Blinding – 11.11

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…and all of the junior heroes I want to ensure have a place in this world, and every damn member of this team needs a full time friend to guide and help and I can’t be everywhere at once, least of all for my best friend.  I’m worried about Sveta and Weld and yet they’re the easiest thing to mentally set aside in the moment and I’m worried it’ll be weeks of moments and then I won’t have a chance to help.  I’m worried about Kenzie and I’m worried about Rain and about Tristan and about Byron and Ashley and Damsel and even Natalie-

I’m worried about me, too.

Reality came crashing home with a massive impact that crushed the Wretch.  The object in question hit the ground and tipped over, moving in my direction.

I flew back, halfway to get out of the way of the thing- the section of building.  Halfway to get away from the mental effect.

Can’t- can’t let this get to me like this.  Can’t let it distract me.  Fucking stupid of me.  How many times did we mentally go over the list of techniques and approaches to fending off mental and emotional effects?

I shook my head.  The overwhelmed feeling slipped off of me like a caking of soap under warm water.  The condemnations stuck.

I pulled myself back to reality.  I’d gone after the breaker again.  Again, I’d been repelled by the effect.  The overload.  She flew over me, using blades she’d created at her hands to cut at the building and bring debris tumbling down.  I’d been trying to stop her before she could rain something down on the van, she’d got me, and while I was out, she’d gone ahead with her plan.

The armored van rested on its side.  Concrete and rubble littered the top, covered the side and the door that pointed the sky, and some pieces had even fallen within.  A pillar-like mass of brickwork had been what had almost hit me.

Dangerous.  If I got remotely close to her, I got hit by that effect and it took me out of the fight for however long it took me to pull myself together.  Fucking stupid, that I’d thought I could chance it.

I shook my head.

Those feelings, the doubts, the hesitations, I knew where they were coming from.  Somewhere down there, near the driver’s seat, Precipice was extending his power up toward me.  I had to face those feelings, use them to forge myself into someone more effective, or quash them.  Were they useful to Victoria Dallon?  The Scholar?  The Warrior Monk?  Hell, I wouldn’t even rule out the Wretch.

If they weren’t useful to any of the above, then I had to burn them out of me.

I grabbed a piece of concrete, and I leveraged my strength to hurl it.  The Wretch’s extended limb clipped it, sending it off course.  Too low.

As if it had sensed I had been thinking it might somehow be useful.

I felt agitated, frustrated in a way that went beyond screaming about it, pounding a punching bag, or decking a bitch.

Don’t get angry, get even.  My mother’s words in my own voice, running through my head.  A condemnation, even though the tone was level, instructive.  And Precipice’s power was making that all the more pointed.  Turning every failure into a sharp, painful lesson.

I hurled another piece of concrete.  She adjusted course to avoid it, slashed at a building wildly to bring down more chunks.  This set- not aimed at the armored van, but at Rachel’s dogs.  There was a wild, untrained edge to the attack.  A woodcutter hitting one side of the tree over and over until things came loose, instead of carving out notches… but it was a fresh swing every second, and her blades cut deeper than an axe did.

Focus.  Be constructive, The Warrior Monk told me.

I’d hoped to skim the periphery of the effect, to see if I could get her to use that power, test if there was a time window before she could use it again.  There wasn’t.  It wasn’t like there was a better time or opportunity to test, either.  She was full-bore, all-out, holding nothing back.  If I waited until she wasn’t dropping chunks of building then the fight would be over before I got an opportunity to figure out a way forward.

I could draw on the practical side of the condemnation aura to process the same feelings that it woke in me.  Logic, careful processing, consideration.

“Fuck  youuuuuu!” a distant Bit- Rachel could be heard, the last word drawn out, lost in the huffing and growling, howling noises made by her dogs.

I’d been disoriented enough I hadn’t accounted for Rachel’s contingent.  She’d sent one dog, Yips, after the breaker, while she and her henchman fended off Nailbiter, Rachel riding the largest dog, curiously symmetrical, while her henchman had been riding the ‘soft mouthed’ dog.  Past-tense.  Nailbiter had unseated the teenager.

The distracting emotion blast didn’t seem to work on the dog, so as it managed to climb up a building face, a part of its narrow face bashed in, the breaker had no recourse but to fly away.  Away from the rooftop, toward the armored van.

I was ready, picking up more concrete to fling, while Yips reached the edge of the building rooftop and began acting agitated, like it was trying to psych itself up to jump down.  It was five stories, though, and I couldn’t imagine that even Rachel’s dogs could handle that.  Not with half of the dog’s face smashed in and the meat and bone hanging off of the skinny frame.

Yips leaped down to a lower rooftop, then across to the face of the building, running horizontally along a vertical surface, the undamaged side of its face looking down.  I saw it tense-

I threw concrete at the breaker, knowing the breaker would have to evade both the throw and the dog at the same time.

She changed course.  Flying toward Rachel, toward the two dogs, and toward Nailbiter.  Abandoning the van.

“Heads up!” I shouted, and the shout was a painful reminder that my throat wasn’t wholly intact.

Stupid.  Don’t do that.

No need to use Precipice’s power to condemn any overcorrection or anything, I decided, as I took flight and chased after.  It had been stupid.  I had to pay attention to my injuries.

There wasn’t any convenient measuring stick I could use to figure out if that anxiety overload was going to hit me or not.  Worse, even though I’d been hit twice, the state I’d been left in immediately after getting into range hadn’t been the ‘remember exact distances’ sort.  I was forced to give her a wider berth.  I was faster, but instead of using that extra speed to catch up, I used it to keep a roughly equal distance, but also maneuver while I did it.  Instead of straight forward, I arced up-

She blasted Rachel and the henchman.  I didn’t see any sparks, flash, or glow.  Only the immediate, visceral reaction, where the dog continued forward, but Rachel bent her head down, twisting away and back, almost hurling herself off the spot where she’d leashed herself to her ride.  The beast hesitated, but then Nailbiter moved, and it lunged.

The henchman just scrambled back, head shaking, curling into herself and uncurling to crawl, then stagger away.  Like she had bees in her brain and there wasn’t anything she could do but get away from the beehive.

Rachel screamed, and it was an angry scream, a roar and a howl.  It caught me off guard, and it seemed to catch the breaker and Nailbiter off guard too.

Right.  I remembered that from the attack on the bank.  Dean had remarked on it after.  Rachel was the kind of peculiar where emotion powers didn’t always produce intuitive responses.  I’d used my own power to scare people only to make them angry, yes, but I’d also run into people who had been seemingly unaffected outwardly, except to become more friendly and submissive, and one rare case who had been the horny kind of submissive, possibly helped by the substances he’d been partaking in.  No parahumanity involved.  Just… wiring.

I had to ignore her.  I’d already noted just how open and vulnerable that emotion blast had left me.  Rachel was in a serious fight with Nailbiter, and she needed cover.

In my effort to keep a good distance from the breaker, I’d flown up.  I was working on the assumption that the power emanated as a rough sphere or ovoid, or it had a singular target and a range that target could be affected at, and the effective zone of control had that spherical or sphere-ish shape to it.  Either way, the arc of my flight was like the arc of a rainbow, putting the curve of the sphere beneath me.  I closed that rainbow arc, flying down, straight for Nailbiter.

Her fingers and teeth had elongated, and riddled the mutated dog, plunging through face and exiting the top of the head, and plunging through chest and forelimbs, exiting the other side.  The animal was suspended mid-pounce.

But Nailbiter was suspended in a way too.  I saw the whites of her eyes as I came down.

Limbs extended, torso and head morphing to stretch out further, adjusting her position and making my target a narrower one to hit.

I did hit her though; while she was impaling that dog, she had to extricate herself to move anywhere.  The hit was a glancing one, and I didn’t bend, break, or apparently bruise anything I hit.  I landed on the road behind Nailbiter.  Above me, her head couldn’t move while her teeth were in use, but her eyes did move, tracking me, staring down.

Pinky and ring fingers withdrew from the dog, hands straining and adjusting the lengths of wrists, fingers, and palms, just so she could get those fingers curled around and lance through me.

My instincts warred with one another as I collected myself post-landing, taking in the scene.  Throw up the Wretch, one instinct said.  Protect against that imminent attack.  Never use the Wretch while in close proximity to another living person, another instinct said.  That instinct told me to fly away.  A third instinct was that I had to start resolving things, because a breaker scenario I couldn’t change and a changer I couldn’t break would just tie us up until the rest of Breakthrough and the Undersiders were caught.

What had to be three of the longest seconds I’d experienced in recent memory passed, my eyes darting across Nailbiter, looking for the next angle of attack and seeing nothing pointed my way.  My own breath was cold against my face, which was a reminder that I had a mask and I hadn’t put it on in this case.

Probably better that I maintained my peripheral vision.

Three seconds to consider, to give the Warrior Monk time to protest, to call this madness or pettiness.

No.

The Wretch unfolded and unfurled, and I was close enough to Nailbiter that it could find things to grab.  A forearm, an elongated torso, a leg.  Twisting, crushing, pulling.  She gained durability as she stretched out, but durability wasn’t invincibility.

I stood straighter, rolling my head to one side, then the other, a gloved hand adjusting the armor at my front.  I turned to see what was happening with Rachel and the henchman.

The Wretch, for the time being, didn’t move while I moved within it..  Fingers dug into ground, scraped at wall, and invisible teeth gnashed at air.  But for the most part, the Wretch maintained its hold on Nailbiter’s extended body parts.

I didn’t want to kill, so I moved in a more measured way, walking at first, until the scratched underside of my damn foot made contact with the cold surface of the road, making my knee buckle.  I used flight as a crutch to keep me upright while advancing.

In this floaty, walky way, I approached the nearest wall- a three foot fence concrete that bounded a parking garage’s lot.  I put my hand out and felt the Wretch.  A tensile membrane, hard energy.  My two years of waking nightmare.  It slid under my hand.  A length of stomach, back, or thigh that was in the process of trying to get into place to do something.  I could feel the curvature of it, my hand pressing against the inside of that nightmare-shaped shell.

I hadn’t really had an occasion to deal with a scenario like this.  When the Wretch was firmly anchored and I wasn’t.  Normally, it moved with me.  Now?

I pushed against that surface, the Wretch moved, and Nailbiter moved with it.  There was no resistance.  No situation, as far as I could tell, where the Wretch would anchor to something and I’d smack into it from within.

With flight and a strong push of my hand, I smashed Nailbiter into the short concrete rim.  The dog’s paws touched ground, and it began to pull away, the pencil-thin fingers pulling out of its head and torso.

I flew back, dragging Nailbiter away, then smashed her into the barrier again.  It was like trying to smash a balled up bundle of barbed wire flat.  Too much spring, too many parts sticking out, too much tensile strength in there.

Not good enough, I thought.

I’d hoped I had an ally, but the big dog who’d helped pin Nailbiter reached a point where it had backed far enough away and slumped to the ground.  The amount of blood it was shedding and the mass of the creature created a splash of blood as its weight crashed down to the road.

I chanced a look to my right.  The breaker was backing away from her attempt at getting Rachel, who was sitting in the middle of the street, supporting her henchman.  Two dogs were protecting their master, with the gangly Yips clinging to the side of the building, tail and tongue hanging straight down.

I spotted the moment when the breaker decided it wasn’t worth the trouble.  She took off- straight toward me.

I couldn’t leave this like this.  Nailbiter was too hard to break or take out of action, even if I’d hurt her some.  Worse, she was just getting a grip on things now.  Once I had her full focus, this would be harder.

She withdrew a hand, elongated upper arm, forearm, hand and fingers becoming normal, but for some horrendous bruising and tissue damage around the wrist.

There weren’t three seconds to consider and measure my response.  A heartbeat.  I dropped the Wretch, flying in past a tangle of elongated, nail-ified fingers and leg.  A point scratched my arm through the sleeve.

Diving through the thorns, the barbed wire, the- however I interpreted Nailbiter’s altered form.  I reactivated the Wretch in the moment before impact.

She reacted, her arm started to grow, moved as I closed in.  Too slow on both counts.  I twisted in the air for some added torque, my foot came down on her wrist, drove it into and against her elongated calf, and broke something.  I felt the impact through my body, saw her entire body twist and arch in reaction, twenty-foot lengths of finger sweeping through the air with the whistling, whooshing sound that normally came with the swing of blades.

Teeth retracted, her head turning my way.

I flew away.  From her, the teeth, and the breaker that was flying down the street, straight for me.  I was faster in a straightaway flight, which meant-

Meant what?  Meant I’d broken Nailbiter’s wrist but done nothing else, meant that I had a breaker to deal with, friends who were being dragged away, other friends and allies in a toppled armored van that might be hurt-

The breaker’s emotion power.  I tried to find anger, roaring, and it didn’t really work.  She tackled me, and the power I wanted to use was lost behind a fog of rattled thoughts.  She was small, I realized.  Hard to tell when she was in the air, but she was almost a full head shorter than I was.

Have to deal with this short breaker, Nailbiter, have to catch up to the van.  We have no idea how team yellow is doing-

She stabbed me with a blade of black energy, right through the chest.  Zero hesitation.  I gasped, felt the power slide through me, but it was her that seemed most surprised by her action.

Her that seemed surprised by the fact that when she withdrew the blade, it had penetrated my costume and cracked the armor at my front, but it hadn’t touched my skin.

She reared back and backhanded me.  I partially blocked the blow, and I felt how little power there was behind it.  It reminded me of how I’d had to learn how to fight while airborne, maximizing the delivery of each blow.

She was in a position where she should have had leverage, straddling me while we were on the ground, but the arm she was using to try and strike me didn’t have bones or muscles.  It was a construction of her power.

I blasted my aura, saw it didn’t have an effect on her, and struck at her instead.

Of course, she didn’t have bones, blood, or muscle in the place I’d hit her, either.  The blade cut both ways.  I tried to fly away, and she used her impulsive, instant-acceleration, instant-stop flight to shove me hard into the ground, so I’d be scraping the back of my hood and head against the snow, ice, and pavement if I kept flying that way.

I could fly up, but…

I used the Wretch instead.  I hit her with my strength active, and I saw her reel, hurting.

Still not as much as it should have been.

She blasted me with the emotion power, in retaliation, and to fend off further attacks.

The Wardens are trying to save the multiverse, and of all the people trying to save a single ‘verse’, I don’t trust Advance Guard because they’re reckless, I don’t trust the Shepherds because they’re driven by the wrong things, and Foresight, while decent, isn’t a save-the-city kind of group.  They’re a figure-things-out group that’s currently trying to figure out how to deal with the recent death of their leader.

Which means that on top of everything, I don’t trust anyone else to save the city from itself.

I flew, and she followed, pressuring me with that power.

I can’t even deal with my own family and I’m taking that on.

With no recourse or way of dealing that wasn’t flying face-first into the emotional onslaught, I pushed myself to keep flying away, and that worked.

The disorientation stuck with me for long seconds.  Fortunately, it also seemed to stick with Nailbiter.  She’d been in the power’s radius.  She, if I was interpreting things right, felt it a hell of a lot more, for a hell of a lot longer.

So it affected multiple targets, then.

I was supposed to be resistant to emotion powers.  This effect I’d experienced, it was the reduced-power version.

I fought to get my thoughts in order.  I didn’t have Precipice’s power effect on me, which meant he probably didn’t have enough of a view of the battlefield- nobody had emerged from the toppled van.  Not yet.

But Hookline was near that van, chain in hand.  The disgraced ex-flunky of Beast of Burden with the invincible chain, a mask that was just chain wound around their face, with spaces for the eyes and mouth to peek through.

Another factor in play.

The biggest dog was back on its feet now, injured, and limped toward its master.  She put a hand on its side.  I could see the bones grow and regrow, the blood welling out with more intensity, before the wounds began to close.  The weakened Yips with its flesh hanging loose looked tighter, now, like everything had drawn back in together.  The wound at its face was mending.

On the other hand, Nailbiter was back on her feet.  She looked battered, hunched over, but she was back on her feet, regardless.  The hand with the broken wrist was hanging limp at her side.

Nailbiter was… not impossible to deal with.  Except as I tried my evasive maneuvers, circling around, the breaker was putting herself between Nailbiter and me.  I started toward Hookline and the van, and the breaker was quick to shift position, trying to block me off.

Slower than I was, but maneuverable, and there was a really large radius around her where I couldn’t fly, walk, or run.

Breaker, I thought.  On-off power or powerset, typically a whole-body transformation.  Contrasted from changers by the fact that the transition to breaker was usually sudden, instantaneous, and the forms or qualities they adopted were of the breaking-reality or powers sort.  Of course, there were lots of people in the middle-ground between the two, leading to a mess of cross-classifications and mix-ups.

Breakers tended to be strong, but it was a limited strength, not in measure, but in the limited circumstances.  The powers required the form, and the form didn’t come free.  So it made sense that this breaker had powers on a level above Precipice and Love Lost.  The compact with the alien in the breaker’s head was that they got to burn the candle at both ends, but only while in the form.

That would be why PRT advice for dealing with breakers was to catch them when they weren’t breaker.  Without the form, they were often powerless or far weaker.  The less PRT, more-capey sort of answer to the threat was that breaker forms came with protections, but they also came with weaknesses.  My for-a-short-time teammate Shadow Stalker had been impervious to physical blows and conventional weapons, but a minor electrical shock threatened to kill her, and I’d heard that even a strong static shock had delivered actual injuries that had translated to muscle damage after she had turned human again.

My own feeling was that assumptions were dangerous.  Normal rules did not apply.  I’d run into it when crossing paths with Night and Fog at one point.  Being breaker could mean that they didn’t see through their eyes, and their entire body was a lens through which they saw in every direction.  It could mean they relied on other senses.

So when I took flight, I was careful to note how the breaker turned her face to track me.

That was something I could use.  I couldn’t get past her, and she was intending to keep me away by warding me off, but I could consume her focus so she wouldn’t catch Rachel off guard again.

Flying, I circled the battlefield, blocking off her view for moments, timing my changes in direction for when she couldn’t see me.  I passed the section of building that she had already damaged, and pulled away a chunk of concrete.

The Wretch seized it as I held it, tore it from my hands, and I had to cancel the Wretch and fly with the chunk to catch it again.

Bursts of strength, to maintain my grip, to get leverage, and keep that chunk alive, without letting the Wretch unfold.

A dart in one direction, and she moved to cut me off.

In the other direction- again, she moved.

I hurled the chunk in Nailbiter’s general direction, as she and Hookline approached Rachel and the three mutant animals.

Her reaction was near-instant, but her first reaction was to grab the chunk.  She didn’t have the muscles or power for it.

She darted forward and under it, slashing at it instead.

Yeah, that’s the catch with that particular form.  You don’t have any actual strength when it comes to dealing with the real world, just… the ability to cut things really efficiently.

Breakers had other drawbacks that weren’t like Shadow Stalker’s weakness to electricity or the electric breaker that I’d fought and his ability to be involuntarily conducted.

Some were time limits, like only being able to stay breaker for a set amount of time.  Some were internal batteries, a power supply that filled up over time before they had to turn human and absorb more.

If she had either of those things, she wasn’t acting like she felt it was urgent.  Then again, she reeked of inexperience.  Not knowing the lack of her own strength, for one thing.

Some had a need for something environmental, like a water breaker who needed a body of water to manipulate and absorb.  I could scratch that off the list.  I could almost assume it was a lack of environment that drove her, given her tendency for staying in the air, but she’d been close to the building she’d hacked up and she’d been on top of me when she’d shoved me to the ground.  Not… power driven from being in the open air.

There were others.  The ones who needed people, the parasite-breakers and those who drank up emotion to fuel themselves.  Not that emotion was something so physical, but the thing that supplied the power liked and valued the emotions they churned up and the reactions those emotions got.  It would be the kind of thing they wanted to set up.

I flew to keep forcing her to cut me off.  Her back was to Hookline, who was whirling the hook around him in a figure-eight.  If I could land- wincing at the pain in my foot as I did, I could put myself close to the ground and compel her to match my level.  Could I manipulate her into getting into the way of Hookline’s whirling hook?  Was she that dumb or unaware?

I saw her turn her head slightly.  She’d heard the hook whooshing through air, probably.

Damn.

Fuck me, what else?  Think, think!  You call yourself a powers geek!

As was becoming reflex, I turned my head to check to see if Precipice was there.  The windshield was pointed my way, and Precipice was on the other side.  More importantly, Foil was climbing out the window at the top.

Think, I thought.  You wanted to study this in University.

Powers.  Environment, people, and powers.  Was there a possibility that she was like the Pharmacist’s purple fire, that burned powers?  A breaker form that relied on powers, in a trump-like way?  Was she drinking in nourishment for that form every time that I used my flight or pushed out with my aura?

Would that tie into her having similar powers?  Similar powers to me, at least in the loosest sense of the flight and ‘aura’?  But how or why, when I hadn’t been anywhere near when she’d taken the form, and she seemed to have this narrow suite of powers.  She had no strength at all.  It suggested something too selective, picking at random instead of drawing on a theme like Spright did.

I wasn’t sure I had any evidence of it, and the fact that my powers didn’t feel drained counted against it, but I could put a pin in that one.  I could test the hypothesis a bit by pulling away from her, flying up, to see if she lost strength or defaulted to staying near the others, when I was far enough away that she probably couldn’t drink from my flight and she had nobody nearby to draw on.

She flew up to follow.    She wasn’t an experienced flier.  As I flew over her head, she kept her feet pointed toward the ground, turning that mask-like face with its wreath of silvery, glowing smoke-hair up toward me, rotating to keep me in her sight.

If I could get around and past her…

I kept testing her, occupying her attention.  Hookline and Nailbiter were focused on Rachel and the dogs, and if this breaker was focused on me, then maybe I wouldn’t fuck this up too badly.

I could feel Precipice’s power coloring the edges of my thoughts.  I was still being affected.

Other kinds.

There were the consequence breakers.  There was no limit to the time they could spend in the form, except for the penalty waiting at the end, heavy on their mind.  It could be tied to any of the other drawbacks.   Things like pain, of a magnitude and duration related to how long or how much power was expended while breaker, or madness, or having one’s mortal body age at a hundred times the rate while in the breaker state.  Vista had just mentioned a breaker she’d been friends with, a magenta cat, that had missed her opportunity to turn human too many times, and had decided to stay in the form rather than face the consequences waiting for her.

Night Hag had been a Slaughterhouse Nine member once upon a time.  She had also made that choice, but more to shirk her humanity, to revel in her altered state.

If my enemy here was a consequence breaker, then there was nothing I could do except play an extended game of chicken, seeing if she would give up out of fear the consequences had grown too heavy.

But again, I didn’t see the urgency in how she acted.

I couldn’t rule out that she had no idea.  I was thinking of her as dumb, again, immature, and drawing on that to jump to a conclusion, and it was dangerous to do so, but I was pretty sure the only data points I had was that she hadn’t already thoroughly tested her own limits, she was small, and her way of hacking up the building had been clumsy.

Or… reckless?  Off-kilter?

There were breakers who had a profound mental change as part of the break.  Ones who lost all compassion and became cold, ruthless, and machine-like.  Ones who were filled with rage and destructive impulses, to be stopped only when the little coherent bit of humanity that watched its actions through a window undid the form.  People who hallucinated while in their other form, or who saw the entire world as something nightmarish.

I thought of how she’d chopped at the rooftop.  Her demeanor as she’d come after me.  The way she danced between targets, seemingly forgetting about the last as she moved on to the next, her power facilitating that dance with the manner of flight it gave her, so abrupt and quick to move elsewhere.

Which meant there were maybe chinks in the brain.  Or in the heart.

“Can we talk!?” I shouted the words across the empty void.

I was really hoping that Foil was able to use the fact that our enemies were distracted to do something and turn the tides.

She shook her head, wispy hair drifting around the mask-like face, slow in following the movement, as if she were underwater.

She touched her mouth.

No voice.  No bones, no muscle, no lungs, no breath to form words.  No lips, for that matter.  What had been lips were hard ridges of tooth-like protrusions.

She was reckless, almost drunk, wild and I needed to find a way to use that against her.

If your enemy is choleric of temper, agitate the fuck out of them.  A lesson from my childhood, paraphrased.  Except she wasn’t choleric of temperament.  It was an outdated model by a few centuries, but I was willing to latch onto anything for inspiration.  Even if it was the wrong label in an outdated system.

Choleric tempers were the ‘warrior’ tempers, as I interpreted it.  The rulers, the warlords.  The decisive doers.  Sun Tzu’s idea had been to dismantle that organization and focus by upsetting them and inflaming their tempers.

This woman was… more whimsical, no passion in what she did, instead doing it as a kind of expression of her self.  Of her new self, if I was interpreting her lack of experience right.

Lack of experience, or a mental effect of being a breaker with a mental state attached to the form.

Whimsical made me think sanguine and sanguine was the ‘happy’, creative, wandering sort of personality.  If I wanted to take that apart in the same way… could I take away from the whimsy?  Could I go after her on an emotional level, without using my aura?

But I didn’t know what agitated her or brought her down to earth.  I didn’t know her.

I flew in wide circles around her to make sure I had her attention.  If I could pull her far enough away from the rest of what was going on, there was a possibility that I could make a break for it.  Beat her there.

Every second I waste is a second that the others might be getting hurt, or imprisoned.

“They’re planning on hurting a lot of people,” I said.  “Everyone we talk to that has any power that gives them info says that March is going to do something that’s as bad as whatever happened to the portals, like the ones in New Brockton or Norwalk.  People are going to die and you’re letting this happen?”

She seemed to have realized that ‘down’ meant nothing when you defied gravity, and shifted her orientation to face me more fully without craning her head up.

It gave me a better view of her, too.  I knew she was she was probably new to her power, really new, and the breaker decorations suggested a belt buckle, regular clothes, built up around the back of the head like whatever she’d worn and incorporated into the breaker form had included a hood.

This never worksTalking to people about the harm being done, the stakes.

“People have been chopped up, left alive.  People who made it their life’s work to get people out of slavery.  By helping these guys, you’re helping the people who hurt those people.  You’re helping slaversMonsters!”

I did see a slight reaction as I raised my voice at the end.

I reached for another talking point, I thought about family, and something fell into place.  Before I could ask if they had any family in the city, I found myself able to see past the mask, metaphorically speaking.

“Colt?” I asked.

She flinched more than she had when I’d shouted ‘monsters’.

“It’s not worth it,” I said.  “It may be fun in the moment, but that power you’re using, it never comes easy.  There’s a consequence or a price or a limitation and I don’t think you’ve figured it out a hundred percent.  Whoever brought you into this, they haven’t showed you or told you the ropes.”

Her hand went up, touching the side of her head, skeletal doll fingers in the midst of wispy glowing smoke hair.

“And there are situations where people get powers and make some bad first moves, and they pay for it for the rest of their lives.   Swansong- Damsel could probably fill you in on that.”

I saw the recognition on that alien face.

“Colt, Damsel spoke highly of you.  She worried about you when we were watching the villains.  If you came with me, if you helped, then there would be at least one face you recognize.  We can help with family, home situation, with fending off Love Lost, any debts you’ve incurred-”

I saw her shake her head.

Got it wrong, I thought.  Not even a small shake of the head or a dismissal.  Something stronger than that.

No debts.  Maybe the opposite.  That she felt she owed them?

“You’re starting a whole new phase of your life, make your first steps the right ones.  You don’t owe them anything.”

She hesitated.

“Colt,” I said, repeating her name to try to stress the reality I wanted to bring home. “You don’t have to betray them.  I’m not asking you to fight.  Just… make a mistake.  Let me by.  Or tell them you were getting a handle on your power, you lost track of things.  Mistakes happen and they can be forgiven.”

She shook her head.  A small shake this time, more for herself than for me.

“Make a mistake, let me fly past.  Then you fly down a short while after and do what you have to do.  If my side wins, you come with us.  If their side wins you go with them.  It’s smart.”

Not that I was sure I could win, but I hated not having an opportunity to try.

“All you have to do, for five seconds, is do nothing.”

She was statue still, floating there.  I saw her turn to look at the portal on the horizon.  A slice of a different Earth’s night sky.

I dove.  She didn’t move to intercept, and I had no idea if it was because she’d decided to let me or if it was because that mental state of hers was making her more easily distracted.

It was Colt, and Colt had no relation to the mall cluster other than the fact that she’d spent a few weeks in the company of Love Lost.  Yet her powers fell eerily in line with the cluster’s.  She also had the flight, and a kind-of-aura-esque take on the emotion power, which seemed like a me thing.

I plummeted and brought up the Wretch in time to make contact with the ground, just behind the newest Parahuman to enter the fray.  Kitchen Sink was at the van, throwing stuff at and into it.  Both fists and my unscratched foot struck hard ground and cracked it.

He twisted around, a handful of foot-long centipedes gripped in one hand.  In his haste to turn and react, he threw them in a loose fan that only sent one flying in my general direction.

I hit him across the collarbone, I used my power, but controlled the velocity of the hit, striking him with a flat hand.

Sufficient to break bone.

He crumpled to the ground, rolling back, twisting in agony and groaning with the agony that came with twisting when he really shouldn’t.

Dealing with him meant that he couldn’t get at the people at the van.  Foil was evading Hookline, and Nailbiter was dealing with Rachel.

Two dogs down.  Yips included.  Only the biggest and Rachel remained, and Rachel had been unseated.

Foil was supposed to have her gun, but I hadn’t heard gunshots.  Was she reluctant?  Was there a problem?  No, well yes, but she’d been disarmed- I had to look to find who I was looking for.  Disjoint, standing on a snow-covered balcony.  His white mask and black hair made him hard to spot in the gloom.

And that left two members of this particular group, assuming they’d all stayed together.  Sidepiece and Love Lost.  It was hard to imagine Sidepiece missing this action, and Love Lost…

I flew up, trying to get a better vantage point, looking for her.  I couldn’t afford to get into the fray before identifying everyone in play.

Hookline and Nailbiter were the biggest threats.  Disjoint was assisting both.  Probably unseating Rachel  and taking Foil’s guns.  Rachel was holding her own, while Foil was… she was stuck evading, it looked like.  Relying on her power to help with the timing and deflection, but against an opponent with impossible reach and flexibility.

I went after Hookline first.  In the worst case scenario, I figured I could buy her a chance to act.  I landed, because being on the ground made it easier to control my strength, strode toward him in the floating walk that kept me from having to put too much weight on my scratched foot, and drew my fist back.

A hand caught it.  Disjoint’s.

I caught his hand between both of mine.  I used my power-

A scream ripped through the area, distorting the meager light that was available, filling every inch of space with a kind of energy, ambient and agitated.  That energy soaked into me.

Reflexively, my hands tried to crush the hand that was clamped between them.  It slipped free in the last instant.

Reflexively, emotions boiling over in a release of the frustration I’d felt earlier, I went after Hookline.  A flying charge.  I’d break him-

The hook caught Foil, who had been hunched over.  Swept her into my path.  I had to divert course.

Attack, was the impulse.

The length of the hook and chain doubled up in loose loops  that filled the space between Hookline and me.  A snare, waiting for me to fly into it.

With the artificial emotions running through me, I felt like flying right through it and winning regardless was a really fucking good idea, because fuck that two-bit villain.  Fuck everyone responsible here.

I changed course as I reached the length of chain, adjusting my orientation to cannonball through one of the spots he might not have anticipated.  It closed around me, but while it dragged at me, slowing me down, it didn’t catch me.

The hook reversed course, flying my way.  Invincible, high-velocity, and the first step to me being wound up and then hurled around however he chose.

In the surge of emotion, I hoped he’d try.  I could try things.

I didn’t get a chance.  Though her face was red and her movements restless, Foil jumped forward, through the same fence of loops and barriers.  Her timing and position were good, and there was less coverage because I’d already been snared, which meant she managed to slip through.  The movement and the distraction meant I had enough slack to withdraw. Foil, on the other side of the airborne, telekinetically-moved chain, was now in close quarters with Hookline.

She swung to club Hookline with something she wielded, and Disjoint caught her wrist.  Immediately, she shifted footing, her left shoulder almost touching Hookline’s right.  Blocking Disjoint’s view.  Her knee came up-

Hookline grabbed her by the shoulders, pulling her to the ground with him.

It was a good move.  I couldn’t interfere as much as I wanted, because the chain was twisting through the air between me and the Foil-Hookline fight.

Love Lost, meanwhile, stalked closer.  She whipped out her hand, and the fingers on that hand extended into a metal whip.  She retracted it.  She turned a circular dial at her shoulder, and electricity crackled between two fingertips.

Colt dropped out of the sky, landing behind her.  For a brief moment, Colt turned human.  She swayed on the spot for a second, before Love Lost caught her.

Colt said something, then went Breaker again.

Fuck.  I could see some resolve in her stance: the hands clenched at Colt’s sides, the framing of the shoulders.

I could also see how she floated in the air.  By the looks of it, her powers hadn’t changed.  One point against the trump thing.  I’d almost thought there were power copying shenanigans going on, but it didn’t make sense that it would be this static, this particular set.

I floated toward the rubble that Colt had brought down.  I saw Colt react, making sure to create the black blades with ethereal white haze around them.

Did she think she could chop it out of the air if I tried hurling one at Love Lost?

A silver blade cut through the air.  Precipice’s answer to Love Lost’s scream.  It hit the chains that Hookline had made, but it drew no silver lines.

They’re protected by Hookline’s power, I thought.

I turned to look at Precipice, who crouched with Chastity’s support on the side of the armored van.  They’d climbed out of the open door in what was now the ceiling.  Aroa and Candy would still be inside.

Another silver blade flipped end over end as it whipped through the air.  Foil, a chain around her neck, hands trying to keep it from tightening, flipped backward, feet at Hookline’s stomach.  Flipping him up and into the way.

The silver blade grazed him.  Foil kicked him backward, sending him crashing down to the road.  The silver lines that marked bicep, deltoid, and pectoral split, and blood gushed out.

Costume and flesh cut.

I’d had the same lines drawn on me just an hour ago, when fighting Lord of Loss, before the meeting with Rachel, before the travel.

“Does that girl have my cluster’s powers?” Precipice asked.

“Yeah, looks like,” I said.

“How?”

“Usual way?  I don’t know, Precipice.  She blasts you if you get too close, by the way.”

Foil bolted, running in Disjoint’s general direction.  He caught her leg and she nearly tripped, but she managed to find her stride a moment later.

Love Lost motioned, and it was Colt who flew to bar Foil’s way.

“Go, help her,” Precipice said.  “I’ve got Chastity for backup, and Rachel’s on her way.”

I turned to look.  Rachel had polished off the fight.  One of her dogs followed beside her at full size.  The other two were small.  A chihuahua and a golden retriever with a black patch at one side.  She’d beat Nailbiter.

“Go!”

“I don’t think Chastity can beat Love Lost,” I told him.

“Hey, fuck you!” Chastity said.

I bit my tongue before sharing my other worry, because it was even more controversial than doubting Chastity’s skill.  Honestly, Rain, I’m not sure you won’t put yourself in a situation where you’re forced to kill her.

I only imagine that because I’m trapped in my own hell of other people, and even though it’s as good as it’s going to get, it still eats at me.  She’s in another world and there’s little to no chance she shows up in my life again until I reach out… but it eats at me.

I can sympathize if you want her dead.

The two of them hopped down.  Aroa climbed out the door, perching on the wheel.

“Candy?” I asked Aroa.

“Hurt,” Chastity answered.  “You should go.  We’re good.”

I took off, escaping the area just in time to hear Love Lost scream, a sound matched by the tromp of Rachel’s mutant dog’s charge.

Disjoint-

A hand covered my eyes as I flew his way.  I tore it away, and it was gone when I looked to see.

Colt blocked our way, focusing her attention on Foil.  I saw Foil stagger back, and sought opportunity, helped by the distraction of Precipice, Rachel, and Chastity going toe to toe with Love Lost.  There was a violent metal against metal sound, a flap of cloth, with Love Lost airborne- she’d used the charging dog as a stepping stone, scratching its snout as she sprung free, going right for Precipice.  Chastity stepped forward, unsteady- she’d been using Rain for balance as much as he’d used her.  Her face was scuffed and she had a red mark down the length of one leg.

Three against one, but all of the three were injured, worn out, or both.

I used the distraction, going over, because Colt still wasn’t in the mindset for aerial combat, was slow to look up.  Disjoint was helping Love Lost, thinking he was too safe in Colt’s range.  At worst, what, he’d get stunned?

I saw what Foil was after.  Disjoint had disarmed her, stealing her guns, and she’d brought three or four.  I saw one in pieces, the slide removed and tossed away, and I saw another lying in the snow.  A dark, unmistakeable shape.

“Foil!” I shouted.

Colt whipped around, alarmed, looked back at Foil, who was recovering from the latest stunning.  Immediately, Disjoint tried to grab me again.

I threw the gun, lobbing it high.

Foil ran.  While she did, I went after Disjoint, so he couldn’t slow her down.

If this was going to work like I’d hoped, we couldn’t be interrupted or interfered-with.  Disjoint was the bigger problem.

I crashed into the balcony, breaking it.  I grabbed at him, not holding him up so much as I reserved the right to arrest his fall at the latest second if it looked like anything fatal or injurious.

It didn’t, so I let him land the hard way, amid dust and uneven concrete.

Colt had taken too long to realize what Foil was doing, or what I’d done.  She’d moved to protect Love Lost, and that wasn’t where she needed to be.

The gun fell from the sky, and Foil, who had timing and accuracy powers, was in position to catch it, nearly dropping it not because she was off, but because it was probably heavy and falling at a high velocity.

Colt, adjusting her battle plan, was maneuvering around the fight.  Picking a spot where it looked like her emotion power would catch Precipice and Chastity, but leave Love Lost out of it.

Colt was caught by apparent indecision, unsure of who to stave off, or maybe if she was considering my offer, figuring out the way this was turning.  Love Lost’s henchmen had fallen or retreated.  It was just Love Lost and Colt now.

Was she debating running?

Whatever it was, she was choosing a spot that meant I couldn’t be confident about flying over.

Chastity wore the glove that Precipice had taken from Love Lost’s workshop.  The finger extended like a whip, maybe ten feet long, more to deflect and combat what Love Lost was doing than to go on the offensive.

She did the offense thing with a bullwhip.

Love Lost, for her part, was agile and scary.  Her leaps gave her traction on the side of the building, and let her choose where she jumped down to, instead of it being any kind of foregone conclusion decided by trajectory and human limitations.

Her weapon was the other half of the same glove that Chastity was using.  It was longer, stronger, and unlike Chastity’s, it left gouges where it impacted the ground.  Many of those gouges were reserved for the snapping mutant hound.

Foil fired.  I saw her bend over, and I saw the blood pour out.

I flew to her.  What happened?

She’d shot herself?

Colt remained where she was, staring at Foil, turning to look at Love Lost.  Chastity and Rain whipped and threw silver blades, the dog nipped, and Rachel whistled to give it an order.

I reached Foil’s side.

Her left hand was what had been injured.  The gun dropped to the ground.

“What the hell?” I asked.

She indicated Colt.

The breaker had touched ground, and wasn’t moving from the spot.  I could see why.  A shot of the gun, penetrating the toe of one foot.  With the bullet passing through, fusing everything solid enough that it touched as her power effect wore off, it had sealed the breaker’s foot to the ground.

“That doesn’t work with guns.”

“Works,” she said.  “Ow, this hurts.  The reason I use a crossbow is I can touch the tip and affect it, fire it before it affects enough of the bolt that trying to push it would destroy my crossbow.  For the gun, I had-”

“You had to touch the live bullet?” I asked, placing pressure on the wound.

“It worked,” Foil said. “Fired through a hole I made in my fist,

“Why her?”

“Clearest shot, and if I hit Lost, then the breaker would hit everyone with that emotion power.”

I set my teeth.

Colt bent down, starting to hack at the ground.

“Shit,” Foil said.

I flew.

Wretch out, hitting hard.  There were probably no vitals to worry about.  Only a supply of energy animating a puppet that had been phased into our world.

I hit her, hard, and I knocked her to the ground.  The section of foot broke away violently, and she flickered, turning normal.  A fourteen year old teen, the toe of her boot torn up, blood welling from the tear.

I stepped on her, pinning her to the ground.  She stopped where she was, staring up at me.

Leaving only Love Lost.

Who looked way too okay with current circumstances, all considered.  She glared at Rain enough that it was probably impacting her combat performance, but I didn’t see desperation.

Had she distracted us enough?

She backed off, holding up a hand.  I was reminded of how she’d looked when we’d encountered her at the Lyme center, after we’d destroyed all the guns.

She wasn’t normally one to back down or accept a graceful loss.  Too bloodthirsty, too angry.  But twice now, she’d backed away.

She felt confident.  Confident she’d get her revenge.

“Can we talk?” Precipice asked.  “I’d like to have a conversation.”

A firm shake of the head, a glare.  One claw clenched into a fist, the other remained up, urging us to stop.

The clenched claw opened.  She began tapping at the air.  I could see faint squares appear and disappear in mid-air as the claws pierced them.

“Trap?” I asked, raising my voice to be sure the others heard.

Love Lost shook her head.

The typing continued.

“She’s spelling out words,” Precipice said  “Five of-”

A synthesized voice that didn’t come from Love Lost, but seemed to radiate off of nearby power lines.  “My team walks away.  You get some of your people back.  Decide now.”

“Hostages,” Chastity observed.

Love Lost nodded.

“Imp?” Candy asked, from atop the van.

Love Lost nodded.

“Chicken Little?”

Another nod.

“My brothers and sisters?”

A nod.

I was tense.  I wasn’t sure I bought this.

“What’s the catch?” Precipice asked.  “You put a lot of effort into this.  You’ll give up your stakes?  You’re not even asking for me to turn myself in?”

She didn’t respond.

“You don’t want Rain?” Chastity asked.

That, Love Lost responded to, turning her attention to Chastity.  She shook her head.  Again, she began typing.

We waited, tense.

You’ll turn yourself in to our care another time.

“What if we say no?”

No response.  Only a glare.

“What if we say we won’t let your guys go?” Chastity asked.

Love Lost drew a claw across her throat.  Then she waved a hand in one direction.

Was that the direction they were?  An accidental hint?

I had a bad feeling, but I felt stuck.

“You need to call off March,” I said.  “This thing she’s doing, it’s bad for all of us.”

Love Lost shook her head.

“It’s going to get kids killed.  Thinkers we talked to seem to think it’s something along those lines.”

She went still.

I could see agitation in her hands, in her claws.

I saw it start to fade.

“Kids, Love Lost.  Like your fucking daughter!” I shouted at her.

At that, I saw a flare of anger, enough I worried she’d do something reckless.  Then-

Then doubt?

She stared down at the ground for a long moment, and nobody broke that spell.

Then her hand went up.  A claw, four fingers and a thumb extended.  A hand pointed in one direction.

Five of ours for some of yours.

“Who are you keeping, out of our groups?  Tattletale?”

There was no response.  Instead, fingers typed.

I expected another audio message.

Instead… wailing.  Panicked sounds.

A hollow sound, magnified times ten by the fact it seemed to resonate out from everything from wires to engine block.

A young girl’s voice, caught up in sobs that made the words impossible to make out.

For an instant, I forgot how to breathe.  My heart forgot how to beat.  I wouldn’t have been sure I knew how to stand if I couldn’t fly to keep myself upright.

Candy reacted, I saw, hands at her mouth.  Chastity visibly flinched.

Rain… he looked angry and harrowed at the same time.

“Take your people.  Tell us where ours are,” I said.

Nobody on our team disagreed with me.  Nobody looked like they doubted the call.  Not while the sounds continued.

Love Lost tapped her wrist and she pointed at me.

I looked at my own wrist.  The disc was still mounted there, slightly ajar after the fighting.

I tapped it, activating it.  It brought up the red team, Kenzie and Ashley with hands bound, back to back.  The other Heartbroken kid a distance away, looking like she was digging.

A tap brought up the yellow team.

Noise, no directional indicator.

Love Lost gestured, and that was apparently the key for some tech to kick in.

The noise remained, but there was an indicator.

In an instant, the others were hopping up onto the dogs for a ride, Rachel giving a hand to the more battered members of our team.  Love Lost stepped to the side.

I turned her way.  My foot was still on Colt’s chest.

“That was a kid,” I told Love Lost.  “I thought you had some principles.”

She didn’t move an inch.

“What the hell did Cradle do to you?  Or… what compromise did you make in yourself, that this is okay?”

Not a bat of an eyelash.  The mouth of her mask was a perpetual roar, and her eyes matched it in intensity and simmering anger.

“You brought her into this?” I asked, my voice choked, as I pointed down at Colt.

“I brought myself into this,” Colt said.  I could read her expression now.  I could see a look of regret pass over her face.

I didn’t care in the slightest, either, because regret wasn’t worth a speck of shit if it didn’t change anything.

I let Colt go, and stepped closer.  Love Lost moved her claws, and the image at my disc broke up, the location data fading.

When I backed away a step, she returned it.  That information was her insurance.

There was a whistle, shrill and loud.  Rachel, at the very far end of the street.

They needed guidance.

I checked the direction and I checked my phone, before flying down to Precipice and Rachel.

“University.  I’ll meet you there,” I told them.

“What if you get ambushed?” Precipice asked.

“I’ll manage,” I said, my voice hoarse.  “I’ll have to manage.”

“That’s not good enough,” Foil told me.

“It’s good enough,” Rachel said.

Good enough.  I flew.

Better that I forge ahead.  I could move faster than the dogs,  especially when intervening buildings were taken into consideration.

Fifteen minutes of flying.

Then the University.  Closed for the weekend, but with students still milling about.  No lights of emergency vehicles.

The lights in the building that the disc led me to were off.

Snow and cold had a way of obscuring the nose and eating smells and sounds.  It said a lot, then, that the smell of blood was as strong as it was.

Disturbances in the snow in a relatively abandoned area were my second clue, helping me to verify that I had the right building.  I tried the door, found it locked, and broke it.

If I’d had any doubts, the smell of blood and bodily fluids erased them.

I heard the wailing.  It hadn’t stopped since I’d entered.  Someone was shushing them.

Tristan, bisected, lay on the ground, panting for breath.

“Ant- Vic,” he managed, between huffs.  “Are they gone?”

“They left, I think,” I told him.

He let off a string of Spanish expletives before burring.  Becoming Byron.

“I’ve been trying to give medical care, get people sorted,” he said.  “But we couldn’t afford to let them know we- fuck!”

“It’s okay,” I said.

I saw the look on his face, eyebrows drawn together.

It’s not okay.

“Show me,” I told him.

Bags were the first thing I saw.  Bloody gym bags, with blood leaking out the bottom.  Then… body parts.

Kenzie’s friend Darlene was the source of the wailing.  Her arm was in her lap, and it wasn’t attached to her shoulder.  Chicken Little lay on his side beside her.

“Y-you’re back,” she said, to Capricorn.  then she looked at me.  “Can you fix this?”

“We’ll get your arm attached, okay?”

“Not this.  Him.  They hurt Chicken Little and it’s supposed to be a rule, that you don’t hurt the Chicken!”

“Your friends did, or-”

“The bad guys did!  But it’s a rule!  It has to be a rule!”

“Shh,” I said.  I bent down, offering a hug.  She took it, seizing me in a deathgrip.

I put a hand on Chicken Little’s side, and he flinched.

“Can you sit up?” I asked.

“He can’t-” Darlene started, before stopping.  “Can’t hear.  Don’t make him take off his mask, either, because he needs that to hold things in place.”

“Juliette’s here,” Byron told me.  “Tattletale’s over there.  Swansong and Lookout are in the other room, they were the last ones brought in.  I didn’t want to break in in case they noticed and saw me.  I thought we needed someone mobile.”

I couldn’t even move, with Darlene hanging on me.  She shifted position as I tried, and I saw where one of her legs terminated at the knee.

“Sveta?” I asked.

“They broke her suit.  She’s staying at the end of the hall.”

It took doing, especially when I was sore, but I could use flight to help.  I lifted Darlene, and immediately she started fighting me.

“I need to be with Chicken Little,” she said.  “We can communicate some with my power, but being connected means he hurts more.  I don’t know what I’m supposed-”

“Shh,” I said, easing her down.

“I check in now and then.”

“Okay,” I said.  “That’s good.  Can you stay for a second?”

Her hand clutched at my leg.  Like she didn’t want me to go.

She couldn’t leave Aiden and she wouldn’t let me go.

“One minute, okay?” I asked.  “One minute, you can count the seconds.  Can you count?”

She nodded.  Without speaking, she mouthed the words.

Sixty seconds to see how bad it was.

“Let’s get Swansong and Lookout out,” I said.

I hesitated as I saw damaged equipment.  Something not all that dissimilar to Love Lost’s whip claw, but it had a handle, and it was broader.  Split in two.

“The device we’d need to undo the damage,” Byron said.

I flinched, looking away.

“You should know.  They severed pieces of Swansong and Lookout,” he told me.

I nodded.  I was almost numb now.

I only had a minute, then I had to go back.

Juliette was lying on a table.  As hurt as anyone, with a burn at her side that had damaged her clothes.

And on the ground, half of Tattletale.  One arm, one leg, no head.

Some of our team was here, I realized, with a sick feeling.  That’s how Love Lost put it.

“Everyone’s accounted for?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Byron said, “But…”

He didn’t finish the statement.

Everyone is accounted for… but only some of our team is here.

They took the rest hostage.

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169 thoughts on “Blinding – 11.11”

  1. Typo thread:

    covered the side and the door that pointed the sky,
    -pointed at

    didn’t move while I moved within it..

    I hadn’t heard gunshots. Was she reluctant? Was there a problem? No, well yes, but she’d she’d been disarmed-

    Disjoint, standing on a snow-covered balcony His white

    there were power copying shenanigans going on, but it didn’t make sense that it would be this static, this particular set.
    -What does ‘it’ refer to?

    I turned to look. Rachel had polished off the fight.
    -her fight

    I saw Foil stagger back, and sought opportunity,
    -way early for a continuation a couple of paragraphs later.

    Disjoint was helping Love Lost, thinking he was too safe in Colt’s range.
    -was safe

    “Fired through a hold I made in my fist,
    “Why her?”
    -fist-”

    I expected another audio message.
    Instead… wailing. Panicked sounds.
    -isn’t that also an audio message?

    she said, to Capricorn. then she looked at me.

    1. > My old, briefShadow Stalker had been impervious to physical blows[…]

      Something is missing from this sentence. Probably more than just a space between ‘brief’ and ‘Shadow’.

      > Some were time limits, like only being able to stay breaker for a set amount of time. Some were internal batteries, a power supply that filled up over time before they had to turn human and absorb more.

      I don’t understand this paragraph. In the second sentence – if the batteries fill up in breaker form, why would they need to turn human to “absorb” more? And it is not exactly clear how is the limitation in the second sentence different from the limitation described in the first sentence.

      > If I could land- wincing at the pain in my foot as I did, I could put myself close to the ground and compel her to match my level.

      Another strangely worded sentence. On top of it I’m not sure if there should be a space in front of that dash.

      > […]but I was pretty sure the only data points I had was that[…]

      Shouldn’t it be “data points I had were” or “data point I had was”?

      > I knew she was she was probably new to her power, really new, and the breaker decorations suggested a belt buckle, regular clothes, built up around the back of the head like whatever she’d worn and incorporated into the breaker form had included a hood.

      ‘built up’ > ‘buildup’ or ‘build-up’?

      > No, well yes, but she’d she’d been disarmed- I had to look to find who I was looking for. Disjoint, standing on a snow-covered balcony His white mask and black hair made him hard to spot in the gloom.

      Scratch one ‘she’d’. Possibly a space before the first dash. Either a dot after ‘balcony’, or a comma, one less space and ‘his’ instead of ‘His’ there.

      > Probably unseating Rachel and taking Foil’s guns.

      There is one space too many between ‘Rachel’ and ‘and’ in this sentence.

      > She’d beat Nailbiter.

      Tense? It could be Simple Past” She did beat Nailbiter”, in which case the sentence above is correct, but I would expect Present Perfect it this context – “She’d beaten Nailbiter.”

      > […]with Love Lost airborne- she’d used the charging dog as a stepping stone[…]

      > Chastity stepped forward, unsteady- she’d been using Rain for balance as much as he’d used her.

      Spaces before dashes?

      > “What we say no?”

      Change to “What if we say no?”

      > They hurt Chicken Little and it’s supposed to be a rule, that you don’t hurt the Chicken!

      No comma before ‘that’?

    2. “up to follow. She wasn’t”
      “in loose loops that filled”
      Extra spaces.

      “Spanish expletives before burring.”
      Assuming +l.

  2. So… The Combination of Cradle saying “I have to” and LL just stating Rain will “turn yourself in to our care another time.”

    They have information. Information they feel compelled to act upon. Information that they feel RAIN will be compelled to act upon….
    And it probably isn’t just “We have hostages”, its more.

    And… when V is like “March is doing a bad thing”, LL shakes her head… which could be denial, fear…. but could also just be straight up disagreement.

    There is every reason to believe LL and Cradle are working on better information that Breakthrough… and for all the hatred getting passed their way… we may well end up finding out that everything that is happening here is justified…
    or just hideous. That can happen to.

      1. Or from Simurgh. I can’t believe that Dinah would be such a heartless bitch to agree with the mutilation of children under any pretext. She have strong morals, despite almost starting a war between humans and parahumans. On the other hand, Simurgh…

        1. Everyone who ever thought they could benefit from using Dinah’s advice about the future has suffered from it while Dinah has benefited. Some of those people died horribly right in the story. Those who understand her power, like TT and Faultline, never ask her for advice about the future. I guess she isn’t to blame for the fact that her power is so horrible, and she has discouraged people from exposing themselves to it, but if she had “strong morals” she would never make a prediction.

          1. From Polarize 10.5, Faultline returns and gives advice to TT:

            “Faultline returned, alone. There were two more mercenaries with her. “Situation blue.”
            “Medical emergency?” I asked. “The hospital code?”
            “What? No,” she told me. Then, not to me, she said, “I’ll leave it to you to interpret.””

            TT and Faultline apparently DO use her power.

            “Everyone who ever thought they could benefit from using Dinah’s advice about the future has suffered from it while Dinah has benefited. ”

            Coil and Co survived Crawler’s attack by listening to Dinah.
            Taylor may have suffered for her use of Dinah’s power…. but fundementally, I don’t think she regrets the result (regrets certain things along the way… but none of those were related to Dinah’s power.
            Dinah has a power that lets her take the broad view. That lets her do things with WORLD ALTERING consequences.
            No matter what she does, the morality of her decision is faught. Sometimes she encourages futures that involve sacrifices… but her NOT picking those futures involves sacrifices too.
            You might disagree with her… and the suspicion her power is “Cursed” might even be right… but her using her power for what she understands to be the public good can hardly be considered unethical.

          2. I also don’t think that Dinah is working with March and co. to save the multiverse or something like that, though for a bit different reason than the ones I saw posted here. If messing with time-effects is so bad that basically all hero thinkers and Citrine vetoed doing it, then I don’t see supporting the group which wants to do it as something contributing to the salvation. Quite opposite in fact.

            Dinah could still work with March’s group, but only if she did so for less noble reasons, or was forced to do it (giving her “candy” again would probably suffice). It seems possible. Remember Tattletale’s note from Aiden’s interlude:

            Dinah Alcott: compromised? Shift of motives?

          3. No, it wouldn’t. Dinah hates ‘candy’, because every time she was addicted, when she used her power she could feel the withdrawal that hadn’t happened yet.

          4. There are two reasons why I don’t think that Dinah is willingly working with March’s group, at least not to save the multiverse.

            One is that March seems to be going after the time-effects, and every hero thinker AND Cirtine say that it is a BAD idea.

            The other is Tattletale’s note from Aiden’s interlude:

            Dinah Alcott: compromised? Shift of motives?

            which would seem to indicate that she may have decided, or more likely was forced or coerced somehow to act towards some less noble goals.

          5. Whoops… looks like the first time I posted my comment on Dinah it did go through, just didn’t display on my tablet. Sorry for what effectively become a double post.

          6. @Earl of Purple

            She may hate the candy, but she is still very much addicted. If someone drugged her by force, she may not have a sufficient willpower to resist. It did work for Coil after all.

          7. I’d be surprised if she didn’t have a question for herself every day to keep herself free. She’s been there, didn’t like it, and got out. Even going so far as to saying, within Skitter’s hearing, the chance of her seeing her parents again- manipulating Skitter into letting her go.

          8. If Dinah’s on drugs again, then maybe she is even in such a bad state that she decided to do everything she can to make sure she will never go through withdrawal again?

          9. Dinah is compelled by her power to make predictions, regardless of the strength of her morals. She has to answer, if someone asks her (if I remember correctly).

          10. She could decide that staying drugged for the rest of her life (as short and shitty such life would be) is better than going through withdrawal again.

            Of course it do not have to be drugs. A master power would also work. Or she could decide to do something petty or selfish of her own free will. She may have ended up being key to saving humanity one, but it doesn’t exactly mean she’s an angel.

          11. Of course Dinah could also just decide that sacrificing the City (and possibly even entire Gimel and even Bet on top of it) is worth it if it is necessary to save a world or worlds with actual billions of people. Something that most hero thinkers and Citrine (especially Citrine, considering that she’s the major of the city), and possibly even Teacher (who also was against what March seems to be planning) would have a hard time agreeing to.

          12. If Dinah is indeed working witch March and co., then whatever her motives are I doubt they are something Tattletale would agree with. Otherwise Dinah probably wouldn’t need to send Cradle to get Tattletale. Lisa may not like Dinah (which is understandable considering Dinah’s role in what happened to Taylor), but would take Dinah’s warnings seriously.

            So if Dinah is behind March, then either she is doing something that Tattletale would consider a bad idea even if Dinah herself would explain the necessity of it, or for some reason doing things the painful way is necessary to cause some chain of events needed to accomplish Dinah’s plans (read – her power told her that if she would just call Tattletale the probability of achieving desired result would be too low for Dinah’s tastes).

        2. Dinah is a girl who set her rescuer up to be a sacrifice/destiny bomb, because it made the numbers better.
          And she was RIGHT to do so, both because that’s what needed to happen, and because that is what Taylor would have told her to do, given the information.

          I’m not saying she’s evil, I’m just saying… much like Contessa, Dinah’s power lends itself towards a certain level of… pragmitism.

          Heck, the main argument I see AGAINST this being a Dinah plot, is the fact that I’m pretty sure she is behind the scenes with Faultline, occasionally helping TT, and possibly the secret influencer behind Breakthrough, so it would be weird for her to ALSO be running the clusterfire and March as well.

          1. What Dinah will gain from maiming children and Tattletale beyond probably any fixing/salvation? The satisfaction that other children were tortured worse that she was a couple of years ago? When she turned Taylor into a hero, that was something very good to do to stop Scion. But right now, there’s no Scion anymore, nothing like a big menace for the world. Except for Teacher and Rain’s clusters. They seem like the biggest menace for everyone. So, Dinah is helping now the bad guys to fuck with the world? She changed sides?

          2. Better question: What’s so terrifying that we don’t know about, that would make Dinah willing to do that sort of thing?

            But last we saw, she was behind the anti-parahuman protesters, so I’m not sure she’s helping March and the Mall Cluster.

          3. Remember that at least some of the anti-parahumans seemed to at least consider cooperating with Love Lost in some way. It could be that Dinah is the link joining those two groups somehow.

          4. Reading the comments, I feel like either I or everyone else has a pretty big misconception of Alcott’s power. The way I understand it, she thinks of a specific action/decision where there are only 2 options (such as ‘red’ and ‘blue’ or ‘do it’ and ‘don’t do it’). She then groups all the potential futures for each of the decisions and can return a probability of an outcome happening. However, she also has the easier option of just finding the probability of an outcome, such as ‘What’s the chance I die in the next 3 hours?’. If she really wants, she can also look into one of these futures for a short amount of time, however this also incapacitates her for a significant amount of time. Chances are (pun intended), she just asked something along the lines of ‘chance the city is destroyed if I tell march to go get me a tattle?’, and didn’t see the whole slice-and-dice part of the outcome.

            Ooh, fun hypothesis, what if march goes back to her with tattle’s head, freaking and/or grossing her out, and she just goes ‘nuh-uh, I’m out, chance be damned. Hey tattle, got anything goin on next Saturday? I heard the movie theater down the block is showing an Aleph Star Wars Prequels marathon’

          5. Re-reading previous comment, just wanted to add a bit of clarification.

            Tl;dr:

            Alcott’s power isn’t path-to-victory. It doesn’t show her every step along the way. Even when used at its full potential, it comes with a heavy price, and still isn’t as powerful as PTV. It’s like that method of finding a point on a line, where you guess something and get a return of whether it’s greater or lesser. It takes time and ingenuity to actually find the ideal, most effective, most efficient, and least casualty-heavy solution.

            That was a really long tl;dr. Here’s a better one.

            Tl;dr:

            Alcott /= Contessa. It’s not PTV. She almost never sees the small-scale impact of her decisions beforehand, such as casualties.

            Also, does anyone know if there’s a way to store info on mobile? My apple keychain(tm) doesn’t seem to recognize it as a login-esque system.

          6. @Coldlight Oracle

            While I agree that the way you describe it is the way Dinah usually uses her power, we know there is more to it than that. We know that she can recognize certain “terminus points”. I don’t think it was ever fully explained what they are, but we know that some of them are moments of her own death, which leads me to believe that a “terminus point” could be a point beyond which her power can’t show her the future.

            And she can see possible futures. She doesn’t use this ability often, as it taxes her power much more than answering binary questions – to the point when her power can be out for days, but she can do it. It is how she learned about the coming end of the world, it is how she predicted how high casualties will be, it is how she managed to recognize Jack as as a person who has a potential to become a catalyst of that end, it is how she saw that if the end of the world was to be one of those less fatal, the threat will have to be faced by five different groups of people, and that Taylor will have to be there “in the end”, “changed” somehow.

            She did all of the above without playing a game of twenty questions. Questions are just a way to organize all of the timelines she can see into two distinct groups, so she can tell the odds without having to look at every possible future in detail (which would probably overwhelm her power long before she was done). And even when she uses those questions her answers depend on her ability to actually see the future – remember that to answer the question she needs to be asked about something she can visualize.

            Her power is not Contessa’s PtV, but it is also much more than an ability to answer questions with only two possible answers. It is not enough for her to always avoid being captured or harmed for example (which is why Coil managed to do it), but it can let her actually see enough of the future to recognize some threats (like the end of the world) and some seemingly impossible ways to deal with those threats (like sending a girl with bug powers to deal with that apocalypse). And actually being able to see so much so early is something I think even Contessa can’t do – it seems to be an ability unique to Dinah.

            She could have done it again – she could see that something really big and bad is coming, and that working with (or manipulating) people like anti-parahumans or March could be the best way to prevent the worst case scenario. Of course Tattletale’s note I quoted a few posts above seems to suggest that she could also (willingly or not) work towards some less noble goal this time.

          7. @Alfaryn

            ~I believe that Contessa can actually see some of the future based on what actions she has to take at a certain point, as IIRC she does see all the ‘steps’ upon asking the question.

            ~As for seeing the particulars of the future, from what I understood she saw/experienced a snapshot from her point of view, for instance she saw that it was dark and smelled bad and everyone was being quiet and Coil extrapolated that they were in Noelle’s vault.

            ~From what I can tell, all of the things you mentioned could fairly easily been figured out – after all, she had 2 years to get all the particulars. She could split the futures into those where Taylor was and wasn’t involved, and look at the # of terminus points. After that there would probably be some basic base-covering, such as ‘of these, which ones is where Taylor is still ‘Skitter’, so to speak’ and then ‘with the undersiders?’, ‘mastered by a 3rd party?’, ‘converted to the heroes?’, and then split the futures into, say, ‘get her hooked up w/ ___?’ And at some point throughout the 2 years she probably would’ve asked about amy at some point, as it wouldn’t have been that hard to figure out that the birdcage gets emptied.

            ~There was also a considerable amount of Contessa interference with everyone/everything involved, so she could have easily nudged her (Alcott) in the right direction.

            ~As for figuring out that something bad was going to happen, she wouldn’t have had to do anything other than look more than 2 years in the future to see that she died in most of the futures. We know that she didn’t go all-out to figure out what happened in the moment of one of her deaths, or she would’ve spread the word about Scion. Then again, Contessa very well mighta come knocking.

            ~If she ever asked anything about whether they stopped S9 in Brockton Bay, she probably would have seen a large disparity between one group having a lot of deaths at the 2 year mark and a lot of deaths at the 15 (iirc) mark. From then it’s a simple matter of narrowing down which member(s) were the cause.

            ~iirc, she had a good 30+ questions a day, based on what she told Golem in one of the Worm arcs (when they were hunting Jack).

            ~as far as having to visualize something, it wouldn’t be that hard to generate stuff with a little bit of ingenuity/word games – ‘what if the ____ I ask about starts with a letter between a and m? World still ends? What about n-t? Less casualties?’ Etc. (blank included in question). After all, as we saw from how Golem utilized her power in the final Jack fight, her power works very well with abstract meaninglessly arbitrary things, such as a random answer posed to her (which she didn’t know the significance of) or even what letter the thing she *should* be asking about starts with, as well as its 2nd, 3rd, etc letter.

          8. @Coldlight Oracle

            Even if Contessa can see the future, I think it is only the future along the path to victory she is considering at the moment. It is very different from Dinah, who has access to pretty much all possible futures at all times.

            On the other hand having to visualize something she is asked about can be a real limitation of Dinah’s power. For example when she was in Coil’s hands, she was asked several questions she couldn’t answer, because she didn’t know how an outcome would look like. One example of that is when she was first asked about the Slaughterhouse Nine, and had to be shown their photographs to know what she should look for.

            Later, with Golem, she figured out a way to work around this limitation – she probably kept doing something like asking herself just one question over and over again: “If I answer ‘red’ is it more or less likely that Jack will end up defeated then if I answer ‘blue’?” Jack’s defeat could be something she could visualize. So yes, Dinah could work around this limitation, especially after a couple of years of being able to experiment with her power and not having her mind clouded with drugs, but the limitation was technically still there even post-timeskip, and while she was in Coil’s captivity that same limitation was restricting her more, both because she had less experience with her power, and because she was simply too drugged and too terrified with her situation then to figure some more complicated workarounds then.

            As for having two years to figure out everything, she probably didn’t have that much time for a lot of things she predicted. In particular she predicted that Taylor would be there in the end, different somehow, and that there will be five (if I remember correctly) groups of people fighting alongside her before the time skip. I think she told Taylor about it shortly after Coil’s death – when Taylor was taking her home.

            As for being able to see only small snapshots of possible futures, I think it comes mostly from the fact that looking into any particular future was draining her power quickly. She probably could take a closer look into one particular future, but it probably was much more useful to use the same time to take only very quick glances into multiple futures, and look for common elements in them. One such common element in less catastrophic futures turned out to be Taylor fighting the apocalypse, so Dinah knew that Taylor is likely the person she should focus on, one she needed to push into fighting then, and this is what she did with her notes (particularly note number one).

          9. @Alfaryn

            ~From what I recall, Dinah can only look into a future if she’s not dead, and when she does she only sees/feels/smells/whatever what it is that she, in that future, would be seeing/feeling/smelling/whatever.

            ~You made a good point about the photograph of the members of S9, I’d forgotten about that, but again, her power seems to work great with abstracts like the formation of a word. After she got something like ‘I should be asking about something, which has a word in English characters and pronunciation that starts with c, second letter h, 3rd r, 4th i, 5th s’, it probably wouldn’t be to hard to contact someone who knows who someone like that might be, even if she has no idea who that person is or what they look like.

            ~While there are probably many uses of her power to find out specifics, I feel like playing 45 questions every day might be easier/less taxing/less painful than looking into a future for a limited amount of time/info and as a result being knocked out for about 2 weeks (IIRC), although on that topic why didn’t Coil just use his power to prevent that side effect? (Answer: to provide the Undersiders a couple weeks to get stuff done without worrying about Dinah seeing something. Tricky Wildbow.)

            ~From what I remember of seeing her in Worm, I feel like she feels (or at least felt) like it’s her duty to save the world/universe/multiverse, due to the power she has, kinda like Contessa did. We also know that something might be/has the ability to skew Tattle’s readings. Based on this, I feel like the line about Dinah’s motives shifting means she either got Teacher’d, Simurgh’d, or hit by another (very powerful) master power, or it’s a red herring. Either way, it means some very bad things for our protagonist and her merry men…

            Also, it feels like time for another hyper-powerful cape interlude… Valkyrie, D&D, Contessa, #man and co., or Dinah so we can see what’s going on and create some dramatic irony for the readers and some suspense for what’s gonna happen next with bits of everyone missing…

          10. @ Coldlight Oracle

            I mostly agree with those points. The only things I’d like to point out are that:
            – even when working with abstracts like “What is the first letter of the question should I ask?”, she probably still needs some sort of goal she can visualize, and still a question with only two answers, so it would be something more like “Is the first letter of the question should I ask, if I want to increase the chances that no more than 70% of all people wil die in next two years, in the first or the second half of the alphabet?”, and work her way from there narrowing the first letter in a way reassembling Victoria’s method of communication during her early months in the asylum.
            – if she can only see things that her future self could see, then all numbers in her predictions about the end of the world were affected by two unavailable errors – she couldn’t say anything about the death toll in the futures during which she did not survive the end of the world, and she couldn’t report real number of deaths in those futures in which she did survive the end – only what her future self could learn about those casualties from her observations, and reports of other people then. It leaves a lot of room to make predicted numbers significantly different from actual probability distributions of deaths.

          11. Come to think of it, Dinah never saw a variant of the future in which every human died. Could it be not because such future was impossible, but because in those future she wouldn’t be alive to see it?

            Even in the futures in which very few people (including her) survived, she could be unable to contact enough people to confirm exact death toll.

          12. She’s not ‘diving into’ every one of the futures, though. She can ask ‘does a significant # of people die in a short amount of time?’ (Say 30% in 2 years).

            Also, she’d be working off of trying to visualize her having sure-ity (or whatever the word is) about what threat she should be working against, or something like that.

            Most of my thoughts about Dinah are working off of the hypothesis that she wouldn’t want to ever be out of action for a couple weeks with blinding headaches and stuff, and speculating solutions/workarounds based on that. After all, it’s not like she’s working with the speedrunners to make large amounts of time pass very quickly or anything, right? (Oh wait. Sh*t. )

          13. > She’s not ‘diving into’ every one of the futures, though. She can ask ‘does a significant # of people die in a short amount of time?’ (Say 30% in 2 years).

            I was thinking more along the lines of ‘diving into’ some futures to figure out which factors exactly may increase chances of relatively few people dying. It is probably how she figured out that Taylor may be important – she just took a sample of visions from timelines with low casualties, and a sample from the ones with many deaths, and compared them. “Changed” Taylor not belonging to the Undersiders was probably far more involved in fighting in the former ones than in the latter, in which she was probably often either absent, or still very much the old good Skitter – member the Undersiders, not changed in any significant way.

      2. This actually bugs me to no end. Something incredibly shitty happens in the story, shittier than anything – who is to blame? Certainly Dinah! Who else might it be? She might have SEEN it, therefore, the blame is squarely on her. If she didn’t like what she had seen, she could, like, wave a hand to make it not happen… Come on, people – Dinah is neither God nor Satan, and not even Jack Slash (despite what half of the people here seem to believe).

        1. She may be a little too obvious suspect to actually do any of that, but who knows? We know she’s around and active. She is probably doing something big, and sooner or later we will probably know what. And considering Tattletale’s note about her, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was something bad, or at least controversial. Possibly even Taylor’s level of controversial.

          We also don’t know if she’s acting of her own free will, or she’s controlled or forced somehow. Tattletale’s note may imply the latter.

          1. Too obvious? I’d say she’s too obviously *not* a suspect, and people pull ridiculous theories out of thin air because… just because. All of the evidence we have about Dinah, one way or another, is Tattletale’s note indicating something may be wrong with her (but something similar could probably be said about Valkyrie, for instance). And as for the controversy, I don’t actually find Taylor’s actions highly controversial (if we know everything about them due to being her POV). Cauldron was controversial, Taylor – not so much. And what we’re talking about here is actually S9-level of “controversy” (namely, complete absence of it due to the moral event horizon being far behind).

          2. Ok, maybe I can meet you halfway through a spectrum, and agree on Cauldron’s level of controversy. As far as suspicions (possibly colored by points of view) about Dinah go, I’d like to remind you about two facts:
            – The aggressive way Dinah treated the PRT in chapter 22.1 of Worm after Taylor surrendered. She was justified by what they did to her savior, but at the same time she didn’t exactly behave very nicely then. She even suggested she can cut off PRT from her help, and go to some unspecified (but potentially hostile) competition in Asia. I’m not saying that it proved an outright villainous intent, but I would say that it certainly brought the possibility to mind, and it certainly was a coercion attempt.
            – The fact that for some reason Tattletale decided not to share her apparent knowledge or suspicions about Taylor’s survival with Dinah at the end of Worm. In fact Lisa made sure that Dinah was as convicted about Taylor’s death as possible. Again – not a definitive proof that there is something wrong with Dinah, since Lisa has trust issues in general, and has reasons not to trust Dinah when it comes to Taylor in particular, but considering Tattletale’s power it could mean that Dinah is not as trustworthy as you seem to think.

          3. I’m not sure I got you right – are you agreeing with Cauldron being controversial or are you disagreeing with me comparing current events to S9 and suggesting comparison to Cauldron instead?

            Regarding the facts you mentioned:
            – the aggressive treatment was probably influenced by how PRT treated Taylor, but also by that PRT had failed Dinah herself. It could not save her from being kidnapped, drugged and enslaved by Coil, and if that’d be not enough, he even was PRT director. That’s fairly enough for Dinah not to sympathize with PRT, I think.
            – I don’t think it’s actually possible to conceal Taylor from Dinah in any way short of Simurgh flying overhead at all times.

          4. > I don’t think it’s actually possible to conceal Taylor from Dinah in any way short of Simurgh flying overhead at all times.

            I think it may be possible to hide Taylor from Dinah if you convince Dinah that there is no more Taylor to look for, or in other words that Taylor is dead. This looks like it is precisely what Tattletale attempted to do in the epilogue.

            As for controversy, I imagine that Dinah could sacrifice the city with everyone within it to get a better chance to save more people elsewhere. She could even do it with entire Gimel and possibly a few more worlds on top of it. To me it sounds precisely like what Cauldron did to all of those experiment subjects – they took away any chance of normal life from thousands of people, not to mention manipulated laws and governments on Bet for a change of creating a weapon or an army capable of killing Scion.

            What made Cauldron’s steps controversial is that they did all of it without asking anyone for permission, and without being certain they would affect the final outcome. On one hand – it is good that they took all responsibility, on the other – it is bad that they gave humanity (and especially victims of their experiments) any choice in the matter, or any chance of real oversight by any elected officials, which made Bet a planet secretly run by powerful capes – exactly the scenario people are afraid of on Gimel when they learn that the mayor is secretly a cape, but taken to even higher level.

            Similarly Dinah can also never be sure if what she is doing is right, just like she couldn’t be sure that the path she put Taylor on (to Taylor’s great suffering) would ultimately change the final outcome. All she had to go on were some visions and some probabilities. She didn’t clearly ask anyone (especially Taylor) for permission to ruin Taylor’s life, and something tells me she isn’t asking anyone now. She just thinks she knows better, and that gives her the right to straight up manipulate people.

          5. > I think it may be possible to hide Taylor from Dinah if you convince Dinah that there is no more Taylor to look for

            And why would Dinah just take Tt’s word for it? Even if she regards Tt as trustworthy – she is still human, and humans are being mistaken all the time. If I had a power of an inhuman nearly omniscient oracle at my disposal, that’s would be my first way to get an answer to a question important to me.

            > I imagine that Dinah could sacrifice the city with everyone within it to get a better chance to save more people elsewhere

            I won’t exclude it (probably not on the scale of sacrificing worlds though), but I fail to see how the current course of actions could possibly save anyone or benefit anyone except sadists like Cradle has shown himself to be.

            And yet again I’ll insist that Dinah didn’t ruin Taylor’s life. She gave her a hint. Taylor could follow it, ignore it, check it with Tt, do everything precisely contrary to the hint or in any way she wanted. Most importantly, she made the single most important decision by herself, after being warned about consequences. Dinah didn’t tell her exactly what needs to change in her and didn’t tell about consequences, most likely because she herself didn’t know – she seen that Taylor is different somehow, but not exactly how. So Taylor guesses what she has to do, taking Dinah’s hint as a guidance, and makes an informed decision (well, as informed as it gets). It’s hers, she deserves full credit for it.
            Let’s imagine you giving me an advice: “if you want to save lives, you should become a firefighter”. I indeed want to do it, join the firefighters, save some people but get burned myself; would it be fair to say that you ruined my life with your advice? I think not, even if we assume that you knew somehow for sure that I not only might, but definitely will get burned (and I doubt it was the case with Dinah).

          6. I’m not saying that Tattletale necessarily succeed at convincing Dinah that Taylor is dead, at least not long-term, but she might have put Dinah in a state of mind, where Dinah wouldn’t think to look for Taylor. You may want to re-read the epilogue of Worm (just the scenes in Lisa’s base in the last chapter), especially the toast, and Lisa’s comment about people (or thinkers, depending on how you interpret Lisa’s words) are particularly good at lying to themselves.

            As for Dinah running Taylor’s life, I think that she probably knew more about the fate Taylor was likely to face than she let on, because she knew what to write in those two notes. There is a reason why the second note said “I’m sorry.” What Dinah should have done when Taylor was taking her home (at least from ethical standpoint) was to actually tell Taylor everything she knew, so Taylor could make her decision knowing the cost beforehand. All Dinah did instead, was steer a conversation then to figure out if in her opinion Taylor would want to sacrifice herself for a greater good, but it is not OK, just like it is not OK to ask any patriotic teenager if they would be ready to sacrifice their lives for their country, and as soon as they say “Yes!” manipulate them into undertaking a suicide mission, without even explaining first that this would be the consequence of saying ‘yes’ at that particular moment.

            I don’t know if Dinah decided to go with notes and cryptic comments because she was afraid to face Taylor’s anger when she learned just how Dinah wanted to sacrifice her, or because she was afraid that at that point in time Taylor would simply refuse to follow the path she ultimately did, or that chances of saving humanity would otherwise be reduced if Taylor was well informed from the start. Knowing that would greatly color my final judgement of what Dinah did, but from what I’ve seen so far I must say I really don’t like her methods.

            Even if Taylor ultimately agreed to sacrifice herself (more than once!), it looks like she was brought to that point by Dinah’s deliberate manipulation, and this simply is no way Dinah should have treated anyone who did her no harm, especially not a person who saved her from Coil, no matter how sorry Dinah said she was for doing so.

          7. In other words – what Dinah did to Taylor “left a bad taste in my mouth”, even if she saw no better way to save humanity, and I’m not even certain if it really was the best way, and not the easiest way to Dinah – maybe she could explain everything she knew to Taylor, and just chose not to, because it saved her having to look Taylor in the eye and tell her just how horrible fate she had for her in mind.

          8. And this is also what makes Dinah so similar to Cauldron – they also never explained to anyone who both powers from them, or who joined the Alexandria-led Protectorate, that all of this is done to prepare an army to fight Scion.

            It is also why I admire Victoria for trying to share as much information with the public, as she thinks she safety can, even if it could have negative repercussions for her and her team. Compare it with Cauldron, which shared as little information as they could, because it was easier for them to keep everyone in the dark. To me Dinah looks like a person who decided to do it the Cauldron’s, not Victoria’s, way.

          9. I’m not suggesting of course that Cauldron should have told everyone in the world everything they knew. Most people certainly were not ready to hear all of it. My problem with them is that they kept secrets because they could, not because they had to, while the right thing to do would be to tell as many people as they could as much as they could. It would be harder, but it would also be more fair to everyone. And I have a feeling that Dinah did a very similar thing as them.

          10. @Alfaryn: right, I remember this discussion. It was fun, but then some matters on Earth Aleph called for my attention 🙂 Good that you posted a link to it, so we can take what was posted there in consideration too.

            Actually, there was an important point from me which didn’t get refuted: that Dinah just could not write her notes with the purpose of subtly manipulating Taylor all the way through the years, because her power, unlike Contessa’s, is unsuitable for such applications. So whether she knew Taylor’s fate or not, her power could not tell her the words which could “push” Taylor into it anyway. The most she could do was to write a message like regular humans do, and then check with her power whether sending it will reduce the chances of saving humanity.
            But anyway, if she did see Taylor’s fate in detail, she could tell everything to her. If I got you right, that’s the only problem you have with Dinah. Agreed, if she had indeed seen everything and not told Taylor, that would place her – not quite all the way to Cauldron, I think, probably next to Tattletale (if we remember Lisa guessing that Taylor joined Undersiders to betray them, and subtly steering the situation afterwards). The question is – did she actually see all the details. It’s quite plausible, given mechanics of her power and powers in general, that she did not. First, we’ve seen that looking on a future in details is very hard and produces only a few rough details, and second, powers (especially thinker powers) tend to interfere with one another, and there was literally every power involved. So Dinah might very well tell the whole truth when she said that she doesn’t know the particulars, and there was no evidence otherwise to doubt that. There is even a weak evidence which might mean that Dinah couldn’t conceal her knowledge because of power mechanics: we know that she can’t lie about the numbers. The same mechanics might be applied to other answers she can provide with her power, i.e. she can’t lie or dodge the question if her power provided an answer for her. It might not be so, but it’s another possible point too.

            And regarding your points in the previous discussion:

            > if Taylor didn’t know she was so important, and that she will need to be harmed somehow, she probably would decide she can’t do anything substantial, and could decide to run, stay on the sidelines, or just die in combat as a regular grunt, instead of trying to do something big, painful and likely drastic

            I disagree. Through the whole Taylor’s cape life, her mode of operating was to do her best, then think about how the resources in her disposal could set a new best, then escalate. Likely doing something big, painful and likely drastic in the process. So if she knows about her importance, it may serve to motivate her *even more* in this direction, but the situation itself is of ultimate importance and is calling for drastic measures; so it makes perfect sense that Taylor, especially with her mindset, looks for such measures (and after her conversation with Doctor Mother, she has quite a good idea of what these measures might be). She wouldn’t be content with staying at the sidelines or dying as a regular grunt, much less with running. If presented with a choice – to simply die or to try some hackery which might give some kind of edge but will most likely fail and you die anyway – why not to try?

            > Cutting ties could describe cutting nerves needed to control her power, or in a more abstract sense – cutting figurative ties binding her power.

            It might, with a bit of stretch, but we didn’t see Taylor interpreting it that way. And considering that this question is so important and we were Taylor’s POV, it means she didn’t think of it.

          11. And on the topic of Cauldron: actually, my problem with them is experimentation without consent and erasing memory of resulting case-53s. If they went with their business in the same way as they conducted their first experiments, I think it would place them in Neutral Good alignment rather than True Neutral:)

          12. You know what? Now that I think about it Dinah could have a selfish, but understandable reason not to clearly explain anything to Taylor, but leave the notes instead. Remember that shortly before Taylor drove her home, Dinah told there was only about fifty-fifty chance that she will actually end up there. Maybe she was afraid that if she agitated Taylor somehow, for example by actually telling her the full meaning of what she saw instead of leaving the notes Taylor would find after Dinah got home, Taylor would change her mind about letting Dinah see her parents again?

            As for Taylor deciding not to face Scion, I think that without the notes it would be really likely. Remember that during the battles with him Taylor thought multiple times, that her power was simply ill-suited for the task, and that maybe she should seek refuge far away from population centers in hopes of Scion failing to find her. I think that Dinah’s suggestions that Taylor was somehow key to defeating Scion (both spoken, and implied by the notes), could be what caused Taylor to stay and fight. They could also be what let Taylor prepare for that fight for all those years as a Ward. Remember that she had a vast knowledge of both capes and powers at that point thanks to all those studies she did almost full time then. Without those she probably wouldn’t try to do such things as go to Cauldron and seek for answers there, and she wouldn’t know to try to “upgrade” her power by having her brain messed with. She would also have no support of people like Chicago Wards or Dragon, and trust of key heroes in the Protectorate, all of which proved essential at various points during those final days.

          13. Nice reminder – I didn’t remember it. Had to go back and re-read this scene. There was actually an explanation what could make the chances not 100%, and it was tied to Taylor indeed (if she would think that it would be better to keep Dinah to use her power for the greater good). But the chances certainly encompassed all other situations which could prevent Dinah’s return, from Noelle’s rampage to Jack jumping from around the corner, bricks falling, Martians arriving…

            > Remember that during the battles with him Taylor thought multiple times, that her power was simply ill-suited for the task, and that maybe she should seek refuge far away from population centers in hopes of Scion failing to find her.

            Right, but I doubt there is someone who wouldn’t have such thoughts given the situation (not depending on powers even – all the powers were seemingly useless against Scion). Not everyone would have acted on these thoughts, and I think Taylor wouldn’t, no matter what. But you’re definitely right that her years being a Ward greatly contributed to her knowledge and preparation, and the decision to become a Ward was undoubtedly influenced by Dinah:)

    1. “There is every reason to believe LL and Cradle are working on better information that Breakthrough… and for all the hatred getting passed their way… we may well end up finding out that everything that is happening here is justified…
      or just hideous. That can happen to.”

      And it could be incredibly offputting to find out it’s justified. There’s psychology involved in storytelling and how people react to it, and when you’ve got the kind of frustration when every effort by the protags is hardscrabble, and you get phyrric victories at best… You just don’t feel it when they win, or when you do “Oh but the guys who were doing the horrible things were doing it for a good reason” gets dropped. It’s a problem I’ve felt before in Wildbow’s works, and while I still like them, it’s still rubbing me the wrong way. It’s not just that the antagonists are doing awful shit, it’s that they are being way to successful at it, the heroes are feeling impotent, and you eventually wonder if there’s going to be any satisfaction in the story.

      A wrestling discussion I saw once pointed out that if a Heel wins 20 times against a face, including straight, clean wins, and then the face wins cause the heel slipped, you don’t buy it, you don’t feel it, and you don’t care afterwards. Like with March’s power timing is everything, but you can’t go too long with the buildup or you’ve missed your mark.

      And it really feels like all that’s happened in this arc is the protagonists have gotten diminished and LL and Cradle and March have gotten what they’ve wanted. After all the hardscrabble victories for Breakthrough before, it just doesn’t feel like they’ll be allowed to win in the long run, or if they do it won’t actually be because they should have.

      It’s probably going to play okay in the long run, but right now it’s just incredibly irritating.

      1. More importantly, Wildbow already used the “but the bad guys were justified” trick with Cauldron. And they were somewhat likeable.

        What Cradle is doing is the cape equivalent of a rolling war crime, and for whatever reason LL considers it acceptable enough to aid him and March.

        The Heartbreakthroughsiders REALLY need an actual solid win sometime this century, because pulling out Diabolus Ex Machina over and over again to make them lose is starting to wear itself out real bad.

        1. Oh wow, checking other forums, I was starting to wonder if I was the only one feeling like this.

          I think one thing that really bothers me is the amount of inconsequential fights in this arc. The initial fight with LoL took a huge chunk of the arc, but ended up not mattering that much for the rest of the arch. Same for nailbitter and kitchensink this chapter. Maybe if some of the lower rung villains were taken out for good (arrested/turned), this wouldn’t feel such a slog.

      2. It’s worth noting that Victoria and Sveta already shot down the “but what if the villain had a good reason for mutilating people” thing when Kenzie brought it up about Lab Rat. I don’t see them turning around on that.

        In any case, yeah, this is just… exhausting.

      3. The crappiness of Breakthrough’s situation didn’t affect me as badly now as it did during the Goddess chapters, but I totally see what you mean. I think the reason I don’t feel as bad was because the team was given some breathing room (rest, information, character growth) in the leadup to this mess.

        Worm, on the other hand, never struck me as so bleak. I think that’s because there were clearly defined high-stakes battles, where our heroes always had support, so even if they got screwed over (Tats with both Behe and Levi, Regent with Behe), there was always room for the situation to resolve itself in an unambiguously good way for society at large.

        In Ward, our heroes occasionally get support from a few other characters, big guns or reassuringly powerful figures are conspicuously absent, and there’s no sense that our heroes’ sacrifices are worth anything. There is no clear sense in which there’s a big plot unfurling (vague hints about broken triggers and Valkyire’s fears being too vague), and all we get is a series of villain-of-the-week situations and random evil plots between which our heroes bounce aimlessly. This can also change in one or two chapters that set the story straight, fingers crossed we actually get them!

        I wonder if the lack of hints towards a clearer big picture is correlated with Wildbow’s rather hectic update schedule in recent months…

      4. It’s also hot on the heels of the unsatisfying Goddess arc where we spent several chapters with a hopelessly brainwashed Breakthrough only for Chris and another Tinker to save the day in moments right before Chris leaves to go be Lab Rat again, slamming the door on his development (at least for now). So no catharsis there either. At least Taylor won fights in between the crumbling of her personal life.

        1. Betcha we’re gonna be on Chris’ turf soon.
          That’s not a line of inquiry that wb is gonna let just drop for a while.
          He’s not in prison.

    2. or the punchline is that LL is just a hypocrite using her dead kid as an excuse/justification for anything she does, and has finally slipped enough that she doesnt really care about “other” children anymore,whilst the Other’s are just murderous lunatics.
      why over-complicate our guesswork when we have so little information-harlons Razor

      1. Yeah, I noticed that as well. What was exactly the point of her playing that record? “My child is dead, booooo! How could you not accept what I’m proposing when my child is dead?!” And, surprisingly enough, Breakthrough immediately ceases questioning and accepts. Probably because they are nice people who will accept any proposal of a person whose child is dead. How could they not?

        1. I don’t understand what you’re talking about. Victoria didn’t stop questioning Love Lost because of any sort of sympathy about LL’s daughter. She stopped because Love Lost played the “listen to the suffering of my hostages” card.

          1. Makes sense. I thought for some reason that it was a record of her daughter dying in the mall fire (probably because of Rain’s reaction and only one girl’s voice being there).

  3. 🙁
    At least the team is reunited…to an extent.
    They took parts of Lookout? That’s low, man. There’s gonna be a reckoning for these assholes.

    1. And parts of Darlene, and Chicken Little too, I think. He can’t hear… Because his ears are elsewhere, possibly with part of his head? His mask is holding his face together.

      They’ve declared war on the Heartbroken, now. Or, at least, it won’t be long until the Heartbroken declare war on them. And probably joined by a long-fingered villainess with great style, a very lethal power and the willingness to use it in a way her sister won’t.

  4. Right now, I don’t care if they’re justified (the only justification I can see is they hate for Rain and need to get revenge. But its small compared with what they’re doing) or not. Cradle and Love Lost should be ripped off in little pieces small enough to feed all Bitch’s dogs. While being keep alive and feeling pain all this time. S9 seemed to be a little more sympathetic people compared with these ones. At least they didn’t cut KIDS in pieces.

    1. S9 massacred a hospital full of babies.

      The problem is we just don’t like these villains. They lack the kind of Charisma to make them really doubt they could be that bad, or to enjoy seeing them. It’s just… “Oh really, these assholes. Oh hey the assholes pulled a fast one on our idiot heroes again. You’d think the heroes would learn.” That’s what it feels like. There’s the good kinda cliffhanger and setback for the protags the “Oh shit, oh shit, what’s going to happen next?” ones. And then there’s the kind that leave you thinking “They way things have been going, do I really want to try and continue giving a fuck?”

      1. Ok, i forgot about the scene when Hookwolf killed a bunch of babies, while under S9 influence. Well, its time for heroes to take out their kid gloves and stop treating like fuckers like human beings because its getting irritating. Or, if they’re unable to kill people despite everything, better call Advanced Guard to do this job for them, because they’re not pushovers unlike Vic and comp.

      2. LL has decent charisma. Most of the other people on her side just seem kinda … meh.
        But I’ve always liked the dark and dangerous, SMART characters.
        She’s a much darker Batman, now with emotional powers.
        It’s fun, because a lot of her shtick isn’t her power at all.

  5. Hopefully this’ll be the push Victoria needs to start killing these assholes. Seriously, if they’d been pulling this shit before Gold Morning they probably would have been Kill Ordered by now.

  6. 1. > Both fists and my unscratched foot struck hard ground and cracked it.

    Looks like there is more than one way to do a three-point superhero landing.

    2. I admit I don’t remember exactly how much of Hookline’s body his costume covers, and it seems important here:

    The silver blade grazed him. Foil kicked him backward, sending him crashing down to the road. The silver lines that marked bicep, deltoid, and pectoral split, and blood gushed out.

    Costume and flesh cut.

    I’d had the same lines drawn on me just an hour ago, when fighting Lord of Loss, before the meeting with Rachel, before the travel.

    Does it mean that if Rain’s blades hit clothes, they can cut flesh underneath? If this is the case, then Victoria was indeed risking losing her leg in her last fight with LoL. Or were some of those places not covered by the costume?

    Victoria seems to think that she was indeed in danger of losing a leg at then.

    3. Looks like have an answer to one of my questions from the last chapter. Candy called Yips “barely a dog” because it is a chihuahua. I must say that as far as my experiences with chihuahuas go, Yips’s temperament fits. We also have a golden retriever – most likely the soft-mouthed one, and Bastard (distinguished by being less misshapen than any dogs in his monstrous form).

    4. Ok, I think that Victoria seeing a parallel between her situation with her sister, and Rain’s situation with his clustermates is a new development. I’m not saying that it is entirely surprising considering what Rain did to Snag, but if she is thinking “I can sympathize if you want her dead.“, then I’m quite concerned. It sounds both bad as far as prospects of Victoria-Amy relationship go, and probably not quite fair to Rain. At least I hope it is not fair to him.

    1. Might be Rain’s day so he’s got an extra token and, therefore, extra penetration for the blades. Not sure if that’s how his boost works, but then, we’ve never had a full explanation for how his boost works.

    2. About 4, vick was waaaay more violent here than ever, i think that violence is some emotional manipulation, i dont think she wants to kill amy, she would be willimg to, but not want it

  7. Anddddd… I just realized.
    If Colt really has joined the Clusterfire, Rain will probably get a chance to chat with her this evening.

    That could be interesting.

    1. Maybe… I’m becoming increasingly worried about what’s happening in the cluster’s dreamspace, since Rain has been very quiet about what’s happening there lately. Maybe things have drastically changed there since Snag “died”? (I’m not even completely sure if he is dead at this point.) Maybe even something that cut off Rain from seeing or hearing the others?

      Whatever happened there Rain seems to be very reluctant to discuss it with anyone. Is he afraid, or is there another reason? Maybe he has even been turned against his team somehow?

  8. This is peak gruesome in Ward so far, to my memory. Which I guess means it’s going to get worse. I’m dreading it.

  9. Bleh.

    I’m at the point where I’m not sure if it’s worth it to keep reading anymore. You can only stretch an emotional investment so far when you aren’t getting a return on that investment. The whole thing just spreads thinner and thinner, and you realize the meager amount of butter you started with was not sufficient for the sheer size of the loaf on your table.

    I get that !shenanigans! are afoot, and LL/Cradle are going to seem almost sensible after all of this. And I’m not sure I want them to, because they keep pulling bullshit that just seems so very unnecessary. And then there’s LL talking about her plans for the future, which in no way justifies hers and Cradle’s actions, and if anything raises so many red flags.

    I’m spent, WB. Feels like I’ve exhausted my fuck supply. Is it bad that it feels like this story would be more upbeat from a villain’s PoV?

      1. I undertand what amane is saying, its not about being too much to handle, its about…. Meh.
        Like, after some time with shit happening, bad things stop being relevant. You get used to the bad and it doesnt trigger an emotion anymore. When the navigator were sliced, that was an huuuge emotional wave, great and all, sick, but great. Now? People get sliced and im like “ok, and what?”
        Im personally not at that point that i think amane is talking about, but i can undertand it

    1. “I get that !shenanigans! are afoot, and LL/Cradle are going to seem almost sensible after all of this.”
      My take? Cradle is a monster and Love Lost has been /thoroughly/ lied to.

      And seriously Rain and Victoria need to just start taking villains apart, silver blade and Wretch style.

    2. That Victoria is still trying to not kill when these people are pulling a WB top ten body horror repeatedly makes no sense.

      Also, that these people are dropping concrete and throwing razorblades at eachother and non lethal intent

      1. maybe she wants the people BACK? and killing the causer is a good ticket to Liquid Television.

        “Do you know, who I am, They call me judgement boy!”

        1. Not in this particular fight… Post hostages.

          I’m talking when all three teams were intact and they were fighting Nursery.

          Her power is literally forced impregnation via every orifice (i.e. rape) and she’s used it hundreds of times.

          That’s a kill order. That’s a “Foil bolt through the skull on sight.”

          Also, Victoria s constant worries about lethal force when all of combatants are throwing concrete, hurling explosives, and using guns make no sense.

          That the body counts aren’t higher seems to be wildbow just slapping an unrealistic Pg 13 rating on himself.

          In this chapter, love lost was stabbing one of the dogs with 15 foot razorblades and trying to hit Victoria with them. This is not “non lethal intent”. Yet wildbow is writing these scene after scene where people are slashing, shooting, gassing, throwing deadly weapons/powers around apparently without the intention of hitting anyone because, if their powers ever landed, people would be dead. It’s also nice that when they miss while throwing concrete or grenades around, they never land wrong and kill some folks.

          It destroys suspension of disbelief when we have fight after fight of deadly, well written combat in a world where the cops and robbers rules are gone… And we get as much permanent damage on our main characters and antagonists as you see on an episode of G.I. Joe’s.

          (Yes people got cut up in this arc… But for plot reasons. None of the henchmen’s guns hurt anyone but those the plot required, and everyone treated Colt literally trying to murder all of them with blades as youthful hijinks. Foil shot to anchor and wound. )

          It’s frustrating and destroys my suspension of disbelief.

    3. Different things push people. The Valefor thing was too much for me, but it was short. The goddess thing was tough but manageable because the influence was so subtle in feeling despite being huge in practice. This is rough, and the string of diabolus ex machina for the Ashley imp scene means the writing isn’t as tight as usual in some of the prior chapters, but this sequence also has some great chapters.

      The lol fight was one of the best cape fights yet written. And the fight in this chapter was absolutely top drawer. Again one of the best. Really good stuff.

      I suppose the off screen ripping apart of the supporting cast was bad, but it was off screen. It’s not like wildbow made us watch it. You obviously have your own limits. But I feel like this arc is pretty reasonable and that we get some great payoff scenes.

      1. This is the second time someone thought I was somehow bothered or offended by the contents of the chapter. That’s definitely not what I wrote at all.

    4. While I’ll also admit that the last couple of arcs felt like overdoing the same kind of horror and tension a little bit too much, I don’t think the story is in as bad spot as you feel it is. Wildbow set up a lot in those arcs, and I fully expect to see the payout soon – no later than by the end of the next arc, possibly at the end of the current one. Whatever happens then, I expect it to shatter status quo in a much more fundamental way than anything we saw in Ward to date. In a few weeks we may fondly remember what now appears to be an overly long wait as last days of the old world.

      And it is not like Wildbow didn’t do such long setups in the past. Just think how much of post-timeskip (heck, even post-Taylor’s-surrender) was just a setup for Khepri and that last arc, or how much of the early acts of Worm was just a setup for Taylor’s decision to not try to become a publicly recognized hero, and save Dinah and Brockton Bay from Coil instead.

      1. Or think just how much of long and then confusing interactions between the members of therapy group early on (Glow-Worm, group therapy session, the game of capture the flag, dialogues in their HQ) was just a setup for characters which later payed out with great personal stories? Same with Victoria’s early internal monologues, her dialogues with Yamada and Darnall, her early attempts to find work – explanations about how broken Victoria was then, and setups for her story of her personal recovery.

        They also felt long then, but have payed off quite nicely later. Wildbow likes long setups, but he has proven that he can deliver payouts fully worth the wait, and I expect no different this time.

        1. There was in my opinion only one time in Parahumans stories when the setup was not quite worth the wait – the setup for Kepri’s arc. My problems with that arc were that it was both a little too predictable, too much was set up in advance, so what happened then was too predictable (upgrade to Taylor’s power, releasing of all Birdcage prisoners etc.). Not to mention that while Khepri’s concept was great, the final battle wasn’t all that interesting – did we really need to go through all of those chapters to see Khepri’s army recruited, and did we have to spend all that time with her going through the entire list of power classes so she could find a combination that worked in the end? It was doubly painful to read because at that point we were already through a couple of arcs with large groups of heroes trying to take Scion on, and because in the end most capes, and their power have become an army of anonymous, generalized power classes, with no individuality – a polar opposite of what usually made character interactions (including cape battles) interesting in the first place. Sure, it did stress the size of the final battle, and Taylor’s progressing detachment from her humanity then, but I feel like it could have been done better. Leviathan and Behemoth battles certainly were.

          And if I’m arguing that Worm’s FINALE with all its Khepri goodness was relatively bad, then I think you can see that in my opinion pretty much everything else in the Parahumans series was really, really good.

          Also, I hope that in the future Wildbow will stay away from battles as big as the one in the last arc of Worm, or will put more effort into making them more interesting. His strength as far as describing fights is concerned seems to lie in smaller scale conflicts, where we can more or less keep track of everyone involved individually.

          1. By the way I know that Wildbow said that for the final version of Worm he wants to add something to fill the gap left by the time skip, and that he wanted to focus on Chicago Wards and their relations with Taylor. I think that an interesting way to do it would be to write an arc or two similar to the Traveller’s arc in Worm or Eclipse arc in Ward – to write it not from Taylor’s perspective, but from point of view of one or more other members of Chicago Wards. At that point we already knew very well who Taylor was, and where she was going, but at the same time we knew too little about the other members of that team (except perhaps Golem)

            Having an arc or two focused on some of those people, exploring their stories, their problems would both do a lot to make them feel more like real people, and serve as a break from “Everything I do must serve the singular goal of saving the world” mindset Taylor seemed to be stuck during those late arcs of the story.

          2. > I think that an interesting way to do it would be to write an arc or two similar to the Traveller’s arc in Worm or Eclipse arc in Ward – to write it not from Taylor’s perspective, but from point of view of one or more other members of Chicago Wards.

            That is an excellent idea.

          3. @Pizzasgood

            I can see a few possible cons of this idea. It could be a difficult balancing act, because:

            1. It couldn’t focus on Taylor too much because it would feel like a straight up continuation of Taylor’s story, just seen from a different perspective instead of a story about the other Wards – people who, unlike Taylor had lives not limited to Wards HQ, cape activity outside of it, and constant preparations for the end of the world. Taylor was forced to be a Ward pretty much 24/7 at the time, the other Chicago Wards were not.

            2. It couldn’t focus on Taylor too little, because it would no longer feel as something which belongs in Worm, and because there were plenty of things that probably should be explored about Taylor’s time with the Wards – her relationships with the other team members, with Dragon and Defiant, with her father, and possibly also with the Undersiders, and with her PRT overseers, particularly their reactions, or lack of those to Taylor’s continued contacts with her old team, and her obvious attempts to gain more power within the Protectorate, PRT, and even witin her team (remember that Tecton was supposed to be the team leader, but she did a lot to make him look more like a figured when it came to really important stuff).

            3. It couldn’t focus on the end of the world too much, because it was Taylor’s (and a little bit of Golem’s) primary focus at the time. The other Wards had probably a little bit different priorities, and one of the reasons I suggest an arc or two from a point of view of a different person was to give readers a little bit of a breather from a constant focus on upcoming end or the world anyway.

            4. It couldn’t abandon the topic of the end of the world entirely, both because it would realistically keep coming up in the entire cape community at that time, and because this arc or arcs would need to be rooted in the main plot of Worm somehow, and without some connection to everything that happened after the time-skip (all of it centered around S9000’s move that led to Scion’s rampage, the preparations and the actual fight with Scion himself – all pretty much “end of the world” topics), such extra arc(s) would probably feel more like a separate side story than something that belongs in Worm.

            5. It couldn’t be too short, because there are a lot of topics I’ve mentioned above that would need to be covered, and on top of it there would need to be some story centered around the PoV character which would link the chapters into an arc, and said something about the PoV character which would justify having an arc or two about them, and actually let as form a strong connection to at least one other member of the Weaver’s team (which is by the way why I suggested an arc or two instead of a series of interludes, each focused on a different team member). Not to mention that it would need to fill a year-and-a-half-long gap in a story that kept describing everything that happened on day-by-day basis, often devoting entire arcs to single days or so. In fact this level of detail in description of Taylor’s life before her surrender to the PRT is one of the things that make the time-skip so jarring.

            6. It couldn’t be too long, because there is already non-Taylor-PoV chapter in Worm, and adding much more than that would make the overall story feel like it’s less about her than it probably should be. Even two arcs would probably feel like a bit of a stretch.

            That’s a lot of things to balance. I’m not entirely sure if Wildbow wants to wrestle with that, especially if the end result would appear only in an e-book that a limited number of people would end up buying, instead of something that all community members would have access to. On top of it if such arc would be published only as a part of the e-book it could be an argument to convince a publisher to work with Wildbow, and it could generate plenty of sales, but at the same time it could alienate a lot of the community. Plenty of people would probably compare Worm to a bad free to play game, which has some “premium” content (the arc(s) in question) hidden behind a paywall, and a lot of people are allergic such publishing policies.

            It is ultimately up to Wildbow how much he wants to incentivize people to buy his book, but in my opinion adding any new content to the e-book (not just entire arc, even just a few scenes), could lose him a lot of fans if the same content would not end up on the website. Minor edits of existing content, especially fixing the typos, shifting some scenes around, maybe polishing some dialogues and descriptions or changing points where individual chapters begin or end is probably relatively safe, but adding an actual new content hidden behind paywalls could probably lose Wildbow a lot of fans, and possibly also money over long term, because any extra revenues from increased sales of the e-book could be more than offset by losing part of donations on Patreon if too many donators were disappointed with such move.

          4. Finally, maybe publishing a Worm e-book at all is not such a good idea at all. If there are any differences at all between the text on website and the e-book, it would split the community between two “canon” versions of the story, and it would be painful to see considering that this community loves to analyze every word in the series, and build theories based on slightest hints and nuances of exact wording. If there were no differences between texts on the website and in the e-book (in other words if all Woldbow’s edits made for the e-book would also end up on the website) then it would be very difficult to find a publisher, and probably very few people would buy the book.

            I know it may sound playing super-safe, or super-conservative, but if Wildbow’s incomes from the Patreon and similar voluntary donations are satisfying, then maybe it would just be better if he keeps doing what he is doing – writing new characters of his stories instead of devoting his time to publishing e-books or making extensive edits to the stories he already wrote and published on websites? Maybe as much as I would like to see something done with the time skip in Worm it would be better to just keep on writing continuation of the Parahumans series or even entirely new stories at least as long as Wildbow has good ideas for them? If he was to return to his old works and edit them, then maybe it is just better to wait with it for the time when the author and/or the community feels that his muse has finally decided to take a break, and he can’t write new content as good as he and/or we feel he could if he decided to wait for the inspiration to come back?

          5. Also, before you start telling me that Wildbow should do everything to publish Worm as an e-book, and make god knows how much money, because a story this good would have to be a huge commercial success, I’ll say that as great as Worm is, in my opinion it probably wouldn’t sell all that well.

            Parahumans series has a very vocal community, but for an average reader a story like Worm probably requires way too much patience, concentation and time. Too many people just don’t want to invest so much effort into reading a book no matter how good everyone says it is.

            Worm could succeed if it had some gigantic marketing machine behind it, something like a popular movie or TV series adaptation, but even if someone took a risk and produced those, I don’t think they would be that good. Wildbow’s style is in my opinion too dependent on first person narration to work well as anything else than a book. And remember – for every Game of Thrones there are plenty of books just as good or even better that got TV or movie adaptation that never took off, or never got such adaptation in the first place.

  10. Scared for underheartbreakthrough, but I’m still really enjoying Ward. Pact mentally exhausted me, but I have more faith that things will turn out not terrible in the wormverse. And the fight scenes in this arc have been top notch.

    1. She may come around yet, or at least she may decide to leave Love Lost at some point. It is not like she is chained to her current team, and I think that Victoria may have planted a seed of doubt in her. The important thing to note is that we may not fully understand yet why Colt is insisting to stick with those people so much. It is probably more more than just her not seeing a good way out.

  11. There is one thing I don’t understand in Foil’s behavior during this chapter. If I understand it correctly, she decided to use the Sting to defeat Colt without trying something like just shooting Colt in the leg regularly first, and see if it would be enough. Why would Foil do it if she had to injure herself to use her power on a bullet?

      1. Yes, but why not check first if you can defeat Coil without pinning her to the ground? Was she so affraid that after being shot once Colt would not give her a chance to shoot again? Or maybe Foil had a reason to believe that Colt would for some reason decide to never land after being shot once to avoid being nailed to the ground? What would this reason be? It is not like Colt displayed any understanding that Foil could do it. The fact that Coil decided to land next to Foil suggested the exact opposite.

          1. Sure, which is why I suggested that she could begin by shooting Colt in the leg, just without using her power.

  12. Colt was in a breaker-state which didn’t exist enough to exert much pressure on Victoria. The bullet probably wouldn’t work if she didn’t use her power.

      1. Because she’d rather not take the chance of wasting a bullet shooting something that can’t be shot when she can, just as easily, shoot a bullet that can’t be defended against. Not least because the first, failed shot would have, at best, warned Colt, and at worst spooked her into using her emotion-overload aura and hampered Foil and possibly others for a while.

        1. Maybe, but I wouldn’t call shooting yourself in the hand “just as easy” as taking a shot that does not injure you. Maybe it all boiled down to Foil’s assessment if she could take a second shot before Colt managed to successfully counterattack.

          1. Given Foil has super-timing? I’d say she probably figured the thing out and decided shooting her hand (and note she hasn’t actually seriously injured herself- her hand was curled in front of the barrel so the speeding bullet grazed, without passing through, her hand) and guaranteeing an effect on the breaker was better than not injuring herself slightly and possibly having her shot pass harmlessly through the breaker’s body.

            Remember also that the breaker Foil is most likely most familiar with is Shadow Stalker, who can’t be hurt by normal bullets.

          2. Sure, but even a minor hand injury is not only painful, it also seriously reduces Foil’s effectiveness in combat until she heals. I also don’t think Shadow Stalker is a good example to compare Colt to. After all Shadow Stalker’s power was precisely about being able to phase through most regular objects. It doesn’t mean that every other breaker can just ignore bullets, while in breaker state.

          3. Really? Because she’s holding the gun with her dominant hand, so the injury is to the hand she wouldn’t hold her sword in. And dual-wielding is not as easy as TV and games make it look.

            Shadow Stalker isn’t a good example, you’re right. But she is still an example, and the one that Foil is probably most familiar with. Depends on if there were any Breakers on the New York Ward teams, really, but we know she’s spent time with Shadow Stalker as they spoke during the wait for Leviathan and went on patrol together during Foil’s interlude in Worm.

          4. Remember that she needs both hands to use her crossbow, and she still has some bolts. And even reloading a pistol goes much fasret with two hands. Not to mention that there is more to fighting than shooting – a good hand is useful in melee even if it is empty for example. There is tactical mobility to consider too. Having an injured hand tends to cause problems with plenty of things from crawling, through climbing ladders to driving cars.

          5. One other explanation which could explain Foil’s decision could be that if I recall correctly many breakers are supposed to have their real bodies in a different dimension/universe, but in a place directly corresponding to where their breaker forms are. Going in and out of breaker state just means swapping those two “bodies” around. On top of it, I think the Sting works in part by affecting many dimensions at once.

            Between her education on powers and parahumans as a Ward, and Tattletale, Foil could probably theorize that if she hit the breaker form with a projectile charged with her power, she could at the same hit the corresponding body part of breaker’s real body. In other words she wanted and expected to injure Colt’s real toe, and achieved it not when Colt switched back, but as soon as the bullet hit. Question is – did she trust her parahuman studies classes and/or Tattletale so much, or did she successfully do the same to other breakers in the past?

          6. Does it really matter where she shot if it was successful? Or how? Realistically Colt’s still young and the heroes aren’t the villains. The foot is the best option as far as non-lethal shots go. The scene played out fine.

          7. It was a fairly clean, non-lethal takedown (pretty Foil’s standard), possibly as harmless to Colt as could be done at the time, but the way it was done may matter later if the wounded hand will become a problem to Foil.

            Colt’s wounded foot may also have potentially serious consequences in the future, though this is a different matter than what we were discussing here.

      2. It is also possible that Foil already knew that the gun wouldn’t work, either through observation of Antares’s interaction with the breaker state or through power shenanigans (no valid angle of attack).

        1. Could be, though I fail to see what exactly could clue Foil in about it. It may be something we may want to pay attention to in the future.

  13. The more Love Lost and Cradle gives answers, the more that it’s becoming clearer that Love Lost and Cradle are not okay with this. March may very well be a huge bitch and blackmailing them in some way or form. There’s something definitely going on behind the scenes and I don’t think any of the remaining Mall Clusters like it.

      1. Yes there’s just something about Cradle, where he’s the nice quite neighbor, keeps to himself, and wow that’s an awful lot of pickled heads in jars in his basement. Who knew?

    1. Love Lost might disagree with all of this (but she still continues to go with) but Cradle is clearly a S9 level psycho and I can see him enjoying mutilating children. I don’t think that March manipulates them somehow. All of them seem to want to achieve the same objective, whatever it is.

      1. I think it’s more Cradle is Slaughterhouse against Rain and trying to absorb what he lost to Rain, personality wise.

        Cradle’s whole thing is that Rain stole Cradle from Cradle. I think that means that Cradle is doing whatever’s possible to take that back from Rain by whatever means necessary. He needs to test out his weapon, so he tricks that Navagators and does unspeakable things to them. Alright, it works. Study up on Disjoint for the last kinks. Now, he knows that Rain fears that they team up with March, so now Cradle wants to team up with March. Except it backfires majorly. Now Cradle is forced to use his weapon against Tattletale. He even says so. “No. I have to.” All those crimes against humanity he probably attributes to Rain’s personality bleed. That’s probably how he’s managing to keep on doing everything else. “Normally I wouldn’t do this, but that fucker bleeded his personality into me.” It’s a really shit excuse, but I don’t think he’s naturally like that.

        Love Lost, on the other hand, really is attempting to get revenge on Rain for completely justifiable reasons. Maybe she even feels like the law has failed her get revenge on Rain for the murder of her daughter. So she turns to crime. Nailbiter, Disjoint, Kitchen Sink, Sidepiece and Hookline join up and she gives them a golden rule. Do not harm children. Hookline and Kitchen Sink break that rule and now they are on probation. Love Lost teams up with March and March pulls some heinous shit on her that forces her to break her morals. She tries to give Colt her out, but when Colt refuses, they try to prevent a trigger by giving her uppers. That doesn’t work out and now Colt is trapped. The fact that Love Lost and Cradle were okay on letting Rain goes shows that those two are not the ones in charge right now. March is.

        1. Re: Cradle- I half agree, except I’m also not convinced. I think Cradle’s acting like Cradle, and blaming his actions on personality bleed- except the bleed isn’t that severe, and what he’s doing is something he would have done anyway, with an excuse. Personality bleed is that excuse, he’s justified it to himself ‘it’s personality bleed that’s giving me these ideas and the motivation to do it’, but actually the ideas and the motivation is all his, and all he needed was some way to justify it to himself to make him feel like a better person.

  14. What exactly is the state of Tristan and Byron?

    Byron is apparently not hurt, or that’s how I interpret the fact that he only appeared once Vicky said that the other are gone. Tristan was described as bisected, but were both parts still there? In Darlenes Interlude, it took him a little longer then usual to switch out, so I guess the bad guys just left both his parts there?

    Also, I’m curious how Sveta was affected. Unless Cradle managed to hit her head, she’ll only have lost a bunch of tentacle parts, so she might still be kinda ok?

    1. Sveta’s fine. Her suit’s damaged, so she’s currently a ball of uncontrolled murder tentacles. Cradle, I think, realised hurting her in the same way was a potentially fatal decision, as Sveta can’t control all her tentacles even when they are attached to her body/

  15. “they come to snuff the rooster, aww yeah, hey yeah
    Yeah here come the rooster, yeah
    You know he ain’t gonna die
    No, no, no, ya know he ain’t gonna die” – Darlene.

  16. Keep going wildbow, im enjoying this and not falling for the hyper competitive unreliable narrator’s literal speech.

    The peril feels real and appropriate, lines are being crossed and glory girl’s headstrong rush to win is starting to wear away at vicky, again.

    The parts being hostage was predicable from the first crime scene. The thin line was spelled out by LoL’s concern for Vs leg, while forcing the other two into a faceful of nursery.
    Its spelled out by Sveta killing a while back and getting just a cursory line from V and no follow up yet. Its spelled out by Vs big internal monologue on guns, then this fight physically putting a gun in Foils hands.
    Its spelled out by V now going straight to broken bones and pain for Nailbiter, Hookline and Sinker, in a way that is more straightforwardly brutal then even glory girl was.

    And that moments hesitation and offer to Colt… V aint lost herself yet. Just.

    1. I don’t know if I disagree with the overarching theme or sentiment you’re proposing but I do disagree with multiple of your examples.

      Victoria already drew a difference between conventional capes escalating fights through guns and “game shooter” capes who use guns in tandem with their powers to make them relatively safe Blaster class parahumans. Foil is clearly the latter and has been so since she first appeared in Worm.

      Glory Girl, in her early days used to callously break people’s bones, even those of people that were both unpowered /and/ not a threat to her. Yes, she replied on Amy for cleanup, but that wasn’t a sure thing even back then. She also pulverized a man’s jaw on purpose in maybe the third major battle she was in since Ward started.

      And we don’t know what happened in the downtime after Sveta’s self-defense kill.

  17. Is it even worth pointing out anymore how, while fighting Nailbiter, Victoria put herself in a Warrior Monk mindset, and the Wretch responded by being far more subdued than it usually is? Looks like one more conformation that the Wretch takes clues from Victoria’s emotions, and/or her more or less conscious thoughts.

    1. Victoria is also aware Nailbiter is resilient enough to tank a Wretchhug or two. She’s not Birdcage material for nothing.

      1. Yes, and it probably contributed to Victoria’s peace of mind, which translated to Wretch’s relatively calm behavior. Notice that the Wretch hardly lashed out this time. I think the Wretch usually is a threat to everyone and everything around Victoria in no small part because Victoria is afraid of the Wretch being a threat. This time she had no reason to be afraid, so Wretch remained calm.

  18. I still think that Victoria is not ENOUGH brutal with these bastards. Seeing how Victoria avoids doing permanent damage to them make me wish for full-powered Taylor to make a sudden apparition and do the job that Victoria is afraid of doing, because she have a strong moral compass. Taylor made her mistakes, but she was someone who always knew how to solve these “little” problems.

    1. By full powered Taylor you mean…
      Because if it’s what I’m thinking then literally no one would be fighting each other. On the whole freaking planet.

      1. Actually, without a Doormaker/Clarivoyant combo I would expect quite a lot of fighting. Specifically more than just a few capes trying to capture Taylor, and probably even more trying to outright kill her.

  19. >No debts. Maybe the opposite. That she felt she owed them?

    I think I know what this means but it also seems really confusing. I like it.

  20. I can’t help but feel like some of the readers feeling “bleeh” and stale should consider taking a break for a couple weeks. I suspect it’s a pacing issue inherent with reading a work as it’s being released; I experienced something somewhat similar reading Girl Genius daily, but when binge-reading it, the turgid pace disappears completely.

    I feel like something similar might be going on, because that was a solid fight followed by a vivid, sensational….maybe sensory is a better word, look at the aftermath of Team Red/Yellow’s predicament. We saw how their fights went from their perspective before, saw them from a slightly lofty conceptual/objective perspective that clearly laid out what was happening, saw Tattletale get cut to pieces, and now in this post we get the subjective view.

    Anyway, I guess this implies they chopped up Ashley+Lookout’s team a bit after capturing them. I’m simultaneously eagerly ancipating Breakthrough dropping the gloves and going full violence, but at the same time, despite having them chopped everyone up, it’s not like they’ll die from that. Having read Worm, it’s hard for me to see Taylor NOT using every option available to her for non lethal takedown. Bit hypocritical to find this a step too far. True, this is a big more horror than she probably would’ve preferred, but if these are tools they have…(of course, that these are the tools Love Lost and Cradle have says something about them too).

    1. I’d like to point out that even if they aren’t dead this is going to be truamatic as fuck to those who’ve been chopped up, and this is a series where PTSD can be damn serious. Even once they get the parts back, those people may never feel whole again.

      Vicky didn’t die from what Amy did to her for example.

      1. Agreed, Breakthrough’s response is going to be a compromise between what’s physically possible, and what’s actually possible.

  21. Clustercapes are getting influenced by something that makes them do weird stuff. There’s been too many involved, Rain’s, March & Foil’s, Goddess’….

    I’m getting terrible horror vibes re: hostage body parts. They’re probably not hostages at all, and the actual goal of each mission. What do you get when you gather a bunch of DNA-stamped material all in the same spot, considering what we know about clustershards ?

    Make them whole, wildbow. Whole and glorious.

    1. Frankenstein’s Cape, built from the stolen parts? I think that was the plot of a [i]Garfield’s Pet Force[/i] book. I approve.

        1. Yeah, but those were small-scale, just a couple capes each. With the dozen or so cape parts Cradle has collected, they could build something out of them all that would make Bonesaw’s work seem like the tinkering of a small child.

          1. Sure. Still… I don’t really think a Frankenstein monster could be put together from those parts, at least not one capable normally functioning (like moving around on its own for example). Remember that original owners of those body parts can still not only feel them, but also move them around.

          2. For now. Once the parts are put together into a new being, the tinker effect will obviously need to be removed from them so they can link up properly.

          3. There is a chance that it would kill or completely incapacite at least some of the original owners of those parts. if I remember correctly, when you cut a nervous connection between a heart and a brain for example, both organs (not just the heart) go into shock and stop functioning long before they run out of oxygen.

          4. Ok, maybe not that long. Without hypothermia brain without oxygen basically shuts down within seconds, and dies within minutes, but I still seem to recall that it happens even faster if it has no nervous connection to the heart.

    2. I think that while their plan with chopping people into pieces could possibly involve taking body parts for their DNA, they probably also targeted Tattletale for what she can tell them using her power. It probably isn’t an accident that they took her head and enough of her body in one piece that this piece was still able to speak. On top of it they probably took Aiden’s ears so he could relay their messages to Breakthrough and the Undersiders.

      1. A small correction of my previous statement – we don’t know if they took Aiden’s ears. We just know that they took or at least broke something he needs to communicate without Darlene’s power, and it was probably some part or parts of his head, since he needs his mask to “hold things in place”.

  22. I’m confused by the overwhelming negativity here, such as people clamoring for Victoria to mutilate the villains and being as disappointed in this arc as the Goddess arc? We’re not dealing with brainwashing and Victoria’s rule now seems to be sticking people in holes of no return rather than outright killing them. I mean, solitary confinement is a perfect punishment really, a majority of people hate being alone with only their thoughts for company.

    1. Sounded more like isekai Australia. A prison with no walls, because the entire planet (‘verse?) is one. No walls, only you and as far away from the other inmates as you can get.

      Agreed on the negativity, I think (like the goddess/prison arc) it’s both people a bit squicked and people finding it dull. I think the latter is an artifact of reading it a “little” (thanks WB) bit at a time, artificially slows things down a bit.

  23. I just realized (and this is asking a lot of her) that Darlene might be able to use her ability to get the location of the rest of them.

    If nothing else, Tattletale can probably write the team a message (and they can talk to her if Darlene networks her someone’s ears). I don’t know what March’s timetable is, but if Breakthrough can catch a break, they might be able to ambush the ambushes.

    1. Could work, but I think senses are only transmitted as something changes, so sensing where somebody’s heart is might be rather tricky. After all, I’m not entirely sure where my heart is in my body. As for ears… I thought Chicken Little needed to lipread when somebody else spoke in the network, figure out words by the shapes of their lips? He mentioned Darlene was good at it. I have to reread, I think. Get a better idea as to her power and abilities.

    2. I also think it may be possible, and actually wrote about it in one of my comments underneath Darlene’s interlude. It all depends on specifics of her power – particularly its range and the ability to tell direction if some body parts end up in different words. We know she can work through universes (because her power could reach the “absent” Vera brothers), but it probably doesn’t mean that she can point at a portal which leads to the world in which missing boy parts ended up.

  24. You know what? Between the lack of restraint on the part of villains, and Love Lost’s certainty that Breakthrough and the Undersiders will eventually ask her for protection, I wonder if Victoria will finally pull a reverse Taylor and go villain – either to utterly destroy March’s group vigilante style, or to actually work with them or a similar villain group (like Teacher’s for example) on whatever the villains think they have to do.

    1. And when I say “vigilante style villain”, I mean the kind of vigilante who crosses enough lines to end up with a kill order or in the Birdcage.

      1. And if not Victoria, then maybe someone else in Breakthrough? Maybe it is what Chris is already doing? Other member who could maybe do it is Ashley, though she (or either of them really) may be a little too obvious suspects.

          1. I know what you mean about Girl Genius.i had that feeling with the Mechanicsburg arc.

            As for WB’s own stuff, the Conquest Arc in Pact, and Twig ingeneral for me felt like that. So muchsointhe latter case, that Twig is placed fourth in my list of WB works.

  25. I think it’s most interesting that Cable left behind a device to undo the damage, albeit damaged itself, presumably to give them some time. It could be just an extremely cruel joke though if the broken device did nothing of the sort. I have to imagine there’s twists to come otherwise it renders the dismemberments quite inconsequential. A mere game mechanic to be undone. I felt none of the panic associated with the Navigators’ demise this time around.

    1. Just one more reason to believe that maybe, just maybe March and co. are not quite as malicious and heartless as they appear to be at first glance. They may be motivated more by necessity than anything else.

    2. Tristan can be put together. Pretty sure most of the others are missing something of potential vitality for continued existence. Plus it’s broken, so they’d need a tinker to fix it. They’ve got Rain, and maybe Kenzie, but… We’ve not seen what they did to her, but judging by what Byron said, she’s not mobile. Rain would have insights, since it’s tech from his cluster, but he’s not a great tinker by any stretch of the imagination- I’d even go so far as to say he’s the weakest tinker in the cluster, though I’d say he makes up for it elsewhere. We’ve not seen Cradle’s emotion power, and his mover one seemed mainly to be keeping his balance on an ungainly arm-mech.

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