Heavens – 12.x

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When the television cut out and the lights flickered, Presley could see a momentary set of images on the screen, a face in silhouette, that silhouette serving as its own frame for another image and silhouette, leading the eye to a place before it all went dark and terminated early.  The sound was a single syllable, as loud as the television would allow.

She was about to rise from her seat at her computer when the icon in the upper right corner drew her attention.

No internet.

“Aww, shit!”

She heard the creak of footsteps.

“Shit,” she muttered.  “What was that?”

The knock at the door served as both knock and simultaneous push on door.  Her mom leaned into the room.

“The internet’s out,” Presley complained.

“The internet’s out all the time, Pres.”

She clicked the icon.  It didn’t try for more than a second before returning the ‘fail’ result.

“It’s really out.”

“They’ll fix it.  They’ve been good about it.  Maybe you can focus on better things.”

“Soccer’s only twice a week, and we can’t practice outside.”

“What about afternoon classes?” her mom asked, archly.  “Cleaning up?”

A finger moved around the room.  The house was the kind that had come in pieces that all slotted together.  Presley was offended that her mother pointed at the cards she’d slotted into the seams where the upper half of her bedroom fit into the lower half.  The top row was soccer cards, the lower row was superhero cards, and there was a very small section in the narrow space between wall and window on another wall of the room where she had hero league soccer cards.  Nobody was interested in trading them, and everyone knew it was about as real as wrestling, but they were cheap and she could always grab a few packs if she had change left over.

Presley rolled her eyes as her mom’s finger pointed at the different messes, pointing at some twice.

“Go to sleep early,” her mom said, more gently.  “Do you need a ride to the arena tomorrow?”

“I’d check what the weather is like if there was internet or a weather channel,” Presley said.  She saw the face her mom made, and she smiled.

“Let me know.  For now, go to sleep,” Her mother said.  She intruded into the room, approached Presley’s desk, and there wasn’t anything Presley could say about it, because the rule was that computer time was parents-could-enter-the-room-time.  Her mother laid a hand on top her head, stroking hair that had been made a bit crispy by the bleach, and gave her a kiss goodnight, between two fingers on hair.

“Night mom.”

Her mom pointed at the screen.  There was a row of soccer cards displayed, with players standing behind them, stats displayed along the bottom.  It was a good booster, too, but the ‘no connection’ sign was glaring red, and the way the soccer game worked, a purchase that failed partway through was a loss, to prevent scrubbing.

“I’m not spending any of my money on it.  They give you five packs for free and I buy more with the currency I get from trading up.”

“Okay, okay.  Be careful.”

“And I don’t really care about that-” even if it was a good pack, “-the team had something big going on, I think.  I wanted to ask if they were okay.”

She pointed, to make it clear which team she meant.  She had three printed out pictures above and below the hero league cards, each picture in a clear plastic jacket like the cards were in hard laminate sleeves, less to protect them, and more because the cheap printer paper had gotten wavy after the ink soaked into it, and the sleeve helped keep it flat.  Antares and Swansong, Swansong decked out in costume with eyes smoking, and a picture of their headquarters, which was just as messy as her room, if not more, and had a glowing sci-fi computer terminal at the far end, with lots of floating screens and stuff, which was really cool.

“Don’t bother ‘the team‘,” her mom said, with the kind of emphasis that suggested she was trying to be clever or make a point.  She turned off the monitor, which made Presley wince.  At least she hadn’t turned off the computer, which would have definitely cost her the value of the pack.  “Sleep.”

Presley nodded, sliding chair over to the window to adjust the curtains.  She stopped where she was, looking out.  Her voice had a less-sure note to it when she said, “Mom?”

Rather than close, the curtains were opened wider, her mother stepping up to the window.

A glowing figure on the horizon.  Taller than any mountain, not glowing, but so white that it looked like a cut-out from reality, head extending up like a wedge, lower body extending down the same way, creating a very narrow hourglass shape, but with a narrow torso in the center, with arms, what looked like a lightning bolt or a spear, and what might have been a round shield.

With it, there was a horrible feeling in her middle.  It was like when the Endbringers came; all her life, the years had been punctuated by these big, shadowy monsters that came and changed the tone of the day and the week after, in what she’d once heard a bad comedian call the opposite of holidays.  It had always come with a bad feeling mixed with a bad relief that it had been so far away.  The kind of relief that made you feel bad.

Except she didn’t feel that relief now, and she didn’t feel any less bad.

“What do we do?”

“I’m going to talk to your father.  Stay here.”

Presley nodded.

“No,” her mom said, before she’d finished walking out of the room.  “Not here.  Not by the window.  Just in case, stay away.”

Presley took a step to one side, so the window was further away.  She could have stepped toward the bed, and settled in there, but hiding under the covers felt like such a kid thing to do, and she wasn’t really a kid anymore.

And being where she was, she could see the photos of the team.  ‘Something big’, they’d said.  This had to be what they were doing.

And, being where she was, she could turn on the monitor, maneuver the trackball to the internet icon, and see it was back.  There was some connection, but it was yellow, marked low priority.  That was pretty usual for when big emergencies happened.

She typed out a response, leaning over to glance out the window at the figure.  It wasn’t moving.

The delay after her message was sent ate at her.

Then the reply, from Antares.

‘We’re waiting and seeing.’

It didn’t ease her worries, exactly, but if Antares was replying, then things couldn’t be that bad.

She confirmed the pack opening, closed the game, and then called out, “Mom, Dad!  They replied!”

Lookout moved her ‘hands’, and through the link that Darlene provided, Candy could feel the motions in hand and attached finger, and moved appropriately.

“C, apostrophe, one one, two, four, eight, sixteen, one one…”

“I think you’re making this up,” Candy said, her hand moving to hit the keys.  When she wasn’t sure she waited for the word that told her what she was supposed to be hitting.

“I am making this up,” Lookout said.  “I make stuff up and make that stuff work.  That’s what tinkering is.”

“What are you even doing?”

“Flying a broken camera.  It needs coordinates.  See?”

“That looks like a screen that’s half black, half blue, and covered in gibberish.”

“Ground, air, and data.  Calling it a camera is like calling a Swiss Army knife a knife, which it is, you use it for the knife a lot, but I want to know everything I’m missing out on.  I switch modes and-”

“Clear picture,” Candy said.  She looked over her shoulder at where Chicken Little was sleeping in the bed across from Lookout’s.  He’d been medicated so he could actually sleep.  They were keeping the mask on, but there were bandages now.

Darlene had settled into the chair by his bed.  It was the comfortable, puffy sort of chair, and her feet were up on the seat with her.  Two blankets were gathered up and around her legs and her lap, piled up to almost chin height, and another was on the top of the chair, pulled down a bit so it covered her head and shoulders.

She wasn’t sleeping, wasn’t accepting medication, on excuse of needing to help Lookout, and she wasn’t taking her eyes off of Chicken Little.

“Blink, Dar.”

Darlene closed her eyes, then opened them.

“Focus,” Lookout said.  “Look, clear picture.”

“Sec,” Candy dismissed her.

“Ughhhhh.  This is important!  The mayor showed up!  And she has people, and-”

“Shhh!” a nurse said, from the hallway.  There were two capes from Victoria’s mom’s team by the door, standing guard.

Candy focused instead on Darlene, counting the seconds.  Twenty, twenty one, twenty two-

“Blink more than the one time, Darlene,” Candy said.

Darlene pulled a hand out from under the covers, and gave Candy the finger.

“Surly,” Candy muttered.

“She’s hurting,” Lookout said, quiet, giving Candy a smile and an elbow to the arm.  “It sucks.”

“She’s been hurt before,” Candy said.  “Nathan pushed her down these concrete stairs that went from the street to the water, and she had to use her power to make him feel it, but he was mad, so he wouldn’t.  She had to tough it out longer than him before he cracked.”

“But other people are hurt.  Her favorite person.”

“She’s seen me get hurt, and I was her favorite person once.”

“You still are, Can-can,” Darlene muttered.  “One of ’em.  When you’re not being a pest.”

“You can hear me from over there?”

“It’s quiet,” Darlene said.

Candy settled in, lying over the covers while Lookout was beside her, lying on them, laptop in front of her, the screen swiveled one way, while the keyboard was swiveled in Candy’s direction.  Darlene had done a lot of the work to help jury-rig the setup, before Lookout got frustrated that she was too distracted.

Too distracted and tired.

Candy had taken over, and now, on the topic of being frustrated, Lookout was trying to drum her fingers with fingers that weren’t there, and Candy could feel it through the link Dar had established.  She was antsy.

“How are you doing?” Candy asked.  “Your hands hurt.”

“We can stop if you want to,” Lookout said.

Candy was feeling that hurt through the link, but she could grit her teeth and deal with fake pain.  Lookout had taken some medication, but every time she tried to move her fingers, her hands hurt, and Candy felt it.

“No, this is important, right?”

Lookout nodded, before whispering, “Thank you.  It’s important enough I’m doing it even though it hurts to do.  Can we- Can we do my thing again, now that you’re done talking to Darlene?  I’m missing stuff.”

“Okay,” Candy said.  Help in, gripe out.  When people were hurt, it was important to help those closer to the problem and the hurt, and any complaints were saved for those further from it than she was.  It was a rule that Samuel’s mom had imparted on them before her violent end.

There was an inverse of that rule, but it had to do with hurting people related to the source and keeping evidence in.  Not so applicable here.  Only if Aunt Rachel failed and Candy got a chance to go after the people who did it.

Slumping down, she adjusted the laptop, which prompted Lookout to adjust the screen.

“E, I, one, five… can you hold down the right arrow key until I say stop?”

Candy obeyed.

This time, Candy was more careful to be quiet.  “I can’t tell if you and Dar are going to be best friends or if you’re going to kill-”

“Stop.”

“-each other,” Candy finished.

“Go back one.  What do you mean?”

The screen showed a bunch of squares and lines, identifying faces, then framing each face.  The camera was pointed one way but somehow depicted the face from another angle.  Lips were covered by another, bolder square, and then weird arrangements of letters and symbols appeared.  Each was like a dial of letters on a lock that might read A-A-A-A, with the lock-cracker changing each letter in turn.

In this case, the lipreading technology spat out words that included a ‘DINAH’ and ‘CONTESSA’.  Names and a royal title.

Seemingly disinterested in anything that wasn’t a mention from her friends, Lookout had Candy use the trackball to switch over to another camera shot, focusing on a grid of security camera images.  The prior image was visible at the very edges of the screen, with a dotted line feeding into a bubble that read ‘logs’.

“What do you mean?” Lookout asked, again.

How was Lookout this energetic at this hour, this hurt?  Candy had been in the one big fight with Nursery and Lord of Loss and all the people with guns, and she was exhausted.  She’d forgotten what she was even going to say, but now Lookout was staring at her with large eyes.  In the gloom of the room, the whites of the eyes were contrasted with black skin, the orbs capturing the movements of lines and windows from the computer screen.

“I mean you know she likes Chicken.  If you get in the way, she will literally tear-”

Stupid choice of ways to put it.  She was tired.

“Tear me to pieces.  Mm hmm.”

“Because she likes him a lot.”

“Yeah.  I’ve liked people that much.”

“And you like him,” Candy said.

“I do.  And I like her, and I like you, and I like my team-”

“You know what I mean.”

Lookout stared at her screen.

Candy elbowed her.

“I’m being good,” Lookout said, quiet.  “And I won’t get in the way.”

‘I’m being good’ was the kind of thing that made far too much sense to Candy.  She’d heard similar things from a lot of her siblings and ‘cousins’, which was their term for the sisters and brothers by another mother.  She’d even heard the line about being good from some of their quirkier and more messed up unpowered siblings.

It was a simple thing to say that said a lot.

Candy moved her mental evaluation on whether Darlene would find herself strangling Lookout or being best friends with her one bit toward ‘best friends’.

“What happens if he decides he likes you?”

“I always thought maybe he liked boys, like one of the Capricorn brothers or like my d- like some people I knew did.  Do.  He was a big fan of Rain.  Both with and without the fake face.”

“No,” Candy said.

“No?  But-”

“No.  I’m an expert on these things.  Most of us are.  He just thinks Rain’s badass.  He likes girls.  Or he will when he figures out what he’s doing.”

“Oh, ‘kay,” Lookout said, quiet.  “Rain is badass.  He’s one of my favorite people.”

“Is everyone one of your favorite people?”

“Haaa.  Not the jerks who did this to my hands.  But Rain yes, and my team yes, and Swansong very yes.  And Victoria very yes, and you guys very yes.”

“You’re the kind of girl in school has five friends who are all her best friends, huh?”

“Nah,” Lookout said.  “I never had school friends.  Hey, is it weird that I’m relieved Chicken likes girls?”

Candy moved her mental evaluation of the strangle vs. friendship thing two bits toward ‘strangle’.

“Because Darlene?” she asked, hopefully.

“I guess?  Kind of?”

Not a definitive yes.  Another three bits toward ‘strangle’.

She’d have to be careful.

“The portal’s open,” Lookout said.  Her leg jiggled beneath the covers.  “Hey, the portal’s open.  That’s a thing!  Move, type!”

“Shhh!” a nurse made a noise from the hallway.

“Tyyyype,” Lookout hissed through her teeth, waggling her hands.  “Trackball.”

The screen was filling up with more white numbers against an orange-tinted security camera image.  Nobody was coming through, despite the fact the portal was open.

“We have weird readings.  Powers on the other side, filtered because some powers don’t work through or around portals.”

The camera changed.  The mayor’s group was entering the station.  Snuff was with them.  Tattletale probably had a reason for why he was there and not here.

Tense minutes passed.

Then the message came over the phone.

“It’s Antares, type type type type,” Lookout urged.

“Shhh!” the nurse in the hallway said.  She approached until the capes at the door stopped her.  “Or I will ask to have your things taken away.”

Candy was focused enough on the typing and hitting the right keys that she didn’t process the words until the exchange was done, and by then, Lookout was having her type in more coordinates.

“Move that slider to the red,” Lookout said.

“Red?” Candy asked.  As she did, the sub-screen with the data and a few wacky star shaped symbols changed to be white text on a textured red background.  “Why?”

“Because it’s cool,” Lookout whispered.  “And because the whip was red, and this is the whip.  And…”

She touched a fingerless hand to the screen, smudging it.  Below the smudge, a reel of numbers and characters was flying by too fast to read.

“This is it.  Phone.  Text messages.  We need to let Antares know.”

Candy obeyed.

“And this next part is long but important.  Okay?  Work with me?”

“If it helps,” Candy said.

“It’ll help.  It should.  I really hope it does…”

“Shh,” was the urging from the cape at the door.  The two were Goalpost and Fireaxe.  Fireaxe couldn’t even use his power in the hospital without setting off alarms, which was dumb.  It was Goalpost who was shushing instead of the nurses now.

“Type, type type type-”

Candy typed.

It took fifteen minutes.  The code made her head spin, and she was providing Lookout the hands to write it.  The boxes of dense code were arranged like spokes on a gear, and Lookout kept having her use the trackball to rotate that gear around, to add something to one block or fill in another block.

“Okay,” Lookout paused.  “Hit the print button.”

“Print?”

“Had to be something.”

Candy hit the button.

Red light crackled and flared at Lookout’s hand, and she removed the bandages that were already being pushed away and strained by the emerging growth.

“Yes!”

“Shush!” a nurse barked, looking in.  But then she stopped.

It was all growing back, the wound seeming to travel to the extremities, with Lookout gritting her teeth in a weird smile as it happened.

Darlene sat up, moving the blankets that covered her.  Her leg was growing back now.

“We did it.  They did it,” Lookout said, bouncing.  Her most intact hand gripped the most injured one until the last of the regrowth finished.

Then, like it was finally okay to do, she let out a long sigh with a superphysical shudder of relief that shook her entire body.

Darlene stood, wobbly at first.  She approached Chicken Little, and she moved his mask, gingerly.  Then she burst into tears.  Good tears.

The nurses rushed into the room, to examine their patients, and edged a teary-eyed Darlene out of the way.

If looks could kill, a hard glare through wet eyes, over wet cheeks.

“Be good, Darlene.”

Darlene gave her a look that could kill.

“They’re helping him.”

Darlene relaxed, and with that relaxation, broke down again.  She rushed to Lookout’s bedside, and she hugged her friend.

“We have more work to do?”  Candy asked.  After such a hollow, hurt feeling sitting in her upper chest for so long tonight, she felt buoyant.

“No.  That’s everyone, and I don’t think that weapon will work again, not without a lot of rejiggering.  Hopefully that protects everyone.”

Everyone.

Candy had an ominous feeling, but was too tired to put it to words.

“Flor,” Darlene put it to word before Candy was done.

Candy scrambled out of the bed so fast she almost knocked the laptop to the ground.  Darlene followed.

Flor was in the hospital room two doors down, but getting there wasn’t easy.  There weren’t any shouts, no noises of alarm, just… a lot of the capes from Antares’ mom’s team, two security officers, and several nurses.

“Let me through.  Let me through!” Candy shouted.  “You guys don’t-”

Flor was out of bed, wearing a hospital gown, her hair ruffled up at the back because she’d had it on a pillow.  A nurse was on her knees beside her.

“Don’t,” Candy said.

Flor didn’t budge, studying the room.

“It’s been a lousy night that’s only now getting better.  Don’t make it suck again.  They’ll shoot you.”

Flor looked around.

“I’ll play your friggin’ fashion princess video game with you,” Candy said.  She indicated Darlene.  “We’ll take turns playing it with you.”

“Hey,” Darlene said.  “Jerk.  Don’t volunteer me.”

But Flor backed down.  The nurse scrambled away.

“I thought we said to cuff her to her bed,” Candy said.

“You also said not to touch her.  It didn’t seem like she was going anywhere,” one of the heroes said, watching as Flor crawled back into her bed.

“She obviously did.”

Useless heroes.

Darlene was already pulling on her arm, dragging her out of the room.

They returned to the room.  The hustle and bustle surrounding Chicken Little had died down, but some nurses were on either side of the bed.  It was Candy’s turn to drag Darlene over to where Lookout was tapping away on her phone.

“Talking to the team?” Darlene asked.  “Tell them thank you.”

“Talking to the team lawyer, Natalie,” Lookout said.  “She says she’s suspicious I won’t be able to stay with my team.  I’ve been hospitalized twice in a really short span of time.”

“Makes sense,” Darlene said.

“Yeah,” Lookout said.  She smiled at Darlene.  “Makes sense.  I’ll figure something out.”

The smile was jarring, but Candy didn’t know what to say.

Darlene climbed up into the hospital bed beside Lookout, her attention largely on Chicken Little, who was still drugged asleep, and Lookout’s attention was on the screen, on her team.  Candy sat at the end of the bed, being careful not to block Dar’s view, because tonight wasn’t a night for teasing.  She adjusted the blanket at the foot of the bed to cover herself.  The hospital was chilly, and cold air wafted in, seemingly through the single-pane windows.

Darlene was letting exhaustion overtake her.  Her head rested on Lookout’s shoulder, and Lookout gave her a pat on the leg.

“We could make our own team,” Candy said.  “You two, me, Chicken.”

“But-” Lookout said.  “I’d be betraying people.  Swansong-”

“Then we contract out,” Candy added.  “Exclusively to one team.  Maybe two.  Cheat the system.”

“Maybe,” Lookout said, the smile dropping from her face.  “Could work.”

Outside the window, Chicken Large screeched.

Narwhal watched as Undersider and Breakthrough climbed out of their vehicles.  Government vehicles, by the color of the plates.  Rides provided by the illustrious mayor of the unnamed city.

It had been hours now.  The sun would rise in another few hours.  Were it a warmer month, it would already be rising.

The figure that had once been Dauntless loomed above them.  Dormant, quiet, alone.

As alone as any of them were.

Narwhal’s costume was layered, crystals grown large and each gap covered by another crystal, enough times that her entire figure had changed.  Crystals were her boots, so her feet weren’t resting against snowy ground, and they framed her chin, nose, eye sockets, and ears, while providing the structure that held up her horn.  A lot of that was to keep the cold off.  Temperature didn’t conduct through forcefield, so it kept her insulated.  Here and there, she adjusted, exposing neck, collarbone, and shoulder above the crystalline suit.

Her heart was pounding, breathing was hard, and getting past it seemed impossible.  She kept her shoulders back and square, her feet securely beneath her, and hands at her sides.  People looked to her, and if she let the facade crack, then it would affect them.

She had never been good at giant slaying.  She could hold her own against the Endbringers and the other enemies of similar scale, throw up defenses, launch her forcefields for offense, but it wasn’t the environment where she felt like she did the most good.

And she’d been stuck here, facing down the attack from March, and she hadn’t done enough good here.  It was more frustrating that the higher-ups and paper pushers would blame her, because a power like March’s didn’t translate to paperwork.

It meant expressing that Defiant and Dragon could have three ships in the air, and a squadron of parahumans and soldiers could be in just the right spot at just the right time to make them dangerously able to flank if the ships tried to fly past.  Move around, open fire, the routes were blocked or there were other obstructions.  People who would get caught in the collateral damage.

Not permanently, there was always a way, but by the time that way was sought and found, March was on the offensive.  And it was always easier to attack than defend.

The paper-pushers wouldn’t get it.  They’d talk about budgets and hint at budget cuts, and blame would be shifted, and it would be a repeat of prior engagements against Jack Slash all over again.

But they had the boy who had beaten Jack Slash in the Wardens.  Jack Slash had had an unknown factor giving him an edge.  His power gave him the upper hand against any parahuman, and his ‘Slaughterhouse Nine’ made it next to impossible for civilians to get to him.

March’s coterie didn’t cover a weakness so much as it augmented her strengths.

It was possible that made it more fragile, but Narwhal wouldn’t get the chance.  Her strength was in wading into confrontations and walking out the other side with her enemy broken.  Warlords, gangs, armies.  But her eternal tragedy was that she was often the only one both capable and willing to step up and be a leader, negotiating the balance between leadership and dealing with the people behind desks and benches.

The Undersiders and Breakthrough parted.  Truce between them now done.  Hero and villain, each had a side to go to.  The mayor’s henchpeople, Harbingers, went their own way.  Neither hero nor villain.

Well, most.

Weld had arrived.  He was the kind of young man she would’ve drafted to any of her teams, at any point.  Driven, conscientious, kind, and just wounded enough that there was something to look after, where she could have him under her wing without feeling like his talents weren’t being wasted leading a team elsewhere.

Antares led Weld to one of the last vehicles in the convoy.  He opened the door, and was embraced by what Narwhal took to be his girlfriend.

That was a mess.  Narwhal had seen him making eyes at one of the other girls in the Wardens.  Slician.  She’d noticed and she’d approached him, and he’d turned her down.  It wouldn’t have been easy.

This?  That?  It couldn’t be good.  It was too far from human, and Weld was more in touch with humanity than a lot of humans were.

If he’d asked Narwhal for advice, she would have told him she liked Slician for him more than she liked this girl.  That he had his own healing and growing to do, and it seemed to her that he was putting it on hold.  It was maybe better that he hadn’t asked her.

It was even possible that he knew her well enough to know what the advice she would give would be.  If that were true, then when and if he needed help making the hard decision, he would ask her.

Cracks, Narwhal thought.  Her fingers touched a damaged forcefield she hadn’t yet dismissed, tracing the fissures and missing pieces.  We all have them.  If we have to slay this giant, we’ll have to find his.

Cracks in the individual, yes.  That was a thing.  Weld had his.  Narwhal knew she certainly had her own.

But between too.  Between Weld and his current girlfriend.

Breakthrough and the Undersiders had closed the gap, at least a little.  But some fissures remained.  Foil didn’t join Breakthrough, and she didn’t rejoin the Undersiders.  Her focus was on the giant.

Narwhal approached, dismissing the damaged shield.

“How is your girlfriend?” Narwhal asked, to open the conversation and let Foil know she was there.

“Parian?  I’m surprised you were keeping enough track of me to know.  She’s fine now.  She has to be careful when eating or drinking, but she’ll mend.”

“You should go to her.  We don’t think this situation will change anytime soon.”

Foil nodded, but she didn’t budge.

“I can listen, if you need to talk,” Narwhal said.

“I don’t know what I’d say.  Every time I’m faced with this stuff, I find myself less able to deal with it, get images out of my head.  It takes longer to ease down.”

“Yes.  When the feeling of your heart pounding and your adrenaline surging becomes normal, and the moments of rest or tranquility are the thing that you have to go looking for.”

“Not exactly that.  Feeling freaked out.  I saw the woman I love get hurt in a really grisly way.  Because of March, in a roundabout way.  And I’m worried that if I go see her, I won’t be able to stop seeing her get hurt.  Does that make sense?”

“It makes sense.  But you can’t avoid seeing her forever, Foil.  Lily.”

Foil looked surprised at the mention of her name.

Narwhal gave her a sympathetic look.  “We thought about recruiting you.  We looked you up.  It was determined it would be too antagonistic with a mid-tier power.”

“Tattletale?” Foil asked.  She sounded angry.

“We can talk about options after if you want.  Don’t hold it against Tattletale.  Please don’t hold it against us.  I’m distracting you from what you were talking about.  You’re avoiding Parian?”

“I’m avoiding the reminder.  It’s like… there’s all this stuff in the past.  Bloody, messy, grisly.  So much death.  Parian’s helping her family and I’m helping her help them.  Family’s important to her, and we’re getting them the last few surgeries they really need.  But that’s bloody, messy, grisly too.”

“Do you feel like you have to?”

“Do I- what?  I’d do it anyway.”

“But does it feel obligatory?” Narwhal asked.  “They come as part and parcel with your partner.  Does it feel like you have to, to keep her beside you?”

“But I would anyway.”

“Yes, because you’re heroic by nature.  But it being something you must do makes it feel like a trap.  A nuisance becomes a torture when you’re trapped.”

Foil shrugged.

Maybe the wrong approach.

Foil ventured, “All that stuff in the past, all that stuff going on in the background when we’re home, in the present, and then I find myself worrying… what if March comes again?  What if I have to watch my girlfriend drag a baby out of her windpipe, or if someone does to her what happened to her family, or…”

Foil lifted her arms, then let them fall.

“You can’t control the future,” Narwhal said.

“I can, though.  I can control what comes back home.  I’m thinking about retiring, at least in the short-term.  Just to get away from the grisly, messy stuff.  Messy relationships and team dynamics.”

“That would be an awful shame,” Narwhal said.  “You’re a good cape.”

“Thank you for saying so.”

“You should go home and take care of your girlfriend.  Sleep, rest.  This… this is scary, what happened tonight, the deaths and the damage, it’s horrific.  But a good night’s sleep with someone you love will put a surprising amount of distance between that and how you feel about it.”

“Do you have that?  Good nights of sleep, someone to hold?”

“No,” Narwhal said.  She extended Foil an apologetic expression.  “No.  When I was in similar straits to where you are now, I chose not to go home.  Then there was nobody to go home to.  I got my power trying to protect someone and… I didn’t have anyone to protect anymore.  I stopped being able to have quiet days.  I don’t sleep without thinking about what I should be doing.  I felt much like you seem to feel now, and I went on one more mission, because carrying on was easier than bringing it home.”

“It’s not like that.  That’s not what I’m talking about.”

Narwhal nodded.  “I know.  We’re different people.”

“But maybe if you’d gone home, then you would have found yourself unable to stop dreading the mess that comes tomorrow, and you would have found it all disintegrating.”

“Who knows?” Narwhal asked.

“I might stay for a while, just to be safe.  Offer my assistance if anyone needs it.”

“I could order you.”

“You’re not my boss,” Foil said.

“But I could order you.  I bet you’d listen.”

“I want to go after her,” Foil said.  “Tell me you have leads.”

Narwhal was quiet.

“Please.  I want her gone, so Parian doesn’t have to worry about her.  So I can know that tomorrow will be…”

“Easier?”

Foil looked up at the Dauntless Titan.  There were names being bandied around for it.

“Marchless,” Foil said.  “But you were hinting that I would be making a mistake if I went on one more mission, even when I’m not, exactly?  I haven’t been active lately.  It’s been months.  I feel like you’re painting me as an alcoholic when I’ve had a drink every six months and done fine.  But if I take this one next drink, it’s somehow going to destroy me.”

“I’m painting you as an alcoholic because you just had a drink and you’re telling me you’re not fine.  And you want to take another, now.”

“What would you do different, if you could go back?”

Narwhal took a deep breath.  Slices of forcefield rubbed against one another.

“Sorry,” Foil said, “If that’s a personal question.”

“I wouldn’t go alone.”

Foil nodded, her arms folded.

Before the girl could open her mouth, Narwhal said, “I’ll phone you what we have.”

Foil was already moving, driven, “Thank you.  I’ll go before the trail gets any colder, then.  Thank you.  Rachel!  Hey!  I need your hound, will you…”

Not what I meant by not going alone, Narwhal thought.

“Foil,” she said, her voice stern.

Foil stopped.

“You could die.”

“I know.  But I couldn’t live with it if she does something anything like this again, and I could have stopped it.  Either I stop or… I stop her.”

“Who did we lose?”  Swansong asked.

“Tempera,” Antares answered.  “Withdrawal is hurt.  Finale is beside herself.”

“How’s your mother?” Swansong asked.

The question was loaded.  Swansong and Antares’ mother had been at one another’s throats.

Antares didn’t immediately respond.

“You don’t have to say.  I’ll find out some other way.”

“She’s going to Earth Shin,” Antares finally answered.

“Ah.  I’m sorry.”

Antares shook her head.  “It’ll either go well or it won’t.  I have no idea what to say, whatever happens.  But Amy knows enough to explain things to my parents, fill in the blanks.”

“Mm,” Swansong made a sound.

Antares turned her head skyward, hands up near her head, as if she were making a plea to the heavens.  Except the heavens were largely occupied by the massive titan that loomed in the upper end of what had been New Brockton Bay, straddling the portal there.  “I’m just telling myself that Lookout is happy, healthy, and with friends.  The other kids are fine.  Capricorn is intact.  Precipice’s cluster members are in custody, he doesn’t have to worry about that.  You’re intact again.  We’re okay.”

“Sveta has Weld,” Swansong said, pointing.

Antares nodded without smiling.

“We made a good impact,” Swansong said.

“We made an impact.  The Harbingers counted the injured and the dead.  Thirty individuals bound for hospitals.  Twelve are dead.  Four of those are our fault.”

Our fault.  Not counting me?

“Play imbecile games, win imbecile prizes,” Swansong said.

“I threw Etna and her stupid costume into a hill, and I didn’t see her recover.  I didn’t overdo it, but… she could be one of the three that are possibly me?”

“I liked her costume,” Swansong said.

Really.

Swansong extended a finger toward Antares.  “Don’t question my tastes.  Flaming sorceress raiment over a long coat is perfectly acceptable costuming.”

“It’s so overwrought.”

“It’s wrought, and whether it’s overwrought or underwrought is a question of the person who wears it.  She didn’t live up to it.  Yes?”

“We’ll compromise by agreeing on that,” Antares said.

Swansong nodded, smiling.

“Harbinger Two told me that one of the dead is definitely me.  I think the reason I’m thinking of Etna, the big question mark, and trying to put her face onto one of those bodies is that I don’t even know what the face of the guy I took down looks like.”

“Imagine a smashed pumpkin filled with hamburger patty,” Swansong said.

“Not funny.”

“No.  But it’s reality.”

“It’s what I did to my mother.”

“Not the face.  That was intact.”

“Uuuugh,” Antares groaned.

“She’s alive.  She’ll live.  That’s better than some outcomes,” Swansong said.  “That the violence happened at your hands is something you learn to live with.”

“Do I want to, though?”

“Lookout’s content, Capricorn’s intact, Precipice doesn’t have to worry about his cluster for now, possibly ever, depending on how you want to resolve that…”

Antares sighed.

“Sveta gets to end the day hugging her boyfriend.  I’m intact.  The Navigators are healed and being cared for.  Hopefully we’ve broken the back of this… stupidity that overtook the villains of the city.”

“Not stupidity.”

“Mania?”

“Pushback.  I don’t know.  This… thing, that was Dauntless.  It’s like a giant nail stuck in the middle of things.  It’s frozen the entire situation.  We’re all so caught up waiting for the other shoe to drop that we’re back to where we were a year ago.”

“I’m happier than I was a year ago,” Swansong said.  “So is Lookout.  She’s not with her parents anymore.  So is Precipice, I think.”

“Sveta?”

“Work on that.  Focus on that.”

“Trying.”

“Good.  Perfect.”

“And,” Damsel said, deciding to approach before this became any more saccharine, “You don’t need to worry about me anymore.”

“What?” Swansong asked.

“I’m going.  I have the money, I have what I need.  I’ll send my people to get my things in a few days.”

“You don’t have people,” Swansong said.

That irritated.  Damsel bit back a reply, because appearance was too important here, with potential enemies and allies watching.  Swansong didn’t have people either.  Not in the proper, respectable way.  She was so ruined by this whole dynamic that she would have said she was an equal or partner.  A member of a team.  But she was following orders and being subordinate to someone who had been the ‘coach’ just a little while ago.

“I will.  Besides, it’s not like I can stay.”

“You could if you wanted,” Swansong said.

“I cut you.  You won’t be able to rest easy with the knowledge that I could do it again while you sleep.  You know I would.”

“I know who we are,” Swansong said.

“And if you think you’re safe sleeping under the same roof as her,” Damsel told Antares, “Think again.  Keep your distance from her if you know what’s good for you.  Because if you don’t splatter her against the wall, until there’s more of her on the wall than on the ground, then she’ll do it to you.”

“Enough,” Swansong said.

“Enough?  Don’t you mean stop?” Damsel asked, archly.  Her tone became vicious.  “Remember?  ‘Stop?  You stop.’  Wasn’t that what you said to him, before you put a hole in his chest?  I did have that dream, you know.  And I say dream, not nightmare.  That registered.  Not any of the soft friendship, not looking after lonely little girls, nor scruffy teenage boys.  That moment meant more than all of this put together, and you’re trying to pretend it didn’t.”

“You’re embarrassing us,” Swansong said.

“There is no us!” Damsel raised her voice.  “Because I’d be disgusted to be grouped with you at this point.  You want to talk about overwrought?  You don’t live up to your own damned standards.”

“Hey,” Narwhal said.  A forcefield appeared between Damsel and the pair.  The material like a crudely cut piece of crystal or thick glass with the edges chipped to a razor edge, bearing a rainbow sheen.  She stared into it and through it, and the reflection was distorted.  if it wasn’t for the fact that the face she saw was standing alone, she could have thought she were looking through at her wretched sister.

She scoffed and turned her back on the scene.

Lights beyond the window flickered on.  A soft alarm began playing.

May had to crawl out from beneath the covers and over Tori to get to the computer by the bed.

“Oh my god,” she murmured.

“If we hadn’t been interrupted, I could be the one saying that,” Tori groused.  “What is it?  You sound delighted.”

“We have company,” May said.  She stood from the bed and she stretched, working every muscle in her body.  “And eight minutes before that company finds me.”

“That company being who?”

“Foil and a dog.  They’re sniffing around.”

“I’ll contact the others,” Tori said.

May moved her phone.  She switched to a map icon, showing the location of everyone in the area.  “They’re up.  Take it?  Confirm.  They should start moving.  They’ll be here in six, six and a half, seven, and nine minutes.”

“Then wait it out.”

“No,” May said.  “No need.  I have this.  Dress me.”

“Hmm?” Tori asked.

“Like a squire, dressing her knight for battle,” May said.  She bent down to kiss Tori.  “Come on.”

“Dressing her knight to go romance someone else.”

“I’m a romantic, every interaction I have with someone has a flair of romance to it.  You might as well ask water not to make what it touches wet.”

Tori muttered, “This interruption and the way you’re acting is making me dry up faster than the Sahara.”

“Don’t crab at me, baby.  Come.  Help.”

May kissed Tori passionately enough that Tori allowed herself to believe in the feelings behind the act.  Reluctantly, she sat up, swung her legs down by the side of the bed, and picked up the articles of clothing that lay in a heap.

Undergarments, a semi-elastic sleeve of mesh backed by silk that extended from armpit to the bottom of the hips, then the long-sleeved top and leggings she had to roll up.  May’s entire body was muscular, lean.

No.  With the costume going on, she was approaching the threshold of becoming March, rather than May.

With this stupid vendetta-slash-obsession, she was well past that threshold.  This was when she ceased being Tori’s May and became Foil’s March.

She was bitter, but she tried not to let it show.  When March was going to battle, the wrong words and sentiments could put the wrong ideas into her head.  There was that slim risk that a moment’s doubt at the wrong time could lead to a critical and terminal error.

Paralyzing.

But she’d known what she was getting into with May.  She’d been forewarned and reminded time and time again.  It was stupid to have any illusions.

With leggings and long sleeved top on, it could have been a rather plain skintight costume.  The pants and jacket were next.

March, probably conscious of time, picked up her own belt.

Mask.  Hat.  March took the hat before it was placed on her head, performed a motion where it flipped in the air, and settled onto her head.  Her hair was messy, and she had morning breath -more than morning breath-, but there was only so much time, and March was mindful of time.

Tori threw on a bathrobe so she would be covered, if not necessarily decent.  On a level, being indecent felt like it was important, as if she could remind Foil of where things stood.  She put on her coat but left the front undone, and stepped into her boots, following a few paces behind March, who exited.  She reached out to tow the door to her hand instead of letting it close.

March spun on her heel, shooting her a wink, using her rapier to blow a kiss.

“No,” Tori said, impulsive, hating herself for saying it.  “Take this seriously.”

“I take nothing seriously.”

“Not even me?” Tori asked.

“That’s different.”

“Then prove it,” Tori said, still hating herself.  “You say she doesn’t matter?”

“Not in the short term.  But a lot of things that don’t matter are still worth messing with.”

“Prove it,” Tori said.  “Kill her.”

“But-”

“Or I’m walking away.”

“That’s silly.”

Tori remained silent.

“We’ll get to see how Ixnay’s doing,” March said.  she flourished her blade.  “Alright.”

Tori watched as March ventured down the street.  The dog ran out from a nearby alleyway, stopping in the middle of the road.  Foil followed it.  As rumpled as March was, her hair in some disarray, Foil was crisp, hair straight.  She didn’t look like someone who had been up all night.

No, not until she moved.  Tori saw and delighted in the faintest sway, as the girl turned and dismissed the hound, bidding it to step to one side.

March had slept like a baby until the early dawn hours, and they’d languished in bed.  As messy as she was, she was sharp mentally.

“You found me,” March said.

“There were sightings.  The hound got me the rest of the way.”

“Perfect,” March said.

Foil drew her weapon.

March was the first to move.  A dash forward, weapon thrusting.  Foil’s weapon shimmered before it met March’s.  A small, localized explosion marked the conflict between the two powers, each nullifying the other.

There was no attack, defense, pause here.  March maintained the attack, one parry becoming a thrust in the next instant, every step of her foot an attempt to slip past Foil’s guard.  She leaned back as the blade passed within a half-inch of her throat.

“Close,” March said.  “Closer than I in-”

Foil stabbed, and March was forced to stop talking while she dodged the onslaught that followed.  She found an opportunity to take two quick steps back, then returned.  Instead of an attack that was parried or avoided, it was attack met by attack.  Two rapiers, and for what looked like five consecutive thrusts, the tip of each rapier met the tip of the other.

Foil threw nails, augmented with her power, and March avoided them.  March struck at the ground, sending power-infused dirt in Foil’s direction, and it detonated in the air.  Foil turned away from it.

“One of my arms is pretty torn up.  I’m doing pretty well considering-”

“Stop talking,” Foil barked the words.  “I don’t want to hear your voice.”

March laughed.

“Don’t fucking laugh!”

Foil advanced, harder this time.  March spun with every step, each spin seeing the blade catch at the ground as it passed her left or right and met Foil’s blade every time she faced Foil.  Once, it seemed, while her back was to the woman.  Foil sidestepped the dirt that exploded with scintillating colors, pressing the attack.

Tori’s hand moved.  If she tugged Foil…

Foil threw more nails.  March struck three of them out of the air.  The fourth found its way to Tori’s middle finger, embedding it to the doorframe.  Her knees buckled with the pain.

“Poor form!” March said, jovial.

She didn’t care.

Then Tori didn’t either.  She used her power.  A tug, to pull Foil off balance.

March’s swing was already underway.  Foil hastily parried it, then fell, because she was off balance.

March hung back, waiting for Foil to get back to her feet.  She glanced back at Tori, head tilted.

“I’m not going to end it there, but I am going to allow it.  It’s fair play.  You involve her, she involves you.  Speaking of…” March said.  Her sword flicked to one side.

Wind stirred a bit of snow around them.

Foil glowered, hand gripping her weapon’s handle.

“You did something clever.  Did you assassinate my Megacluster?” March asked, voice light.  She laughed.  “No.  I don’t think you could have.  But you have a friend.”

“I hate that laugh.”

“You’re going to hear it again, you know.  I adore this.  This is what it’s all about, my dear.  We lead lives that are nasty in the best way, brutish in the bloodiest way, and short in my case, because I’m just a little bit vertically challenged.  Then we’re together forever.”

“You’ve said something like that before.”

“You know this, Foil,” March said.  “Deep down inside.  You feel hate because it’s a close emotion to love.  But we are connected.  We’re inexorably intertwined, in power, in mind, and maybe, hopefully, in body.  You know that we’re going to end up together in the same way that you know how to put power into that metal rapier of yours, or you know how to move to utilize your enhanced accuracy.”

“Delusion,” Foil said.

“Reality!  More real than any of this! I’ve seen it, how do you think I know cluster triggers as well as I do?  I’ve seen the network, the landscape, and how it all fits together.  I’ve seen the spots that are reserved for us.  Homer’s already there.  When all’s said and done, that’s where we go.  To spend a few aeons talking and intertwining until we dissolve into a greater consciousness.”

Foil stopped, her rapier dropping a fraction.

Tori sank lower, head down.  Her heart plummeted.

“It’s glorious.”

“That sounds like a nightmare.”

“You’ll see,” March said.  “There’s nothing you can do to change it.  It’s inevitable.  You, me, Homer, together for a long enough time it might as well be forever.”

More snow blew.  Foil threw a nail.  March deflected it.

“Come on, don’t be childish,” March chided.

“If that’s true, then I can’t kill you,” Foil said.  “I’ll have to trap you somewhere else, in another state.”

“Even Gray Boy’s famous bubbles will only last ten thousand years or so,” March said.  “I asked when we were working on the ways to break the time effects.  That’s like delaying  an eighty year marriage by two days.”

Foil’s neck was rigid, hand clenching her weapon.

“Then…” Foil said, and she was clearly floundering.  “Then I have to destroy you.”

“That-”

“You, March.  Your identity, every inch of you that wants to talk, your personality, your understanding of english, every other language you could speak.  You.”

March swished her sword a few times.

Foil’s head shook with the intensity of what she was saying and feeling.    There was no swish to her sword.

“I’d rather become the kind of monster who can do that or who can hire people who do that than I’d go to this hell you describe.”

March looked over her shoulder at Tori.

“Guess you get what you wanted, Tor’.”

Foil lunged.  Before Tori could do anything, the pair were out of sight.

Tori focused on her hand.  She tried to drag her finger along the nail to the end, but the spike threaded through the bone.  The bone reached the flared head of the nail, and it stopped.

She pulled, one half of her hand at the tip of the finger, the other half on the other end of the finger, split between the two sides of the nail.  She hauled, screaming.  Wood creaked but didn’t release the nail, and her flesh squeezed between the head of the nail and the bone until it separated out in every direction.  The bone threatened to break, by the sheer pain of it.

“Whoops.”

Tori felt the pain at her throat, then the flood of blood washing down her front and onto her lap.  Her one hand wasn’t enough to staunch the entire flow, and immediately, her thoughts began to go dark and fuzzy, like all of the buoyancy and light had just dropped out of her brain, leaving it dark and heavy.

She’d experienced this before, with the cluster.  Bianca had done it to her.  So had their ‘red priest’.  It didn’t surprise her in the least that this was how she met her end.  She almost, not quite, but almost found her peace with the realization.

She saw a glimpse of an arm.

“Marrrrr-” was her gurgling scream.

“Tori!” was the response.  “Dang it!”

Tori saw the arm in shadows.  Her second thoughts and resentments fell away like the blood from her slit throat.  She did love May.  She would-

She reached out, and she used her power.  Only a pulse, whatever her power drew on physiologically, it needed oxygen and blood supply in the brain and she didn’t have enough.

But it caused a delay.  The figure had just revealed herself, holding a bloody knife, a girl in a gray demon mask.  Imp.

March stuck her rapier through Imp’s ribcage.  Heart-on.

Foil’s headlong rush tried to capitalize on the distraction.  Without turning around, March stuck the now-gleaming rapier beneath her armpit and backward.  The explosion marked the conflict of the powers, and helped to push Foil’s rapier far enough away that she could put the weapon through Foil’s chest as well.

“Come on, Tori.  Let’s get you looked after,” March said, as the pair fell to the ground behind her.  “I suppose I’m going to have to kill their friends, because they’ll be out for revenge.”

Previous Chapter                                                                                       Next Chapter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tori’s fuzzed senses heard March’s voice.  “That’s not supposed to… be there.”

She forced herself to focus.

March, backing up.  Two figures advancing.  March tripped.

“It’s not the timing of my reinforcements that you fudged,” March said, as she rose to her feet.  She stumbled a little on the retreat.  “It’s the-”

Foil stabbed.  March deflected.  There was another thrust, and March met this one with a riposte.  Her thrust extended toward Foil’s chest, and Foil met the tip with her hand.

From Tori’s side-on perspective, she could see how it worked.  Harder to see head-on or from the wielder’s perspective.  The blade grew shorter as it traveled.  There was resistance as it met flesh, but the wound was relatively shallow.  The blade didn’t extend out the back of the hand as Foil closed her hand around the guard.

Just as it hadn’t extended through the backs -or hearts- of the pair March had just stabbed.

“It’s the space,” March said.

There was no dodging or pulling away.  She pushed power into the tip.  Setting the timer.

The wound at the center of Foil’s left hand detonated, but the weapon had been compressed, the explosion was smaller, localized.  Chunks of meat went flying, but Foil seemed to consider it worth the price.  She returned the favor by stabbing March.

Tori let her head hang.

Foil spat.

“Spitting on her.  Wowwww.”

“Deserves it.”

“Sure, not going to say no.  But woww.  Can we go get me my arm back?”

“Yeah.  Let’s.  And let’s get me a new left hand while we’re at it.”

Tori looked up, and saw the two walking away.  The girl in the demon mask had her arm raised, waving off to someone distant.  They whistled for the dog, and it padded by.

Tori thought of what May had said, about what awaited her, and allowed herself to recognize that Bianca would be there.  As would the others.

The thought gripped her as the darkness carried her away.   The warped length of a dropped rapier and the distortion of the ground around her reverted to normal, leaving only snow and blood to alter the ground.

333 thoughts on “Heavens – 12.x”

  1. The previous / next chapter is a little bugged, it’s before the last paragraph which may have been intentional or it’s accidentally extremely confusing.

      1. I usually enjoy your meta tricks, but I don’t know how well this one landed. There’s going to be plenty of people that don’t bother to scroll down to read the comments, after all-it’s really punishing to a solo reading experience.

        1. The end of March on the end of March and the chapter not ending where it usually does as an early April Fool’s joke? I like it.

        2. In this case, I think most people would want to check the comments anyway so I wouldn’t worry about that

        3. I can only imagine that reading the following chapters and finding out that three people who weren’t dead and that March has been disabled will figure out that they missed something.

      2. I figured as much, since that particular placement just about gave me a heart attack.

        Well played, sir. Well played.

      3. Sadistic genius! I was so shocked for a moment. Scrolled down to look at the inevitable storm of rage in the comments and saw… sweet justice.

      4. I was confused at first. (Also, sad…) Then, gradually, I realized everything that was implicated here.

        Beautifully done, Wildbow! 🙂

      5. You magnificent bastard!

        That landed well. I didn’t even think of the warping aspect at first. It was hinted enough that it wasn’t unfair, but not so much that I didn’t have a moment of doubt.

        I am afraid it will overshadow some of the other excellent aspects of this chapter. Particularly Swansong and Damsel talking about Boston, which I loved and still want more of. How the clones see the aspects of their shared past is difficult but potentially very fruitful ground.

        I also liked the characterization for Tori and May. March was in a weird spot for a villain, which is both good and bad.

        That was a chapter that contained a lot. It was a rollercoaster that I will probably need to re-read to get more of, but the first read-through was one heck of a ride and more than I expected.

  2. WHAT? WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT? I was so tricked by the first end of this chapter. I was under the impression that bitch March killed Imp and Foil but instead it was just a “fake death” prank pulled by Foil and Imp so they’ll get the upper hand over March and kill her and Tori.
    Really nice trolling for early April Fools’ Day, Wildbow.
    MARCH IS FINALLY DEAD. THIS IS THE BEST CHAPTER, BETTER THAN CRADLE’S DEFEAT.
    Foil and Imp are the best girls and Space always > time. Take that, March.
    Why they said that only Tempera died? Vista isn’t dead? My baby Vista isn’t dead? My birthday just came too early.

    1. I wouldn’t count on Vista. They only listed people immediately relevant to Breakthrough: basically, people they’d directly worked with. I also wouldn’t count on March being dead.

      1. Then who shortened March’s blade in order for Foil and Imp to fake their death? Neither Foil nor Imp have this power. Vista is ALIVE, she faked her death by shortening March’s sword so it only penetrated her armor but not her chest then she helped Foil and Imp to defeat (HOPEFULLY kill) March and obviously kill Tori.
        Vista must be the one behind the warped space, I can’t find other explanation.
        Or maybe Titan Dauntless seeing the fight and deciding to help his fellow ex-hero Foil but I doubt he can warp space.

      2. > They only listed people immediately relevant to Breakthrough

        I don’t know… With Breakthrough being the hub of the hero network shouldn’t pretty much all heroes involved be considered relevant enough to Breakthrough to be mentioned? Would Antares even make the distinction when talking to Swansong? I think she would at least mention that there were more losses than the people she called by names.

        And even if we assume Vista survived using her own power, then shouldn’t the list of hero casualties be longer? Remember how that fight with all of those unnamed capes in 12.z looked like…

        1. Unless Vista has become so powerful that she could do the rapier-shrinking trick anywhere on the battlefield without being present, and with all attacks of March’s group? If this is the case, then I think it may be time to adjust Vista’s power rating way up.

          1. Heh. Remember in 12.z when March was talking about how powerful Vista could be if she grew up? Upon finishing 12.x, I distinctly remember thinking “Who’s the adult now, bitch?”

          2. Oh, I had no doubt that March was underestimating Vista, and that Vista would survive, but there is a difference between surviving and controlling the battlefield to the point where she probably saved many of the heroes who fought against March and her group.

            Guess I underestimated Vista too, just not as much as March did. I even thought that Vista herself would survive not thanks to her power, but thanks to a power and/or tinker device of some “healer” cape.

      3. And Vista was a Brockton Bay Ward. So was Antares, briefly. Tempura and Antares fought alongside each other once, and they weren’t officially on the same team at the time. Vista’s at least as relevant to Antares at Tempura, if not more so.

        Besides, waving at ‘someone distant’? Who can warp space on a scale limited only by the number of people nearby? That’s Vista.

        1. “It’s not the timing of my reinforcements that you fudged,” March said

          “It’s the space,” March said

          Who has space warping powers, again?

    2. Not only Vista is not dead but I believe that she was the one who helped Foil and Imp to kill March by shortening March’s rapier and letting her believe that she killed them, just like she did when she faked her own death. Look, Vista is here: “The girl in the demon mask had her arm raised, waving off to someone distant. ”
      Vista is another best girl.

    3. Ah yes, the Foil Fakeout. Notable previous examples include faking being caught in a Grey Boy loop, and being team rocketed by Scion. Lulling us into a false sense of security, Wildbow is.

      Though we’ve got new problems on the horizon, and cracks are showing. And some definite shifting in team lineups.

    4. As nice (and expected in my case) is to see that Vista is most likely alive, it is a real shame about Tempera. And what if she is not and it is only Dauntless or Valkyrie using her power thanks to their links to shards?

  3. O.O
    Of all the things to see, some version of Coil’s powers was not one of them. (Not that there’s any chance he’s actually alive.)
    This is gonna make future chapters pretty weird.

    1. My working theory is that Imp’s new arm was grown from Coil’s genetic material. It would also explain why Imp could afford to do something as reckless as soaking Victoria’s archives in gasoline.

        1. Do we? I must have missed that it was revealed at some point. Either way I still suspect that this arm could be somehow connected to the Coil-like effect that happened at the end of the chapter. Either that, or someone like Dauntless has been doing some high-power time shenanigans. Or maybe Perdition is back and Tattletale for some reason decided to work with him?

          1. It wasn’t a Coil-like effect. March tried to stab Imp and Foil, but Vista’s compression trick left them mostly unharmed. They fell down anyway to fake her out. Since March is kind of an arrogant ditz, she just assumed they were instantly dead instead of considering the possibility of shenanigans and making sure. Then Tori passed out. While Tori was unconscious, Imp and Foil resumed fighting. Then Vista started fucking with the terrain just as Tori regained consciousness, prompting March’s comment about “That’s not supposed to… be there,” as well as all the stumbling March was doing, and that’s what clued her in that they were messing with space.

          2. Considering that both Foil and Imp were down and March began to help Tori before the “warping”, I think that the “That’s not supposed to… be there” comment was March’s power told her that the time was either reverted, or the timeline has changed somehow.

          3. It looked like it after the long break in the text, but the break itself seemed to me not like an indication of Tori blacking out as most people seem to suspect, but like an effect of some time shenanigans, which would mean that Vista’s power had nothing to do with surviving the stabs that happened before the break.

            Though I may be overthinking it. Why look for another power if two more uses of Vista’s power coupled with a simple blackout of a badly wounded person could explain everything?

          4. I probably thought about Coil as an explanation, because even back in the comments section of interlude 12.all I called my reasoning behind Vista’s survival and March’s eventual defeat “Operation Coil’s downfall 2.0” or something along those lines.

          5. By the way, if everything happened like you described, then it means that the shards are not as all-knowing about what’s going around their hosts as I thought them to be. After all March’s shard seemed convinced that March’s blade did reach Vista’s heart.

          6. Interesting. I’ve checked 12.all again and now I can’t see anything about March’s blade reaching Vista’s heart. Either I misremembered, or this bit has been edited.

    2. It was Imp using her memory alteration I think to mess with Tori. The real question is who or what was warping space.

      1. The only question I think is when Vista got a power upgrade that let her do it so close to people. Maybe it had something to do with those voices she was hearing for months? Enough trauma for a shift in power limits, possibly even a second trigger?

        As for Tori, I don’t think it was Imp’s power messing with her memories, unless she also had a second trigger or something. If memory manipulation happened (and I don’t think it has), then I think another cape’s involvement is more likely – for example some powered Heartboken we don’t know about yet. Or maybe Dinah has gone through a second trigger, and gained a Coil-like ability to change which timeline is real (and wouldn’t it be a really scary power with her ability to see all timelines?

        1. Just practice, probably. She mentions that she’s been working on small-scale stuff at the end of Worm, and if the space is small enough not to contain people she’s not going to have to worry about the Manton Effect.

          1. You know what? I think there was a clue not that long ago about the fact that Vista can overcome that particular aspect of Manton effect – her scarf she has adjusted in chapter 10.10. Now I feel like a fool because I missed the significance of that.

          2. In other words – I managed to figure out that Vista would probably survive, but I didn’t figure out how exactly.

    3. That wasn’t Coil’s power- Vista is alive and shortened March’s rapier so Foil and Imp could fake their deaths. Once March’s guard was down they attacked again and Foil was able to kill her with Vista’s help.

  4. Holy fucking shit. Holy Fucking shit.

    I can’t believe it!

    Victoria compromised on her fashion critique on Etna! Man! I never thought I’d see the day! Holy fuck balls!

    Oh, and I guess Lookout is forming a team with Heartbroken, Weld and Sveta are probably on the brink of a break-up, March is dead, Dinah and Contessa get a mention and Damsel is going pure fucking evil now. So, there’s that.

    BUT NONE OF THAT COMPARES TO VICTORIA COMPROMISING ON FASHION! SWANSONG MUST HAVE SOME ABSOLUTE BULLSHITTERY POWER ON PERSUASION!

      1. Well, her entire front plate exploded right in her face, so it’s not like she came out of the fight intact – just enough to cook up some sweet comeuppance after a few hours.

  5. Did Dauntless somehow warp reality so Imp and Foil, two of the Brockton Bay capes he observed and likely got attached to, would survive?

    1. Vista pulled the same trick on March, so instead of being killed, she was only knocked unconscious by the much smaller explosion, then she recovers and helps Foil and Imp kill March and Tori. Reread 12.all and you’ll see that March runs off before the explosion, not seeing what happens, with Wildbow even commenting on the 12.x reddit post that March is the kind of person who will walk off while something explodes behind her.

  6. Wildbow, you are seriously the most brilliant author I’ve ever encountered. I’ve never seen a display as clever as the “warped” ending. Thank you so much for this story, and I hope you didn’t get too bogged down by the criticism that met 12.all.

    1. the criticism on 12.all was just unfair. entirely unwarranted given that the arc was yet to be done.
      plus it was as brilliantly written a cape fight as any in the genre.

      1. I stand by everything I said in 12.all. It was a hot mess even in the context of the whole arc, and also makes this victory less satisfying since March’s previously godlike ability to make everyone else around her stupid is miraculously no longer present. Having everyone drop the Idiot Ball and removing March’s triple thick plot armor doesn’t excuse them grabbing the former and her having the latter in the first place.

        1. March was with a team she’d formed, trained and timed, with a timing power. She was attacking a cluster of heroes that didn’t have that level of cohesion because there were too many of them from too many teams, and they were attacking. Attack is always easier than defence, because the attacker just has to find a way around an obstacle, whilst defence is the obstacle and need to counter whatever they think was happening there.

          This time, March was on the defensive, against three capes with only one immediate ally. Her attackers had a cape who messed with space, to counteract her timing advantages and dispose of the reinforcements, and a cape who messes with memory, which is also hard to counter and would potentially allow a getaway. March, moreover, was arrogant from her prior success and underestimated her foes- which included a cape that she thought was dead.

          1. I tend to agree with Rynjin in this. March was an average cape. Okay she had her power augmented by Goddesses power battery. But that cant result in her wiping the floor with all the A Listers there. Dragon, Defiant, Narwhal, Tekton, Golem, Vista. Those fought and killed Scion.
            So if the Shards are cheating it might work that way. But then: why could Vista, Imp and Foil alone Off her now?

            If Foil pulled it off by a hairs breath, severely wounded, half her team dead.. okay. Maybe.

            And on top of it all: The defense hinges on Vista and her power. So it makes perfectly sense for her to stand on a roof guarded only by one cape who isnt much of a guard, right?

            Dont get me wrong, the complete arc is working and the resolution made sense. Vistas death was a nice trick in the style of the best illusionists. But 12.all itself just doesnt work for me on a relative power level.

          2. Maybe non-cluster capes lost more of their abilities compared to cluster capes after Gold Morning? Remember that from what Victoria’s shard thought in 12.all some of shards ability to adapt their powers to their hosts’ needs, keep particularly good capes alive etc. came from their links to other shards. Shards belonging to clusters (like March’s group had) were at least able to communicate and share resources with other shards within the cluster. Shards which didn’t belong to clusters (like those of most if not all of the heroes opposing March in Brockton Bay) were on their own.

            Of course now, with Dauntless possibly becoming the new hub, the balance of power between cluster shards and non-cluster shards could have shifted again.

          3. I’m still not sure the reveals here about March’s weaknesses (her power makes assumptions, new factors throw her off, she struggles accounting for powers) justify her loss here. It still seems odd that she had these issues, but was still so able to get everything she wanted earlier, against far more people and therefore more unknown factors.

            I’m also seconding being unsatisfied with Vista’s sudden reappearance. Why fake your death in a fight if not to intervene before it’s over? If she was injured, make her injured. WB trades a lot on hints but when they’re as subtle as they were, and as crucial to a chapter as this, it feels half-hearted to say all two of the clues were there.

          4. Aggie, these are specifically stated to be primary tinker weaknesses.

            We can look at the points of failure, and without going to later chapters.

            March stabbed vista, vista exploded, March is the type who walks away from explosions, March is 100% confident Vista is dead and her power no longer accounts for her.

            Thus, as soon as Vista starts using her power without it being accounted for, all of March’s timing is now off. Her reinforcements are moving to her at x amount of time, but since they are covering Y ground instead, they no longer reach her when they are supposed to. The more changes stack before she realizes it, the worse things are going to get. She’s planning to be positioned in a certain spot at a certain moment to best take advantage of everything going on, before, during and after this fight. And all of it is being skewed, the biggest one of course that people will be dead when they aren’t dead yet. These errors compiled until at the critical moment she was vulnerable, no longer able to predict what was happening while things kept happening fast, and it literally tripped her up, at which point her number of options plummeted: A person on the ground cannot dodge as well as a person on their feet, and so her primary defense method of not being where she can be hit is gone, and in a fight to the death, that kills you.

        2. This arc was a hot mess from start to finish.

          Actually, scratch that, it did finish strong, but the problem was that it was written backwards.

          It felt like Wildbow knew it would end with March successfully popping the bubble and making the dauntless titan.

          The problem is that, because of this end goal, our heroes were comically inept while March suddenly got to be the second coming of Jack Slash.

          The fact that Victoria and Co. held to Cops and Robbers for way too long was a function of March needing to make it to the end alive. This also applies to the first Vista fight where A list heroes are beaten like Worf in an early TNG episode.

          In this chapter, we are reminded that Parian’s parents were mutilated and have to undergo massive amounts of surgery. We are reminded that Nursery did her “Let’s use my forceful impregnation (AKA rape) powers on Parian.” We are reminded that Cradle dismembered the Navigators and others alive.

          These are things that get you kill orders… but Victoria and Co. used Cops and Robbers until the very last fight…. Because March needed to live! Victoria and 300 years of combined cape experience is nothing compared to March’s plot armor.

          1. March’s success in that battle wasn’t due to the Wardens being reluctant to kill. It was due to a bad strategy, perhaps the result of poor intel. They didn’t account for how Megan was able to boost March to nearly Contessa levels of bullshit. They assumed that simply showing up in force would allow them to overwhelm her and her team, when in fact what they needed to do was set up a decoy, stay back, wait for her to get into position, and then carpet bomb the whole place. By engaging in a fight (even with lethal force — see Defiant shooting at her), they enabled Team March to simply dodge most attacks while staying too close to allow the Wardens to use anything too-big-to-dodge without hitting their own teammates. March’s main strength is the ability to control a chaotic battle through the awareness her timing provides; the Wardens needed to deny her the ability to leverage that, but they failed to do so and lost the fight. An increased willingness to kill would not have changed this. An increased willingness to overkill, perhaps, as that would have compensated for their underestimation.

            And of course, none of this has anything to do with Victoria, who could do with a bit less ruth at times. Even if the Breaksiders had gone full Punisher after encountering Nursery at LL’s hideout and slaughtered their way through the rest of Arc 11 and all of Arc 12, I doubt it would have changed anything in Brockton Bay.

    2. This will be hell to display properly when it’s finally in book form. It will demand careful placement for maximum effect, and nothing short of that is acceptable. Wigbeard’s editor(s) will know pain.

      It’s not the same kind of punch as 27b, but it’s awesome in its own right. The pause, the realisation, but this time we got ‘jubilation’ instead of ‘despair’.

      1. Empty end of page and next page starts with “That’s not supposed to… be there” instead of new chapter title.
        But for e-book without page breaks between chapters… only 20+ empty lines, I suppose.

        1. E-books can have breaks before chapters, if the author wants them to. Most of the e-books I’ve read did. The ones that didn’t were by amateur authors, who I assume just weren’t willing to spend the time to figure out how.

  7. Wildbowwwwww!!!

    Thank you for giving us, like, the best April Fools’ ever (if a little early) — it’s so magnificently trollsome and simultaneously such a perfect fit in the story, and it heralds the return of little V while keeping her offscreen! She just basically out-Imped Imp in more ways than one, and I love it!

    Wonderful!

  8. You know Wildbow, that was diabolical. I see at least one person stopped reading, and was rather… Upset. Indeed it’s a good thing I was forewarned, or I probably wouldn’t have slept tonight.

    Bravo. Bravo you magnificent bastard.

      1. Me too… for a oment there, I thought we’d lsot Imp Vista and foil so far and that this story would show the demise of tattletale too.

        On the subject of the defedners and why March could beat them, well, the defenders have all tried to reconciel adn overcome their subconsicous desire for conflict. Tattletale elsewhere si trying to do similar, and it is costing her dearly. So she is moving smoothly and attacking full on whilst they are trying not to. Vista survives.. umm, because shes form Brockton bay and expects wards and former Wards to have their asses kicked by villains… I mean knwos that contingency palsn a re a very good idea.

        Now look at capes in tune with theri shards and going for conflcit. Lung, Skitter, Jack Slash and in this story, March. when she is finally beaten, it is by three capes (Two from Brockton bay, on adopted by the others as a Brocktonite) who just want March Dead, one of whom is a power match.

        Now, why in the name of fuckity did I ever doubt WyldBough’s abilty to make a plot point pay off? Sorry for the doubt.

        Finally, I find myself amazed at the boss’s mental resilience, considering how he must have felt about the incoming flak from readers who should have known better. I don’t know how palnned the fake out ending was originally but I bet Wb is feeling like blowing a freidnly forgiving but still very self satisfied raspberry at all us doubters

  9. Wow, Presley of all people got an interlude before Swansong.
    *reads on*

    Oh, Swansong got part of the same one, lol.

    Okay you had me going for a moment with the ending but I thought, “Even Wildbow wouldn’t go so far as kill Foil and Imp just like that,” and… well yeah.

    #VistaLives

      1. Ok, you have a point. But by that logic, Swansong still didn’t have an interlude, because the scene in this chapter was from Slashley’s point of view.

        1. Ethical was replying to Hotdog Vendor’s comment, not yours. This interlude’s Ashley POV was from Damsel, but you are correct that the Eclipse arc was from Swansong.

  10. Typo thread:

    > Narwhal watched as Undersider and Breakthrough climbed out of their vehicles.

    ‘Undersiders’ instead of ‘Undersider’?

    > We made a impact.

    Change ‘a’ to ‘an’

    > if it wasn’t for the fact that the face she saw was standing alone, she could have thought she were looking through at her wretched sister.

    > she flourished her blade.

    Capital letters at the starts of the sentences.

    > Your identity, every inch of you that wants to talk, your personality, your understanding of english, every other language you could speak.

    Capital ‘E’ in ‘English’.

    > There was no swish to her sword.

    There are four spaces before this sentence.

    1. “Our fault. Not counting me?”

      I’m unclear to me on who this bit of interlude is centered about. Either Damsel, or someone’s (Antares’s?) shard. If it’s Damsel, it breaks the rule of interludes being in third person. If it’s a shard, I’m not sure where the idea that it isn’t being counted came from. Maybe it thinks it’s people Vicky killed with the gun rather than the Wretch?

    2. sliding chair > sliding her chair
      school has > school who has
      kill, a (maybe a dash?)
      put it to word before (maybe ‘words’ so the repetition is exact)
      Undersider > the Undersiders
      material like > material was like
      distorted. if > distorted. If (also this sentence is from damsel’s pov instead of swansong’s. I assume it’s intentional, but noting it just in case)
      said. she > said. She
      delaying an > delaying an (extra space)
      than I’d go > than go

    3. Not exactly a typo, but I just noticed that the ’12.all’ link in the table of contents leads to 12.5 instead.

  11. A few quick thoughts:

    1. I know it is a ridiculously small sample, but has trackball won as the default way of controlling a cursor over mouse and touchpad on Bet? Does anyone remember any more trackballs being used in Ward or Worm?

    2. As disturbing as Damsel’s revelations about Swansong are, I like how Swansong knew how to distract Victoria from her dark thoughts about becoming a killer. And don’t both Ashleys know how that feels…

    3. Apparently Vista survived like I predicted back in interlude 12.all. Like I said then it was “Operation Coil’s downfall 2.0” – if you want to defeat a powerful thinker, make him think he has already won. I must say I was surprised to see what looks like Coil’s power involved though, and as I explained above, I think Imp has managed to get a limited access to his power by having a hand made of his genetic material attached to her body.

    4. Is it only me, or can what Foils has told she needs to do to March be accomplished by giving March a big dose of Teacher’s power? That would be an accomplishment, considering Teacher – Undersiders relations…

    5. Glad to see that aside from situation with Dauntless we have more problems to worry about – Victoria’s parents trip to Shin, Victoria’s guilt over killing people, problems with keeping Kenzie in Breakthrough (and if Citrine has refused to give Prancer and Bluestocking what Victoria had promised them – even more Breakthrough members having to leave the team, if only temporarily. Could it mean that Breakthrough will fall apart?), Kenzie’s idea of starting her own team with the other kids, how Foil will “destroy” March’s personality now that March was defeated (and possibly dead), how Tori will seek her revenge on Foil, will Swansong break down as Damsel predicted, how people like Addison and Presley will fit into the story from this point on (Ward needs a bit more focus on non-powered people if you ask me) what is going on with Dinah and Contessa and so on…

    So many things to look forward to. I can’t wait to see which of these threads will be the next focus of the story…

    1. “Tori will seek her revenge on Foil, ”
      Considering she was left pinned to a wall with her throat slashed, and thinking about how she was going to be in a room with Bianca and the others… No I don’t think Tori is going to be seeking revenge.

    2. A few quick replies:

      1. I’m pretty sure I remember Vicky using a trackball at some point, but don’t ask me when that was.

      2. Did she say anything worse than “Swansong feels more strongly about killing BoB than she does about most other things”? I don’t think that’s so horrible, and I think she genuinely cares about being someone worthy of being Kenzie’s/Vicky’s friend. I think Damsel’s speech is at least in part projection and self protection – putting Swansong down to raise herself up. If she admitted that having friends mattered to her, she’d have to admit that she needs to change, and at this point Damsel’s too proud to do that.
      I’m looking forward to seeing how Vicky deals with the entire mess (and the results of her own actions) when we get to read from her perspective again.

      3. Imp’s dude-hand belongs to Ixnay, where did you get the idea that it has anything to do with coil? I think you misread the ‘last chapter/next chapter’ scene (as did I at first), I think it’s just Tori blacking out for a short moment, and Vista using her power (as WildBow himself said about those links: “It’s almost as if it’s placement was… warped.”). It looks like Vista survived by using the same trick she used here – warping March’s rapier so it becomes shorter and shorter and only causes surface level damage.

      4. Maybe? Not sure if this would be a long-term solution. If I remember correctly, Teacher’s subjects return to normal after he stops using his power on them, which would imply that their original personality is still being stored.

      5. I don’t think you’ll have to worry about Tori, given that she just bled out after having her throat slit. I do agree with everything else though. I hope we get a Kenzie/Tattletale team-up, I think those two together have the best chance at figuring out what’s going on with Dinah and Contessa (is this the first time she’s mentioned by name in Ward?). It’s too bad that those names probably don’t mean anything to Kenzie, but she stored the footage so she’ll hopefully talk to someone about them. I’m really curious who she was watching that mentioned those names.

      1. 3. Yes, Ethical has reminded me about Imp’s hand coming from Ixnay too, which begs the question – what Ixnay’s power is exactly and what sort of power shenanigans could happen with his hand that Imp decided to get it?

        4. I’m not so sure that it is temporary. If it was, would Teacher need Scapegoat to remove the unwanted side effects of his power?

        1. I believe it was stated in March’s interlude that Ixnay’s powers served to make him less noticeable by way or some camouflaging mechanism. That, and some ability related to freezing things or ice.

        2. Teacher’s thralls don’t have their personalities erased, but there’s a relationship where more power results in more loss of autonomy.

          Scapegoat is needed to remove the effects so that Teacher can have thralls with power AND the judgement to apply it.

        3. Imp didnt decide to get it. Their arms were forcibly swapped by members of Marchs group. The Graeae most probably

          1. Ok, that makes me even more suspicious about Imp being so casual about “getting her arm back”, but even her presence in this fight doesn’t fit – shouldn’t she be in no condition to fight so soon after what happened to her when she faced Love Lost’s group?

          2. No. Why? She was knocked out in the fight and then probably severed by Cradle. Since Looksy managed to undo that everybody should be back in action.
            Vista is probably the wounded one since her armor exploded on her. The city certainly didnt unfold for no reason.

          3. Imp lost her arm to an explosive or something in the Ambush at the Truck Stop, when March shot her and kneecapped Tattletale. The arm she’s been using to replace it is masculine, hairy and doesn’t integrate with her power very well. Who she got that arm from, and how she’s using it, is a mystery, I think. The Graea Twins each wore an eyepatch, so I don’t think they can just replace a non-working bodypart with a working replacement, and their presence in the Fallen raid suggest they can use their power on themselves.

          4. @Tarr

            The reason that I said that Imp shouldn’t be able to fight are these fragments from interlude 12.e:

            The gun went off.

            Imp collapsed, off to the side.
            […]
            If Love Lost could have gathered up blood into two hands cupped together, then that was the amount Imp shed to the snowy road with every running footstep.

            Imp was shot by Colt (possibly because she covered the Heartboken kids Colt was trying to shoot with her own body) and badly bleeding. She shouldn’t be able to fight just a few hours later, but be hospitalized for days at least.

            The only explanations of her rapid recovery I can think of is that a total regeneration of bullet wounds (or at least replacement of lost blood) could be an unexpected side effect of Cradle’s tech (quite possible because those disjointed body parts seemed to be slowly but constantly bleeding for some reason for much longer time than they should have blood for) or that Imp was healed by someone parahuman. Maybe by that Bitter Pill’s drug Tattletale used to deal with her leg wounds she suffered at the truck stop?

    3. 1. Only once before in Ward 10.13 “Using the trackball, I navigated to the file. I selected it.”, none in Worm. Mouse control mentioned several times in both.

      1. Ok, thanks. Maybe the trackballs are an import from a different Earth cooperating with Gimel, or someone opened a trackball factory somewhere on Gimel?

  12. Did the Candy segment make anybody else want to punch a nurse?

    Also, I love how Presley is apparently able to just randomly call Breakthrough whenever to check up on them. For all that Victoria gets on her high horse sometimes, she’s also so down to Earth. How many other heroes give their phone numbers to random twelve year olds they met on a train once?

    1. Hey, don’t punch the nurse. She was only trying to do her job, and making sure that hospital patients can sleep at night is a part of it.

      As for Presley I think it is good to see that with her Victoria has actually done what she promised in TV and started to keep less secrets from the unpowered people. Presley may be just one person, but she is a start, and something tells me that Victoria may have similar relations with other unpowered people – like Addison. After all Dauntless made no secret from his son that Pelhams knew his civilian identity, so it would make sense if Addison knew New Wave well by this point. Especially since (as I pointed out below the last chapter) Addison and the New Wave could have bonded over losing family members in the battle against Leviathan.

  13. I’m laughing, omg. What was the thought process here?

    The end of March will take place at the end of March, with a prank, just in time for April fools day????

    This was the the most built up, elaborate prank that has ever been played on me. Fuck, wildbow, I want to angrily shake your hand.

    Was this planned, or did wb just go, “screw it, this will be funny”.

    1. Ok, what about the possibility that the April fools joke is that the last section of this chapter (everything below the second “Previous chapter” link and the “Next chapter” placeholder) will disappear on the second of April?

      1. Don’t be so negative, man. Let us be happy with this ending, please. This is a canon perfect ending and should remain like this. Wildbow will be heartless if he’ll remove the last section, telling us it was just a joke, just plain heartless.
        Besides, March needed to die anyway. There are more troubles on horizon now for our heroes to bother with March anymore.
        I’m surprised you still believe that there were Coil shenanigans when it was clear that Vista survived (the whole warping space and the victory of space over time) and she helped Foil and Imp to defeat March. Come on, its so obvious.

        1. What can I say? I’m just as suspicious and paranoid when I see a really good outcome coming from Wildbow as I was when I saw a really bad one in interlude 12.all (when I was quite possibly the only person active in this comment section who managed to not only convince themselves that Vista didn’t die there, but even posted a long explanation why she had to be alive).

          Maybe Wildbow has managed to fool me too many times with his masterfully prepared plot twists, and I just always suspect that what is really happening in Parahumans is not what seems to be going on?

          1. Before I forget, shouldn’t someone besides Vista be wounded seriously enough to be unable to go after March? The fact that Foil used one of Rachel’s dogs seems to indicate that the entire Foil’s fight against March took place not long after the Undersiders and Breakthrough came to Brockton Bay, and the state Carol and Withdrawal are in seem to indicate that there is no parahuman in the area that can magically put seriously wounded people back in action in no more than a couple of hours.

            More just the section “That’s not supposed to… be there.” may need to be edited on the second of April…

    2. Was the plan for Vista to come back for this from before I had March stab her. There are seeds laid throughout. I thought it happening at the end of March was apropos.

      1. So you are confirming that Vista didn’t die? Does it mean that I get an “Honorary thinker” badge on PHO for figuring out that she is alive back in interlude 12.all next to a “Most annoying forum spammer” one?

        1. Or am I just a fool for believing that Vista is alive and anything below the second “Next chapter” placeholder is canon? After all three people seem a bit much for one Rachel’s dog, and Vista would likely be unable to act so soon after having her chest explode even if she survived it somehow. From what was said it looked like nobody magically healed Withdrawal after all…

          1. After all March’s “That’s not supposed to… be there” could be referring to that section of text.

          2. Vista was only wounded a little, not too much. Not her chest exploded, but her armor covering her chest. She’s less injured than Withdrawal and she could fight very well from distance, without making any effort, only using her power. She survived and killed Shatterbird when she was buried alive, why is so hard to believe that she couldn’t help Foil and Imp while having only a chest minor wound?

          1. You really think my overthinking is as dangerous as some of the most powerful capes out there?

          2. And here I thought that may be moyor less as annoying as Greg Veder, but nowhere near as threatening, and as bad as he was, I wouldn’t put him nowhere near level 12.

          3. I mean he managed to put a master 8, thinker 1 in a really bad situation, but it happened only once and only became a real problem because some Wardens and D&D were in the ara, so I doubt he is higher than level 9. Probably not even quite that high.

          4. Note that I’m only challenging my level, not the OverThinker designation, because I clearly overthink lots of things, even this comment. After all, I wouldn’t be a proper OverThinker if I didn’t at least overthink my overthinking, would I?

          5. “You really think my overthinking is as dangerous as some of the most powerful capes out there?”

            You just spent four posts carefully murdering a throw-away joke… yes. Yes, your Overthinking is clearly at a 12. 😉

            It’s just this side of being an S Class threat to the comments section. This side because clearly you’re not out to destroy them… just commentate them.

  14. Also, Aiden thinks Rain is badass. Thats so adorable, and oddly nice to hear, seeing how much suffering Rain seems to attracts from the universe at large. But hey, at least the worlds most adorable supervillian thinks he’s awesome.

    1. Oh my gosh Wildbow you sneaky sod.

      When you said Vista’s chest exploded, I took it to mean, well, that. What used to be Vista’s chest exploded into a rain of gore. But this can just as easily be taken to mean that an explosion ocurred around the place of Vista’s chest. Or just that March’s shard wasn’t the most reliable narrator, as there were other things to pay attention to.

      Also, does anyone know how Ixnay and Imp swapped arms?

      1. That would be thanks to the Graeae twins. Those were the ones who swapped Rain’s parts during the Fallen Raid to make him immune to Mama Mathers.

      2. Well, as I stated above, it seems that the shards are not all knowing about what’s going on around their hosts as we thought and can be fooled by clever power use. Maybe it is a side effect of shards not being used to be unable to communicate with other shards? Maybe when Scion was alive March’s shard would be able to instantly tell that Vista was using her power to shrink the blade?

        1. On the other hand how did March’s shard get fooled if earlier it managed to guide March so precisely through warped Brockton Bay?

          1. did the shards really navigate or were they very carefully manipulated into a situation? the warping was being done by non euclidean geometry girl after all. maybe the heroes did plan to trap the romantic bunny but did not account for the tremendous synergy within her alliance? hence narwhals comparing them to S9 and Mr Broadcast?

          2. Maybe. The fact that the battle of March and her capes against the heroes in Brockton Bay was so epic, so close to what March would consider a perfect fight, was probably the biggest factor that led me to figure out that Vista survived that fight. In fact I expected every hero fighting in Brockton Bay that day to live (though maybe require some serious healing to be back in action), but I guess no plan is perfect and situations like the one that lead to Tempera’s death just happen sometimes.

      3. “What used to be Vista’s chest exploded into a rain of gore. But this can just as easily be taken to mean that an explosion ocurred around the place of Vista’s chest.”

        And that, kids, is the reason why you ALWAYS look at your explosions, no matter how cool you are. Never assume someone is dead until you have seen the body. In some cases, don’t even assume death until you tore it to pieces and threw every piece into a fire. Your opponent might be still alive.

    2. Hmmm… So, is March dead, as opposed to being in custody? If so, is Foil not going to destroy March? Maybe she doesn’t have it in her to absolutely destroy March before killing her off, but I know I’d be pretty spooked about the possibility of spending an eternity with March.

      1. I’m sure the prospect of eternity with March will haunt Lily, but ultimately, not as much as the possibility of March finding some way to escape and kill Parian if she’d let her live.

    1. Look at the calendar, see when the next chapter is supposed to come out, and tell me if we can trust any WoGs at this point (or anything we read in 12.x for that matter).

      1. April 2nd? So?
        I think the “last chapter/next chapter”-switcheroo is going to be the extent of WB’s April Fools jokes this year. Anything more would just annoy people, I think.

        1. I don’t know… Too many small details in the text don’t seem to fit with what we know. Plus March seems to have broken the fourth wall with her first statement right after the “previous chapter/next chapter” point.

          1. She didn’t break the fourth wall: what she said makes perfect sense in-story as a reference to (as I understand it) the ground-warping tripping her up. Yes it works for us as a reference to the chapter break but that’s only in a meta sense, not a fourth wall-breaking sense — that would require March herself to intend it AS a reference to the chapter break and that’s totally not what she meant at all.

            Also I don’t at all think your theory here at all fits with the kind of author Wildbow is and, whatever you say about him, he is at least consistent to himself.

          2. I guess we’ll see on Tuesday, won’t we? I’ll be fine either way, but for now I’ll say that there are plenty of details in this interlude that I don’t think quite fit, not just that one statement by March.

  15. I think that Vista actually died to March earlier, but there’s someone capable of bringing her back: Valkyrie (ex-Glaistig Ulaine). I don’t think that Vista is here in the flesh, but I remember seeing theories about how Valkyrie and Panacea/Bonesaw can combine to give dead capes a full resurrection. All this points to that we’re heading to Earth Shin next because in addition to Panacea it has the cape who makes soulless bodies. All the better for revives.

  16. Seeing some confusion in the comments, my own experience:

    I thought it was pretty clear that Vista was helping them fight, having survived by the same sword-shortening trick.
    Literally as soon as March said the word “space” I was 100% sure.

    I don’t think the gap was too subtle– I’m familiar enough with the site layout that the lack of footer below the nav links set off instant alarm bells, though I might be more sensitive to that than most. I didn’t make the connection that it was “warped” before seeing the WoG, but that’s sufficient justification for me! I really enjoyed the misdirection, and thought it landed well.

    I had the vague (horrifying) thought that this might be an April Fool’s prank and March had, in fact, killed all three and escaped, but I didn’t catch that April 1st marks the END OF MARCH until I saw the comments, at which point my head promptly exploded.

  17. I’m a bit shocked more people aren’t latching onto the tease/reminder that Dinan and Contessa are both still in play, and we don’t know their agendas.

    I need to reiterate my comments from 12.all: well done, Wildbow. I was wary of how it’d go, but the payoff for the tail of this arc has been great.

  18. Okay. Well, I’m sorry Wildbow, but I thought these last three arcs were a mess. We spend chapter after chapter building up these villains and their wicked deeds, giving them all long interludes, and then magic red light fixes everything and the villains are finished off in one scene each. What was the point of it all, then? Why waste so much time?

    When we started this drama, March was a comic relief character and Cradle and Love Lost were minor villains who enjoyed flaunting their relative claim to a moral high ground. Suddenly they turn into suicidal monsters with armies of loyal followers, they win a bunch of victories, the world seems set to change…but then, oops, nevermind, back to the status quo again. The thing with Dauntless is cool and Carol got hurt, at least, but I can think of many shorter and much more plausible ways for those things to have happened.

    Finally, in this chapter, it becomes clear that there is no event the story recognizes as too serious not to go back on at some later date. It’s going to be hard to believe that anyone is actually dead, after this, or to trust that wounds and setbacks mean anything to our heroes.

    Maybe there’s no point in complaining about how time is spent in a web serial with no set end date. New and better antagonists will arise and more interesting dramas will occur, no doubt. But when most of the story already feels like it’s only existed to create setup, it’s hard not to feel disappointed when entire arcs turn out to be empty farce.

    1. did you somehow miss that we have a possible new Entity due to what went down over last 3 arcs? One that may or may not be a Simurgh programmed Guided Nuke through time?
      Opinions are subjective.
      i feel the last few arcs approach the very pinnacle of all of The Authors work.

      1. No, I didn’t miss it. I just said that we could have easily gotten to that at basically any time, without any of these fake-outs.

        I’m not sure why I should be impressed, either. I don’t believe that anyone important is actually in danger, and I no longer trust the story to stick to its guns even if it pretends that they are. Maybe seven arcs from now Dauntless will kill Fume Hood and almost, almost kill some beloved character like Narwhal before magic light shines and everything is put back the way it was, but I’m not holding my breath for it.

        1. thats just like your opinion man.
          i am sure you think we could have easily gotten to that at basically any time but the thing is we arent critiquing a world you described. that in itself reveals something dont you think?

          given how every work by the author turns out, i would love to have a reality where magic light shines and everything is put back to how it was.

          i for one am enjoying this one because i discovered the author very recently. friest time reading it live. i am loving everything.
          i suppose our mileage varying is a good thing.

    2. Man, you just can’t win. First people are complaining that March is too deadly and should be nerfed, and now there are complaints that she went down too easily.

      1. Only a minority of people complain, usually March’s fans or people who were mad because they’re tricked at first. The vast majority of readers are happy and very happy with this good development of this story. Wildbow did a good and impressive job with his trick of his. From agony to ecstasy in a small portion of warped space.

      2. Actually, you can win very easily. By not building up pointless villains and then killing them off in anticlimactic ways. By having the events in your story mean something and matter.

        Look at the Gleaming arc, which was also a little bit anticlimactic. Goddess has been built up as being very powerful, so her successes come as no surprise. It’s jarring when she’s killed, but it’s not outside the normal boundaries of what powers and abilities have been set up and it’s at the hands of a character who wasn’t previously involved with her. We don’t waste time with a Goddess interlude, or a Monokeros interlude. There’s no fake-out at the last moment. When Goddess is dead, she’s dead. When Chris leaves, he’s gone. The outcome has some weight and sense of progression.

        If Gleaming had been written like Polarize/Blinding/Heavens, Goddess would have vaporized Chris and taken over Earth Gimel in great detail. Everyone would have been shot, but have instantly recovered the same night. Then, all of a sudden, Kenzie would type on a keyboard and Chris would materialize out of the ether and kill Goddess, and all the villains would be teleported back to the prison through some previously-unseen mystical power. Chris and Amy would high-five before returning to doing exactly what they were doing before, but, we would be assured, this would all be a big change and have very serious consequences someday, maybe, in the future.

        Maybe everyone would have loved that. I don’t know. But, just for me, I’m more impressed when the story takes itself seriously and has the things it says have happened, happen.

        1. It took me some time to accept it but the fact is: Ward is a very different type of story from Worm. Its a lot more slice of life.
          The Heroes react and stumble from problem to problem. Some of those are inconsequential later on. I found the Goddess arc somewhat irrelevant.
          But the Vista issue here I cant follow. Nowhere was it stated that she was dead. If you read the parts carefully and mind her powers it was just a bait and switch.

          No red light or divine intervention. Perfectly within the inherent logic of the story.
          And blaming WB for too few dead characters? Do you blame GRR Martin of the same?
          Considering Superhero Fiction is usually predisposed to “undeath” WB keeps his characters way too dead for the genre IMHO.

          1. Please read my comment more carefully. The red light and divine intervention I referred to is everyone being healed after the pointless ‘severing’.

            As for Vista being dead, the story gave every reasonable indication that she was. There was no previously-introduced way for her to have survived being stabbed and blown up. Hence my comparison to the situation with Goddess: it would be like Chris suddenly being able to teleport, or Goddess getting back up after being eviscerated and revealing that, actually, she also had a resurrection power all along. A Deus Ex Machina situation.

            You’re right, it was a bait-and-switch, but I’m not sure why that changes anything. If characters are revived through previously-unknown abilities or powers after the story has given every reasonable indication they are dead, why should we believe anything that happens? Why should we care? It’s a cheap trick that devalues the story and turns it into a guessing-game of the author’s intentions, rather than a logical narrative.

            I’m not sure what George R.R. Martin has to do with it. Are you honestly suggesting that Ward kills off as many characters as ASOIAF? Because I’m pretty sure it hasn’t.

            But since we’re comparing, actually, I thought ASOIAF managed to make the survival or non-survival of its central characters far more believable than Ward. If six chapters after the Red Wedding, Robb and Catelyn Stark had walked back into Winterfell and announced that actually, they were just playing dead and those dumb ‘ol Freys never checked twice, would you have been impressed? Would you think that was good storytelling?

            But generally, Vista’s miraculous survival alone wouldn’t be such a problem if it wasn’t combined with every other cop-out in these last chapters. I’ve already gone over that. Cradle has all these powers and an army! Nope, now he and all his capes are suddenly defeated. Victoria is wounded and exhausted! Doesn’t stop her doing anything. Everyone is cut up? Now they’re not! Dauntless is released! Nevermind, he’s just going to stand there. Brandish is terribly wounded! Actually, she’s going to be fine. March is a huge threat! Nope, now she’s dead. And so on.

            I don’t know or care about other suphero stories, but it was always my impression that resurrection was an established part of their settings. Worm set a different precedent; that’s why I’m here. You’re certainly right that Ward is different than Worm. It’s a shame, though.

          2. > As for Vista being dead, the story gave every reasonable indication that she was.

            No it didn’t. It gave us enough evidence that I gave her better than even odds of being dead, but I certainly was not convinced. We’ve seen people survive all kinds of crazy shit in this setting. We haven’t seen Vista use this exact trick during combat yet, but we already knew that she’s very capable and experienced, and she has shown that she can warp things that are in close proximity to her own body. Then March herself made that big speech about how much more effective Vista could be than what she’d demonstrated. The foreshadowing was there. Hell, RazorSmile even predicted exactly the means Vista used.

          3. Well, honestly I am not really happy with Ward, too. And I voiced that in previous chapters. It is far from the great story Worm provided.
            But what Vista pulled here was by NO MEANS a deus ex machina. It was exactly what her powers COULD allow her to do. We never saw her doing it before. So what, she never got stabbed before.

            If you did not anticipate it, so what? I didnt either. Razorsmile did. And it makes sense.

            I found this to be very well crafted. And the ending was a nice and unique style that might be a bit much but I think it worked well and I liked it. It was fitting. But that of course is utterly subjective.
            The severing itself did not cause wounds so there was no healing necessary after reversing it. So yeah if your suspension of disbelieve can accept the severing itself there is no logic problem there.
            As for villains coming up, being totally overpowered and then just die off in a whimper… yeah not exactly my cup of tea but it can work, too, in a story. Hell even in real life. How many monsters of history came out of nowhere, made a huge impact and then died in some back alley.

        2. @Besagew
          “There was no previously-introduced way for her to have survived being stabbed and blown up”
          Technically correct, but only because she very obviously used her power to stop the rapier from actually stabbing her (you know, the same way she did here for Foil and Imp? By controlling space? The same way her power has always worked?), so she only had to survive her chestplate exploding. A bit rough, but Taylor went through more.

          It’s kind of funny that you’re putting so much time into critiquing this without actually bothering to think for a moment.

          1. Actually, I haven’t put any effort into critiquing it. I’m not the least bit interested in the potential logistical requirements of Vista’s survival, which are wholly unknown to me and which I don’t care a wit about either way. My criticism is of the arrangement and nature of the narrative and of that alone.

            But ‘a trick we hadn’t seen before’? No kidding. I mean, I was under the impression Vista’s power was specifically limited by the presence and proximity of living organisms like, you know, herself or March. That’s what’s been emphasized about her power since we first saw it. She was specifically attacked and disabled from close quarters multiple times in Worm, because that was her obvious weakness. There was never any hint that I saw that this had changed.

            But okay. The foreshadowing is there. I didn’t notice it. Most of the people commenting didn’t seem to have noticed it. March, who is somehow competent enough to assemble an army of multi-triggers and defeat the Wardens in pitched battle didn’t notice it. But doubtless it was there for those truly initiated to see. Heck, I didn’t think Vista’s death would stick myself, though I never imagined the method would be this lame.

            So what does that change, guys? Does it make these arcs any less of an anticlimax? Does it add some new and hitherto unknown meaning to the entire Love-Lost-Cradle-March catastrophe? Does it reassure you that, after all, every power probably has or could have some previously-unseen application, or could benefit from the application of some previously-unseen ally’s power (which every single fight in Ward so far has included the opportunity for), so that really it’s not possible for anyone to totally predict anything or for any apparent event not to be contradicted sooner or later by some currently unknown but doubtlessly foreshadowed trick or ability?

            I mean, as I said, I don’t care either way. What’s apparent to me is that the story spent arcs on end running in circles for no apparent end except to make the fans giggle when it said, ‘just kidding!’ If Vista’s apparent death and survival had happened in other circumstances, I never would have raised an eyebrow. But when the story goes out of its way, over and over again, to invoke consequences and then ignores and revokes them, I lose my faith in foreshadowing of any kind and also my suspension of disbelief.

            If Wildbow can’t bring himself to kill Vista even after dancing around teasing it, why should he kill anyone else? If events appear to lead to something, but actually lead to nothing over and over again, what’s the point of following them closely or caring about them at all? You’re asking me to bend my eye to the microscope over the non-successes of a joke villain, because that would somehow justify them and make them into a good story?

            Logistically, these arcs are full of ludicrous improbabilities. The Wardens and March have a huge battle and two people die. Cradle’s army attacks our heroes from all sides and they get some unimportant scratches. Narratively, every event treated as important turns out not to be. I guess that must count as a worthwhile narrative to you, but to me it’s a joke.

          2. > I mean, I was under the impression Vista’s power was specifically limited by the presence and proximity of living organisms like, you know, herself or March.

            I wrote about it elsewhere, but you probably missed it. There was an indication that Vista has managed to master her power to the point where she can ignore this limitation, at least when working on small scale. It was in chapter 10.10, where Vista quite casually adjusted a scarf that was around her neck with her own power to fit her better.

            Another possible clue was pointed out by Gazeboist, who mentioned that at the end of Worm Vista said that “she’s been working on small-scale stuff at the end of Worm”, though I admit that I don’t remember where she said that exactly, and would be thankful if someone pointed me at the right chapter at least if not the actual quote. Assuming Gazeboist is right, it looks like Vista’s work brought results in that her power is less limited by presence of people when she is affecting relatively small objects or volumes of space.

            So you can’t say there were no clues that she could affect March’s blade the way she did. They were just subtle enough that we missed them.

          3. Looks like I may have found Vista’s statement Gazeboist was taking about. It is something that Vista said to Rachel in Teneral e.4:

            “If you wanted, I could shape them. Been working on the little details. Could do a statue, or letters.”

            I must admit it isn’t obvious from the quote that it meant that Vista managed to get better at dealing with Manton limit of her power, but it does seem to fit what we know now well.

      3. Well if you’re gonna build someone up, you want a satisfying takedown. I’m personally happy with this chapter, but others expected more from March than her being a means to an end (setting up the Dauntless problem). I don’t think it’s hypocritical to think someone is portrayed inconsistently.

      4. No, a lot of people complained that March being so powerful would inherently make her defeat shittier, short of it being a full blown S9 situation, which it clearly isn’t.

    3. You’re overstating the recovery from Cradle’s whip. Putting the Navigators back together does not undo what has been done to them. Look at Victoria herself and how she’s still messed up years after Worm. Grue was also never quite the same after Bonesaw. Trauma is real and lasting, and it’s something the Navigators at minimum will be experiencing. The more recent victims weren’t mangled quite so badly and their experience was more brief (hours rather than days), so they may recover better, but I won’t be surprised if a number of them have lasting issues as well. I mean, just raping somebody can have that affect on somebody, and that’s a much shorter, less painful, and less horrific thing than what was done to Chicken Little.

      In fact, my biggest concern right now is not Dauntless. That shoe’s going to drop, but it’s dropping from very high up, so we’ve got some time before it hits. In the meanwhile, I’m worried about the possibility that we’re on the brink of a Dark Chicken scenario.

      1. I don’t get why everyone is so concerned about Chicken specifically. Yes, what was done to him was horrible, but he was far from being the only one. There are people who have it arguably even worse than him, because they have to be *active* despite having equally grievous injuries, but he’s the one getting the most attention because of it (and not only from Darlene).
        And regarding the recovery…well, it’s actually the most sensible way how it could be done, I think. What could be the alternatives? Searching for Panacea and/or Bonesaw (and then the victims “just” get fixed by a power, like they did now)? Painfully stitching the victims back together, while still not achieving desired results because of powers involved? I think it makes sense as it is.

        1. People worry about Chicken because he has the least experience with horrific situations while simultaneously being the most full of shiny idealism.

          1. Also he’s the heir to the QA shard. If one or two of the heartbroken go on a rampage, maybe hundreds die. Last time the QA cape lost it a god died.

          2. Yes, but he doesn’t have such a strong power to make him dangerous. Compared with March or Goddess, his power sucks, and we know that March and Goddess were defeated despite their almost god like powers. What he can do? Partially control a bunch of birds. Big deal. His power is not even half as strong as Taylor’s was.
            Besides, he have a heart of gold and love his friends too much to ever become evil and hurt them.

          3. Really lulu? You just had to say it?

            I guess Wildbow will just show us now how dangerous a bird power can really be. Remember that the bug power also seemed weak at first (or at least Taylor thought it was weak).

            I just wonder if it just means that Aiden will get his moment of glory in Ward, or will become the main character of a future Parahumans book as I predicted a while ago…

          4. To clarify: I’m less concerned about Chicken turning evil or going berserk, and more concerned for his plain old emotional well-being. The Dark Phoenix reference was mostly a joke.

      2. Uh huh. Just like the trauma from being shot, which didn’t stop Kenzie going back to the front lines…what was it? A week later? A couple of days?

        And, you suppose, the way to emphasize this coming trauma is not even to have the victims of the severing recover their missing parts, as everyone assumed they needed to do, but for the missing pieces to just reappear from nowhere so everyone can immediately celebrate? No, I don’t overstate it. I can hardly think of a more transparent cop-out. Maybe if time rewound and it never happened? If Victoria woke up and it was all just a dream?

        I find this idea even more irritating because the story keeps teasing some emotional breakdown from Kenzie that never happens. Seemed like almost every chapter in Beacon had to include Victoria rambling to herself that she ‘had to talk to Kenzie’. Since then it’s oh no, Chris is gone, Kenzie is upset! Kenzie is hurt! But then, er, nothing happens and nothing is different.

        So I’ll believe that when I see it.

      3. Besides Grue went through a lot of shit, more than Chicken, but he didn’t went into a rampage and killed his allies/friends.
        Chicken is way too innocent (the most innocent character) to ever become evil and even if he’ll lose his minds and go crazy, anyone can stop him before he’ll do something bad. Its not like his powers are great or he have an army behind him. Even Darlene can deal with him in a matter of seconds.

        1. NO ONE in superhero fiction is too innocent to go evil. Come on mate, wheres your genre savvy?

          And wildbows schtick is crap powers>awesome powers under certain cicumstances. And theres always a way to level up. Also, chicken little is the 5th character he has written with bird powers, and ALL of his birdy characters have been badass.

          1. I just can’t see Aiden becoming evil. I’d rather see Kenzie becoming evil (she’s a sweetheart in general and very helpful as a heroine but she’d make a very capable evil villain if she wants) than our harem anime little guy Aiden. I just can’t see Aiden as an evil guy. Maybe I’m curious to see how he’ll act if he’ll be evil but I’m sure he’ll remain the same idealistic/goody two shoes child that we got so used with until the very end of Ward.
            Weld, Nathalie, Ratcatcher, Golem, Laserdream, Major Malfunctions are also very good people who remained like this and never turned less good or evil. I can see Aiden being one of these characters.
            Yes, I kind of challenged Wildbow to imagine what kind of amazing things a child with LIMITED bird control powers can do (good or bad, don’t care). Because he can’t 100% control all the birds like Taylor controlled her insects, his control is limited and he can’t trigger again. How much of a powerhouse Aiden can be, compared with the real powerhouses all around him?

  19. Good stuff WB. End of march at the end of march. Classic. And wait, the worst shit March pulled happened on the ides of march right? Dang I don’t think I even noticed

  20. Guys? The more I think about it the more I’m convinced that you may want to save a copy of this interlude before the second of April…

    1. And on that note, a request to Wildbow.

      If you are going to mess with this interlude later, please make sure that the current version is easy to find somewhere. If not on this site, then in some other place most of your readers tend to visit (like the Worm wiki for example). The current version is too good not to keep around for people to read later.

    2. Wildbow already confirmed the last section as being canon. What would you say if Wildbow will keep the scene and March’s death will be confirmed next chapter?

        1. On the one hand I can see why you are worried but on the other I don’t think so…

          1. An April Fool’s Joke on the 30th March = Very bad form. The “glitch” was a metatextual thing not an April Fool’s joke per se.

          2. Doing that would alienate a large section of the readers… I mean more than simply killing Imp and Foil would. I know I would leave and never return over it. (Though to be fair I hate hate hate April Fool’s Day. When I can I lock myself in the house alone all day to avoid it and if I had may way most practical jokes would be classed as a form of bullying and made illegal)

          1. The funny thing is that while I also don’t like April Fools, I would probably not become one of those alienated readers. As much as I like Vista, Foil and Imp, I trust Wildbow that when he kills a character he does it for a good reason.

            There was that Leviathan battle of course, but determining who dies completely randomly, but you could say he had a good reason to do it too, and in my opinion the way he dealt with the results just shows how flexible author he was even back them.

          2. Oh I wouldn’t be alienated by WB killing them, a little bummed not alienated.

            I would be alienated by him pulling an April Fool’s stunt that would basically be deliberately kicking the people who would be upset by their death’s in the teeth for a laugh

          3. If this is how you put it, I could see your point. Still, I probably would not stop reading Ward even after that. I guess I just assume that in Wildbow’s stores bad things can always happen out of nowhere, and it is naïve to be assume that it couldn’t happen with an April Fools joke too.

            Maybe I just assumed that Wildbow has a more mean sense of humor than he really does, because his stories tend to be so dark more often than not (or at least I see them as such), or maybe I’m just a paranoid pessimist when it comes to judging people’s characters…

          4. Which is funny because, while most people were apparently mourning Vista back in 12.all, it honestly took me less then two days after reading that interlude to convince myself that March didn’t manage to kill her. Looks like my paranoia works both ways – when things seem good, I expect them to become bad, and vice versa.

          5. Sorry, now that I checked the dates, it appears that it was less then four days, not two. Still much faster than anyone who was surprised by Vista’s survival yesterday, and judging from comments there were many readers who were surprised.

          6. Either way there is one positive emotion I have about the entire situation – as much as I usually dislike April Fools, I actually like the fact that I won’t be 100% sure which way Wildbow went with this joke until Tuesday.

          7. 1. An April Fool’s Joke on the 30th March = Very bad form.

            Not really. For publications that update on a fixed schedule that doesn’t land on a holiday, there’s a well established convention that they may celebrate the holiday a little bit early (or, less frequently, a little bit late) if they don’t want to break routine. And with regards to April Fools specifically, there’s also a good amount of precedent for beginning an elaborate prank sometime during March and only revealing it on April 1.

            Not that I think this chapter was a prank, other than the fake-out with the misplaced chapter end. The timing with regards to the holiday is valid, but the Vista situation is too recent and the emotions too strong; a prank like that would be cruel, not amusing. A good prank also amuses the target, not just the prankster and their friends.

      1. putting the second part from after the the next place to start of the next chapter would probably be the safest strategy.

    3. WB has never done anything for April Fools’, or for any holiday for that matter. Further, he hasn’t ever retconned or Urased anything from a story. Why would he start now? Because there is a wordplay with March’s name?

      Mind you, I would have loved to see some monster-reindeer for the winter holidays in Twig. And there are so many opportunities with Halloween in Twig.

      1. That’s not entirely true, WB did remove the Witness Interlude in Worm after he posted it. But that wasn’t planned beforehand.

        1. I shouldn’t have spoken about Worm since I only started reading it as it ended. Thanks for correcting me!

    4. I think youre being paranoid. There’s no reason to think he would just up and reverse it. What does that achieve?

    5. Wildbow can post new chapter April 1st, it is his site after all.
      P.S. I do save copy of all chapters, including old versions (ex. 12.9 with male Lionwing), so don’t worry. 🙂

      1. Oh, I don’t worry that I won’t be able to access this version of this chapter later. I may not save every chapter as soon as it comes out like you seem to do, but I obviously saved this one as soon as I realized that there is a good chance there may be significant changes done to it. I just wanted to make sure that everyone else who reads this comment section often isn’t surprised if an edit happens, and that there will be a copy of this chapter easy to find online for the readers (both current and future) who for whatever reason won’t read this comments section in time or at all.

        1. I dont think there is a good chance that changes will be made. I really dont understand why you think he would do that haha

  21. 1. “momentary set of images on the screen, a face in silhouette, that silhouette serving as its own frame for another image and silhouette, leading the eye to a place before it all went dark and terminated early”
    Any ideas what it could be? Looks too detailed to be just random.

    2. “Victoria’s mom’s team” “Antares’ mom’s team”
    Funny, two times. Not “Victoria’s dad’s team”, not “Victoria’s parents’s team”. Like Brandish is a team leader, while she is not even in a “full time”.

    3. “Remember? ‘Stop? You stop.’ Wasn’t that what you said to him, before you put a hole in his chest? I did have that dream, you know.
    So Ashleys have memory transfer.

    4. “How was Lookout this energetic at this hour, this hurt?”
    Because she get used to such state…

    1. 2. What did you expect? Consider how submissive or at least non-confrontational Mark appears to when it comes to dealing with Carol.

  22. Lots of viewpoints that are pretty interesting. This was a thoroughly enjoyable chapter to read.

    A few things that did stick out to me:

    Whats going on whit the Ashleys? They were sitting on the couch together munching chocolate not too long ago. Now they want to carve each other up? Did I miss something?

    Foil. How on earth could Narwhal just let her go? She is their best bait to ever get March. And after what happened she walking off alone is suicide. Not suggesting a better course of action is pretty bad leadership IMHO.

    Vista. Someone posted it in the comments some chapters ago that why should Vista not shorten the blade instead of letting her get stabbed. I found the idea pretty genius and nothing I would have thought of. That that is actually what happened… yeah WB is pretty good at pulling wool over readers eyes. I went back and read the paragraphs again and the hints were there. An “exploding breastplate” not exploded breasts. “Pieces of Armor” not pieces of Vista.

    So yeah, well done! I still think the way March walked though all the Heroes was too much. But the setup itself was well executed and the twists were top notch.

    Also a very anticlimactic and unspectacular end for March. But that was strangely fitting, too

    1. Regarding Ashleys. Remember that theory about capes at rest and capes in motion therapy group Ashley explained in Glow-worm? As far as we know original Ashley lived like that – periods of relative inactivity, when she just lived in very poor conditions, intertwined with periods of hyperactivity, when she tried to get her fame and fortune. Every time some external stimulus caused her to go from one state to the other. Current villain Ashley is probably more or less the same – that battle in Earth N put “her in motion”, and she will continue “moving” until something make her stop.

      On a more practical level, she mentioned that she has money now. Maybe she got paid for going to Earth N? Enough that she thinks she can try to establish herself?

      As for the situation with Narwhal and Foil, Narwhal clearly had feelings about the situation Foil has found herself in, because it reminded her about a similar situation she had found herself in some time ago. Considering how important that situation was to Narwhal apparently, and how conflicted she still seems to be about what she chose to do then, she would probably feel really bad if she didn’t let Foil make her own decision in this situation.

      1. Another way to look ar Ashleys is to remember Yamada’s notes we saw at the end of chapter 10.13. The one about Ashley was probably “potential bipolar diagnosis”, and I guess that Damsel just entered her maniacal stage.

        1. On the… plus side (or is it just another “minus side”?) with Love Lost captured Sidepiece and Disjont seem like natural recruits for Damsel at this point.

          1. They are captured. Straight from current interlude:

            Precipice’s cluster members are in custody, he doesn’t have to worry about that.

      2. I dont remember that part. But that would make sense.
        She seems to be a very “on” “off” person, like no mellow middle ground. I just didnt get the point that let her “switch” from being fine with her sis to being at each others throat.

        1. This isn’t sudden. They’ve been grating on each other for a while now even if they had some nice sisterly moments, and they did have that recent discussion about how Damsel planned to leave soon.

          I think what’s happening is that now that they’re out of prison, the differences between them are being shoved in their faces a lot more, making it harder for Damsel to avoid feelings of contempt and perhaps jealousy/threat/temptation. Additionally, her need for independence is probably causing her to chafe at living in her sister’s apartment and following Victoria’s rules. Then Cradle happened and Swansong showed a lot of ” weakness” in losing her foot, needing to lean on people all night, and letting Victoria shut down her arguments. Damsel has repeatedly demonstrated a need to one-up Swansong, and striking out on her own to be a successful villain is a way to flaunt her superiority.

  23. “I suppose I’m going to have to kill their friends, because they’ll be out for revenge.”

    I suppose you’re going to have to kill the readers too, bec-

    *keeps… reading*

    “That’s not supposed to… be there” 

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! What the fuck!?

    XD

  24. Masterfully done. Imp and Foil dying was heart-rending (sorry), but to be fair I wasn’t angry at Wildbow at all, not even with Vista’s “death” earlier.

    Reading the fake ending just made me go, “Yep, classic Wildbow”

    And reading the real ending made me go, “Lol, classic Wildbow”

    For me, it’s never so much the deaths that grate. As it is when the victories and failures feels unearned. But when the triumphs are laid out so cleverly here, all I can do is applaud. Just like with Theo walking into battle with Jack Slash, I was dead certain, but damn was I wrong.

    Thanks for these chapters Wildbow.

  25. I’ve been taking a bit of a break from Ward to reread Pact and Twig, and damn if I didn’t pick a good time to catch back up! That chapter ending was really something. My jimmies haven’t been this rustled since the is-Wnzvr-dead bait-and-switch from Twig. Which I admittedly was just reading last week, but still.

    It’s too bad March is dead, though. I liked March. She had an insane plan and didn’t hesitate to kill people or derail plotlines if they got in her way. I don’t think there was any possible outcome where she didn’t die violently, but it’s still sad. I guess she’ll still live forever in her shard’s data storage, unless Foil comes up with some way to kill her a second time.

    1. But is March dead? She was stabbed, yes, but if Foil needs to find a way to destroy the copy of March’s personality in the shard wouldn’t it make sense to keep her alive? This way March’s shard is accessible through March, so certain mind-affecting powers (like Teacher’s) can be used on March in hopes of destroying March’s “echo” through the woman herself.

      I guess something could be attempted through links between the shards (Foil must know that hers is connected to March’s), but why would Foil deprave herself of more direct options? Yes, by killing March Foil could make sure that nobody will have to deal with her (unless someone manages to resurrect out hare – Bonesaw- or Valkyrie-style), but at the same time killing March increases Foil’s risk of making her copy within her shard having to spend aeons with the copy of that annoying hare. Would Foil take that risk, and does she even understand that it is probably not herself, but a copy of her mind that is at risk (and if she understood would she do any less for that copy then she would do for herself)?

      The situation seems to be the opposite of what we usually see. Foil-the-selfless-hero should probably kill March to reduce chance that nobody than “her” mind in the shard will ever have to deal with March again (including people Foil personally cares about – like Parian, other the Undersiders, Heartbroken and plenty of heroes she knows and likes), while Foil-the-selfish-villain should probably keep March alive to make sure that she has as many ways to destroy March’s personality in the shard as possible.

      The picture is of course complicated by the fact that killing March at this point could be seen as going against both law and the rules of the game, plus it could be considered immoral. Question is – which of those arguments ultimately were most important to Foil?

      1. Well, if she kills March, she has the rest of her life to figure out a way to double-kill her. If she captures March, she has until March escapes and ruins everything again. Granted, the rest of her life might not necessarily be THAT long, thanks in no small part to March’s shenanigans, but it’s still safer this way.

        Also, Foil’s real objective isn’t to double-kill March, but to double-kill HERSELF. She doesn’t want to be trapped for all eternity in Zion’s data storage, even if March isn’t there.

        As for the morality of killing March, I’d say she definitely crossed the line of “too dangerous to be left alive”. It’s not even a question of whether she deserves to die, but whether she can be stopped before she creates another new Endbringer for shits and giggles.

        1. > Also, Foil’s real objective isn’t to double-kill March, but to double-kill HERSELF. She doesn’t want to be trapped for all eternity in Zion’s data storage, even if March isn’t there.

          Nope. Foil clearly said that she needs to destroy March, not herself. Obviously destroying herself could be seen as beneficial by any cape afraid of the possibility of spending aeons as shadows within their shards (no matter if they would be alone or with clustermates), but this is not how Foil said she wanted to approach her problem with March.

          1. Plus to stay true to Carroll’s works March needs to return after March under a different name. Maybe as May in May?

          2. That was what Foil said to March, who she has not reason to tell the truth to and who she’s probably looking to hurt and distract. Note that Foil coming up with that pushed March straight to “well, now I have to kill her,” which would play in with the general strategy of distracting March and keeping her off-balance.

      2. > killing March at this point could be seen as going against both law and the rules of the game, plus it could be considered immoral

        Err, what. March is a murderous lunatic who has just killed a bunch of heroes and unleashed an interdimensional threat. Killing her would be worth a medal according to the law, the rules of the game, and the morality, it’s as unambiguous as it could possibly get.

        As for killing the shard-copy of March – don’t forget that Foil has access to *all* shards of her cluster, though the connection to her own shard is the strongest. If she wanted to brainwash March into being a completely different person, for that person to be stored in a shard-backup, then she would need March alive, but if she wanted to destroy any trace of March (as it seems from her words), then having March dead is probably just as good for this purpose as having her alive.

        1. As much as nobody had doubt that March was a dangerous lunatic and needed to be stopped remember that both the law and the rules don’t allow killing other capes without a formal kill order. There is no such thing as an “automatic kill order because someone is obviously too dangerous to live”. Even “automatic” kill orders against the members of S9 were probably automatic only because an appropriate authoritie formally decided that membership in that group should always carry such order.

          After the amnesty there are probably no such formal “automatic” kill orders in effect, and it would even be difficult to tell what sort of authority should give them.

          As for Foil’s connection to the other shards within her cluster, I’m not forgetting about those. I even explicitly stated that:

          > I guess something could be attempted through links between the shards (Foil must know that hers is connected to March’s)

          but then I just added:

          > but why would Foil deprave herself of more direct options?

          Remember that everyone knows about powers that could be used to brainwash humans, and there may be a good chance that they could also be used to brainwash copies of minds of those humans within the shards, but as far as I can tell nobody figured out how to brainwash a mind within a shard through that shard’s connection to another shard. The closest thing that comes to mind is a personality bleed-through, and it is not even clear if it could be done if one of the capes involved is already dead.

          Not to mention that Foil probably understands very little about most of those things I wrote about above – from the meaning of a distinction between a human and a copy of their mind within a shard to mechanism of personality bleed-through of her cluster. I would even tell that any Foil’s attempts to “destroy the copy of March’s mind within her shard” would be hopeless, if not for the fact that Foil has access to Tattletale who can help her with figuring all of that out.

          1. > it would even be difficult to tell what sort of authority should give them

            Here’s the catch: either there is an authority which can give a kill order, or there is no one to judge you if you give one yourself. The situation in Ward is closer to the second variant, but Breaksiders even have a “thing closest to a kill order” from “people closest to be an authority”.

  26. Yeah. Just for once, March lets her lover to dress her before the fight instead of doing it herself, and immediately gets owned because the lover forgot to dress her in her favorite plot armor. That’s what you get for being too much of a romantic. But what really gets the Darwin award for March is that she apparently didn’t notice Vista not exploding right before her face. (that’s assuming March is now dead indeed. if not, then her Darwin award rightfully goes to Foil)
    Didn’t read all the comments yet, but already I’ve seen people complaining about March going down too easily. Well, I think she went down exactly as she should, it’s just her uberness in Brockton Bay that didn’t make any sense, and still doesn’t. And the trick with the fake “ending” of the chapter is really cool 🙂

    1. To be fair D&D made sure that March had no time to check what happened to Vista to closely. It is somewhat difficult to examine a body when you are under fire, and remember that Defiant was good enough to hit March when she was actually using her power to actively dodge his bullets.

    2. I still think you people are exaggerating, March had a team that made her really powerful, and had a plan that worked with those strengths. On her own March isn’t a big deal, but when she’s leading a squad she has them fighting at peak effectiveness. She didn’t go toe to toe with the big threats she dodged them. Was more like a heist than a battle.

      1. There is also the fact that March’s team was composed of cluster capes whose shards (unlike those of the heroes’) could share some resources even without a hub. Like I wrote above, cluster shards were probably less impacted by Scion’s death than shards that did not belong to any clusters.

        1. We didn’t actually see non-cluster shards being hampered much by Scion’s death, apart from “moral injury” (so to say) and triggering/second-triggering, when communication between shards happens and matters. Eden’s shards were in the same state from the very beginning, and they worked just fine in the sense of providing their respective powers.

          1. Remember all of those things Victoria’s shard wished it could do to help, and couldn’t, because it was no longer connected to the hub. It is not that the shards didn’t give powers when they are disconnected, it is that they couldn’t request resources from other shards to fine-tune those powers in response to the changes in needs, abilities and overall experience of their hosts (or if everything else failed – just ask the other shards to go easy on their capes if they thought those capes were worth keeping alive).

            Most of those things are subtle, not obvious to an observer who can only see the hosts and their powers, not the shards behind them, but they still do have an impact. Sometimes you can even see them anyway if you look carefully- just think about how Taylor’s power evolved over time.

            And cluster-shards, unlike others, did retain at least some of those abilities thanks to connections to the other shards in their clusters.

          2. Regarding “asking to go easy on their capes” – I doubt this is a thing, despite what Victoria’s shard thought. Her shard is newborn and inexperienced, maybe it’s what it would try to do – but if it were a widespread practice among shards, its effects would be noticed. What if a cape doesn’t want to go easy? (especially after all the drive to conflict) Would their power fail them in some way? It might go unnoticed if it happened once or twice, but after enough occurences it would be well known at least in the cape community that there are situations, especially in conflicts with high stakes when everyone is going for the kill, when powers tend to be unreliable.
            Fine-tuning the shard’s own power is a thing that might happen (I remember statements about powers changing with regard to the emotional state, which might be it), but it didn’t influence things *that* much. Capes achieved far more tangible results by practicing with their power and learning its quirks, and/or by being generally in tune with their own shard.

          3. I think that “asking to go easy” on some hosts may be a thing. Remember that the shards have multiple ways to influence their hosts – from affecting their minds to messing with their powers in some cases (yes, it can and has happened – remember Leet). The thing that really limits the usefulness of such shard-to-shard requests seems to be the fact that not all shards are willing to accept them. At least this is what Victoria’s shard seemed to believe, but I see no reason not to trust it at this point.

          4. > from affecting their minds

            However, we didn’t see anyone affected by powers to be more peaceful and less aggressive, and plenty of examples of affecting minds in the opposite direction.

            > to messing with their powers in some cases (yes, it can and has happened – remember Leet)

            There’s a difference between “my host sucks, so I’ll sabotage him” and “that someone over there is useful, so I’ll sabotage my host to his advantage”. The first variant would be completely indistinguishable from some people just being stupid and/or having bad powers, and the second one would be much more noticeable if it happened with any kind of regularity.

      2. March was on her own in a pocket dimension with several of the defending capes, and she thought *they* were no big deal for her, treating this whole situation as her personal hunting grounds. Well okay power boost, blah blah, but still – not alone against 7-8 capes on a battleground meant to be advantageous to the heroes. This chapter is what I’d expect March’s effectiveness to be.

        > She didn’t go toe to toe with the big threats

        Right, and big threats didn’t go toe to toe with her because (they were dumb) (they deliberately filled the battlefield with people getting in the way to be collateral damage) plot armor.

        1. That was literally her power, though. Understanding timing to the point that she knew exactly where everything was at all times, and by corollary, where she needed to be to avoid getting killed. She’s like a cut-rate Contessa with the additional power of a lethal melee attack that ignores most defences. Her one stated weakness was that she didn’t operate so well when surprised, which is what Vista did in this chapter, resulting in March’s death.

          I guess the accusation of “plot armor” makes sense in that March died at a narratively opportune moment, AFTER she unleashed the Dauntless Titan and not before, but it’s not like anything here is inconsistent with the established rules of the story. Sometimes powers give people really unfair advantages.

          1. Well, either she can be surprised – and then the heroes didn’t surprise her in Brockton Bay, despite having every possible advantage for doing it, because they (were dumb and dumber) (wanted to say hi to Dauntless) needed to lose for the plot to progress; or her power provides her with information she couldn’t know herself, e.g. information about powers about to be used against her or traps around her – and then it should work against Vista here just as well. And then she wouldn’t be a “cut-rate Contessa” – she would fucking one-up Contessa by being able to work just as efficiently by herself + grant her PtV to her teammates.

  27. Ya know it used to be that only Psychogecko did the insane crackpot theories now it seems like half the fanbase just throws logic out of the equation when posting. Vista saved them. She was the person Imp waved to. Occams Razor guys.

    1. It could actually be the Simurgh telekinetically manipulating Vista’s dead body and using a tinker device to mimic her power.

      1. Or it could be Vista’s “shadow” courtesy of Valkyrie, but yes, Occams razor says (and that list of casualties Victoria mentioned to Ashley) that Vista should be alive.

    2. Well, as much as I was against theories about Vista surviving in 12.all (exactly because of Occam’s razor), here it seems like her power’s work, with space warping being explicitly stated.

  28. Hmmmm….
    On the one hand, awesome writing, thank you thank you thank you, you sneaking son of a bitch.

    On the other hand…
    I feel like the last three main victories (Cradly, March, Bianca) sort of… felt kind of sudden? Like everything is going to shit going to shit, going to shit, and then in half a chapter the bad guys lose at the last moment and we all go home?

    Like … with this defeat on March, it feels weird, because March has just proved to be SO DAMN infallible in the past, and its not like the heroes determined some hidden secret that mad March’s power irrelevant (in the sense of Theo vs Jack slash, for example), nor does it feel like the Hero’s super EARNED the victory they got (IE, Taylor using her good PR to escape the school). It felt like Foil took off with substantially less support than they had previously, and… just happened to catch March with her pants down (hur hur).
    Like… if Vista fucked with March’s timing in this way, why DIDN’T that come in to play previously? If Vista could push the boundaries of the Manton limit this well, why DIDN’T this apply in the main battle?
    I sort of don’t see why this battle should have been expected to go substantially better than the previous ones, and given that, it sort of feels stupid for Lily to have thrown her self at it.

    Similar with Cradle. The whole team was getting their ass whooped, and then … something happens at the end, and Cradle gets beat in the last half chapter, and Mayor Wynn shows up, despite having previously said she was busy? (Or maybe that was in Tats message?? Would make sense with Snuff with them).
    But… I didn’t feel like I understood why the result suddenly changed (above and beyond the classic “The tide of battle can wiggle both ways”)

    Similar with Bianca, although to be fair I probably SHOULDN’T feel sideswipped by that victory, as it was pretty heavily foreshadowed on about three different axes. It felt sudden, but Bianca being taken down like a chump makes sense… Bianca was a chump.

    … I dunno. The story is super cool, but something makes me feel confused by these last couple victories, and I don’t know what to think about that.

    1. 1. March faced off Foil these time around. a cape with same efficient movement as hers and a power that negates Marches one touch kaboom madness.
      2. She did not have access to her megacluster. which means her true strength, coordinating cape teams at full efficiency was not there.
      3. Despite having Foil at her Mercy due to Tori tripping her up with power beam. she does not go for insta kill. Does not have Tori fucking up Foil as she did at BB. Does not even try to kill Foil at outset, treating it like some sort of game. with the red shirts March was completely kill and remove a piece from the board mode.
      4. the way Marches power works is the shard gives her info and she finds sense in coordination. she beleived vista to be dead. she didnot even account for the coil 2.0 anti thinker strategy. these people played in brockton bay unlike March. they would know how to run a anti thinker gambit.

      BB was entirely from the perspective of a parahuman who has such superhuman coordination that she feels she cannot go wrong. she lost megacluster members and got a heist utterly meaningless. her megacluster did not turn up. they are Imped i think. which is why the delay. or maybe vistaed. as for transport, vista warped the khepri hive across continents. she has zero need for rachels hounds. as for injuries, warden heroes have always had superior emergency medical kits. kits made by B O N E S A W.
      Riley specialises in keeping live nearly dead parahumans. keeping them alive and in fighting shape.
      To me both 12.all and 12.x makes perfect complementary sense. a S9 killer is now free. normies ae geared to revolt. the heroes are too injured to stave off the crisis on multiple earths.
      March may or may not have served her purpose. she was a badass and went out like one. taken down by coordinated effort from three brockton bay heroes with first seat starring role in death of a god.

      1. given that both amy and riley worked with chris and knew he was lab rat, the hero team would have lab rats tinker med tech also that saved Taylor at the oil rig despite actual dismemberment.
        Marchs mega cluster were parahumans that controlled every superhuman on an entire earth. they were not exactly chopped liver. and march had them coordinating at peak efficiency. we saw how potent that is. since thats the same principle as khepris hive.

    2. Ok, let me tell you why I think that defeats of those three make sense to me.

      March. She was primary a powerful thinker which fell into a very similar trap that that killed Coil.

      Just like Coil she let herself be convinced by her opponents that she has already won. In Coil’s case – he thought he has won when he surrounded the Undersiders with his men. In his pride he didn’t even think that any of those men could switch their loyalty to those same Undersiders he thought were so far beneath him.

      On the other hand March was so much in love with her fables, and stories about heroes fighting epic battles against great armies and sorcerers wielding great power and somehow managing to win that when Vista created a battlefield that looked exactly like this sort of “high fantasy” (complete with Vista playing the evil sorcerer by reshaping the land, and small groups of enemies marching to their deaths instead of actually doing the smart thing and for example setting an ambush that would ensure their victory) March didn’t think for a second that something is wrong with this picture. This led her to believe that Vista was dead (like all other heroes she or her group have “killed” in that battle), which in turn led her to think that Foil couldn’t have any serious reinforcements, and that in turn led her to confront Foil one-on-one, thus re-creating just another trope from the stories she, after her “great victory” in Brockton Bay, could no longer distinguish from real life.

      Generally the method used to defeat March was so similar to the one used to defeat Coil that I think that Tattletale suggested this approach to Vista.

      On top of it remember that in Brockton Bay March’s power was boosted by Megan. This was not the case when she confronted Foil. I think that people seriously underestimate the significance of this boost.

      Cradle. He was great when he was calm, detached from emotions, and carefully making and executing long-term plans, and manipulating (or leading) his pawns from behind. He had a lifetime of practice doing things like that.

      On the night he was defeated all of those things fell apart. He was hit by Rain’s tokens and by Rain’s emotion power boosted by Love Lost. It didn’t help that the primary emotion he was hit with was guilt – an emotion he completely didn’t know how to deal with, and one he was terrified of. This thing alone seriously messed up his his calm and detachment from emotions, and it is even not the end.

      Second thing – Cradle was under tremendous time pressure. He knew that if he didn’t stop March that night or didn’t manage to do something with Rain, it could be too late for him – either because March would do the exact sort of damage he wanted to force heroes to prevent by his acts of terror, or because personality bleed-through could become too much for him to take if he got Rain’s tokens again next night. On top of it he knew that all favors he called in, all bargains he has made and so on, gave him his army only for that one night. He knew that next day he would no longer have resources to do anything as big as he needed to do to deal both with March and with Rain.

      There went his long-term plans, foiled in part by March doing what he did not expect her to do, and in part by the fact that Rain has managed to attack him in the the way he feared the most – by giving him guilt. On top of it he could not retreat and make new plans, because he would have no army, and he has lost two of his most important allies – Love Lost and March. He could not hope to bounce back from that, especially with so many people going after him. So he could no longer play the long game, and losing both the army and those allies meant he would no longer have enough pawns to control. All of that obviously also contributed to his emotional stress.

      Finally – in the heat of battle in the labyrinth he saw what he wanted – a chance to grab Rain, and a chance to run to the portal so he could potentially deal with March. At first he tried to approach the situation rationally, but he was soon provoked to attack Rain more and more directly, and when the heroes continued to successfully repel his attacks, to stall him (a big thing for him, considering his emotional state at the time), he did the worst thing he could and started abandoning his people just to keep up with Rain, and later just to escape from Earth N when it became obvious that he was actually losing.

      In other words Cradle was forced to play the exact opposite of the game he was good at. No wonder he lost.

      As for Bianca – she was defeated by a combination of her inexperience in cape fights, her ignorance when it comes to how most experienced capes and even people dealing with cape fights (like Parahuman Response Teams for example) approached fighting capes as powerful as her (she probably had little to no idea what a master/stranger protocol is for example), coupled with belief that her full power made her invincible, because it combined an ability to sense danger, turn any cape anywhere near he into her ally, and a powerful offensive telekinetic power on top of that.

      She never thought that she could be in a serious danger from someone who could resist her master power and at the same time fool her danger sense (like Chris did with Amy’s help), she never thought that even loyal capes may work against her to a degree thanks to master/stranger protocols, it never occurred to her that someone could have a backup plan in case the food in the prison cafeteria was destroyed, and the Pharmacist – defeated.

      In short – she has lost because she fought against experienced capes, who have not only dealt with all sorts of fights before, including the ones where the balance of power was very much against them (some of them even fought against the Endbringers, and it is not like they were controlled by Khepri from the beginning to the end of Gold Morning!), but even had protocols and other rules and guidelines for dealing with these sorts of situations. Once again – she thought that her full power would make her invincible, while everyone else understood that even the Endbringers and Scion were not, and many of them faced those before lived and sometimes even won. So she ignored plenty of warning signs other capes would take far more seriously.

      To sum it up – all of those people would probably win if they fought as well as they could, if they didn’t do stupid mistakes, but all of them had personality flaws that could, and were, used against them to make them do those mistakes.

      1. Brilliant analysis. I would add that those villains all lost because ultimately they chose to be alone. Even when they had teams, it was still on their own selfish tunnel vision power trip terms.

        The heroes don’t make that mistake because they know everybody has their own tunnel of vision; that’s why they have allies, partners, team-mates, people who can see from other perspectives and thus create a winning mix of all of the above.

        The bad guys on the other hand, even when they had teams, they LED those teams without being PART of their teams oh, it was still ultimately their vision pushing things forward. One vision, one limitation.

        1. Apparently I’m the commenter who pops in to say, “look, theme!”

          I am loving how Ward’s themes are so directed towards the drive to be better as people and as communities, in contrast to Worm’s focus on power as the trump card. In fact, here’s our nihilistic villain March literally representing the ethos of “nasty, brutish, and short,” defeated by survivors of her cruelty (Imp), arrogance (Vista), and desire to dominate (Foil).

          I effing love this story

  29. “Darlene stood, wobbly at first. She approached Chicken Little, and she moved his mask, gingerly. Then she burst into tears. Good tears.”

    Why did my monitor get so blurry all of a sudden? Crying? No you’re crying! Clearly someone is making everything blurry around me and making my face wet.

    I blame Wildbow.

  30. Holy crap, this is awesome. I love when wb does clever fourth-wall breaking tricks (like the time-warped chapter in pact arc 6). And Vista/Imp/Foil is a dream team.

    1. Seeing that post in 12.all I will not only acknowledge that you called it, but even that you did it before me, though I will still claim that I actually explained why Vista’s “death” had to be fake.

      Just look for Operation “Coil’s Downfall 2.0” in 12.all and then read a few posts up and down from that point.

    2. This is going to sound weird, because it is weird and everyone in the scene except perhaps the mutant dog is female, but:

      Because of Visa, March failed to achieve adequate penetration. Her timed explosion occurred, not deep inside Imp and Foil, but at a shallow depth.
      Because of Visa, March’s sword was turned into a teeny tiny stiletto.
      So Vista basically emasculated March.

    3. Congratulations Razorsmiled, You did indeed call it.

      Now, what do you think of my hypothesis that March will return in some form at Easter? Why do I think this? Because of the whole rising form the dead that some major religions adhere to.

      Rising from the dead and also, Easter Bunny stuff. And the Easter Bunny might also might be the Easter hare, so… (Considering what WB just pulled, I aint ruling it out…”

      1. That would be hilarious yet infuriating. Much as I hate March, I still think she’s a total anime badass and it would be kind of cool to see. I’m conflicted, I want it and I don’t want it at the same time.

        Soooo … Thanks I Hate It Kinda? 🤷🏿‍♂️

        1. May may return in may. resurrection of the easter bunny!! we can hope!!!!

          i really did like March. still do. the story has a huge jack slash shape hole in it now. hope march comes back. cradle is whiny. but march was in the ooh you touch my tralalala territory.

          also i finally went through all of the comments on 12.all.
          fantastic bit of analysis on vistas power giving her a escape hatch from the dreaded one touch kabloom. i felt the same my self and i am sure many of us did. i was just reading the pieces of armor and the explosion that obliterated roof side and killed tempera by sharpnel as a indicator that vista is damaged severely. i wasnt sure she is dead as they didnt show her dying and even with horrible injuries the team would plausibly have access to both Riley and Chrises tinker emergency medical kits. those two can and have saved people from life threatening injuries with tinker devices.

  31. Now that I got that out of my system, my actual thoughts:

    – yeeeeeeeeeesssssssss
    – sup, March, how bout Dem Apples?
    – March ended as March ended. Oh Wildbow, you are too good to us
    – Heartbroken giving mofos feels all over the place
    – Lookout is a win. Lookout/Darlene synergy is a turbo win
    – Heartbroken side-note: Nathan being unpowered doesn’t make him any less of an asshole than the rest of the Heartbroken, just means he’s an easier target for their assholery than the reverse. Poor bastard-coated bastard
    – Candy POV is a win
    – Candy reading Lookout/Darlene/Chicken Little = big win
    – Candy incrementing from “best friends” to strangulation and back for Darlene/Lookout = bigger win
    – Candy *almost* seeing through Lookout’s inverse-smiles = ultra win
    – poor Weld, poor Sveta. there’s no fault to be had here, but she won’t see it that way, I’ll bet
    – go Narwhal, go Foil
    – the silk-mesh underarmour thing was a nice touch, possibly a loose reference to Bonesaw’s subdermal mesh armor stuff for the Nine
    – All things considered, March actually had a great final day. Morning sex with the girlfriend, dressing up like a knight going into battle with the favor of her Lady Fair, dramatic Best Anime Fights final confrontation with the arch-nemesis … sheeeeeee-it, we should all be so lucky
    – I think I might actually despise Tori more than March at this point, stupid selfish romance-addled fuckwit that she is
    – trying hard to figure out how March could spot Imp
    – ohhhhh, the *arm*
    – the most elite of multilayered WildTrolling. ***Well-played***, sir 👏🏿👏🏿👏🏿

    *Candy had an ominous feeling, but was too tired to put it to words.my

    Who are we forgetting? Someone dangerous to our heroes who got Cradled and has now been unCradled 🤔

    1. As much as I liked that list of wins, you forgot to list the fails. Let me fix it for you.

      Soccer cards are a double fail. First – because they use incorrect name to call football. Second – because they are merch dedicated to a game that is properly enjoyed not by collecting something, but by actually playing it. I don’t care if Presley only has two chances to play a proper game on a proper field per week, she shouldn’t waste her time on cards and just grab a ball, a couple of friends, find some flat, open space with something that could serve as a goal away from any windows or anything else a stray ball could break and just play.

      Virtual soccer cards are a triple fail because of all of the above, and because they are virtual.

      Figuring out and implementing ways to trade soccer cards add a fourth fail to the list, because it means wasting more time and effort on virtual soccer cards. A time this girl could use to actually play football!

      Kids these days… “Real Jedi football players above such things are.”

      I guess I shouldn’t have expected more from this poor case of hero worship. Looks like master Glory Girl will need to work a lot on this young on before she could even be called a proper padawan.

  32. Where is the Vista Interlude!? 🙂

    Maybe its just me but Vistas POV to all of this is something that is sorely missing!

  33. I don’t know why the fan community continually acts as if WB will kill off anyone you love too deeply. I have to be the only person super disappointed Vista is alive, because her death made the story feel like it had real risks. It hurt, but it was good to have that sense of “anything can happen”. It seems like any major hero will always survive or “rez” anything that happens to them, no reason to ever worry about their safety.

      1. Alexandria, Eidolon.

        For me it WAS a surprise this time Vista actually didnt die. Well, Razor put the idea in the comments in 12.all but I doubted it WB had the same train of thought.
        But it made sense. It really did. Why shouldnt Vista use her power? She is an experienced Hero after all.

      2. Oh, did you really like Hello? He was totally forgettable for me, I don’t even remember what his power was.

          1. Oh, just like Imp, but retroactively. Cool! *proceeds to make a crazy fan theory about how she could survive by gaining ability to implant false memories after a second trigger*

    1. >I don’t know why the fan community continually acts as if WB will kill off anyone you love too deeply

      Uh, probably because he has, multiple times. In every single one of his stories.

  34. You know what guys? If March is alive, I can’t wait to see what Foil’s attempts to “destroy” March will do to both of them in terms of personality bleed-through.

    Just another reason to hope that May will return in May.

    1. There’s a little over two hundred comments on this chapter. Seventy of them are yours. Slow the fuck down and let other people post, please. Or collate your thoughts and post them in a single post, maybe-I’m sick of having to scroll through you having conversations with yourself all the time.

        1. dont you dare change alfaryn.
          you are fine posting as you do. it is informative, engaged and never rude. it has personality in this cookie cutter commentrati cycle.

      1. Alfaryn consistently drops about 50-100 comments each chapter. I’m not sure theyre capable of toning it down hahaha

          1. Thanks guys, but as much as I like the OverThinker idea the fact that it already infected T.T.O, and Ex-Lurker is just one more proof that Glassware is right. I need to learn to post less.

            Oh, and regarding ‘infection’:

            Congratulations evileeyore, it is a meme!

        1. From the website, you right-click on the comment’s Reply button and click “copy link location.” Alternately, you can click the Reply button, then copy the link out of your browser’s URL bar.

          If you want to extract the URL from one of the notification emails instead without following it back to the site first, you can get it from the “commented” link at the top where it says “SoAndSo commented on Heavens – 12.lol.” (Trying to extract the link directly from the notification’s reply button will get the link to the comment form instead of the comment itself.)

          1. There is one more way to do it. One that doesn’t depend on presence of a reply button or on subscribing for notification e-mails – the time stamp right below any comment author’s name doubles as a direct link to the comment.

  35. Possibly a dumb question:

    What happens to Foil’s powers now that she’s the last survivor of her cluster? Does she become even stronger?

    I’m not sure if the Mall cluster (Rain’s cluster) is the only one wherein survivors have a chance to become stronger when the cluster-mates die, or if all the clusters do this.

    1. We dont know for sure, but I’m inclined to say no. I dont think either her or March got a powerup when Homer died

  36. I liked the chapter. A lot.

    I’ve read almost all the comments so I’ll try to come from an angel that I think hasn’t been tackled yet. And regardless of this not being my first language, I’m quite slow ordering my thoughts and putting them into words anyway.

    So… bear with me, please?

    #

    Alfaryn (an overthinker 12) made what I think is an excellent, synthetic summary of why the last three Big Bosses were beaten.
    https://www.parahumans.net/2019/03/29/heavens-12-x/#comment-82293

    But it didn’t address why those defeats looked or felt rushed, anticlimactic or just too sudden for some readers.

    Back in Worm there was a dramatic payoff when Taylor shoot Coil, Sundancer burned Equidna up or Tecton punched Jack into Gray Boy’s time loop.

    That said, every powerful figure is so until they are defeated.

    It can be argued that an enemy’s power can be measured by the amount of firepower needed to take them down. BUT if a missile or a sniper bullet can do the trick just the same…

    At this point I thought that the problem could be a lack of clarity in the narration. Because complaining about concepts like The Idiot Ball or Plot Armor wouldn’t be valid if the reasons for a given confrontation’s outcome were explained beforehand. Or afterwards.

    That’s what happened when they beat Coil (Tattletale buying his mercenaries), Equidna(Skitter making Clockblocker time-freeze her spider silk) and Jack (Golem, Foil and Weaver teaming up to lure him into a false sense of security on the fly).

    But I don’t think that’s going to happen here.

    Not when some of the commenters (and the author himself among them in this Interlude) pointed at subtle details and foreshadowing as explanation enough for Vista’s survival.

    There was also foreshadowing for how the problems that Goddess and Cradle created were solved: an anti-mind-control drug on the former and the whip’s portal-like effect on the later. And how they and March were ultimately defeated.

    BUT.

    When Taylor had her second encounter with Lung she won using Newter’s blood after having excruciatingly collected it, a method that wasn’t made apparent to us readers until it was done.

    Up until that point, Taylor narrated pretty much every thought process and experience relevant to her. But Wildbow decided to start holding some information back so he could be able to surprise us.

    The same happened with Coil and Equidna.

    Maybe that is the problem.

    There seemed to be things going on in the background that the characters that carry the narrative (our narrator included), did not seem to be aware of. Until we find out that they actually_were_.

    SO.

    I think the question would be if subtlety foreshadowing an outcome is enough…

    … or if an explanation with first hand knowledge as the events are unfolding is necessary.

    tl;dr, I guess…

    1. Great post. I would just like to add that at least for me the fact that foreshadowings of villains’ defeats are not a problem. Quite opposite. I loved it when I was blindsided when I was reading Worm and realized how the Undersiders defeated Coil only when Tattletale explained it to him.

      (And yes, it took me by surprise. Maybe because I was binge reading Worm then, maybe because it was the first time I saw Wildbow do something like that on such scale, maybe because I was young and naïve in September when I read it.)

      I like it no less that now I have enough time between the chapters, enough experience with Wildbow’s stories and enough support in form of everyone’s posts here that I can sometimes notice enough clues to actually predict something before it is revealed (like when I noticed enough clues to figure out that the heroes were using March’s lunacy to ensure that Vista was going to survive, and March will end up making a critical mistake) just a few days after 12.all was posted.

      So go ahead Wildbow. Drop subtle clues to surprise us more. Maybe don’t do it every time to the extent you did it with Coil, March, Goddess or Cradle – I think it may better for the story to be more predictable sometimes both because some people apparently don’t like such “surprises” as much as I do, not to mention that trying to be constantly unpredictable may become predictable by itself, not to mention repetitive – but do things like that at least from time to time to keep us on our toes. I think that there are plenty of people here (myself included obviously) who still want more of stuff like that, and don’t consider it a “problem”.

      1. Alfaryn, I would just like to say that if you ever do put as much as effort into writing your own story at the same rate you comment here, it will be written quickly and coherently! Interestingly too.

        That, is in one part, a jest at my belief you now own one third of the posted comments here, and one part my belief that you have what it takes to put fingers to keyboard and come up with something. And, where you to get stuck, there is a community here that has come to know you, many of whom, quite possibly all, I believe would render assistance.

        Just remember how Wildbow started out. I’m paraphrasing here…. “If I don’t start now, I’ll never complete anything. Here’s hoping I improve my writing after the first arc of this probably no-go bug girl series.”

        PS, if you don’t believe me, just copy and paste all your comments together and check the word count!

        PPS. I’m not doing it, I still remember adding up Worm’s wordcount on pen and paper to see if it had reached the fifty thousand mark. When I posted that I had and that it should be close to said number, WB directed me to the url bar and how I could have tried checking it that way. (I’m still chuffed to bits that I still managed to get damned close with my estimate anyway..”

        PPPS Got you this time, Typoes!

        1. So we are having this discussion again?

          Ok, ShawnMorgan, let me put it this way for you – as much as I would love to devote myself to creative writing I my shortcomings well enough to recognize that I would absolutely suck at it. Aside from personal reasons I hinted at a while ago, and which I would like not to elaborate upon, because they are personal, I’ve attempted some creative writing before and I saw that the results were very bad.

          You see, I never wrote stories, but for years I’ve been trying to write and run my own RPG scenarios, and the conclusions were that:
          – I can’t put together a decent setting, plot or a character to save my life,
          – I suck at writing decent description, dialogues or even character names (the name I use here is just a proof of that),
          – I tend to run into many months, even years long writer blocks when trying to put together a scenario meant for a single session,
          – I may have some small talent when it comes to improvisation, but even with that I find the results satisfactory only about one in three times – not good enough for me.

          Either I’m too critical about my abilities, or I am just that bad when it comes to creating. Either way I doubt I could ever consistently come up with stories I consider worth publishing, and I just don’t see the point of writing a one to two thousand words story one every couple of months or even years. I even stopped writing those scenarios because the results were just so frustrating.

          So I don’t consider creativity my strong point. If everything, it is my weakness. Part of the reason why I admire good authors so much is because they can do something I know I can’t.

          If I have a stong point, I think it is analysis. When I see something as a mystery or a problem, I often find I can’t stop thinking about it, often decomposing it into small components, looking at every detail, until I find what I feel is a good solution. And what I can do with all of those small clues Wildbow keeps dropping in his stories is to exercise this strength. Why else do you think a person like me, who posted very little before coming here, decided to become an active commentator here of all places on the internet?

          1. Ah, I see… I originally wrote a longer reply and then realised that, ” I Know how some of that feels,” and “Been in that situation” pretty much sums up what’s needed. I won’t broach the subject again.

            All the best.

          2. “Either I’m too critical about my abilities, or I am just that bad when it comes to creating.”

            I bet you’re just… [puts on glasses] OverThinking it.
            YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

            *crickets* *crickets*
            Okay, I’ll see myself out.

      2. I second everything you said, Alfaryn.

        As I said in a comment in 12.all, people find different things in Wildbow’s stories.

        The emotional drain provided by “frustrating scenarios” and “excessive conflict” is what I seek in the worlds he shares with us. Besides the surprising twists, the foreshadowing and the quiet times before the storms that I also enjoy greatly.

        Expanding on rushed, anticlimactic and sudden resolutions:

        The last three Big Bad defeats have not been rushed or anticlimactic for me.

        They weren’t rushed simply because there was a lot of build up towards them. But March “MAY” be an exception if you consider that Breakthrough was not involved in her defeat.

        They weren’t anticlimactic either, but I consider that that is subjective so I don’t think I can back it objectively.

        And regarding suddenness…

        They were sudden. But I don’t think that’s bad or detrimental in any way.

        By sudden I don’t mean lacking build up, because they weren’t rushed. By sudden I mean they get hit and end up either unconscious or dead.

        Chris made Goddess open up as if he was Dr. Yamada’s best disciple.

        Cradle gets slapped by Chastity and ends up unconscious.

        March gets stabbed by Foil and ends up…

        We’ll find out.

        In May.

        #

        I also second what ShawnMorgan said regarding your story writing potential.

        1. Tongue in cheek humor is fine but March coming back in May would really need a LOT of good storytelling to make it plausible.
          There is Imp and Foil here and they wanted to kill those two. Foil hated her enough to spit on her corpse. No way on Earth would they miss her being still alive.

          Not saying there couldnt be some twist that lets her come back. As long as it isnt “yeah they stabbed her but she actually wasnt dead and they forgot to check”. I honestly couldnt swallow that turd.

          1. Nah, in this case it would be “they don’t want to kill anyone, even March, because they are heroic heroes” 🙂

          2. I could see another explanation for why they wouldn’t kill March now. One that has nothing to do with them being heroic. Foil may want to respond to March’s Kiss and Kill by trying to give her clustermate a Fate Worse Than Death – one that ends up with March’s personality being destroyed. Something similar to what Love Lost described as “ego death”.

            Sure, it sounds far mor cruel then what we would normally expect from Foil, but remember that March was more or less directly responsible for what happened to Parian, not to mention plenty of other people Foil cares about, and that there are always strong feelings involved. To the point that even cold and calculating Cradle couldn’t “think straight” in Rain’s presence.

            Maybe Foil is ready to act on such emotions. Remember that she not only stabbed March, she spat on her afterwards.

          3. the seed for lily leaving mad bunny alive is there in this very chapter. nothing so altruistic as heros just being better people. she may attempt to overwrite that psychos very being. in case she really does have to share thinkspace with her for an eternity.
            it would be plausible if May comes back. It will make perfect sense if she does not. Coil was an even bigger Marty Stu (joke) and his comeuppance came up more or less at the same interval as Ward is at right now.

          4. A small correction to what I said above. Foil spat. Not necessarily on March, though the emotion was clear anyway. Just like March said about Foil in this chapter “You feel hate because it’s a close emotion to love.” Just like Victoria reached at first to what Amy did to her brain back in Worm. Foil’s immediate denial only convinces me that March was telling the truth.

            Paradoxically if Foil goes that way it may let May become a better person. Remember how personality bleed-throughs work in this cluster – the more cruel Lily becomes, the less cruel May will be. It may even make someone like Tattletale realize that the next thing that Lily needs to do to save May is to learn to take life less seriously. This way May could maybe become serious enough to be able to get out of that place in her head where everything she does, especially pain and death she inflicts on other people is real, not some fairy tale she seems to think she lives in.

          5. This is the first formal theory I’m leaving here:

            I suspect that Foil stabbed March in her spinal cord, disabling her without killing (infection risk aside…)

            Later, what Foil ultimately does regarding The Shared Shard Afterlife, regardless of what she said to March here, depends largely on what is her real stand on mind uploading.

            And given that we have Tattletale here we may find out if it entails actual consciousness transfer or “just” mind cloning.

            SO.

            If Lily fears spending an aeons long afterlife with May and away from Sabah or would feel responsible if “Lily II” had to, then…

            … the Undersiders will kidnap Limp Bunny to delete her memories.

          6. @Alfaryn

            March was full of shit 🙂
            Love is the opposite of hate. They are similar only insofar as they are the strongest emotions we can feel. Strong enough to overpower self preservation.

            As for the spitting issue: true. Not mentioned verbatim. But for me thats what made sense in this scene considering the context and reactions.

            And for leaving March alive: if they intended to leave her alive for whatever reason they would have put her on the back of the dog and taken her into the sunrise. Certainly not leave her back so her henchman can pick her up and nurse her back to health. So she can do exactly what Foil set out to prevent in the first place.

            And in this case it wouldnt be a nice bait and switch but just idiocy on a superhuman level.

          7. Ok, here is my theory about what is really wrong with clusters (not just Lily’s cluster, but it can serve as an example), and what needs to happen to make things right.

            Remember that shard and powers “make the darks darker, and the brights brighter”. They make features of people’s personalities more pronounced than they would be otherwise.

            In case of clusters, where personality bleed-throughs are possible, this means that when bleed-throughs happen, they tend to get out of hand. This means that a natural equilibrium point of cluster members’ personalities is not some happy, sane middle ground, but a collection of extremes. To be more “normal” they need to consciously, carefully manipulate the bleed-through process to arrive at that middle ground, and then just as carefully make any corrections they need to stay there. And they are doomed to keep doing it for the rest of their lives.

            In Lily’s cluster example Lily needs to become more playful, less gentle and less submissive, so March can become more serious, less cruel and less bent on domination and so on. Similarly members of Rain’s cluster need to start passing their tokens to each other in a controlled, careful way to find a better emotional balance.

            Of course it is something that will be very difficult to do. Remember that the middle ground is not the natural equilibrium point for personalities of cluster members. Even if some bleed-through starts going in the “right” direction, it would probably be much easier to end up not in the “middle ground” but at the opposite extreme. The entire process (at least early on) would probably need to be monitored by an expert who can spot any deviations early before they become too serious. Could Yamada be such an expert for members of those two clusters?

            I personally can’t wait to see if such attempt will be made, and what the results will be.

          8. Oh, and besides Yamada, I think Colt could do a lot of good for the Rain’s cluster. She obviously brought along plenty of her own problems with her, but if you think about it her influence on the dreams during her first night has already managed to give the other cluster members a better understanding of each other.

            Not to mention that her very presence makes Love Lost less likely to try to solve her problem with the cluster by killing both Rain and Ryan. Maybe this is part of the reason Love Lost’s shard has budded the way it did? After all Love Lost as the only survivor of her cluster has to be much less interesting for her shard from the perspective of it’s information-gathering function than the current situation.

          9. @Ex-Lurker

            One thing you may want to consider with your theory is that with all of those parahuman healers around even a spinal cut cord may be an easily fixed condition. If the Undersiders want to make sure that March will stay disabled, they need to kidnap her now.

          10. > If the Undersiders want to make sure that March will stay disabled, they need to kidnap kill her now

            Fixed. And even that would be no guarantee…

          11. I re-read the paragraph and for me it is pretty obvious March is dead. Foil stabbed her. And we should not forget Foil is the one who killed Scion. I am pretty sure she knows how to stab someone for good effect.
            Considering how personal this was for Foil she wouldnt walk away like this if she wasnt certain March is dead.
            If she stays dead remains to be seen, of course.
            But in Worm and Ward not many characters returned from the dead. And in all those cases it made sense.

            There was Lab Rat.
            Then whatever Valkyrie is cooking up.
            The S9000.
            Cant remember any more cases…
            I dont see March in this context at all.

          12. Nothing says that Foil had to use her power on her weapon when she stabbed March. On top of it Foil’s power doesn’t work exactly the way March’s does – it doesn’t cause explosions. It just makes everything she charges with her power pass through anything leaving holes behind, and then makes the object she charged fuse with anything it happens to be inside of when the power effect stops.

            In other words it wouldn’t leave holes wider then the weapon itself, and if Foil was careful about where she stabbed March exactly then whether she used her power or not Foil could leave March wounded but alive.

          13. Sure. But why would she do that?
            She went after her clearly to kill her.

            Now either she did exactly that or she bought the speech about eternal heaven and blah. In which case she wants to “erase” her. Meaning first disable her and then take her with her for some other capes to “erase”.
            She absolutely would not disable her and leave her behind.
            And not even with a lot of imagination could I read that in that paragraph.

          14. Strictly speaking nothing in the text explicitly says if March was left behind or not. The last time it was said that Tori saw March was at the moment March was stabbed.

  37. So, is I remember reading a comment about Wildbow doing some “two-weeks-on-one-week-off” schedule for posting, but I can’t find it anymore. Was that in reference to Tuesday posts, or is the another reason today’s chapter isn’t up yet? I’m not complaining if that’s the case. Everyone needs time off. Im just wondering.

    1. Whilst it is Tuesday, and he does post on Tuesdays, I don’t believe it’s usually posted yet. I haven’t heard the ‘two weeks on one week off’ thing; might that have been for Ashley’s Interlude Arc? That posted daily, as I recall.

    2. He usually posts later during the day. If he keeps his usual schedule, I expect today’s chapter to be posted around three hours from now, give or take an hour.

      1. Oh, gotcha. I know that back in the day he posted at midnight-ish (for some North American timezone), and this chapter is the first where I’ve noticed otherwise. I totally would’ve been sad but understanding if I wasn’t getting my Tuesday fix, but now i dont have to be haha.

        1. The two weeks on, two weeks off might have been a reference to bonus chapters, That would be sensible due to Wildbow’s works having a proven record of targets being met fast.

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