Interlude – 12.z

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“You can’t put that down there.”  The words were hushed, furtive.  May’s mother snatched up the violin case that May had just set down.  In the process of straightening up, her hands fixed May’s shirt collar, then smoothed her hair down.  “Everything matters.”

May put one hand inside the other, rubbing where the weight of the case had pulled at her fingers, her expression unmoving under the attention of her mother.  A kiss at the top of her head, a smoothing of the hair, another kiss.

“We’re going to be late,” she murmured.  A strategic move.  In the moment, mentioning the time took the attention off of herself and put it toward the time.  Toward digital clocks on the walls, the number of people gathered at the subway platform.

Even in her distraction, her mother’s hands were still at her shoulders, rubbing through thin, papery-crisp fabric.  Her mother’s lips absently pressed against the top of her head again.  She was embarrassed, and in her glances to either side, she saw a group of girls about her age, talking and joking together.  They weren’t looking at her though.  They were roughhousing.

“My friend thinks you’re hot!” one of the girls shouted across the subway platform, aiming the comment at a guy that was at least two years older than any of them.  The other two girls, a blonde and a redhead, tried to shush her, one of them pinching her hard, the other trying to cover her mouth.

“Don’t be distracted.  Play the music in your head.  Go through the words, remember the inflections.  If you’re confident about the singing, work through the violin piece.  If you’re confident about the violin, think about the singing.  Visualize.”

May was distracted.  The blonde girl dragged her friend away, while the redhead pushed.  All of them had faces that were varying shades of pink, from exertion, from embarrassment, from fun.

And the one who had shouted- she was seemingly the only person on the platform who paid attention to May.  A long, lingering look, encompassing May and her mother, the aura of ‘fun’ momentarily dampened by what May imagined was a pitiable sight.

It was a moment that struck her as profound, the kind of moment she imagined would be with her forever.

And that girl, who looked like she could have been May’s sister, who could have been one of the many, many people who evacuated Japan after the attack, who might have changed her name to be more American like May had changed hers, she would probably forget this momentary meeting of eyes.  May’s heart swelled with a childish sort of longing, a mad desire that- if she could only push that feeling out, couldn’t it be the kind of wish that drove fairy tales?

I want to be you.

I want the clothes off your body, so I can wrap myself in them and be them.  I want the friends who are pinching and shoving you and laughing with you. 

“Which are you focusing on?”

“The singing.”

An encouraging rub of the shoulders, reminding her of how thin the fabric was, how scratchy it was.  The pleated wool uniform skirt was worse, but it at least didn’t touch her legs when she wasn’t sitting down.

“You’re going to mess up the ironing if you keep rubbing like that.”  Another deflection, a diversion.

The hands dropped away.

“Remember to smile.  You never smile enough,” the voice in her ear said.  “You have such a pretty smile.”

May nodded.  The deflections and diversions were only that.  It was like kicking at the water at the edge of a beach, creating a momentary divot that was immediately filled in, pressing in from all sides.

I want a life that’s a balance of life and work, not weeks of waiting for a break in my schedule, so I can have a scheduled, calculated few hours of fun.  This movie, because it will help with my English and because it’s a classic.  An actual playdate for a thirteen year old, my ‘date’ chosen carefully, because their parents are the right people and they’ve never been in trouble.

“I’m so proud of you.  I know you’re going to be great.  If we aren’t late.  Are you still visualizing the singing?”

“Yeah.  I murdered the time, when I ran through it with Ms. B.”

Nervous hands fluttered at her collar, fingernails running along her neck as fingertips and thumbs pinched at the fold, pressing it tighter.  Fingers brushed imaginary dust off her shoulders.  May’s hands remained clasped in front of her.

“Where is that train?”

May’s mother ushered her one way, closer to the edge of the platform, closer to where the train would come, so she could stand at the yellow line, peer past and around, maybe hoping to see the light of the train, though there was no sound.

Just off to one side, a taller homeless woman had approached the group of friends, her tone urgent, angry.

May didn’t want to stare, and with a lack of people to look at, met the eyes of the man who was the homeless woman’s friend or boyfriend.

She could remember how, the last time she was sick with the flu, she’d longed to be well again so much that she’d promised herself she would cherish the days when she wasn’t sick.  She had done the same thing when she had a toothache.

Did the homeless man have days like that?  Was his every day like that, filled with longing to not be… that?  Was she supposed to be happy she was where she was?

Because she couldn’t.  Happiness was by accident only.  Happiness was when the tutors got the times wrong and there was a break in the schedule, and mom just so happened to be busy with something.   Or when mom had just bought the violin and cupboards and fridge were running empty, and mom messed up the timing on the preheating for the chicken kiev, so it was raw on the first bite, and there had been money only for a dollar burger and side salad.

The homeless man had a bottle in the pocket of his ankle-length jacket, and all she could think was that he was free.  Free to make all the bad decisions.  Free to dress like that, free to eat whatever, if and when he had the money.  She would rather go hungry six days out of seven if it meant eating what she wanted on the seventh.

The shouting got louder, and it got louder because it was closer.  Hand at fun-girl’s shirt, the homeless lady drove her toward the edge of the platform.  Flailing, reaching out for help, fun-girl ended up pulling at her friend, who was moving forward to help.  She groped for May’s mother, of all people.

May’s mother toppled, because she was leaning forward and totally unaware of what was happening in reality.

And in toppling, she pulled May down, because there was no reality where she would let go of May.

All of the emotions that had been brimming inside of May were left standing behind her like a cloud of dust after a cartoon character was whisked away, they had to be, because they were gone in an instant, replaced by the feeling of falling, and then the feeling of pain, as she landed, a few feet down.  A springing feeling in one hand, like a sprain or a twist.

“Are you okay?” her mother asked.

“My hands.  I think I hurt my hand.”

“Stand up.  Let’s get up before-”

Someone else fell.  The red haired friend of fun-girl.  People were pressing forward, trying to stop the attacker, trying to reach down but getting in the way.  Fun girl was on her back on the platform.  Her head stuck out and over.

“I hurt my hand, I can’t play violin.”

“It doesn’t matter,” her mother said.  “We have to get you up.  Stand up!”

May tried to stand.  She was wary of the tracks- was there a third rail?  She remembered something like that.  Was-

She saw the violin case and grabbed it.

May’s mother, face streaked with blood, lifted May up, hands at her waist.  May reached forward, where people were helping, where people were focused on helping one of the white girls, or the man that had fallen onto the track, the latter groups more obstacle than anything.

Her hand full, she passed the violin forward and over the wall of people, before her mother couldn’t hold her up anymore.

Why did I?

“Again,” her mother said, voice warbly with emotion.  She wiped at her eye, where it had blood running into it.

The next attempt started and stopped in the span of a second.  A waste of strength, when nobody was positioned to catch, lift up, and receive.

In the back, the black man who had been in the attacker’s company was pacing, hands at the sides of his head, where his hair was shaved.  May reached, and he didn’t see.  His eyes were on his friend, who was being clawed, beat, pummeled and pushed, but who wasn’t being moved.

May’s feet hit the tracks.  Her mother let go of her to wipe at the blood in her eye again, and May stepped back, almost instinctively putting distance between herself and the hands, the attention.

There was an alcove.  May retreated to it.

Everything mattersEvery detail.

It mattered that her mother had hit her head, and had blood running down one side of her eye, that her mother reached for May and found someone else, the blonde girl.  She lifted, noticed something was wrong, and by then, was locked into the course of action.  She wasn’t a bad person, wouldn’t drop the girl to look for her own daughter.

But she did look, and with one eye squinting shut, she didn’t see May.

The train could be heard.  The lights visible in the tunnel.

There was still time.  Just enough.

She reached forward, but she didn’t –couldn’t– call out.

This accident bigger than chicken kiev.  Bigger than tutors missing an appointment.  She wanted it to be a happy one and in the instant her mother turned and met her eyes with the one eye that wasn’t squinting shut, May wasn’t sure it was.

The train flew past, and May’s outstretched hand was positioned just so, that the fingertips were grazed by the rivets at the side of the train, but not struck clean off her hand.  She might have imagined it, but it seemed to her that as the train hit all the other people, it paused for just a hair.  A single tenth of a tick of the clock.

She heard the screams, and she bowed her head.  Conscious of what she’d just done through her silence.

Disaster.

She opened her eyes, but she saw only darkness, and she wondered if she had died after all.  She saw figures writ in onyx black against a black background, dressing themselves in roles.  Again and again, on the stage, curtains closing, crashing together like waves, fragments flying in every direction, then backstage, figures dressing themselves in a new set of roles for another performance, then the performance, so fleeting compared to the preparation and what followed…

She felt an elemental sort of urgency as she minded the repetition, the drum-beat flow of images so big she had to abstract them in her head.  In trying to define that elemental urgency, she reached for a comparison and found one in her mother, driving her, not demanding perfection, but needing it.

In that touchstone of reality, May found her way back to clarity and sense.  To feeling nauseous and bewildered, numb and hypersensitive to the smell and taste of blood, the smell and taste of the train’s oil and engine.  To touch, the scratchy feeling of blouse on skin, sweat coating her.

The sounds.  People still screaming.

To get away, she had to get through.  Between train cars- she had to step on a segment to get up and forward.  Up to the platform.

Reaching hands tried to pat at her and check that she was okay.  Used touch to assuage their own anxiety.

Dimly, she realized some of the blood droplets she was walking on were her mother.

Driven by the thought, she pulled away from the hands, ducking down, looked for her violin case, and found it lying on the platform.  She ran up the stairs, stopped and hugged the side as people ran down, and escaped the ones who paused long enough to notice that the scratchy blouse had dots of crimson on it, each dot bleeding into fabric and spreading out into circles.

A man screamed, and it was a different sound than the other screams.  They were reacting to something that had happened a minute ago.  The man- the homeless man with a mop of dreads at the top of his head, he was screaming because of something that was happening now.

May winced at the sound, then winced again as her thoughts were briefly scattered.  Onyx figures that weren’t figures, choosing roles in contradiction to one another.

She shook the thought away, took long seconds to find herself again.  The hands were reaching down, now, trying to get her to stay still.

May charged through the forest of hands like a linebacker, violin case held against her upper body.

Up to the street.  She hailed a taxi.  She had some money.  She was careful to hold the violin case so it covered up the blood on her shirt.  Her hands wiped at the blood on her face.

In shock, in numbness, she told herself that she couldn’t be late.  Her mother wouldn’t want her to.

“Julliard,” she said.

“You look too young to go there.”

I’m just going to show off for someone important, not to apply.

“Julliard,” she said, instead of articulating herself.  A machine, a metronome.

The taxi pulled onto the street. She was free, for better or for worse.

Delicate touches for the gear shift, one hand firmly at the wheel, March let the car coast down the length of shattered highway.  She flicked on the hazards.

“Why are we stopping?” Ixnay asked.

March leaned into the wheel, pointing.  Snow and dead plant life danced across the road, tracing curious paths where they abruptly turned at right angles.

“The hell?”

“Vista,” March said.  “Cute kid.  If she’s actively using her power, then driving into it would be bad.”

“Bad how?” Dino asked, from the back.

“It doesn’t affect us,” March said.  “Our ride would turn into a pretzel around us while we stayed the same.”

She smiled, and she looked at the others for reactions.  Only Tori matched the smile.  Tori, the Goddess cluster’s fourth.  Tori, who had a tractor beam as a power.  Tori’s was a friendly smile, not one of appreciation for the novelty of the situation.  Not that Tori was really the type to get excited about novelty, danger, or those sorts of things.  Not often.

Fine then.

March hit the accelerator, shifting gears.  She caught a glimpse of alarm on her megacluster’s faces as they sped toward the effect.

There was a paradigm shift, a sudden lurch, and she heard a yelp.  From Ixnay, the baby.

“That was only ice!” she crowed, steering into the slide.  The wheels found traction again.

“Ice is still dangerous!” Tori reminded her.

She had to swerve around sections of road that had broken as the ground had resettled.  More wind brought more flurries of grasses that hadn’t had enough sun over the past year, gone dry over time and now scattered in even drier, windy weather.  It brought dead leaves that hadn’t decomposed, dust, and meager twists of snow.

A light gray plain beneath a dark gray sky, no light from the streetlights, no illumination in houses they passed.  What wasn’t dead was slowly dying and what wasn’t slowly dying was being killed.  It was cold and yet wildfires burned elsewhere, and the smoke from those fires turned the horizon from a line of light into a line of black.  There were places near the cities where  the water had chemicals in it and in places that meant that there wasn’t any ice, or ice could coexist with water that roiled in the wind, gray in reflecting the sky and white where it frothed.

She could see how it happened.  The order of things, laid over one another.  A fallen tree branch over a patch of leaves, telling a story.  A car that had crashed, gone rusty, that rust a history and a timetable.  Paring through it all, she could get a sense of how it had played out.  A clock had ticked down without anyone the wiser and when it had hit zero, a world had ended.  These were the consequences and the casualties.

To throw paint at a surface and see it mid-motion, splashing against itself, to see the potential, that was best.  The next best thing was to see the aftermath.  A rolled vehicle, a collapsed building with plants trying to grow over it, finding root in the clean water that had pooled in recess.

“Home,” she said.

“Sad,” Tori said.  She touched March’s arm.

March shook her head.  “No.”

The car sped by a long line of bodies covered by sheets.  Rain had smashed down the sheets and the sheets had molded to the bodies, going stiff or getting stained, following the bodies on their to decay.

“…Maybe a bit,” she decided.

“I’m worrying about the pretzel thing,” Ixnay said, leaning forward a bit.  His costume was black, a red ‘x’ across his face as part of his mask.

“She’s a hero, Ix, she’s not going to lay a trap that might hurt a civilian or any friends that are coming to help her.  And she’s a teenage girl.  What teenage girl is going to sit still and keep her power in place somewhere while doing nothing with it, when she knows the people she’s up against are making plans?  She’s going to be anxious.”

“This is going over my head,” Ix said.

“Smart thing to do would be to lay a trap.  Watch from a distance.  There would be almost nothing we could do about it.  But she doesn’t think that way.  She thinks the impressive part of her power is what she does when she’s used it for a while.  Not the weird things that happen while she uses it.  She’s not going to do the smart thing and lie in wait.  She’ll get ready to drop a mountain on us or something.  That’s the teenager approach.  Reach for the big guns.”

“I don’t think that’s a teenage girl thing,” Tori said.  “You were a teenage girl not that long ago.”

“And I am impatient.  I’m reckless, and I don’t dwell on the quiet parts of my power as much as I could.  But she was younger when she started, and she still has a way to go.  If she lived another ten years, I think she’d settle into it.”

There was a length of road with a hole in it that a car could disappear into.  March swerved around it, coming close as the wheels skidded on an invisible patch of ice.  She checked the rear-view mirror to make sure the others were fine.  They were going a little slower, a little wary, and were following her path fairly closely.

“Not that little Vista is going to live that long,” March said.

There was no argument from her megacluster.  Ixnay fixed his gloves, one looser-fitting than the other.

Off the highway.  Onto the side road.  They had an incline to go up, and with the ice on the roads, it was a tricky route to take.

The signs indicated the destination.  ‘Brockton Bay’.

As they made their way down the road, the view between the mountains and hills became clear.

A city folded into itself, a landscape from half a continent away pulled close.  Another side of the city raised up.  An end result like a cardboard box turned on its side, just the one side open.  Inside, buildings ran horizontally, vertically, upside-down, even diagonally in places, where they jutted from corners.  None collided with any others, and water, parks, and hills all factored into the architecture.

March broke into laughter, seeing it.  She let their ride coast to a stop while they still had the view.

Too dangerous to go forward.  There would be traps.  Pits, divots, uneven ground.  The ground could be raised into spikes, or a wall could suddenly appear in their paths.  She hit the hazards to notify the other team, then pulled over, before putting their ride into park.

She couldn’t let go of her amusement over the sight.

“You really think the quiet stuff is what makes her strong?” Ixnay asked.

March managed to stop laughing, uttering a gleeful, “I really do!  But this is great!  I can’t wait!”

The others climbed out.  Ixnay, Dino, Enyo.  Tori lingered behind.

“Don’t die,” Tori said.

“It doesn’t matter.”

Don’t die.  We just found each other again, and you’re old enough I don’t think it’d be weird, and…”

Tori’s hand brushed the side of March’s face.  March took it in her hand and kissed it.

“Our thing is temporary.  You can’t get attached,” March said.

“You always say that.  Temporary because you plan on dying?”

March shook her head.  “Because, until I figure something out, we can’t be together long-term.  It’s unfair to pretend we can.”

“I’m worried what your solution would look like.  She got you good.  Wormed her way into your head.”

“It’s not that she got me,” March said.  “I got it.  I figured it out.”

March looked in the rear view mirror, saw Tori’s expression, deathly serious.

She twisted around, kissing Tori, to make that expression go away, because there were few things that bothered March, and one of those things was people she loved being unhappy.

“I won’t die,” March pledged, her words breathed against Tori’s cheek.  “I promise.”

Tori smiled.

“We’ll be together for a few decades, I think.  Unless we’re interrupted.”

The smile faltered a bit.  Tori shook her head.  “You’re messing with me, not making any sense.”

“I’m the most sensible rabbit I know,” March retorted.

“You say interrupted, but you mean dying.  You promise me decades but you tell me no long-term?”

“Yes on all counts.  Yes, dead is always possible, and you know that.  Yes, decades.  Yes, I can’t get your hopes up about long-term.”

“You’re fucking with me.  Lying to me by dropping ‘decades’ in there, or pulling some double-meaning on me.”

March shook her head.  She kissed Tori again.  “Talking about it makes me sad.  Let’s just enjoy the time we have together, without commitment?”

“Thinker neurosis.  Like the fire thinker having a thing about arson.  Except you somehow think decades aren’t a commitment?”

“Sure.  Let’s call it that.”

“Or is it the relationship that isn’t important enough to count?”

“You are important.  You count.”

“But not as much as Flechette.  Not as much as Homer.”

“They count in a different way.”

“I should be glad that you don’t want to drink my blood.”

“I don’t want to drink Flechette’s blood either.  But…”

But.

“But if I could?  If I can?  I’d map you to our cluster, so I could do all the Kiss and Kill things I have to do to them to you, too.  And you would be the most important person in the world to me, then.  I’m going to look for ways.”

Tori touched March’s face.  There weren’t many people she was willing to let touch her like that.  Tori knew, too.

“I’ll stick my sword through that teenager, and I want you there when her power comes undone and this city slowly folds back to the way it’s supposed to be.  It’ll be like watching a flower bloom, all around us.”

“That’s not nearly as romantic as you think it is.”

“City-flowers?”

“Sticking metal through kids,” Tori said.  When March didn’t respond, she added, “You’re so weird.”

“I’m ahead of the curve.”

“You’re weird, and I like it.”

March pulled away, settling into the driver’s seat, locking eyes with Tori through the rear-view mirror.  After the distraction, she had to hype herself up, remind herself of what she was doing, and get her mind off the subject of how impermanent this all was.  “Time against space, let’s see who wins.”

Tori rolled her eyes.

March pulled on her mask, put on her cap, with the flaps that covered her real ears, flipped up her collar, and drew her rapier from between the two seats.

Tori, getting out the other side of the car, wore blue contact lenses that colored her eye from corner to corner, an electric contrast to her brown skin.  The rest of her mask was only going on now – around the eyes, silver with blue highlights.  More blue feathers dangled from the braid that hung from her temple down.  Her costume included a long coat with cobalt blue chains around the collar where a fur collar might normally be.

March didn’t know how Tori didn’t get her hair caught in those dozens or hundreds of chains, but she liked the effect.

Tori was joined by Jace and Megan.  The other two wore blue as well, though Jace favored midnight blue, painted onto armor that had scuffed here and there, the silver showing through the paint.  His shield was a metal riot shield, painted on the front side with the paint rubbed away with fingers and the side of the hand, in a way that was clearly a handprint, but also clearly meant to be a rabbit- two fingers for each ear.  The inside had three handprints in blue against a steel background, one at the top left, one in the middle by the shields handle, and one at the bottom right.

Megan wore sky blue.  Scarfs and cloths, with a scarf around brown hair.  She too wore the contact lenses, but her look was more of a dancer.  She wasn’t a fighter, and being even this close to danger had her on edge.  Jace seemed to sense it and drew nearer.

There were the Graeae twins, Dino and Enyo.  Silver haired, wearing gray and silver, they had rabbit patches sewn onto their sleeves.

Then Ixnay, as alone as she was, though she could pretend he had a bit of company with the arm he had borrowed.

They had other help too.  Kingdom Come, injured, could still use his power, and the corner world warlords Deader and Goner had lent her Noose, Shiv, Matches, Bash, and Banger.  They’d owed her from a favor she had done them a year ago.

The other half of her forces were split into two groups.  With the phones dead, she would have to find another way of coordinating with them.

But this would do.  She was excited.

“Let’s play, Vista,” she said, smiling.  With a two-note whistle, she gave the cue for her army to fall into step.

Her hand went up, hand signal, and her power kicked in.  Two, three, fist pointed left.

Jace and Megan began to jog forward, taking the side path.  With only sound cues and awareness of where they had been before, March could visualize their locations.  She knew how fast they moved from how fast they had moved before, she knew how long it would take to get where she wanted them to go, and she knew them well enough that she knew their behaviors and they knew what she wanted of them.

One, two, hand flat in ‘paper’ sign, pointed right.

That was Kingdom Come, Tori.

Ixnay stuck by her.  He knew the signs too.

“Newbies,” she announced, without turning to address them.  “I’ll walk you through the hand signals.  If you follow them, we will win.  Keep up.”

The shortest path from the road to the city was sloped dirt, loose earth and ice.  She angled her feet to slide down the slope, with Ixnay following after.  As she reached untenable ground, she hopped up onto a rock.

Looking back, she saw the newbies from Deader and Goner’s group were lagging back.

“Keep up!” she ordered.  Her hand went up.  Paper sign, again, pointed skyward, then turned into a beckoning gesture.

Megan hit her with the power boost.  March felt her perceptions shift, her power take on new dimensions.  The dimensions it would have permanently if she got her hands on Foil.  The world slowed down as her perception of time increased.  That perception of time was linked to a perception of movement, and all of this would become child’s play.

She would crack open this particular cereal box, find her treat, and please the people who were going to try to corner Foil.  Even if they succeeded, they’d weaken her or wear her down, and March would be free to act.

She’d skin Foil and wrap herself in Foil, she would soak herself in Foil and gorge herself on Foil’s flesh.  Foil’s clothes would be decoration, as she had fancied once upon a time.  She would be in and of and greater than and less than and equal to Foil.  Then she would be in and of and to and through Foil, and vice versa.

And if Foil made it, which she would, provided March didn’t make any hilariously bad slips with the knives, which she wouldn’t, then what was left of her would come to accept it in time.  She would see that it all made sense.

She would even come to love it.

“They didn’t let me sing or play,” she said.  “But if they had, I would have killed it.”

“Shit,” was the response, a sluggish utterance, tired and not all the way there.

May shrugged.  It had been a good while now, since she had stubbornly insisted on playing, while the person she was supposed to play for tried to get her to calm down and sit still.  To explain why she had blood on her.

She had almost, almost used her power on the woman.

She abandoned the conversation, and had doubts her conversation partner would even know she was gone.  It was late, or early, depending on interpretation, and anyone here who wasn’t addled was getting other people addled.

A trio of half-naked teenagers ran through the mansion, hucking vinyl discs at one another.  May skipped forward, her power kicking in, and she caught one of the discs out of the air, her finger at the little hole.  It spun with latent momentum, and her finger traced along the underside, carving out a line of power, which became a spiral rather than a complete circle, as she moved her finger further out.

She judged, connected to the timing, and visualized the avenues it could travel.  She threw it frisbee style, lining up her own body with the ghost images.

The vinyl passed into the boughs of an apple tree, detonating just as it reached the center.  The entire tree shook, and apples began raining down.  The two people beneath shrieked and made a run for it as the hail came down.

May pumped her fists in the air.  As the apples stopped falling, people ran to go get some for themselves.

A twenty-something guy offered one to her.  She clapped, and he ran across the poolside before throwing it.  Not the most accurate throw, but she was an accurate catcher.  She ducked low, hand behind her back, and let it slap into place between index finger and thumb.  Nobody was really looking, but that hardly mattered.  She was wearing a mask and kept her hood up, either way.  Dime store mask, borrowed sweatshirt.  Notoriety or fame didn’t matter much when it wasn’t even her face.

“What are you watching?” as she approached the couch.  A twenty-ish girl was sitting there, laptop out, while three people crowded around.

“New hero,” the girl said.

May looked, watched the video play, an introduction with some poses and close-ups of costume parts.  White and blue, a tinted one-way visor.  PRT quality, PRT production.  Polished but… boring.

The girl wasn’t, admittedly.  May watched as the girl threw darts, cleaving through the top of a series of soda bottles.  While the caps were still in the air, she threw again.  The darts embedded metal caps to the wall.

May picked up a bottlecap and set it to spinning on the table.

“I don’t miss,” the girl on the screen said.  She threw again, beheading another series of glass soda bottles.  Foam sprayed and caps flipped through the air.  She ducked low, and threw the darts through the short wall of cinder blocks that had held the bottle.  They struck more caps, sticking them to the wall.

“There’s no taking cover from this.”

As the video cut to a series of rapid-fire shots, each zoomed in on a different cap, leaving an afterimage of a letter as things moved to the next shot, May stopped the cap, fingertip striking it down flat against the table, set it to spinning again, stopped it-

The letters on the screen spelled out ‘Flechette’.  An edited-in graphic stamped in ‘Ward – NY1’ below it.

“You’ll see me patrolling the streets of New York, starting February first,” Flechette said.  She picked up a new bottle with blue liquid inside, took a drink, then flipped the bottlecap back.  Without turning around, she threw a dart behind her.

It caught the cap, and embedded the cap to the lip of the camera, just in front of the lens.  A Flechette in miniature on the cap.

The scene, of course, was ruined by the squawk as the ad shifted to cramming in as much merchandising as possible in the last one point eight seven seconds.  T-shirt, poster, limited time energy drink collectors item.

Buy now, buy now, buy now!, she translated it.

The video stopped.

A few people looked up at May.

“Familiar?” the girl with the laptop asked.

“Yeah.  A bit.”

“Do you know why?”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m seventeen, in my first year studying powers,” the girl with the laptop said.  “I can tell you things.”

“What do you want in exchange?” May asked.  She was leery of being indebted to anyone.  Leery of being trapped again.

“To study you.  Talk to you.  I’ve been meaning to for a while.”

“You could just ask.”

“I did.  But you were pretty drunk, and I was geeking out,” the girl said.

The party was one of about fifteen benders that May had participated in since her mom had died.  She had a hundred thousand dollars in inheritance, and after the state had found someone who qualified as a relative, she’d ducked out, grabbing the folder that her new guardians had been left, with details on her trust.

They were leaving her access to the account, probably because they thought it would help lead them to her.  As far as they were concerned, she always just barely got away.  For her, it was trivial.

And with money and people who enjoyed spending money to keep her company, she’d settled into a group of teenagers and college students who were crashing at houses.  It started at their relatives houses, then migrated to people they knew of.  This time, those people they knew of were confined to a back bedroom.  Food was being tossed into the pool because some guys wanted to see if they could fill it up enough that they could ‘walk on water’, clothes were being modeled and despite the fact that it was five-something in the morning, people were still at it, still dismantling the house or boning or scraping the bottom of the liquor cabinet with the stuff that apparently wasn’t supposed to be drunk straight.  They’d turned it into a punishment game.

“It happens when a bunch of people get powers all at the same time.  The powers get fractured and different people get different pieces.  She triggered when you did.  Ring any bells?  Does anyone stand out?”

“Maybe.  Some people, I guess.  I don’t even know what a trigger is.”

“They say if you do something really triumphant, you get good powers.  If you don’t… you get the flawed or broken ones.  You trigger at major moments.  Best days.  Worst days.  That’s the line, anyway.  Does it hold up?”

“I got good powers, so…” May paused.  She thought about how she’d let her mom die.  Was that supposed to be a triumph?  “I guess I did something good.”

The student with the laptop smiled.  “Can-”

“Police!” a kid yelled.  “Shit, shit, shit!”

There was sudden panic.  People who were in the heaviest of make-out sessions pulled clothes back on.  Others hurried to find shoes and boots.

“They’re by the pool!”

At the back of the property.  We’re surrounded.

“Fuck!” one of the oldest people present shouted.  One of the sober people.  He was tattooed, and he’d been the one supplying the drugs.  He paused for reflection, then uttered a louder, fiercer, “Fuck!”

“You’re not scared,” the girl in the chair said.

May shook her head.  “I can get away.”

“Can you get me away too?  I’ll tell you everything I know about Flechette, your multi, what it means…”

“I don’t care about Flechette.”  I know who she might be.  I still don’t care.

“What do you want, then?  Get me out, keep me out of trouble, and I’ll help you with whatever.”

“Out?” the guy with tattoos asked.  “You can get us out?”

“She has powers,” someone remarked.

“I can get everyone out,” March said.  She smiled.  “If you follow my instructions exactly.”

She could see the excitement of the girl in the chair.

“Raise your hand if you can count to thirty… okay.  Which of you are confident you could count to one hundred?”

There was a heavy series of bangs on the front door.

“Police!  Open up!”

May counted eight hands.

“The moment I snap my fingers, get started.  Count carefully.  We can’t run until we stop enough of them.  You- upstairs.  There’s a fire extinguisher on the wall.  Count to a hundred starting at the finger-snap, make sure you have it by seventy.  You’ll want to stick your head and arms out onto the roof on that side of the house at one hundred and start spraying right then.”

That got her a nod.  She snapped her fingers, putting the mental model into effect.  Timing, visualizing the person going around the corner, up the stairs.  She could adjust her mental model, backward, forward, which would be useful when the numbers got larger.

You – front door.  Blockade it, dining room table, should take you twenty seconds.  Take four of the people too drunk to count to help lift.  Go now.  You-

Ixnay’s waves pulsed through the air, making the air condense into rings, and some of those rings served to stop some of the drones and the ice crystals that were flying through the air.  As the waves hit, the things were suspended, rotating slowly on the spot.  If released, they would continue their current trajectories.

“Megan, your three!” March gave the order.

Megan turned, hand extending out.  She tractor-beamed an ice crystal her way, driving it into the back of a cape that was stampeding toward her.

“Back three steps!  And five!”

Megan hurried back three steps as the stampeding cape crashed into the ground.  He coasted on icy ground, stopping just before colliding with her.  Her trust in March was enough that she’d already turned, was grabbing a drone out of the air, pulling it to her-

The stampeding cape rose to his feet, only to have the drone crash into him.

“About face!” March shouted.

She loved these moments.

Without asking, with trust, her megacluster spun one hundred and eighty degrees.  Switching who each of them were fighting, changing targets, shifting priorities.

“Jace, shield, ten!”

Jace half-turned, shield going up.

“Noose, charge!”

Noose, faced with a gauntlet of tinker soldiers dressed up as knights, hesitated.

“Belay that!  Turn right and help Matches!”

March burst into a run, straight for the gap that Noose had refused to jump into.

“And for the record!?  You would have been fine if you hadn’t hesitated!”

March was a target for the forces defending the Brockton Bay time bubbles because she was so clearly the leader.   Now they were finding what they saw as an opening.  Two capes came at her from different directions.

She traced a half-circle on the ground with her rapier, then stepped back from it.  That covered one flank.  The other- her rapier caught a stone on the ground, flicked it into the air.  As she pushed her power through the rapier and into the blade, the weapon traced a 9/10ths circle around the stone as it flipped it up.

The ice cape threw ice at her, and as the line on the ground detonated, it intersected the flying shards.  Frozen shrapnel scattered across the battlefield.

A little messy, but-

At the same time, the stone detonated a second after being flicked, well before touching the ground.  It was at eye level for the cape who had sound-manipuating touch, fingers singing as they moved through air and the ability to deafen on touch.  He reeled back with a bloody nose.

Not his biggest concern.  March put her rapier through his chest cavity, pulled it out, and then drew a line through the face with her power.  A hole in the heart, and four point three seconds until face became crater.

A merciful way to go.  It was also about to become a dramatic and cool way to go out.

She cut a scrap of his costume away, doing a small circle with her sword to keep it airborne, cut it in half, then pushed her power into one of the halves.  Time delayed explosion.  While Megan’s power boost was running through her, she could work with shorter fuses.

The explosion was just in time to intercept a lob of ice through the air.

Her sword danced, keeping the other scrap alive.  “Bash, right turn!  Deal with ice guy for three seconds!”

Ice guy reacted, backing away instead of going on the offensive.  That was fine too.

“Tori, about face!  Your twelve in three, two, one!”

The explosion at the face knocked the cape’s helmet off.  Tori caught it with her tractor beam, pulling it to her with the same force as if it had been thrown full-strength.  It clocked the ice guy across the side of the head, while he was focused on Bash.

Across the battlefield, a cape created a flash of light.  As it faded, March found herself alone, in a maze filled with moths.

One by one, defenders of the ruined Brockton Bay began to appear in the maze with her.  Phased into this space.

Do you want to see me go all out? she thought.

“If this is a hallucination, I’m not bothered,” she said.  “I trust my team to handle things while I’m out.”

One of the capes shook his head slowly.

I still have the power boost from Megan.  One against seven.  No, eight.  And the world is moving in slow motion for me.

She could do this.

“What do you gain by messing with this stuff?”

“That would be telling, and you would put more people between me and what I want.”

“You lunatic.”

March smiled.  “You guys are the crazy ones.  If you knew what I knew…”

Homer had grown, in a lot of ways.  He was well-dressed now.  He still had the dreads, but they were shorter, bound in gold – it looked like wedding rings.  His mask, too, was gold.  He had a golden baseball bat, and as he walked, he dribbled a baseball with the bat.  A flowing black costume swept around him.

He liked the aesthetic and she didn’t hate it, herself.  She watched the baseball bounce up and down.  Black skin, gold stitches.  It was getting a beating, just from being dribbled.

“I think I got the singing from you,” Homer said.  “I remember the violin case.  Some musical talent.  I guess not violin, specifically.”

“I sang before.  It’s been a while since I did.”

“If you picked it up again, I’d lose the ability,” Homer said.

May nodded.

“It’s subtle,” he said.

“I’ve been really into putting all kinds of fun things up my nose and into my arm,” May said.  “Is that from you?”

“I was never an addict.  I used regularly, but I never had to,” Homer said.  He paused.  “I haven’t used in a while.”

“We each get what the others don’t want.”

“Seems like it.  Or what we have in abundance.”

“I checked in on our third,” May said.  “She’s serious now.  Dedicated, disciplined.  She doesn’t hate it either.  I’m the opposite.  She and I switched places.”

“I tried to reach out to her.  She wasn’t interested.  I don’t think she understood,” Homer said.

“That she’s not alone?  It’s ironic, isn’t it?  New school, new foster parents, moving away from friends, she’s lonely and she’s making up for it by jumping into the Ward thing, but if she stopped and listened…”

“The Ward thing is better than the mercenary thing,” Homer said.  His voice took on a different tone, hollow.  “I’ve stepped on toes.”

“I was thinking about going that way.  I’ve burned through a hundred thou in an alarmingly short span of time.”

“If you do, step carefully.  Find a mentor, find the people who are worth listening to.  Once you step on toes, it can’t be undone.”

“You said you had a reason for reaching out.”

“The private investigator I hired said you needed cash.  I’m not sure what will happen when things catch up with me, but… I hope you don’t keep getting pieces of me.”

They entered a tunnel beneath a bridge.  Homer hit the ball, striking it sideways, so it ricocheted off floor, wall, ceiling, wall, then lighted onto the bat, stopping with only a slight bob from the bat to catch the momentum.

He did it again, harder, hitting the ball instead of catching it, to keep the speed going.  The ball glittered and glimmered as it reached its peak speed.

They were out of the tunnel by the time it stopped, and Homer resumed dribbling it.

“You’re dying?”

“The kind of people who rise to power in New York aren’t the kinds of people you cross.  When you get hired by someone, it’s your job to do the due diligence and make sure you aren’t digging yourself into shit with the wrong people.  Gotta do it before you sign the deal, too.”

“You could run.”

Homer shook his head.  “I’ll try.  I’ll reach out to our third another time before I go.  But… I wanted to look after you two.  I got things from you, like the capacity to love, and satisfaction, and respect for other human beings.  I owe you.  So I’m going to set you up.”

“Can I have your contact list?”

Homer hesitated a good while.

“I’ll be careful.  I’m good at staying out of trouble.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t stop it.”

“Stop- the train?”

“The attack, people getting pushed onto the tracks.  I- our powers mock us, you know?”

“I had that feeling.  A friend of mine said something similar.”

“I couldn’t.  She was too important to me, and I couldn’t stop her, but I had to stop her.  I finally took action, she turned on me, and she got killed.  Worst of all worlds.”

May nodded.

“And I can’t do a thing with this power that doesn’t hit people right where it needs to to kill them.  I can smack something clear the opposite way and the ricochets put it right into their temple, or over their heart.”

“I’m ready, whatever comes.  I wanted to say my goodbyes.”

She rolled her shoulders as the light flared around her.  Centipedes, giant moths, and seven of the eight capes who had followed her into the maze.

She had to adjust her mask, and she had to adjust her boot, because she had been so intensely at it that it had come unlaced, then nearly come off.  She’d had her toes at the heel and her heel at the top of the boot for the last part of the skirmish.

She stabbed her weapon into the ground, and bent down to fix her boot.  Her people waited.  One injured while she was gone.  It was Shiv.  No loss.

Checking herself over, she verified everything was okay.

“Check-” she started, before her lack of breath stole the words away.  She gave signals instead.  One, there, phone.  The universal pinky and thumb extended provided the ‘phone’ sign.

She held up fingers, then pointed at Shiv.  Slow at first to recognize they were the number, Banger found his wits, stepping forward to pick Shiv up.  March, meanwhile, adjusted her calculations.  Any instruction given to Banger would have to account for delays like that.  The guy was slow on the uptake.

No phone.  No way to contact her reinforcements or other squads.

Maybe they wouldn’t need them.

Finally regaining her breath, she plucked her rapier from the ground, and she pointed it at the center of the city.  Another five or ten minutes of walking, and they’d be at the foot of the construction.

Her group set out.

She’d come to like travel.  It helped that other people were usually driving.

They’d settled into an informal role.  Jan was the power expert, March the bodyguard.

Jan had no interest in being a gal in a lab coat in the PRT, but she did have an interest in writing about powers and people with powers.

Which meant hunting down interesting things.  Which interested March, too.  She was set for a good long time financially, and with this, she was feeding other passions.

Maybe the insatiable curiosity was Flechette’s.  Maybe the poor girl was enduring her first few months with the PRT, being expected to learn these things, and it was being raised as a talent or inclination, discarded because Flechette had other priorities.

They got each other’s scraps.  They were stabilizing over time, but now and again, things would get passed over.  If Homer hadn’t pointed it out, then she might never know.

“This is a heavy one,” Jan said.

“Heavy how?” March asked.

“Six people.  They triggered like you did.  All together.”

Six?

Jan nodded.

Six.  When Jan and March reached the town, there were three.

Three at a table in a shitty pub, four looking worn out, scared.

“I’m Tori,” one member of the group introduced herself.

“Jan.  This is March, my bodyg-”

Can you help?” the plea from a man, who was prematurely balding, and who had veins at his forehead, not from stress, or maybe only partially from stress, but because that was the way his forehead looked.  He didn’t seem superhero-ish.  “Please.”

“I can try,” Jan said.  “March is a cluster too.  We’ve been researching things, and new information is coming out every month or two.”

“Do you have a carousel?” another member of the four-person group asked.  A woman, brunette.

“A what?

“A carousel.  It’s what we termed it.  Silly of me to think you’d know what I meant.  Any game?  A gimmick?  A way the power passes power around?”

“I’ve picked up some skills, I think.  And addictions.”

That only got her a head-shake in response.

“Start from the beginning,” Jan said.

“Did you hear about the quarantine at White Rock?”

Jan nodded.

“Do you know the reason why they quarantined White Rock?” Tori asked.

“Yes,” Jan said.

“No,” March said.  “Quarantine?

“Someone dug a hole,” the other woman in the group said.  “I’m Megan, by the way.”

“Hi Megan.”

“They made a hole between worlds.  And… some people here started using it.  A few years back.”

“Me,” Tori said.  “Jace.”

The guy raised a hand.

“Smuggling.  Passing information.  Scientific research.  Music.  There’s so many ways to profit, with a link like that.”

“Of course,” Jan said.  “Something went wrong.”

Megan nodded.  “People started getting sick.  We thought we took precautions, but…”

“I lost someone, several someones,” Jace said.  “They traced things back, connected it to the suspicious material, the fake IDs we made to push stuff out into the right channels… they shut down the boundary.”

“The wrong people got stuck on the wrong sides,” Tori said.  “I got stuck here.”

“What was the inciting event?  You all triggered at once?”

“No,” Tori said.

“That’s the way it works.  Multiple triggers within a minute of each other.”

“Days,” Megan said.  “Days.”

“The portal,” March murmured.  As heads turned her way, she said, “The portal?  If there’s a lot of energy or interference, or connections or… whatever.  We talk about powers passing stuff between people, but maybe they need to draw energy from somewhere to do that.”

“An open door between worlds as a big signal booster?” Jan asked.

March shrugged.

Jan nodded.  “That would make it easier for six to happen, absolutely.”

“With the quarantine, and the inhumane treatment, and the suspicion we were doing it on purpose, as a biological weapon…” Megan said, trailing off rather than forming a full sentence.

“Well, that gives us some answers and food for thought,” Jan said.  “But… you asked for help.  Why?”

“The carousel,” Tori said.  “Every day, one of us would become strong, and the rest are weak, or normal, or… or whatever.”

“I’ve heard about similar cases,” Jan said.

“We- there’s a loyalty effect,” Megan said.  “It’s messing everything up.  It’s messing us up.”

“Loyalty?” March asked.

“We couldn’t say no.  We didn’t want to say no.  And each of us have fragments of a power that influence people’s moods or views of them.  Change how other people treat us.  There were two who were problems.  Two who had us robbing people, hurting people.  One of them told us to like hurting people, and I don’t know-”

Megan trailed off.

“I did.  A little bit, for a little while,” Jace said.

Tori nodded.  “And for a while, things were okay, because we all knew that if we did something unconscionable, then in a few days we would be at the mercy of whoever we did it to.”

“Things changed?”  Jan asked.

“One of our group took charge and- she went after the other.  They were both the worst of our six… for very different ways.  He was the monster but she- she had the strongest control power.  She went after him and she took his day of being in charge.  The day of having all the power.  And she came after each of us, one by one.”

“To do what?”

“Take our days.  And she got even stronger, if that’s possible.”

“What happened to her?”

“She disappeared.  A while ago.  And things have been okay for a couple of years now.”

“But the other – Bill.  He called Jace.  Reached out.  He wants to try doing what Bianca -the other woman- did to him.  Even though we’re already spent, we don’t have any days any more, and we barely have power.  He was trying to convince Jace to kidnap us.  Promised money, safety…”

“We don’t have anywhere else to go.  People made Bianca disappear when she became a problem, and we’re not exactly in anyone’s good books since the portal mess.”

“I was barely even involved,” Megan said.

“He got Ysmine,” Tori said.  “He’s coming for us.”

This wasn’t fun.  It was hardly a game.  But to be trapped, March could sympathize.  It hit so close to home that she worried it was designed to.

She laid her hand over Tori’s.

She’d reached the city.  A folded-up Brockton Bay.  She whooped as she ran forward, leaping, hurling herself at a bend in space.

The bend swept her up.  Gravity flowed in another direction.

With hand signals, her teams fanned out.  Tori was absent.  In two minutes, Tori would fire a blue flare off to one side.  It would signal the reinforcements, if the reinforcements hadn’t been wiped out.

“March!” a hero bellowed.  He stood on a rooftop directly above her, looking up at her while she looked up at him.  Twenty feet separated them.

“Hallo!” she shouted.  The bent space captured her voice, made it resound in different ways.

“You can’t do this!  You can’t touch the time bubbles!  Every person with a power that looks at the future says the result is bad!

She laughed.

“Stop!”

She laughed again, gauging the bent space, then ran, leaping over a chasm, letting the bend in space redirect her leap, putting her near another rooftop.

Her people were making their way up now.  Getting used to the vectors of this particular battlefield.

“You need to stop!”

“You need to get out of my way!  I get what I want, and anyone who tries to stop me dies!”

“It’s not a game!”

She laughed again, using one hand and both feet to quickly ascend the light post that illuminated the newest roof top, dragging her sword against the length of it as she ran; it was the roof where the distance between rooftops was shortest.  She stopped, pausing, then leaped.

The leap carried her a few feet up, helped by the fact that the space in the neutral territory between buildings was neither up nor down.  Then the light exploded.  The blast from the explosion tipped her over to the far end of the neutral territory.  She fell up, rather than down.

All around her, buildings began to move.  Leaving her less in the way of escape routes.

Vista was in play.  Vista was getting in her way.  They’d had a few run-ins already, when March had paid visits to Foil and had run afoul of the city’s heroes.  This city’s heroes, she had to remind herself.

She smiled, and she moved her hand, signaling her team.  Heroes were mobilizing, moving across every plane, like a topsy-turvy funhouse, but each facet was a different hero and a different power.  Each moved in slow motion.  She had time to remind herself of what each of them did.  The ones she wasn’t sure of, she sicced her people on.  A hundred cans of paint in the midst of being tossed onto surfaces.

When this was done, all would be crimson.

“I’m so sorry.”

“Shhh,” Tori murmured.

“I’m so sorry.  I was supposed to save you.”

“Shh.”

March’s head sagged.

A flashback.  A brief and violent struggle.  She was good at timing, but she had to know what her enemy did.

And the people of this cluster did so very many things.

A man, heavyset, with a false magnificence that filled her with equally false strength, just to be around him.  False enough that she tested and exceeded her limits, hurt herself in mind and body.  A telekinetic shield that seemed to parry things just as effectively as her own timing power and enhanced baton did.  He teleported short distances, and made the building shake like it was in the midst of an earthquake when he appeared.  Power and force and when she finally cut him, he grabbed the line she’d drawn on him and threw it away, like it was a scrap of cloth.

Now… now she bled.

Now a tube in her arm drained her and kept her at the brink of life.  She faded in and out and every part of her hurt.

For Tori, who was just close enough for March to touch, it was much the same.  Blood drained.  She passed out, came to with weak startles.

For Megan… for Jace, for Ysmine.

And he was getting stronger.  And somewhere, a disappeared Bianca was getting weaker.

He’d drained March in hopes that he could take her power like he took the others’.  He didn’t get the power.  Now, instead of killing her directly, he killed her by neglecting to check her vitals, neglecting to ensure he didn’t take too much.  She didn’t get the drugs or the food the others did.

So she talked to the ones in earshot.  Tori, primarily, when the two of them were awake at the same time and the sedatives weren’t too strong.  About love and life and hopes and missed opportunities.  About mothers and violins and about the differences between their worlds.

By millimeters, she was brought closer to a futile end.  Her hands were bound in a position where she couldn’t activate her power, and her sense of accuracy and timing only helped her to track the time she had been here.

Slowly, she slipped closer to oblivion.

Onyx facets.

Onyx walls.

Carmine facets, with veins instead of edges, kaleidoscopic when she tried to wrap her head around the shape.

Carmine walls, that she could almost imagine were the inside of her, because she saw herself reflected in this wall or that surface.

She’d remarked on the power of portals, and as she felt things hum through the structures that made up this oblivion, she imagined it was much like that.  Vast amounts of power being redistributed, like the amount it took to hold up a breach between worlds.  Governments had tried to harness the power of Haywire’s portals and they’d decided it didn’t work because any means of gathering it didn’t stand up, durability-wise.

A tidbit from Jan.

Poor Jan.  Dead Jan.  She hadn’t been any use to Bill.  The bloodletter.  The blood priest.

March sank deeper into the oblivion.  She saw patterns in the energy that ran through things, and for fleeting instances, those patterns resembled people, ideas, events.  Too much to read.  They weren’t for her.

But there was something here for her.  Codified into everything in the same way she was being codified.  Homer.

She could see the empty space where Flechette was meant to be.

She communicated with Homer, and it was different than anything she’d done or felt as flesh.  She felt his sadness and knew he’d died sometime after she’d left.  Swallowed up by the worst of New York’s villains.

She could sympathize with the blood priest, who was scrabbling so viciously for this.  He told himself it was for power, but… he was really after this, she felt.  He wanted this connection.

Something beyond the short and fleeting life.  A heaven where she would never be alone.  Forever in the company of another, running through, over, under, into, communicating through shared events and bursts of static, riddling each other out.

And when Flechette died-

The view dimmed.

And when Flechette died, she would have Flechette forever.  Until the end of a species that intended to last beyond the end of the universe.  And Flechette would have her, and what happened in flesh would be swiftly forgotten.

The view dimmed further.  For an instant, she felt a fear bigger and more horrible than any she’d ever considered.  That she could be teased with this, then to have it taken away.

It all went black, and she wailed with a body that no form and a voice that had no sound.

Her heart resumed beating.  She sat up, and was instantly pushed down.  A doctor.

Already, the particulars were fading.  But an impression that deep- that would never go away.  She knew.

She could remember the feeling of the portal, so close.  Past a veil.  A huge source of energy.  An amplifier.

Maybe that helped make the impression deep enough, strong enough.

Tori’s voice.

“They’re taking us to Bianca.  So long as we’re with her, none of us will be able to try this again, and if we do, at least we’ll be somewhere we can’t interfere with other stuff.”

March tried to sit up.  Doing so gave her a blinding headache.

“It’s okay,” she said, not sure if Tori was still there.  Or any of the others.  “None of this matters.”

“What?”

“It doesn’t matter.  I love you.  Thank you for talking to me.”

“Be safe, March.”

It doesn’t matter if I am.

All of this is a teaser.  A chance to flirt and toy with our reality before we move on.  Little more than a game or a dream that sets the tone for the day.

She shivered.  She felt nauseous.  She felt glorious.

She didn’t hear or see, but by the feeling of the air, she sensed that Tori was gone.  The others were gone.

She would see Flechette, of course.  There was no way that she wouldn’t, when they were fated to revolve around each other for an eternity.  Joined by gentle Homer.  Surrounded by the muted presences of others.

How delighted Flechette would be when she found out.

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214 thoughts on “Interlude – 12.z”

  1. Marching to the beat of her own drums and forcing everyone else to March along. I suspect March’s power is less about timing and more about scheduling the actions of everybody around her. Trying to be free by forcing everyone else into the confines of her timing.

    Also, her kiss or kill attitude is kiss AND kill…In the worst way possible… Thanks Wildbow.

  2. This was as creepy as it was confusing because it confuses the hell out if me in regard to when the flashbacks are happening relative to Worm and Ward timelines, particularly the last one.

    But the big takeaway seems to be, March is the creepy yandere we’ve always suspected her to be and she’s about to kill Vista and I sincerely hope that Vista gets to have her very own private Thermopylae.

    1. I don’t know… Folks from We’ve got WARD podcast noted that the end of the last phone talk between Victoria and Vista seemed ominously final.

      1. On the other hand if Valkyrie manages to arrive at the scene in time, she could save Vista and the remaining heroes in Brockton Bay. Remember that apparently March’s power doesn’t work well against the opponents who have unknown powers or too many powers for March to keep track of. Valkyrie, aside from the overall firepower at her disposal, just happens to have a gigantic collection of powers, most of which March probably doesn’t know.

        1. And let’s not dismiss Visa herself, as so many people in the parahumans multiverse seem to do. Remember that she has a ton of experience, a strong power, and that as vulnerable the king is in chess is, it is still allowed to take opponent’s pieces even while in check. Many games of chess have been won thanks to that fact.

          1. And if March is the other king in this game, then she and Vista may limit each other’s movements, but won’t be able to touch each other directly before the game is over.

          2. March is clearly a Queen though. Moving about in a crazy pace, being the lynchpin of the attack strategy, diving behind enemy lines, taking the opponent’s pawns, all the while dancing to the tune of some entity she perceives greater and more important than her own life.

        1. We like little V. March is interesting, but damn if I’m really not wanting to see her kill Vista and turn Foil into a wearable.

          Also Foil is with Parian, and NTR is the worst, and March should feel bad.

  3. We didn’t see Vista die. And that’s good, because Vista’s survived a lot. Survived the end of the world, survived Jack Slash twice, once with the Slaughterhouse Nine and once with the Slaughterhouse Nine Thousand. Survived Leviathan, and the Undersiders, and the death of Kid Win (who may have been her boyfriend; vague idea I’ve got there, with no evidence). She survived being trapped in a collapsing bunker with Shatterbird, and survived being eaten by Echidna.

    Vista can survive Bianca’s cluster and March.

    1. If Vista will die, then March will die as well. Vista is that kind of person who’ll never let herself being defeated WITHOUT taking her enemy down with her. I trust Vista that she’ll give everyone HELL before she’ll bite the dust.

    1. Psycho-socially scary. And more: those are S-class tier casualties right here. Correct me if I’m wrong but March just murdered more capes in between flashbacks than Fallen Fall and the Teacher-Goddess war combined.

  4. So, March’s Megacluster is essentially Slaughterhouse 2.0. Lovely.

    But also, the main takeaway I get from this is that Portals and access to different dimensions can increase multi-triggers likelyhood. This is probably why Teacher blew up the portals to huge sizes. But this is also a problem when it comes to Broken Triggers.

    Basically, you could end up with somebody with eight or so different S-Class level powers that could easily wipe out all of existence in some sort of attempt to unite all of existence.

    Perhaps breaking linear time with the time bombs results in massive problems like this.

    Contessa leaves for five fucking seconds and we get massive Apotheosis end of the world after the end of the world.

    1. Maybe the portals are the very reason why broken triggers are happening in the first place. I don’t know if we ever saw one, that happened outside of the city. And since the portals exploded maybe it is only a question of time until there will be a broken trigger which will get everyone in the city who is not a parahuman yet? Maybe this is why Love Lost is convinced that the city is already lost?

      1. Paradog was a broken trigger, outside the City and in Earth With Puritans. Broken triggers are caused by shards from Scion, either ones he wasn’t willing to let humans have, or ones he hadn’t got around to releasing, or ones he still had use for, and ones damaged by Scion’s death.

        1. Paradog was not a broken trigger in the same sense as broken triggers within the city were – it did not cause a cascade of triggers jumping from person to person. Those seem to happen only within the city, and I expect the next one of those to be much worse than any previous ones, considering they all happened before the portals exploded.

          Looks like the only way to save a city at this point would be to destroy or otherwise close all of those portals, if it is even possible. If it is not, then Love Lost is right – the only way to stay relatively safe is to run to a corner world and keep running as far from the portals as possible. In fact Aleph may be the only completely safe Earth at this point.

  5. Was it Aroa or Candy who mentioned that March wanted to drape Foil’s skin on a wooden horse/Spanish donkey/cavaletto squarciapalle/chevalet and ride it all day long?

  6. Hmmm, if portals have this impact on powers, clusters and triggers… I wonder what a time bubble would do… particularly if it was close to a portal as well.

    1. Possibly cause a city-wide broken trigger? Chances are that this is what March wants. It is her way of making everyone be together forever – a way Teacher did not want to take, even though he also wants to “fight entropy”, which to me sounds a lot like seeking a form of immortality.

      1. If portals are some dangerous amplifier it might be why Valkyrie is staying clear of the megalopolis.

        That many portals.
        Now gigantified.
        All in one place.

        Might explain how Rain’s cluster gained its fifth member a year later… worse still is if it’s in the dark section because that means the shard/s premeditated a cluster of five and the fifth member arriving later.

          1. Maybe? Wouldn’t explain why the others don’t all have a piece of Colt’s breaker state. If it’s timey-wimey shenanigans, you’d think the shards would’ve accounted for that with how they distributed the powers.

          2. Maybe now they do have a breaker state, or are just one visit in the dream-room from getting it? That power could manifest only after Colt triggered and the fifth shard configured itself to give people a new power.

      2. Ah yes. Fight Entropy. A problem they tend to apply the universal scale version of when they are talking about it. Such optimistic bastards, assuming we’ll be around long enough for that of all things to be a problem.

        1. Fighting entrophy can be simple, at least locally. All you need is an external source of free energy you can use to offload the unneeded local entrophy to. The real problem begins when you want to fight it everywhere at once. At that point you can only hope that Poincaré recurrence theorem applies to real, physical universe, and even at that point you can be sure that you will never live long enough to see the return to anywhere close enough to the initial state to matter for you.

          And yes, I know that it is silly to bring real life mathematics and theoretical physics to a superheroes story. I’m doing it anyway.

          (Sorry if the link above will is broken. I’m trying this method for the first time).

  7. Pan 2.o, yay…

    The amount of power this story gives to assholes (Goddess, March, Cradle) is really frustrating.

    This seems like it’s going to put the final nail in the coffin of the old “cops and robbers” ruleset, and move the world(s) closer to the old Slaughterhouse 9 ruleset.

    1. Also is it just me or do enemy thinkers tend to be overpowered?

      I’m always thinking of that line from Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot.
      “Sure you know it’s coming. You’re psychic. But there’s not a sweet thing you can do about it.”

  8. Let’s analyze. There are 9 sections:

    1) May/March’s trigger event. She’s Japanese, like Foil, which I wasn’t aware of till now.

    2) March arrives to the Vistafied Brockton Bay. She is cooperating with at least three members of Bianca’s cluster. Tori telekinetically moves things along straight lines (and at times the power has some fractal features). Megan is the power battery. Jace presumably has the danger sense, which allows him to use a shield effectively.* Further, Tori and March are an item, so both March and Foil are lesbians; more bleed-through effects? Finally, it’s unclear how March is different from Contessa in terms of her Thinker power; it would be nice to see a limitation in action that’s not just a point-blanc Trump like Bill (we already know Contessa is vulnerable to Trumps, cf. Mantellum).

    * Bianca had the alignment Master power. Bill presumably has the “ability-tuning” power, that allowed Bianca to resist Khepri (for a while). Unknown what Ysmine does, presumably she does earthquake-teleporting that Bill displays later?

    3) March is in with a bad crowd of parahumans. Jan is a power-geek, seemingly unpowered. The tattooed drug dealer seems to be unpowered, though at first reading I kept thinking that he’s Homer (probably because Homer is also a drug-dealer mentioned in the same chapter).

    4) More fighting in Brockton Bay. Two heroes disabled, one killed. I don’t know who the 8 heroes are, or why they employed a powerful-seeming effect just to chat with March without actually doing anything to her.

    5) Homer’s power is an enhanced accuracy that guarantees kills. Like Shamrock but less versatile. He and March hang out, he tries to be nice to both of them. He thinks that he will be killed by other cape criminals, and it is unclear whether March “getting his contacts” is a manipulation on her part.

    6) Not sure what the centipedes and moths say about the eighth hero’s power. But this seems like the only interesting tidbit here.

    7) Now this is a doozie. Jan and March (who resemble Doctor and Contessa as a pair) meet Bianca’s clustermates. The sentences are a mess but it seems they met three of them: Tori, Jace, Megan. Ysmin at that point is already kidnapped. In the events leading up to that meeting, the cluster triggered while exploiting a portal to Earth Shin in White Rock, BC. After that, Bianca had aligned the clustermates and drained them, but then she was “disappeared” to Shin (by Contessa). The four clustermates are stranded on Bet and claim to be essentially powerless, but Bill apparently still has his Trump powers, and he wants to re-drain the four to get more powerful. Unclear why Bill isn’t as drained as them, maybe due to his power?

    8) Heroes keep trying to talk March into submission, and since none of them is Sylvester from Twig, she doesn’t stop.

    9) March lost to Bill’s Trump power. He killed Jan (probably because she’s unpowered, hence useless to him?), and is letting March die while draining the other clustermates. And then someone saves them and sends all five clustermates back to Bianca on Shin for safe-keeping. Presumably Cauldron saved them, but I don’t get the meaning of crimson walls and portals. The crimson walls seem to refer to their cluster’s version of the “dream room,” where they get to communicate with each other even after death, like Snag “talks” to Love Lost. But how this is connected to Haywire’s portals and a “tidbit from Jan” is unclear.

    1. – impression I got was that Foil is half-Japanese, May is Caucasian. Reread very much required.
      – March is nowhere near Contessa. It’s more like if Number Man is a billionaire, March is a multi-millionaire (bear in mind she has some access to Homer’s portion even after his death. Foil doesn’t know what the fuck is going on and doesn’t even know what she doesn’t know)
      – Plus her Sting-Variant.
      – Oh shit, she wants to turn Foil into something like the fifth member of Rain’s cluster — OR perhaps, Dead!Snag (see: Love Lost’s rantings about him telling her stuff from the bottom of a well on a destroyed world or whatever)
      – if I didn’t know any better, I’d think March had a second trigger while the blood-priest’s captive. Or at the very least, something cognitively not entirely unlike one. Some kind of deeper insight blasted into her soul about shards and about entities through cluster-colored glasses

      1. No. May Anglicised her name, “who might have changed her name to be more American like May had changed hers”, to copy from the the story itself.

        (I don’t know how the quotes work, and don’t typically need them for this sort of thing- I usually randomly speculate and argue with Alfaryn.)

        1. No. May Anglicised her name, “who might have changed her name to be more American like May had changed hers”, to copy from the the story itself.

          Yup, done my reread. You are correct. I’m guessing “May” is the artist formerly known as Mei.

      2. I interpreted March’s vision in captivity as some part of the entity– whatever remained of a lobotomized Scion in some walled off Earth, or her shard still following its programming, oblivious to or unable to comprehend his death– essentially recording (“encoding”) her at the time of her apparent death, to be stored and analyzed for improving the next iteration of the cycle. Then when she was resuscitated, her consciousness was dragged back into her body, and the standard memetic defense for triggers was activated, Imp’s forgettability.

        It seems likely that *all* parahumans would get stored by the entity upon death; it makes sense to preserve the full mental context of a shard’s host for a cycle post-mortem, and the entities are so mind-bogglingly vast and powerful that a drop of their blood gives some capes the ability to duplicate or create minds– I’d be surprised if they only bothered with clusters when storing every human on Earth would probably be trivial.

        I really like this idea, I’m very curious about the specifics of it. Her mention of “the muted presences of others” implies that only cluster-mates can communicate within the entity (and without, a la Snag), but those patterns she sees that “resembled people, ideas, events” but “weren’t for her” are probably other capes, clusters, and memories, incompatible due to not being “codified into everything in the same way she was being codified”.

        1. I interpreted March’s vision in captivity as some part of the entity– whatever remained of a lobotomized Scion in some walled off Earth, or her shard still following its programming, oblivious to or unable to comprehend his death

          Those flashbacks were from before Gold Morning and Scion’s death. Note the part where Tori says they’re being given to Bianca to keep them out of the way — that only makes sense for the timespan when Goddess was in Shin. After Gold Morning, Goddess was consistently not in Shin and no longer had full dominance over her cluster (lacked Megan).

          Other than that, I agree with your interpretation.

          1. I’m thinking it was NOT a second trigger but a near death experience.

            Remember when Snag started to slowly die they were pulled into the dream room and he faded further away.

            I think March had something similar. She was brought to the brink of death. Maybe even flatlined for a while. That took her into the equivalent of the dream room for her cluster where she could connect with the long dead homer, get his power and gain further insight into the cluster situation.

            If she had second triggered I would imagine the others would have been unconscious.

        2. The problem with parahumans being “stored” within the Entity is that so far we probably saw nothing that resembles personalities of whatever would be stored during previous cycles. On top of it cases like Ashley with her gaps in memory, or Valkyrie’s flock with their apparently degraded personalities seem to indicate that while people’s personalities get copied and stored at first, they fade quickly later.

          March and Love Lost are probably unaware of that because Homer and Snag respectively died recently enough that the degradation of copies of their personalities in the shards is not evident yet. If they see the flock, or have a serious conversation with Ashleys or other clones, they will see their mistake. The question is how much damage they will cause before it happens?

          1. > so far we probably saw nothing that resembles personalities of whatever would be stored during previous cycles

            Maybe personalities degrade over time while Entities separate info which will be useful for them, discarding the rest. Another possibility is that those personalities are still there, but they are so alien to us (and to Wormverse’s humans) that we don’t recognize them being there. Humans got some limited understanding of Entities because Entities did most of the work to understand humans and to be compatible with them enough to get into symbiosis; that does not necessarily mean that humans would be able to understand other inhuman consciousnesses.

          2. Sure, but considering how even minds of shards and Entities could be observed and understood by humans on some level, shouldn’t people be able to at least tell that there is at least something in those shards that are not minds of the shards themselves?

            Of course it is possible that we did see those minds of aliens gobbled up in previous cycles in trigger visions (especially those we saw in Ward), and we simply haven’t interpreted those visions correctly yet.

          3. > considering how even minds of shards and Entities could be observed and understood by humans on some level, shouldn’t people be able to at least tell that there is at least something in those shards that are not minds of the shards themselves?

            Not necessarily. Humans are able to observe and understand Entities because Entities studied them, specifically adapted themselves to be able to communicate with them, and even designed a part of the human brain to serve as an interface between minds of humans and shards. And even disregarding that, I very much doubt that it could be possible to discern one alien mind (truly alien, in no way resembling humans) from two alien minds interfering with each other, if humans just don’t know how these minds were supposed to “look like”.

          4. @Alfaryn, Valkyrie is proof that at least *some* part of parahumans gets stored (general body shape, costume), and Snag and Homer talking from beyond the grave suggests their personalities *are* stored, and remain for some time. That Valkyrie’s shadows aren’t full copies of people might just be the result of how her power was implemented; perhaps her shard is only focused on testing its ability to collect and use powers, and so does the bare minimum to personalize the shadows. The shadows losing agency over time is a bit odd from this perspective, though.

            Ashley, interestingly enough, got some of Edict’s memories. I suppose this could mean that the entity is storing everything in real-time, not just at time-of-death, and when she was reborn it tried to restore her memories, only it got a bit confused about which memories were whose, in places. I don’t think perfect recreation would be a huge priority for the entity; it just wants cape fights, and a passable “psychic link” to the capes.

            Outside these edge cases, I am not convinced that, in a reality where the entity does store the minds of all its hosts (even in perfect detail & forever), most parahumans would have any indication that they exist. The entity is pretty good at making its inner workings opaque to humans.

            Case in point: the entity’s true nature was only (publicly) revealed roughly two years before current Ward time, while parahumans had existed since 1982, with a whole branch of science forming to study them and look for a cause.

            Heck, even when actively using powers, capes didn’t suddenly know that they were interfacing with a shard of an alien god; why would they be aware of some very specific data that alien god had tucked away in a memory bank somewhere, and probably “encoded” in such a way that only it could understand?

            It seems plausible to me that copies degrade over time, or are purged after analysis (maybe after each cycle– could be what the Faerie Queen shard does after collecting everyone). But the entity seems to be storing *something*, and I wouldn’t expect most parahumans to get anywhere close to that information, only edge cases: someone who died and was reborn similarly enough their powers came back, people who are cluster-connected to the dead, powers that let you talk to the dead (which I don’t think we’ve really seen yet?), etc.

    2. if you go by the rule of conservation of detail, the drug dealer was Prancer (Prancer mentions hanging out with high schoolers in his interlude due to his selling).

    3. I got the impression March had a second trigger while dying there. Something about the feeling of inevitable death creeping up on her, seems similar enough to her initial trigger. She clearly got some big insight from the event, most of which she forgot, but I think she retained 1) Homer died, 2) there’s still inevitable doom for everyone in the future because shards are assholes (hence her fatalism in the earlier segment when talking to Tori), and 3) she wants Foil inside her.

      1. I don’t think she had a second trigger. Cluster capes are not supposed to get second triggers, and her powers didn’t seem to change. I think the vision she saw, and the fact that she is convinced that capes can “live after death” in the Shards may be what cluster capes get instead of second triggers.

    4. Ehem… Regarding 6, my interpretation (based on the fact that March is out of breath right after, and “She had to adjust her mask, and she had to adjust her boot, because she had been so intensely at it that it had come unlaced, then nearly come off.”) was that she killed all 7 of the heroes, the eight was probably the one creating the effect, and he/she just ended it when he realized he couldn’t deal with March.

    5. Re. 2. Here are my observations about possibly of sexual orientation being transferred by a personality bleed-through.

      I did wonder not long ago if Foil’s defensive reaction, when this topic was mentioned a couple chapters ago, could mean that Foil got her sexual orientation from March. If March will die, what will it mean to Parian’s and Foil’s relationship? Will Foil’s sexual orientation remain the same? I don’t think she would be so defensive just about suddenly becoming more serious for example (at the same time when March become far more playful).

      Or is it the other way around? Maybe Lily was the one who was originally lesbian? Is this what March means by her relationship with Tori being possibly ‘interrupted’? Is she afraid that she could become straight after Foil’s death?

      Or maybe Homer was too much into girls, and they both got it from him. After all his trigger was caused by losing Lily’s sister. Maybe she was that sort of “friend”. I don’t think that he loved her though in any sense other than physical “love”. He said that he got his capacity to love from May and/or Lily after all. In this case March’s and Lily’s sexual orientation will probably stay the same though, since it survived Homer’s death.

      Re. 7. Maybe Contessa didn’t “disappear” Blanka to Shin? Maybe she left on her own. After all a “hole between worlds” in White Rock could lead to Shin. It would also mean that Tori is from Shin.

      1. Lily was definitely a lesbian before the trigger event, considering that she gave May a lingering look after first seeing her, that May mistakenly believed was pity.

    6. Re-reading section 9 after taking a break clarified things a bit. I’m recording this here, to complement my longer analysis.

      She’d remarked on the power of portals, and as she felt things hum through the structures that made up this oblivion, she imagined it was much like that. Vast amounts of power being redistributed, like the amount it took to hold up a breach between worlds. Governments had tried to harness the power of Haywire’s portals and they’d decided it didn’t work because any means of gathering it didn’t stand up, durability-wise.

      A tidbit from Jan.

      The “tidbit” just refers to the piece of trivia about Haywire’s portals. Thinking of such portals is how March makes sense of her own dream room/carousel, which she only discovered as her mind was being assimilated back into the Entity, as she was nearing death. (I agree that ohJohN’s interpretation is very reasonable here.) Jan or Haywire’s tech had nothing to do with March’s salvation; someone busted them out. This was possibly Cauldron, or possibly a rescue effort after an Endbringer attack (remember that several of their attacks were linked to the Woman in Blue/United Capes).

      The short experience in the dream room leaves March with a manic obsession with Foil. What I don’t understand is why she seems to have gotten Homer’s accuracy powers (as Faultline/Tats claim), if she didn’t kill/drain him personally. Shouldn’t his power have been equally, maybe randomly, distributed between Foil and March?

      1. > This was possibly Cauldron, or possibly a rescue effort after an Endbringer attack (remember that several of their attacks were linked to the Woman in Blue/United Capes).

        Maybe March’s vision was a result of capes generally being able to see and remember more of trigger visions around the time of Scion’s rampage? It could mean, that her rescue could happen right after Gold Morning. It could be organized by Goddess right after she was released from Khepri.

        1. > “They’re taking us to Bianca. So long as we’re with her, none of us will be able to try this again, and if we do, at least we’ll be somewhere we can’t interfere with other stuff.”

          It seems that Bianca was powerless at that moment. Definitely not after GM (and not right before it either).

          1. What makes you say she was powerless at that time? She was losing power, but it doesn’t mean that she was completely powerless.

      2. > What I don’t understand is why she seems to have gotten Homer’s accuracy powers (as Faultline/Tats claim), if she didn’t kill/drain him personally.

        Maybe this is specific to their version of the dream room. March was unaware that her cluster even has it, until she had a near-death experience, met dead Homer there and probably got his power.

    7. It does feel like March’s timing power is linked to Contessa’s, although more restrained (which makes sense, as Scion didn’t fubar his setup when landing).
      When March chooses her goal, she ends up with only when and where, contrasted with Contessa’s complete infodump. Strictly speaking, this gives her a lot of freedom and flexibility instead of following the recipe step-by-step.

      Combined with Homer’s lethal Striker power… there’s literally no chance this will end well.

  9. In Blinding – 11.10:

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

    So looks like March lied to Foil about their third (which is Homer, not “the woman”).

    1. No, she didn’t. ‘March says our friend of my sister, but I barely met the woman (March), and I didn’t realise why she was important or what she meant when I did.’ Foil wasn’t talking about Homer, but March.

      I made the same mistake you did, but rereading it I’m reassigning it and it still makes sense.

    2. “The attack, people getting pushed onto the tracks. I- our powers mock us, you know?”

      “I had that feeling. A friend of mine said something similar.”

      “I couldn’t. She was too important to me, and I couldn’t stop her, but I had to stop her. I finally took action, she turned on me, and she got killed. Worst of all worlds.”

      I don’t get that. Foil’s sister turned on him–when? What action did he take?

  10. Rain’s and Goddess’s cluster have carousel/sundial, but Foil’s does not somehow.

    P.S. Did not expect Japanese people to cook chicken kiev. 🙂

    1. There’s a community in Japan of ethnic Japanese who cook Portuguese-inspired meals because there was a large community of Japanese in Brazil that went over for work in… I can’t remember what they did, but the jobs didn’t last, and after a generation or two they moved back to Japan.

      Besides, it sounds like May’s mother is a very demanding and pushy person, who wants May to excel in America now they’re here. Eating American food, changing their names to sound more American and not speaking Japanese are all ways to force May into adopting American culture and seeming less like an outsider.

      1. So, chicken *kiev* is popular enough in America to be considered American food?
        OK, Ward Educational. “Read enough science fiction, you know, and you’ll read everything at least once.”

        1. No idea, I’m English. But it’s named after Ukrainian city, and America’s full of the descendants of immigrants and refugees. And even if it isn’t an *American* food, it’s not a *Japanese* one, and over here it’s quite easy to find in supermarkets.

          1. And I love a traditional English meal like a curry, or a Chinese takeaway.

            Both have been here ‘long enough to acquire ‘traditional’ status.

    2. Maybe it’s dependant on cluster size, in a shardwise-geometric fashion. A 3-legged stool is always stable, a 4-legged one has to be carefully crafted not to be wobbly. The power-distribution thing feels like a way for the shards to try and balance such a representation.

      Clusters of 2 or 3 are stable and don’t get any, 4 and up need to redistribute and get their unique way to do it every night (probably depending the shards involved).

    3. Maybe every dream room has its specifics, and Foil’s is accessed not while sleeping but only upon death or near-death experience. That’s why March was unaware of it until she was nearing death, getting to meet Homer and absorb his power.

      1. I suspect what March did might be something any cluster can do. A near death experience gives you something similar to what Snag went through, except March came back from death.

        Gimmicks for power sharing don’t appear to be regular and Rain’s is the only one they’ve heard of with a dream room.

        1. The “carousel” of Goddess’s cluster looks pretty much like Rain’s dream room, complete with power sharing and days when one of the clustermates is particularly strong. Except it seems that, unlike in Rain’s cluster, it’s possible for them to take others’ days in nonviolent way, without killing or fulfilling March’s sado-maso fantasies. From descriptions of Rain’s dreams, I think that even when someone from his cluster gives up all his tokens, he does not become totally powerless, and anyway he can keep tokens to himself the next day; so it seems like Goddess’s dream room has its specifics too.

  11. I would like to take a moment to mourn for the dozen or so nameless Wardens March murdered to get to Vista. If they had managed to even mildly inconvenience her I’m sure their sacrifice would be remembered.

    Now next chapter we can go back to protagonist-land where capes have names and heroes matter.

    1. Ummm….the heroes in protagonist land aren’t really doing that much better right now than the wardens currently are lol

  12. Seriously, why are all the antagonists in Ward so stupidly over the top evil?
    And I felt we knew shards saved brainscans, Taylors power worked with multiple simulations of her, for example.

    1. That’s not the question.

      Why isn’t Victoria using lethal force from the get go on these over the top evil villains.

      Actually, that also isn’t the question.

      “Antares, How do you throw concrete at people non lethally? I’ve been trying to use my silver lines to cut people in half and people have been shooting at us with guns in pretty much all of our fights. If you didn’t notice, we’ve all been cut up while still alive so I was trying to kill people from the get go. I thought you were too, what with the throwing concrete and the people trying to kill us. But apparently not. “

      1. It’s something I like to point out when talking about the Joker. “Why doesn’t Batman just kill the Joker already” is a lot less of a thing when it’s silver age Joker who’s trying to steal every playing card in Gotham or make the biggest boner compared to a Joker who’s just tortured a busload of nuns to death. It’s compounded by the fact that Joker basically gets a time out he can leave at will for punishment. In short you have a dispicable villain who can kill and maim and ruin lives at will, and it feels like the heroes are willingly enabling it, as oppossed to a entertaining villain or one who it feels is actually stopped, and the stopping of them bettered the world.

  13. “Yeah. I murdered the time, when I ran through it with Ms. B”

    Foreshadowing?

    Also, her mom worried about being late added to the creepy murderous rabbit theme.

    She triggers under guilt of aversion to mom’s constant control and longs to eternally control clustermates. Homer accidentally kills his girlfriend and gets a power to accidentally kill.

    As an aside, I think the real Snag is dead as a doornail, last we saw him, he sure sounded like a dying guy realizing he was tricked into his death.

    I see no reason to believe that the copy of Snag in the shard isn’t just a sock puppet for the shard.

    1. > I see no reason to believe that the copy of Snag in the shard isn’t just a sock puppet for the shard.

      The problem is that both March and Love Lost appear to believe that those Snags and Homers trapped in their shards after death are really the same people as the original parahumans. I also believe that they are not the originals. I think they are just simulations made by shards based on data they collected from their parahumans. Imperfect simulations at that. It is the only way I can explain things like multiple Ashley clones with memories patched with bits taken from capes other than original Ashley.

      On top of it if Valkyrie is to be believed the data on parahuman personality collected by shards seems to be degrading with time. Transferring your personality to a shard may not be a way to create “immortal” human mind because of that. March and Love Lost may not realize it, because Snag and Homer haven’t been dead long enough for the personality degradation to be apparent.

      1. Well it depends on your worldview, whether you believe in some special thing like a soul that cannot be copied.

        But in a materialistic worldview a perfect simulation of you would also be you. If you simulated every cell, every synapse and every atom of a person that person would be exactly that person. Their character, personality and their memories would be the same. It gets tricky though if you leave out data, or have degraded data.

        If you, say, left out yesterday when creating the simulation, how much would that person be you? Probably yes, but where is the boundary? Do you have to store every atom or ist every neuron sufficient?

        I guess Dragon should have spent some time pondering stuff like this. After all she uses backups and copies of her self all the time.

    1. > Or when mom had just bought the violin and cupboards and fridge were running empty,[…]

      > Now they were finding what they saw as an opening.

      There are three spaces before each of these sentences.

      > Dimly, she realized some of the blood droplets she was walking on were her mother.

      It may be correct, but it may also be possible that it was meant to be ‘mother’s’, depending on how literal May’s thought was supposed to be.

      > following the bodies on their to decay.

      A missing word? Was it supposed to be something like “following the bodies on their way to decay.”?

      > “I’ll walk you through the hand signals. If you follow them, we will win. Keep up.

      This bit needs a quotation mark at the end.

      > You- upstairs.

      A space before a dash. Compare it to “You – front door.” just a little bit larer.

      > “You – front door. Blockade it, dining room table, should take you twenty seconds. Take four of the people too drunk to count to help lift. Go now. You-

      Is it intentional that there is no quotation mark at the end of this paragraph?

      > “I think got the singing from you,”

      “I think I got the singing from you,”?

      > And I can’t do a thing with this power that doesn’t hit people right where it needs to to kill them.

      Repeated ‘to’.

      > “Smuggling. Passing information. Scientific research. Music. There’s so many ways to profit, with a link like that.”

      Technically not an error, but it may be not entirely clear who said this line. Megan?

      > the shut down the boundary.

      Is it correct, or should it be something like “to shut down the boundary.”, or “the shut down, the boundry.”?

      1. > Repeated ‘to’.
        No error; the first is bound to “(to) need to”, second to “to kill”. Similar example: “What did you come up with, with your friend?”. Comma could help structurally, but this is Homer speaking and he probably didn’t pause there.

    2. “had sound-manipuating touch,”

      “this power that doesn’t hit people right where it needs to to kill them. I can smack something clear the opposite way and the ricochets put it right into their temple, or over their heart.”
      Italics for emphasis – the power does hit people right where it needs to, to kill them, right ?

      1. It was at eye level for the cape who had sound-manipuating touch, fingers singing as they moved through air and the ability to deafen on touch.
        -Not only that, the first and third sections are powers, the second is ‘what is happening now’.

        so it ricocheted off floor, wall, ceiling, wall, then lighted onto the bat,
        -alighted

        1. > Not only that, the first and third sections are powers, the second is ‘what is happening now’

          I interpreted the second section as a clarification what does “sound-manipulating touch” mean.

    3. > Megan turned, hand extending out. She tractor-beamed an ice crystal her way, driving it into the back of a cape that was stampeding toward her.

      Tori, probably, not Megan? Megan’s primary is a power boost.

      1. I was confused as well, but they’re still clustermates and share the power pool. Megan probably boosted her own TK power to get that effect.

    4. “When Jan and March reached the town, there were three.
      Three at a table in a shitty pub, four looking worn out, scared.”
      ““Do you have a carousel?” another member of the four-person group asked.”
      Is it three or four?

  14. Ok, I tried to post this wall of text once, and it didn’t ‘take’ for some reason. I waited a bit, refreshed the page a couple of times, and my previous attempt to post it is still not there, so I’m trying again. I REALLY hope my previous attempt won’t pop out later for some reason, and make it a gigantic double post. Sorry in advance if it happens.

    Wow! What an interlude! What an info dump! A good kind of an info dump. One that makes you ask at least as many questions as you got answers.

    1. May’s obsession with schedules, the way they controlled her life, the way keeping rhythm was all important in her work, coupled with how split-second mistakes led to her mother’s death perfectly explain March’s primary power.

    2. Death of her mother explain why she has strong Kiss/Kill reactions (both of them, as Tattletale noted) to Foil. She holds Foil responsible for death of her mother who was both her tormentor, and well… her mother.

    Or maybe it is just that May wanted Lily to be her “fun-girl”, and Flechette turned out to be so serious? She loves that she got her ‘playfulness’ from Lily, but hates that Lily is no longer “fun” herself.

    3. It is interesting to see how apparently being a stage performer colored May’s trigger vision, how she saw the Shards as performers who prepared for a long time (the part of the cycle when Entities traveled) to make a short performance (the part of the cycle when Shards connected to “lesser” living beings to gather new data). Remember how Tattletale used terms like ‘gods’ or ‘children’ when she was recovering from her vision when Scrub triggered in Worm? Looks like people do not only use figures of speech to express what they saw during trigger-visions, they also think about those visions in figurative terms.

    Good thing to remember when we see a cape telling us about seeing a “well of power”, or something like thar. It may look nothing like a well in reality, and another cape can describe the same phenomenon in completely different terms. It may be even that the “well of power” is something we already saw in Worm, just described in different terms.

    4. Looks like March really loves to play games with people, just like Foil said. And it is not just with her enemies, but also her allies:

    “Vista,” March said. “Cute kid. If she’s actively using her power, then driving into it would be bad.”

    “Bad how?” Dino asked, from the back.

    “It doesn’t affect us,” March said. “Our ride would turn into a pretzel around us while we stayed the same.”
    […]
    There was a paradigm shift, a sudden lurch, and she heard a yelp. From Ixnay, the baby.

    “That was only ice!” she crowed, steering into the slide. The wheels found traction again.

    To me this mind game sounded just like something some of the Heartboken would come up with.

    March’s reaction to seeing Vista’s “box” also seemed like she too much fun to think about the coming confrontation as anything else than a game, especially since not long after that we saw this:

    “Let’s play, Vista,” she said, smiling

    There are also plenty of other references to games, child’s plays, treats etc. in her speech or internal monologue. She even called Lily ‘fun-girl’ before she triggered. And let’s not even mention all of those benders. She probably overreacts after years of living a life way too devoid of fun. She got too much ‘playfulness’ from Lily because this is what she wanted to get from her right before she triggered. The transfer of this personality feature could be reinforced by the fact, that Lily wanted to be a hero, and it required serious work.

    This obsession also goes a long way to explain March’s choice of cape name and costume. It could explain why she is so casual about killing people. She probably doesn’t fully understand gravity of her actions. It may also be that because it happened during her trigger she is in a constant state of shock over death of her mother, and can’t fully process the concept of death because of it?

    5. Does the term “megacluster” and this quote:

    “Don’t die,” Tori said.

    “It doesn’t matter.”

    “Don’t die. We just found each other again, and you’re old enough I don’t think it’d be weird, and…”

    indicate that there is a connection between Foil’s cluster, and Goddess cluster? Could it be more than just Tori knowing March from Bet? Could it for example be possible, that two clusters triggered at the same time on that subway station and didn’t realize it until later?

    Or maybe she uses it to describe Goddess cluster because it is so numerous?

    Or maybe she just uses the term ‘megacluster’ to mean everyone (or just capes belonging to clusters) under her command, and/or trusting her signals without second thoughts?

    6. So much info in this bit, it rises so many questions:

    “I should be glad that you don’t want to drink my blood.”

    “I don’t want to drink Flechette’s blood either. But…”

    “But.”

    “But if I could? If I can? I’d map you to our cluster, so I could do all the Kiss and Kill things I have to do to them to you, too.

    Drinking blood has something to do with ‘mapping’ a person to a cluster? Is this what happened to Colt? Was she ‘mapped’ into Rain’s cluster somehow? And doesn’t it sound suspiciously similar to the method Bill used to leech powers? Maybe Cradle’s Disjoint-inspired device is intended to help with the leeching process, because it creates immortal, indestructible body parts that are a substitute for or source of the blood?

    7. What is the deal with Goddess cluster and blue color? How could it be so important? I presume it may be something related to their trigger? Or is it another personality transfer? Maybe it’s both? Maybe the transfers affect those personality features that are somehow related to the trigger event?

    8. Not long ago someone joked that March could be trying to use those body parts to make a parahuman Frankenstein monster. Looks like she may want to turn herself into something similar instead:

    She’d skin Foil and wrap herself in Foil, she would soak herself in Foil and gorge herself on Foil’s flesh. Foil’s clothes would be decoration, as she had fancied once upon a time. She would be in and of and greater than and less than and equal to Foil. Then she would be in and of and to and through Foil, and vice versa.

    And if Foil made it, which she would, provided March didn’t make any hilariously bad slips with the knives, which she wouldn’t, then what was left of her would come to accept it in time. She would see that it all made sense.

    What is really scary is that March wanted it to happen even before she triggered:

    I want to be you.

    I want the clothes off your body, so I can wrap myself in them and be them. I want the friends who are pinching and shoving you and laughing with you.

    It is probably what caused her to form a cluster with Lily in the first place. It may also explain why March has such a strong Kill/Kiss reaction to Foil.

    And considering that that pre-trigger thought was in italics, and those sometimes mean thoughts coming more from the shards than their parahumans, is it possible that March’s shard affected her shortly before the trigger?

    9. Looks like March interprets what her timing part of her power tells her as “ghost images”

    She judged, connected to the timing, and visualized the avenues it could travel. She threw it frisbee style, lining up her own body with the ghost images.

    Did someone use too much computer animation tools, or just spent too much time playing games like Toribash here? And honestly, the way her power works seems to be somewhere between Number Man’s mid-combat predictions, and true, if low-level, precognition. Low-level precognition could explain why March’s shard might have affected her mind before her trigger, like I speculated in point 8.

    10. It is interesting how March was so drawn to the image of Flechette as soon as she saw it. And on top of it she quickly recognized Flechette as the girl from the station. I guess it means that cluster members can never hide from each other for long.

    11. No wonder she’s such an expert on clusters. She’s been doing it almost as long as she’s been a cape. Not to mention that she had access to Goddess cluster for quite a while too, so it is not like March and Jan had a shortage of cases to research back on Bet. And it looks like it wasn’t March, Jan or even Teachers thinkers who figured out power leeching. It was Bill. All that March maybe did was improve the process if the stolen body parts are meant to be source or substitute for blood Bill used.

    On the other hand unlike Bill, March got a vision which told her why it may be fine to kill some capes. Looks like we saw just one more way shards may encourage conflicts.

    12. This sounds new:

    “They say if you do something really triumphant, you get good powers. If you don’t… you get the flawed or broken ones. You trigger at major moments. Best days. Worst days. That’s the line, anyway. Does it hold up?”

    It probably was only a misconception, but maybe there are some (likely relatively few) capes around who triggered during their “best”, not “worst” moments? Even if this is just a misconception, it probably explains why there were so many people running towards the broken trigger instead of away from it during the construction workers protest. With misconceptions like this, people just don’t fear getting powers enough.

    And if letting May’s die was supposed to be her ‘triumph’, then maybe there is a bit of truth in this misconception? Maybe how strong your powers are depends in part on how you later feel about events surrounding your trigger?

    13. Since Homer died, I guess Paris isn’t the third member of the Foil’s cluster despite similarly of his powers to those of March and Foil, like I suspected he is… Unless March added him to the cluster to replace Homer, just like Colt seems to be added to Rain’s cluster now.

    If it is possible to keep adding more people to a cluster, maybe this is another way to rebuild an Entity? Or at least for people to become “immortal” within their Shards? It once again reminds me of Love Lost behaving as if she considered committing a suicide after her “two enemies” are dead. It probably also explains why she is not in a hurry to kill Rain – she knows that he will end up with her in the “alien planet” at some point, and that they will be there “forever” (or rather imprints of their personalities will be, but I don’t know if Love Lost understands the difference, or cares about it). It would also explain why, as soon as he died, Snag was so convinced that fighting between cluster members is pointless.

    14. Is it possible to merge clusters? Maybe this is what March is trying to accomplish? She probably thinks this way she could be with Tori forever. Considering this:

    She would see Flechette, of course. There was no way that she wouldn’t, when they were fated to revolve around each other for an eternity. Joined by gentle Homer. Surrounded by the muted presences of others.

    maybe she even thinks that all capes will experience each other’s “muted presence” after death?

    15. And finally – remember when I went all nuts, and was thinking who could join Victoria if she was to form a parahuman music band (here: https://www.parahumans.net/2019/01/15/blinding-11-8/#comment-69221 ), and I thought that there were too many candidates for vocals, and not enough for instruments, especially other than percussion? Looks like March would be a good candidate to fill this niche, if maybe a bit too obvious and mundane.

    1. 14. This is actually what I implied in my post that led to the frankenstein-cape idea. I had a less tangible monstrosity in mind.
      It may very well be that all Scion-borne clusters are, at a fundamental level, linked together (just as Eden clusters would have been, but Contessa dealt with those ones; hard to imagine the mess it would be otherwise).
      Which means any clustermate could use the position/identity trick to acquire powers from other clustermates. Why would Bill (from Goddess’ cluster) care about draining March otherwise ?
      With, of course, the threat to hit some sort of shard-criticality threshold giving birth to a new worm.

    2. 12) Not new. Vicky mentioned it on TV, it was PRT propaganda to make the heroes seem more heroic and also provide a backstory for the Triumvirate, without revealing that they were Cauldron capes and totally lacked a trigger event.
      Grinvader) Bill tried it because he didn’t know it wouldn’t work. When it became obvious it wasn’t working, he left her to die, which didn’t happen. And Bianca did it first, at least partially.

      1. Hmm. Or it did work – we don’t know what happened there that let May survive. Bill was probably defeated and everything went back to their original owners (although it seems May used that expanded state of mind to grab Homer’s power).

    3. >It probably was only a misconception, but maybe there are some (likely relatively few) capes around who triggered during their “best”, not “worst” moments?

      IIRC it was propaganda that the PRT pushed that was intended to prevent people from doing stupid shit and torturing themselves and/or other people in an attempt at getting powers/giving other people powers.

      1. Ok, so it looks that there is no point in looking for capes who triggered on their “best” days. On the other hand the powers still seem to work better for the capes who are more ready to embrace the conditions similar to their triggers. Development of Taylor’s power is probably the best example here.

        Of course it is a dangerous path to take, because “embracing the conditions similar to your trigger” seems a lot like a way to give your shars an angle to take over your mind. Maybe this is why the most insane monsters among parahumans are all so powerful? They just got their power-up at the same time they were “possessed” by their passengers.

    4. Re. 8. Now that I think about it, I may have interpreted March’s pre-trigger thoughts wrong here:

      > And considering that that pre-trigger thought was in italics, and those sometimes mean thoughts coming more from the shards than their parahumans, is it possible that March’s shard affected her shortly before the trigger?

      And correctly here:

      > It is probably what caused her to form a cluster with Lily in the first place. It may also explain why March has such a strong Kill/Kiss reaction to Foil.

      There is no reason to assume that any shard put any thoughts into May’s head before her trigger. It is probably more like the shards prefer to attach to people who have some aspect or aspects of personality, some inner demons that can be exploited for their purposes in the first place, and they only reinforce those aspects. In May’s case her envy of people who could live a care-free life was already apparently and understandably pretty extreme, so the shard latched int that.

      Which rises a question – what were the personality aspects of other capes we know that played into triggers of other capes we know? I know – with all of those capes aroun it is a question that we can keep asking ourselves over and over again, but isn’t this what makes it fun, especially with capes who have told us a bit, but not everything about their trigger? For example – what was Lily’s inner demon?

      1. And by the way – considering what we saw March think in this interlude (and both saw and heared many times before) shouldn’t shards be compared to evil genies that listen to and grant people’s wishes in the most terrible way possible? A way that makes the person who made the wish miserable because of the way it was granted?

        That thought written in italics May had before she triggered was probably her wish.

        1. And the shards are in a way worse than even genies trapped in bottles. They listen to all wishes around them and choose which ones they grant, so it results in maximum misery and strife for their parahumans. Truly devilish creatures. I’m sure Jack Slash approved. Maybe this is why and shards seem to like each other so much.

          1. And to add insult to injury, your shard won’t even let you know that it granted your with, not to mention what the wish was. You are going to have to figure it out on your own based only on what your trigger was, and what changed in your personality and behavior since then.

          2. Plus some clues like when your power seems to get a boost… Clues that are also traps designed to make you give into your inner demon related to your wish surrounding your trigger in the first place.

  15. Wow, so much to unpack here. So creepy. So many new questions.

    I’m reminded of GlowWorm, when March first contacted Rain via chat:
    “The Kansas Cornfield massacre: 3 dead, 1 alive with no reason to care about multis. He ate the rest of his cluster.”

    So there’s at least 1 other cape out there who knows about the power grab. Who could it be?

    Does March plan to use the “disassemble people” tech to skin Foil without killing her?

    What did Foil get from the personality bleed-through?

    1. > Wow, so much to unpack here. So creepy. So many new questions.

      And here I thought that Doctor Mother’s, Contessa’s, Valkyrie’s and Scion’s interludes or the Teacher’s epilogue were full of things to unpack… I think this one may beat them all.

    2. > What did Foil get from the personality bleed-through?

      She traded her playfulness for May’s seriousness. March said as much in this interlude, and it matches what Foil said in 11.10 about trying to avoid her sister’s mistakes and treating the cape thing as a career. Lily wanted to be less of a screw-up, and May wanted to be less controlled and careful.

      Whether she’s traded with Homer is less clear. We do know he swapped his addictions for May’s singing, but he claimed to have gained love as well. I’m not sure how much love May had in her to begin with. I think he mainly got it from Lily. Foil mentioned sisters, plural, so she probably still had at least one after her trigger, and living parents were mentioned in Worm 22.3. Yet, it doesn’t seem like Foil cares about any of them. She cares about Parian specifically, but that seems to be all she really needs. She’s always had this kind of detached drifter vibe. That could be the result of growing up with her broken family, but it could also be due to a trade with Homer. If she used to care about her family and was upset about the situation she was in, she may have wished that she didn’t care so that she wouldn’t have to feel the pain each time she got shuffled around. So then she triggered and Homer got most of her sense of attachment to people and places (thus his concern for his clustermates in March’s flashback) while she got his ability to mostly make do without those things.

      1. Aside from things mentioned by Pizzasgood there are a few things that could be a result of personality traits transfer.

        First we have May’s and Lily’s sexual orientation. It is even unknown if it can change as a result of personality bleed-through, but I would not be surprised if out of those two only one was lesbian pre-trigger for example, or even that they got their attraction to women form Homer.

        Another thing that comes to mind is that while March always puts herself in a position of power (somthing that seems a polar opposite to May constantly controlled by her mother), Lily seems very submisive – not only in her relationship with Parian, but also as a cape. Considering her experience she probably should have taken command of some team, or some ad hoc group of capes at some point, but we never saw her do it – she always takes orders from someone else, or at least don’t challenge allied capes much, even if she disagrees with their actions. Her patrol with Shadow Stalker in chapter 9.2 comes to mind. She voiced some protesters over what Shadow Stalker did then, but otherwise didn’t give Sophia anywhere near as much trouble over all of those rules Shadow Stalker broke then as she should have.

        Finally, just like Pizzasgood suggested, I have a hunch that all because three cluster members had a complicated family situation pre-trigger (or at least the girls had, though I find it difficult to believe that a homeless guy who was supposedly unable to love anyone hadn’t) there have been some bleed-throughs related to that. The fact that after the accident May immediately went to perform for that unnamed, oh-so-important person instead of staying near her mother’s body seems very suspicious. It could have been just shock, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was something more.

        As a side note, I wonder who that person May run to perform for then was, and if they will become relevant again at some point.

        1. Thanks to both of you for explaining; after rereading carefully it was more clear.

          I’m intrigued by what Homer and March said about the bleed-through…that they essentially get traits/aspects that the other members ignore or don’t want (don’t focus on). That makes perfect sense for the playfulness exchange with March (as Lily got more serious, it bled into March)…but it makes the idea of lesbianism being bleed-through less likely, IMO.

          Should have said it earlier, but March’s attitude reminds me of Peter Pan (the original)…everything’s a game, even when it involves killing or dying.

          1. There’s another option. As March became more playful, her seriousness bled through to Foil. And she became more playful as she was no longer under her mother’s stifling, endless control and had the opportunity to actually *be* silly and playful, which… Then shunted off her seriousness and made her sillier, as a vicious circle. And as a Ward, being a hero, it’s likely that’s quite a serious environment, one where playfulness is… Not always appreciated. So Foil kinda-sorta needed the seriousness to cope better.

          2. Of course May had a strong incentive to become more playful after her mother’s death, just as Lily had a reason to become more serious. This is probably why this particular bleed-through was so strong. And obviously May’s shard has helped. There is a reason why her power made it so easy to get away with all the money from adult supervision. Once again a shard both enabled and reinforced a trigger related behavior which only lead to more problems and more conflict down the line.

  16. I just realised some of the additional hints at bleed through.

    In Worm, Foil mentioned she hated the travelling/relocating but March said she had come to love it.

    March is killing without guilt or regret and revelling in it while Foil has pulled out of further action with Victoria because she said she hasn’t become numb and it’s not easier.

    I can’t help but wonder if clusters are a sort of part of the Scion/Eve breeding process.

  17. all the Kiss and Kill things I have to do to them to you, too.

    There it is again. March, Love Lost and Cradle feel like they ‘have to’ do these things, and they clearly know something that makes it obvious and inevitable. Meanwhile, Foil and Precipice have not a single clue.
    I know LL and Cradle hate Rain’s guts with a fiery passion, but if it was this clearly cut you’d think they’d tell him about it during a dream just so he’d accept it (since he probably would).
    Hopefully Colt will spill the beans.

    1. > There it is again. March, Love Lost and Cradle feel like they ‘have to’ do these things, and they clearly know something that makes it obvious and inevitable. Meanwhile, Foil and Precipice have not a single clue.

      Homer also didn’t have a clue, and neither did 4/6 of the Goddess cluster. I think it’s not that there is something to know (besides the possibility for a power grab, which Foil and Precipice already know about), it’s just that March, Love Lost and Cradle have an intense obsession.

      1. I don’t think Cradle “having to” chop people to pieces has anything to do with Kill/Kiss. At least not directly. I think that he might even think that he has to do it to save all of those people somehow from what is about to happen to the city, or maybe from solitude of being a dead non-cluster cape.

  18. You know what? I think that March’s shock over her mother’s death, her ‘playfulness’, her choice of name and costume, her interpretation of her vision, and how it led her to killing capes without a second thought are all connected.

    She couldn’t get over her mother’s death, so she retreated into a deranged child’s story in which nobody can ever truly die. This is why she interpreted what she saw in her vision as a promise of immortality. The trauma of her trigger coupled with her shard’s influence just made her that delusional.

    1. “I think I got the singing from you,” Homer said. “I remember the violin case. Some musical talent. I guess not violin, specifically.”

      “I sang before. It’s been a while since I did.”

      “If you picked it up again, I’d lose the ability,” Homer said.

      Could the way to cure March’s delusions be for Lily to stop being so serious all the time? To take some of her inner child back?

      1. And it is not impossible that Lily’s inner child is all gone too:

        Foil bowed, flourishing, before skipping up the spider-bridge to the next rooftop.

        “She’s such a ham sometimes,” Parian said.

        Maybe the only mistake Lisa made, was that of all people she didn’t try to “save” Lily? Note that Foil listed a lot of people, who Tattletale is trying to save, but who don’t need saving. It is ironic, that Foil may be the only Undersider who really needs help, despite of what she said about Tattletale’s obsession? Maybe she should have worked with Parian on bringing that child back? This way she could save both Lily and May.

      2. > To take some of her inner child back?

        Yes. And she should do it by planting a bolt in March’s head. Getting the inner child back, curing delusions and getting rid of a murderous sadistic maniac – triple effect!

          1. But, but… if Foil did that, the bunny wouldn’t have a functioning brain to appreciate it with anymore!

          2. Reminder that May’s obviously a hare and not a bunny.
            Her cape name is a direct indication of her deliberate jump into batshit cuckoolander mode (Haigha was supposedly less crazy in May than he was in March).

          3. True. Looks like I need to refresh my knowledge of “Alice in Wonderland”, and “Through the Looking-glass”. I haven’t bothered with those since I was a kid, and even then I only had contact with Polish translations (though I honestly don’t remember if March stayed a hare or was turned into a bunny in those).

    2. Yes. There’s a very real chance that while they know bits of information that the Wardens and Breakthrough don’t, *They are interpreting them wrong, and making huge, hidious mistakes!*

      It’s like “We faithfully serve our god and will live forever in his paradise!” As chew toys for his true chosen in the paradise that he made for them, for example.

  19. On the topic of capes possessed by their shards. Don’t you think that in a way the greatest Taylor’s victory wasn’t against Scion, but against Queen Administrator? After all Taylor not only managed to hold onto her anchors, and her human regrets. She also gave Amy and Victoria their second chance, and she let her “hostages” go. Not something that Queen Administrator would do, I think. It seems fitting that Taylor is now free of QA. Maybe this is why Contessa allowed it to happen?

    1. And maybe Taylor chose death over telling Contessa about her final anchor, because she ultimately didn’t feel like har life was worth living without her mother anymore? Another very human thing to do, and it might have been the last thing that actually convinced Contessa to let her live, and on top of it let Taylor find her mother’s counterpart.

      It probably also wasn’t without meaning that Fortuna had to leave her own family, and let them die in order to to kill Eden, so she probably understood Taylor’s pain of losing a parent very well.

      1. It appears that I misremembered. Fortuna didn’t sacrifice her family, she actually saved her uncle before she went after Eden. She just abandoned him to kill Eden, and later to fight against Scion. On the other hand because she lived with her uncle, her parents were probably already dead when she got her power, so her situation with her family seems to be even more similar to Taylor’s than I thought. All the more reason for Contessa to relate to Taylor and save her.

        1. And if this is how Fortuna feels about Taylor, then maybe I was right all those chapters ago, when I joked that she should mary Danny. Fortuna needs to have a family. Abandoning her uncle was the first great sacrifice she has made after all. And with those feelings and this understanding and ability to relate to Taylor, she would probably make a great stepmom. One that Taylor probably could really use in her life right now.

          Only how would poor Danny handle being married to a (hopefully former) monster like Contessa? Isn’t Taylor enough for him to handle already?

          1. And if that marriage did happen, what would Lisa’s reaction to the news be? Would her jaw penetrate Earth’s crust? On the other hand if this marriage did work out then perhaps this would be the thing to heal Lisa’s own wound? It would mean that unlike with her brother all of those efforts to save Taylor were not in vain.

          2. Of course if such family was to work long-term, Contessa would have to either have her power removed, or seriously limit it’s use when it comes to Taylor and Danny. She would have to refrain from using it to manipulate those two people, except perhaps in emergency situations. It could happen – she did say she wanted to make more of her decisions herself. Let’s hope she was telling the truth.

          3. And if Contessa have a problem with not using her powers to manipulate Taylor and Danny when she shouldn’t, then I think that Taylor at least could give her a second chance or two. Having a problem with avoiding temptation to use one’s power is something that Taylor can definitely relate to.

          4. And Contessa and Danny could be good for each other too, especially if she kept her powers.

            He could keep her grounded, remind her how life looks like from average person’s perspective, point it out to her when she did too monstrous things. It is what he did for Taylor, especially after her surrender to PRT, and it is something that Miss “let’s spend most of my life creating a word biggest conspiracy and performing horrible experiments on thousands of people for the grater good” could very much use.

            She on the other hand could explain him things about capes, and about the grand scheme of things that Taylor probably still couldn’t or wouldn’t. He could understand his daughter, and what she went through better thanks to it. And maybe, just maybe she could fill some of that vacuum left in his soul by Annette’s passing. All of those three have such vacuums to fill after losing their family members, but maybe his is the most difficult to fill…

  20. Looks like Wildbow suggests, that this arc is going to be written “backwards” so to speak. It not only it began with an interlude, this interlude is labeled with the last letter of alphabet on top of it! Do I see a hint of traveling in time back here, jut like I speculated with “time portals” not long ago?

      1. Could it also have something to do with “backwards two” repeated in Tattletale’s message? Maybe the last three characters were a date? 2002 written backwards? Are we going back to that year?

    1. Nice catch. I thought this was a normal interlude after after arc 11 and completely missed the number jump.
      From what we know of wildbow’s rules of unreliable narration, this usually means someone’s screwing around with a time effect on the main protagonist. Last we saw Victoria was far away from Brockton Bay, but shenanigans are likely afoot (and other alimbs).
      We’ll have to see if next chapter is 12.1 or 12.y.

      1. You know? I expect that the next chapter could be 12.10 or something along those lines (depending on how many chapters are supposed to be in this arc), and 12.1 – the last one in the arc. The only question is – will the events also be presented in reverse chronological order?

    1. So March is leading a Shard-based immortality cult and that’s the reason everybody just loves committing insane war crimes now

      This is getting too abstract and bleak for me

  21. Marching Orders
    “Everything will be fine as long as you do what I say”

    March is the perversion of authority. She is to people what Skitter was to bugs: the subjects of the power feel that they are more than they are when they’re apart of her ability, when in reality they were just tools to the actual whole. It’s subversive, it’s manipulative; I would almost say it qualifies as a master ability if not for knowing March’s coordination doesn’t force anyone to do anything, and that makes it all the more terrifying. It’s just psychology and the submissiveness of who March surrounds herself with. She has deliberately created a group of people who will do nothing but listen to her. She’s a militant and tyrannical genius who’s built an empire of toy soldiers, and that’s terrifying.

    1. > I would almost say it qualifies as a master ability if not for knowing March’s coordination doesn’t force anyone to do anything, and that makes it all the more terrifying.

      Maybe we should introduce a term “Master personality”? She definitely has some authoritarian tendencies.

      1. And I think she might have gotten those inclinations from her mother. The fact that Foil is so submissive (especially in her relationship with Parian) may also be related.

      2. > Maybe we should introduce a term “Master personality”?

        That is unnecessary. The Vocabulary Gods have long foreseen this need and bestowed upon us the word charisma so we’d be prepared for just such an occasion. I hereby share it with you over these hallowed optical fibers to spread its light to distant Poland and perhaps beyond. Soon, the entire world will be illuminated by this knowledge. Soon, English literacy will reign supreme. Soon, my words will become all powerful! Mua ha ha ha ha!

        1. I didn’t mean charisma. I meant a type of personality that demands unquestioning obedience from others (as opposed to authoritarian personality, which is characterized by submitting to someone else’s authority) reinforced by one’s power.

          Also, you may want to check word ‘charyzma’ in some Polish-English dictionary.

          1. March’s nature is more subtle than that; she doesn’t DEMAND unquestioning obedience, she just craves it and loves it, and tries to get others to willingly give it by showing how awesome and efficient it is.

            Getting people to willingly jump off the cliff with you is way scarier than forcing them to.

  22. “But if I could? If I can? I’d map you to our cluster, so I could do all the Kiss and Kill things I have to do to them to you, too. And you would be the most important person in the world to me, then. I’m going to look for ways.”

    When your lover says to you something like that, it’s time to just run. Like from Contessa, but faster.

  23. I can’t help but think that March is making some key miss-assumptions despite the information she has. For starters the whole shard afterlife thing… I don’t think it’s going to be as enjoyable as she thinks.

    I’m reminded of the story of the birth of Slaneesh from Warhammer 40,000. The Eldar who were an intensely psychic race had descended into hedonism and depravity were making a chaos god of sensation, pleasure and perfection. Some realized this, and some when learning of this went all in, as how could it be a bad thing to have this god of pleasure and sensation? Well when Slaneesh was born and devoured their souls, they found out. Someone was enjoying it, but it wasn’t the Eldar.

    1. > I can’t help but think that March is making some key miss-assumptions despite the information she has. For starters the whole shard afterlife thing… I don’t think it’s going to be as enjoyable as she thinks.

      And the epilogue of Worm strikes once again:

      “You’d think she’d be really good at figuring that basic shit out on her own.”

      “You’d think,” Tattletale said. “But no. We’re really good at lying to ourselves. Take it from another thinker.”

  24. I take a bet that again the villains will win and we get another desaster.
    Vista getting killed would fit all the misery overflow, too.

    But.. a good and interesting insight in how March ticks and what the Entitys left behind.

  25. If March is going back intimate as some suggest. Maybe she’s trying to go recruit pretty GM Undersiders… Or worse… shadowstalker.

  26. “I’m worried what your solution would look like. She got you good. Wormed her way into your head.”

    “It’s not that she got me,” March said. “I got it. I figured it out.”

    I’m curious who “she” is here–Tattletale?
    Or are they talking about Foil?

  27. You know what, guys? Between March, twos written backwards, Vista being compared to a chess piece and now apparently a mirrored order of chapters, I think someone might have read a little too much “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There”. What do you think it means for the upcoming events or the plot in general? Does it somehow help us decipher Lisa’s message?

    1. Let’s just hope that all this talk about mirrors, turning back time and fighting entrophy doesn’t involve some take on CPT symmetry or one of similar theories. Those may involve a lot of nasty stuff, like entire universes basically made of antimatter.

    2. Random thought: Tattletale message could be saying about antisymmetry or rotation/change on mirroring.
      “Circle with a diagonal line through it” vs “Circle with a vertical line through it”
      “Arrow” vs “Less-than symbol”
      “Square with wobbly side” vs “Parallel vertical lines”
      “Equal-sign with line drawn through it” is probably “Not-equal-sign”
      “Backwards two. Two overlapping circles. Backwards two” could be “5 OO 5” or “Upside-down two. Two overlapping circles. Backwards two”.

      There is a novelette “Approaching Perimelasma” from Geoffrey Alan Landis about diving into black hole, touching singularity and escaping after which protagonist discovered that time and one of space dimensions swapped for him.

      Touching/opening time bubble could lead to something similar.

      1. Interesting. Looks like aside from Carroll I may have to read some Lifshitz and Landau, or at least some Feynman. It’s been a while since I read any of those, and I’m not sure if I can still handle them (to be fair, I’m joking here – most of L&L and even some F was always outside of my reach mostly due to my insufficient knowladge of mathematics).

  28. Despite her age, Vista alias “Little V”, has been a cape for almost as long as March, close enough that it matters where in the year March’s birthday lies. When March was attending drunken parties and running from her legal guardians and/or Child Protective Services, Vista was in the streets fighting criminals trying to cause her physical harm. For the past two years, Vista’s been up against worlds-threatening cataclysm after cataclysm, and she’s not only still standing, she’s still fighting. This is on top of the vast amount of experience she gained in the serial calamities that beset Earth Beta, especially in the city of Brockton Bay. HER city of Brockton Bay. Coincidentally, Vista’s power has more effect when she’s been in a place longer. Also, they knew March was coming. Also, unlike March, Vista’s “cape geek” friend is still alive and gathering information. Her friend’s sources include Tattletale, Dragon, and March’s own clustermate. It’s been noted that Vista’s power might confuse thinker abilities.

    March may be a budget Contessa, but someone on a budget should’t gamble on breaking the bank by betting against the house. The field (and house, and bank, and butcher shop, and barber, and parking garages) is tilted against her.

    1. Which is why I said above that a game of chess between king Vista and king March (assuming she is also one here), may turn out to be one in which neither of them will be able to get into position to directly attack the other. Just like kings in chess they may only be able to at best limit each other’s movements, while the final blow will need to come from another piece or pieces.

      1. Of course if Ward is just a re-telling of “Through the Looking-Glass”, then March is not a king. The question is – is Vista a king? And how closely does Ward stay to Carroll’s work?

          1. From the previous chapter:

            “She’s made herself the King on the chess board,” I said. “So long as she’s making that place that impenetrable, they have to get her to crack it and do what they want to do.”

  29. One thing we need to think about is what is going on with Scrub and Labyrinth (and some people connected to them). For several reasons:
    1. Their powers were used to create the portals which turned out to be gigantic power amplifiers capable of extending the time between individual triggers in a cluster. How does their combo work? It looks like she can gather all energy necessary in one place, while his “hole” in reality is what allowes to keep this energy from dispersing.
    2. Aside from their role in creating city portals during Gold Morning they used their powers to create other portals from Bet to other long words before then for governments and possibly other groups who were willing to pay. Could it be that they kept doing it after GM? If so, where are those post-GM portals, who they were made for, and who knows about them? If not, why did they stop?
    3. During and before Gold Morning those two stayed with Faultline’s crew. Recently we saw Faultline’s crew attacked together with Undersiders by March, but the Undersiders and Faultline’s crew apparently parted ways not long after that. Why did this happen? Is it just because their alliance was temporary, or did Faultline’s crew have even more reasons to hide than Undersiders did? What would be those reasons, where would they be hiding, and from who? Just March or maybe also someone like Teacher? Wardens? Citrine and Number Man?
    4. Due to Matryoshka’s presence Labyrinth and Scrub could be with Faultline’s crew when Breakthrough met them and the Undersiders shortly after March’s attack at the truck stop, but their presence was not confirmed. There was one unnamed person there who I think could be Labyrinth, but I’m not sure if it was her. Are Labyrinth and Scrub still with Faultline’s crew, or did they part ways for some reason?
    5. Do you remember who else was with Faultline’s crew during Gold Morning? Dinah Alcott. Did she part ways with Faultline’s crew after that? Tattletale’s notes seem to suggest that it was the case, but could it be that Dinah simply hid even deeper in Matryoshka than Tattletale did? And if she didn’t – does she still maintain contact with Faultline’s crew? Why would she do it? Why would she not do it?
    6. On the topic of people hidden in Matryoshka, could putting Contessa deep enough in Matryoshka be a way to successfully trap her?
    7. Faultline was supposed to have some sort of feud with Tattletale, mentioned in chapter 5.1 of Worm, and Faultline’s entry in “Cast (in-depth)” section of Worm (see References section in Faultline’s entry on Worm Wiki for details). Does this feud still affect their relationship, and how? What does it mean for cooperation (both past and present) between Faultline’s crew and the Undersiders?

    I think some of those questions may contain answers to others, but what are your opinions and speculations?

    Remember that Faultline was one of early characters Wildbow created in the parahumans universe. She (under names Melanie Fitts and Disaster Area) is even a protagonist in “The Events Leading Up to That Thursday” also known as “TELUTT” – one of Wildbow’s early drafts that later resulted in Worm (see this entry on Wildbow’s blog https://wildbow.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/snippets-drafts-of-worm/ and entry for TELUTT on Worm Wiki).

    Even though events of TELUTT are stated to be non-canon, and not necessarily accurately reflecting what happened in final Parahumans setting, I imagine that Faultline and her crew may still be or become important to events of not only Worm, but also Ward. My guess is that there is a good chance that Wildbow wouldn’t completely sideline characters so important to origins of the Parahumans setting. It could happen of course (and apparently did happen with Circus and Elite for example), but I think that Faultline’s crew is interesting and well designed enough that they may play an important role yet (especially seeing that they did not get that much screen time in Worm).

    1. And by not getting much screen tome in Worm I don’t mean that they were not important to events that happened in that book. Quite opposite – a lot of what they did had dramatic consequences. It is just that a lot of what they did was not explicitly shown to the reader, but instead just explained or alluded to in conversations between the characters in that book.

      I feel like im Worm Wildbow might always have had what they are doing off-camera in mind, but was intentionally showing or explaining to the reader as little of it as he could get away with. What if he is doing the same thing in Ward? Seems like we need to keep a close eye on Faultline’s crew, because whatever they are doing may again have critical consequences to the main story and characters at some point.

    2. Re. 6. Remember that Faultline’s crew has more than enough reasons to dislike and possibly go after Contessa – from her role in creating C53s to her going after them in interlude 18.f of Worm, right after they recruited Matryoshka in Madison.

      1. And regarding Tattletale’s “captured, weapon kept up sleeve” comment comment about “Bogeyman of Cauldron”‘ I know that it may be too early in the story to pull Contessa out, but what if Matryoshka is currently waiting in Brockton Bay to unleash Contessa on March?

        1. Of course it is possible that someone is using March as a feint, in which case even dea ex Matryoshka may be not enough to save the day.

      2. Another cape who could keep Contessa captured in a way similar to Matryoshka woud be Pretender if he somehow survived destruction of Alexandria’s body. Only what reason could he have to go after Contessa in the first place?

    3. Not sure about all the points, but there is some evidence that Dinah is still (at least partly) with Faultline;
      When Breakthrough visit Tattletale at Faultline’s lair, Faultline comes down and reports “Blue, interpret as you will” (or similar), and Vic assumes it is a hospital code.
      Faultline is like “What? No.”
      And then conversation continues.

      As it turns out, this is Dinah’s code from when she was helping Theo vs Jack.

      Hence, Dinah is still (at least partially) aligned with Faultline… and honestly I would put bets that they are co-located most of the time.
      Dinah does need some serious protection, and faultline counts.

      1. Yeah I noticed that thing about code blue. It has been discussed before. You could be right, but I think it is also possible that Faultline adapted Dinah’s color-codes to pass orders to her teammates in a way that doesn’t let anyone who doesn’t know the code know what the order was, or that it even was issued, though if it was the case, I expect that Faultline’s comment to Victoria’s response about medical codes would be different.

        If it was indeed a message from Dinah than it probably rules out Dinah being folded into Matryoshka, but hiding in a nearby room or able and willing to talk with Faultline over a phone or something (unless of course Dinah managed to somehow prepare this answer in advance, before the question was asked, and for example wrote it down for Faultline somewhere).

        1. And yes, I don’t think it has to be impossible for Dinah to prepare such answers in advance. Depending on how much she knew about what’s going to happen later in Worm her two written messages for Taylor could also be answers similar to answers to questions that Taylor asked herself later. It is even possible that Dinah never learned what Taylor’s questions and thoughts answered by those pieces of paper were – it could be that she merely managed to think up those notes based on what little of possible futures she did see, and just used her power to check if those notes would increase or decrease the chances of the worst possible outcome of Gold Morning.

          1. She could have done the same thing for Faultline – grab a few pieces of paper, tell Faultline to look at them in a specific order when she had questions (or just put numbers on them), and for each of those pieces just ask her power if the chances of whatever she wants to achieve at the moment would be worse or better if she wrote “red” instead of “blue” on it.

          2. The big problem with the theory that Dinah is working with Faultline is that in Aiden’s interlude Tattletale seemed to be puzzled about what exactly is going with Dinah, and we know that Tattletale almost certainly knows this code – she was on the comms with Dinah, when Dinah instructed Golem using the code.

            Than maybe the reason that Faultline’s crew and the Undersiders parted ways lately was at least in part caused by Faultline’s unwillingness to tell Tattletale what exactly is going on with Dinah after Tattletale has heard the code?

  30. A man, heavyset, with a false magnificence that filled her with equally false strength, just to be around him. False enough that she tested and exceeded her limits, hurt herself in mind and body.

    So, if I have this right, he (for all intents and purposes) jacks up your endorphin and adrenaline production (and dials down your pain response?) to the point where you think you’re a minor Brute-Mover when you actually aren’t. End result: you overclock your movements and tear your muscles and tendons apart.

    1. I saw it as more general; perhaps giving an inflated sense of competence and power, so you attempt risky things, or push yourself too hard.

      I think it was Bill’s version of Bianca’s influence power.

      1. I saw it as more general; perhaps giving an inflated sense of competence and power, so you attempt risky things, or push yourself too hard.

        True. I like it. Could even be both.

        I think it was Bill’s version of Bianca’s influence power.

        Oh yeah, definitely. I assumed that was clear.

  31. Does this whole talk about March Hare and stories for children remind anyone else here about that old Soviet cartoon called “Ну, погоди!/Nu, pogodi!/Well, just you wait!”?

    I know that March’s story is supposed to be all about Alice from books by Lewis Carroll, but isn’t it just funny how in that cartoon it is the wolf who seems to have most March-like case of Kiss/Kill feelings for the hare, not the other way around? At least in the cartoon the hare seems to appreciate wolf’s feelings more than Lily does March’s.

    1. I have seen all “original” episodes of “Nu, pogodi!” and March’s Kiss/Kill does not remind me this cartoon at all. Not even with reversed roles, as Foil is not a wolf in any sense.

  32. More thoughts:

    – where is Faultline in all this?
    – as others have noted, March has become her mother writ large
    – being a timing thinker on her level seems to sit on the exact point of Venn Diagram overlap between super-reflexes, precognition and (ironically) postcognition
    – which is oddly enough, a lot like the Simurgh writ small
    – which in turn fits surprisingly well thematically speaking with how unimportant she considers the present.
    – sooooo, how did Bill the blood-priest get taken down? Also, was that really a Cauldron rescue team saving them from him or is the person who updated the wiki talking out of their ass? The timing works given that Cauldron did put Bianca aka Blue Empress aka Goddess on Shin.
    – this means March very likely spent some time on Earth Shin then, possibly until Gold Morning went down and interdimensional travel became a fully public thing?
    – speaking of, isn’t it curious that Goddess’ Cluster is so monstrously powerful? I mean, forget about the grab-bag stuff, each individual’s primary power is insanely strong (to say nothing of the synergy with Megan’s power boost) Compare to Rain’s who are sharp versatile capes all but Love Lost cannot tear down buildings. Even her rage-scream isn’t even that overwhelming compared to that of, say, the Butcher.
    – back to March. Her use of the term megacluster is interesting and could be interpreted in many ways. It could just be her word for “coterie of lost souls who happen to belong to clusters.” It could be that her shard is getting ideas and some of that is bleeding through into her word-choice. My personal preferred one is the one that supports what I’ve been saying about her all along: that she’s figured out how to join multiple clusters and gain access to all the powers thereof. Of course, we now know that’s just a side-effect of her actual goal of living forever in shard-heaven.

    Conclusion: I suspect, like Kaecilius before her, she will find that … well:

    Kaecilius: What is this?

    Doctor Strange: Well, it’s, uh … it’s everything you ever wanted. Eternal life as part of the One. You’re not going to like it.

    Yeah, that.

    1. Just another one of my responses seems to have been lost along the way, so I’ll just try summarize it here for you. Sorry if this turns into a sort of double post if the one I posted before pops up again. It has happened to me before.

      > where is Faultline in all this?

      I wrote my thoughts in a series of comments starting here: https://www.parahumans.net/2019/02/09/interlude-12-z/#comment-73402

      > – being a timing thinker on her level seems to sit on the exact point of Venn Diagram overlap between super-reflexes, precognition and (ironically) postcognition
      > – which is oddly enough, a lot like the Simurgh writ small

      I’m not sure if March’s ability contains any form of postcognition, or if it even is a “true” precognition, though it may be as far as the precognition in the Parahumans setting goes. Even Thinker Entity’s precognition seemed to work as a simulation of possible outcomes based on current state of the multiverse. Coil’s ability has also been theorized (even by Lisa or Taylor if I remember correctly) to possibly be nothing more than an ability to simulate the outcome of one decision, coupled by his shard’s ability to predict which decision Coil would make if he knew both possible outcome (the one he ended up choosing and the one which remained as a simulation).

      This also brings an interesting question about cosmology of the Parahumans setting. Is it that the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is true, and timelines constantly split into more parallel worlds (at least as often as an event which could be observed in quantum mechanics meaning of observation) occurres, or is the “Parahumanverse” stuck in this wired middle ground between Copenhagen interpretation and the many-worlds interpretation that is so typical for science fiction stories – where the universes do split into multiple timelines, but not nearly as often as the many-worlds interpretation would require?

      1. And if the many-worlds interpretation is correct in the “Parahumanverse” than it means for example that there are plenty of Scions still alive out there either because they survived Gold Morning or because it never happened in their timelines. And the same goes for everyone and everything else that from our point of view existed and could theoretically survive to this day, as well as even more people, things etc. that from our PoV did not exist, but theoretically could. It may become interesting if the powers can grant access to all of those timelines, or at least some of them (like some of those containing Scion who was never defeated). Time travel seems like a trifle compared to this.

        1. There are clearly not multiple Scions; if there were, the ones that rampaged but didn’t die would have kept rampaging through the multiverse, and people would have noticed them by now. Also, if there were multiple Scions there would have been multiple Edens as well, so why didn’t Scion just grab one of those instead of moping around for thirty years without hope?

          My theory is that the entities are naturally connected to any forked copies of themselves, forming one coherent multiversal entity rather than a bunch of doppelgangers operating in parallel. Since he’s all linked together like that, the capes at Gold Morning were able to kill (or at least lobotomize) the whole of Scion, not just one instance.

          It’s also important to remember that the entities partitioned off the multiverse to group up and seal off overly-similar variant universes. So it makes sense if things aren’t quite behaving naturally according to many-worlds; we’re not dealing with a natural environment.

      2. This was actually explored in canon (too lazy to search for quotes though). If I got that right, the many-worlds interpretation is fully true, but Entities learned to group universes that are similar enough, lock down all the infinity-minus-one of “extra” ones and harvest energy for the powers from them. So no surviving Scions for us, there was only one (because he himself is a hivemind of space worms from all the timelines).

        1. If the many-world interpretation is correct, the “lock down” process would have to be done continuously from the moment Scion came to be to the moment of his death for there to be no Scions left. I wonder if there was some shard or shards doing it? Did it stop after Scion’s death? Or maybe there are still living Scions out there, and the “lock down” just means that their timelines are not accessible with our Scion’s (and I guess Eden’s and possibly Abaddon’s) powers?

          1. Scion’s linked to every iteration of himself in every world. If one iteration is killed, they’re all killed. Especially by Sting, which hits every possible body and bypasses all possible defences (besides getting out of the way).

            Scion is dead, an ex-Scion, ceased to be, gone, pining for the fjords. However you want to say it, Scion is not coming back.

          2. That seems like a better interpretation. Otherwise I couldn’t see how Scapegoat’s power would work. It seems to require some very close parallel timelines – separated by days at most, not decades as appears to be the case with Aleph and Bet for example.

          3. On the other hand if this is the case, then what were the chances that the Scion we saw in Worm just happened to be killed there? Why didn’t he just suddenly appear to die without apparent reason, because he was killed earlier in some paralel universe? Could what we saw in Worm “really” be the fastest way the final battle could have gone?

          4. > Could what we saw in Worm “really” be the fastest way the final battle could have gone?

            I meant to say “Could what we saw in Worm really be the fastest way the final battle could have gone, and still result in Scion’s death.” obviously. It wouldn’t matter if in some parallel universe Scion managed to win in half the time it took to kill him in Worm.

          5. Operating in fifty billion nearly identical universes is a massive waste of resources. Every time a universe he was in forked, Scion probably just withdrew from one of the forks and consolidated in the other. This may have even factored into his defenses somewhat, like a shorter-duration wider-ranging version of Coil’s power.

    2. Re: why Goddess’s cluster is so strong, I assumed it was because the powers weren’t as divided (hence, the carousel, where if it isn’t your day you get almost nothing).

      So maybe in Rain’s cluster, the tinker power is divvied 60% Cradle, 20% Snag, 15% Love Lost, 5% Rain (just throwing numbers out there).

      But in Goddess’s cluster, Bianca gets 90-95% of the presence/influence power, and everybody else gets 1-2%.

  33. > where is Faultline in all this?

    Isn’t it funny, that I started a thread on pretty much the same topic just a few hours ago here: https://www.parahumans.net/2019/02/09/interlude-12-z/#comment-73402

    And yes, I also wonder about the megacluster and about March’s possible connections to Blanka and Earth Shin. As for March being a mini-Simurgh, I’ll just say that I’m not entirely sure if March’s power gives her any postcognition, or if it even can be classified as precognition (though it probably can – all forms of precognition we saw in Parahumans could probably be explained as a form of simulation of possible outcomes based on current information – even Thinker Entity’s).

    By the way this discussion about precognition, postcognition and pretercognition (as Simurgh’s ability was called in Interlude 28/28.x of Worm) reminds me about that theory (which as far as remember was even stated explicitly in Worm) that Coil’s power also had nothing to do with creating or perceiving alternate timelines, and everything to do with running simulations. The answer to that question can probably be connected to whether the Copenhagen or the multi-world interpretation of quantum mechanics is true in the Parahumanverse. Scapegoat at least seems to be leaning towards multi-would interpretation, and the existence of multiple confirmed universes may also support it.

    If the multi-world interpretation is correct, then no number of portals will even begin to scratch the surface of all available worlds, and probably no power will ever give you anything even reassembling full access to every existing universe. What’s perhaps even more scary is that if this interpretation is correct, then there is a “nearly infinite” number of Scions and Edens still alive out there.

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