused them with the energy he was afraid of.

        Those rods became projectiles, in another’s hands.

        His hope was gone, he was bewildered, scared.

        He didn’t try to dodge. He couldn’t or wouldn’t.

        They impaled him. One in the head, one in the chest.

        The tinkers fired their weapon. An interdimensional ram turned into a gun. They’d finished it while they weren’t under my control. Defiant was the one ready at the switch.

        I discovered why he was concerned about the power.

        It kept things from being contained. I got a glimpse, a flash of a look into the world beyond him, a world he’d shut off, to which his body was the only conduit.

        The beam tore into him and into the well.”

          1. It doesn’t dispute Vilheim’s point, but Vilheim’s point is irrelevant. Matthew wasn’t saying that people should respect Foil because she chose to kill Scion. He was saying they should respect her because her power is what killed Scion (or at least what pinned him down and stripped away his defenses so that the Tinker gun could kill him, and the ability to make a god mortal is still pretty unique and impressive).

    2. Prior to this whole clusterfuck, I don’t think Nursery has actually actively used her power fully: she seems to have just been using it as area-denialhe like, up until now.

    1. Woof was a children’s TV show about a boy who turned into a dog on UK TV back in the nineties… may be copyright problems..

      …Then again, Rachel reacting to a were-dog could be hilarious

      1. Copyright only applies to original content, and they didn’t invent the word woof. So, no copyright issues. They could try to sue for trademark violation though, but trademarks made of a single generic word are hard to maintain unless you have major brand recognition.

  17. Hahaha hahaha hahaha
    I fucking CALLED it – March is inventing/perfecting the the process of plugging herself into clusters and then hijacking them …

    … or at least that’s what I thought until everyone seemed so certain that the breaker is Colt ( to be fair, Occam’s Razor)

    If the Breaker is in fact Colt, then why is Vicky so convinced that March plugged someone else into Rain’s cluster? Perhaps Vicky just had an unreliable narrator moment?

    Another thought occurs: perhaps the 5th slot in Rain’s cluster is a special case in that it is just that: an open slot.

    Another thought occurs: did March somehow persuade Love Lost and Nailbiter to do this to Colt *on purpose*?

    1. Theories abound. People focusing on the look LL and Nailbiter giving each other as if they’d expected Colt to trigger, the pill itself potentially being kinda suspicious (I saw an idea someone had where it might’ve had LL’s genetic material), or just… Colt being a straight power copier who can hold multiple powers, and gets different versions of them with slightly bumped strength.

      Confirmed power uses:
      – Flight kind of like Vicky’s, but different
      – Blades kind of like Rain’s, but different
      – Stopping kind of like Rain’s, but different
      – An emotion aura that could either be like LL’s, Rain’s, or Vicky’s, but is different

      And then we have the unconfirmed ones from before Colt was on screen:
      – Nails like Nailbiter’s, but different
      – Conveniently good timing, like Foil’s
      – That emotion aura could’ve been tapped from any of the Heartbreakers (from Vicky’s perspective, it did read like a projectile: Vicky says the breaker hit her with something she didn’t see)

      Evidence suggests a copier who holds upwards of three or more powers at once, except changed somehow and stronger. Would look almost identical to a multitrigger at first glance, for all of a minute before you realize they just keep pulling new powers out of their ass, and some of those look suspiciously like yours.

    1. I know, I even made a note in my list of early thoughts a few posts above. It is even the first item on that list.

      It is interesting to see how Victoria focused almost entirely on Sveta, almost as if no other members of her crew or the Undersiders were in danger. It shows just how much Sveta means to Victoria, and it is nice to see on purely emotional level, but that may also mean that maybe Victoria isn’t prepared to make rational decision if Sveta is involved. Let’s just hope it won’t come back to bite everyone in the ass one day, when Victoria makes an illogical decision, purely because of her concern for her best friend from the asylum.

      1. There’s also the fact that Sveta being Disjointed/Cradled would be terrible news for everyone anywhere near her and an emotional nightmare for the lady herself

  18. Not sure if anyone has brought this up yet, didn’t read all comments cuz wall of text, but I think I have a very simple explanation for Colt being included in the mall cluster, as well as a theory on March.

    First off, between Cradle’s new weapon and the Graeae sibling that work with March they have the capability to transplant body parts from Love Lost, Cradle, and possibly also from Snags’ corpse (don’t recall what happened to it), and place those parts in Colt. It would set up a similar scenario to how a current cluster member could steal anothers’ power, only in this case if Colt were to trigger under these circumstances maybe it would simply add her into the existing cluster, pressumably into Snags’ old spot. My only real thought against this idea is that if a new member was added to the cluster wouldn’t Rain instantly pass out, go to the dream room, and know someone new was there? At least I would assume that’s how that would work. Going to reread Colts trigger event, see if there’s any clues there.

    Secondly, going off what we just learned from Foil’s dialogue with Victoria, my theory is that March is Foil’s sister. Supposedly the sister was hit by a train, but March’s main power is enhanced timing, it’s possible she moved out of the way, pulled someone else in the way to look like she was the one hit, or managed to get grazed by the train in a way that looked worse than it really was. The sister is obviously already messed up in the head with some delusion or condition that has made her out right try to kill her sister and several others in the process, I could easily see that sort of mental state leading to a thinker based trigger event. Just like the sister tracking down Foil and trying to kill her, the first thing we know of March doing is settling in with a villain group that Foil is up against and turn said group into a big enough threat that Foil’s wards get taken off that case and put against a new easier group, which March then joins to continue going after Foil. Also, the fact that there was no follow up on the dead sister could easily be explained if there was no body to do any autopsy on, don’t know why the PRT or law enforcement would not tell Foil that though.

    1. You may want to read those walls of text. They contain a ton of theories about how Coil could fit (or not fit) in Rain’s cluster. I think that none of them are exactly like yours, but some are close enough that you could find plenty of arguments in those discussions both for and against your theory.

  19. Going off what we just learned of Foil’s trigger event has anyone else considered that March is Foil’s sister?

    Both the sister and March are very focused on Foil. Sister tried to kill her, March might be trying to kill her, not sure. But ever since they triggered March has been going after Foil.

    Supposedly her sister died, but we know March’s primary power is a Thinker ability centered around enhanced timing. It’s possible she survived somehow. Wasn’t hit at all, wasn’t hit as bad as Foil thought, or maybe her sister pulled someone else in the way and it only looked like Foil’s sister was killed.

    Also, the reason that the PRT or law enforcement never got back to Foil about her sister is because there was no body to autopsy, and for whatever reason they chose not to tell her.

  20. This makes me wonder if Colt really did force herself into the cluster or LL/Cradle accepted her in. Given the stunt she pulled I wouldn’t be surprised at the former, though this could be another crazy tinker power. Even though she’s a villain, I dig the hair and dual blades.

  21. Okay. I think I have an idea on how Colt’s power works. This is only a hunch, and probably isn’t correct, but it’s an interesting guess.

    Colt activates the breaker state, which (mechanically speaking) gives her a number of “tokens” based on how far she’s willing to go into it. Right now, she’s sitting at five or six tokens.

    Tokens can be assigned to parahumans in the area to copy a power they have by 25% for each token on that power (could potentially exceed 100%?). This is influenced by parahumans with multitriggers or just multiple powers, where the multitrigger’s main power counts as 75% and their minor powers count as 25% (as in, a multi’s main power needs only three tokens to fully copy instead of four, and their minors need only one). Powers aren’t always copied exactly, and can change a little to have different outcomes (the black blades instead of silver ones, or whatever the emotion power was).

    When the fight started, Colt had four tokens on Nailbiter’s power and one or two on Foil’s timing power, getting a full copy of Nailbiter’s nails and either an equal or doubly effective version of Foil’s timing. Then, when Vicky and Rain were in range, she switched those tokens over to them instead.

    With them in range, Colt put three or fewer tokens onto Vicky’s flight (depending on what it’s worth) to get a slightly worse version of her flying, and another three into Rain’s blades to get an equal but different version of that. When she needed to brake and turn, she briefly shifted one token from “Vicky flight” to “Rain stoppage”, then took the token immediately back out of Rain’s power (to cancel it instead of waiting out the stop duration) and put it back on Vicky’s flight so she could get back to flying.

    When Vicky tried to pursue and intercept, Colt either took a token or two out of flying and put them on a nearby Heartbreaker to immediately zap her with something, or she had a token or two in reserve as a just in case measure. Or, she went a little further into the breaker state to briefly get another token or two just to pull that off.

    1. Which… sounds suspiciously like Rain’s dreaming dias tokens, actually. Just as its own power instead of focused on the trigger cluster.

      Brb, putting all bets on “Colt got the Mall Cluster’s fifth shard, except by itself instead of joining the cluster.” Maybe even because of the pill.

  22. I have this stupid idea in my head that the March/Foil thing is somehow related to gray boy and some sort of reverse chronology bullshit, or that March is the sister who was hit by the train, can someone please shoot holes in this theory before i start taking it seriously?

    1. If March were the sister hit by the train, Foil’d probably recognise her. As-is, she’s not sure where March was in the trigger (my thought is maybe she was the driver or trainee driver of the train, personally- close, affected, definitely traumatic, but seperate enough Foil wouldn’t necessarily see/notice her). And in addition, being hit by a train would like result in a very short-lived Brute power, not a Thinker one. (Short lived because, at standard 75%, most brutes would have a bit of difficulty surviving being hit by a train.)

      1. Typically if your power is triggered by “I’m getting hit by a train,” that power would be capable of saving you from dying to a train. Powers don’t go to dead people.

  23. “Terrifying idea, but I don’t think so. Unless-”

    She finished her statement there.

    “Unlessss?” Candy asked, drawing out the word.

    ….any chance this is a mbmbam reference??

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