Heavens – 12.none

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“I want to meet her.”

“Yeah,” his voice came out as a croak.  It was hard to know what to say in a moment like this.

“My daughter.  My sweet, sweet girl.  I want to say my goodbye.  I want to hold her.”

“You are holding her, Kel.”

“You know what I mean.  Please know what I mean.”

“I don’t.”

The space was dark, and with everything having shuffled around, mud flowing into the open window to add to the claustrophobia, the pressure mounted.  The van that had been their house, their transportation, and the storage for everything the two of them owned was now their coffin.  There was barely any light, and at times it didn’t feel like there was enough air; his head would buzz with a headache and he felt like he could nod off into a miserable sleep he would never wake from.

He could feel the breeze through the damaged window, almost ice cold when the rest of him was hot and prickly with sweat.  Kelly, trapped where she lay in a position lower in the van than he was, didn’t seem to get that breeze.

“Shawn.  I can’t take her with me.  You can’t make me.”

“How would I make you?”

“Don’t make me spell it out,” the words were a plea.

He wasn’t used to her being the rock or being the one with the plan, but she was the one who had kept it together after… after whatever had happened.  He found himself walking himself through the known, to get to this thing that Kelly seemed to think he should know.  He’d been emancipated from his parents at sixteen.  She’d simply run away.  They’d found each other.

It hadn’t been easy.  They had their individual neuroses and traumas to get over before they meshed properly.  Kelly heard voices.  She didn’t see things, she just heard the voices, and she didn’t hate the voices.  That didn’t mean they were always the best thing for her, but she didn’t hate them.  She’d always talked about how people with schizophrenia in other areas of the world tended to hear happy voices, or supportive voices.  She blamed culture and she blamed society for the fact that people in ‘the West’ heard negative or paranoia-inducing voices.  She wanted to reject that society.  Most of all, she wanted to reject the medicines, the institutions, and her parents making every decision for her, when her parents were something she couldn’t talk about without going to a dark place.

Figuring out whether he should trust her on that had been a task, and a long series of compromises.  He’d been sixteen when he met her and admittedly not the best when it came to judgment calls.  The last few months had seen her spiral out, then rein herself in.  He’d gotten her to talk regularly with someone who knew better than he did, got her to agree to try medications if she had another bad patch.

But given circumstances, he’d felt it was his duty to give her what she needed, and she wanted to get away from society, focus on the simpler things.

They’d paid their money at the campsite, took up their spot on a rise in the woods, he had his licenses in order to fish and the go-ahead to hunt rabbit and only rabbit.  He’d signed on the dotted line on the sheet that said he would take out everything he brought in.  No trash.

Twice a week, for the last three weeks, he’d taken her into town.  While she had appointments, at hospital and with the head doctor, he bought groceries, bought the little odds and ends, and then went to the library to while away the remaining time.

For the first time in his life, he’d smiled because the days made him happy.  He’d been able to breathe in deeply and take in raw oxygen, close his eyes and feel the sun against the lids, and he’d felt at peace.  Better yet, he’d seen Kelly at peace.  Not perfect, but as good as he’d ever seen her.

A very long and light rain had closed out the summer.  Not what he’d thought of as ‘natural disaster’ rain.  They’d been laughing at how everything was wet, sorting out the van, when the mud had come down, rolling the van, swamping and mostly burying them.

Burying them alive.

It had been Kelly who had talked him down when he’d broken down, after the van’s horn stopped working.  Because he’d exhausted the battery, or, from his rudimentary car knowledge, corrosion under the van’s hood.  He’d known he wasn’t rationing it out enough, but he’d panicked.  Because Kel needed help.  Kelly had kept him sane, helped him to relax, and hadn’t once blamed him for overusing the horn.

Rationally, he knew the campground had records that put him and Kelly on the hillside.  It was a question of time.  He’d heard helicopters.

His chair squeaked and grated as he twisted around, his hand extended, reaching for her hand.

She didn’t take it.  Instead, she pressed something into his palm, reached up, and closed his fingers around it.

“Whatever happens, no matter how this turns out, you absolutely cannot let my parents have her.  They don’t see her, they don’t talk to her, they do not touch her.”

In the gloom, his hands traced the outline of the thing he had been given.  He was careful, because he already knew the shape of the handle.

“Promise me,” she said.  “Promise me, promise me, promise me.”

“I promise,” he said, even though he was still wrapping his head around what she wanted.  Or he understood, like he understood the knife, but there was always that doubt in his mind when it came to Kelly.

Once in a long while, she would go off on a tangent, and he would be so tired that he believed her without question, only to find himself having to catch up, second guess, and realize she wasn’t making sense.  Then he would tell her, tell her to eat and sleep, and she’d usually listen.  Or she’d talk at him for another few hours, while he tried to steer the conversation.  The lines of reality could be that much blurrier for her when she was tired, and the tricky part was that they’d been joined at the hip for the past two years, which meant he was often tired when she was tired.  It was easy to get drawn in.

And he was tired now, he was running on empty too.

Was this the thing to do?  Was there another way?  Could they wait?  Was Kelly even that hurt?

“I know I’m not the coolest, I’m not smart, I didn’t finish high school,” she said.  “If you want to lie to her about who I was, I understand.  Do-”

“No,” he said.  He would have teared up, if he weren’t dehydrated.  The mud had dried up enough to become dirt, around them.  “No, what?  No.  You’re the best person.”

“I’m really not.”

“You’re the first decent person I met in my life,” he said.  “You’re the first person who put a real smile on my face.  The first person who opened minds of people instead of closing them.  You never had a mean word to say about anyone-”

“I did.”

“Anyone who didn’t deserve it.”

“You can’t let my parents-”

“I won’t,” he said, firm.  “And she’ll know you if I have to talk about you ever day.”

“No.  I don’t want to be a weight, like-”

She kept going back to that.  The weight she hadn’t been able to leave behind.  She’d blamed her parents for the unusually early onset to her schizophrenia, hinting at stress causing it, but he’d talked to the therapist, and there wasn’t any evidence that stress was linked to age of onset.

More concerning, there might have been a delirious edge to the fact she kept going back to that place.  It spooked him.

So he talked, talked over her, even, because he found himself in a place where if he didn’t keep going or working his way forward, he would stop and find himself paralyzed.  Because he could talk of warmer things, and all of the good things he liked about Kelly, and hopefully lift her up and keep her away from that kind of thinking.

His entire life, his parents had told him that they loved him, and not once had they shown it.  His grandparents, his aunts, his uncles, they said the same.  Teachers said he had potential, urged him onward, but even the most supportive of those relationships hadn’t seemed to mean anything.  He’d written an email to a favorite teacher from the library, thanking her for her support and letting her know he was happy now.  He’d signed with his name.  The reply had been a telling ‘who is this?’

His parents had been fine as parents, but they hadn’t felt like family.  He could imagine sending his parents a status update and getting a reply like he had from his teacher.

That might be the delirium talking.

“I want to see her,” Kel said, insistent enough to cut through his rambling.  “Don’t worry about hurting me.  I can’t feel anything.  I haven’t been able to feel a lot for a while now.”

He wasn’t positive she was telling the truth, but he set to work, using the knife.

“Eyes forward,” she said.  “Focus on what comes next.”

He’d had moments where he’d faced down a crisis and he’d been calm.  A past landlord who had pushed his way into the apartment.  Dealing with hostile and drunk campers who seemed convinced this was their spot.  Leaving the van and the tent they’d hooked up at the rear as an extension to the van only to find himself ten feet away from what might have been a pair of coyotes.  Moments he’d faced down danger with composure and came away from it feeling like a man.

He didn’t feel like that here.  Panic set in, and Kelly’s voice didn’t help like it had after the horn had given out.  The situation was too messy, there were too many question marks.

In the midst of it all, he ceased feeling like himself.  He was an outside observer, somehow cataloguing every detail and not registering or keeping a one.  Time blurred and the act seemed endless.

And somewhere in the midst of all of that, he found himself being swept up by a current.  Lost in the midst of a greater flow of connections that threatened to distract him.  He wanted to focus on this, on the future, like she’d said, and this rush of sensations and images threatened to pull him away from it.

He flew among planets, but he really only wanted to be in this planet, in this van, in this mud, with Kelly.

In the midst of it, he felt it give way.  There was almost a sentiment to it, a sigh, a frustrated concession.

Power crackled along the knife, and it glowed faintly, illuminating the work he was doing.  It was just hot enough to cauterize the open cut.

Kelly, silent, touched his face.

The child was silent as he pulled it free.  Eleven weeks early.  With the edge of panic, he almost shook it, to make it start crying.  A bad sign for the kind of parent he’d end up being, he thought.  A good thing that Kelly took the child into her arms.  He’d been warned by the prenatal nurse that it could feel like mothers had a nine month headstart into being a parent.  He felt that now.  He was glad for that warning, because he very much felt like Kelly was more ready for this.

The child didn’t cry as much as he’d anticipated, and its initial whimpers and complaints were easily shushed.  He let Kelly have every moment, his focus purely on managing the wound he’d created.

She whispered to herself, like she tended to do when she was hearing the voices, but he liked to imagine she was introducing those voices to their child.  A deeper connection.

“What do we name her?” Kelly asked.  He wasn’t sure at first that she was talking to him, but the illumination from the glowing knife he’d stabbed into the back of one of the van’s seats gave him a view of her eyes.

“We could name her after you.”

No,” Kelly said, firm.

There was some back and forth.

In the midst of it, her coherence faltering, Kelly passed the child to him, her arms almost too weak to manage the meager weight.  He was just in time to catch it.

“You have her?” she asked.

‘Her’ had a penis, it seemed.  He found himself caught in a dilemma.

“I have her,” he said.  Kel had wanted a girl so badly.  Had she not noticed?  Or was she already that out of it?

“You’ll take good care of her.  You took good care of me.”

He wasn’t sure, but he nodded.  The glowing knife let them see each other.  He was barely concerned with it.  It was secondary, unimportant.

“The name,” she said.

He couldn’t give the child a girl’s name, and he couldn’t bring himself to provide a name he would later change.  That would betray Kel.

“Addison,” he said.  Gender neutral.  And maybe if Kelly had been gifted like he’d been gifted, in this tomb of theirs, and she’d seen something in Addison, then the name should work then too.

“Good,” Kelly agreed.

The child missed Kelly’s warmth, and it might have wanted more of the meal it had been given.  It might have disliked that cool waft of air that came in from the gaps in the mud above the broken window.  He did what he could to bundle it up, and tucked it into his shirt, head poking out of his collar, the tiny body laying along the crook of his arm and armpit, head cresting near his chin.

But Addison cried, and another of the prenatal nurse’s warnings was made evident, because he’d been told the pitch of a baby’s cry had been keyed by evolution to strike at the heartstrings and drill into the mind.  He’d been told it was okay to put the baby down, to walk into the next room, even step out of the house, because the crying could be overwhelming.

He was overwhelmed, he couldn’t walk into a next room.  His heartstrings were strained to their limits as they were.

He felt the weight of Addison on his arm, and he focused his mind forward, focusing on what he needed to do next.  He and the baby waited for their rescue.

Their world was illuminated by the glowing knife he laid in the hollow above the glove compartment.  He could already feel more power building up inside him, and he instinctively knew that when time came, he’d be able to put more power into something.  For now, it was an insignificant thing.

“Dauntless.”

He turned away from the window.  The sun was setting, and the forcefields over the floating headquarters gave it some interesting hues, bringing out the subtler colors.  Inside, everything was white and black, faintly tinted by those same hues outside.  Battery and Challenger were approaching.

“Everything okay?” he asked.

“Things are good,” Battery said.  She smiled.  “Listen, Armsmaster and Miss Militia got the latest calendar.  We’re the only ones on patrol tonight, so we get first pickings.  I’m really really hoping you  take one of these.  Can you guess which?”

The calendar.  The ‘schedule’ was more focused on the week, and that was for Armsmaster to write up and for the Director to sign off on or amend, much like how Armsmaster would get his say about hires and personnel changes in the Protectorate and Wards, but it was ultimately down to the Director.

The calendar wasn’t the schedule.  The calendar was a list of events coming over the next month, though sometimes there was notice of something coming months later.  Armsmaster would usually pull in Miss Militia and Triumph to help make the top-level decisions.  Already, some roles were penned in.  Triumph and Gallant were down for the video game thing.  Probably because they were the only ones who hadn’t sat in yet.  Velocity’s name filled in the blank beside an event at a conference with Maine state law enforcement.  No reason given for that.  A long way to travel, maybe.

There were a lot of shorthand codes and notes by each entry.  One person was to give presentations at every school in the city.  The shorthand indicated they needed to write up a draft of what they would present and get it cleared.  There was a lot of work, which was probably why it was indicated with a (B) – or pay bonus.

The Director wanted to step things up with Crisis Points.  Checking in with victims and the vulnerable.  There was room for two names there.  Accelerated schedule.  More work, no bonus indicated.

There was work with local law enforcement, giving them the run-down on the powers and the gangs, a refresher on what to do in a given circumstance, as well as policies for different classifications, and then a stint of increased coordination after that, riding along.  The job included babysitting Wards.  It was a diversion from normal work, marked with the (DFP) code, and that meant taking it on would mean reduced patrols for the duration.  If someone was recuperating from an injury or scare, the bosses would usually pen them in for something like that.

Morning tv and radio.  Everyone knew that was a trap, but the people at the very top of the PRT wanted to push high-visibility and approachability, and it was important a lot of people start the occasional days hearing from the heroes.  It was too easy for the capes to all be denizens of the night.

Standing representative at an event opening.  Mayor Craig had pledged to reopen the ferry as a campaign promise.  Those were always a bore, and if the promise fell through, it’d look bad for the heroes.  It was purely a political move, winning points with the mayor that could later be cashed in.  The line would remain blank until someone needed punishment detail.  That someone would probably be Assault.

And someone, it seemed, would be getting a vacation.  A trip to Toronto, where a TV show was being filmed.  Just about every television drama had its token ‘cape’ episode, if capes weren’t a casual background element.  A recognition that powers were a thing, for a single episode or three-episode story arc.  Even the mention that a Protectorate cape or Ward would play a part would provoke interest in the midseason.

He paged through the papers that were part of the bundle.  There were more details on the show.  ‘Flip’, a relationship show with a science fiction premise.  Facial prosthetics and partial mask.  The role was supposed to be as part of an elite force.  Always positive, or the PRT wouldn’t sign off on it.  Two members of the elite force would be a couple, no doubt because even a whisper of a relationship between capes in real life would stir fans and supporters into a frothing tizzy.

“You want me to take the TV show?” he guessed.  Battery had a natural aversion to anything ‘couply’.

“Please,” Battery said.

“I’m not good in front of cameras,” Challenger said.  She had a red bodysuit with epaulettes that had fine chains dangling from them and other decoration, and with her headgear off, strikingly different facial features, with a very sharp, pronounced chin, lines that joined nose to jaw if she had any expression that wasn’t neutral, and very sharply drawn, black eyebrows over green eyes.  Her hair was damp and while it was normally straight, when damp it took on a slight curl as though it had been finely braided.

There were capes who didn’t wear full masks, and who used makeup, wigs, or altered their hair to change their costumed identities.  There were also ones like Challenger, who were ‘normal’ in costume and who went to more extreme measures out of costume.  Her headgear, which was in her hand, was a chin-strap, ear-cover, and a diagonal blindfold that covered one of her eyes.  She’d lost her sight in the eye after an incident in a past city.

She walked a finer line with identity, given the lack of a full-face helmet or cover, and with her features being the kind that someone would take notice of, he could understand her not wanting the scrutiny that came with the television camera.

“Why not you?” he asked Battery.  “Why do you want me to take this?”

“If I go Assault will want to go too.  Miss Militia warned me it was possible and they would jump at the chance.”

“Ahh.”

He wasn’t sure what to say to that.  There were a lot of times, he found, that he couldn’t seem to find the right words.  He knew Assault and Battery were dating, they’d formally told the people in charge, but didn’t seem to him like it was a good thing.  Already, she was playing defensive, making excuses, and pulling strings to avoid the bad, instead of seeking the good.

“Please?”

“I’ll have to talk to my wife.  If I can take Addison to see Toronto, then I might,” he said.  “It pays?”

“It pays a lot.  It’s in the last few pages.”

He flipped through.  Sixty-five thousand an episode, two episodes.  To be filmed across nine days.  Reduced taxes paid on said income, because PRT work was technically government work.

He didn’t need the money for himself.  That wasn’t an aspiration.  He had been happy living in a van with a girl he loved, who loved him back, running into town twice a week for groceries and catching his own meat.  Addison’s education fund was at its limit.  Anything more would be excess.

Jennifer would probably like more things for the house, but Jennifer was constantly on the lookout for the next move up, and now that they lived in the Towers, the nicest area in Brockton Bay, she was hinting at possible moves to other cities.

He had the charity he’d set up out of respect for Kel, but if he did a few episodes of television, Jennifer would wonder where the money ended up.  It would put him in the position of lying or justifying the charity again.

But he really did want to help those guys out.

Battery shifted her weight.  He glanced up at her, and he was struck by a thought, that he’d judged her and Assault by a measure he wasn’t applying to himself and Jennifer.

The problem was, Jennifer was really, really good for Addison.

“I’ll think about it.  I’ll give you an answer before tomorrow morning.  If it’s a yes, you can forge my signature on there and pretend it was always there.”

“Thank you,” Battery said.

“I can’t promise yes.”

“Thank you, though,” she said.  “You’re not due to patrol yet, right?”

“Not yet,” he said.  He glanced out the window.  The sunset had changed dramatically over the course of the conversation and reading.  “But if you cover the last bit of my schedule, it’ll give me more time to convince my wife.”

“I can do that,” Battery said.  “Do you want a Ward?”

“Sure,” he said, smiling.

At best, they were some terrific kids.  At worst, they were good training for dealing with teenagers with issues, in case Addison ended up struggling.

They made their way down to the platform, where the bikes were all arranged in a row.  Aegis, Gallant, and Kid Win were there, eating sandwiches from the vendor who was set up in one corner, to serve staff.

“No Vista?” he asked them.  “I thought she was coming tonight.”

“She’s missing it because her grades slipped, and she’s really mad about it,” Gallant said.  “Are you coming?”

“Yeah.  Stretch my legs some, enjoy the nice weather.”

“Crack some skulls,” Challenger said, as she fit her headgear into place.

No,” Battery said.  “We avoid trouble while we’ve got the Wards riding along.  Or we set a good example.”

Challenger rolled her eye, looking at Aegis, who matched the expression.  Good example indeed.  She gave Kid Win a push on the shoulder, and he looked uneasy in smile and posture both.

“Are you biking?” Kid Win asked.

“Yeah,” Dauntless replied.

“You can’t fly yet?”

Dauntless tested his power, feeling out for the boots and activating them.  He lifted himself up into the air, but it was shaky, too brief before the power burned out.  It would enhance his leaps and bounds, but not flying, not yet.  He’d wanted firepower first.  There were a few people around the city who were pretty scary.  The nazis.  Lung and Lung’s flunky Oni Lee.

“That’s too bad,” Gallant said.

“Soon,” Dauntless said.

“We were talking about who would ride with who,” Gallant said.  “Can I ride with you?  Kid Win with Battery?”

“I seem to be left out,” Challenger groused.

“You get me,” Aegis pointed out.

“You fly, and you’ll fly off if given the choice,” Challenger replied.  She opened a locked case in the wall, and lifted down her axe.  A weapon as tall as she was.  She held it with one hand and grabbed her rifle, which was similarly proportioned.  Each weapon was mounted on one side of her bike, which had been repainted.

“No vehicle tech yet?” Dauntless asked Kid Win.

He got a shake of the head in response.

“Battery goes five miles an hour over the speed limit, max,” Gallant murmured.  “Challenger rides like a maniac.  Kid Win was scared to ride with her, and I was preparing myself to be nice, but… I’m glad I don’t have to.”

“Got it,” Dauntless said.  “I could mention it to people, if you wanted.”

“Maybe,” Gallant said, in the young-teenager way that signaled a ‘yes’.

They divided up the city.  Dauntless climbed onto the bike, Gallant climbed on behind.  Kid Win got on behind Battery, and Challenger revved her bike’s engines.

As Battery input the details for the people managing the floating HQ’s forcefields, Dauntless leaned to one side to look at Gallant over one shoulder.  “I need to call home.  If you could turn a deaf ear to that?”

“I’ll put my music on, tap my knee when you’re done.”

The forcefield bubble flickered off.  The hue of the sky changed, and that wasn’t just his own perception.  With light reflecting off of the bubble, it tinted the clouds above in rainbow hues.  The dropping of the bubble was something people across the city would notice.  In a way, it signaled that evildoers and criminals should beware.

Challenger roared off, speeding toward the platform’s edge, even before the forcefield path over the water had been fully laid out.  Headed to the Boardwalk and the Docks.  She popped a wheelie, even.

Battery was next.  She sometimes liked to go full speed while they had the clear, straight path over the water, then ride more conservatively in the city, but with Kid Win on board, she was more moderate.

Dauntless took off.  His path was curved, the start of it extending off the south edge of the platform, the curve sweeping out over the bay itself, the final length of the forcefield path pointing west.  He was headed downtown.

The curve wasn’t perfectly flat, with a slight dip to his right and a rise to his left, and he’d always liked that.  That he tilted at an angle to meet the curve squarely.  He exaggerated the effect for Gallant’s benefit, until they were almost horizontal, and put his boot out.  It glowed, providing some propulsion, and helped stabilize them.

Gallant whooped.

Jennifer picked up while Gallant was still making noise.

“Early patrol tonight, Battery’s covering the later shift.  I’ll be coming home early.  I’ll see Addison before he goes to bed.”

“He’ll like that.  Should I keep dinner warm?”

“Please.”

There was a brief exchange to follow.  He had a sinking feeling as it concluded.  That thought that had passed through his mind as he’d talked to Battery wasn’t leaving him.

He’d loved more than a few people over the course of his life.  Addison.  Kelly, Jennifer, some other women over the years.  In a way, he loved his team and the Wards.  He was fond of some of the people from the charity, and he loved that they’d been receptive to his wavelength and what he wanted to do.  Kel’s way wasn’t the right way, but it had been a way forward.  With the money and resources he’d put in, the charity helped ensure more teenagers with mental health problems or other crises had a way forward.

But when it came to receiving and feeling love, though he had a growing number of fans and supporters in the community, and he’d married a beautiful woman who had beamed on their wedding day, it rarely registered.  It only felt like ‘real’ love with Addison, and back in the days with Kelly.

He and Gallant sped forward, a mostly invisible bridge between them and the roiling water.  The wind whipped by, and the engine of the bike vibrated beneath them, powerful, special issue.

With his thumb, he flipped through settings on the bike.  Cheating a little.

He reached the end of the glowing forcefield, and entered the city proper, still going faster than he should.  The bike’s onboard computers were hooked into the traffic network.  People at red lights were treated to flashing signs in the corners, to warn them that the light wasn’t about to turn green.

The coast was clear to sail through the first few intersections.  The city worked with him, the flow of traffic was his flow.

To better stabilize with his nascent flight, he put more power into his boots.  The power crackled and danced around his feet before solidifying, pressing further in until there was something almost crystalline about the configuration.  He could see the facets, the power, and he could see the shape of what it was doing.  He couldn’t decide the end results, but the results made sense, given what the object was and what he was doing with it.

It meant a little something, this headway.

“Done digesting?” Shawn asked.  He was as nervous talking to his son as he was on any first date or first day of the job.  As nervous as he’d been when stepping up to participate in his first costumed fight, against Blackball.

A thirteen year old Addison sat at the kitchen counter, his laptop beside him.  The boxes from their recent move were still unpacked.

“I’ll start with the obvious… it’s not a desk job?” Addison asked.

“No,” Shawn said.  “Sometimes, a lot of the time, but no.”

Addison was thoughtful, prone to his own ruminations.  He was almost a carbon copy of Kelly, dark in style but always well meaning, with a lot going on beneath that mop of black hair that hung too far into his eyes.  The girls in his class were ‘bananas’ crazy about him, to use phrasing he’d heard from one of Addison’s female friends.  A fact which seemed to fluster his son twice as much as it pleased him.

Shawn had learned Addison liked to have time to process things, or he got easily frustrated.  He’d provided the information, the full information about who his dad was, with helmet set on the kitchen counter as some evidence, then let Addison have the space to work his way through it.  He’d done the same with punishments, letting Addison think about what he’d done wrong before they talked about it.  He’d done it when Shawn’s dad had died.  He’d really fucking wished Jennifer had done it when dropping the news about the divorce, but there was nothing he could do about that.

The issue was, the approach had a way of moving things to the far other extreme of the spectrum of reactions.  Addison seemed disconcertingly calm about it all.

“Okay,” Addison said.  “I understand why you lied.”

“For the record,” Shawn said, “I didn’t lie.  When I told you I had paperwork, I was telling the truth.  When I said I’d be late, I wasn’t mentioning I was busy wearing a costume.”

Addison nodded.

“I felt it was important not to lie to your face.”

“Okay,” Addison said.  “Thanks, I guess.  I understand why you did it.”

“Okay,” Shawn responded.  He felt very aware of the pause.  “Any questions?”

“When you said I should be careful about if I inherit mom’s whole…” Addison gestured at his head.

“That wasn’t mom’s whole thing,” Shawn said.  “It was one part of your mom, that wasn’t in the top three defining qualities about her, just so you know.  She was luckier than some, but even if she wasn’t, it wouldn’t be her in whole.”

“Bad word, sorry,” Addison said.  He seemed to ruminate for a second before asking, “It wasn’t code for superhero stuff?”

“No.  But you might get powers, because I have them.”

“Wow,” Addison said, voice dry.  “Whichever parent I get something from, it’s going to be interesting.  Fuck.”

“Could be neither.”

“Could be both.”

“Could,” Shawn said, feeling that nervousness again.

“I looked you up.  Dauntless.”

“And?”

“And there was this interview question.  It’s on video-”

Addison turned the laptop ninety degrees.  Shawn approached his son, one hand touching his back, and leaned down to better see.  It meant a hell of a lot that Addison didn’t shy away or react to the proximity or the touch.

One of the school events.

I heard that you get powers from being awesome,” a girl on the screen said, the camera struggling to find her, focusing in only as she finished saying ‘awesome’.  “Can you tell us what you did?

The question evoked a lot of defensive squabbling, some students protesting that you couldn’t ask that sort of thing.  Even some teachers were ready to protect his identity.

I can’t tell you the exact details, but I saved a life,” the Dauntless on screen said.  “One that meant everything to me.

Addison glanced from screen to his dad.

“I did.  It’s not the exact truth, but I did save a life.  Yours.  It was… much too panicked to be something I’m proud of, but I saved you, and I’m proud of that.”

“You’re not going to explain it any more?”

“When you’re a bit older.”

His son gave him a look.  As far as Addison was concerned, he was old enough for everything now.  But the response was a calm, “Okay.”

“Why?”

“I was just wondering… who you are, I guess.”

The words hurt.

“Who Dauntless is,” Addison clarified.  Maybe he’d seen the hurt.

“He’s me.  Trying to do my best.”

“Why tell me now?”

“Because you’re about the right age to possibly get powers.  And because Jennifer’s moving away, I don’t have someone helping cover my tracks, and you’re too damn smart.  I can’t hide it, and I’d rather tell you than get caught.”

Addison nodded.

Addison’s hand gripped the fabric at the back of Shawn’s shirt, and a moment later, the boy was standing, hugging him.

He hugged back, fierce.

“I’m going to worry,” Addison said.

“That’s allowed.  I’m sorry you have to.”

“I saw some other stuff.  Fights.”

“Yeah.  I’m backed by some good people, and I’m good at it.  But yeah.”

“Call me?  Every time you’re back and safe?  Keep me updated?”

Not the usual thirteen year old.  He was a  sensitive soul, and one that was feeling hurt and bewildered by the divorce.  This timing hadn’t been the best.

“I promise.”

“Oh, about covering tracks and hiding it…” Addison said.  He broke the hug and picked up the helmet, feeling its weight in his hands.  “I invited Mo over to help me unpack.  She’s coming in… twenty minutes.”

“Mo.  I like Mo,” Shawn said.   She was Addison’s friend who had remarked about how crazy the girls in the class were over him.  She was very much on Addison’s wavelength, with the friendship clicking so easily and quickly they seemed to just belong together, but she hadn’t indicated any interest as of yet.  Shawn found himself secretly rooting for the two, but he didn’t want to force things.

“You say that a lot.”

“If she wants to help, we should ensure she’s rewarded for her efforts.”

“She’s not going to work.  She’ll keep me company and read my comics while I do the unpacking.”

“Tell her that if she helps some and helps the two of us move some furniture around, she can decide what we order for dinner.”

Addison rolled his eyes.

“No?”

“She likes Greek.”

“Alright.  Greek.  I’ll look up some places.”

“There’s a place downtown.  Zervas.  We ate there a week ago.  It’s awesome.”

Shawn gave his son a kiss on the top of the head.    “Got it.”

“We’re going to a movie later.  I don’t suppose you’d give me some money?”

“For the two of you?”  Yes!

“There’ll be five of us.”

“If you and Mo get some real unpacking done and help move furniture, I’ll pay for the two of you.  I’ll give you all a ride if-”

Addison was making a face at that last sentence.

“-Okay.  No ride.  But let me know what the plan is before you leave.”

“Can everyone hang here before we head to the movie?”  Addison asked.  “How much can I milk you feeling guilty?”

“That much.  Go clean up a bit before she comes,” he said.  He didn’t mention that he wasn’t motivated by the guilt.  Addison was sharp but he wasn’t right about everything.  Those scary days would come in a few years, Shawn guessed.

“It’s so crazy that you’re a superhero,” Addison said.  “I’m going to tell everyone.”

“Don’t,” Shawn said, stern, fully aware Addison was joking.  “Not even Mo.  Not before talking to me about it first.”

That got him a nod.  The helmet was handed back to him, and Addison picked up his laptop before heading to his room.

The helmet did have some heft to it, Shawn found.  He bounced it in his hands, feeling that weight.  Concentrating, he tapped into that reserve of power he felt inside himself, and crystallized that power into the helmet’s capabilities.  Sensory, protective, and some general shielding capabilities.

“Your kid is pretty great,” he told Kelly, looking down at the helmet, which now glowed white hot, the energy arcing along its length and width.

He’d heard the air raid sirens and was out of bed and dressed before the phone call came in.  He pulled on his Dauntless boots, checked his power.

The phone rang, and he answered mid-ring.

“Where and how bad?”

“Here,” Miss Militia answered.  “Leviathan, he thinks.  Sent you the location as I made the call.”

“I’ll be there.”

“I need to contact the others.  Good luck, Shawn.”

He hadn’t wanted to hear that.  ‘Good luck’.

“You too, Hannah,” he told her.

She hung up.

Addison was out of bed, pulling a shirt on.  He looked in through the bedroom doorway, clearly alarmed and trying to hide it.

“Get ready.  Boots, jacket.”

“What is it?”

“Leviathan,” Shawn said.

“Oh,” Addison breathed the word.  “He’s attacking Boston or something?”

“Brockton Bay,” Shawn said.  He wouldn’t start lying now.  “Get ready.”

“But you-”

“The best thing you can do for me is to get ready, as soon as possible.  I want you somewhere safe.  Then I can focus.”

“You’re going to fight?”

Shawn opened his mouth to say something.  Addison seemed to shake himself out of it, and didn’t even wait for the answer to the question.  He was gone, feet tromping as he ran down the hall.

The rest of his ‘Dauntless’ gear went into a gym bag.

He pulled on a jacket, flipping up the hood well in advance of stepping outside.  He lifted the gym bag, and had to put straps over his shoulder because of the weight of it.

Addi was waiting in the hallway as he emerged.  Shoes on, coat on, ready to go.

“Come on.”

“You could back out.  You get stronger every day.  If you skipped the one-”

“Addison, no.”

He guided Addison toward the door.  Outside the front window of the house, he could see other people had emerged from their homes.  Some wore nightclothes and were looking around for guidance.  Others were dressed and were hurrying in the directions they were supposed to go, for the nearest shelter.

“If you skipped this, wouldn’t you get so much stronger for the next one?”

“I could skip that one for the fight that comes after,” he answered.  “And the one that comes after that.  We don’t know if my power has a limit, but it’s possible it does, and the time I supposedly buy ends up being for nothing.  This is my city, Addison.  A city with you in it.  With Jennifer.  With your friends, your teachers the places you love.  There’s never going to be a place that I’ll step up to defend faster or with more conviction than our city.”

“Okay,” Addison said.  He didn’t sound like it was okay.

Fourteen, now, and still soft-spoken.  Still not fond of sudden twists or things being sprung on him.

Nobody is, here.

“Get dressed and hurry to the shelter, Mr. Combe!” Shawn raised his voice, calling out across the street.

The elderly Mr. Combe turned around, hurrying inside.

In another circumstance, Shawn would have helped the man.  In this circumstance, he tried to tell himself, he was still helping by going to the front lines.

Robin lived a couple of blocks away, and had made a beeline for him right away.  The Pelhams lived in the neighborhood too.  Not a neighborhood of Jennifer’s level of taste but a nice area.  Robin was staying human, jogging over at a normal speed, one hand in pocket, the other with phone pressed to ear.  He had a grim look on his face.

Neil and Eric were nearby, both in costume already.  Shawn idly wondered if they slept in the things, or if they hadn’t slept at all last night, and had been on their way back from patrol.  The bombings had only calmed down a short while ago, and they had been immediately followed up by the attacks by Empire Eighty-Eight, with Purity’s rampage.

Eric raised a hand to wave a ‘hi’ to Addison.  Addison raised a hand in response.

Because of the periodic barbecue and because they both went to the same cape-safe therapist, the two had found each other in the same circles.  Enough to know names and talk about movies or shows.

A light rain already pattered down around them.

“Hey,” Robin said, as he caught up.  He laid a hand on Dauntless’s shoulder.  “Hi Addison.”

“Hi.”

“You good to go?”

Shawn nodded.  “As soon as I’ve taken care of Addison.”

“That’s fine.  It’s not far.  We’re heading over now.”

“Even Eric?” Addison asked.

“Yeah,” Robin said.  “Even Eric.”

There weren’t any parting words.  No urging to come, no commentary on the possibility he could take his son and simply make a break for it, to get as far away as possible.

They all had to.

Shawn led his son along with the crowd, toward the archives building.  Government owned, and that always made setting up the shelter easier.  The stairs were packed with people, with police managing the flow of people in past the circular, bank-vault-like door.

“Jean!” Shawn called out.  A neighbor.

Jean jogged over.

“Look after him?” he asked her.

“I don’t need looking after.”

“Are you sure?” Jean asked.

“I have to-” Shawn started.  He couldn’t finish the sentence.

“Mr. Combe needs help,” Addison said.

“If I can’t get him to this shelter or if it hits capacity in the meantime, I’ll go to the one at the library.  Please.”

Jean nodded.

He dropped to his knees, the heavy gym bag making some noise as it landed.  He was aware he was getting his knees and things wet.  He pulled Addison into a hug that was probably too tight.

A dumb thing to do, as he buried his face into his son’s neck.  He couldn’t bring himself to let go.

“Call me, as soon as-”

He nodded.

It was Addison who pulled away, turning his back immediately to go to Jean, who he only casually knew, hugging her with one arm.  He was just tall enough to put his head against her shoulder.

Jean turned and gave Shawn a somber nod.

She probably knew.  The times he’d called her over to watch things because of an emergency call, especially when the bombings had been happening.

He watched Addison go for longer than he should have.  Had he left sooner, he wouldn’t have seen Addison rub at his eyes.

He hefted his bag, turning his back to the scene.  He didn’t wait until he was fully in the clear before using his boots to lift himself off the ground.  He flew up to a rooftop, and let the bag fall.  Piece by piece, he strapped on his armor.  Some of it had only received a few crystallizations of power.  But the spear, in multiple pieces that he screwed together, the shield, which was small at the outset, and his helmet were all things he’d focused on over the years.

He left spare clothes and the gym bag behind.  It didn’t matter.

The cloud of heaviest rain was advancing steadily toward the bay.  Armsmaster had been right.  The guy was an asshole who’d had it in for him from the start, but he didn’t screw up when it came to things like this.

Clockblocker and Browbeat were on the scene, standing outside the building and waiting for everyone to arrive.  They stared out over dark water.

There was a crack, a boom, and Strider came in with a group, the teleportation contractor the PRT had been using recently.

Strapping Lad, Young Buck, Chronicler and Exalt were in that group.  Eidolon was head and shoulders above them all, and rose even higher as he took flight.

Surveying the threat and the city, taking note of Dauntless and a few of the other fliers who were doing similar things.  Lady Photon was up here.

Eidolon dropped out of the sky, landing in a clear spot by the building entrance.  The people in the way parted to let him through.

They’ve wondered out loud if I would become like you, Dauntless thought.  How many years?  I never asked for it, but it’s not impossible.

The image of his son wiping away tears stayed with him.  Addison had tried to hide it for just this reason, he guessed.  To avoid distracting.

They had been rescued a little while after Addison had been born, and Kel had gone to the hospital.  He couldn’t claim to understand the thought processes that had driven her to refuse visitation, or the piece of legalese that had been mailed to his parents, because she didn’t know where else to contact him.  Forfeiting her parental rights.

Panic, maybe.  Maybe self-doubt.  She had never believed in herself enough, and he’d wondered in retrospect if her calm in that buried van had been because she no longer had to worry about herself and her role in it all.

He desperately, desperately wished she’d stayed, but she’d needed to do what was good for her, and he needed to do what was good for Addison.

So he’d signed, and he’d done his best.  He’d avoided saying an unkind word about her to their son, and he’d organized the charity to do what he could to avoid a similar heartbreak from happening again.

Jennifer had told him he put too much on his son’s shoulders.

He had the day’s power to allocate.  A fractional bonus to one of his items.  The kind of thing that likely wouldn’t make a difference, but felt important.

Weapon?  To better hurt the thing?

Helmet, to better understand it, think faster in a pinch?

Boots?  To move out of the way?

Breastplate, something he’d neglected.  Potentially to turn something lethal into something he could survive.  He was struck by the thought of dying in muck, partially paralyzed, and he thought of Kel.

He infused the breastplate, channeling the power in there, hand over heart.

He’s every bit like you.  Every good part.

He stared at the approaching storm, then dropped down to the ground, pulsing boots on and off to lower himself.

I do this for him.

Boots, was the thought, as the tail snaked around him.  The Leviathan had him, and he’d been just a little too slow to get out of the way.

If he’d infused the boots, then maybe.

He was flung, with a force he knew would kill him.  He used his boots to try to slow the movement.

He didn’t die.  Things around him flickered, then dissipated.  No rain, no dust, no debris.  The crowd of people around the space was a blur, viewed through a screen that was beaded with an uneven layer of water.   The crowd mutated, drew close, disappeared, each of those things happening in eyeblinks.

No, was his thought, and things around him moved in the time it took him to form that thought.

The tail end of that single word was coupled with the dawning realization he had power available.  Not one day, not ten, not fifteen, not thirty or sixty or ninety-

No! was the follow-up thought.  His hand couldn’t meet anything before he had another ninety or more days pass.  Instead, he pushed power from head to helm.

He didn’t get to choose what happened.  But what happened made sense.

His thoughts slowed, and though his body was trapped in time, moving with glacial slowness, those ninety days of accumulated power were spent in the helm, giving him control over the speed of his own thinking.

Which put him in the circumstance of being trapped, unable to do anything but think.

Initially, he fought.  He had some residual power, like change left over after he’d spent the bulk on his helmet, and that power was spent on boots, on weapon.  As if he could force himself free with enough power from the boots or enough offensive power from his spear.  His Arclance, as the PRT had dubbed it.

Now he was aware of the days moving past him at normal speeds.  The world beyond was mottled, pollen and dust and construction materials settled on the surface of the globe.

He had twenty-four hours without sleeping to break it up, to decide on each allocation of power.

Helmet.  In hopes of reversing this trap he’d found with his mind moving at normal speed while his body remained frozen, or of finding a better way out.

Another day followed, where he felt like he looked back on every decision he’d made in his life, prayed to every deity he could think of, and he realized it was possible Alabaster was in much the same circumstance.  At set intervals, Alabaster reverted states, going back to the one he was in when he had entered this time-slowing bubble.

It was possible Alabaster was in the same circumstance he was, and had been from the start.

Helmet again.

Another twenty-four hours.  It had only been what felt like a day, and already, the events that played and replayed in his mind became distorted.  He couldn’t help going back to them, at the same time.  He felt like his ego was disintegrating in this space where nothing could happen.  He watched the world beyond the bubble, silhouettes moving throughout a rebuilding Boardwalk, and tried to divine particulars or hints about the outcome, who might have survived.

There was a festival to close out the evening.  The music was muffled, as if from a house next door, but it did a lot to stave off the low points and the circular thinking.

The sun rose, and he had another choice.  Helmet, because anything else would offer only the smallest benefit, and he knew he had a long way to go.

On the third day, he almost managed to convince himself that some individual parts of his past were fictional, figments of his imagination.  Almost.

Noon came around, and a group of young students passed through the area.  Some came to see him.  A teacher or someone followed them, and one of them read off the placquard.  He hadn’t been aware there was a third person in here.

Again, there was a festival.  He could have wept, he was so grateful for the stimulation.  It lasted until what had to be one or two in the morning.

People slept.  He found himself remaining where he was, doubting everything.

Sunrise came.  With it, he had more power to give.  Again, he chose the helmet.

His perception of the world beyond the bubble clarified.

And so it went.  Helmet.  Helmet.  Helmet.  For twenty-three days.

By the twenty-third, he was capable of seeing and hearing everything that went on in the buildings nearby.  Businesses.  He watched people like he would watch bad television.

Every visit was a panacea for the soul.  He learned the faces of the repeat visitors and he learned the whys.  Some came from out of state.  It meant something, in this place where meaning was lost to a black, insensate void.

He constructed elaborate storylines in his head, of his own devising.  Ones where he and Kelly had tried to raise Addison together and it had been hard but Addison had turned out much the same, because it was hard to improve Addison.  Anything else would have broken his own suspension of disbelief.

One storyline a day, to answer a question, or to explore a theory.

He lost count of the days, but he estimated where he’d been and he counted from that estimate forward.  With the helmet giving him the ability to construct better thoughts and see much of the city around him, forward and backward, he built up his ideas and theorized, he unraveled what had happened and to whom, and tallied up a mental list of people to investigate.  He picked a person he knew and didn’t know the outcome for, and he searched everyone nearby to try to decipher what had become of them.

Whole days were lost to despair that ate at him and left him unable to think straight for more days afterward.

He focused on the boots, and on the other things.  He balanced certain lines of thinking with certain applications, to see if it felt different.

Hundreds of days in, so fast he thought he’d reverted to that accelerated time, the city crumbled.  A flash of light, and the buildings fell, giving him a view of the water, of water frothing and foaming as waterside properties tipped into it.

For nine days after that, people tried to pick up the pieces.

On the tenth day, they mostly disappeared, leaving only stragglers.  With every passing moment, he scoured and scanned those stragglers, used every awareness at his disposal to try to decipher, investigate, and see if they knew anyone or had seen anyone.  Had one said Addison, for any reason at all, it might have stoked some hope.

By the thirtieth day after the city fell, the people who had remained were gone.  Many were dead, unable to survive or sick.  Others left for places where food would be more plentiful.

He pushed and tried to push his awareness through the distorted portal in the belly of the city, and no matter the investment, he couldn’t.

There was only the water, now.  Watching the weeds growing into the cracks, tracking the wildlife, and the steady resurgence of those species best able to survive.

He mourned the world, and he vowed that if this was it, if this was the end perpetrated at the hands of their best hero, then he would retain some ability to explain what had happened if somehow something else were to come and pay a visit.  A deity, an alien, a person from the past or from the future.

He was the most powerful person on their Earth, as far as he could tell, and possibly the most helpless.  Easy, when he was one of the only ones left.

The bubble popped.  His body was freed and his body was utterly trapped.  He’d infused power into every article of clothing he owned, sometimes years worth of power, and that power had come due.  Every time he had passed on power to his helmet, it had shifted imperceptibly.  To become something mythic, something to be proud of.

Now, however, it all came due at once.

His helmet was a crown, extending up and above him like a skyscraper, impossibly tall.  He might have snapped into pieces, but other articles worked their way into it.

He’d called it a crystallization, once, and now the crystal crept over him.

There had been ten thousand times he’d snapped while in that bubble.  Ten thousand times he’d broken from reality, broken from memory, from hope, from everything.

And in those moments, he’d glimpsed something greater.  For longer, and longer, each time.  Each effort a vain attempt by his collaborator, his agent, to forge a connection and reach out.

But that wasn’t how this worked.  He didn’t get to have connections.  That hadn’t been the unspoken bargain he’d apparently struck.  He didn’t get the tools to better cut and cauterize wounds and save his son’s mother for nothing.

But it had tried, and as with the helmet and the rest of that crystallized effort, he felt it come due.   Connections.  Enough connections to the nazi to pull him apart and draw the composite pieces into the crystallization.  All were broken connections, reaching out to other broken things to find the most tenuous purchase, but if the crystal was machinery and the agent the power source, then the connection let him have a hand on the wheel.

It was enough to keep himself up, once he’d grown enough that it was ungainly.

The connection came, and the connection stayed.

He saw enough.

“You’re going to have to explain,” Victoria said, whispering.  “Because if you can make any sense at all out of this…”

She hovered over a ledge, and that ledge overlooked the distant sight.  A figure so tall his heads were in the clouds.  The growth that extended up from the ‘head’ was fractal, geometric, crystal, but with veins instead of straight lines.

That growing extended to the legs, starting at the feet and working its way up.  A skirt, a dress, a lower body that was a mountain.  Limbs and body, all in the rough silhouette of a giant, a titan writ in a strike of white lightning that didn’t budge, flicker, readily change shape, nor stop.

“We mentioned it was a structural issue,” Harbinger Two said.

“Where to start?” Harbinger Three asked.  “I’d start by outlining that you have an array.  One connects to two connects to three-”

“No numbers,” Swansong growled.

“No numbers,” Victoria agreed.

Harbinger Three sighed.  “Then you have an alphabet.  A connects to B connects to C.  And you tend to end with X, Y, Z.  Sometimes there’s a wrinkle in the works.  And A connects to L, G, E, B, R and-”

“No numbers!” Swansong said.

“It’s a word,” Harbinger Three said, at the same time Harbinger Two said, “Not a number,” and Harbinger Five said, “It isn’t!”

“Carry on,” Victoria said.  Swansong audibly harrumphed.

“Connects back around to A,” Harbinger Three said.  “And it connects to P, P again, L, and E.  But the underlying structure is gone.  ‘A’ flounders, trying to find a connection to anything.  And in the process, it finds a connection to P, O-”

“Enough,” Victoria said.  “I appreciate the explanation, but I’m too tired to have people spell things out for me.  Abbreviate?”

“Like a localized, misspelled apocalypse,” Harbinger Five said.  “You get things meant for endings at the beginning, like Z, and that connects to E, which connects to everything, and a few steps later… nothing.  Houses of cards that shouldn’t stack up that do, and cards that should that don’t.  But they will, by process of natural selection, form their own wills.  As we see here.”

“He thinks?” Capricorn asked.  His armor was in tatters.

“We think he’s been thinking this whole time,” the Harbinger said.

“Fuck,” Capricorn said.  He blurred.  He shifted, tattered red plate armor to tattered blue scalemail.

“Fuck,”Capricorn said again.  “Nobody deserves that.”

“And now we get to see what that all added up to,” Harbinger Two said.

“No numbers,” Swansong said.  “No math terms.  ‘Added up’.”

“Wholly accidental,” the Harbinger said, before turning to wink at one of his brothers.

There was no humor on any other faces.

The dauntless titan stood in the ruins of Brockton Bay, mostly unmoving.  He or it was there in Earth Gimel, and he was there in Earth Bet at the same time.  He was in an equivalent location in Earth Cheit, in Earth N, and every earth they were aware of, as well as many they weren’t.

He reached out, his range unfiltered now by a bubble of compressed time.  He deciphered everything he’d tallied up as answers he needed to seek out.

He found what he was looking for, and he reached out.  Not gently enough.  His efforts at speaking were blunt, and destroyed more machines than he could easily count, in many worlds.

Better not to move.  To wait.

It took nearly eight hours.  But Dauntless’s son came.  The boy drove in a truck, and he reached the perimeter that capes and other forces had gathered as a just-in-case measure.

They let Addison through, along with Addison’s wife.  Not Mo, which disappointed Dauntless, but a pretty young lady with a child in her stomach.

He couldn’t speak, and he couldn’t trust himself to move, so he listened.  Addison had found his mother, and the two had cobbled together an uneasy relationship.  There was that.  He’d had holidays with that neighbor Jean, who’d taken up a role and who had taken it on herself to look after Addison well past the point anyone sane would do so, and he’d periodically visited with Jennifer, his stepmom, who took on the role of the aunt and manager of Shawn’s estate.

Dauntless’s son was okay, and that was what was important.

After a couple of hours, they decided to leave.

Satisfied?, it thought, to that kernel of Dauntless.

He was.  A terrible weight and an even more terrible pain had been lifted, somehow, by that relatively brief visit.

It remained where it was, waiting.  It waited and watched even as the forces arrayed around it readied for an assault, panicked, then retreated.

Up here, the air was so thin that Dauntless’s thoughts buzzed.

Buried in crystal, he was almost claustrophobic, his thoughts running away from him.

But he didn’t let them.

He could only remain where he was.

The reason for the panic and the imminent assault hadn’t been him, but another guest.  She settled on one arm, comparatively tiny, a weight on one arm and on one shoulder.  Feathered wings draped his arm.

And she cried, and the cries were pitched to pull at the heartstrings and to tug at the mind.  He couldn’t step into another room or walk away to leave those cries behind to find a chance to breathe.

And he was tired, in that way that would have made it so easy to believe anything anyone told him.  He dwelt on that weight on his arm, his power illuminating every world around him, some occupied, many not.  There was no more power inside him to give.  For now, he could only wait, endure as he’d endured for four years.  He had his son and all the people he’d come to love, who’d loved him and visited him in his bubble, and that was the most significant thing.

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222 thoughts on “Heavens – 12.none”

  1. Poor, poor Dauntless, such a GOOD mad and a GOOD hero and now he’s trapped in a pure body and mind nightmare, on every Earth possible at the same time, being influenced, on the top of everything, by Simurgh ” She settled on one arm, comparatively tiny, a weight on one arm and on one shoulder. Feathered wings draped his arm.” WORSE than Gray Boy usual punishment.

    I will not be surprised if he’ll go batshit crazy. The only good thing for him is that he still hold onto the memories of his beloved son, but that’s it. He’s going insane and not even the memories of his son and people he loves will be enough to help him.

    He’s going to be a future menace almost a great as Scion, right?

    What I liked the most is that I got to see the characters I loved and I miss so much again: Kid Win, Battery, Gallant…how much I missed these great guys.

    1. Simurgh’s here, but is that necessarily a bad thing? After all, she hasn’t been an enemy of humanity since Gold Morning.

      Seems like he could have done a hell of a lot more damage here if Simurgh hadn’t intervened to sing him into inner peace.

      1. I don’t trust Simurgh, even if she played the “good” girl card lately. I think she planned everything regarding Dauntless because she wanted a new Endbringer. She’s going to turn him into a bad guy/monster, just like she did with everyone else during years and years and the final battle will be between heroes and him+ probably Simurgh. One hell of a battle with probably more deaths than Golden Morning.

        1. We don’t really know what The Smurf wants. Heck we’re not sure if she knows what she wants or not. Dang thing runs so many plans on plans it’d make Tzeentch proud.

          1. There is a reason Scion looked at Eidolon like a dissapointed parent everytime an endbringer attacked (go reread worm if you wanna argue that point) I could see it not being true, but I mean when an all power god is judging you you did something wrong. So even if Eidolon didn’t create them he did something.

        2. I don’t know. Her goals are so opaque, this doesn’t feel right. It’s hard to pinpoint who between Ziz, Contessa or all the other Thinkers combined is most responsible for how Gold Morning ended. It was a crazily interwoven unofficial teamwork. If all she wanted was death and destruction she could have played everyone in so many other variations.

          Maybe she had to be destructive as a summoned foil to Eidolon and actually didn’t cause as much havoc as she could.
          Maybe she’s missing that connection.
          I’m less afraid of what she’s doing with Dauntitan than how hard humanity’s going to knee-jerk at that move. Lookout repaired Capricorn, hopefully Tattletale will be operative early enough to prevent some nasty decisions.

          Also all the psychic nosebleeds Thinkers got trying to work on Bet’s Brockton Bay make perfect sense – there’s a Thinker 12 able to scan through dimensions right in there interfering with them.

          1. The problem is, all the Simurgh’s abilities aren’t determining what she does. They determine how she does it, how well she does it, etc. But even now, I’ve never been sure I’d trust myself to hazard a guess as to what her end goals are, and what she wants.

          2. The Simurgh was a creation of (or hijacked by) Eidolon, and Eidolon comes from Abaddon. Perhaps Abaddon is a virus, and the Simurgh is working to ensure that the new entity Dauntless is becoming will be instilled with the correct mindset to continue spreading Abaddon’s infection.

          3. > The Simurgh was a creation of (or hijacked by) Eidolon

            Will people stop automatically assuming that what Scion told Eidolon was true? Sure, it sounds plausible, but can we be certain of that?

          4. Well, there was also a WoG in some discussion about three (and later five) massive energy sinks hooked to Eidolon, so I guess it’s fairly safe to assume it’s true.

          5. @Summer: Contessa basically “started” the whole story as we know it by murdering Eden.
            If she didn’t do that then, everything else would be different. I put a fair bit of responsibility on her shoulders from that initial snowball throw, even if it traveled through unexpected slopes.
            As the most large-scale (in time and space) impacting Thinker, I also consider Ziz a major influence. The lack of communication makes it impossible to evaluate just how much she directed things, though.
            Dinah came in late in a game already shaped by those who put things in motion. The impact she had was enabled from previously placed dominos, and as such I don’t put her as high on the responsibility list.

            Consider: Dinah caused dozens of people to do things in a way that let GM happen as we know it.
            (Side note: you could say the same of Dr. Yamada.)
            Contrast: Ziz caused a stupidly high amount of people to do things differently once they realised how she could influence events. Dozens of millions ? Hundreds of millions ?
            And again: Contessa started the entirety of this, changing the life of every human born on every dimension’s Earth after her. Hundreds of billions ?

            Dinah’s too small scale to register on my responsibility podium.

          6. Will people stop automatically assuming that what Scion told Eidolon was true? Sure, it sounds plausible, but can we be certain of that?

            This is not the first accurate prediction I’ve made based on that. I guessed there would be a cloning attempt after we saw the Simurgh’s perspective and she seemed like an Artificial Intelligence, programmed to maximize worthy challenges for Daddy.

            I also guessed the Simurgh had been using multiple plans that all led to the same goals. Had Dauntless stayed imprisoned forever (or maybe until the next apocalypse) that would have removed him as a rival for Eidolon. As it is, he may be the reason people choose to bring Eidolon back. She doesn’t have to control Dauntless in order to make that happen, though I’m sure she’d like to. It may be enough if people mistrust him based on that possibility.

      2. If we are very, very lucky she is working for Valkyrie via the Eidolon ghost. In that case everything is fine. Not great because Smurf is well, Smurf, but probably not end of the world bad.

        Unless Valkyrie is trying to restart the cycle in which case end of the world bad.

  2. Simurgh must be VERY grateful to March for giving her a new “toy”. Fucking March, can’t wait for the moment when she’ll realize, before dying, that her Heaven is just as fake as her crazy illusions.

    1. March wanted more people to share her connection. I think she’s gotten what she bargained for (a master connector) and far more. All hail the dauntless singularity!

  3. For a second I thought the woman on his shoulder was Valkyrie, talking him down like she did with Taylor.. no such luck. wow. what a chapter.

    1. Just a sidenote, but Valkyrie didn’t do that (according to her interlude). What was left of Taylor talked down the Administrator shard.

  4. No, you know what, fuck this. Just this once I am going to believe that Wildbow doesn’t exist purely to create unwinnable battles. Just this once let Dauntless stay a good guy, let the best person in the whole book be uncorrupted. Let the Simurgh be cooperative and not influencing to create Scion 2.0. He deserves to be happy. I don’t know if I could handle the story if he becomes the enemy.

    1. I’d second that, but I’m afraid to hope for so much.

      But funny, if I ever did a Silver Age Dauntless profile, I’d barely have to change a thing for his characterization.

      1. I’d like to add that it’s not like Wildbow actually makes unwinnable situations. Just situations where the cost of winning is less “Yes we won day is saved!” and more “Well thank god that’s over. Do we have a few minutes before the next turd hits the fan?”

    2. Agreed, except for the bit about the best person in the whole book, because it’s clearly Dragon. But yeah, Dauntless comes second.
      But well… Crazy-powerful titan with his shard creating connections, listening to Simurgh’s lullaby. What can go wrong here?

  5. Well dang. This was a pull at the heartstrings chapter. I felt a bit of a knife twist at the mention of Vista there. And a bit sad with the mention of various soon to be dead heroes, Eric in particular.

    Anyways I think we’ve got a few more things to add to the “Reasons March needs to be stopped NOW” catagory. Hey there little songbird, you aren’t Canary are you? No, your song is probably more “Tra la la la la”…

  6. Wow. Ok, there was so much I liked about this chapter:
    Dauntless seems exactly what a superhero should be. Brave, good, pretty much a paragon.

    His “coming out” to his son was really intresting. I’ve never really considered what that would be like, in any superhero media. Usually such scenes are melodramatic unmaskings.

    Haha, Assault and battery. Loved those guys. And the mention of how capes are potrayed in media is cool. Oh, and was that a refrence to Face, that old wb serial pilot?

    Cleaning up the broadwalk followed by a party? Sponsered by Skitter-inc.

    Oh god, imagine seeing GM like that, with no clue to whats going on. That was truly horrifying.

    Oh wow. Dauntun is a full blown eldritch abomination. Poor Dauntless.

    Fuck off simuragh.

    This chapter made me care enough about Dauntless that I was genuinely relieved to see Addison survived GM. Seriously, Dauntless needs a hug.

    So yeah, fav chapter in a while.

    1. Yes, Face reference (honestly looking forward to it, whenever that will be, and whatever title it will have grown into at that point).

  7. What a great chapter, I’m truly in awe of the writing. I gasped the word “fuck” aloud more than once. Dauntless is truly the hero we didn’t deserve, an absolute unit, and I wonder how much of that will carry through to the Crystal Titan here. I’m really wondering, given the massive power draw that knocked everyone out (the connectons) and his abilities *based on powers themselves*, a meta trait if you will.. and his resonance with a shard.. I’m wondering if we didn’t just see the beginnings of a new Hub.

    1. Well if that is the new hub… Uh good thing or bad thing? Smurf’s here, normally a very bad thing. Wait, does that mean March might get her dream shard afterlife? Fuck I hope not.

      1. That’s my thinking here, and probably a … Not Good thing. at all. Our Best Man Dauntless appears to be in the process of being subsumed by the shards. His shard is in contact / communication with the others, which is the first time I’ve seen that language used throughout the course of these shard-perspective chapters. He is close enough to his shard to have gotten a feeling akin to verbal communication.. I think this is what we’re seeing, the power manipulative aspects coupled with the closeness to his shard and the communication-to-others aspect seems ripe for a genesis into something further..

        1. I’d even speculate that what we’re seeing here is Dauntless’s shard leaving whatever realm-beyond-time-and-space the shards normally inhabit, and manifesting itself entirely on Earth (I mean Earths, plural, because the entities have more than 3 spatial and 1 timelike dimensions) in the only physical form it’s allowed to create: lightning armor.

          Here’s the parts of the “bubble popped” section towards the end that stood out to me:

          “There had been ten thousand times he’d snapped while in that bubble.… Each effort a vain attempt by his collaborator, his agent, to forge a connection and reach out.… But that wasn’t how this worked. He didn’t get to have connections.… But it had tried, and as with the helmet and the rest of that crystallized effort, he felt it come due.… Enough connections to the nazi to pull him apart and draw the composite pieces into the crystallization.… if the crystal was machinery and the agent the power source, then the connection let him have a hand on the wheel.… The connection came, and the connection stayed.”

          This sounds to me like the Dauntless shard got frustrated with having its host stuck in a boring time bubble, and started sending out thousands of “second trigger” connection requests to nearby shards. That’s a blatant violation of the original rules imposed by Scion, but maybe it didn’t start trying until after Gold Morning? Either way, that had the side effect of causing thousands of trigger visions/mental connections to Shawn, and I think the “connection” referred to in the line “the connection came, and the connection stayed,” is the connection between Shawn’s mind and his shard’s mind. That would explain the direct, verbal communication between “it” and the “kernel of Dauntless.” So there are really three minds in conflict here here: Shawn, the Simurgh, and the Dauntless shard itself.

          I think “he didn’t get to have connections” is a comment about the shard’s limitations, rather than about Shawn’s misfortune of being stuck in a time bubble. Shards aren’t supposed to be able to recombine at this stage of the cycle, and I think it is *extremely significant* that Alabaster was pulled apart and drawn “into the crystallization,” i.e. the giant lightning armor, rather than into the shard’s power well. That sounds to me like the shard is cheating the no-baby-Scions rule by seizing Alabaster’s shardstuff and storing it in the Dauntless armor. If I’m right, we’ll see other capes get torn up and incorporated into an expanding mountain of lightning (when things inevitably go horribly wrong), because Dauntless’s shard is only able/allowed to physically manifest shard-power as lightning, not creepy mounds of human flesh like Eden and Scion.

        2. I, too, believe this is the birth of a new Hub. It would make sense.
          What Silene is doing there I do not know. She was helpful during Gold morning. Maybe it is her master plan to create a new partner for Abaddon?
          AFAIK the Endbringers were a construct by the Entities to promote strife. So Silenes actions since Gold Morning are hard to grasp.

  8. Poor Dauntless. I wonder if you’d get similar Sting-like effects with other Breaker powers if you turbocharged their effects? I’m guessing that Dauntless vs Scion would have resulted in the same “path to avoiding getting hit” thing as Foil vs Scion did.

  9. “Breastplate, something he’d neglected. Potentially to turn something lethal into something he could survive. He was struck by the thought of dying in muck, partially paralyzed, and he thought of Kel.”
    Hey, was that intentional? Because someone else ended up paralyzed and nearly dying in… Okay dirty water, but close enough to muck during the Leviathan fight.

  10. Oh man, this chapter was like candy. Challenger!!!

    So, was Kelly a parahuman? She’d have to be, right, with his Trump thing.

    1. I don’t think she is. Dauntless is a Trump because his power improves over time, but his trigger was Striker/Shaker, with all his focus on somebody else. It’s a flaw in the categorisation system; he’s not a true Trump, but he’s Trump-like enough the PRT couldn’t tell the difference.

      1. The classifications are shorthands for the PRT to describe powers, not inherent to the powers or shards. Hence Victoria being a thinker due to her flight power.

        1. Victoria doesn’t have a thinker rating. She herself refers to her flight-based bird’s eye view as a pseudo-thinker power, yes, but the PRT doesn’t give thinker ratings to capes that fly simply because that cape flies. If that cape flies and navigates by echolocation, then yes, thinker, or if they can see around corners, or have a danger-sense, or x-ray vision, or routinely strike at weak points, or something else.

          Alexandria has a thinker rating because she’s got a perfect memory and enhanced mental function, allowing her to think with super-speed.

      2. Granting powers is a trump thing. Having a wide suite of semi-random potential powers is a trump thing. Picking your powers is a trump thing.
        It’s a trump power!

    2. No, Dauntless’ power gets a Trump rating because he imbues powers into objects rather than effecting other powers.

  11. Dauntless.

    The man has lived up to his name in every way. Even when made unmoving he was dauntless. And even when man has given way to a God… when his movement might shake the world itself… he does not move.

  12. Did anyone else, when reading that first bit, think it was going to be a multitrigger? Because I did. Also thought it’d be a bit more Shaker-y the power, because I did not realise it was Dauntless for most of that first bit.

    And if help hadn’t turned up, he could have maybe cut his way out with the knife, or maybe he’d have died down there and when rescuers finally found him, the glowing knife would have baffled them and been Case 90-something.

  13. I’m very confused about what happened in the time bubble. The power was storing in his equipment, but it couldn’t physically change until the bubble popped? Did he have a second trigger while he was in the bubble? It sounded like he had several entity visions. Is he in multiple realities at once, or is that just his perception power? Or both? Also just general confusion. I feel like I may have not read it closely enough or something.

    1. Dauntless’ power works on a 24-hour schedule. The bubble slowed time within to a near-stop, but his shard was still working on the previous time scale. He was able to gather and invest that power, and they were able to take on their new abilities immediately, but they didn’t pass through time faster, so they couldn’t change in the slow bubble- and even if they could, the air around them couldn’t move out of the way, forcing them to stay the same. That’s also why Alabaster couldn’t escape, even though he’d been aware of being stuck for longer than Dauntless. If Alabaster also had a mover power, then maybe he could, and even then only if it was speed or teleportation.

      When a trigger occurs, the shard reaches out to find other physically near their host, and pings on them to get some information. This is how clusters form, and why second triggers give power boosts and- sometimes, as in Grue’s case- new ratings. Dauntless is second-triggering, but when his shard reaches out to find others it can’t pass through the time bubble, so it’s getting weird data it can’t figure out- it knows that Skitter’s standing on the edge (because she did so at least once) but it can’t find her from Dauntless- so it holds back until it happens again. So Dauntless is having several second triggers piled atop each other.

      Yes, he (and maybe Alabaster) are in several realities at once. Well, not ‘several’ realities- every reality. All of them. Even Earth Aleph, which cut itself off. And the one Cauldron used as a base, which probably has its own defences to stop this sort of thing. I’m curious as to find out if there’s an Earth so divergent it has different geography, and if so, is Dauntless hovering in space where his other versions are standing on solid ground or is he standing knee-deep in water? Or floating in the sea with no land in sight, possibly next to the physical part of a Shard?

      1. Following reading your comment, I reread the chapter starting from when he was in the time bubble. As I suspected, I seemed to have blazed through it the first time because of how awestruck I was haha. I typically read very slowly with works like this, mainly due to rereading paragraphs or whole sections one, two, or sometimes more times through before moving on, with the occasional jump back to earlier sections of the chapters to put things in perspective. Sometimes its because I’m trying to pick up subtext, foreshadowing, or details I’ve missed, and more commonly its just because a scene hit me just right to the point where I can’t move on until I’ve experienced it a couple of times (mostly bad-ass moments, e.g. Taylor snapping and killing Alexandria and Tagg; emotional moments, e.g. Victoria finding out what really makes Kenzie smile; or moments that just scratch my personal, invested reader’s itch, e.g. Aiden connecting with Kenzie; also Rain’s “sparring sesh'” with his uncle and the whole scene after, whichever category that fits in). But, in this chapter, I just got caught up in the pacing and never looked back, that is until I realized how confused I was. Anyways thanks for clearing things up. Sorry for the tangent haha.

        On the topic of Dauntless’s parallelyness :P, I’d imagine that he’s doing the whole “floating in the air, knee-deep in the water” thing, at least if it functions anything like the entities’ fundamental (to my understanding) ability to step between realities. The entities never seemed to actually change their position in space whenever the stepped through realities, besides what I imagine they could do with all of their teleportation/portal shards.

        But, then again, who’s to say that each reality is perfectly lined up with respect to position in space. Who’s to say that one Earth isn’t further along in its orbit than another, or that its isn’t completely out of orbit? Would an off-orbit Earth even classify as a proper Earth to the entities for the sake of scanning realities or moving between them? Did the entities only pick realities where the Earths are at roughly the same point of roughly the same orbit? Assuming that they did and that Dauntless’s reality shifting power works the similarly, I’m going with the above conclusion. A lot of assumptions. Wildbow seems to put a lot of thought behind the underworkings of these sort of things, but I wonder if this was even stuff that was even worried about. It’s more so how a way for me to get more entrapped in the story as a reader who looks for underlying logic in everything.

        1. > But, then again, who’s to say that each reality is perfectly lined up with respect to position in space.

          Actually plenty of things, from the way portals made by Scrub and Labyrinth, to the fact that Dauntless seems to be in the same place on all Earths, seems to indicate that various Earths may be perfectly lined up. It even makes perfect sense for Earths that diverged recently from each other (like Bet and Aleph), though I guess it could be a more interesting exercise to figure out if that should be the case for Earths which diverged from each other millions or even billions of years ago. From what I heard once planetary systems may be quite chaotic at such time scales, which could mean that the Earths which “separated” so long ago should not, as a general rule, be perfectly lined up.

  14. Typo thread.

    > “And she’ll know you if I have to talk about you ever day.”

    ever > every

    > I’m really really hoping you take one of these

    There’s an extra space between ‘you’ and ‘take’ in the chapter text.

    > There were also ones like Challenger, who were ‘normal’ in costume and who went to more extreme measures in costume.

    Shouldn’t one of those “in costume” be “out of costume” instead?

    > He was a sensitive soul, and one that was feeling hurt and bewildered by the divorce.

    There’s an extra space between ‘a’ and ‘sensitive’ in the chapter text.

    > She was Addison’s friend who had remarked about how crazy the girls in the class were over him.

    There are three spaces in front of this sentence.

    > Shawn gave his son a kiss on the top of the head.

    There are four spaces after this sentence.

    1. overwhelmed, he > overwhelmed, but he
      when time > when the time
      for the capes > for capes
      dating, they’d formally told the people in charge, > dating — they’d formally told the people in charge —
      but didn’t > but it didn’t
      placquard > placard

    2. > He couldn’t speak, and he couldn’t trust himself to move, so he listened. […]
      > Satisfied?, it thought, to that kernel of Dauntless.
      > He was. […]
      > It remained where it was, waiting. It waited and watched even as the forces arrayed around it readied for an assault, panicked, then retreated. […]
      > Buried in crystal, he was almost claustrophobic, his thoughts running away from him.

      Probably not a typo, but I think the wording is not very good with this switching from “he” to “it” back and forth and back again, it seems weird. If this is meant to create a distinction between Dauntless himself and the thing he’s becoming, maybe it would be better to formulate this distinction more clearly.

      1. What ‘it’ is is probably intentionally left vague, to allow for different reader’s interpretation at this point, and possibly to suggest that Dauntless may also not be sure what ‘it’ is. My interpretation for example is that ‘it’ is not what Dauntless is becoming, but simply his shard.

  15. You know what? If Dauntless (or at least whatever his gear turned into) exists in multiple Earths at once now, does it include Aleph? Could he be a potential way into that world, or at least means of communication with it?

    1. Ehhh, I don’t expect much from an Earth similar to ours, whose main reaction to transdimensional realities and superpowers was to lock everything away.

      1. Would Aleph’s seal work against something as “rules breaking” as a double second trigger reinforced by years of energy both gathered from Dauntless’ shard (and possibly Alabaster’s too), and the energy trapped in the “exploded” BB portal, and possibly the time bubble itself?

        Also – I’m not sure that Aleph’s seal is a result of choice by any authorities there. I think it could have been done by Taylor or even Danny using one of Teacher’s “keys” Taylor had access to during GM, or provided by Contessa just for this purpose.

          1. I don’t think so. There were just no active portals other than what was left of Professor Haywire’s Hole, which was reduced to the point that practically only information could be transferred through it, to prevent both universes from going to war with each other. The way I understand sealing, it is a process that closes all portals and such completely, and prevents any new ones from being opened.

            Look at this quote from the epilogue of Worm:

            “But they sealed this world off. Someone on the other side, they used a device to close all of the doorways, because it looked like there was going to be rioting or war, with too many refugees wanting in.”

            “I know,” Taylor said. Except the device wasn’t on the other side. “Yeah. But they sent back everyone that belonged here, and a few of us slipped through before the doors closed.”

            Both the mention of refugees and multiple doorways (so more than just Haywire’s Hole) seems to indicate that Annette was talking about the doors opened during and shortly after Gold Morning (first by Taylor to grab the Travelers she wanted, later by others, possibly Ciara or Teacher to send people back). Unless information from Worm about Haywire’s death is false, and he just moved to Aleph for example, Occam’s razor says that it had to be done using one of Teacher’s sealind devices (like the one C.U.I. tried to use to restrict access to the Earth they moved their government and primary cape teams to around Gold Morning), and it was probably done by Taylor or her father, because Taylor knows that the device used to do it was on Aleph. Even if someone like Teacher did it, he probably wouldn’t be able to get out of Aleph without disabling the seal first, so someone on Aleph likely had to re-enable it after he left.

            The only possible person who could enable the seal that comes to my mind would be someone we haven’t seen in Ward, like Contessa, and it would mean that the person in question also lives on Aleph now. Contessa actually could do it, though she probably couldn’t undo the seal for some reason since she’s “captured”. Maybe someone like Teacher rigged her device to keep her there, or maybe she did it herself because for some reason it was the only way to make sure that Teacher couldn’t break the seal with his “skeleton key”? And it still wouldn’t explain the “weapon kept up sleeve” part of Tattletale’s note about her.

          2. And honestly, I don’t think it is very likely that Aleph was sealed by Contessa, because Taylor would have to know somehow that Contessa brought the device to Aleph, and would probably ask what exactly Cauldron did to her to take her powers. And while Contessa could easily avoid giving any answers to questions like that, I doubt she would do it to Taylor in such situation, at least not without a very good reason.

            It is one thing to drop someone unconscious (Taylor) and someone who doesn’t know what questions to ask (Danny) on Aleph and leave, it is another to come to return to Aleph later, let them know that you sealed the world with you and them inside, and keep avoiding answering any questions.

          3. Right, thank you. Though regarding the question who used the device, it could be simply Aleph’s government, who then made it known to the general public to convince them of their safety from disasters happening in other worlds. I think it’s more likely, as I couldn’t imagine Taylor locking a whole world not as a part of some multiverse-spanning plan but for her personal benefit, even if she could still have a Teacher’s device after facing Scion and being treated by Contessa.

          4. Whoever did it didn’t advertise the fact that the device is on Aleph to general public, at least not before Worm’s epilogue. Otherwise Annette would know that the device was on Aleph, and what I quoted above indicates that she didn’t.

          5. Right. But to think about it, it would be mightily stupid to seal Aleph from outside because of “too many refugees wanting in”. The very same “logic” could apply to any other portals, Aleph isn’t anything special as a place for evacuation; and thus the refugees would be saved from rioting over who gets to evacuate by denying evacuation to all of them. Of course there are many refugees wanting in any portal which is still open, of course there are huge queues and probably riots over a place in them from time to time, and it’s still better than the alternative. And conversely, if Aleph’s government didn’t want to deal with refugees, it would make sense for them to lock Aleph’s portals. And maybe even advertise to the public that they were closed from outside, e.g. to dodge activist groups demanding to let refugees in.

          6. Which leads to a question of whether Taylor knew for a fact that the device is on Aleph, or just figured it out because she thought that it would make more sense for someone on Aleph than for someone outside to seal that Earth.

            I think that she knew, because I doubt she would sound so sure otherwise.

    2. Also, it’s not like I wish it would happened, but could he or a part of him theoretically be Scrubbed to create a portal connecting all of those Earths, and how catastrophic the results would be?

      1. I’m not sure it’d work. Scrub’s power creates spheres that swap everything inside said sphere with the contents of another, empty sphere on another Earth. I think if Scrub tried it, he’d find the sphere that came back filled with the same piece of Dauntless, just a piece from a different Earth. He only creates portals by sphering Labyrinth’s manifested mindscape; Labyrinth then determines where that portal ends up.

      1. Whatever Earth C.U.I. retreated to (assuming it was sealed again after Gold Morning), could also deserve a little attention in my opinion. They may not necessarily be an S-class, but they still could be a threat (or potentially an ally). Not to mention that Perdition may still be there, possibly trying to figure out how to save Thirty-two.

    1. That’s how I read it. Completely ripped him and his shard apart while ‘communicating’, possibly due to the maintenance-part of his power resonating with Dauntless’.

      1. I read it as a second-trigger cluster. Probably the first such thing to occur, at least on any version on Earth. Clusters are rare, and second-triggers rarer. We know that cluster-capes apparently can’t get second-triggers, but that doesn’t mean a second-trigger can’t be part of a cluster.

  16. Gets end of chapter:
    “What the fuck is Canary doing here? Why is everyone freaked out by Canary? Did Teacher capture her and send her?”

    *Reads comments*
    “Oh.

    Ooohhhhhhhhhh.”

  17. I had no idea what this was, and managed to scroll correctly so I didn’t accidentally see ahead. So I reached the moment of clarity and realisation at the line,
    “and he instinctively knew that when time came, he’d be able to put more power into something.”

    I feel kinda bad for assuming Challenger was male, based only on the name.

    It’s cool to look inside the Protectorate a bit again 😀 and really interesting what Dauntless has become. Wow, he had a kid, who survived!

    Um, did his son’s wife eat a child???? cos that’s not how reproductive anatomy works 😉

      1. Or maybe it just proves that Dauntless “can’t English that well”. Remember that he apparently the road when he was sixteen.

        1. Yes, but that explanation is boring and obvious. Much like this arc’s lack of zebras.

          Fortunately, Wildbow has the opportunity here to kill two birds with one stone: Addison’s wife is secretly a parazebra. She triggered shortly after Gold Morning and became a changer. Zebby had always been impressed by the way humans could do things like balance on two legs and operate complex food containers, so she decided to become a human for a while to see what it’s like. Unfortunately, Zebby doesn’t really understand internal anatomy, whether zebra or human. She knows what humans look like and she knows we’re smart, so her shard fills in the blanks with whatever alien biology it pleases in order to meet those objectives. Zebby’s malleable nature also enables just-in-time organ creation and other creative, ad hoc solutions, which her shard finds useful when Zebby and her mate do silly things like confuse which orifice to use during the reproductive process. The shard finds the ways of humans frustratingly inscrutable, but how can it complain about the excuse to implement a Blugflorbian stomawomb? It’s been cycles since it got to make one of those.

          1. I think I’ve just figured out the identity of Addison’s wife. From interlude 1.x:

            “Me? I’m boring. I’m not even a parahuman, not really.”

            “Wait, what?” Moose asked.

            “I’m not,” Nursery said. She had a light tone of voice, like she was smiling from the other side of the cloth mask. “It’s why I feel so out of place in costume.”
            […]
            “Show him the bump,” Velvet said, smiling.

            “The bump?” Moose asked. “Oh.”

            Prancer glanced over at Nursery, who was holding her cloth costume tighter against her stomach, showing her slightly protruding belly.

            Note which part of her belly she was holding her costume tighter against…

          2. Or maybe Addison’s wife is one of Nursery’s victims? Maybe it could work this way too? After all someone had to be successfully “fertilized” by Nursery for Victoria to know that Nursery’s power was able to do it…

          3. And it would even make sense for Victoria to learn about that particular aspect of Nursery’s power from Addison’s wife, if not directly then through a very short chain of acquaintances, since Dauntless lived in the same area as the Pelhams did, and had no problem admitting in his civilian identity that he knew them.

            I think that even if Addison didn’t know the Pelhams that well before the Leviathan’s attack, they would be the logical people for him to reach out to and ask “What the hell has happened to my father?”, and from that point Addison would probably count as an acquaintance of New Wave himself. If Nursery left a child in his wife’s stomach, it would make perfect sense for New Wave to learn about the details very quickly even if that story was never revealed to the public.

          4. And I expect the Addison-New Wave relationship to be a strong one, because both families lost their members in that fight with Leviathan. Sounds like something they could easily bond over…

          5. There is even one more horrible possibility. What if Nursery was right when she said that the child is the parahuman? Moreover – what if all children implanted by that shaker power in other women are clones of the original child, and have the same power?

            It could mean that Addison’s wife and any other woman with one of those children could become a center of “Nursery’s” shaker effect (child’s shaker effect really) if they end up in situation when they, or the children in their stomachs hear a proper melody, and Nursery is simply the only woman who does it intentionally instead of staying as far as she can from anything that looks like a music box, or sounds even remotely like a lullaby…

          6. And since those children invade stomachs, not wombs, it is even possible that not only women could be carries of those clones…

  18. > “When you’re a bit older.”

    OK, what do you think on age rating (PG rating) for the Ward?
    14+? 16+? 18+?
    I mean – in general. I know everybody is different and countries have different policies.

    1. Precisely because everyone is different, age limits are a poor arbitrary substitute to check for sufficient maturity. This is why certain age limits (for example those provided for movies or computer games) are considered a suggestion, not a binding rule, for parents or legal guardians in many countries. In my opinion they shouldn’t be a thing when maturity of a person in question could be properly judged individually.

      In this situation Dauntless probably could probably do a good enough job with that, so he really should’ve said “when you’re a bit more mature”, not “when you’re a bit older”, and probably didn’t do it just to spare his son’s feelings, and because “when you’re a bit older” is just a thing parents are accustomed to say in situations like this.

      1. Yeah, you don’t magically gain an adults wisdom when you become 18, or the ability to safely consume alcohol at 21 or whatever.

        1. It doesn’t help that plenty of those age limits were established by politicians, who often probably didn’t even try to be objective about figuring out what those ages should be. No wonder that those numbers are all over the place. They are probably mostly a result of political compromise, not any objective scientific studies, and even if they were only the latter, I would still expect some differences between countries (and sometimes even within countries), because I believe different cultures force or prepare people to handle certain things at different stages of their lives.

  19. But it had tried, and as with the helmet and the rest of that crystallized effort, he felt it come due. Connections. Enough connections to the nazi to pull him apart and draw the composite pieces into the crystallization. All were broken connections, reaching out to other broken things to find the most tenuous purchase, but if the crystal was machinery and the agent the power source, then the connection let him have a hand on the wheel.

    This quote plus the Harbinger’s explanations make me think that Dauntless has become sort-of-not-exactly-working-correctly core of a potential new Entity. All connections are broken, but they are there. He is the new hub for the Shards, and he has “a hand on the wheel”, so he can control shards actions and interactions at least to some extent.

  20. Well, hmm. I choose to believe that our new god will be benevolent until proven otherwise. The Simurgh is there in a purely advisory capacity.

    Guys?

    1. Considering that he apparently barely registered Simurgh’s presence after she sat on him and started crying, and apparently focused much more on Victoria (we even saw a bit of her dialogue with the Harbingers, Capricorn brothers and Swansong!), and his son, I think that Victoria has a better shot at becoming his advisor than Ziz does.

      At least this is the feeling I get considering how much time was spent on describing what those visitors did. Obviously I make an assumption here that the amount of text dedicated to each of them indicates how much attention Dauntless payed to each of those people.

      1. Also remember that it was thought that he could eventually get to the point where his power would let him kill the Endbringers. Considering that he spent a lot of time in the bubble working on his helmet, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was practically immune to the effects of Simurgh’s song now, and remanded this way at least as long as he isn’t separated from everything that grew around him (if it is even possible anymore).

        1. That is not the impression I got from the end, with the way it drew a parallel between the Simurgh’s song and baby Addison’s cry (previously established to be manipulative), pointed out that he couldn’t escape it, and then immediately talked about how tired and suggestible he is.

          1. Maybe, though even if this is the case I would expect the results of this manipulation to be very different then what Ziz usually achieved with her victims. As powerful as newborn’s cry can be, it usually doesn’t drive it’s parents to do the sort of things Simurgh’s song did.

            I’d bet that either her aims are much less malicious than they usually were, or he is at least somewhat more resistant to her song than most people are. Though maybe I’m wrong? Maybe it is just a combination of his current size, the fact that he thinks he is so powerful and the fact that he always was so susceptible to Addison’s cry (no wonder, considering it’s connection with his trigger, and the fact that we all are hard wired to be susceptible to those) that made Ziz use this approach, and she is just as good at manipulating him as anyone else, and, considering his apparent power, possibly tries to achieve more than she did with anyone else before except maybe Taylor.

          2. Now that I think about it, the biggest thing Simurgh ever did to Taylor probably wasn’t the screaming, but making Taylor hear a very innocent-sounding sentence, because of what this sentence meant to Taylor. An “innocent” cry of a baby could do something similar to Dauntless, considering what it means to him.

        2. “Thought” is the operative word there. Remember the Endbringers were sandbagging, and hiding how powerful they really were.

  21. > “Like a localized, misspelled apocalypse,” Harbinger Five said. “You get things meant for endings at the beginning, like Z, and that connects to E, which connects to everything, and a few steps later… nothing.

    Hello there, interlude titles…

    > Every visit was a panacea for the soul.

    Nothing to see here, just a random word in the middle of a sentence.

    1. Apropos visits. Do you think that after GM Victoria visited him during her trips to Brockton Bay? He probably knew she was there whenever she entered the vicinity of BB anyway, so, depending on how often she went there, and how many other people did it, she could become very important to him over those two years.

    2. >> “Like a localized, misspelled apocalypse,” Harbinger Five said. “You get things meant for endings at the beginning, like Z, and that connects to E, which connects to everything, and a few steps later… nothing.

      >Hello there, interlude titles…

      Heh, I hadn’t noticed that. The odd naming convention for the interludes makes sense now

      1. I wonder what “ze” was meant to be. Failure in the middle of spelling “Zion”? Or Zion-Eden-…? Or something else, unrelated? Maybe the name of the next interlude will make this clearer.

          1. Chances are that Wildbow is trolling us by having Harbinger pick some random letters (at least ‘e’ could be random in this example), which just “happen” to fit the naming convention he used for the interludes for completely unrelated reasons.

          2. And f is “a few steps later” between all and nothing 🙂 Thought maybe it’s just trolling, and anyway I don’t quite understand what “all” and “nothing”/”none” might mean in the context either. (Dauntless connecting to all shards and becoming a new Entity, but then falling apart after some time?)

          3. The f is following the convention for the cluster folks’ interludes. Unrelated to the z-e-all-none sequence

          4. I know that ‘f’ is probably about the cluster interludes. The question is if ‘e’ has a double meaning (it is one of those cluster interludes too, after all), and if so – if ‘f’ could have a double meaning too.

          5. The “f” is the grade Wildbow has been assigned for his failure to correctly spell zebra.

          6. Still with the zebra joke? Perhaps you should consider moving to Africa, or at least start working in a zoo?

  22. the Entity lifecycle starts again? as a ward of dauntless, the most noble Guardian figure in Worm nay All of authors work? Will abbaddon get his for fucking with eden?

  23. Smurf has a thing for powerful daddy types doesnt s/he? First Eidolon and now the nascent Entity thats Dauntless. She is literally being a arm candy and trying to cry her way into daddy dauntlesses love.

  24. Wow. Interludes in ward have consistently been some of the most vibrant, fascinating and different pieces of writing and what’s consistently amazing is not just the high quality, but how different they are in style and tone. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything exactly like this chapter. So much emotion explored in the detail of the character’s approach to life, to crises and to his family contrasting with so much left unstated and implied offscreen about the actions and forces around him.

    All I can really say is, thanks Wildbow, for writing this.

    1. It’s definitely impressive. This was a full-on character exploration, and plot progression, and good feelings and oh shit feelings, all set to a consistent perspective. Ward has been a little rocky here and there, but this was glossy smooth. So shiny, so elegant. Neat to see the themes between Shawn’s person, his power, the situation it came from, and the way it plays out on the rest of his life: the scene with the traffic lights and the parallel to his power was a nice bit of foreshadowing.

      Also neat to see a bit about who Challenger was. The name came up once in Worm, and I was wondering. Neat to see a bit of the PRT through the Protectorate’s eyes. Neat to finally see who Dauntless was as a person, because he didn’t have any speaking lines before. None of that was as interesting as seeing his family life, and how all that powers stuff impacted his reality. The subtle distinction between himself as Shawn and how that was removed from himself as Dauntless. Then toward the end, when the person Dauntless is removed from the towering It.

      Gosh, I… wait, what was that? No, I don’t rave about things, and certainly not literature. Disregard this post, it never happened.

    2. Agreed. Each interlude has somehow been better than the last. Darlene’s was my favorite for a while but LL’s, Cradle’s and the shards one were all fantastic as well, and now this is possibly my favorite chapter yet. Maybe my favorite chapter of anything wildbow has written but that’s probably recency bias/present excitement exaggerating it. The structure and motifs (like the callback to the first part with the screams that tug at heartstrings) and the pure emotions that made me care so much about characters I didn’t know at all beforehand… So good.

  25. Disappointed this didn’t turn out to be Nursery backstory like I initially thought, but she would’ve been far less interesting than… Whatever this was. Multiple attempts to second trigger, connecting so much with Alabaster that he completely dissolves, then connecting and drawing power boosts from absolutely everyone… But not to Jotun. He seemed completely uninterested in Jotun. Not sure why. Maybe because clusters are already their own jumbled shared mess.

    Also interesting that there’s little sign of Alabaster having a similar breakdown and triggers. Perhaps his power protected him from that too.

    1. Jotun got killed by March before he could second trigger. (Or at least massively disabled, considering the sword through the head.)

      1. But Dauntless barely acknowledges him throughout. Maybe just a narrative need to maintain some mystery about him and Ixnay, but still thought provoking.

        1. Remember that what we saw as a single though still could have been reported by Dauntless countless times during all those years he spent in the bubble, though I suspect that he wouldn’t agonize over anyone else trapped with him in the bubble as much as about Alabaster not only because he knew from the very beginning that Alabaster was there with him, but also because he suspected that because of his power Alabaster could suffer as much as him.

          1. Sigh…

            though still could have been reported > thought could have been repeated

            Sorry, I don’t know how this one happened. I probably wrote it at too late hour, and depending on autocomplete feature of my tablet’s keyboard too much.

    2. Funny. At the beginning I thought that it might be a Nursery interlude as well. Though I was unsure how the perspective was going to work, since Wildbow seems to avoid having a chapter from different viewpoints as much as possible. I can only think of two cases off of the top of my head that were actually from different characters perspectives within the same chapter. The rest were all power shenanigans in some form or another (perspective powers, future-sight, visions, or what not). Actually three if you count all of the Capricorn interludes as a third, though would that still classify as power shenanigans? Also the second case that I mentioned was the chapter from Victoria’s and March’s shards’ viewpoints. So that may also fall under shenanigans, depending on how much shards are classified as separate viewpoints. I would say that if the shards were still alive and “connected” it would definitely count as shenanigans.

      But, anywho, once the guy made the knife glow, I started thinking that he was a different character, with Dauntless being one of my guesses, because pLoT. And then he made the comment about infusing and I was like, “Ah-ha!” But I’m glad that someone else both thought that it was a nursery interlude and still actively wants Nursery to have one.

      1. > I can only think of two cases off of the top of my head that were actually from different characters perspectives within the same chapter.

        Which interludes do you mean exactly? I can count two in this arc alone – 12.all, and 12.f (which contained not only Cradle’s but also Grasping Self’s points of view).

        1. I would guess both of those count as power shenanigans.

          I was expecting something more like how the S9 recruitment arc took a break from showing the recruits viewpoints to have Dinah narrate Noelle’s. An outside perspective on a situation could have worked well for someone like Nursery, who may have some issues with reality. (Even Labyrinth only got hers on a good day.)

          I’m sure it would’ve been/will be absolutely visceral and horrific to know more about her and her power though. Vicky’s throat foetus is the only bit of Worm&Ward I’ve had to skim over.

          1. Alfaryn-
            My bad. I didn’t realize how unclearly my post was worded :P. I meant that I can only remember a couple of chapters that Wildbow has written for the Wormverse, where there was technically multiple perspectives (12.f and 12.all included), and where I couldn’t reason that all of the persepctives in those chapters were actually just one singular perspective (whether it was human, dog, or alien) taking advantage of power shenanigans.

            In the Simurgh interlude, we see the persepctive of a couple of people with Sig’s telepathy or whatever the heck it was. I’m having a really hard time thinking of more examples right now haha. Contessa’s interlude started off from Eden’s persepctive, IIRC, and then it transitioned to Contessa waking up from her entity vision.

            Capricorn’s interludes, 12.all, and 12.f, are in a bit of a gray area. 12.all was my “case 2” but I can’t remember case 1. I’ll have to look through the chapters sometime.

            Aggie-
            I forgot that Dinah narrated what was “technically” Noelle’s chapter. Something like that Nursery definitely would make sense, but at this point I’m just really curious to see what Wildbow could pull off, if he decided to force me to see the world from Nursery’s haha.

          2. Actually there is no Simurgh’s interlude. The one you are thinking about is probably Doctor Mother’s interlude. Near the end of it it is explained that she managed to use Clairvoyant, and a couple of Teacher’s “students” to spy on everyone, including Ziz, and was actually surprised that she managed to have a much better look into Simurgh’s thoughts than by all means she should have. Too bad Sveta killed the Doctor most likely before she could inform anyone about that discovery…

            As for Contessa’s interlude, I think those scenes you think about could be not Eden’s point of view, but Fortuna’s visions. Remember that in that interlude it was revealed that she is one of very few capes who could remember her trigger visions. Or should I call them post-trigger? She was “dreaming” for a long time after she triggered, with only a short break when she used her power to ensure that she would remember the visions she saw then.

          3. >”Actually there is no Simurgh’s interlude. The one you are thinking about is probably Doctor Mother’s interlude”

            Yeah I remembered wrong. I mainly remembered that Simurgh had a perspective, and that somebody was clairvoyant-ing somebody haha.

            >”As for Contessa’s interlude, I think those scenes you think about could be not Eden’s point of view, but Fortuna’s visions.”

            By that, I meant that we were getting a point of view from Eden by way of seeing Contessa’s visions, which, for all intents and purposes, are just memories of Eden’s tied to the use of that PTV shard. All of the visions that I know of are just memories stored in a particular shard. Contessa got a glimpse of Eden’s perspective, and, in turn, we got a glimpse of it through Contessa’s perspective. I can’t recall if the visions were told in first person (directly from Eden’s pov) or third person (Contessa observing Eden’s actions from the “outside”). My, proven to be faulty, memory remembers the former as being the case.

            So the chapter, in a effect, functions as the reader getting to see into two different characters, while the chapter is still founded on a single character’s pov, that character being Contessa. This is the style that Wildbow seems to prefer. Or at least he did in Worm.

          4. I just thought of a couple more chapters in Worm, which are written from more than one point of view. The first one is E.x part of Worm’s epilogue – written from the points of view of Tattletale, Taylor, and possibly that old lady Taylor met on the train depending on how you read the first scene of that chapter.

            The second one is a bit more problematic – Teneral e.3. Most of it seems to be written from perspective of Pandora, who deleted herself at the end of penultimate scene of that chapter, but considering that the last scene is seen from Dragon’s perspective, and Pandora overwrote parts of Dragon (including some of the memories) with her own, perhaps the whole chapter counts as experienced from Dragon’s point of view, by the same logic that Eden’s memories in Contessa’s interlude could be seen as part of Contessa’s point of view?

          5. Another one that definitely qualifies as far as I can tell is Worm’s 24.y Aftermath interlude. It’s was the first one that I thought of when I wrote my original comment (case 1). But I kept misremembering so many other things that I just assumed I got it wrong…….Lo and Behold, my request to regain confidence in my memory is complete.

            but Yup. S’all I got.

  26. Behind a window, overlooking the city, a therapist hears his patient.
    “I feel at peace, after all this time,” she said, her hand over her prothesis “Um, I think I can say… I finally learned to be oka-”.
    *YggdraDauntless happens*

    “Go on.”
    With his back to the window, he didn’t see the scene unfolding before his patient’s eyes.
    “Taylor? Do you feel alright?”
    “Ballistic’s problem” she said, dismissively.
    The therapist stared at her.
    “I mean. Not my problem. My past. It’s not my_fucking_ problem. My past. I’m over it.”
    Eying his patient cautiously, he replied “I think that hints more at repression than acceptance. But we can discuss that the next session” he said, looking at his wach “I think I should go grab something to eat. You should too. After all, it’s lunchtime”.
    “YOU DON’T SAY”.

    1. Good one, I could totally see it. The only thing that doesn’t quite fit is that I think Taylor and Danny didn’t plan to live in Aleph’s Brockton Bay, but move to Boston instead, though it wasn’t anything certain during the interlude yet, and I’m not sure just from how far you could see the “new and improved” Dauntless. Maybe he can be seen from any point on the hemisphere if the weather is good?

      1. Maybe he has even penetrated through Earths, and grew on the other sides too, in which case he could theoretically be seen from any point on any Earth?

        1. At least the angle seems to be such that no matter how tall or long he has become, his hat ot his boots shouldn’t scratch the Moons (provided that Earths’ centrifugal force, not to mention gravity won’t bend him too much in Moon’s direction).

          1. By the way does anyone else feel that the tower from Valkyrie’s interlude was a foreshadowing of what happened to Dauntless?

        2. The topmost cloud layer is around 6km high.
          Earth is 12700km thick if you go through its middle.

          He’s got some room to grow yet.

          1. Sure, but considering what from Victoria’s perspective his “heads were in the clouds”, she probably couldn’t tell if, and just how far, he reached above the cloud layer. There is no telling just how far the top of those “heads” ended up from the ground.

          2. Even this:
            > Up here, the air was so thin that Dauntless’s thoughts buzzed.
            May mean nothing. Who says whatever “mouth” he breathes through now is near his top?

  27. I think we may want to pick those two bits apart:

    But that wasn’t how this worked. He didn’t get to have connections. That hadn’t been the unspoken bargain he’d apparently struck. He didn’t get the tools to better cut and cauterize wounds and save his son’s mother for nothing.

    Satisfied?, it thought, to that kernel of Dauntless.

    He was. A terrible weight and an even more terrible pain had been lifted, somehow, by that relatively brief visit.

    Do you think that “kernel of Dauntless” means his shard? Remember that Dauntless may not know about the existence of shards and Entities the way most parahumans do, so he wouldn’t use the same term.

    Looks like Dauntless’ shard is talking to him, and Dauntless is just as aware of it as Tattletale is. The difference is that while Tattletale’s shard is filling her with information (and seems to be a real chatterbox as far as shards go), it doesn’t really talk to her. It has a problem with distinguishing itself and Lisa, at least this is how I read the term ‘Tattletale-self’. By comparison Dauntless seems to be aware of an ‘unspoken contract’, which implies atl least two separate entities who are sides of that contract. There is also the fact, that the word “Satisfied?” seems to be a question directed to Dauntless, one which requires an answer. Tattletale’s shard never did anything like that.

    It looks like a new step on a road to an actual human-shard conversation.

    Victoria’s shard seems to be another interesting example – I think it puts thoughts into Victoria’s mind (at least this is how I interpreted certain sentences in italics that appeared in Victoria’s internal monologue recently), but does it in a way that Victoria probably can’t clearly distinguish from her own thoughts yet. It could have something to do with the fact that Victoria’s shard still has no name, and as such it’s sense of self seems somewhat incomplete (though probably still better developed than in some other shards).

    Let as also think about how much Dauntless’ shard said. Just one word. Rachel, even in early Worm, is extremely talkative next to that. The only other beings in the series who seemed to talk so little, and express so much at the same time seem to be the Warrior and the Thinker when communicating with each other, Scion when talking to people (and remember how much effort it took him, especially when he needed to communicate an entire sentence, not just one word), and Simurgh, when it made Taylor hear “I’m sorry”.

    It makes me think that the concept of a language as we know it is alien to Entities and shards, and while they have no problem understanding what people tell, they do have a problem with talking to someone they don’t interpret as parts of themselves. They may have been able to communicate equivalents of individual words (if this is what the Entities exchanged in their voyage to Earths could be called), and, thanks to their superior knowledge and/or ability to predict thoughts of their “listeners”, they could be great at communicating a lot with those individual words, but they seem to have serious problems with actual sentences.

    As a side note Simurgh’s seems to be a lot like an Entity or Dauntless’ shard in this respect – Ziz can communicate a lot with “songs”, “cries”, and body language, but has “spoken” only one sentence that we know of (“I’m sorry” heard by Taylor in chapter 28.6 of Worm), and it carried so much meaning for the intended listener, and had so much impact (thanks to Simurgh’s ability to predict Taylor’s thoughts) that it in many ways resembled the way Entities communicated, and even that one sentence was something Simurgh took from Taylor’s memories, and was “spoken” in Taylor’s own voice, so it could have been something closer to a “playback” of Taylor’s memory of reading or thinking of Dinah’s note, and not a sentence “created” by Simurgh.

    1. By the way I think that a lot of “inner thoughts” of Entities and shards (and Brutus) we read in the story were probably misleading in that those thoughts were not actually formed as words of any kind. Those thoughts were only “translated” to words of a human language, so they could be communicated in a way we could read and understand them. It’s probably sefe to say that most animals don’t use anything that could be interpreted as “words” to form their thoughts, and can function just fine despite it. It’s entirely different that the Entities and shards aren’t much different. The Entities only sometimes communicates individual ideas to each other (written as individual words in italics). It is also possible that later Scion (in his interlude) thought individual words to himself (like the names of shards, ‘drone’, ‘buzz’, ‘prey’ and ‘puzzling’), and the rest was never verbalized.

      Talking as much as humans do, seems like a difficult concept for the Entities to employ in practice, and even thinking in words seems little easier to them. This may be just another barrier complicating human-shard communication. Possibly one that may be easier to cross for a shard like Victoria’s, which has probably spent pretty much all of its existence connected to a human mind.

      1. I was wondering the same thing about that, “Satisfied?”, line. At first I thought that it was his shard communicating, but I blazed through the whole second half of the chapter so I didn’t contemplate it that much. Once I read that the Simurgh was on his shoulder, I just assumed that it was the Simurgh in his head. I was gonna see if anyone knew what was going what’s going on, I’m glad that you brought it up.

        At this point, after reading how everyone else interpreted it, I’m also pretty sure that it was the shard. He referred to the Simurgh as “another guest”.

        Dauntless’s helmet was seeming to be giving him some kind of perception power beyond shard-enhanced/operated/simulated versions of human perception, since he could barely turn his head or eyes in any capacity to take everything in visually in time with his enhanced thoughts, but that’s just my assumption. I’m also assuming, this perception extended through realities, along with his body, once the time bubble popped.

        The helmet also gave him some power of “reasoning”, whether it was just enhanced brain power (like how Alexandria’s shard basically simulated her brain functions but at a much higher capacity and without all of the downsides, like forgetfullness or degraded neurol connections or limited cerebral “RAM”) or some power like Tattletale’s (the shards straight-up cheating by giving her information and forming conclusions that she wouldn’t be able to come by on her own) or something else entirely.

        He mentioned that he could look “forward and backward”, at least to some degree, and I wonder if that was referring to actually time-manipulation or if it was a product of exceptional/supernatural deduction.

        He also mentioned, at multiple points, the plural “awarenesses” that he was working with to observe everything. This gives me the impression that he may have been given a smorgasbord of powers from infusing his helmet. Although the other awarnesses could just be another product of brain functions being simulated inside of the super-est of supercomputers. I was thinking that some extra enhanced awareness could come from other appropriately enhanced body parts, but all of the examples I can think of (sense of touch, equilibrium, temperature, and such) would, theoretically, be hindered by the time bubble.

        On top of all of that, he was gifted many visions by his shard, and the way that i read it was that his helmet allowed him to keep the memories of those visions and use them as additional data points for his superpowered theorizing and deducing. If his power does work similarly to Tattletales and his shard isn’t trying to sidetrack any thoughts about the entity at this point, then I would imagine that it would cause a snowball effect in his growing understanding of, at the very least, his own shard and at the most, the entities in general.

        I imagine that whatever understanding he had gained from all of the above, plus the opened floodgates (dropped mental/physical barriers) from a stack of countless second-triggers (and a possible multi-trigger/s) added a poop-ton of depth and breadth to his connection with his shard once the bubble popped; I’d guess more depth and breadth than any character in this story so far, even Khepri, to the point where he is basically the parasite and the shard is the host. This would give him more awareness then anyone else of his shard’s presence. Though I’m not entirely sure on how depth and breadth works, especially in regards to dead and/or broken shards.

        Could he theoretically connect to Eden’s shards, even though I don’t think any of them were given the directive to actively seek connections before Eden was killed? It seems possible considering how expansive his shard’s signals were. And since people were able to get Eden’s shards by ingesting them, doesn’t that mean that they can passively except connections? That would add a-whole-nother level to his power up.

        Side note: most of the shards’ powers are very very general when used by the shards, only becoming specific and complicated whenever applied to a host and restricted appropriately; so it would make more sense to me if the helmet didn’t give him a smorgasbord of powers but something that just has a lot of applications. His powers seemed to be focused on electro-magnetism, or maybe some more abstract/fundamental form of energy or physics manipulation (considering his boots could make him fly some how). Maybe his shard borrowed a bunch of capabilities from other shards, if there were any near enough, and that’s why his power is versatile. That’s just my guess. I have no idea what his power really is besides how he explains it in his head.

        P.s. I notice that people like to quote whole sections and include them in their comments for more clarity. Sorry for not doing so myself. I’ve been commenting with my phone, and I don’t actually know how to quote on the computer either. I don’t think I’ve ever posted on a forum before, so I don’t know a lick of forum etiquette (does this count as a forum, or does it have it’s own etiquette). Anybody feel free to let me know if I’m mucking up. Also any basic tips to keep mind, such as the biggest no-no’s to avoid or common mistakes that you see a lot of newbies make.

        1. Interesting thoughts on Dauntless’ power. I’ll have to take some time to digest them. Maybe I’ll add some comment about them then.

          As for forum etiquette, I think the most rules of the thumb, as far as I see them, would be:
          – make effort to be polite; people will forgive you a lot, if they see such effort,
          – try to see what other people are doing, and how others react to it, but don’t slavishly follow other people’s examples too – find your own style,
          – ask if something is fine to do if you are not sure,
          – don’t agonize about always doing everything “right” the first time – learning etiquette is a process that takes time, and everyone understands it.

          For context, I’ve been posting here since October, and I still consider myself a noob, who has a lot to learn.

          As for quotes, text formatting, etc., you can find do it by inserting tags described here:
          https://wordpress.org/support/article/writing-posts/#visual-versus-text-editor
          Those are meant primarily for writing posts, not comments, but I can confirm that at least the first five of them work in comments too.

          1. As for using quotes, and how to do it, I think it depends on many factors. Ask yourself some common sense questions like:
            – is the exact wording from the text important,
            – how important it is for a reader to realize that what you are referring has been explicitly written in the text (as opposed to your interpretation),
            – how long the quote would need to be (there is obviously no point in quoting half of a chapter),
            – how likely is an average reader to remember what you are referring to well enough that the quote wouldn’t be needed,
            – could a quote let people know what you mean than your own description of what happened in the story?

            Depending on answers to such questions sometimes it is perfectly fine to not quote, or “quote” inaccurately, sometimes it is best to put an exact quote or a reference to a chapter you are talking about, and sometimes it is best to both quote AND write which chapter the quote comes from.

            But this is just my opinion. Other people may approach the problem differently. Just try to remember that none of us has a perfect memory, and sometimes a refresher in form of a quote or a chapter number can really help.

          2. Also try not to quote things from other sites, like reddit, Worm wiki, various forums where Words of God (WoGs) were posted. Some people may want to limit their exposure to such things, so it is probably better to post a link or a reference to such sources, and only shortly summarize what can be found at those links that is important in context of your comment than to put exact quotes from such sources here.

          3. I really appreciate all of the tips, and that link. I’ve been wondering how people were italicizing things. 😀 And yeah, I’ve been wanting to be a part of comment section to some degree since I read Worm, so I definitely plan on sticking around long enough to learn the basic rules.

    2. I read it as the shard,which has become dominant, asking the remaining bit of Shawn the person if he was satisfied at seeing his son

      1. So did I, but it is not like we saw shards asking their parahumans questions, did we? Definitely looks like it could be a new step in a human-shard relationships.

        1. I don’t think it’s the shard exactly. I think it’s the helmet speaking. Or yes, it is the shard, but the part of the shard forming a skyscraper-sized cognition-enhancing helmet, rather than the original alien sealed off in another dimension.

          I think the peculiarities of his investment in his helmet over the years raised its effective processing power, awareness, and communication ability to a point where the shard was overwhelmingly “present” with Dauntless. The helmet is FOR Dauntless’ various cognitive needs, while being OF the shard. But the circumstances have made Dauntless’ tool a vastly greater consciousness than Dauntless’ own mind.

          1. Maybe the helmet has just become some sort of human-shard interface adjusting his Corona Pollentia, or providing a different sort of link , independent from the Corona?

          2. And who knows? Maybe Dauntless’ shard is nothing more than the multiverse-spanning tree at this point? Just another hint that he may be becoming a new hub. After all Entities, or even their cores – Scion or Eden, apparently did span over many universities at once.

          3. Of course Alabaster’s shard is also probably a part of the tree at this point, though maybe not necessarily the way Dauntless’ shard is.

            And maybe there is no Dauntless anymore? Maybe there is only a copy of his mind within the tree that only thinks that it has a human body trapped within the tree, and that it still needs to breathe? After all wouldn’t a real body have more needs than just breathing, and if the tree satisfied those to the point they were not a concern anymore, then why wouldn’t the tree satisfy the need for air to the same extent too?

          4. And if Dauntless is no more, then I don’t know if we should count this interlude as one of those that has more than one point of view character. A problem similar to the one I have with Teneral e.3.

  28. I wonder what would happen if Dauntless hadn’t been trapped in a time bubble and just kept applying power to his gear during all these years. As I understood it now, he’d become just the same titan he is now, except for shard-connections (if he didn’t stop or wasn’t stopped halfway through). Also, the process of a second trigger involves shard reaching out to other shards, and we didn’t see anyone second-triggering since GM until now. Would any second trigger, whichever would happen first, become a new Entity’s core? Or maybe it could in theory, but only with Dauntless’ power buildup over years it was possible to withstand and steer the process?

    P.S. Totally a great chapter.

    1. Dauntless triggered when Addison was born, and Addison was fourteen when Leviathan attacked. So, unless Dauntless waited a long time before starting to upgrade a persistent costume, he’d probably already been at it for a decade or so, and he was only trapped for around four and a half years. The titanic results he’s achieved seem to be more a matter of how the time dilation concentrated the application of all those upgrades into one moment. The extended second-triggering might also factor into it.

      1. He might also have other things that have a slight charge which he’s since abandoned or didn’t work for his costume/equipment. Stuff like that knife he used for the cesarean in the buried caravan, for example. There might be other things he’s either accidentally discarded a charge into or that started developing in a way he didn’t want, so he abandoned them.

        1. Sure, but what percentage of his charge over the previous fourteen years do you really think he discarded? Even if his current gear only had a year’s worth of work put into it before he was trapped, 4.5*Dauntless ≠ Mt. Dauntless. Hell, Dauntless^4.5 ≠ Mt. Dauntless. This is more like…. Dauntless/0.

          1. Doesn’t Dauntless’s gear get a huge boost right after its charged and then level out to normal or something along those lines? Also IIRC, the upgrades are stronger if they’re back to back, and he had a schedule or something of what order to upgrade his gear in and how many days in a row before he switched. If so, all of that happened practically at once with whatever order or operations.

  29. Remember that March said that she did what she did with the bubble, because “she’s a romantic”. Could it mean that she knew the story of Dauntless’ family, including the fact that Kelly and Addison were still alive? It could be for example that one of those two or Addison’s wife is March’s friend…

  30. Great chapter. Was confused about Jotun’s absence from the story, but I’m sure we’ll hear more about it. I love how the Number Boys interact with each other, and I adore Addison. I hope we get to see more of him.

    1. I just wonder how much they used to torment Ashleys with constant mentions of anything and everything maths-related when they were still one big S9000 family. They just had to, considering that Ashley was so easily triggered with the mere mention of the topic.

          1. And technically you could argue that there are six Harbingers left, not five, so maybe they can count all the way to six?

  31. Does Dauntless in the a titan writ in a strike of white lightning form reminds any one else of yggdrassil? holding the various realms to each other

      1. Considering that the shards shape powers and their effects based on what they find in people’s minds, I wonder if Dauntless and/or Alabaster were a little bit too much into Norse mythology. Considering Dauntless’ power and how he used it, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was interested in mythology, and since Nazis historically based some of their ideology on what they found in that particular mythology, it could explain Alabaster’s intrest in the topic.

        1. In other words Dauntless’ current form may very well be how the shards chose to imitate Yggdrassil, and if his power also changed to reflect it, then the theory about him becoming a new “sort of” hub seems even more likely. Perhaps Dauntless is the tree that will give the shards their new “life” (a.k.a. connections)?

          1. Does it make Simurgh the eagle which sits in Yggdrassil’s branches, and will this eagle get it’s Veðrfölnir to sit between its eyes? And what about all of those other creatures which lived in and around Yggdrassil? Will we see them too?

          2. What’s more worrying is that if Dauntless is Yggdrassil, then the natural conclusion of his story (and possibly Ward), would be Ragnarök, and we know how lethal it’s supposed to be, especially for the big players involved. Does it mean that 90% of Parahumans cast is supposed to die at the end of this book?

          3. I’ve been thinking who would be good for that role too… Though I’m not entirely sure Ratcatcher would fit. How about Dot instead?

          4. You mean Bastard? I could see that, especially since Hookwolf is no longer with us, though I think I’ll wait until I learn more about Aleph Wolf and his pack, until I’ll give you my final opinion on that.

          5. Bro, I’m loving these connections that ya’ll just made. If they were on purpose on Wildbow’s part, then that would only make it more awesome than it already is. If he actually has been planning anything like what ya’ll are thinking, then I will be ridiculously impressed, though not surprised. I enjoy accidental parallels as much as I enjoy intentional ones.

            Ya’ll are getting me hyped for where this story is going. We all knew that shit was building, and stakes were rising, regardless of how much its been teasin’ without pleasin’. But talk of Wardnarök is heatin’ my cheeks! This shiz is starting to feel the Wildbow is showing. My faith is strong.

            Bring it on!!!!!

          6. Ok, Loki was supposed to be a shape shifting liar and a trickster, and was supposed to trart Ragnarök, which sounds like a pretty big thing to do. Doesn’t it sound exactly like Chris?

          7. ‘Trart’? Really? What is wrong with me today? ‘Start’.

            Oh, and we know that Chris is probably already preparing his army of giants in Shin. All he needs is a Bifröst to bring them through it.

          8. Actually between this:

            With light reflecting off of the bubble, it tinted the clouds above in rainbow hues.

            And the bridges connecting it to Brockton Bay, I think Protectorate ENE Headquarters building almost sounds like it could be Bifröst.

          9. > What’s more worrying is that if Dauntless is Yggdrassil, then the natural conclusion of his story (and possibly Ward), would be Ragnarök

            Even before Dauntless, did someone expect Ward to end with anything other than Ragnarök? I think it was kind of a given 🙂

          10. To throw another parallel in, I made a comment further down saying that Sandalphon would be a good name for Titan-D if he’s just became an Entity 2.0, just based off of some thing I remember about Sandalphon being the archangel that protects humanity during the Revelations 1000 year apacoplyse/war or something. Not confident on that memory, I did some wikipedia research (admittedly bad source haha). One version of Sandy-fun has him as being Elijah after he rose to angelic status; Elijah who is prophet wo protects unborn children (shakey grounds but intriguing). And Sandal-phone is the “tall angel” who’s head reaches past the heavens. I doubt this is the case but it’s fun to think about.

      2. thanks Alfaryn!!!!. shout out to ex lurker as well.
        i dont know how i missed his thought on same line. i wanted to sketch crystal titan Dauntless so i was reading how titan dauntless is described. then i thought it seems like the world tree.

        if the norse mythology reference works out then how does Valkyrie fit into this. if crystal titan is reaching out to broken shards every where then what does this represent for her.

        To me Simmer-aargh has a drive to create scenarios for uber cape Eidolon to confront. like a dm challenging a level 20 wizard with a tarrasque which will one shot tpk a low or mid level team.
        with Eidolon off the table, Smurfy has first attempted to challenge the Warrior and later tried to bring Eidolon back.
        Now with Dauntless in picture her table setting is finally done. She has a player at high enough level to DM for.
        Did she tinker possibilities to lead to this? Is she just where her purpose told her to be.
        I have difficulty understanding Ziz.

        Parahumans are awesome!! we are lucky to have The Author. the community is nice for most part. until vista gets shanked by the march hare.

        1. When thinking about Valkyrie, don’t forget about her Einherjar. I’m sure they will play an important role as well.

          1. precisely the context i had in mind friend.
            Plus the shard afterlife that everyones favorite violinist bunny and noir detective mama glimpsed.

  32. I’m another who can’t decide if Simurgh x Defiant is a good, neutral, or bad thing.

    The case for bad has been made above, and I agree this could be an attempt to control a burgeoning entity (possibly even one she helped along with her domino-effect influence)… but I could just as easily believe what someone joked about above- she’s happy (or the closest feeling she can experience) to have a new “daddy”.

    The case for good-to-neutral: She and the other Endbringers were created for the purpose of challenging Eidolon. With Eidolon dead they had no purpose, until Tattletale suggested fighting Scion. She did that, won, and found herself once again without a purpose. She tried to create another Eidolon to fight, that got torpedoed, and she seemed to go into a period of mourning or ennui. Now maybe she’s found a new purpose in Defiant, the ascendant host of a shard that gives things purpose- the question being what that purpose is going to be.

    1. Pretty valid theory, The Simurgh looking for a purpose.

      Or somebody to give it to her.

      A purpose, I mean…

      But you meant Dauntless instead of Defiant, right?
      Or am I missing something?

      1. isnt that what Smurf and her kid bros and sis are upto? create challenge for Hosts that access multiple shard at same time? Davey bro, interdimensional hobo and sadboi, and now the greatest hero who ever heroed.

        She needs to set the table. Cant do it if no one can clear her table.

  33. > Houses of cards that shouldn’t stack up that do, and cards that should that don’t. But they will, by process of natural selection, form their own wills. As we see here

    Could someone please decipher what Harbingers meant with letters and “misspelled apocalypse”?

    1. I would also like to know. The only thing that comes to my mind is that ‘z’ then ‘e’ then ‘all’ look like misspelled ‘zeal’ to me, but I doubt this is what Harbinger Five meant.

      1. My guess, in line with a lot of the other comments, the misspelled apocalypse refers to the connections between all of the shards.

        I see the entities as being whatever the “core” is while the shards are all of the others parts of the whole. The entities have been seen shifting their shards around to change how they operated as a whole, or to prepare for sending them off. My guess is that, even though each shard is somewhat autonomous, the core (or just a core in general) is solely what allowed them to exist as a single entity.

        I’m not sure if the cores are what each entity existed as at the beginning of their evolution, or if they are something that was formed by things similar to shards coming to together and evolving into a hivemind.

        My assumption is that the core is the “identity” of the entity, in so much as they have one. It’s the central hub that every shard recognizes as something separate from itself. Keep in mind that the shards can recognize new central hubs, considering that entities can trade shards. Also, as seen in 12.all, the shards recognize that their hub is gone and they want a new one.

        All of this seems to imply that their is an order to the connections that makes the difference between thousands of shards communicating and acting as a group with similar interests, and thousands of shards properly operating acting as extensions of a single being. I think the misspelled apocalypse is an order of connections that exists somewhere between those two extremes. Shards which have no need to connect are connected; shards which should be connected aren’t. The connections are crisscrossing and muddled making for a large amount of decentralization. They are definitely operating but it’s far from optimal. The house of cards has been built, but every card knows that it’s not the way it should be, possibly at risk of falling apart.

        Dauntless’s shard sent out 10,000 signals all out once whenever the time bubble popped, all with him and his connection to his shard at the center. That’s at least his “super” educated opinion/exaggeration of how many times he second-triggered while he was trapped. I’m guessing that his signals reached every shard that had the even the slightest ability to reciprocate a signal, including Eden’s shards. Every shard that was aware of its lack of hub, was all the sudden connected to every other shard via Dauntless. Connections formed, shard A should connect to shard B, but it found P in its desperation. Shard D (Dauntless) found everything.

        “It was enough to keep himself up, once he’d grown enough that it was ungainly.

        The connection came, and the connection stayed.”

        This is Dauntless speaking to right after the signals were sent and received, and the connections were formed. All of the shards exist in different realities. The entities’ corpses lie in multiple realities at once, twisting and weaving through. Titan Dauntless now exists in a similar state. His body is in every reality that holds a shard, and it’s “enough to keep himself up.” Whether or not he has become a new central hub, he is dead in the center of a new version of the entities, a tangled mess of one, the Entity 2.0.

        If Dauntless’s shard has become the new core, let’s hope it simulates his identity for as long as possible. I call this Titan Dauntless entity Sandalphon in hopes of its benevolence.

        But that’s just a theory.

        1. If what you say is true, could “You get things meant for endings at the beginning” refer to the fact that the central point of the new entity is a human mind (Shawn’s), while all human minds were originally supposed to be at the final points of the shards network? Would it mean that ‘Z’ represents Shawn’s mind, ‘E’ represents his shard, which is connected to all other shards, and after that layer of connections we still have just a wide but not very deep mess of connections – like connections between the shards belonging to the same cluster, connections of shards to parahumans, and possibly connections between shards that budded, and their buds?

          I guess it may also mean that previously the shards were interconnected in some more logical way, and formed a hierarchical structure with more tiers?

          1. I guess it would mean that unlike Dauntless, Scion and Eden weren’t directly connected to many shards, but instead communicated with most of them via chains of shards repeating communications up and down the line?

          2. >”Would it mean that ‘Z’ represents Shawn’s mind, ‘E’ represents his shard, which is connected to all other shards,”

            I would buy it, but where would the “connection to none” fit?

            >”I guess it would mean that unlike Dauntless, Scion and Eden weren’t directly connected to many shards, but instead communicated with most of them via chains of shards repeating communications up and down the line?”

            I’d imagine that they could directly communicate to any shard via shards like the Queen Administrator. But like you said they are arranged and physically connected in some logical, hierarchical way. I wonder if ordering shards is in function anything like combining powers.

          3. “Connection to none” could just mean no more connections where they are supposed to be. Remember that in the hierarchical structure I wrote about above most shards would be connected to shards both up and down the line. Currently they are not – unless a shard belongs to a structure like a cluster (or maybe if it budded) it would only be connected to Dauntless’ shard and any parahumans it happened to attach itself to.

  34. Dauntless is an amazing, beautiful man with a heart of gold. Gosh, what a way for things to turn out for him…

    This was an amazing, powerful chapter and—wait, no, no, you get out of here. Things are already bad enough, you feathered pest!!!

  35. Ladies and Gentlemen, I think we may have overlooked a terrifying detail.
    Simurgh sees and crafts equipment by interacting with people. Her vision field is literally the perception of all the future actions a person she is in contact with could possibly undertake, on infinite alternate futures and realities. This means that she gets exponentially more dangerous the more people she is in contact with, and the more technical skills they possess. Cue her tinker-ish powers being derived from contact with nearby tinkers on battlefields.
    Now Dauntless spans ALL known realities. AND he has ABSOLUTE perception powers in all of them.
    This means that if Simurgh subsumes him with her song, she has access to EVERY single person in the multiverses. Including ALL known tinkers and thinkers.
    Unless she cannot use the full potential of this information feast beacuse of the sheer overwhelming sensory input to proccess, Simurgh has access to the entirety of human and shard knowledge, everywhere, everytime.

    Are you terrified? Because I am. Hell, SCION is easymode compared to Ziz now.

    1. She may not even need an access to tinkers. Dauntless can apparently influence machines. Maybe she could use him to take over existing tinkertech directly?

      1. I just assumed that he “spoke” in em waves to his son and broke any machines that were in the way in the process.

        1. He “reached out. Not gently enough”. There is a possibility that he may learn to do more with machines once he learns to be more “gentle”.

          1. I’m not saying that it will necessarily happen, but since he is probably some sort of super-thinker at the moment, I wouldn’t discount the possibility.

          2. Ah, I see what you’re saying. Man, that’d be crazy, if its how Wildbow gets the ball rollin’ on the looming Machine Army.

  36. Did anyone notice that Dauntless was trying to speak, and in the process “destroyed more machines than he could easily count, in many worlds.”? Just how much damage did he do to eastern coasts of Americas in all those words, and how much do people (especially tinkers, I guess) hate him now?

    How badly were D&D affected?

    On the other hand it could explain how people know that he is still thinking, and on top of it it could mean some real problems for that machine army on Bet Dot managed to run away from. Of course it may also mean that Dauntless has that army’s full attention now…

    1. “How badly were D&D affected?”

      Frightening question.

      I’d consider three aspects:

      1) Dragon’s servers (other than her mobile body).

      2) Defiant’s tinker parts.

      3) And being airborne.

      We’ll find out in a matter of hours…

      1. Another question – what happened to the device that was used to seal Aleph, and if it was destroyed, is Aleph no longer sealed?

          1. Teacher may also be in a bit of a pickle, considering that it is possible that his base may be entirely dependent on tinkertech for the contact with any other words.

          2. Ha! I forgot about C.U.I .’s Earth.

            Now that I think about the kind of machines and the extent of the damage, at least cellphones, the mercenaries’s flashlights and tinker tech like Cradle’s HandMech, his WIP and Kenzie’s equipment were still functional.

            Unless Dauntless failed communication attempt took place a little bit after the ending of 12.9.

            *Goes back to hit the refresh button*

          3. They may not be functional now. We don’t know if Dauntless started to mess with machines before or after events of the last chapter.

            On top of it, as bad as losing cellphone network would be, I’m more worried about plenty of other equipment – from planes in the air, and hospital equipment, through trucks and trains needed to transport food and other essentials, all the way to power grids and facilities supplying population with water.

  37. I’d just like to let you know that I’ve never wanted to have a kid, always considering them to be the single worst decision a human could possibly make in their lives, but this chapter sort of made me think it would be nice to have a kid. For a second. Then I came back to my senses.

    You’re probably one of the greatest authors to live, and I’m glad I stumbled into Gestation 1.1 a couple of years ago. Thank you.

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