Heavens – 12.2

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I was about to leave back through the portal when I saw our reinforcements.  Quick, to get here in what must’ve been half the estimated time.  Damsel was wearing her black dress and a black coat that buckled at the neck, lace up to the underside of the jaw.  She had black eyeliner around her eyes and eyeshadow smeared around eyes without pupils or irises.  Her blades gleamed on her left hand.  On the right, the shine was dulled by streaked blood.  It looked like she had tried to wipe it off and had only dragged it along the length of the blade.

Two people accompanied her.  The reinforcements from Citrine, I was assuming.  After she got new information or had second thoughts about how fucking useless she was being, she’d volunteered two of her contacts.

The two contacts matched, boys shorter than Rain, both wearing peacoats and wearing hard white masks like hockey masks, that were cut out to trace the edges of thick-rimmed glasses.  Another hard mask segment covered the foreheads, cut to fit to the top of the glasses, and each of the upper-face sections had a number stamped on it.  One and Two.  Hair was parted and combed back with some gel that made hair look both perpetually wet and rigid.

“Damsel, thank you for coming,” I said, glancing over the crowd of people we’d leveled earlier.  “Thing one, thing two, I presume?”

“That works,” one of the boys said.

“Password?”

“Pilum,” he said.

“We’re good, then.  Let’s go.  They’ll close the door after us.”

We turned to go, the boys falling into step on either side of me.  Something was eerie about the way they moved.  That Damsel had a regal glide as she walked behind me almost seemed to accentuate it.

I turned my eyes forward.

“You’ve heard?” Thing One asked.

“Pretty sure,” I said.  “Brockton Bay?  Unless there’s other bad news warranting a question as ominous as ‘you’ve heard’.”

“Yes.  Brockton Bay.”

“Please tell me the situation hasn’t gotten worse in the last few minutes.”

“It’s worse,” Thing Two said.  “But not exponentially worse.”

“A derivative kind of worse,” Thing One said.  “If you bomb a city, the fires that follow are derivative of the bomb.  Worse, but not in the way you mean.”

“Good,” I said.  “Let’s hope this stays on the borderline side of catastrophic.”

“It’s not,” Thing One said, quiet.

My heart sank.  “Past borderline?”

The two boys nodded in unison.

The sensation of gut sinking joined the feeling at the center of my chest, and swept through my entire body.  That down feeling, the sick drop that was associated with the moments before disaster struck.

We passed through the portal.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“My brothers,” Damsel said.  “After a fashion.”

Brothers?  My mind turned to that particular riddle.  Ashley had never mentioned anything which meant she wasn’t talking about blood brothers.  She was talking about a different kind of kinship.  They’d been cloned, and that meant these two were Slaughterhouse.  Slaughterhouse meant-

I went through a filing cabinet in my mind’s eye, a dozen faces and masks making their fleeting appearances.

Jack?” I asked, my heart skipping a beat.  “No.  Harbingers?”

“Yes,” she said.

“You were close,” Harbinger One said.

“You were active pre-internet.  That’s my excuse,” I said.  “Can I trust you?”

“Does it change anything if we say no?” Harbinger Two asked.

I saw a wounded Ashley, knew Tristan was inside Byron, cleaved in half.  I had the grisly image of Lookout and Darlene, of Juliette, Amias, Flor… the Navigators.  Sveta.

I could see the others.  Looking back, I saw Sveta just beyond the portal’s boundary, which was marked in tape on the floor.  The tendrils were gathered into a rough human silhouette, many long enough that they had to coil or wrap around her like a spring.  Some were weaving into one another to form complex braids.

“No,” I decided.

I gave the signal to the other group.  Rain hit the button.

The portal behind us crackled as it shifted.  The ‘view’ distorted, a texture like television static rippling across the periphery.  I hadn’t even realized it had a proper shape beyond being a rough three-dimensional blob.  It had been a building, of some peculiar architecture, it seemed.

I turned away.

“Swansong, there you are,” Damsel said, as we drew nearer.  “How clumsy of you, to lose a foot.”

“It’s clumsier to taunt the woman who is very irritated at having lost a foot,” Swansong retorted.  “The pain is making my temper short.  Don’t test it.”

“Bad mood.  I might have to make it worse, not that I want to,” Damsel said.

“Worse?” Rain asked.

Damsel met my eyes.

Oh.  She wants to mention the situation in the city.

I beat her to the punch.  “March got to one of the time effects.  It was the Killington Mayor, in an area that was folded into Brockton Bay.”

“What happened?” Brandish asked.

“Broken trigger,” I said, my voice soft.  I could remember the last one I’d been present for.  The construction worker’s rally.  It had been bad.  This was apparently worse by orders of magnitude.  “It incapacitated everyone in the ruins of Brockton Bay and left them defenseless while the initial effects took place.  They’re calling it a Class-S problem.  Not a threat, because that implies a consciousness, but…”

“Everyone on duty offworld and internationally has been pulled to assist,” Harbinger One said.

“Really?” I asked.

He nodded.  So often a steady gaze was associated with confidence, but his eyes searched without wavering, and they were more disconcerting because of it.  “It’s dangerous to enter the city, and it’s dangerous to move around, but as soon as this storm passes, March will continue going after her prize.  Precogs and other thinkers are still having nosebleeds or hitting walls when trying to figure out a way to get ahead of her.”

Same as before.  That meant this wasn’t an isolated incident.  It was even possible that everyone who was released from time bubbles was going to trigger the instant they were released.  Possible that everyone who was released was going to be a broken trigger.

There was a whole group of people caught in a time effect in the scar.  Three at once?

I wasn’t going to rule out worst-case scenarios.

“Should we turn back?” Capricorn asked.

“If you do, you’ll find yourself waiting at the periphery of the effect with everyone else,” Harbinger One said.  “There’s no guarantee you’ll be able to help.”

“No guarantee I won’t,” Capricorn answered.

Harbinger Two said, “The employer of my brother and myself is of the opinion that we’re best utilized to go after her co-conspirators.  We should find out what they know and what they want.  There are hints they know too much and we’re curious how.”

Harbinger One said, “Prime example: we have logs of exchanges between them referring to the broken triggers by a much more accurate label.”

What?” I asked.  “You know something about broken triggers?”

“They called it a structural issue, which isn’t our terminology, but it’s better terminology,” Harbinger One said.

“I hate to interrupt,” Rain interrupted.

I reached out, grabbing him by the front of his costume.  “Don’t.”

“Victoria,” my mom said.

“And you- don’t do that,” I said, to my mom, still holding Rain by his front.  “This is important.  Harbingers, what’s going on with the broken triggers- the structurally flawed triggers?”

“Time’s short,” Rain said, behind me, before either Harbinger provided me an answer.  “By my watch, it’s only going to be a few minutes before my cluster passes out.  Me included.”

I turned to look at him.  His head hung a little.  He didn’t want to be in this position.

“There will be time for answers later,” Harbinger One said.  “Make your arrangements for Precipice.”

No there won’t, I thought, incensed by the interruption and the derail.  We always need more answers than there’s time to get them.

Pushing for the information now wouldn’t work, and there were too many other things to do.  As if tacitly acknowledging this, Harbinger One was stepping over to the window to peer outside.

“You’ll want to give them very specific orders,” Swansong said.  She was leaning against a wall, her hair in an atypical sort of disarray.  “Don’t get distracted.”

“These two?” Capricorn asked.

“It would be smart,” Harbinger One said.  “We’d do things our way, but we’ve been forewarned that you wouldn’t like our methods.”

“What methods?” Flashbang asked.

Swansong gave the answer.  “They’d go out the front door, into the hail of gunfire.  They’d kill or maim every threat and every potential threat and then torture answers out of the survivors.”

“You oversell us,” Harbinger One said.  “Not into the hail of gunfire.  Not in the late evening when visibility is low.”

“I stand corrected,” Swansong said.

“If it was just capes who were aware of what Cradle’s group did and were condoning it, maybe,” I said.  “But there are civilians in that town, and I doubt capes living out in the corner worlds are fully aware of all the context.  No killing.”

“Then we’re at your disposal,” Harbinger One said.  “No killing.”

“No maiming, no permanent damage.  Not civilians.”

“No permanent damage includes mental scarring from trauma.  Don’t break them,” Foil said.

The Harbinger spread his arms, before uttering the least believable, “We’ll be good,” I’d ever heard.

I looked over the group.  Some strong, capable capes.  A lot of people I trusted and knew how to work with.  And then the handful I didn’t.

And three overlarge canines, who were on the dangerous side of neutral.

“You trust Cassie?” I asked Rachel.

“Mm,” was the unhelpful response.

“Why?” Cassie asked.

Someone has to take the controller that unlocks the portal, and someone needs to look after Precipice,” I said.  “You don’t have powers?”

She shook her head.  “And I’m glad.”

My estimation of her rose by just a little, even without the approval from Rachel.

My glance in Rachel’s direction as I thought that seemed to be a cue for her to say something.

“She’s never disappointed me,” Rachel said.  “Some of my old teammates, but not Cassie.”

I saw Cassie react to that, like someone could have knocked her on her ass with the gentlest push.

“You’re good with it?” I asked Rain.  “We’ll leave you with her.”

He nodded.

“Take Yips,” Rachel said.

“Yes ma’am,” Cassie said.

Rain joined Cassie, at the side of the group.  A dog loomed above him, but he didn’t look too intimidated.

My mom and my dad were talking, standing by one window.  The two Harbingers took another window.  Damsel and Swansong hung back, having a murmured conversation.  One long clawed finger pointed at the Harbingers.

As help went, they seemed like more complication than actual assistance.

“What’s it look like out there?” I asked.  Byron was standing by the window.

A gauntleted finger pointed, indicating.  “Lights are on, including some bigger lights, not much cover of darkness.  Some people outside, some armed.  A good number of capes.”

“Any sign they’re guarding a specific building or direction?”

Byron shook his head.

“It’s warmer here than back home,” Flashbang said, from a few feet away. “But they’re still motivated to stay where they’re out of the wind and weather.  They’ve been told to be on guard, but nothing specific.”

Back home, I thought.  Having an apartment, I’d almost reached the point that I could start thinking about it as home, and then the original occupant had arrived.  Two of her, in a manner of speaking.  I didn’t think of Gimel as home, hadn’t thought of Crystal’s apartment or my dad’s apartment as home.

I hadn’t thought of the care house as home.  Or the hospital room.

Home was Brockton Bay and home had been in ruins even before today happened.

Byron moved out of the way, and I peered out the window.  I could see the construction lights that had been rigged up in place of streetlights, too bright and wide-area.  Homes were small and one-story, all prefab and few with any attempt to hide the fact that they were prefab.

“Even if you find Cradle or Love Lost, maybe Colt, you won’t be able to wake them,” Rain was telling Foil.

“Pain?  Drugs?” Chastity asked.

“No, I’m pretty sure.  Cradle tried using a power to throw a wrench into things once.  When I talked to March about it, she said that Cradle hired someone called Snaggletooth, a cape that invaded dreams.  The woman ended up brain dead.”

“You have someone else now,” I said.  “Colt.  Is that going to be an invasion or an addition?”

“I’ll find out in a few minutes,” Rain said, looking at his phone.  I saw him sigh.

The settlement around the station was tricky.  So much of it was illuminated so brightly that it seemed to cast the remainder into darker shadow.  There were places where I wasn’t sure if the dark shapes were buildings, rocks or trees.  With the construction being so cheap and so quick, even down to there being corrugated steel roofs and plywood, the windows weren’t exactly of the insulated double-pane sort.  They were drafty and to deal with drafty many of the residents put up heavy blankets or blocked the windows outright, at least for the colder months.

I’d seen enough of it while working with the Patrol.

And blocked windows didn’t shed light unless someone peeked out.

I wished we had Lookout, to map this area.  It would have changed everything about our approach.  But she was still getting medical care, for what little it was worth.

Byron tapped the glass of the window we were looking out of.  “If we leave out the front door, then we’ll have twenty eyes on us.  Ten seconds later, we’ll have a good hundred people ready to deal with us.”

“Side door, then.  Has to be.”

“The layout of this place is pretty simple.  It’s not a big station.  It might not have one.”

“It’s a station though.  It has employees on a good day.  Let’s look for the employee entrance, wherever they go for a breath of air or smoke.”

Byron nodded.

Some stayed behind to keep an eye out the windows and the glass of the door, while, at my indication, the rest of us fanned out, checking the building.  Rain’s blades cut the bulletproof glass that walled off the security booth.  I flew through, while he retreated back to Cassie and Doon.

There was a side door, by a supply area that looked like a quadruple-size broom closet and small workshop combined.  Some old construction material lay by the wall.

The door was securely locked, at the top and by the knob.

A bit of light in my peripheral vision got my attention.  I could hear the familiar crackle, and stepped aside.

My mother pushed a spike of light through the lock, then reached up, letting the spike extend to reach the one above.  White-hot metal dripped down.

“Lights,” she said.

I turned and flicked the lights off.  The only illumination was from the station interior.  The storage room and this employee-only area were dark, illuminated only by the spike.

She held the spike out of the way while she cracked the door open, pressing her head to the crack, then pulled back.  The spike was held against palm with her thumb to provide illumination as the four fingers were held up.

The hallway here being dark would mean that anyone outside wouldn’t see a sliver of light appear.  And that was good, because there were apparently four of them.

“Guns?”

“Assault rifles.  Your dad could deal with it, but that gets noisy.”

Four of them with guns.

I hesitated.  I could send the Harbingers, but I didn’t trust them.

“Go back, tell others to clear the way, then have Sveta come here.  She can deal with it.  She should be hanging back near the portal.”

My mother nodded.

Others had filtered into the back area.  I bid them to draw nearer.  Chastity and the Harbingers.  Once they were in the storage room, I partially closed the door.

“I love how in sync you two are,” Chastity said.

At first, I thought she’d meant me and my mom, and I wanted to laugh.  Then I saw she was talking to the Harbingers.

“It’s not on purpose,” Harbinger One said.  “When you’re very good at doing what makes the most sense in a given moment, you usually do the same things most moments.”

“It helps that we have the same DNA, we grew up together, and we enjoy each other’s company,” the other one clarified.

“Believe me, growing up together does not mean you get along,” Chastity said.

I closed my eyes, blanking out my thoughts to avoid connecting that thought to anything relevant.

She continued, “What happens if you diverge?  Does that screw up the sync?”

“If we go our separate ways, then we go our separate ways,” Harbinger One said.  “The coordination follows from other things, not from us.  Understanding.  A little bit of programming.”

“But we won’t go our separate ways,” Harbinger Two added.  “Probably.”

“If one of you got a girlfriend..?” Chastity asked, “Hm?”

“Wouldn’t happen,” Harbinger Two said.

“Ah-ha.  What a shame.”

“No,” Harbinger Two said.  “We like girls.  But it wouldn’t be one of us.  We’d come as a set.”

“Yes,” Harbinger One said.  “We get jealous.”

“Two boys who care about their appearance, in good standing with the Mayor, even.  Lucky girl.”

“Five boys,” Harbinger One said.

Chastity made an amused sound.  I just shook my head.

I heard the rustling that was Sveta tumbling into the area.  I flicked the light switch off and on in the storage room.

I felt the jostling at the knob a second before the pull came, forceful enough to potentially tear the door from its hinges.  I was ready for it, and held the door firm as Sveta pulled herself to the end of the hallway and the employee door.

“Hi,” she said, from the other side of the door.  “Rai- Precipice passed out.”

“Alright.  As expected.”

“Sorry that took a second.  We had to wait until people got out of the way.  I figured you had your forcefield.  Or… a door.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“You wanted me?”

“Wondering if you feel up for this?” I asked.  “Four people outside.  Heavily armed.  We need a silent takedown.  We have Chastity here.”

“As well as Thing One and Thing Two,” one of the Harbingers said.

“I can try,” she said.  “It really does help.  Precipice’s power.  It’s awful while it’s working, but… I feel like I did when I left with Weld.  As ready as I’ll be.  Scared, but part of that’s the fear you get when it could work out okay.”

Left the Asylum.

“Focus on arms and legs.”

“Yeah,” Sveta said, her voice soft.  “I can do that, at least.”

If all of this goes wrong and she does end up hurting someone, it’s best it’s kept to serious damage to an arm or a leg.

“Can you get the door?”

“I think so.  Be ready in case I toss anyone your way.”

“Got it.  Whistle?”

“You know I suck at whistling.  I’ll shout if I can’t do it.”

“Not too loud,” I told her.

I heard the door open.  I felt the cold air pour into the station.  Not that the station was warm.

“-wiped the asses and changed the diapers of cold-behind-the-eyes killers,” Chastity was murmuring.  “Doesn’t scare me.”

“Chastity,” I said.

“Full-grown, or-?” Harbinger One asked.

“When they were babies.  But they were screwed from the get-go.  Heavy exposure to emotion powers before they had teeth.”

Chastity,” I said, “Focus on the task at hand.”

“What do you need?” she asked.

“Outside.  We might need takedowns.”

She nodded, approaching the door.  I stepped around the door of the workshop broom closet.

“All I’m saying is I’m not scared,” Chastity told the Harbingers.  “I grew up with hot-blooded killers, cold-blooded killers.  I saw them evolve, I know most of the tricks.”

“Vic!”

I flew.  Out the door, into the cool outside.  Compared to the temperature back in the city, it didn’t feel right to call it cold, but it was borderline freezing out, and a light rain was pattering down.

As I stepped outside, I felt a tendril encircle my neck.

Wretch, the idea crossed my mind.  My forcefield extended from my skin, then unfurled.  The tendril squeezed, limiting expansion, then released as what it was gripping became ten feet across.

I whistled, one quick sound.  To confirm I was okay, and to signal for the teamwork.

The first hired gun was flung our way as if by an invisible force, whipped through the air by one limb, that arm twisting awkwardly as it absorbed the force of the whipcrack.

Chastity stepped out of the building.  I put myself between Sveta and her.

No need to worry.  The tendril at my neck had been an isolated incident.

Chastity slapped the man who had fallen a few feet from the door.

Two more, one after the other.  One was flung by the waist, the other was disarmed, backing away from her, which meant he was moving in our direction.  A multi-tendril strike thrust him out as a massive push.

I flew, orienting myself to catch him, then use the rotation of my body and the direction of my flight to heave him more in Chastity’s direction.

Chastity knocked out one more, and was starting to move toward the third when a fourth was hurled at us.   Immediately after that fourth were more.  Pulled from around the corner.

“Too many!” Chastity shouted.

I intercepted two.  Rather than leave them for her to deal with, I hit them while they were airborne.  Ribs cracked, leg broken.  I winced as I saw the one with a broken leg land with his leg under him.  His scream was strangled.

There had been a squad of hired guns just around the corner, to the left of where the main door jutted out of the front of the building, all huddled in a corner where two of the station’s walls blocked off the wind and the overhang kept the rain off.

Sveta wrapped herself around a post.  For a moment, in the gloom, she looked like a person of indistinguishable silhouette, her face pale.

Every movement was calculated.  Even the distance to the post.

I ventured closer, aware of the range mostly by how aware she was of it.  I put my hand out flat, toward her.

“Stop?” she asked, quiet.

“What?”

“You mean stop?”

“No,” I said.  I kept the hand where it was, waiting.

“Oh,” I heard her.

The tendril slapped my hand in a high-five.

“Don’t be so down on yourself, okay?” I asked.  “If the two of us are being careful, I think we’re alright.”

“It’s been a long time,” she said.  “I haven’t been doing exercises, except for that misery-training with Rain before.”

“You’re doing fine.”

I could hear the slaps as Chastity knocked out the last people.

We stood in the shadows at the very edge of an area one of the construction lights illuminated. The heat from the light had melted snow in a patch, while leaving snow intact just an inch away.  The other members of the group joined us.  My mom and dad.  Capricorn.  Foil.  Ashley and Damsel.  Rachel and… two very non-mutant dogs.

“They shrunk.”

“Your teammate cut them out,” Rachel said.

“Precipice?”

“They weren’t leaving the building without going through the front doors,” Foil said.  “He cut them open so we could get the dogs out.”

“Whatever works,” Capricorn said.

“The scent trail leads through the town,” Rachel said, her hand on the hound’s back, as it sniffed at the ground, lifting one leg so the ‘wrist’ pointed forward.

Through an armed populace.  Past a settlement where capes that didn’t want to integrate into proper society were collecting.

“Go around,” I said, pointing.  “It doesn’t make sense that they’re in this town, so close to things.  We’ll see if we pick up a scent at the perimeter.”

Rachel made a small whistling sound.  The wolf and hound followed her.  Others began jogging, taking the indicated path.

I floated, hesitating and watching.  Sveta stayed where she was.

“Go,” she said.

“Did you catch everything earlier, when we were all talking?”

“Most of it.  The Harbingers.  The broken triggers that aren’t broken.”

“I’m glad.”

“Don’t worry about me.  Don’t feel you have to, okay?  I’ll manage.  I can deal with the bad days.  I’ve got support, friends.  Jessica’s back, and she’ll get in touch soon.  Weld is out there, and all I’ve wanted to do from the beginning was to stand shoulder to shoulder with him.”

I thought about my conversation with Weld.

“I’m sorry it’s a bad day.”

She gave me a push, hard enough I would have fallen if I hadn’t been flying.

“I’m figuring out how to do my part, I’m doing what I wanted, even if it isn’t pretty.  Thank you for giving me an excuse to risk it.  But I’ll manage.  Really.  Go help the people who won’t manage.”

I looked at the other group.

“Yeah,” I said.

Sveta took the long way around, going up onto the top of the station, then circling around through the shadows of the encampment on the far right, while we traced a route along the left.  Swansong was struggling with her footing, so I floated down, giving her support.

The hound huffed, almost barking, until Rachel shushed it.  I saw its tail wag.

“Found it?” Foil asked.

“Yeah.”

Byron said, “We’re moving forward on foot.  Are they in a car, is there any clue?”

“If they’re hitching a ride, then they have the windows open. And I don’t see fresh tire marks.”

Rachel indicated the half-frozen mud.

“I’ll take your word for it,” Byron said.

“It’s a good skill to know,” my mom said.  “Admirable.”

“I don’t care,” Rachel said.  “I just want to hurt the people who hurt the kids.”

“I agree,” my mom said.  “One hundred percent.”

I turned to look back.  A group of villains and corner-world civilians, all banding together.  If there was a situation where I could have laid out the facts, told them the stakes, then how would they react?

“They might follow,” Chastity said.  “Attack us from behind.”

“They might.  They’re reinforcements for the people we’re really after,” I said.

“I can slow them down,” Foil said.  “I count eight vehicles.”

“From this range?  You don’t have any crossbow shots.”

“Range barely matters when you ignore gravity and air resistance,” she said.  She had darts- though ‘dart’ was a misnomer.  They were pencil-length, sharpened at both end, and looked to be singular pieces of metal.

“Do it,” I heard Swansong.

Flechette threw.  One dart per throw.

There were no explosions.  No dramatic movements or responses.

“Done,” Foil said.

I nodded.

I could see Crested down in that crowd, now that we were almost on the far end of the encampment.  That meant Bluestocking was here or hereabouts – she had broken Crested out just a few days ago.  I saw Moose, with another figure that might have been Prancer.

Factors to consider.  That they had the means to detect us but hadn’t- they might be a consideration later.  That they had a few people who could catch up.  People who fit in weirdly- seeing Moose made me think of the weirdly civil true-to-the-‘game’ interactions I’d had with the guy.  What would he think about Cradle’s whip?

So far, we hadn’t been detected.  So far, we weren’t being chased.  So far-

-So far, not so good.  Not while it was a disaster in Brockton Bay.  Not while we were stuck playing catch-up.

We hurried to catch up to others.  Swansong looked unsteady, so I continued to offer her my shoulder.

“My new leg keeps digging into the ground,” she said.  “The parts that look soft and muddy are hard and slippery and the parts that should be hard are soggy enough I sink in.  It’s ridiculous.”

“I hear you,” I told her.

“I think less of any gnatwit that would live in this sty.”

“Gnatwit, huh?”

“If you’re going to be a villain, at least have some pride.  Manors, mansions, towers.  Have roads, not slicks of frozen mud.”

“Marquis was like that,” my mother said.

I couldn’t help but involuntarily tense when she engaged the discussion.

“Credit to him,” Swansong said.  I could see how drawn her expression was.  Walking was hard, even with my supporting arm, and she was in pain.

“He lived here, in this mudpit, so maybe not so much credit,” I said.  The tension was worse, because I knew the line we were straddling.  Where my mom stood.  Where Swansong stood on the topic of villainy.  That Damsel was off to the side and how Damsel couldn’t help but pick at weaknesses, especially when that weakness was demonstrated by a reflection of herself.  They squabbled and bullied each other in an ongoing effort to ensure they each met their mutual standards, and that was fine until one of them needed a supporting hand rather than a push forward.

Damsel was being very, very good, all considered, but this was a topic loaded with buttons.

“Can we drop it?” I asked.  “The topic?”

You can,” Damsel said.  “We lived in a trash-heap, once upon a time.  Hiding from the law.  Didn’t we, Swan?”

“We did.”

“Marquis moved on to rule a world,” Damsel said.

“We could quibble about the definition of rule,” my mom said.  “But I’m biased.  I don’t think much of the man.”

Really.” Damsel sounded genuinely surprised.

“We have a complicated history with him,” I said, my voice more curt than I intended.  I’d really wanted this conversation to die, and it wasn’t.  A part of me hoped that the people involved would catch the tone or read the signal, or that an abrupt rejoinder to the conversation with no easy follow-up would bring it to an awkward halt.

That part of me was really fucking stupid, because nobody that was participating was good at stopping.  Fuck me.

“You don’t have to like him,” Damsel said, “But if you know his power you should fear him, and if you know what he’s accomplished you should respect him.”

“I don’t like him, I don’t respect him, and I don’t fear him,” my mom said.  “I’ve wrestled with my feelings about him for a long time and I’ve decided that he’s not worth thinking about.  He’s pathetic.”

“Woah,” I said.

“He ended up in a position of power with underlings, money, fine things, respect, power, and fan followings.  He’s reached a point that others only dream of.”

“There’s a flaw in your thinking,” my mother said.  “You say he ended up like this, that he reached a certain point.  It doesn’t work that way.  Where he is, it isn’t the end.  He has the rest of his life to live, and I guarantee you, he won’t be where he is now in five years.  Because any fear or respect he claims to have isn’t earned, it’s stolen.  It’s forced.  And that never lasts.  It never leads to a legacy.  He is small.”

“Then what are you?  I don’t even know what team you belong to.  What credits do you have to your name?  That you can wear a tight-fitting costume without completely embarrassing yourself at your age?  What do you even do?”

“I’m a lawyer of some repute.  I’m a mother.  I’m a heroine of some capability.”

“A lawyer in a world without any laws, a heroine I’ve never seen or heard of, and as for the mother part, if it isn’t obvious seeing two of you interact for five seconds-”

Damsel made a small scoffing sound.

I could see my mother’s expression change at that.  Shock.  Like it was somehow a surprise.  Because it was a thing?  Or that it was that obvious?

“Hey,” I said.  “Damsel.  My business, not yours.”

Was I defending my mother, interrupting Damsel?  Should I have been?

“This is between me and her,” Damsel said, indicating my mom.

“No,” Swansong said.  Her hand clutched my arm a little tighter.  “When my teammate and our housemate draws the line, respect it.  Or you’re disrespecting both of us.”

I saw Damsel pause.  She was riding a high, being combative, going toe to toe with my mom.  Enjoying it, as bitter as the discussion objectively seemed .

“Fine,” she said.

“What he steals and earns, he doesn’t keep,” my mother said, and her voice was hard, now.  While we’d talked and debated among ourselves, my mom had been formulating her argument.  I was more than familiar with it, from my times getting in trouble as a teenager.  “He might live in a manor for a few weeks or months, but he spends years in jails.  He’s never married.  He’s never celebrated an anniversary or enjoyed the quiet kind of love, if he’s ever known love at all.  He never held his daughter when she was a newborn because her mother was scared to bring up the pregnancy.  He, as I understand it, never celebrated a birthday with his daughter that wasn’t in prison.”

I winced at the mention of Amy.

“Some people don’t want those things,” Damsel said.

“He wants it,” my mother said.  “I saw how he looked when he had to give his daughter away.  I saw how he looked when he greeted her in prison, roughly ten years later.  He’s a hollow man.  The more he dresses up or surrounds himself with pretty things, the more obvious that hollowness becomes.  In the end, he’ll die ignobly in a fight against another cape, and he’ll leave absolutely nothing behind except for a lick of his DNA.”

“You don’t know anything,” Damsel said, and her voice was harder.  “You’re bitter and you’re straining yourself to paint him as something lesser, because doing anything else would be admitting you’re a distant second to him, as a washed-up heroine and a lawyer without a job.  His daughter chose to be with him.  Your daughter can’t wait to be out of your presence.  So what kind of legacy do you think you’ve left?”

“Hey,” I said.  “I drew the line, you just crossed it.  That’s it- conversation done.”

Damsel seemed to take that declaration as more of a victory than an admonishment.  Chin raised, she stared down at my mother.  My mother met her gaze with a level stare.

“Split up,” I said.  “Each of you, separate.  Please.  What we’ve got lined up is going to be hard enough without infighting.”

They didn’t budge.  It took my dad stepping in.  Quiet through the fights as always, because he liked to think, to do instead of say, but that sometimes meant doing nothing and saying nothing at times when things really needed to be said.

But he guided my mom away, to watch our flanks.

I was aware of how incensed Ashley was as Damsel walked off to the side.

“I’m afraid to ask,” I murmured.  Is that you being upset at Marquis being slandered, just as Damsel is, is it in my defense, both, or neither?

“Best don’t,” she said.  She gave my arm a pat, flinched as her broken arm crackled, and leaned away, walking on her own.

Other buildings were in view now.  They were closer to the manors and towers that Ashley had declared so essential than the rush-built homes closer to the station.

“We’re getting closer,” Rachel said.  “Go slow.  Something’s off with the road.”

“Off how?” Capricorn asked.

Rachel didn’t reply, only pointing.

In the mud of the road, a hole had been left, angled.  As if someone had done a really shitty job of planting a flag, pulled it out, and carried it off.

She pointed at another.

“Slower,” she said.  Her wolf’s ears twitched, and as it turned to look, Rachel and Foil did.  I was next, and others followed my cue.

Only darkness, off to our left.  If there was anyone out there, they were well hidden.

Chastity backed up, stepping onto the slope nearer the ditch.

“Don’t,” Rachel said, when she saw.  “Move carefully.”

“Traps?” Foil asked.

“It’s something,” Rachel said.  Her hand went out, indicating the direction that the enemy group was, as they moved through the darkness.  Her other hand rested on her half-grown wolf’s head.  “It’s not going to be a good something.”

The glow was visible through the glare, almost mistakable for a phantom image from looking at other lights.  It hit the road, streaking across it before going from red hot to a red-black, then black.

Glass.

“Etna,” I said.  I took to the air.  “Bluestocking’s group, she’s-”

The molten glass globs sailed our way, and this time there was no mistaking the volley for a trick of the eyes.  I flew forward to intercept, but they were spread out enough I could only block one.  Swansong and Damsel used their powers to try to blast shots out of the air.  Damsel succeeded.  Swansong missed.

The group backed up, and I heard Rachel bark, “No!”

Red lights flared, all around the group.  I saw the Harbingers spring up and back.  One landed on Capricorn’s back, the other on Flashbang’s shoulder, perching.

A carpet of red lighting crackled between the points of red, where traps had been laid.  It lanced through legs and the bodies of those who were crouching.

The group toppled.  The Harbingers sprung forward from their perches on higher ground, landing back on the road, while others tipped into the ditch of fell flat.

Swansong hadn’t suffered as much, because she had only the one leg, and she hadn’t been as close to the ditch.  Her sister had fallen.  My mom and dad were down.  My mom hadn’t managed to orb up.  Rachel was down, as was the hound, but the wolf remained up, alarmed and growling.  Byron had fallen, landing belly-down on the ground.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Spasms,” my dad grunted.  “Every muscle twisting and cramping.  Fuck!”

They weren’t bouncing back.  Not fast enough it would matter.

Chastity, off to the side, reached out to a Harbinger for support.  They caught her, but as her leg spasmed, she fell.  They eased her down.

“We’re going to be ungentlemanly and leave you behind while we deal with this,” one of them said to her.

I could see the enemy now.  A tall man in flowing clothes.  Two case fifty-threes.  Etna.  One of the Fourth Sect mercenaries.

We had multiple people who were down.  Myself.  The Harbingers.   Sveta.  Ashley.

“Paris,” Byron said, identifying the tall man.

“Yeah,” I said.

“I could have killed him-” he stopped to grunt.  “Last time.”

“We can kill him,” the Harbingers said.  “Just say the word.”

I saw Byron hesitate.

He wasn’t a killer.  Now that I knew Chris was Lab Rat, I could peg just about everyone in Breakthrough, Byron and myself excluded, as people who had taken lives.  It was in files.  Tristan had taken life in only a loose sense, murdering his brother, and charges of attempted murder had been considered, because that was the closest equivalent they could find in the law.

But for Byron and I, it meant something else.

“I feel responsible,” Byron said.  “I know I shouldn’t, I know he’s scum, but-”

“He saw what Cradle did?” I asked.

“He helped,” Byron said, voice tighter.  “Fuck this hurts.”

The red lightning had stopped, but the spasms were clearly continuing.

“If he helped, then the Harbingers can kill him.”

I let those words stand.  Cold even in the winter air.

They dashed forward.  Red lights began to blink across the field, and they were swift enough to be clear of the area before the red lighting happened, legs cutting through the heaped lumps of snow where bushes or crops had been, skipping over the divots and dips where irrigation ditches had been.  They were faster than some would be on flat ground.

My first mind was to playing defense.  Etna was hurling globs, and her intent clearly wasn’t to hit our group.  She wanted to herd, to take the group that was struggling and force them into continual retreat, deeper into the patch of traps.

But her aim wasn’t perfect.  One splash landed close, and it splashed, gobbets flying toward the group.  One hit Byron’s armor, only missing his eye because he ducked his head at the last second.  Another hit my mother, a quarter-sized lump.

I caught and blocked the next.  I could see her floating above the field, a heat shimmer surrounding her, the air steaming.

Swansong’s power blasted.  As I went high, she went low.  I went right, and she seemed to watch me, darting left.  She stumbled, used her power, skidded and almost tripped over irrigation.  But she was closing the distace and helping to apply pressure.  Etna threw one globe at each of us, but in her haste to do so, her aim sailed widely off the mark.

It hit everyone present like a truck.  In one moment, I could hear the grunts of pain and frustration.  The bursts of power.  Sveta and the Harbingers were focusing on Paris’s main group.  It was noise.  Flashes of power and light.  I could see Capricorn’s constellation.

Then it was silence, just for an instant.  A flicker of an image across my mind’s eye, a blip in the senses, and my power went out from under me like collapsing scaffolding.

As I fell I could see Paris lurch forward, catching one of the reeling Harbingers.  I saw Swansong fall, reaching out to use her power to counter-balance and not finding it.

I saw Sveta go utterly limp, too close to the enemy.

And I fell.  It was only a few seconds, but a few seconds of falling made for a hard landing, especially when that landing was on hard earth.  The air went out of me.

None of us here were in a position to trigger for the first time.

Couldn’t be a second trigger.  Too brief, no excuse for it, at the opening of a fight.

No.  It felt heavier and weaker.  Like the crackle of thunder as lightning struck a long distance away.

Already, I could feel my power start to creep back in, but it was a hundredth of what it was supposed to be.

Too little to matter, as red lights illuminated around me, triggered by my proximity or the impact of my landing.

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137 thoughts on “Heavens – 12.2”

      1. Yes, he was introduced to us under this name in Snag’s interlude. It is not clear when Victoria learned his name, but I suspect that it happened at some point during the last chapter of the previous arc.

        1. Now that I think about it, is Doon a he or a she? Do we even know at this point? I only wrote ‘he’, because ‘pies’ – Polish word for ‘dog’ is of masculine grammatical gender, which makes me to default to masculine pronouns when talking about dogs of unknown gender (a correct thing to do in Polish, but not so much in English).

  1. Interesting thoughts here:
    – Sveta has no active powers per se. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t affected by other interrupting Trump powers before. But she was affected here.
    – Were the bad guys affected too? Paris seems to take specific action, so that would speak against it. Yet all the other signs point toward trigger side effects. In fact, Vic directly thinks of triggers, so I would expect the other side to struggle too.

    As for the source of this trigger-like-but-not-trigger-experience, well, I guess something REALLY big just happened in Brockton Bay. And if that event, whatever it was, can send shockwaves to another EARTH, it’s bound to be REALLY bad.

    1. From what Spright does in her presence, the tendrils -extending and retracting- seem to be her ‘active’ power. Her body at rest results from the shard going bonkers and destroying any chance she had at rejecting its influence.
      So, no wildly slinging enemies or herself while powers are off, but the hugs of doom are likely built-in.

      1. Well, I suspect that something big did happen, and it wasn’t just in Brockton Bay. Something like a city-wide broken trigger. It would explain why Sveta was affected. What seems to be interesting (and possibly, though not necessarily disproving my theory) is that the villains were either unaffected, or at least recovered much quicker.

        1. Another possibility is that the villains were simply impacted less. Sveta’s body is her tendrils and goes limp, Victoria smashes into the dirt and triggers a trap while the Harbringers are accustomed to their power guiding their every move and falter without it.

          Paris simply looses his darts, but he was known to be large, strong and good fighter even without them.

          Something strange from Brockton Bay seems the most likely. Maybe this is the result of a broken second trigger? Or something else with releasing a cape from a time bubble.

          Main argument against that is how the timing couldn’t have been better. They mentioned the 4th sect mercenary and one of them was noted as getting a Trump power, so maybe this is them.

          1. I really really hope that it was a scary trump that caused everyone nearby to lose their powers for a moment.

            Because if this was caused by a trigger event so massive that it was felt across dimensions, then absolutely every single parahuman lost their powers during that brief moment, too.

            And one of those powers is the only thing currently keeping everyone that got seriously sliced by Cradle still alive.

            Eek!

  2. Wow, is anything going to go right for the white capes, or is it just gonna be an effort to see how much further “It can Get Worse” can go?

    1. Thats exactly what went through my mind right now.

      I hope, too, it is some Trump here in the fight. Because if it is just Brockton Bay then, again, just at the right time to screw over the heroes?
      If thats the case it is high time for the big mastermind orchestrating all this to at least be hinted at. Because if all this is again “just coincidence” this is …. really bad writing.

      1. Remember that March’s primary is timing in a broad sense and on several levels, not only in a combat thinker sense but also, for example, knowing a best moment for starting an attack. Or for opening a time bubble.

        1. Well she has timing on a tactical level.

          This would be precognition on a world spanning level involving events she is nowhere near.

          If she would be that powerful, she sure kept a low profile all this time.

          If they are up against a villain of that power level its time for our “heroes” to lie down and die.

          1. Well, we do know her power is amped way up right now by Goddess’s power battery. But this could also be a result of plain old fashioned communication. There was a screen at the Earth N side of the N-Gimel station showing events taking place on Bet, so clearly they’ve got a link somewhere allowing signals to be transmitted between Earth N and Earth Bet. All it would take is one of these villains or one of the people at the station letting her know what’s up, and she’d probably be able to lock in the timing just fine.

          2. Or even just logic. After BT+U lost to Cradle and Love Lost, they very likely will want to go after them as soon as possible; they know that Rain’s cluster falls asleep at midnight, so it’s the most likely time for attack => need to open a bubble at some time around midnight. Add to it a slight push from a timing power, ensuring that the moment will be just right and accounting for the time needed for the effect to reach Earth N.

          3. It could be even worse – it could be a coincidence. It is possible that March started a chain reaction which is already self-sustaining, and outside of anyone’s control. Remember that according to Victoria the villains are saying they may not only be unwilling, but also unable to “walk it back”.

          4. Well.. I get it that an ambush can be planned. They know the schedule just as well as our “heroes” do.
            The problem I have is that this effect reaches them just at the right time to screw up the one encounter where they actually have a chance for once. So I am starting to have issues with the dramaturgy of this story. Not necessarily only the logic. But I do have some issues with that, too.

            Right now the only reason I keep reading is the characters themselves. Character crafting and character interactions are WBs strong suit.
            But putting them in this dredge of misery for like … what… 5 arcs?… will make readers disassociate with the characters. And then nothing much is left to read on for…

            The Story itself is so far inferior to worm, quality-wise… Just look at topwebfiction: Worm was rank 1 for… like ever. And Ward doesnt even have half of the votes Practical Guide has. And that is saying something. Because Practical Guide is a good story but nothing extraordinary.

          5. I don’t see Ward as good as Worm too, but for different reasons. I don’t have a problem with misery going on, but there’s a lot of things happening around which are only vaguely hinted at and are shrouded in a weird kind of mystery where everyone and their dog knows more than our protagonists (and therefore us). Despite one of our heroes being supposedly a cape geek and the other having a superpowered intuition. The one time when Tt’s power provided us useful information was before Tt could be called “one of the protagonists”, only reinforcing the feeling that everyone but us is informed better and everything really important happens offscreen. I think Ward could really use more balanced approach to giving info to protagonists, and more worldbuilding chapters like Valkyrie’s interlude.

          6. @ T.T.O.

            Actually I don’t have an issue with the protagonists being in the dark despite having “a cape geek and the other having a superpowered intuition” on their side.

            When it comes to Victoria remember that she is just a geek. She is by no means an expert. Her knowledge is useful in simple cape-on-cape fights between B-listers, and some A-listers with straightforward powers and mindsets, but she knows very little about the really big stuff – for this sort of knowledge you would need to go to Cauldron, or at least some of the capes who attended those secret meetings Cauldron organized near the end of Worm. Heck, she’s been so much at the edges of action in early Worm, and later so completely isolated from what’s going on while she was in the asylum that she doesn’t know such basics like the reasons behind and the exact circumstances of Coil’s and Alexandria’s deaths, or true reasons why plenty of heroes abandoned PRT one day. She may even not know that Alexandria’s body was animated by Pretender for about two years! She is great when it comes to compiling information that was available to the public, but she really knows very little beyond that.

            As for Tattletale remember that her power has always been unreliable, and that she always struggled with the really big picture. With of those notes hold by pins in her HQ back in Worm she still missed a lot – like the exact nature of powers or the depths of corruption in the PRT. She even missed it when Taylor was planning to surrender to the PRT. And now Tattletale is in even worse spot when she was in Worm – she is fighting against her own power, feels lonely, depressed and exhausted by years of running New Brockton and trying to keep people around her safe an happy. On top of it she’s been cut off from most of her resources and on the run since March has driven her off from New Brockton. Of course she is going to miss things and make other mistakes! Considering how time effects gave thinkers headaches, I would say she managed to figure out more about March’s plans than I expected her to.

            On top of it remember that Tattletale probably told Victoria much less than she knows. Tattletale has always had problems with trusting people in general, and she has some reasons not to trust certain people, including Victoria, in particular.

            Finally she has a reputation as an information broker to uphold, so she needs to be really careful what she says about her clients, and we know that Rain’s cluster members have been among those. This means that she probably told Victoria not everything she knew about March, Cradle and Love Lost and their plans, but only as much as she felt Victoria needed to know. Of course things might have changed now when it comes to her need to keep her rep, both because Cradle took a direct action against her and her people that was clearly outside of the boundaries of the game, and because with broken triggers happening around Brockton Bay, which is just one “exploded” portal away from New Brockton Tattletale may have no territory and few civilians under her protection to return to anymore.

          7. Oh, and when it comes to Tattletale and the big picture she practically admitted that it is not her primary area of expertise when she described how she managed to come up with a plan defeat Coil. She said something like that Coil was focused on the big stuff (and was presumably good at it), but missed small details – details that she used to defeat him. It would seem that Tattletale’s primary focus is on small details. It would fit both with her trigger event (missing details which could alert her about her brother’s planned suicide), and with what Foil recently told about Skitter, Coil and Tattletale (that unlike the former two Tattletale isn’t a chessmaster).

          8. @Alfaryn
            Well, the protagonists might be in the dark and have reasons for it, but it’s strange when they are in the dark and nearly everyone else is not (or, at least, not so much). And it’s even more frustrating for *us* to be in the dark, when we’re not even limited to the protagonists’ point of view.
            Let’s also consider this situation from the opposing point of view. March does not have superpowered intuition, clairvoyance, precognition, contacts with Cauldron (or any other S-class capes)… When it comes to gathering info, what little advantage she had was just a cooperation with a “cape geek” (the civilian one, who didn’t have powers and didn’t grow up in a cape family), and even this was a long time ago. So, all the information March has must have been available without having outlandish sources. And it seems indeed that the most important source of information is “not being in the spotlight”. Even Tattletale became utterly useless when the author’s focus turned to her more.
            And a further thought about Tattletale: yes, big picture and strategic thinking is not her area of expertise, and she was tired by working outside her area. But when she was hunted by March, her focus would need to get back to a tactical level. And it’s a conflict situation, just like shards want and just like the powers work best. As much as Tattletale herself would be tired and pained, her power should *shine*. Like it did in Worm. But nooooo…

          9. Actually, I think that it is safe to assume that March has some direct or indirect access to knowledge of Teacher’s Cauldron. Remember that according to Tattletale there was a split in Teacher’s Cauldron after he vetoed the plan to go after time effects (see near the end of chapter 11.3). March is clearly working with people the mercenaries from Chiet (according to Tattletale) who left Teacher then. It is also not entirely impossible that she and/or Cradle were some of the people working with Teacher directly.

            On top of it, I’m not entirely convinced that March has no access to precognition. Her timing power could be a limited form of precognition (though probably not the sort that would give her an advantage when it comes to understanding the big picture), but more importantly Goddess danger sense could be a form of precognition, and if Goddess had precognition, then her cluster members also could. One of those cluster members could have a form of precognition that could give March some important advantage when it comes to actually understanding some of the topics that March seems to be such an expert on.

          10. As I accidentally replied elsewhere, when this is the thread I wanted to put it in, March also has access to Goddess’ cluster. Goddess’ cluster, until recently, had access to Earth Shin. Earth Shin knows as much, or more, about powers, shards and so on as Cauldron. Ruled by a parahuman who made that a priority, and all that.

        2. So would the approprate one liner before finishing March off be something like “Times up” or “Looks like your timing is off”?

          1. “Looks like your timing is off” would be perfect after finishing her off. And “time’s up” is for Gray Boy 🙂

        3. @T.T.O: Not true. March has access to Goddess’ cluster, who had access to Earth Shin, which had some of the most elaborate and sophisticated parahuman-related technologies and who know a similar amount of behind-the-scenes-info as Cauldron did.

          Except Earth Shin didn’t have Scion pop in to erase half their base with lasers, nor their best staff killed by an army of mutants, or have its surviving facilities overrun by a powerful Master and forcing the leadership to find somewhere else to hang out. Instead, Earth Shin’s had a civil war as it tries to free itself of the remnants of Goddess’ dictatorship and set up something else, without letting anyone out to share its most valuable commodity- information on triggers, shards and powers.

  3. Tipo thred

    if it isn’t obvious seeing two of you interact for five seconds-”
    -the two of you

    Enjoying it, as bitter as the discussion objectively seemed .
    -extra space before the period

    (Typo thread)

    1. “two of you” can work, since Swansong probably told Damsel what happened last time Amy was around Victoria. Breakthrough knows that’s one damaged family unit right there.

      “My glance in Rachel’s direction as I thought that seemed to be a cue for her to say something.”
      Something weird with this sentence.

      “into the ditch of fell flat.”
      *or

      1. Hair was parted > Their hair was parted
        hair look both > it look both
        then use the > then using the
        “Oh,” I heard her. (should be a fullstop I think)
        to die, and it wasn’t. > to die, and it hadn’t
        seeing two of you > seeing the two of you
        seemed . > seemed. (extra space)
        ditch of fell flat. > ditch or fell flat.
        It was in files. > It was in the files.

  4. So I’m guessing March popped another bubble.

    My hopes for Vista rise! It’s possible she didn’t die, but her power just cut out!

  5. I think there’s a huge broken trigger and everyone is temporary screwed (including the bad guys). Hope we’re not going to talk about a multi-body horror, just like in the chapter with workers that Victoria and her cousin tried to save. Either that or the villains have a Trump cape that we don’t know about yet. Depends if the powers of villains are affected too. Paris could fight without his power because he was described as a tall and muscular guy. Maybe he uses his natural strength and fighting skills.
    Too bad that all this clusterfuck happened before we’ll have the PLEASURE of seeing Paris getting maimed by Number Lads. He’s a lucky motherfucker, this damn homophobe.

    1. 4sect Merc with them. One of the 4th sect Mercs was mentioned as having gained a scary Trump power… stopping the powers of all capes in a select area is pretty damn scary.

        1. “Clever? No. No! Not New York City. New York C. There’s a cartel based in that dimension, on the island.”

          “Powers?”

          “Yes. The leader’s a trump. Even the Wardens are leaving them alone, ’cause of it.” – Excerpt from Teneral e.2

          1. I thought it was Arena, myself. Who Vicky fought back at the Navigator’s scene of crime. Cancels all powers within his arena, and whales on his foes with gas-grenades, an axe and the fact he’s had time to practice and experiment with what’s possible and what isn’t in that bubble. Not to mention training to acclimatise to the thinner air.

          2. I don’t think it’s Arena. Pretty sure he has to be fairly close and can only pull in one person at a time.

            But great thought on a tactic where he could just use his power for a split second on multiple different people to cancel their powers briefly.

  6. My first thought was Animos, the minor villain from Worm with the power-nullifying scream.

    But it seems from the “flicker of an image” in Vicky’s “mind’s eye”, and her thoughts at the end, that this was some sort of shardquake.

  7. So much happening this chapter!

    Chastity trying to woo the Number Boys, Damsel and Brandish both failing to hit each other head on in a verbal spar about Marquis (note how Carol specifically did *not* use Caging him as an argument), the Harbingers and the killing debate, the bad guys being overprepared again, and, of course, the whateverthefuck it was at the end.

    Oh, and glad for confirmation Moose actually survived the Fallen!

    1. You know what? This is a good catch – he was in this situation before with Amy. Can’t be a good memory for him, not with how that ended up even after Amy did heal him so he could fight to protect her.

  8. Yay, Moose! I hope he survives. Granted, he’s a Brute of some description, so survival is more likely for him than Paris, for example.

    I wonder who else is in Paris’ cluster, and his other powers. He’s got exploding spikey doom, but what else? And if it’s true that Circus is that man who was working in this Earth with Marquise, what’s his cluster up to? And is he with March, or is he the person Tattletale told to get the info out there about how to consolidate a cluster? And if he’s not, and Circus is elsewhere, is Circus the person who Tattletale told to prove Tattletale knew the method?

    1. My guess about Paris cluster is still that the other members of it could be… March and Foil, that he was added to that cluster the way Colt was added to Rain’s.

      1. No, Paris was a cape long before that kind of power manipulation became even obscure information. And he’d hate it, too, since he’s a homophobe and March and Foil both are gay. Besides, his power doesn’t seem to fit- he creates his attack; the others don’t. March does timed effects, which work well with her super-timing, Homer was guaranteed to kill (how he died, I’m quite curious about- if it wasn’t by surprise, he likely took at least one attacker with him, simply by bouncing a baseball into their jaw at the right angle to snap their neck). That might have been his Sting, actually, since we don’t know what that looked like.

        I’d wonder if Paris was with Circus, except Circus can’t make anything nail-shaped and Paris hasn’t shown any skill with pyrokinesis or possession of a hammerspace.

        1. > No, Paris was a cape long before that kind of power manipulation became even obscure information.

          Except we don’t know exactly when March learned that portals can extend the time between triggers in a cluster, so the entire method of arranging triggers to add capes to a cluster could be her idea.

          As for his homophobia, it could be a result of personality bleed-through in the cluster. Maybe March and/or Flechette gave him theirs?

          1. On the topic of possible bleed-throughs – maybe March’s fascination with clusters is connected to Foil’s near complete lack of interest in her cluster members?

          2. OK, how about geography? Before Brockton, Flechette and March stuck to New York, except when March went down to see Goddess’ cluster.

            Paris fought Reach, which was based in Maryland. They aren’t that far away, as America goes, all in the north-east of the US, but those are pretty densely populated areas with lots of capes, territories and teams around. Plus Maryland doesn’t actually border New York State, let alone the city itself.

            I don’t think they met before Gold Morning. Their powers don’t match up, and if it was with the portal trickery, they were really spread out- the portal to Shin was in California, which spreads the cluster a bit too far geographically. With Colt, they were all in the City, closing in on the same neighbourhood in a three-pronged attack. And we still don’t know for sure that Colt is actually in the cluster, and not just somebody whose breaker state mimicked the person she wanted to be like the most at the time of her trigger.

      2. Matt from We’ve Got Ward had the same theory a while ago, and wildbow shut it down.

        Also, that seems like something that would definitely have come up in the March interlude.

        1. You mean a theory that Paris is a new member of Foil’s cluster? Ok, if this is the Word of God, then I guess I’ll have to look for another candidates for Paris’ clustermates.

          1. Could be he killed the cluster mate/s. A cluster can be as few as only two people as well.

            But I guess he draws his darts as one power, arguably the ability to draw a larger dart more slowly is a sort of “charge-up” Power. Beyond that he could have a weak thinker power they haven’t picked up on, or even mild super strength

  9. Wildbow are you allergic to catharsis or something?

    Love Lost and Cradle have been getting away with everything for like three arcs now. I get that they need to win constantly for their villain schemes to go off for the plot but it’s getting really draining reading about their endless reserves of mercenaries, inexplicably vast resources and general untouchability.

    1. Yes, no twist anymore seeing them always win. Not even S9 managed to win so much like these bastards. S9 had someone like Siberian, Gray Boy , Jack and Bonesaw yet they’re far less victorious than these fuckers here.
      I think that a huge and insane twist of this story will be if we’ll see at least Love Lost dying (killed by her teammates or our heroes).
      Ward’s shocking twists= when heroes manage to win once/a single bad guy disappears/dies.
      Maybe Wildbow doesn’t want to shock us with such as twist.

      1. The Slaughterhouse Nine weren’t stopped for… At least twenty years. I don’t know when they were founded, but they met Marquise before he was arrested, and Glaistig Uiane killed Grey Boy- a cape who was only arrested because she *turned herself in*.

        They won plenty, off-screen for sure, but still. They only ‘lost’ in Worm because they figured out Siberian’s true power, and then because of an apocalypse prophecy, the PRT could actually spare the resources into hunting them down and killing them. These guys? Less than a year, and they won’t get a second.

        1. Ah, but S9 had members die various times, and would go into quiet phases for a while, iirc.

          Your point about the time is still valid though, it hasn’t been long since they upped the ante.

          1. Yeah. Villains can suffer setbacks, even as they not only continue to exist, but even advance long term goals or sieze new opportunities. I mean the Nine lost members, and got chased from cities. They just were always able to recover and continue their reign of terror. And Siberian was a big part of that IMHO. Notice that they were one of the longest tenured 9 members, but within weeks of their true nature being discovered they were dead.

    2. Actually, here a diabolus ex machina was needed to counter a deus ex machina that were the Harbingers. Imagine how would it look like if things went as planned: Victoria is playing cops-and-robbers with people who don’t want to play, villains band together and cross the lines until situation gets bad enough that Harbingers are brought in, and then Harbingers just get a win for the hero team. Readers’ conclusions: 1) Breakthrough is utterly useless, along with Undersiders; and 2) from now on, the solution to every situation is “need more Harbingers” (that is, if the situation is not Endbringer-level yet. if it is, then the solution is “need Valkyrie”).

  10. Etna, throws molten glass around and they have 14 dudes with assault weapons….

    Victoria wonders whether lethal intent are justified.

    It is straining credulity that Victoria is still using the kid gloves when her antagonists are known killers, use lethal force themselves, and every thinker is telling the heroes that whatever is going on in Brockton bay is S class.

    1. Etna explicitly was against lethal force back in Hollow Point. She freaked out when she thought she had killed Kenzie at one point. Pretty sure Vicky is taking stuff like that into account.

        1. Aiming for the Brutes, and the Breakers, and using it to deny an area and prevent movement? Throwing it just by somebody’s feet so the glass will splash onto said legs and cause contact burns which are painful but unlikely to be fatal?

          It’s not an ideal non-lethal power, but very few are perfectly suited for nonlethal combat- Damsel’s annihilation blasts, Scrub’s teleportation spheres, Foil’s penetrate-anything-darts, Purity’s lasers, and many others are poor for non-lethal combat.

          1. They’re unsuitable for non lethal combat.

            Cops, when they shoot, are assumed to be acting with lethal intent regardless of their actual intent. They don’t train cops to do warning shots or shoot to wound because its ridiculous. Cape powers are generally lethal.

            “I meant to shoot him non lethally!” Is not a thing. Yet, we all accept. “I meant to throw concrete non lethally””I filled the room up with flying razor blades non lethally” “filling the room full of rapist babies is just like using rubber bullets.”.

            For the entirety of Ward, its been like watching G.I. Joe’s. You know, where the military Joe’s and the evil terrorists Cobra fight and shoot eachother but no one ever dies.

            No one ever throws concrete the wrong way and kills someone. Or sends a 12 foot blade of razor sharp steel and severs an artery.

            That the wildbow verse has had breakthrough fight the cluster four times with no deaths suggests that the Wildbow verse operates under the same laws as Saturday morning cartoon shows.

            We might as well be watching the X men animated series with more grevious injury but no one is actually going to get killed… Tune in next week!

          2. @Matthew: I’m British, and I don’t think we get that cartoon. I’ve never seen it, at least. I think I know what you mean, however.

            This is actually a thing in Worm, as well. Purity’s lasers were powerful enough to demolish buildings, when she wanted to. Stormtiger’s claws were really sharp, Hookwolf turned into a wolf made of swords, Shadowstalker’s crossbow bolts phased back into reality inside people, Crusader’s phantoms had armour-piercing spears, etc.

            And as for Breakthrough not killing anyone, Rain did. He killed Snag, with his blaster-blades and swords in his arms. And Swansong killed BoB, which scared her so she’s trying to keep things contained. Sveta’s body is to stop her killing because she’s got a triple digit kill count already, and nobody else has a power that is actually great at killing people. Same goes for the cluster, actually- Etna’s power is lethal, and Sidepiece’s has the capability to kill, but the main members of the cluster don’t have powers that lethal. Rage-scream, walk-on-walls and tinker-claws? Yeah, the claws are good at ripping through things, but that’s easily avoided by, y’know, staying out of arm’s reach. Can’t say too much for Cradle, we’ve not seen him enough. Colt’s own blades are Manton-limited, passing harmlessly through people.

            Plus during the Cops & Robbers period, people who killed heroes got locked in the Birdcage. Most of the experienced villains are used to that, and have methods to avoid killing- Etna was horrified when she thought she’d killed Lookout, back in Hollow Point.

        2. You don’t get to pick your power. I almost feel bad for Etna and the other average capes They’re hp against. They’re in a very precarious situation. They’re up against four members of the Slaughterhouse Nine, a completely unfettered Garrote, plus some of the most experienced capes in the business (New Wave ex-leadership, an Undersider, Victoria), and although these opponents of theirs are ostensibly acting on the side of heroes at the moment, they HAVE to know they’re teetering on the edge of no quarter. Would not want to be I. Their position, only their unusually accurate and helpful information is keeping them in the fight….wait, mysterious source of super-helpful info? Is that you, Dinah Alcott?

          1. Nah. There’s only one power that could give such detailed and accurate info. Even more powerful than Scion, having Thinker, Master, Trump and Stranger ratings around infinity. It’s the Author.
            (I wonder how would Taylor go against him…)

          2. > (I wonder how would Taylor go against him…)

            My guess is that she would keep bothering him until he made her the main protagonist of one of his books.

          3. I guess he did? He got a popular story out of it, while she got to live through a quite horrible couple of years.

  11. “As help went, they seemed like more complication than actual assistance.“

    Victoria, you are an idiot. The pair of them could probably take apart the rest of your team combined. They are an incredibly useful asset.

    1. She’s not an idiot for thinking two ex Slaughterhouse Nine dudes might be a problem. She is aware that they are powerful, thats not what shes saying. Harbinger was a bad fucking dude in the day, and she is fully aware of that.

      1. President RonnieMayor Wynn… Bits of capes have been kidnapped by the ninjasmegaclustermates.
        Are they two bad enough dudesteen clones to rescue them ?

  12. Here is my usual list of quick thoughts:

    1. Just whose blood Damsel had on her right-hand blades when she arrived? Could it be related to Harbingers doing things “their way”? Maybe they initiated some unnecessary bloodshed, and Damsel was just caught in the middle? Is this what Damsel told Swansong here:

    Damsel and Swansong hung back, having a murmured conversation. One long clawed finger pointed at the Harbingers.

    If so, then I’m not surprised that Number Man was offended by their very existence (see interlude 5.x), as they are a reminder of what he had been, though he could also find it offensive that Jack decided to, shall we say, “lump him together with the dead members of the Slaughterhouse Nine”.

    2.

    I saw a wounded Ashley, knew Tristan was inside Byron, cleaved in half. I had the grisly image of Lookout and Darlene, of Juliette, Amias, Flor… the Navigators. Sveta.

    Isn’t Victoria focusing a little bit too much on Sveta here? I know that what happened to Sveta was horrible on one then one level, but shouldn’t it pale in comparison to what happened to people who are in constant physical pain after having their actual bodies chopped to pieces, and, unlike Sveta, can’t be sure if there is a way to put their bodies back together? Isn’t this going a bit too much down the “my best friend who has so much in common with me comes first” route?

    3.

    The portal behind us crackled as it shifted. The ‘view’ distorted, a texture like television static rippling across the periphery. I hadn’t even realized it had a proper shape beyond being a rough three-dimensional blob. It had been a building, of some peculiar architecture, it seemed.

    Ok, how did Labyrinth’s power work here if it produced a building that can’t normally be seen (assuming it is her work, and not some illusion created as a side effect of using the Scrambler)? What does it mean to the portals and possible effects of messing with them? Can you for example destroy the portal by running the building? Were portal stations constructed (at least in part) to guard against such possibility?

    4.

    “March got to one of the time effects. It was the Killington Mayor, in an area that was folded into Brockton Bay.”

    “What happened?” Brandish asked.

    “Broken trigger,” I said, my voice soft.

    Looks like the guess that what March is doing may cause a city – wide broken trigger may have been correct, and from Victoria’s “[…] they aren’t saying for sure they’re willing or guaranteeing they’re able to walk it back.” statement from the last chapter, it appears that it may be unavoidable at this point.

    And it is possible that this is more or less what happened at the end of this chapter… though it could have been just another trump power of course. If it is a result of what happened in Brockton Bay, then I wonder if the Scrambler had any influence on what happened near the portal the team just come through? And what is going to happen to Cassie if it is a broken trigger caring through the portal?

    Looks like it was foolish of all of those fifty million people to build their homes on a figurative bridge connecting the worlds. By the way, I think I’ve seen at least two mentions of similar comparison of life as a bridge – one Buddhist, and one Islamic. I think the Buddhist one even had an explicit warning about not building one’s home on the bridge, but I can’t find the source right now. Has anyone else read something like that? Has Wildbow taken an inspiration from such quotes? Looks like the life of an “echo” of a parahuman in a Shard may be meant to be read as a form of afterlife or a stage in a cycle of reincarnation in a way that is possibly tied to teachings of more than one religion, possibly even more than the two I’ve mentioned.

    Could interpretation of teachings give us some insights on what is about to come? And could it explain why people from Cheit were so angry about the broken trigger that happened during the workers protest? Maybe they literally see those “echoes” of people in Shards as souls?

    Broken trigger also explains how capes as powerful as Dragon and Vista were defeated – March didn’t need to fight them directly, she just needed to trap them in trigger visions. The good news is that this means that Vista is likely alive, and possibly not even taken hostage.

    5.

    Harbinger One said, “Prime example: we have logs of exchanges between them referring to the broken triggers by a much more accurate label.”

    “What?” I asked. “You know something about broken triggers?”

    “They called it a structural issue, which isn’t our terminology, but it’s better terminology,” Harbinger One said.

    Who’s terminology is that? Cauldron’s, and if so – which faction’s? Teacher’s? CUI’s, or a similarly powerful non-US state or organization from Bet? Someone originally not from Bet, who for some reason has some insights into broken triggers (and possibly shards and/or Entities) that people from Bet lack? Maybe it is even just a single cape who somehow managed to learn all of it about triggers thanks to their power, and introduced their own terminology (just like Valkyrie has her own terms and even individual names for things she can perceive “better” then most people do)? Could a connection to this group or person explain why March apparently knew how to break a time effect, and that doing so would cause a broken trigger?

    And why is “structural issue” a more accurate label for a broken trigger? Is Victoria’s “structurally flawed trigger” term also accurate? Could it have something to do with the fact that those triggers can happen just by releasing a person from a time effect, or because another person triggered in the same fashion nearby? Do portals need to be around for breaking the time effect to cause a trigger? What would happen if Clockblocker used his power (on an unpowered person, presumably) around sufficiently big and/or numerous portals? One “regular” portal would probably not be enough to cause anything, because there was one in Brockton Bay for a while when he lived there. Maybe the time effects need to be old enough too, or somehow different from his power, so Clockblocker could not cause any broken triggers even around multiple “exploded” portals?

    Maybe broken triggers can happen without preceding trauma? Maybe this is why Colt’s trigger vision reassembled what we were told about broken triggers? Maybe if you release enough power stored in something like a portal or a time effect, you can force nearby shards to make nearby people trigger without usual prerequisites? What about the powers you get from such triggers? Could they be less related to “who you are”, just like those caused by Cauldron vials seem to be? Could they be more related to who the parahumans around you are or what sort of powers they have than is usually the case?

    6.

    “She’s never disappointed me,” Rachel said. “Some of my old teammates, but not Cassie.”

    Ok, one of those old teammates who disappointed Rachel was obviously Skitter, but who else is she talking about, and why? Does Barker qualify as “an old teammate”?

    7. Well, if the city will get destroyed at least Victoria will have no problem moving on, since she never thought of it as a home.

    Seriously though, it does say something about her, that she never felt about any place she lived in after Brockton Bay as her homes. Probably not good things. On the other hand… I expect plenty of people who live in the city to think along similar lines, if not necessarily always for the same reasons.

    8.

    “No, I’m pretty sure. Cradle tried using a power to throw a wrench into things once. When I talked to March about it, she said that Cradle hired someone called Snaggletooth, a cape that invaded dreams. The woman ended up brain dead.”

    Just when did Rain talk to March about this? When he was under her protection just before the attack on the Fallen camp? If so, then it would mean that Cradle cooperated, or at least exchanged a lot of information with March for a long time now. Maybe March was the one who arranged the contact between Cradle and Snaggletooth?

    And what exactly did happen to Snaggletooth in the dream-room, that she’s brain dead? How does the dream-room (or whatever it is when the cluster is “dreaming” memories of one of their members, not meeting in the room yet) affect brains of people inside it? And I guess that the fact that Snaggletooth was a cape who specifically invaded dreams means that Rain’s cluster is already in the dream-room in some way even when they are still experiencing someone’s memories?

    I also wonder if Colt will be treated by the dream-room as another invader, will she live long for Rain to see what exactly killed Snaggletooth?

    9.

    “Two boys who care about their appearance, in good standing with the Mayor, even. Lucky girl.”

    “Five boys,” Harbinger One said.

    Ok, so all five of them survived Gold Morning. I wasn’t sure about that. I didn’t even remember that five of them lived until Gold Morning. It really looks like I finally need to find the time to carefully re-read Worm and what’s already been published of Ward.

    Still, it’s interesting to see that we never saw more than two of them at the same time in Ward so far. If they are so close that they can’t imagine dating different girls, why don’t they always work together?

    10. Sveta said she sucks at whistling… Plenty people do, and somehow I find it particularly unsurprising for a person who, as Victoria remarked during prison arc, had to work for a long time to even be able to speak with her power-altered body. What’s surprising is that she apparently managed to learn to speak on her own, when she was still in Russia, a fair amount of time before she was captured, because Taylor mentioned Sveta having Russian accent, and she still tends to include a Russian word or two in her speech from time to time.

    11. Despite the accidents (like the one with Victoria’s neck) it’s good to see that Sveta has enough control for a high five. It must feel especially good for her after she recently saw what Aiden and Darlene did.

    I must also say that Victoria is doing great at calming Sveta’s nerves with all of those little words of encouragement, whistles, and little gestures like that. I even think I know who she learned this from – Victoria’s “You’re doing fine.” sounds very much like Yamada’s, doesn’t it?

    Now we only need to find a way to make Rain’s power calm Wretch (assuming this method could work at all in this case – the Wretch does seem to react to Victoria’s emotions, but I’m not entirely sure how it would react if Victoria tried to use Rain’s power specifically for this purpose).

    12.

    “They shrunk.”

    “Your teammate cut them out,” Rachel said.

    “Precipice?”

    “They weren’t leaving the building without going through the front doors,” Foil said. “He cut them open so we could get the dogs out.”

    Did Precipice cut the dogs out with his power? Just how much control does he have over the depth of his cuts? Definitely looks like this power is nowhere as bad as he originally thought.

    13. Just how worried should we be that Byron hasn’t let Tristan even for a second to ask for his input for what feels like at least an hours now? Especially when the team is discussing their next moves?

    14.

    “Don’t worry about me. Don’t feel you have to, okay? I’ll manage. I can deal with the bad days. I’ve got support, friends. Jessica’s back, and she’ll get in touch soon. Weld is out there, and all I’ve wanted to do from the beginning was to stand shoulder to shoulder with him.”

    I thought about my conversation with Weld.

    Do I see a potential problem here? How badly will Sveta react if on top of the situation with Weld, Jessica won’t get in touch soon? Will it cause her to lose all this progress she’s made thanks to Rain?

    On the other hand if she does manage not to react too badly to those situations, maybe she will feel more confident about dealing with herself without constantly depending on external support? She needs to learn how to do it one day too, and it looks like she wants to start learning it already:

    “I’m figuring out how to do my part, I’m doing what I wanted, even if it isn’t pretty. Thank you for giving me an excuse to risk it. But I’ll manage. Really. Go help the people who won’t manage.”

    15.

    Byron said, “We’re moving forward on foot. Are they in a car, is there any clue?”

    “If they’re hitching a ride, then they have the windows open. And I don’t see fresh tire marks.”

    Looks like we just saw the limit of Rachel’s “dogs” ability to track, at least when they are not enlarged.

    16.

    Byron said, “We’re moving forward on foot. Are they in a car, is there any clue?”

    “If they’re hitching a ride, then they have the windows open. And I don’t see fresh tire marks.”

    Rachel indicated the half-frozen mud.

    “I’ll take your word for it,” Byron said.

    “It’s a good skill to know,” my mom said. “Admirable.”

    “I don’t care,” Rachel said. “I just want to hurt the people who hurt the kids.”

    “I agree,” my mom said. “One hundred percent.”

    Looks like Carol tends to go into cape instructor mode for everyone she considers an ally, who could use a hint. Of course this is not the best way to get into Rachel’s good graces. At least Carol realized her mistake quickly enough to find a more-or-less diplomatic way out. It doesn’t hurt that she probably really agrees, or at least mostly agrees with Rachel on the point of hurting those villains.

    17. Interesting how “Foil” become “Flechette” in Victoria’s mind for a second when she used her “darts” to disable some cars. Does Victoria think of “Flechette” as a hero who avoids harming anyone with her power whenever possible, as opposed to Foil the villain, who goes if not for kills, then for injuries? We know from Worm that it is not exactly how Flechette operated.

    Could it be just Victoria’s apparent tendency to subconsciously not only clearly distinguish between ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’, but also automatically associate certain moral qualities to those categories? As I said in my Madison-related comments below the last chapter, Victoria needs to quickly learn to question this way of thinking.

    By the way I think that Carol’s little discussion with Damsel shows from where Victoria might have gotten tendency to think in such black and white terms in the first place. At least Victoria isn’t nearly as confrontational about her convictions as Carol is. It is also funny to see that Swansong wasn’t nearly as confrontational as Damsel during and right after that conversation. Something she learned from Victoria, or just a bit of sympathy and respect for Victoria? I think it might be a bit of both. Maybe even a little bit of what she learned during therapy too… but probably not much – early on she seemed to be at least almost as bad as Damsel is in this regard.

    Of course when the interaction is just between the Ashleys themselves, they can both be equally confrontational. Maybe they think they can’t hurt each other with words just as much as they can’t hurt each other with their powers? Maybe this is why they even enjoy those arguments so much? The original Ashley didn’t have anyone like that after all, and it clearly weighted on her that she can all-too-easily harm or kill anyone by accident if she’s not careful.

    18.

    “He saw what Cradle did?” I asked.

    “He helped,” Byron said, voice tighter.[…]

    “If he helped, then the Harbingers can kill him.”

    Well Victoria, for you this moment is more or less what shooting Coil was for Skitter, and unlike shooting Coil this probably wasn’t necessary. At least you behaved like a proper team leader, and didn’t force Byron to make this decision.

    1. I’d say it’s more like the time Taylor found the Nine in a bunker and piled in every insect she could in an attempt to flay them alive, myself.

    2. Regarding Snaggletooth: in one of Rain’s dream interludes, there was a mangled body and blood on an invisible wall in Cradle’s sector, and this was never explained in-depth later. I guess now we know.

      1. Actually the main thing I get from this, aside from what I have already written, is an explanation why we never saw Rain try to investigate further what happened to Snaggletooth – he simply knew it already from March.

        1. Of course I mean – what happened to Snaggletooth outside of the dream-world. Rain is probably still just as puzzled as everyone else when it comes to what happened in the dream-room.

    3. Re. 4. One thing broken triggers generally lack is being limited by Manton effect – another thing that could maybe be called their “structural issue”. I generally wouldn’t expect high survival rate among the people who will trigger because of what March did, but since there are survivors of second triggers with severely reduced Manton limits, then maybe there will also be some survivors of broken triggers with powers that don’t follow typical rules, including Manton-like limits, but not not immediately lethal to their parahumans.

    4. Re. 18. An interesting parallel between Victoria’s and Taylor’s decisions here is that they did them to take responsibility for the kill themselves, instead of making someone do it for them. The difference is that Taylor wanted to take as much responsibility as she could – all the way to pulling the trigger, while Victoria just wanted to protect Byron – the only other “innocent in her group”, unless you also count Tristan – from becoming a killer.

    5. Re. 17. > Could it be just Victoria’s apparent tendency to subconsciously not only clearly distinguish between ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’, but also automatically associate certain moral qualities to those categories?

      I think the clear line Victoria draws between ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’ may also be a symptom of another Victoria’s oddity in the way she thinks – when it comes to capes she puts everything into well defined categories, and makes her decisions based on general guidelines she was taught for those categories. For example when she thinks about someone’s power, the first thing she considers is what PRT category the power falls into, and what the PRT guidelines say about usual strengths, weaknesses and ways to counter those sorts of powers.

      It works for her most of the time, but I’m afraid that it may hinder her when she runs into someone whose power defies usual classifications, when usual ways to counter powers belonging to a category such newly-encountered power falls into don’t work against this particular power, or if someone manages to intentionally mislead Victoria about what category their power belong to to provoke an incorrect, and predictable (since it comes from publicly available guidelines) reponse. In theory Victoria knows it is possible, but it may still be a problem if her first reaction is always the one suggested by her old training with her mother, the Wards, etc.

      It may be even more of a problem now, that broken triggers and such may possibly produce capes whose powers work very differently from what the usual rules would suggest.

      On an even more general level – Victoria tries to apply some general guidelines to all sorts of situations, and gets a bit lost and possibly frustrated, when reality doesn’t work the way the guideline predicts. See her reaction when Tristan derailed her S.P.I.N.E. scenario in chapter 11.2 for example. Just another bit of her mental inflexibility which may one day become a problem.

    6. Re. 6. Maybe one of those “old teammates” Rachel told disappointed her is Tattletale? Rachel did call her an idiot in chapter 11.10 (even though she was still ready to defend Tattletale from Foil’s accusations), and, since Rachel probably considers herself more of an associate of Undersiders than a member at this point, she probably thinks about all Undersiders as “old” rather then “current” teammates.

    7. Re. 3. From chapter 30.6 of Worm:

      I accessed the power of the reality warper. The girl who got more powerful as she lost touch with the world, who could fashion her own realities, then bring them into our world.

      I had her create a door, then I used her partner’s help to smash it.

      Maybe Labyrinth created a literal doors (or something like that) and Scrub smashed it leaving a “door shaped” spaces, which connected different words, and which Victoria interpreted saw one of those “door shaped” spaces distorted by the Scrambler in the portal station, and interpreted it as a “building, of some peculiar architecture”? Maybe Labyrinth’s “door” even did look more like a building than a simple door? It would probably better fit the shape of space usually affected by Scrub.

    8. Ok, how did Labyrinth’s power work here if it produced a building that can’t normally be seen

      She used her power to create a building, then Scrub portalized it, making it difficult to view properly until they sealed it just now. Not a mystery.

      Seriously though, it does say something about her, that she never felt about any place she lived in after Brockton Bay as her homes.

      I don’t think it says anything about her. It is perfectly normal to feel that way. The Institute wouldn’t have felt like home for obvious reasons. It’s only been two and a half years since then, and she’s been living in other people’s places the whole time. Some people can feel at home in other people’s apartments, and some people can’t. It’s not weird.

      Just how worried should we be that Byron hasn’t let Tristan even for a second to ask for his input for what feels like at least an hours now?

      Not very? Tristan was cut in half and in a great deal of pain. I doubt he wants to be let out for any length of time, and he probably made this clear to Byron already off screen.

      17. Interesting how “Foil” become “Flechette” in Victoria’s mind for a second when she used her “darts” to disable some cars. Does Victoria think of “Flechette” as a hero who avoids harming anyone with her power whenever possible, as opposed to Foil the villain, who goes if not for kills, then for injuries?

      A foil is a type of sword, and a flechette is a type of dart. Victoria mainly knew her when she went by Flechette, and she was throwing a dart when Vicky made the slip. So I think it was just a vocabulary-induced error, not anything to do with hero-vs-villain.

      1. > She used her power to create a building, then Scrub portalized it, making it difficult to view properly until they sealed it just now. Not a mystery.

        Looks like it. I even found posted the relevant quote from 30.6 in my comment regarding my point 3. above.

        > I don’t think it says anything about her. It is perfectly normal to feel that way. The Institute wouldn’t have felt like home for obvious reasons. It’s only been two and a half years since then, and she’s been living in other people’s places the whole time. Some people can feel at home in other people’s apartments, and some people can’t. It’s not weird.

        I think there may be more to it. “Home” may mean more than just a house or a flat you consider the place where you belong. I think she’s never accepted the city as her new home, and it, aside from practical aspect of gathering old information on capes, could have been the reason why she regularly visited Brockton Bay after Gold Morning and before the start of Ward. Add to it all her talk about “hometown pride”, willingness to discuss BB even with people fromthere she never really knew before – like Golem, or to take part in the meetings like the one Vista proposed when she returned from her off-world mission, and I think that Victoria may cling to the past more than she’s probably willing to admit to herself.

        It’s understandable that she is missing her old home town, but also worrying that she still can’t move on to the point that she has a problem with accepting the city as a ‘home’.

        > Not very? Tristan was cut in half and in a great deal of pain. I doubt he wants to be let out for any length of time, and he probably made this clear to Byron already off screen.

        Well, I know that Tristan is in pain whenever he is “out” now, and he intentionally left Byron to deal with current situation, but considering Tristan’s almost constant urge to take leadership position, I imagine he may be upset that he was not allowed to express his opinion when the group was discussing their plans.

        As for Foil-Flechette, maybe you’re right, but I think there may be a bit more to this slip. Remember that Flechette was not only a hero, but a Ward – someone expected to avoid using any kind of force likely to not only kill, but even seriously harm anyone (something the adult heroes were not expected to focus on to such extent). What Foil did with those darts in this chapter was exactly the sort of thing Wards were supposed to do – she put out of action, or at least delayed, their opposition gathered around the portal station without harming anyone.

        Compare it to “Foil” who just shot Colt with a power-enhanced bullet no more than a couple hours ago. We know that “Flechette” did something very similar to Skitter back in Worm, and she did it practically unprovoked, when Skitter was trying to negotiate, but as far as we know Victoria doesn’t know about that, so she probably has some idealized image of Flechette-the-Ward, much more different from her image of Foil-the-villain than the actual difference between the two really was.

    1. Corona Pollentias can be formed at the time of triggering. Thats how people were being killed in the broken trigger in arc 2. The shard created Pollentias in their heads, and they were anchored in space.

      1. It is also why Cauldron Vials would give powers to any unpowered person who drinks their contents. In chapter 29.7 of Worm Doctor Mother even mentioned that “there is a higher chance of deviation” for people with the coronas who “take the dose”, which makes me wonder if the effects of broken triggers on people can also vary depending on whether they did, or didn’t have corona pollentia in the first place.

        1. I think the pre-existence of a Corona Pollentia means a Shard has connected to them but is awaiting the emotional trigger. Much like Chicken Little who was having dreams about the entities before he ever triggered.

          1. Maybe. In interlude 26 of Worm we have:

            The shards have largely been assigned to hosts. They will remain latent, they will wait for the first crucial moment of crisis and use that to shape their function, to better assist their host.

            which would suggest that the shards are waiting for the right moment to trigger, but we also have:

            In hosts, too, there will be variations. The shards might seek out different hosts, if others are in range, as the perception-altering one did. They will fragment and transmit to other hosts, as they grow and develop.

            which could suggest that before the trigger it is possible for the shard to switch to a different host. In fact it looks like what happened with Aisha – her shard was originally intended for her father, but switched to Aisha in the last moment (at least this is how it happened in a simulation run by the warrior entity – also in that interlude, but a little bit too lengthy to quote here).

            I think that one possible interpretation (let’s call it the first theory) could be the pre-existing coronas may be initial connections. Each shard would create connections with many people, and decide on one person later.

            Another possibility (the second theory) is that the pre-existing coronas are just results of DNA modifications made by entities a certain percentage of human species to create people equipped to be potential hosts for shards later.

            The first theory seems to explain better why certain people seem to trigger only after suffering a certain kind of stressors. If I remember correctly there was a theory on Bet that you can for example be predisposed to become a brute and only a brute, and no matter how stressful situations you live through, you wouldn’t trigger if those stressful situations were not of a kind suitable for a brute power.

            The second theory could probably better explain why children of people with coronas seem to often have coronas themselves, even if their parents never triggerd, as seemed to be with Aisha’s father (and Taylor’s, if I remember correctly).

            Honestly I don’t know which interpretation is closer to truth. I can’t think of any particular bit of text which would let us know one way or the other. Considering that the warrior entity used precognition to initially assign shards to particular hosts, but left shards an option to connect to someone else if a more suitable host was found nearby, I think that both theories could contain some truth.

            What is important is that the pre-existence of corona pollentia doesn’t seem to exclude a possibility of getting a trigger via a vail (which contains a power which probably has nothing to do with particular corona, since vials may also force creations of new coronas if needed), but may also affect the power a vial would give you – thus giving “higher chance of divination” Doctor Mother mentioned.

            I don’t think it has ever been answered if it happens because pre-existing coronas are already connected to their intended shards in some level (as in the first theory), and interaction between the shard connected via a vial, and the shard originally meant for the corona in question may cause the “diviation”, or of the differences between individual pre-existing coronas influence how vial-given powers manifest (which would be more in line with the second theory).

  13. 1. “Killington Mayor”
    If I am not mistaken, it is S9000 place of sleep and battle against them. Who do we have in time bubbles there? Jack?
    2. “Broken trigger … It incapacitated everyone in the ruins of Brockton Bay and left them defenseless while the initial effects took place”
    March and Co also should be incapacitated? Or meant that they already got from Brockton Bay to Killington at the moment of broken trigger?

    1. 1. I think it could be an actual Mayor of Killington. There was this bit we saw in chapter 26.1 of Worm in a place that could be the town hall:

      There was a voice from beneath the other tarp. A strangled scream.

      “What was that?”

      “A recording,” I lied.

      Could “the recording” be the Mayor? Considering that Jack was trapped in Los Angeles, which is much further from Brockton Bay than Killington is, I guess it would make sense for the Mayor to be the person Tattletale mentioned in chapter 11.3 of Ward as a possible March’s target:

      One of the names raised was closer to home than Jack.

      2. The way I understand it, Killington was “folded” by Vista “into Brockton Bay”, so they were both parts of Vista’s “box”. At least Victoria thought it was. See description of “Vistafied” Brockton Bay in chapter 11.12.

      Of course since we don’t know how exactly March messed with the time-loop in the first place, and if there was a delay between what she did and the trigger, we don’t know if she had to be present in the Killington part of the box when the trigger happened (or anywhere inside the box really). I would guess she found a way to end up somewhere in the Brockton Bay part of the box, so she was in position to go after other time effects after the box “unfolded”.

      As for March’s group being affected by the trigger – maybe they were, and they found a place safe enough to stay in while they suffered the effects like every other cape in the area? Maybe they were affected less or not at all, because they had an idea where the broken trigger would happen, and how far they need to be from it to be safe? Maybe the villains found a way to negate the impact of triggers on nearby capes (it could also explain why Victoria, Sveta, Swansong and the Harbingers were defeated by the villains at the end of this chapter – assuming that what affected them near the end was an “echo” of a new broken trigger, and not a trump power)? Heck, maybe cluster capes just aren’t affected by nearby triggers like other capes are, or at least not to the same extent?

      1. One of Grey Boy’s loops would certainly be traumatic enough to cause a standard trigger, but the stuck-ness would make it unappetising for a normal trigger. And it’d probably be a Trump power due to the time effect, possibly Brute depending on what Grey Boy actually did to the guy within.

        And those time loops? Weren’t mentioned in the meeting, I believe. Only time stoppages were.

        1. Maybe the Mayor triggered after being released from the time-loop, and the proximity of the Brockton Bay “exploded” portal, or just the energy stored in the time loop itself caused it to become a broken trigger?

          As for the meeting – if you mean the Breakthrough-Undersiders meeting from chapter 11.3, then Tattletale mentioned “people caught in time loops, stasis, other fuckery like that…”, not just stasis/stoppages.

          1. No, I meant the meeting with the mayor and the heroes with the Undersiders as a nominal ally also attending via their ex-hero. Because ex-heroes have more respect than constant villains.

          2. Ah, you mean the meeting from chapter 11.4.

            Actually, the time loops were mentioned – not by Foil, who in response to Cinereal’s question about what “the mercenaries” were up to besides the situation with Cradle and Love Lost, said:

            “We don’t know,” Foil said. “But Tattletale is pretty certain that their focus is on the time stasis effects in Earth Bet’s Brockton Bay.”

            The one who mentioned the time loops was the mayor herself:

            “The Wardens were looking into those effects, as well as the ongoing Gray Boy loops,” Jeanne said.

      2. Maybe whatever’s going on affects cluster capes less than normal ones? If so that would be an excellent trump card for March right now. There’s only two cluster capes on Breakthrough’s side right now, Rain, who’s asleep, and Foil, who’s not mentioned when the… Outage we’ll call it, happens.

        1. It could be even something simpler. What if there is a drug that can cause a cape not to react to a nearby trigger, and the villains working with March just took it in preparation for her “finale”? We’ve already seen some drugs which interact with the way powers affect the mind – like the drug which cancelled Goddesses “alignment”, and the one that presumably caused Colt to trigger.

    1. It’s the one thing left I can think of that might save the group if they’re captured.

      Rain would be active with Cassie and Yips to either try coming to their aide or re-opening the portal and calling for help

      …I wonder if the disrupted portal actually shielded them somewhat from the effects if it was Brockton Bay, and if the city was hit even worse.

      1. > …I wonder if the disrupted portal actually shielded them somewhat from the effects if it was Brockton Bay, and if the city was hit even worse.

        I wonder that too. On the other hand if the portal carries a “signal” spreading the broken trigger, then I’m afraid that Cassie may be the most likely person to trigger on Earth-N at the moment, since she is probably the unpowered person closest to the portal, maybe with the exception of that “girl in a staff uniform” mentioned in the previous chapter.

        1. I think that there may be another way Rain may “rescue” Victoria’s group now. Depending on what he saw in the dream-room, he may just come to his cluster members, and offer to surrender, just how Love Lost predicted he would, in exchange for freedom of everyone else (or at least as many as he can convince the villains to give up – I imagine they may want to keep Tattletale for example). He may drop some hints about what he saw/ heard in the dream-room that convinced him to make this decision – hints that wouldn’t explain everything to the reader, but instead leave us with some more pieces of the puzzle.

          1. Another person the villains may want to keep could be Foil. Alternatively they may make it one of their conditions that Foil will be immediately escorted to March.

          2. On the other hand I imagine that the question of Foil, and maybe of what to do with Colt at this point, may become a point on which Love Lost and Cradle may disagree. Cradle seems to be fully dedicated to his cooperation with March at this point, while Love Lost seems to have second thoughts. She is clearly feeling guilty about what happened to Colt, and she may not be cold enough to be OK with what March seems to have in store for Foil.

          3. Nah… The universe just knows that the heroes need to suffer their share of setbacks and pain to appear properly heroic by overcoming them in the end.

  14. Do you remember Dinah’s protests from chapter 30.6 of Worm before Taylor took Labyrinth and Scrub as replacements for Doormaker? The ones she stopped only after Taylor showed her the “I’m sorry.” note (or at least I assume that this was the piece of paper she used to convince Dinah to stop)? Do you think that Dinah could protest because she already knew at that point that if Taylor used those two the way she did, it would cause a disaster later? A disaster March has just unleashed?

    1. Of course since Dinah first tried to enter Taylor’s range herself before Taylor let her know that she wanted Labyrinth and Scrub instead, the thing Dinah power let her know could be something more vague – for example “there is such-and-such probability that another mass destruction/dying etc. will happen in two or three years if Taylor gets someone who is with Faultline now,” without telling her exactly who that someone is.

      Alternatively Dinah could know that the warning was about Labyrinth and Scrub, and entered Taylor’s range in a last-ditch hope that Taylor will take her, no those two, or even that Taylor will use her power to find out that taking Labyrinth and Scrub is a bad idea.

  15. Oh, I see it now. March’s plan for the time loops. The megalopolis just had its first mayoral election, but it was won by Citrine, a villain from the Ambassadors and the wife of a former S9-turned-Cauldron, and now the city is falling apart at the seams. Sad! So, March was going to free Killington’s mayor and turn over the city to somebody who is actually qualified for the position (keeping her competition oppressed was, of course, why Citrine refused to rescue people from Gray Boy’s power).

    Unfortunately, it has gone horribly wrong, as per usual with capes.

    1. I guess the backup plan would be to put Roy Christner in the office, because he did such splendid job running Brockton Bay even before the Leviathan’s attack. I mean just look at the crime rates or overall economic situation of BB then… And on top of it we all remember how he out of his own initiative fought tooth and nail in Washington against the idea of condemning the city after S9 crisis was over.

  16. Everyone seems so impatient recently with all the bad stuff happening, but I see this as just a very long climb before the fall for LL/cradle/etc. I’m sure their plans will all meet in the middle somewhere and go hilariously wrong for all. Right?

  17. One question I find interesting is how much Victoria will push for confrontation if her powers return before she regains a control over her body. Will she fly up, cover herself in Wretch and try to continue fighting while her body will be recovering from the fall and subsequent electrocution?

    It would be a very risky maneuver to try, especially with everyone else probably lying helplessly on the ground, but she has been acting more and more aggressively lately. Just think about how she risked losing her leg while fighting Lord of Loss. Could she try something just as reckless now?

    1. Of course the situation with Lord of Loss was different in that by continuing to fight Victoria put mostly herself at risk, while here it would probably also be risky to people who are with her than to herself if she continued to fight, and in such situations she tended to de-escalate, but maybe she is desperate enough (knowing that if they are captured now, they may also end up cut into pieces) or maybe that fight with LoL taught her some bad lessons with the good ones (like how being relentlessly aggressive may pay off).

    2. Just think about how she risked losing her leg while fighting Lord of Loss.

      Is a willingness to lose a leg the sign of an unconscious, nascent openness to additional contact with Amy? After all she can fly, so if she gets a tourniquet applied and a blood transfusion soon enough it will be no special physical hardship to limp back to Amy with hat in hand. Also she kind of hates her body that is made of insects and various biological matter, so maybe getting a leg slowly recreated by eating vast amounts of food would be an improvement from her point of view?

      1. She could have simply panicked then. It is not like kicking Lord of Loss would do her much good no matter whether that leg would fall off or not. Of course it is up for debate why she would react in this particular way while panicked. It could have something to do with her hatred of her body, but it could be just normal trashing around you can expect of someone who has been reduced by their fear to a level of a cornered or otherwise trapped animal. In other words there may be no deeper meaning, like the one you implied, behind Victoria’s reaction then – just stress of a really terrifying situation, possibly made worse by Rain’s power.

        1. The problem is that Victoria’s panicked “fight” reaction at that time resulted in her eventual Victory, and since she was under the effects of Rain’s power then, she could be to some extent conditioned to choose “fight” over “flight”, “freeze”, “surrender”, “try to negotiate”, etc. in similarly scary situations, and I think that what happened at the end of the current chapter may qualify.

          1. She’s got a Brute power. Granted, it’s a fragile Brute power, but still a power that works best in melee. It would not surprise me at all if her shard- or Brute shards in general- subtly encouraged their hosts to respond with ‘fight’ in such a situation.

            Lung also provides an example of this; his response to fear attacks is anger- a trait Bitch also shares, but she’s not a Brute, just a Master with a heavily re-programmed brain.

          2. And it doesn’t help that she is a brute. “Fight” is a response her shard probably also encourages, at least in physical confrontations. In worst case scenario being conditioned to fight may also give her shard more control over her behavior over time, and possibly even bring her closer to the breaking point where her behavior is dictated more by her shard then by “herself”. All capes (especially natural triggers) are at risk of that happening to them at some point, after all.

          3. @ Earl of Purple

            It is funny how you brought up similarities between certain brutes and masters. Let me give you another one – with being trapped, scared for herself, and her friends (including Sveta!) who are in imminent danger, I think that Victoria may be getting dangerously close to the frame of mind Taylor was in, when she killed Alexandria and Tagg.

            From the way Danny described how Taylor looked at that moment, we can probably assume that Taylor’s behavior then was largely determined by her shard’s influence – in fact it probably finished the deed while Taylor was unconscious. Do you think that something similar may happen to Victoria now or in the near future?

          4. The way I imagine it, if Victoria snaps, Cradle may end up being turned into very small pieces by the Wretch, which would undoubtedly please all of those people here, who have been expressing their desire to see him die in some horrible way.

            Only poor Victoria would have to live with the consequences of such deed…

          5. I disagree, actually. Or, well, I agree, but not all the way. They’re too different, as capes and as people. Victoria’s not going to go so far as to try and kill except in the most desperate circumstances, whereas then Taylor wasn’t in such a place. She thought her friends were captured/dead, but she herself wasn’t in immediate danger. Victoria’s not like that- she’d make sure her friends got justice, not vengeance, and her powers aren’t passive ones like Taylor’s, either.

            But I think if she did shred Cradle into itty bitty pieces, I don’t think she’d be feeling very regretful. She’s asked for a kill order on him, or the equivalent, and she’d do it in battle when her emotions are high and Cradle’s trying to slice her into pieces. She’s not the sort to murder somebody in cold blood, I think. Or at least, not yet. She might go there, eventually, but… I still don’t see it.

          6. I also don’t think that Victoria is the sort of a person who would murder somebody in cold blood, but I wouldn’t call what Taylor did to Alexandria and Tagg a cold-blooded murder either. And if something would happen to Sveta or possibly Vista or one of Victoria’s family members, I wouldn’t exclude a possibility of Victoria committing what, if I interpret Wikipedia article on the topic correctly, American law would classify as voluntary manslaughter (as opposed to murder).

          7. It was certainly murder, possibly not pre-meditated enough to be properly cold-blooded, but neither was it a crime of passion or self-defence. It was a crime of vengeance, pure and simple. And most importantly Taylor decided to kill them. Well, not Tagg, exactly, but certainly Alexandria, and Taylor decided to kill when she was sat in an office, not in immediate danger or being directly threatened.

          8. I wouldn’t call it “a crime of vengeance, pure and simple”, not when there were more “Undersiders” (well, body doubles, but Taylor didn’t know that) unaccounted for who Alexandria could still kill. The way I see it Taylor probably thought that there was an immediate danger to her teammates, because Alexandria could fly out of her range to kill more of her teammates at any moment. Sure, Taylor herself called what she did at that moment a “revenge”, but I doubt she would act the way she did if she didn’t see a threat to lives of her teammates and herself (especially her teammates) from Alexandria and Tagg.

            Alexandria really made a critical mistake, when she “proved” to Taylor that she is willing to kill to break her resolve, and put herself in position where she could do it at any moment.

            Tagg doomed himself the moment he shouted “She knows!”(proving that he is as much of a threat to Taylor’s teammates as Alexandria was) reached for his gun (proving that he is a threat to Taylor’s life).

            Vengeance was certainly a big factor in Taylor’s actions, but if not for direct threat to lives of herself and her teammates Taylor perceived at that moment, I doubt she would kill them. She would probably seek other means of revenge, and considering what she knew about Alexandria, she had alternatives to choose from.

  18. Regarding the power cancellation.
    two case 53 are in opposition. can there be a power copier who had copied mantellum?
    Mantellum affected how senses worked in a radius, host and shard sense both.
    Fits how for a moment Antares gets zero sensory feedback.

  19. Is it possible that one of two case 53 have a ability which is like or is copied from Mantellum?
    At the moment the effect set in, Antares lost sensory perception for a moment. Mantellum worked on senses, shard and host.

  20. Victoria remains an undefeated hypocrite
    >Harbingers shouldn’t be allowed to act on their own because they would kill and if they tried to avoid killing they’d maim
    >But it’s fine for me to recklessly use my strength power (I know I barely to control) to, in fact, maim people (broken legs tend to leave crippling chronic health issues especially if they’re bad enough to make her cringe beyond the first impact).

    1. The way I see it, what Victoria is worried about is that the Harbingers wouldn’t show even as much restraint as she does. In fact they pretty much confirmed that they wouldn’t. Sure, Victoria breaks bones, but still tries to do it only when she can see no other way to win. The only thing that changes in her behavior for now is that she appears to look less for less violent solutions – preferring safety a quick takedown gives to her and her teammates over health of her opponents. Quite reasonable considering what those opponents have proven they are willing to do.

      Of course this sort of escalation is a slippery slope, and may easily end up with Victoria going too far, but for now I would not consider her restraining people like Number Man clones “hypocritical”. There still is a big difference between how she acts and how they suggested they will if they won’t get other orders.

    2. Chronic Health issues != Killing. There’s always the possibility to be healed from drastic injuries in this cape world.

      She thinks the Harbingers will kill the enemies because that might be what they determine is the most effective path.

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