Black – 13.x

Previous Chapter                                                                                       Next Chapter

“Look lively, ladies, gentlemen, and genteel others, we’re firmly in yellow book territory.  You’ve read procedures and protocols every night, but if you’re not feeling like you’re firm on this, you need to get your books out and refresh yourself while you’re on your A-game.  Shout or put your hands up if you’re panicking, stand up if you’re panicking and your mouth and hands are busy!”

The chorus of replies came back, all positive.  The decagon was a raised platform, with short walls, and each of the ten walls had a cubicle connected to it.  Each cubicle had one or two employees within, most facing the decagon.  One of the pillars holding up the arching ceiling emerged from the decagon, a structure for computer equipment and display monitors to hang off of.

Two people in the cell were pulling open bag and drawer, respectively, to retrieve identical booklets, both with yellow covers and yellow at the page’s edges, so the closed books had yellow at the three sides that weren’t the black spine.  Three others already had the book open in some fashion, as  matter of habit.  They had for some time now.  Another two cells were spartan, with little decoration but for a plant in one cell and a family picture in another.  No notes, no books, no papers.  Only the computers, displays, a magnetic board with iron shavings, and a set of bells.

One of the two that was getting their book out tried to open it to the first section, but the book naturally closed because of the rigidity of paper and the firmness of spine.  She typed with one hand while struggling with the other to maintain her place in the book.  A tinker lens was mounted over one corner of her face.  She was young, seventeen or so, dirty blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, her clothes somewhere on the comfortable end of the sliding scale between comfortable and business casual, while not being altogether inappropriate for the space.

The Overseer looked over her shoulder, while reaching out to help press and hold the pages flat.  Text was appearing on the screen without problem at the same time and rate it was being spoken.  The other person in the cell who was transcribing was using a stenotype machine, while this one used a keyboard, typing on a keyboard that was normal but for a few added buttons that helped navigate the autocomplete.

Tattletale: I’m not sure if I should thank you for explaining that or be horrified, but fuck.  I don’t get the impression he was a mole for them.  Marquis, Lord of Loss, and the other background players of Earth N?  Sure.  But them?  Not consciousllllllll;;;y.

“Shit,” was the muttered and horrified acknowledgement of the error.  The girl had been trying to turn the page and the book had clapped shut.  She’d leaned on a key as she reached out to pull the book closer.

The Overseer tapped a bell.

“No, don’t- fuck.  Shit.  I’m sorry.”

C.M. Miltona walked along the divide between cubicles, stepping down into the cubicle, leaving the other two C.M.’s behind in the Decagon, which had just flicked its lights over to red.  The C.L.s from other cells were approaching, the first ones finding places to settle in where they wouldn’t be in the way.

“We have limited moves if they’re blacking us out, so let’s make those moves count,” C.M. Howe said, clapping his hands together.

The C.Ms came in a variety of flavors, and with the way they’d been spread across cells, they tended to fall into certain roles.  Cell Manager Howe was the cheerleader, the coordinator.  An omnipresent and encouraging voice that kept everyone moving at the same tempo.

“Talk to me, what’s going on?” Cell Manager Miltona asked as she entered, assessing the scene in the cell.

“Laurie is fumbling,” the Overseer said.

“I’m fine.  I’m sorry.  I hit a key wrong,” Laurie said, rushed, her voice overlapping the Overseer’s.  But in the process of her continued attempts to open the book, type, and explain herself, she made another typo, autocompleting to the wrong word.  She made a face, then hit a key combination.  A red box encased the lines of text.

Semiramis: You think he disrupted my deal with Engel and Egg to keep them from connecting dots?

Tattletale: You connected dots.  We are the dots.  You know the how, where, and what.  I know Teabag’s why.

Heads in the Decagon turned toward Laurie’s cell while Miltona ducked her head a fraction lower, unhappy.  The text and the error was clearly visible on their screens.  The C.L.s were there, too.

“Type.   Take thirty seconds, type, find your rhythm,” Miltona said, voice calm.  She got a cloth from a high shelf in the cubicle, the upended a water bottle to wet the cloth.  She pressed the cold cloth to Laurie’s forehead, then moved to wet Laurie’s hair, smoothing it back and out of the way.  A hand rubbed Laurie’s shoulder.

Laurie let out a breath she’d been breathing too shallowly to really process.

“Headache?” Miltona asked, after the thirty seconds had passed.

“No.”

“In about five minutes the next team starts cycling in.  Denton sits in, he can assist you.  If you need to call off early, that’s fine.”

“No, I don’t,” Laurie said, her eye not leaving the screen.  Her left eye, almost hidden by the opaque white lens and the rigging that held that lens to her head, would periodically move in a direction independent of her right eye, tracking details and numbers as they came in.

“You were getting your yellow book out.  I’ve quizzed you on that on shift starts and ends, you’re as good as anyone.  Aren’t you confident?”

“I’m confident,” Laurie said.  “But I thought it would be nice to have.”

“First section?” Miltona asked.

“Please.  Sorry.”

The Overseer hung back, watching as Miltona opened the yellow book and used a paperweight to fix it in a permanently open position.

C.M. Miltona managed things on the individual level, looked after health and performance, assessed and kept track of each person in her cell.

“Why are you stressed?  This isn’t like you,” Miltona said.

“I’m managing.”

“I know you are.  But why are you stressed?”

“I’m-”

Miltona spun Denton’s chair around, sitting in it, then wheeled closer, so her armrest touched Laurie’s, her back was to the screens.  Laurie continued her constant typing, eyes not leaving the screen except to glance at the propped-open yellow book.

“I don’t want to be a pig,” Laurie whispered.

“A pig?  What are you even talking about?” Miltona asked.

“I know we’re not supposed to use terms or labels for them, but… the boy in cubicle three and the girl in cubicle six.  When we’re in the dormitories we talk and there’s obviously a set of procedures and protocols where a worker gets… demoted.”

“We’re not going to demote you or do anything to you, Laurie.  You’re our best in the cell.”

“They say if you’re a worker who has to be actively given orders and constantly managed, then you’re a dog, and that’s as low as you get before you get… stuck in the mud.  And you don’t get out of the mud.”

The Overseer crossed over from Laurie’s cubicle to cubicle three.

The nametag read Donna Sledge, but the Overseer hadn’t heard any mention of the name since Donna had arrived.  The woman worked without comment or flinching, her eyes on reams of code.  Phones, internet, and the streams of data from other means of communication, each with their own symbology.  One display was split into fifteen individual sub-sections, and Donna’s hand was on a mouse, holding the right button while sweeping over the windows.  A column to the right of the screen had Donna’s notes.  Where Laurie had marked one line of text in red in the last hour, the sweeping motion of the mouse was designating every bit of communication as flawed, mistaken, or undecipherable, yellow filling each of the fifteen sub-windows.

But not entirely.  The code had moons, stars, hearts, and strings of numbers that the notes in the adjacent column noted as ‘coordinates’.  The brackets around the coordinates were green, and the notes included a shorthand note that Donna could, if asked, pull out those coordinates.  Donna’s head flicked left, her eyes falling on a line of text.  She double-clicked it, typed something, and it highlighted green, text superimposed over it.  ‘Handshake’.

One bigger blob of green in that a sea of yellow.  Wherever that code or text appeared, it was translated as ‘handshake’, with a note beside it.  One one-thousandth of the text on screen was translated in this way.

Like her last name, Donna was a blunt instrument, turned to the undecipherable and unbreakable and set to the task with stubborn persistence.

The Overseer collected a tissue from a stack of tissues on Donna’s undecorated desk.  She wiped a dribble of moisture from the corner of Donna’s mouth.  There was no reaction, no change in Donna.  The older woman breathed at a set rate, blinked at a set rate, and even seemingly filled the catheter bag attached to her chair at a set rate.  She had much less work to do with the communications blackout in effect.  No phone calls to track and take notes on, no emails to file.

Of the fifteen sub-windows, six were gray and frozen.  There would just be the data stream, and the one sub-window with the countdown for when Precipice entered his dream room.  There would be a burst of data as they connected, a burst of data when they left.  Donna had already cracked that for the most part.  The window had the ‘logs’ from the last access, along with notes and numbers about the room’s distribution of power across its visitors.  In lieu of the power distribution table, the fifth occupant had a stress meter, akin to a heart monitor, but frozen in time.

“You’re better than Denton,” Miltona told Laurie, reassuring.  “It’s why you’re day shift.  If we accepted these ranks as fact-”

“They are fact, aren’t they?  Not those names, but, they are,” Laurie murmured.

“-then Denton would be the dog, and you would be above Denton.  He makes more errors regularly than you’ve made this afternoon.  We’re not going to make you a…”

“A pig,” Laurie whispered.

“Not for innocent mistakes.”

“It’s higher stakes.  We’re yellow book.  Soon we go red.  If I stumble and our cell can’t manage, they might.”

“They won’t,” Miltona said, smoothing Laurie’s hair back.  “I won’t let them.”

“I get shaky when I dwell on it,” Laurie whispered.

“It’s not so bad.  I was one, once.  It’s like sleeping, for a very long time, and when you wake up, you feel like you’ve accomplished something and you were taken care of.”

Laurie shook her head slightly.

“You don’t have to worry,” Miltona said.

Laurie nodded, still typing, always typing.  The Overseer looked.

Semiramis: Take him downstairs and out.  Don’t cause a stir.  We won’t bring it up to the people downstairs until he’s clear.

Laurie adjusted her headset.  She hit a key combination, and the line was flagged.  Not a red box around the line, but a green one.

“Good,” Cell Manager Miltona said, standing.  While the others were still reading the text that had been highlighted for the Decagon, she was explaining, “They’re close to the mark and the Old Man is caught.  We’re losing some of our eyes.”

“Noted,” the cell’s third Cell Manager said.  He went by Thrift, he had powers, but he rarely used them.  “When?”

“Ten minutes from now,” Laurie said.

Thrift tapped on a keyboard.  “That gives us a two-minute turnaround on keeping our target from catching him in the first place.  Can we?”

The C.L.s weren’t volunteering much.

“No pawns in place,” Howe said.

“Then can we make it harder?  If they investigate him they may find out we’ve been peeking through his eyes.  Any pawns for that?”

More shaking heads.

“Come on, come on,” Howe said.  The cheerleader.  He had a background as a top seller in a pyramid scheme.  “There’s a way.  Bluestocking?”

One of the C.L.s spoke up, “Our focus was on the trade deal with the city.”

“Is there anyone in Blood Team?” Howe asked.

Another C.L. nodded.  “Possible.”

“A pawn?”

“Wild cards.  Little Midas sided with the more aggressive villains, but he’s hard to push.  There’s someone downstairs we can use, too.  I’ll talk to my cell and run the numbers.”

“Thank you,” Howe said.  “Setting the clock.  Eight minutes fifty.”

The C.L. walked along the divide between cubicles, stepped down, and jogged off.  Miltona had barely settled in the Decagon when another C.M. approached from the direction the C.L. had gone.

“This started with your cell?” the C.M. asked.  “You were first to go yellow.”

“Unavoidable,” Howe answered.

“You let one slip the net, and now you want my assets?”

“We all work together,” Miltona answered.

“Explain it for me first.  I can see your displays.  You have seven minutes.”

“They went to the Bunker, where we don’t have eyes and we can’t see.  We were told to let them go, no interference, because the others wanted to see what we could get in the way of access or brute forcing their access.  That’s not on us.”

“I’m not interested in your ass-covering, Howe.”

“There is no ass to cover.  We’re assless.  Others decided it was worth the risk, they were wrong.  We didn’t get anything and we tipped them off.  A target was clued in that something was wrong, went home, and immediately went to the material we planted.  We pulled everyone in, best people at the desk, and by the time we were set the target was already collaborating with Tattletale from the Undersiders.  We’ve been coordinating with the second team since, keeping them in the loop.”

“You shouldn’t have let the target reach Tattletale.”

“We asked, they said to let it happen.  They felt trying to act would tip her off.”

“If it’s that blatant, your writers weren’t soft enough.”

“Our writers are fine.  You’re trying to assign blame when there’s no need.  We all knew this would happen sooner or later.”

“We expected later.”

“And it’s happening now.  Can we have our pawn?”

My pawn.  What for?”

“The Old Man.  He’s one of our unwitting eyes,” Cell Manager Thrift said.

“I know that.  We use him too.  We have the cell with the second-highest coverage, we use everything.  I don’t see how I can supply a distraction, delay, or deniability in six minutes and change.”

“We need him dead.”

“You want me to sacrifice my pawn?”

“There’s no choice,” Thrift said.

“Assholes.  You drop the ball and I take the hit?”

“We’re all in this together,” Miltona answered.

“On paper.  But you didn’t spend weeks on assets only to have them deleted,” the C.M. from the other cell said.

The Overseer descended from the Decagon, approaching the C.M.  She found one of the boards with metal shavings that faced the C.M. that stood beyond the cluster of cubicles, and she reached out.

“Work together,” she said, quiet.

Her movements were not simple ones.  When she reached out, her hand was a touch a hundred times softer than that of a feather, but that hand filled the space like water from an opened sluice rushed to occupy lower ground.  Her hand moved, to strike with one side of the hand, with fingertips, with nails.  Her position was fluid, and her face was close to the board, her breath even less substantial than her fingers, but still something that could influence the movement of single particles.

She observed thousands of individual specks of metal dust with a hundred faces, above, around, and near.

DO IT, spelled out with the letters barely visible, light gray against darker gray.

The C.M. who had been complaining paused, then looked away, scowling.  “Can’t argue that.”

“What?” Howe asked.

The target personality analysis agent in the cubicle picked up the board, turning it around for the Decagon to see.

“Thank you,” Howe said.  “Thank you, Overseer.”

“Sacrificing my pawn.  We’ll message you as soon as we’re signed off on this move.  Stand by,” the C.M. said.

“Thank you for your assistance,” Howe said.

The Overseer was a thousand inverse statues filling a vast space, limbs entangled, hair touching shoulder and back, toes on shoulders, knees against the side of heads, all propped up against one another.  Statues, except they were in constant motion, they could not be seen or represent anything, they tended rather than require tending, and they had as much substance as a solid concrete statue had air pockets.  When she pulled away and up, to better see the cell and the other cells, she filled space above, building on a collective mass, while figments at the edges fell away, crumbling into nothing.

There were nineteen Decagons with a twentieth in construction, wiring and cubicles being set up.  Workers and managers were lingering nearby with laptops propped on crates and boxes, already figuring out the groundwork.  C.L.s from other teams were working with them, filling them in.

Those C.L.s were the most active around the space, hurrying from cell to cell, liaising, sharing information, coordinating.  More cells were switching to yellow.  Ready to fight on a subtler front, deflect, disturb, deny.

In cell five, which was tracking the Shepherds, a young man in cubicle three was moving his mouth back and forth, clicking.  His arm rubbed against the edge of the desk, back and forth, to the point of bleeding.  She saw as the droplet of blood hit the flooring.  She swept over the blood, putting it in the trash receptacle, and hit the specially made bell to get the attention of the cell managers.

In cell eleven, tasked with media, a community manager was breathing heavier.  He was unaware as ten of the Overseers faces moved closer, crowding in together to study, observe, track every detail.  His eyes were unfocused, moving back and forth as if they were reading a single short word over and over again.  A vein stood out at his temple.  She hit the bell.

A flake of pastry hit the ground as a team delivered meals to cell nineteen.  She swept it up.

The gears were turning.  Enough people were acting exactly as they should for their role, and the roles were interconnected enough to serve.  Precogs were reinforced by clairvoyants, ensuring the baseline flow of information and monitoring.  Others in a cell tracked all digital media, and worked on breaching passwords and defenses.

Tinkers, thinkers, and borrowed capes were turning their powers toward more complex operations.  Getting into the heads of key individuals or systems that would let them better collect information.  Not baseline, but far more valuable when it worked.  Others scanned and searched, deciding who the most valuable targets were, so teams or oversight could attempt breaches on an even deeper level than hacking, parasites, or mind control.

Everything moved as it should.

Cell One was home.  Coordinating things and influencing things here.  It was Cell One she reached out to, finding the magnetic board with iron dust spread evenly across it.  She manipulated the dust to craft her message, then hit the bell.

FIFTEEN.

“Good work, Overseer,” the C.M. of Cell One said.  “Everyone, top attention.  Surveillance, coordination, management.  In order, I want network, utilities…”

She left him and his team to the task of filling in for her.  She pulled back and away, passing through Cell Two, which was double-size, to see where things stood.  The Bunker was a big enough blind spot they couldn’t track everything, but the Wardens were a big enough concern that every resource possible was being set to the task.

She pulled away enough that she was disconnected from the cells and cubicles.  She moved through the vents, collecting dust as she went.

Home.  The vast majority of it was back to its old glory.  Gleaming white walls, everything in working order, a complex that could host the population of a small town.  A complex that was on its way to doing just that.

The Overseer passed through a hallway undergoing renovations.  Building materials were moved, slapped against the wall, then set into place.  Fine wires, nails, and interlocking tiles she had worked on in past visits.

This area was being modified to be a prison.  It was already occupied by people in the cells she had finished.  There weren’t many rooms, and thus the people in those rooms were a select list.

The Overseer swept into the room with the first occupant.  She pushed hair from forehead, and reached beneath clothes to wick away sweat and keep those clothes from sticking to skin.

She had a great fondness for the building.  Her hearth and home.  Her contribution.  It was old and her identity was rooted in it.

Not so much a fondness for Fortuna, the woman in the first cell.  She did feel a duty, however.  Responsibility.

Their Fortuna, their Contessa, had wanted to try her hand at a normal life, without trusting in her power to know the exact route to take to achieve what she wanted.  She had dedicated her life to the task of trying to save the world and she had failed, her burden was lifted, and nine weeks after the world ended, she had taken off her shoes, walked along a beach of white sand, stood in the water far from any civilization, and let her guard down for the first time in three decades.

That was all it took.  After two days of that, with no questions to predict potential attacks, subterfuge, or other tricks, she had been captured.

Fortuna had reached for a means of defending herself, and she had found it.  A loop of thought and willful paralysis that rendered her useless and deaf to the world.  Even from oversight’s influence.

Fortuna hadn’t wanted this.  A rushed thought, in conjunction with her being off balance, two days out of practice in using her power.

“I like your face,” the Overseer said.  “I don’t love you, I don’t hate you, but your face is a home to me, Fortuna.  It’s too familiar.”

Her movements around Fortuna would be felt as the slightest of breezes.

“A little under two weeks and I will see your face more regularly.  They’re certain we’ll break you then.  They know the date, down to the hour.  Then you’ll be his.”

There was no response.

Of course there was no response.  Even the most delicate of instruments couldn’t catch her voice.  She spoke and nobody heard.  She touched and was scarcely felt.  She saw, and nobody saw her back.

Another cell.  The young man who had leaked information to Engel.  He had slipped his leash, panicked, and warned of the darker sides of this place.  Engel had left, more aware.

She breezed into the cell.

“You,” the occupant said.  He was a nobody, beyond his actions in regard to Engel.  He had bought a Cauldron power, got the ability to make smoke and form phantom attackers from the smoke.  He had owed a favor and oversight had called it in, before pressing him into service.  The problem had been that the creations took a fragment of his mind to function, and when they gave those fragments back, those fragments were clean of any and all influence.  He couldn’t be brainwashed.  Not permanently.  He raised his voice, accented.  “Overseer.”

She cleaned up particulars.  Black marks on walls.  Droplets of urine where he had missed the bucket.  When the other cells were more complete, the plumbing would work.

“They did this to you, and you serve them so slavishly.”

Discarded dirty clothing.  Bits of food.

“This place is a Ship of Theseus.  Every part of it has been replaced at least once, it feels like.”

“No.”

“I saw it, right when Teacher got here.  Everything in ruins.  The people in charge have changed, the walls, the floors, the lights… except for the shape, none of it’s the same except in shape.  What holds you here?  I wouldn’t be.”

She moved the collected waste to the hallway, where it joined the other detritus and the materials from construction.  She began setting tiles into place: placer, tile, tile, placer, a swipe of sealer behind the completed row.  A thousand hands wiped away excess sealer, working with no concern for getting dirty because those hands would disappear seconds after they were no longer needed.

“Why?  You were a person once.  Who were you, that you’re okay with this?  You keep people prisoner, enslave them…”

Wiring was threaded through the ceiling at the same time tiles were set in place.  Further down the hall, shock-absorbing panels were set into concrete, then covered.  A technology from another earth.  The ‘damascus concrete’ was another such technology, from yet another earth, leaving satisfying whorl patterns that became even more polished and refined as she smoothed down the surface.

“You can leave.  You can tell people.  None of this is okay.  Not when he’s going to win.”

“I could always leave.  There was nobody who could stop me not even when the Doctor Mother and Contessa ran this facility,” she answered, knowing he couldn’t hear her gossamer echo of a whisper of a voice.

The cell’s occupant banged his hand against the bars.

“But this is no Ship of Theseus,” she told him.  “I am the constant.”

He banged against the bars a few more times, before turning away to pace.

She did an hour’s worth of work in six minutes.  She put up signs to warn about the concrete and the setting tiles.

“You might be the worst of the first generation members of Cauldron,” the man in the cell said.  “Because they at least seemed to think what they were doing was for a greater good.  But I’ve been around just long enough to see hints of personality in what you do and how.  There’s something there and… you don’t even try to be a force for good.”

Good.  ‘Greater good’.

“Fuck you!” the cell’s occupant screamed.  “Fuck.  I’m going to be smelling those fumes for hours.

He would be fine.

There were more tasks to be done.  A sweep for stowaways.  A brush through the power facility.  Every pass through, she tried to find the secret ways a creative person might try to enter.  A shaft with power lines running through it.  A water pipe with insufficient pressure.

She checked the exterior as well, and did her circuit around the crater.  The facility had been built around the crater, whole sections set above, and that part had been dismantled in the heat of battle, dropped on Scion.  The one part of the facility that hadn’t been rebuilt.  Instead, she had damaged it further, then sealed it, to ensure that if there was a speck of alien matter behind, it would be gone.  It was a column of solid metal all the way down, now.

There was no place left in her creation that she could not enter.  She brushed her way through the dormitories, where the night shifts were resting, and through the kitchens, where the early morning shifts were eating and talking.  Those who were in no shape to talk were being patiently fed.  In the dormitories, someone was sleeping poorly, chewing on fingers until they bled without waking up.  She rang a bell.  In the dining hall, a pair of men were getting belligerent.  Bell.  The anger was gone in that moment, the fight forgotten, anger replaced by fear and alarm.  They would be checked over.  If there was a need, they would enjoy a long sleep, followed by waking up to the feeling of accomplishment.

Her circuit took fourteen minutes and thirty seconds.  When she returned to the floor where operations were being conducted, she found oversight was there, already partway through assignments.

She brushed her way past Teacher’s beard.  It had grown longer.  He wore a stylized suit with a long body, draping down to the mid-thigh.  A different cut from a different Earth.  Latin phrases were stitched into the breast pocket, lapels, and cuffs.

“Hello, my dear,” Teacher said.  He motioned.  “Board.”

She was at the board before it was even picked up, working on it.  She worked on it more as it was carried to Teacher.

“Almost done,” he said.

She had the message written.  A list of needed replacements in cells, where the people had worn down.  The one where the boy had rubbed his arm to the point of creating an open wound.  The fourteen year old girl who had been contentedly brainwashed and happy to work up until the thirteenth hour of her shift, when she suddenly began crying.

What broke could be replaced.

There was a line of twelve people waiting to be assigned positions.  They would watch for a while, then pick up their duties, if they weren’t outright granted the knowledge of schedule and how to perform them.

“This requires commitment,” Teacher addressed the twelve.  “You can walk away at any time, but we will take your memories of what you saw.  I’m sure you understand.  If you do agree to work, I can guarantee that it will be difficult.  Twelve hours of work, eight hours of sleep, four hours of recreation, every day.  There will be times there are more than twelve hours of work.”

Every day?” a woman in the group asked.  “From what I was told, I imagined it was twelve hours a day for five days a week.”

“It is not easy.  Hours may relax if we continue to grow and recruit more.  For this, for one year of work, you’ll earn five times what your average citizen in the city would.  You get room, board, pay, healthcare, and you’re safer here than anywhere.”

“What about the zombies?” the woman asked.

“Zombies?”

“I keep seeing people that… they don’t look well.”

“A status reserved for those who fail in their duties and who break our rules.  Do good work, you will not need to worry.  Stick to the rules, no need for concern.  Do good work while obeying the rules, and you will be amply rewarded.”

A boy spoke up, “And if we don’t, we become, uh-”

“Mindless,” the woman finished.

“The exact opposite of mindless, miss-”

“Therese.”

“Miss Therese.  The exact opposite of mindless,” Teacher said.  He smiled, then addressed the group.  “Decide now.  I have places to be.”

There was some hesitation.  To see the engine at work was daunting.

Ten agreed.  The woman who had spoken up didn’t.

“Limited precognition, short range, cell thirteen,” Teacher said, touching one man’s shoulder.  He moved on to the boy beside him.  “Mind map of personalities, relationships, cell five.”

He went down the list.  Each time he finished, the people were intercepted by William, who touched them on the shoulder before letting them go on their way.

“Writing analysis,” Teacher said.  “Pattern analysis.  Computer skill.”

Until only the two remained.  Some of the new workers cast backward glances.

“Elijah?  Will you see them out?”

“Of course.”  The skinny blond boy smiled, and the smile had an uncanny edge.  The fix to his jaw had been too perfect.  He blinked, eyes closing over tinker-made spheres.  With the faintest of machine sounds, metal whisking against metal, only audible to the Overseer because she had an ear right next to his eye, the irises switched colors from blue to yellow.

They were a part of oversight.  The powerhouses, the ones who made more complex engineering possible.  Fine tuning the teams, taking away the bad,

Teacher walked over to Cell One, and held the board with the magnetic dust.  She wrote out particulars from her last three hours of work.  Tracking those who had collapsed or broken down.  Tracking the little things around the facility, her creation.

William to grant any free will.  Teacher considered it a generosity, and a tool to ensure that there really were multiple perspectives on every problem, not just his own, with his thralls serving as only his hands, rather than his eyes and ears.  Everyone started out with the opportunity to retain everything about themselves.  From that point, it was a steep way down, but climbing was possible.

The managers that hadn’t been hand-picked for their backgrounds and skills had been selected from the best of the original batches.  Those who understood how cells worked and those who had few compunctions on the subject.

“Join me?” Teacher asked.  Some eyes raised, heads turned.  He tapped the board with the iron dust.

I ALREADY HAD A BREAK, was her response, etched into the dust with touches in the same way someone might try to spell out words with assault rifle fire.

“It should be fine.  Soon we go red.  There won’t be much time to rest for a little while after that.  Let’s enjoy the quiet before the storm.”

She was, she wanted to say.

She hesitated.  She would do her rounds.

“Two hundred and thirty-five individuals are on the clock as we speak,” Teacher told her.  “Nine individuals suspect something is amiss.  Our facility here is perfectly fine.”

The Overseer could see people watching Teacher carry on the one-sided conversation.

“We’ll step up all security measures and alerts if that makes you feel better,” he told her.

She scratched out her message on the board.

MAX.

He moved his head with a small jerk.  “Follow me?”

She brushed past him.  Past bald head, past longer beard, through clothing.

When they were alone, he said, “If we shutter all the windows and put possible measure into effect, our enemies will know when you’re here.  It makes us weaker.”

She wrote her message.

DRILL.

“Yes.  Absolutely.  We can put it into effect at random.  If you join me.”

WHY.

“Because I think you need this, my dear.  In so many ways, you need this.”

WHERE.  She wrote it, but she’d seen what Teacher wore.  She suspected.  She felt trepidation.

“Home,” he said.  “Yours, to be specific.”

Home.

“Think on it.  You have until we leave.  But there are assassins out there, and I would appreciate the added protection.”

She thought on it, sweeping up and down the hall, brushing past him with every pass, to let him know she was there.

Ingenue waited at the end of the long hallway.  She was dressed in a short dress with long sleeves, and with the hose and cape she wore, she was as covered as she ever was.  The ex-Birdcage cell block leader was pixieish, her eyes sly, her smile mysterious.

The Overseer remained closer to Teacher as he walked closer to the woman.  Protective, defensive.  Nobody disturbed her quite as much as Ingenue did when Ingenue was near Teacher.

Then there were the others, in updated, finer costumes.  The Thomais Fallen in somewhat old fashioned clothing with a sinister spin, and The Horseman wearing ragged bandages beneath a tattered suit.  The Horseman was a gift from Cheit, and a security.  Their eyes on Teacher, which was an irony, considering Teacher’s many eyes and the tools he had at his disposal.  Saint, Dragon’s nemesis, was there and standing proud in ornate armor, his cross-tattoo on his face colored gold.

William, Scapegoat, was catching up, drawing nearer to the Thomais Fallen.  Elijah, Valefor, walked arm in arm with his mother, Madam Mathers, who wore an ethereal white gown with a shawl around her shoulders.  Her health was better since coming here, since she’d been… helped, with firm boundaries.  She looked closer to her actual mid-thirties than the weary young crone she’d been before.

“This will be preparations for your moment,” Teacher told the woman.

Madam Mathers curtsied, supported by her son.

The portal opened at the hallway’s end, managed by teams of tinkers.  Big, dramatic, bright.

“Shall we?” Teacher asked, and he looked at nobody specific as he asked.  Because the Overseer occupied nearly every place, every position, like a gas with molecules writ human size with faint human capability, he looked at her.

“We shall,” she said.

The group walked through, two of the tinkers tapping at their equipment to turn it off, so the dimensional effects wouldn’t interfere.

The Overseer passed through, and the power that had gripped her and defined her form pulled at her, stripped away her selves.

For three, four seconds, as they passed through the glowing, arching doorway, she was a meek girl again, wreathed in tatters.  One of fifteen children sold in exchange for power.  Sold and taken to a prison, sold and left to watch as other children went to pieces or became monsters.

And even then, somehow, seeing those horrific ends, she’d been relieved.

“Scared me,” Ingenue murmured.  “Custodian?”

“Overseer,” her own voice was rough, uneven.  She’d talked while doing her work around the facility to stay in a kind of practice, but it didn’t really work.

“Overseer,” Ingenue said.  “You’re older than I imagined you.  Do you have a name?”

“No.  Not for a long time.  Only the title.”

Teacher rested a hand on the Overseer’s shoulder.  She laid hers over his.

They left the portal behind them, and as they did, she pulled away, casting off innumerable light-as-air duplicates, each one leaving her original self diminished, less there.

Until the original self was gone, left behind to fade into tremors in the air.

Teacher’s hand dropped as there ceased to be anything to hold.

And she rose, in her glory, in her manifold form, to fill the air above and around, to identify every person with eyes and insubstantial hands, to track weapons and search for traps.

She could see the crowds, the celebrations.  There were many crowds, gathered for ceremony and festival.  What might have been four large schools worth of students were singing, choiral.  Drums joined with the singing.  White birds were being released at set stages, so there were always some overhead.

She saw the shapes of the buildings, the way they stacked and layered upon each other, crowded, the peaks decorated while the foundations were pure utility.  Though decades had passed, she knew them to be home.

Earth Cheit.

“Ally, brother,” was a greeting.  A man hugged Teacher, the hug becoming a two-handed handshake, as hand slid down arm to hand.

“I was told to expect something amazing.  This for just a saint?”

“A saint’s day, a hundred years after their death.  People needed an excuse to celebrate.  The memories of our brush with the end of days was close.”

Saint kept his distance from the Fallen.  With the word ‘saint’, Secondhand looked his way, and he looked away, avoiding eye contact.

Only here because of his ongoing concerns about Dragon.  Because he wanted every resource.

It barely mattered.  The Overseer had ten thousand hearts and though each was insubstantial, they added up to a thrum, like a hundred hummingbirds flying through the air.  Her eyes drank in home, and remembered the moment the syringe had been injected.  She remembered going to pieces the first time, a bloody, screaming process, and she’d reveled in it.

Reveled because it had been change, and she’d been escaping a role that was frozen, unchanging.

Everyone on the dais was being recognized as a sponsor of the play.  For Earth Cheit, it was a way to elevate Teacher and the others.  Though the pretense was false, the festivities were in part for them.

The Overseer watched as Madam Mathers had her moment at the front of the dais.  Center of the stage, just behind a short, balcony-like fence, stairs covered in red velvet stretching down to the city street on either side of the dais.  She watched as nearly every eye present looked at the woman.

With that, with one fell stroke, Teacher assumed the ability to cripple the capitol of Earth Cheit.

Elijah couldn’t even keep the smile from his face.

“You wanted me to be a housewife, and I am,” she said, to the void, her voice rising.  “I maintain my home.  You wanted me to be meek, never heard, and I am.  You wanted me to be nothing and no one and I am!”

She liked to think the choir carried that voice higher, rather than drown it out.  It didn’t matter.  She had come to terms with her silent voice long ago.  To accept was one of the first things she had learned.

“I am a creator of my own kingdom.  I am free.  I’m a woman more powerful than any of you.  I’m everything you wanted yet everything you feared, and I can be both because…”

She filled the space, sweeping past people on either side of the street, people on the stairs, people on the dais.

“…I am everything everywhere.”

She moved amid the masses, searching for assassins and familiarizing herself with everyone present.

“I was bartered away for power.  You’ll find now that you get what you pay for.”

The show was done, and the students were dissolving ranks.  The crowd closed in, filling the street.  There was food, drink, and cheering.  She knew, from dim childhood memories, that it would continue into the night, and then there would be fireworks, colors matched to the saint.

She swept close to Teacher, and she touched her lips to his, while the world that had cast her away unwittingly watched.  A thank you, a message.  She saw his eyes move slightly, his eyebrows twitch.

Teacher smiled.

“Enjoying yourself?” one of the Theocrats asked.

“I am,” Teacher said.

“I’m glad.  I’ve been to Gimel.  I’ve seen how thinly it is stretched.  I thought you would enjoy something more… substantial.”

“The insubstantial has its appeal, but I thank you, Caleb.”

“All that we have is yours, if you’ll elevate us, give us more worlds, more fertile ground.  Every soldier, every weapon, every pen, every facility.”

Teacher smiled.  He took the man’s hand, shaking it firmly.  “You won’t be disappointed.”

“The appearance of the Titan so close to home has people worried,” another man said.

“Rest assured,” Teacher said.  “Have faith.”

“Faith,” was the answer.

Teacher had his army, now.  More people than he could hope to use.  He had his stranglehold.

A few hundred steps away, past that shining portal, he had the fates of everyone in Gimel.  A different kind of stranglehold.

People came and went, saying their hellos, getting their introductions.  It was an hour before Teacher was alone with the man he wanted to talk to.  Not a face most citizens would recognize, but he had visited once when The Horseman had first arrived.  A dangerous man who always wore black.  Ian.

“The Horseman told us of your information gathering apparatus.  Spreading false word.”

“Something like that,” Teacher said.

“You can do this?”

“You, Ian my friend, I can assure, I can do this.”

“An army.  An endless supply of people to be your thralls, with no need to recruit or kidnap.”

“The army has nothing to do with it.  My information gathering apparatus has nothing to do with it.  I have other tools that I’ve yet to reveal.”

“The top floor of your facility.”

Teacher nodded.

“The Horseman said he couldn’t go there, a phantom stopped him before he could.”

“A good thing too,” Teacher said.  “I can trust you with this, and few others.  If anyone knew what I had there, they would want it.  Anyone, large or small, whatever world.  I’m certain.”

I can trust you, he’d said.  You in the plural.  His eyes hadn’t focused on the man.  That had been partially directed at her.

“I’ll trust you.  Just tell me you’ll save my world.”

“I will.  Carrying on where my predecessors left off, I suppose, saving worlds.”

“And your own?  Gimel?  Will you save it or leave it to fester?”

“Only to save it from itself.”

He’d been right, to invite her.  To see her world leashed by an invisible chain.  To give her a chance to scream to it that she’d changed, she’d played by its rules and she’d beaten it.

Saint approached, putting a hand on Teacher’s shoulder.  He showed the man his phone.  The Overseer barely had to look.  The color of the screen said it all.

Red.

Things began in earnest now.

Previous Chapter                                                                                       Next Chapter

251 thoughts on “Black – 13.x”

    1. I know! Teacher’s suit is absolutely clashing and too cliche! Victoria needs to fucking kill him for his insolence!

      1. Glitch… Sure… That’s what Teacher wants you to think…

        Well out of the frying pan, into the fire, put out the fire, turns out you’ve got a gas leak the whole time.

        1. Umm…I’m just gonna go…not buy a gas mask, panic room, and 5 year’s worth of canned food and water.

  1. Fuck Teacher. Seriously, I can’t wait for Contessa’s path to come to fruition and blow his whole plan the fuck up. He thinks he’s beaten her? It’s not possible for her to lose once she starts using her power – she’s just letting him think he’s won.

    1. In fairness, WB has already stated Fortunate isn’t unbeatable. He’s clarified that Jack Slash would’ve had a very real chance of beating her because their shard quality was on the same tier. It’s not out of the question that Teacher’s shard potential is just as high when it has the proper network to leverage (which he currently seems to wield).

      1. I don’t think that’s what he said, though. I think Jack could beat Contessa because his shard was so in tune with him that it got other people’s passengers to cheat on his behalf. That came with a cost, eg wasting most of his unbeatable army (without even tying a Cherish to the back of a Siberian) because he wanted to make Taylor kill an innocent. Jack was able to max out his shard-connection by being a tool of his shard, to the point of ultimately locking himself in Hell. The shard itself was good, but not PtV-level in terms of potential.

        Relevant link on passenger behavior and what the Wretch would like to do:

        I would do as some did before we were all broken, and reach out to others nearby, and urge them to test and not destroy. Some would ignore me, but some would listen. They would do what was in their power to steer their hosts.

        Teacher cannot possibly have that kind of connection. Mister J set ridiculous rules for himself because his shard wanted to experience conflict (and he was a violent sociopath who got bored easily). Teacher has barely taken more personal risks than Coil. Remember what happened to him?

        1. Interesting explanation about why Jack seemed to be so untouchable by capes. I always suspected that he had some secondary master power that was so subtle that even Jack wasn’t aware of it, but I think that what you suggest makes more sense. This is how in his interlude in act 26 Scion described Jack’s shard:

          The broadcast shard. One that had been crippled, just like the shard of the female that floated before the entity now. The same shard that had managed communication between the entity and its counterpart.

          Sounds like a shard that could make its requests heared even by shards that don’t belong to Scion’s network, doesn’t it? On top of it not only was Jack perfectly in tune with his shard, he also kept inventing new creative ways to fight, to kill and to break people around him – creating all kinds of cape-on-cape conflicts in the process. Sounds like a perfect source of information the shards are looking for, doesn’t it? No wonder all shards would want to keep him alive.

          1. Jack was explicitly beaten by using an unpowered PRT agent because they had figured out that his shard communication abilities made him effectively invincible against other parahumans.

          2. Sure, but I was under impression that Jack’s power let him control shards somehow – like Khepri controlled people, only to lesser extent, and without Jack fully realizing it. Turns out that Jack’s shard might have convinced the shards to let Jack live instead – in other words his shard didn’t “master” any of the other shards, just presented a good enough argument for all of them to cooperate.

            It would mean that there could be another way for capes to defeat, or even kill Jack – all they need to do is to make Jack look no longer useful as a source of information from shards perspective. He always wanted to his murders to be “interesting” and “creative” – make him what he would describe as “boring”, and he is finished.

          3. Come to think of it, could Jack’s shard with its ability to communicate with multiple shards outside its network (even the “dead and broken” ones! – remember that some members of S9 as well as their opponents were Cauldron-made capes) be another one of those shards that could play a key role in constructing something like a new Entity?

          4. My understanding was that Jack effectively wiretapped other capes’ shard connections, allowing him to see whatever they were going to do in a fight. Hence his ability to perfectly react to all of Golem’s strikes, no matter where they came from. He didn’t have any control over what they did, subconscious or otherwise, except to the extent that his shard may have helped him manipulate capes on a social level, as in his interactions with Nilbog.

          5. Maybe, though wiretapping shard connections doesn’t sound like what a “broadcast” shard would do. Then again many broadcasting devices can double as receivers (at least where radio waves are concerned, not that I expect shards to communicate using electromagnetic waves).

          6. Something like that, yeah. His shard was in charge of the shard communications network, so communications routed through it, or something in that vein.

    2. It’s entirely possible for her to lose. She’s restrained by her starting conditions. If the Overseer/Custodian is correct, she let her guard down and stopped running Paths. Once that stopped, she didn’t have the warning of “Step 43: kill gang of 50 captors. Step 44: continue to grocery store for plums.” That she’d get while telling her power what she wants to do.

      1. Yeah, her power is basically dependent on her constantly having the right questions “active.” Like, she needs to constantly be asking herself things like “how to ensure that I’m not captured or killed today.” She apparently decided to completely stop using her power for a couple days, and this made her vulnerable. And other powers (like that of Teacher or people in Teacher’s employ) allow him to exploit that. She was able to defensively put her mind in a state that can’t be brainwashed, but apparently Teacher is in the process of breaking through that.

        Basically, I think we can assume Contessa is out of action. And she kinda HAS to be; if she’s actively using her power, she is literally unbeatable by anything other than power-cancelers (or I guess the Simurgh, as the only remaining Endbringer).

        I get the impression that the only reason Teacher didn’t become ludicrously powerful (like this) prior to Gold Morning was the existence of Cauldron and Contessa herself. Without them preventing parahumans that could throw society into disarray, his power can easily allow him to become pretty absurd (since he’s effectively some mega-tinker/thinker that also has the ability to brainwash other capes).

        Honestly, Teacher’s power (and Jack Slash’s, for that matter) kind of bugs me, because I believe they are some of the only examples of people with truly ludicrous powers that *aren’t* Cauldron-sourced. It makes sense for Cauldron-sourced capes to end up with ludicrous powers that would normally be unintended by the entities (like Eidolon), because, well, they weren’t. Contessa also falls into this category, since she received powers she wasn’t supposed to get. Non-Cauldron capes, on the other hand, had the same powers they were intended to have in the ideal cycle envisioned by the entities (which logically shouldn’t be anything too ludicrous, since they’re supposed to allow capes to basically stress test various abilities against each other). So it’s kind of weird for capes like Jack or (to a lesser extent) Teacher to exist, who are just as ludicrous as an Eidolon and have the ability to make themselves virtually unbeatable.

        1. > (or I guess the Simurgh, as the only remaining Endbringer)

          The Simurgh isn’t the only remaining Endbringer, just the oldest. Khonsu, Tohu, and Bohu all survived as well.

          1. Khonsu might survive. It hasn’t been seen since Gold Morning, and unlike the others retreated through time (or maybe to another earth, nobody knew for sure) when it was inactive. It might have been killed along with everyone close enough to see it die, in which case- if the body’s been annihilated by a Scion blast or sank to the bottom of the Atlantic, nobody’s going to be any the wiser.

        2. Teacher got so powerful because he’s actively studying and (ab)using power synergies. Entities wouldn’t prevent it because that’s what they actually trying to do. And as for how far could power synergies get you, remember that Taylor and Amy both were natural triggers (and so was Ciara, for that matter).

    3. Fortuna’s quickfix ended up shutting herself off without any way to escape. It won’t last, as our new Over(ly creepy)seer pointed out. Then Teacher/Scapegoat will brainwash Contessa for good.

      We hit this story’s Godzilla threshold off-screen.

    4. Wouldn’t it be better if Contessa ended up being rescued by someone from the outside? She might have gotten her lesson of humility at the end of Worm, but wouldn’t another one help her not to “lose sight of the little things”, as she put it in chapter 30.7? I think that the lesson would be particularly effective if one or more of her victims (like Sveta, or practically any other C53) ended up saving her.

      Moreover if Tattletale still doesn’t know where Taylor is, and only suspects that her best friend has survived, then if the Undersiders also played a role in the rescue, Contessa may feel obliged to repay them by revealing that our old protagonist is on Aleph.

      1. And beside the lesson of humility (which I think someone like Contessa probably needs to get a couple of times before she can learn how to be a mortal woman after doing arguably even worse things than Taylor did to save humanity), being rescued by someone like Sveta would be an excellent opportunity for Contessa to get some forgiveness. And I think that Contessa needs to be forgiven by a mostly innocent C53, like Sveta every bit as much as Sveta herself needs to forgive Contessa.

        1. Why do I say that Sveta needs to forgive Contessa? Because I think that Sveta needs to forgive at least one of people who turned her into a C53 before she will be able to admit to herself that she is not to blame for deaths of all of those people she ended up killing.

          Why forgive Contessa, and not Number Man for example? Because forgiving Number Man could be to easy – he was ultimately a subordinate after all, and Sveta needs it to be as hard as possible to give her inner strength necessary to stop blaming herself. Ultimately the decision to keep giving people powers drawn from Eden despite what those powers were doing to them was made by Contessa and Doctor Mother, and Sveta knows like nobody else that only one of these two is left alive…

          1. Also, Number Man doesn’t seem the least bit sorry for what he did. He’s still convinced that all the horrible shit Cauldron did was right because humanity isn’t extinct. He’s still continuing Cauldron’s ideals of furthering the big picture no matter who gets run over in its pursuit. I can’t imagine the circumstances that would lead Sveta to forgive him.

            Contessa, on the other hand, seems to have regretted the horrific shit she helped to do in her efforts to save the world. Or maybe not regret, per se. Maybe she took something from her conversation with Taylor when she said, “Don’t- don’t regret it. Was- had to. Saved lives. But I would do different, given a chance.”

          2. I think that conversation between Taylor and Contessa wasn’t just a judgement of Taylor, or comparing notes with a similar person. Contessa asked Taylor about advice on how she should feel about her own past, and how she should live her future life. This bit:

            “You still do ug-ly things. I saw you with T-teacher. You work with him now. As before, still do now.”

            “I’m not so sure,” she said. “There’s less of a mission, now. I have no cause anymore, and I hope that means I don’t lose sight of the little things.“

            Contessa is probably torn between regret and knowledge that she did what needed to be done, and that she may need to do it again. She wanted to know how she should do it, if the need arose again, what she should focus on, and which lines she shouldn’t cross.

            I expect that Taylor’s answers that it was always about saving some people and that is should also be about not giving too much power to bullies, will be reflected in Contessa’s choices in Ward. In fact even the last questions Contessa asked Taylor because she already implemented Taylor’s idea in practice then:

            “Were you really a monster in the end? A warlord, an alien administrator? A vicious killer with a cruel streak, mutilating your enemies and secretly enjoying it? A bully, if you forgive me for using that word?”

            I looked down at my hand.

            “Or were you really a hero? Do the good intentions win out? Was it Glaistig Uaine’s strength or yours, that held her back from saving Scion in those final moments?”

            Contessa wanted to know if Taylor deserved to be saved and if she deserved to keep her power according to Taylor’s own standard. If Contessa used those guidelines then, I expect she may keep using them now.

          3. Teacher seems to be the biggest bully around leading a gang of similar Master-bullies. I expect that Contessa will want to do something about that – maybe still save them, but definitely take away their powers too.

            I worry that if Victoria will become the “tyrant” her shard wants her to be, she may be next on Contessa’s list.

          4. Maybe Contessa saved Taylor’s life, but also took her power, because the answer to her last questions for Taylor was “both a monster and a hero”? A hero deserves to be saved, but a monster needs to have its power taken, so that is what Contessa did.

          5. Perhaps taking Taylor’s powers away wasn’t just about powers alone? Maybe the more important thing Contessa achieved was taking away Taylor’s inclinations to “bully” people? Taylor manipulated, coerced, and downright forced plenty of people to help her with her endeavors. Sounds like something you would expect from a person with master power, doesn’t it? Yet in the epilogue she seemed to be happy letting people do their own thing, to let humanity take care of itself without her meddling.

            A few months ago I wrote that Taylor probably has all skills necessary to become a very successful manager of a big corporation, but would she still have a drive to do it? Would she be willing to seek position of power again? Judging from what little of post-power-removal Taylor we saw in the epilogue of Worm, I think that the answer is “no”, and the reason is that her mind is no longer affected by her power.

          6. Of course considering that shards seem to only reinforce inclinations already present in people, and that Taylor seemed willing to keep contact with Aleph’s Annette, who seems to hold some sort of unspecified, but important corporate position, it is entirely possible that Annette will “corrupt” Taylor, so that “no” from the epilogue of Worm will turn into a “yes”, and we will eventually see a “CEO Taylor Hebert”, or something along those lines…

          7. By the way, how should Taylor call Aleph’s Annette boys? Second reality half-brothers?

          8. You mean treat Annette what’s-her-name as Annette Hebert’s sister? But Taylor already called her her mom, not aunt.

          9. She didn’t really. She said “You’re my mom, but you aren’t my mother,” but that was just in the context of trying to explain what was going on. It wasn’t an “I’m going to think of you as Mom” kind of statement. And I do think it’s pretty natural to view parallel universe counterparts as siblings.

            But that’s not really what I was thinking about. I was thinking about the fact that “cousin” is a flexible term that can refer to more distant relations than just people with common grandparents. It seems like the easiest way to fit them all under the umbrella of “Family” without having to kludge together something complicated, and it has a very practical sort of vagueness to it. She’s probably not going to want to go around telling people about her exact heritage, after all. If people ask how she knows Annette’s family, saying “We’re cousins” will satisfy the curiosity of anyone who isn’t an actual family member without any risk of implying that Annette had a secret baby out of wedlock or whatever.

          10. Then how about the fact that Taylor literally introduced herself to Anette as her daughter?

          11. Don’t take me wrong – I don’t necessarily expect Taylor to refer to Anette’s sons as her half-brothers while talking to people who wouldn’t understand the situation, but I think this would be the term she would use in conversations with people who do understand the situation (or are at least about to have it explained by Taylor), and in her inner voice.

        1. It could be, but I think it would be more meaningful if it wasn’t, if mighty Contessa was truly helpless and ended up being rescued and forgiven by people who have every right, and all possible reasons to hate her. It would be a great act of heroism on the part of rescuers after all, and a good example for Contessa to follow.

          1. That is too fanfiction and contrived. And I sincerely doubt Contessa is a character that lacks humility or needs it.

          2. Maybe, but I still maintain that she could use some forgiveness, and whether she needs it or not, it would be humbling for her to be not only rescued, but also forgiven by one of her discarded victims.

          3. Plus it probably wouldn’t hurt if Sveta gave little Fortuna who I suspect still lives somewhere inside Contessa a warm hug together with her forgiveness.

          4. The hug seems especially appropriate, because Fortuna left her family to save the worlds knowing fully well that she will never see them again. I think it probably still is a painful, open emotional wound for her. The fact that Taylor lost her mother is probably one of the mor important, if easily overlooked reasons why Contessa “saw herself” in Taylor as she put it in chapter 30.7. I also think that this may be a the main reason why Contessa made sure to make sure that Danny ended up on Aleph with Taylor, and that she brought Taylor to Aleph in the first place – possibly the only world where Taylor could meet her mother’s counterpart.

            This wound makes me think that Contessa really could use some emotional warmth – something she probably never had during her days in Cauldron, which is in part why I think that wound probably never had chance to heal. And as inhuman as Sveta looks, she seems like a perfect person to give such human warmth.

            What would be best for Contessa in my opinion is if she started her own family, or married into one (I did post my fanfiction-like idea that Danny would be a great husband, and Taylor – a great daughter-in-law some time ago, and I’m still sticking to it), but, without family, just having an emotional moment like I described above with someone like Sveta would probably be a good start.

            Too good ending to happen in Parahumans? Perhaps, but I would argue that Taylor got almost as good. Too good to happen to Contessa of all people? That is for you to decide. Would I want to see it happen? Sure, especially since I can see an excellent potential for a comedy, tragedy and drama in such three-person Hebert family down the line.

          5. And sorry everyone for pitching that “Fortuna Hebert” idea for what I think is the third time. I keep promising myself that I won’t do it again, but it simply always comes back to me whenever Contessa is discussed, and “demands to be written”. If I thought that I could write a fanfic that would be any better than just plain terrible, I would have written one with this story a long time ago, if only to “get it out of my head”.

          6. A few more reasons why I think Contessa deserves to be rescued and to form some sort of emotional connection with her rescuers. (No more fanfic material, I promise!)

            Contessa did some very bad things, but you need to remember that she sacrificed decades of her life to save humanity. She also sacrificed not only any hope to see her family again, but als any close emotional bonds with people she might have formed throughout those years. Sure, there probably were some bonds with certain Cauldron members (I think that Doctor Mother, Number Man and Custodian are all likely to have formed such bonds with Contessa), but for Contessa (like for other members of Cauldron’s inner circle) misson always came first. On top of it Contessa always had to be ready to use her power to manipulate them with her power to make sure that Cauldron worked smoothly, and they knew that. This is no basis for a healthy relationship.

            I suspect that Contessa’s talk with Taylor at the end of arc 30 might have truly opened up emotionally since the day she triggered. In a way Contessa was, and still is an even worse emotional hedgehog than Tattletale in her worst times. Even when Contessa retired, she remained alone. She is simply one of the most lonely people in the setting in my opinion.

            What’s worse, constantly using her power is one of the most important reasons Contessa is lonely, and her recent capture may teach her a dangerous and false lesson that she simply needs to keep using her power for the rest of her life just to remain safe. I think that the only way to offset this lesson is to show her that there are people out there who may rescue her without being manipulated by her power to do so, that her power is not the only way to stay safe, that it can be accomplished just by honestly befriending people instead.

            Being forgiven, aside from lightening an undoubtedly very heavy burden on Contessa’s conscience, could be the first step to showing that there are people out there who may not only rescue her because it is too dangerous to leave her in hands of someone like Teacher, but also that there may be people who may want to do it just for her, that friendship, or any other strong emotional bonds between her and other people are possible, because there are people out there who may want to form them.

            A simple display of affection, like that Sveta’s hug I mentioned, will prove that emotional bonds are not only possible, but that they are happening for real, even if in such small, simple ways. How often do you think Contessa has been hugged since she left her family, and knew that whoever did it actually meant it?

            If you look at Contessa, she in some ways sacrificed much more than Taylor did – not only did she willingly, for the greater good, do some things even more horrible than Taylor ever happened to do (like testing all of those powers on thousands of Cauldron victims – not because of her cruelty, but because she thought it was necessary), not only did she do it much longer than Taylor, not only did she manipulate people using her power, which is arguably a far worse method than what Taylor or Tattletale ever had access to (except Khepri’s power, of course), she also did it completely alone on an emotional level.

            Taylor may have abandoned the Undersiders, but at least she always loved them, and knew that they loved her back, just like her father did, and that they always got her back when it counted. Contessa probably never had someone like this since the day she abandoned her family. And remember how important the people Taylor loved were to her. They were her anchors. What anchors does Contessa have? What reason does she even have to live now that her purpose of saving humanity is over?

            Contessa really needs to find a new reason to live, and I hope that this time it won’t be something she will be forced to do because it has to be done, and because nobody else can do it. Love and friendship are the best reasons I can think of, and after all those decades, I think she deserves the best.

          7. > her recent capture may teach her a dangerous and false lesson that she simply needs to keep using her power for the rest of her life just to remain safe

            Well, certainly she needs to, unless she manages to convince every world power that she’s dead. With a power like hers, she is an asset that everyone will want to have. And while heroes would leave the decision to her, villains won’t be so courteous (as we just have seen). And if you decide to go after Contessa, you’ll make damn sure that you bring all the biggest guns you have, then dig some alternate worlds for even bigger guns and bring them too. To counter it, she really needs to use her power. Friends certainly would also be nice to have, but unless those friends are Valkyrie, Dinah, Dragon, Simurgh and Kronos (and maybe also Sleeper), they won’t change much in terms of countering threats that would be designed to beat Contessa.

          8. I think it is a very pessimistic view T.T.O. Contessa seems to understand that she is just too powerful to live anything resembling normal life in a normal society if she keeps using her power constantly. Her power makes it difficult to get people to trust her, not to mention befriend her or fall in love with her. Moreover not having friends means that there is nobody to watch her back, which in turn means that she needs to keep using her power to stay safe.

            Sounds like some sort of catch 22? Perhaps it is, but I choose to be optimistic enough to hope that Contessa can make a leap of faith necessary to stop using her power long enough to actually find those bonds with people she needs both to protect her instead of depending exclusively on her power for that, and to simply let her to go through her life without being completely alone. Most if not all people need some sort of significant others to achieve happiness, and I don’t see a reason to believe that Contessa is an exception.

            This is largely why I think that being rescued and being forgiven is so important to Contessa right now – after being captured by Teacher, she may have very little faith I wrote about left, and salvation and forgiveness from people like Undersiders and Breakthrough (especially Sveta) are probably what see needs to get that faith back.

          9. Besides Ward is a story about second chances. Why shouldn’t Contessa not get her second chance to live a normal life? Or at least more normal than her current lonely, paranoid existence?

          10. Well, my point was that any threat aiming for her most likely would be near her power level, and her friends, whoever they might be, just cannot protect her from Contessa-tier threats – by definition – if they are not Contessa-tier themselves. And even if they are, then how would it look like – she refuses to use her own power to protect herself because she can offload it to friends who will use their powers for her? I could hardly call it a fair solution, or a normal life. I think the only solution is just to accept her power as a part of her and not make such a big deal out of using it, and the solution for her prospective friends is the same (even more so because if they make a big deal out of her using her power on them, they cannot – by definition – know whether she did it or not, so anyone having such opinions on her power will end up distrusting her by default. unless she uses her power to overcome this distrust, heh).

          11. I’m not saying that Contessa should stop using her power completely. She is a cape. One of the most powerful ones, and likely with a very strong connection to her shard. Of course she will be forced to use her power as long as she has it (though getting rid of it could also be a way for her to have a normal life, but that would probably require an even greater leap of faith).

            All I’m saying is that she should impose some rules on herself about how she uses her power, because without those it is very difficult for her to form strong bonds with anyone. She is a little like Tattletale in this regard only worse, because Tattletale’s power is by its nature leaves her vulnerable in many situations, meaning that she needs to have at least some allies just to survive, and because, despite what Victoria seems to think sometimes, Tattletale does have a filter, she knows that sometimes it is best not to use information supplied by her power against other people as soon as opportunity presents itself just so she can stay on good terms with others.

            I think that some of the rules Contessa should consider to imposing on herself should be to:
            – stop using her power to ensure her safety all the time, let her friends carry some of that load for her,
            – in return use her power to ensure her and possibly more importantly her friends’ safety when situation looks like it warrants it,
            – maybe also make effort to use her power to help random people in smaller ways – help a crying kid to find their lost toy, figure out how to get a cat stuck in the tree without having to call firefighters, make sure that old grandma crosses a street safety etc. – such things may seem trivial, but it may do a lot both to keep her grounded and to let her connect better with people around her,
            – do her best to avoid using her power to gain advantage over her friends in any way; even using it to know what she needs to say to win a seemingly trivial argument with them should be off limits,
            – be very open about those rules with her friends, tell them what the rules are, tell them if she breaks them for whatever reason, clearly explain those reasons, maybe even let them know whenever she uses her power in any way it may affect them.

          12. And the first rule is particularly important because I believe that contrary to a popular saying it is paranoia to constantly prepare yourself for attacks even when you know that there are people out there who are waiting for an opportunity to use a moment of your weakness to get you. Making some preparations is fine, constantly using something as powerful as Contessa’s power to ensure that no attack against you may ever succeed means putting yourself in a besieged fortress mentality, and essentially becoming a slave of your own power – definitely not where Contessa should want to be.

          13. Well, “slave” is probably a too strong word, but you can’t deny that Contessa surrenders a lot of control over her life to her shard every time she follows one of her paths – basically everything she did not explicitly define in her questions is getting filled in by her power the way that power likes, and while theoretically she could always stop following any of her paths whenever she wants to, it is not often that easy in practice – sometimes because she really needs to use her power to achieve her goals, or just to stay safe, sometimes because any consequences of her actions she may wish to avoid are simply not apparent to her until after the fact.

            One has to wonder if Contessa’s power does intentionally give paths that keep her using her power and living her life in a way her shard wants her to do it, not the way she wants to. After if goals of shard are like those of other shards, her happiness is at best secondary to the information she provides by using her power to do “big things” as much as possible. It is even likely that Contessa’s shard sees her happiness as something that conflicts with its goals, and as such may do everything it can to keep Contessa unhappy.

    5. She did win though. Path query was was “don’t let Teacher make me his thrall”, path was “go into a fucking coma”.

    6. On one hand, I can’t wait for people like you to be proved wrong. On the other hand, I really don’t want Teacher to be the one doing so…

  2. Holy crap, Teacher is a lot scarier than I thought. Altogether though, what he’s set up with his home base is AMAZING; albeit absolutely horrible for our protagonists to deal with. I always thought he seemed kind of underwhelming, but this really puts everything in perspective!

    Also, surprised to see the Custodian/Overseer taking this particular side. Further surprised by freaking Contessa being taken out of the picture, effectively. Can’t wait to see where THIS goes.

  3. Well that was a Hell of a chapter. Honestly I think teacher is the closest thing to contessa. It seems kind of hilarious that goddess thought they were on even footing.

    1. They kind-of were. Goddess’ Master effect trumps his Master effect, and is based on her presence. When they fought, Teacher could only act through his minions, and they were flawed; his power granted superhuman skill, at the cost of their awareness and flexibility. And if he ever got Goddess’d, his entire network would have fallen to Goddess. And his minions might be vulnerable, too, so he couldn’t face her directly without help from some other parahuman’s effect.

      1. She has to be aware of his minions though and while he himself is vulnerable he’s smarter than she ever was. She was a powerhouse but tried to muscle through every situation. Goddess was like the Brockton Bay wards. Loaded with power, but none of it mattered when they fought the undersiders.

        1. The moment a Teacher kill-squad fires its first blast at Goddess, she’s aware of it. If it doesn’t immediately kill her, that’s a wasted kill-squad. If it has a physical projectile weapon, it can’t bypass her geometric telekinetic shield, if it’s got an energy weapon it has to bypass her Trump-defence, which- granted- requires ‘tuning’, but if the first shot fails, she’s ‘tuned’ to that attack and the next won’t work.

          Goddess was a threat to Teacher, quite a big one; Warden-level, probably, or just shy of it. Her problem was she didn’t work well against subtle; she had a sledgehammer set of powers, and everything started to look like very fragile porcelain. Teacher’s got a scalpel power, so he’s trying to make everything look like surgery.

        2. Goddess had the power to capture people through live video feed, which is what happened to Breakthrough. If Teacher’s minions got careless it could cause him real problems. If Teacher got hit by it then his whole operation becomes in service to her goals. Conversely, if he HAD caught Goddess and she hadn’t gotten killed by Chris, then it wouldn’t have JUST been Mama Mathers on the balcony on Cheit. That and the fact that Teacher’s industry providing him access to peoples’ electronic devices means that if Teacher manages to snag Goddess that’s the ball game.

    2. If it wasn’t for Chris and Panacea Goddess would have come out ahead after their prison tussle. It would have been possible Teacher could have turned that around, but it is also possible that Goddess could have mind controlled the old Cauldron base.

      On that note, I know what we can do with Colt and LL. Their powers keep them from functioning in normal society right? Clearly, what they need is treatment, not punishment. How can they get treatment? Why, we should bathe Rain in their blood! Seriously, Breakthrough needs the power boost.

    3. Literally Chris just tore her in half. And teacher also funded the drug to immunize against her influence. Without that she is vastly more vulnerable. Brains beat brawn.

  4. I guess this explains how Victoria’s fake diary was crafted. Not a single overwhelmingly powerful precog, but a team of mostly-human writers supported with low-level thinker powers and a huge engine of information gatherers. They just studied her, until they could copy the way she thinks the normal way.

    And wow, the Overseer/Custodian is kind of a jerk.

    1. The Overseer is a combination of Lawful Stupid, and very pissed off at her home Earth. I think that made her easy for Teacher to manipulate.

  5. Wow Cheit needed a more aggressive FCC. You just know they would have been all over e.g. a nipple slip. They didn’t realize Mama (“mid-thirties!” I love it!) is a much worse influence than Ms. Jackson and young Timberlake. Too late now!

    1. To be fair, Cheit has very few natural parahumans, and their religious hegemony means they’ve probably got a single state, or a very close link between politics and religion and a society that leverages that to avoid conflict. The fact that they’re dealt with as a single political body suggests they’ve got some political union or figure who can speak for everyone. They don’t think about things like Mama Mathers’ nipples- they’ve not got the experience of what can happen with those.

  6. Huh, so it was Teacher all along.

    An interesting thing is that Teacher’s thralls seem to be able to decode who got what in Grasping Self’s dream room. Does this mean that Teacher has a deeper understanding of powers than we’ve seen from anyone else? Also, what does the Overseer mean when she says “the fifth occupant”? Colt or the beast in the fifth space?

    So, after the mystery of the diary was revealed, we get the mystery of Teacher’s big thing that everyone wants. Does it have something to do with Teacher’s plans to make shards a whole again? Or is it just better portal technology? We know that there are Scion’s restrictions that even all Tinkers from all accessible Earths together weren’t able to surpass, so it won’t be any substantial messing with the shards.

  7. “A little under two weeks and I will see your face more regularly. They’re certain we’ll break you then. They know the date, down to the hour. Then you’ll be his.”

    God I hate Teacher.
    There’s just something in this…. something in his epilogue in Worm… his desire not to dominate, not to control, but simply to OWN people.
    It makes my skin crawl. It sets off pretty much all of my “Nope” reactions.

    Fortuna deserved better. Fortuna deserved better than this. She was an idiot for spending even five minutes without “Path of protection” running, but even so…
    She tried so hard, and failed, despite everything wrong she has done, she deserves better than this. Better than being Teacher’s pet.

    The Custodian is beautifully amoral, and it makes sense, and I understand why she has no loyalty to Cauldren… but I’m also 60% sure that Teacher lured her out of the facility for a reason, and has plans for screwing her over also.

    Gawd, and I have to try to sleep after that. After dealing with creepy fucking teacher being creepy. Wish someone had murdered the bastard back in the cage.
    *shudders*

    1. He can touch her after she portals. He touches her after she portalled.

      What does his touch do?

      How many times has he touched her?

      1. I don’t think Teacher’s keeping her under his power. We see too much initiative from her point of view. Every new ‘touch’ would also require Scapegoat’s to make it stick, and he didn’t.
        Pretty safe bet that Overseer is perfectly fine with her current situation.

    2. Also, to follow all this up:

      Dinah Alcott, do not fail me now.

      Cause I’m pretty sure Dinah has a play, and I’m pretty sure that play is aimed firmly at Teacher.
      That or Kid Cassandra is the big bad all along 🙁

      1. Contessa getting out with her free will is wishful thinking. I’d rather bury that thought and be extremely pleasantly surprised if she finds a way, than root for it and get my hopes thoroughly crushed under WünderBar’s cruel hammer (tears will flow all the same, I promise – merely a different taste).

        So yeah, help us, Dinah-wan Alcott. You’re our only hope.
        And if Dinah is evil, I’ll just pray for Ziz to sing so Daunting destroys everything, because nothing will matter anymore.

        1. I agree with your assesment on Fortuna’s chances. Just from a Meta sense, having Fortuna be okay sort of sets up a “And the big good was set up to rescue you all along!” moment for the heros.

          I’d even go so far as to say that probably Teacher will succeed at Getting Fortuna up and running for his side, and the heroes are forced to face off against PtV.
          Weather this results in a “Teacher as big bad” or a “Teacher let cthulu out of the can” equivelent I’m not sure.

          Also, just to re-itterate current threats:

          Teacher: has Earth Cheit under influence, has Contessa in a box, has Mama, Valefor, horseman(?) and WAY too many minions.

          Dauntless: Has Ziz on shoulder. Lols.

          Dinah: has been scheming behind scenes. Goals inscrutable, and so far kind of mean.

          Valkyrie: Is scared of downtown megaopolis…. for reasons.

          I’m kind of putting bets that Dinah is aimed at defeating ONE of these threats, and that potentially Dauntless is/is aimed at one of the others.

          1. Dauntless seems to be aimed at not destroying some cities in all the Earths at once by moving a hand. And we don’t know anything at all about Dinah and what’s she doing (if anything).
            And not to forget about Sleeper…

  8. Well, shit.

    Custodian turning out to be a vengeful Cheitian and kind of an asshole was not a thing I’d have ever expected to be a thing.

    Oh, and of course the nightmarish office set up in Cauldron’s former base straight out of Cabin in the Woods.

    This was amazingly chilling. Thank you!

  9. Ok, I didn’t expect the Custodian was freaking sold by Earth Cheit to Cauldron and keeping deep hatred for both. I expected Teacher had ‘acquired’ her mostly unwillingly. But no, she had to finally find solace and purpose in that particular man, embracing her new ‘Overseer’ role.
    It’s terrible and I’m not seeing any way out.

  10. Typo thread, extra hopelessly black edition:

    “There was nobody who could stop me not even when the Doctor Mother and Contessa ran this facility,”
    Could use a comma after ‘stop me’.

    “taking away the bad,”
    Cuts short or mispunctuated.

    “and put possible measure into effect,”
    +’every’ ?

    1. > The C.Ms came in a variety of flavors,

      C.Ms > C.M.s

      > Type. Take thirty seconds,

      There are three spaces between “Type.” and “Take” in the chapter text.

      > Not those names, but, they are,

      Scratch comma after “but”?

      > “Fuck you!” the cell’s occupant screamed. “Fuck. I’m going to be smelling those fumes for hours.

      Add quotation mark at the end.

      1. a keyboard, typing on a keyboard that (maybe “a keyboard, that”)
        the upended > then upended
        back was to > back to
        our best in the (should this be “the best in our”)
        that a sea > that sea
        Overseers faces > Overseer’s faces
        stop me not > stop me, not
        the Doctor Mother (should this be Doctor Mother)
        away the bad, > away the bad.
        William to grant any free will. (this seems a bit abrupt. was this meant to continue from the previous?)
        choiral > choral

        1. >cripple the capitol of Earth Cheit.

          Capital? For some reason, capitol means a building and capital means a city.

  11. From interlude 10.z:

    Bogeyman of Cauldron: captured, weapon kept up sleeve
    Dinah Alcott: compromised? Shift of motives?
    Why capture/corner/co-opt precogs?

    I wonder if this means that Dinah has been “teachered”.

    1. Tt’s not sure if Dinah’s been teachered. The fact we’re not seeing her in this chapter doesn’t exactly help clear it up, since she might be working the other shifts and sleeping at the time.
      Also note Tt expects Contessa as a Teacher weapon, so there’s almost no chance she won’t get brainwashed.

      I can only hope Dinah wasn’t, and her current pushes will lead to the least damaging way to deal with the situation. It does explain how far she has to push anti-Parahuman trust, since Teacher+Scapegoat(+Mama Mathers+Valefor) is just way too damn broken and non-parahumans will matter in the bloody mess.

      This is going to get real bad before there’s any chance for things to get better.

      1. >”Tt’s not sure if Dinah’s been teachered. The fact we’re not seeing her in this chapter doesn’t exactly help clear it up.”

        The fact that Overseer knows that Contessa will be online and avaliable is exactly two weeks isn’t exactly reassuring on this score…

        1. Another possibility is that she has been Valefored. “Dinah, whenever we call you, you will take the call, answer all of our questions, and once the call is over you will forget it ever happened”.

          1. That has got to be freaky. Getting a Thinker headache out of nowhere, or seeing the probabilities leap all over the place.

        2. > The fact that Overseer knows that Contessa will be online and avaliable is exactly two weeks

          Well, shit. But on the other hand, their information-gathering machine already allows them to know far too much and from far too esoteric sources (like Rain’s clusterdream), so this info could be chalked up to it as well so far.

          1. What if Teacher can read more than Rain’s cluster dream room?

            We have seen information transferred between shard and host. We know dreams play a part in the communications and Old Man connected when he slept. What if Teacher has actually figured out how to tap into the shard-host communication streams? Worse still… what if the puppets they control are controlled via the same methods the shards control and nudge their hosts?

            At I guess, the only thing slowing him down is the time to connect to, and decipher, each individual thought stream.

      2. > It does explain how far she has to push anti-Parahuman trust

        Yet again I have to point out that we have utterly no evidence of this being the case. Just the other way around – now that we have a definite proof of Teacher working with Cheit, and the shady guy who contacted Gary Nieves was pushing him to collaborate with Cheit, it’s evidence of Teacher being behind anti-parahumans as well (not that it was unexpected).

      3. Wait, why do you think Dinah is behind the anti-parahuman stuff? I was under the impression that that was just…you know…bigotry and prejudice fueled by fear and uncertainty.

        1. It’s a running theme between some commenters, because of a phrase said by Teacher in Scapegoat’s interlude. You know, the most trustworthy guy in the setting, why not believe him. But it was just stated in comments as if it were a fact so many times that I get the impression it’s self-reinforcing.

          1. Specifically, this bit from 8.y:

            The humans who have come through the end of the world with hate in their hearts are taking marching orders from the same young precognitive who predicted the end of the world two years in advance. Well, one order with some advice. We don’t know her aim yet, but she’ll be high up on our list. I want a Contessa of my own.

            There’s also Tattletale’s notes:

            Bogeyman of Cauldron: captured, weapon kept up sleeve
            Dinah Alcott: compromised? Shift of motives?
            Why capture/corner/co-opt precogs?

          2. Right, and the second bit might have as many interpretations as the first. Tattletale might be plainly mistaken/misinformed/have not enough data, or Dinah might become compromised after 8.y (most likely by Teacher), or “shift of motives” might mean anything at all, including, for example, “fuck it all, I don’t care about anything anymore”. But our self-reinforcing theory immediately takes it as a reinforcement, of course.

    2. My guess is that Teacher did something that changed future outcomes, and she had to pivot real fast to try to counteract.

  12. Teacher is the absolute worst kind of villain so far in Ward. He’s the ultimate bad guy and I can’t wait until Contessa will be (again) strong enough to RIP HIM IN PIECES, like he deserves. Poor Contessa, she needs to find a path for escaping, ally with our heroes and destroy Teacher’s plan+ himself+ including his army of zombies.

    I was right when I said that this horrible villain is behind everything bad happening to everyone. Man, he’s more heatable than Cradle and March, something that I never imagined to be possible.

    Too bad Custodian is evil now, I was sorry for her in Worm and now she’s nothing but a witch with capital B.

    1. I don’t think that Custodian is really evil. I think that her mind is just that broken by her shard:

      It barely mattered. The Overseer had ten thousand hearts and though each was insubstantial, they added up to a thrum, like a hundred hummingbirds flying through the air. Her eyes drank in home, and remembered the moment the syringe had been injected. She remembered going to pieces the first time, a bloody, screaming process, and she’d reveled in it.

      Reveled because it had been change, and she’d been escaping a role that was frozen, unchanging.
      […]
      “You wanted me to be a housewife, and I am,” she said, to the void, her voice rising. “I maintain my home. You wanted me to be meek, never heard, and I am. You wanted me to be nothing and no one and I am!”
      […]
      “I am a creator of my own kingdom. I am free. I’m a woman more powerful than any of you. I’m everything you wanted yet everything you feared, and I can be both because…”
      […]
      “…I am everything everywhere.”

      Normally minds of Cauldron capes seem not to be seriously affected by their trigger events, because those aren’t very traumatic, and they aren’t in a mindset necessary to trigger naturally when they drink from their vials, but I don’t think this was the case with Overseer.

      She was afraid of being forced to be an unchanging, meek, never heard housewife, she probably also was afraid of what that syringe was going to do to her. She wanted to be free, she wanted a change. Sounds like a perfect mindset for a natural trigger event, doesn’t it?

      My guess is that her shard picked up on all those fears and a desire for freedom, and gave her what shards give their capes during a natural trigger – a power that offers an illusion of a solution, while at the same time making the cape confronting what was their biggest problem around the moment of their trigger.

      After all Overseer is both technically free, and changed into something very different from what she was supposed to be, and at the same time she is still meek, nobody can hear her, she still spends her entire time taking care of the Cauldron complex that has become her home, and she still can’t make herself change enough to stop behaving like that.

      Maybe we should call her a hybrid natural-Cauldron cape because of it?

      1. I even explains her affection for Teacher. Doesn’t a good housewife need a husband for her to love, after all? And Teacher being “the head of the house” fills this role perfectly.

        1. I don’t think she’s so in love with Teacher as she believes to be. Maybe Teacher controls her like this, making her believe that she’s under her free will, but the reality is that she’s under his will. Yes, its possible that she’s not so evil, but a naive victim under Teacher’s ruthless and patriarchal (because he subtle force her to think like a devoted housewife, not like his equal). Or maybe her evilness is influenced by the same Teacher. We still don’t know how much he controls her and how much she acts under her free will, its not very clear. She believes that she’s free but nobody working for Teacher is truly free.

          1. I think it is more likely that she is in love with an image of Teacher who not only serves as a “husband figure” for her, but also makes her obsession to keep the complex safe and running serve a purpose. I don’t think Teacher needs to use his power to keep her loyal – what her power probably did to her mind means that she will be loyal as long as he is in charge of the complex, and I think she would be just as loyal to almost anyone else who took it over from Teacher.

            You may say that her own power mastered her, made her a prisoner of the complex, because she will simply never be willing to leave it, at least not for long. To me it looks like just another case of shard taking over someone’s mind to the point they become insane.

      2. I also wonder if there are more “hybrid triggers” like that, and I think I may even have a candidate. I don’t remember if it has never been confirmed or denied whether Labyrinth and/or Burnscar were natural triggers, but the fact that Faultline’s crew found and released Labyrinth while investigating connection between the Parahuman Asylum and Cauldron suggests that at least Labyrinth, and possibly also Burnscar are in fact Cauldron capes.

        And if Burnscar is a Cauldron cape then her power had to reflect her pre-trigger trauma. Those burn scars she had could only be made before she triggered, because her power made her completely fireproof.

        1. Actually, my headcanon for Burnscar’s scars is that they were from her Mannequin test to join the Nine. His test is always to dramatically alter or scar your body. The Nine had a power suppressor on the team when Burnscar joined. Perfect test for a pyrokinetic: scar your face with fire while your fire power is suppressed.

          1. Interesting idea. Who do you mean as “power suppressor”? Hatchet Face or Hack Job?

      3. She was abandoned by her world, that might lead to this line of thinking without a need to trigger. She was probably attached to the old Cauldron because it was home for her, and she’s attached to Teacher even more because he also offers her a revenge on Cheit.

      4. I’m pretty sure the Overseer was broken before Cauldron got her; she just wasn’t broken in a way that let that broken-ness break anything else. But when she got powers, and found someone who would use them to break all she had come to resent…

  13. I mean this seems like a rly tight plan with no holes or weakpoinsts barring contessa intrevention and I dont see why he cant just let her starve to death just to be safe (he won’t cos of his arrogance but still)
    WOWthis is sinister
    I am rly hyped to see his downfall

  14. “The Old Man. He’s one of our unwitting eyes,” Cell Manager Thrift said.

    I wonder what it means. Is he just under eome electronic surveillance, or has Teacher given Mama Mothers an ability to make it that she is no longer seen by a person under effect of her power, and the Old Man has been exposed to her new and upgraded ability? It would be funny if a cape who supposedly has an ability to spy on thoughts and memories of other people had his mind spied upon in a similar way by Madam Mothers. Such upgrade to MM’s power would also explain why nobody on Chiet has realized that they were all mastered by her near the end of this chapter.

    1. Mama’s known to be able to cancel the effect. She cancelled it on Rain after ‘marrying’ him to Erin. She might be able to affect people without making herself appear, too, except when she’s thought of. And here, the focus is pretty much all on Teacher- they’ll be affected by her, but won’t think of her to notice it. If she even had her power on; that’s no guarantee, either.

      1. I think she may have needed to be visible to whoever she affected to see through their eyes, hear through their ears etc. One way I imagine Cauldron could have unwitting eyes is if they managed to expose people like the Old Man to Mama Mathers, and she no longer needs to appear to whoever she is spying upon.

        Of course there is also another option – that whatever Valefor (Elijah) did to people who were ever approached by Cauldron was more than taking their memories. Wouldn’t it be a perfect win-win situation for Teacher? If you agree to work for him, he adds you to his army of students. If you disagree – you become his spy, and you don’t even know about it.

    2. Remember, Mama Mathers hits HARD through Thinker senses.

      …To our knowledge.

      What if she didn’t want to hit so hard, or if Teacher fine-tuned her control enough in that regard?

      She could be one of the few people who you would WANT to slip some bits of Old Man into. (Also: Ew, gross.)

  15. Almost forgot, but with Ingenue on top of everything else, this is going to be Goddess-whammy cranked to 17 on a scale of 10, with maximum creepiness due to Teacher being behind everything.
    Not a taste I’m expecting to enjoy, really.

    1. I’m actually kind of hopeful about Ingenue being here.

      I suspect she will be used as a play against Chevy 🙁

      BUT…
      Her boyfriends have a habit of catching fire. With Teacher, I suspect either her ambient effect will destroy him, or she’ll turn on him herself.
      She seems like such a good treacherous lieutenant

      1. I suspect Scapegoat can revert Ingenue’s gradual mental degradation by swapping with spare alts, so to speak. Especially if she boosts him.
        The amount of synergy Teacher got under his thumb is literally insane.

        1. That’s what happens when you are a mastermind who has plenty of time to prepare and resources. Nobody seems to have put much pressure on him, or at least not enough. Hell if D&D were suppossed to be working to counter him, so far they seem to have done a lousy job as they played into his hands.

          1. Not to mention that Teacher’s power effectively makes him a tinker and a thinker, and the phrase “F* t(h)inkers” exists for a reason.

  16. The best thing about this chapter is that as much as Teacher appeared to be evil in it, he still insisted that he wants to “save Gimel from itself”, just like he had said that he wanted to ask Contessa for help in her interlude in arc 29 of Worm:

    “I don’t have much of a role,” Contessa said. “I can’t do anything when Scion’s on the table.”

    “To the contrary,” Teacher said. “We very much need your help, or we might.”

    She narrowed her eyes. “With?”

    “Saving us from ourselves,” he said. “Case in point, we’ve got a crisis that involves one little lady I think you’re familiar with.”

    He held up his phone. A picture was displayed.

    It took her a moment to recognize the person in the picture, and not because it was an unfamiliar face.

    Weaver?” she asked.

    Can’t wait to see the moment when it is revealed that he has been working “for the greater good” all along.

    1. Or he could be one of those “Evils of free will” sorts or think the only way Gimel gets saved is if he rules it. Teacher is in many ways the most traditional supervillain in Parahumans.

    2. I don’t believe this bastard. This is obvious a lie that he tells everyone is naive enough to believe him. He doesn’t want to save anyone and anything. All he wants is to dominate the world and make everyone his bitches. The only apparently evil people that I’m sure they fight for the greatest good are Dinah (if she’s not enslaved by Teacher and she’s on her free will) and Amy/Chris. But not Teacher. He “cares” about people as much as Jack and Coil cared. He sees everyone as nothing but his resources to control and exploit. I hope that our heroes will not hesitate to kill him nest time when they’ll have this very rare chance. Not exile him, because he’ll return back with a whole army of brainwashed exiles, but kill him.

    3. … you know, im actually genuinely surprised here- why is Saint still alive?
      with Teacher’s cover blown, he was pretty much worthless-the only talents he had were ones given to him by Teacher- there has to be millions of other dupes with existing knowladgebases/skillsets that’d be of more value given that the only thing he had was the time capsule/Root access into dragon’s code….

      1. Sure, Teacher could give the same power he gave to Saint (or even something stronger) to other people, and almost certainly did, since I can’t see him being able to reactive Dragon otherwise, but no power can be a substitute of years of knowledge and experience which comes from observing and opposing Dragon that Saint did. On top of it even if Scapegoat did his magic on Saint as long as Teacher opposes Dragon, he doesn’t need to be too concerned about Saint’s loyalty in my opinion. Saint made it a purpose of his life to make sure that Dragon won’t go rogue, and he knows that presently only Teacher can supply him with resources needed to do so.

  17. Well, huh. That ain’t good.

    Poor Contessa. She might have been kind of an asshole, but she doesn’t deserve this. I wonder if her power is still telling her something like “just keep holding on, you’ll eventually get a window to escape” or if Teacher’s managed to come up with a way to block her power. And two weeks until she’s “broken”, huh? So we have a deadline until Teacher becomes literally invincible, but no one else knows about that deadline. Great.

    I honestly don’t see how the hell the Breaksiders are supposed to defeat this nightmarish mastermind machine. Not without recruiting help from Dinah or the Simurgh anyway.

    1. Dauntless might be able to pull something off. He’s got multidimensional hyper senses, and it’s possible that Contessa might be able to send him a message that’d provoke him to action.

    2. Teacher’s pretty damned good at this game, I’ll give him that. But team Heartsiderthrough? They have a Kenzie. A Kenzie who, for her entire cape career- no, her entire life, has been held back. Don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t try so hard, don’t be creepy.

      If they want to stop Teacher? Unleash her. Team her up with Tattletale, Dragon, and Foresight, and let her go Full Kenzie on his ass. He will crack, just like all the others before him.

  18. Saint approached, putting a hand on Teacher’s shoulder. He showed the man his phone. The Overseer barely had to look. The color of the screen said it all.

    Red.

    How did March put it in her interlude? “When this was done, all would be crimson.” I wonder if she predicted that her actions would sooner or later lead to Teacher’s Cauldron making the move they are making right now.

    Going to “red book/alert/whatever they call it in Cauldron” may have happened sooner then they expected, because Victoria’s diary has been found, but I wonder if Cauldron’s hand hasn’t been forced in part by release of Kronos Titan. At least the situation in Chiet seems to suggest that Cauldron may have decided that it is time to act there because Kronos appeared on that Earth. After securing support of Earth Chiet, and any other not necessarily quite fully allies Cauldron may want to get, attacking Gimel seems like a logical next step.

    1. In other words I expect that “code red” means “perform every character assassination you can right now to hinder the ability of capes of Gimel to mount an organized resistance for next few days as much as you can – we are starting invasion of that world ASAP.

      1. Another thing that seems very likely about “code red” is that assassination attempt on Old Man, whether successful or not, didn’t prevent Tattletale and Victoria from completing their investigation, figuring out that Teacher’s Cauldron was behind the character assassinations and inform enough people about it that it is no longer possible to stop this information from reaching practically every cape in the city. Probably just informing Dragon would do, because she can supposedly send emergency messages to any person or group of people in the city who own cellphones.

  19. Congrats, WB. Creepiest thing you’ve ever written in several hundred thousand words of creepy shit. My hat is off to you.

      1. Petey didn’t hit the same buttons. Body-horror baby puppeteer-from-within is creepy with an immediate, in-your-face effect. But that’s it.
        Teacher’s thrall colony optimising all their interactions and the subtlety that everyone accross dimensions is being spied upon, manipulated more or less directly or made part of a long term plan regardless consent pulls a different set of creepy strings entirely.

        It’s the difference between seeing someone pull a large gun on you, and knowing that you’re surrounded by sadistic snipers.

        1. The reason petey creeps me out so much is I can’t think of him without imagining how that would physically feel. At which point I usually cross my legs. Its the one thing WB has written that I genuinely wish I could forget. Its such a Nope! Put Bleach In My Brains Please! That is So Wrong! thing. This is more “oooh… spooky…”

          That said, this is sorta plausible in a way peaty the rape fetus isn’t.

          I wish I hadn’t had that thought.

  20. See, when you throw an asshole down an elevator shaft, make sure you at least break his spine.

    But leaving Teacher be was the biggest mistake everyone else made. Even with the truce, well…
    A- He was the first person to break it, and a definite, coordinated effort should have been made to bring him down then to show what happens when you break the truce and amnesty.
    B- He also didn’t contribute to the Scion Fight, instead stealing resources and running off to hide. He should not have been able to claim any benefits from the amnesty.

    Leaving him be has come back to bite them in the ass.

    1. Well, from an artistic way of view, it was pretty good that Teacher was left alive in Worm, because now we have him as the ultimate bad in Ward and despite being one of the biggest assholes in the history of Parahumans, he’s still a fascinating world’s threatening villain, he’s like Thanos of parahumans. No Teacher, no compelling enough villain. When he’ll met his end one day, I pray that he’ll not only break his spine but suffer a much, more worse fate. But, until then, we’re going to have fun thinking at how our heroes will possible defeat this parahuman Thanos.

      1. From the various hints we’ve got so far, it seems to be holding a shard-creature guarding their dream from intrusion by external parties, managing the ‘cells’ they’re in and dealing with casualties in their cluster.
        The fact Teacher-cogs gave it a stress meter instead of a power level gauge seems to corroborate a reactive nature. It’s frozen in time because the dreamworld in on pause when they’re not in it (eco-friendly, woo).

  21. First Read Impressions:

    – Teacher has upgraded his machine like a motherfucker, huh.
    – way to go, Scapegoat. You fucking dumbass
    – Really, Custodian? Really?
    – but then again, goddamn theocracies, huh? Earth Cheit must be some borderline Handmaid’s Tale type shit for her to hate them that much
    – Contessa’s solution is interesting but there are far too many ways to break her out of it and brainwash/enthral her thereafter
    – looks like Custodian … sorry, Overseer, has Taylor-level multitasking
    -am I the only one that noticed that passing through one of Teacher’s portals temporarily shorts out powers?
    – or at least temporarily turns breakers back to their mortal form?
    – The Horseman is one of Cheit’s few parahumans? He must be quite a doozy

    So. To recap, Teacher has Mama Mathers, Valefor, Scapegoat, Ingenue, the Custodian, Saint (I’m guessing for sentimental value unless he managed to trigger) and, oh, let’s not forget, *CONTESSA*! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!! And we thought Cradle was overflowing with resources!

    But hey, at least he doesn’t have a Dragon copy (that we know of) and there are still plenty of elevator shafts he can be dropped down.

    1. I wouldn’t say that Overseer has “Taylor-level multitasking ability”. She can certainly perceive a lot, and is very mobile which lets her switch from task to task quickly, but unlike Taylor she didn’t seem to ever do too many things at once.

    2. > But hey, at least he doesn’t have a Dragon copy (that we know of) and there are still plenty of elevator shafts he can be dropped down.

      Are you sure of that? Teacher has something at the top floor of his facility that “everyone would want”. I can only think about three likely possibilities of what it could be:
      – a collection of Cauldron vials (we know he has those somewhere),
      server(s) running a completely enslaved copy of Dragon,
      – a drugged or otherwise completely controlled and helpless Dinah.

      And considering the means he could use to ensure that Dinah will stay loyal to him and only him, I think the first two options are far more likely than the third one. After all, who would want a precog who listens to orders only from Teacher? Deprogramming victims of Teacher’s or Valefor’s power has been impossible so far, at least without Scapegoat. Dragon’s copy on the other hand could theoretically be reprogrammed by any good tinker to follow orders of someone else.

      Still, Dragon would be only my second bet. My first would be the vials.

      1. Honestly, my thought was “What if he has a portal to what’s left of Scion or Eden?” Actually, come to think of it, what *did* happen to Eden’s remnant at the end of Worm? 🤔

        1. Pulverized. They dropped a big chunk of Cauldron on her, and then the Custodian packed it all down good and solid afterward.

        2. It is probably still buried beneath that “column of solid metal all the way down” that was dropped on her in Worm, and which Overseer reminded us about in this interlude using the words I just quoted.

          Of course we know that Teacher has some Cauldron vials, and contents of those are small, processed parts of Eden.

    3. Saint has spent long enough with a Teacher power specialising in AI Tinkering, and looking at Dragon tech, that he’s officially a Tinker 0. Probably the normal human with the most understanding and knowledge of how tinker tech works, and the best chance of reverse engineering/figuring it all out.

      Also, in addition to be a theocracy, Cheit has slavery. Since Overseer was sold for power, there’s some level of slavery present. Might only be a local politician with the pull to kidnap unemployed people, or an orphanage nun who can avoid scrutiny enough to get away with it, but it seemed bigger than that, to me.

  22. “They went to the Bunker, where we don’t have eyes and we can’t see. We were told to let them go, no interference, because the others wanted to see what we could get in the way of access or brute forcing their access. That’s not on us.”

    “I’m not interested in your ass-covering, Howe.”

    “There is no ass to cover. We’re assless. Others decided it was worth the risk, they were wrong. We didn’t get anything and we tipped them off.

    Old Man was an “unwitting set of eyes” Cauldron had.

    I decided to assume for a second that the Cauldron have been trying to use another set to “unwitting eyes”, and not just electronic surveillance via the heroes’ cellphones, to see what happened at the entrance to Bunker. They managed to hear what Victoria told Rain about Moonsong’s and Byron’s breakup, but failed to learn anything useful about how heroes access the Bunker or what is going on in the Bunker itself.

    Unfortunately it looks like the only person who witnessed the breakup, but never saw Kenzie’s corridor or the Bunker itself seems to be Natalie.

    1. Another possibility could theoretically be Erin, but I doubt that anyone in Cauldron would hope that she would ever come (or even be allowed to come) anywhere near Kenzie’s corridor, so I doubt it is her.

      1. If Ingenue-boosted Mama can ghost-spy on anyone who ever perceived her, Victoria is her own spy.
        But yeah, there’s a good chance unwitting pawns are spread by and large, with some actual Teacher-thralls (willing or not, stupid Scapegoat) mixed in for good measure.

        As we see here, a full-alert comms black-out just means a couple thralls get easy shifts (while others get to do double time) but doesn’t stop Teach from getting a steady flow of perfect surveillance to act upon. The game is rigged to the bone.

        1. As I pointed out in another thread, Valefor seems like an another way to create perfectly oblivious spies. Teacher really does have a lot of options in this department, doesn’t he?

    1. Maybe Cradle was another set of “unwitting eyes”? I’m thinking about him specifically, because out of all members of that cluster he seems to have closest ties to Teacher’s Cauldron, and he may be to only one of them who has never been to Bunker which happens to be Cauldron’s blind spot.

      Of course it is also possible that they are simply reading those notes Rain was supposedly writing about his cluster. Byron mentioned those in chapter 12.5. I think Victoria has also asked Rain or Capricorn about them at some other point, but I can’t remember when exactly.

      1. Neither reading Rain’s notes nor watching through unwitting eyes fits the description given:

        Of the fifteen sub-windows, six were gray and frozen. There would just be the data stream, and the one sub-window with the countdown for when Precipice entered his dream room. There would be a burst of data as they connected, a burst of data when they left. Donna had already cracked that for the most part. The window had the ‘logs’ from the last access, along with notes and numbers about the room’s distribution of power across its visitors. In lieu of the power distribution table, the fifth occupant had a stress meter, akin to a heart monitor, but frozen in time.

        Note the burst of data at the beginning of the dream; there would only be the burst at the end if they were getting this from Rain’s notes or some sort of after-the-fact report from Cradle. If they were actively watching through Cradle’s eyes during the dream, then they’d have a continuous data stream throughout the event instead of a burst at the beginning and end. Also, if they were watching through Cradle’s eyes (or getting a report after) Donna wouldn’t need to decode anything.

        Either they’re intercepting the communications involved in joining and leaving the dream room, or they’re taking snapshots of the cluster’s brains before and after, decoding them, and then comparing to see what changed.

          1. By the way the “stress meter” probably means that whatever is in the dark space is probably going to wreck havoc in the room again at some point. Wouldn’t it be funny if all members of Rain’s cluster had to work together just to survive the night when it happens? And it may be coming soon, especially if all tokens nobody bothered to pick up go to whatever is in the fifth space together with their powers and emotions…

          2. One more idea – could that thing in the fifth space be a shard-copy of a host from a previous cycle brought back by one of the shards in the cluster? Maybe even one of those creatures March’s shard mentioned when March confronted Withdrawal? Could bringing Withdrawal, or at least his tech to the dream-room be a key to Rain’s cluster survival? After all his liquid was hinted to be some very strong poison to those creatures. It would be a way to make this information relevant to the story, and give Withdrawal his moment of glory at the same time.

          3. Maybe it is even more than one creature. Love Lost mentioned an entire alien planet. Of course a single creature could cover an entire planet – like it did in Lem’s “Solaris”, or all creatures on a planet could have triggered with a single shard – broken trigger style. There may have been triggers that were technically broken in that cycle, but we don’t know if the rules for how shards attached to their hosts were the same then. Maybe at that time each shard acquired multiple hosts by design?

            Another possibility is that Withdrawal’s liquid is not a poison, but something that brakes a trigger mechanism causing a single shard to attach to multiple hosts, and that is why March’s shard said that “The fluid in that syringe almost aborted that cycle.” Maybe the shard that connected to all creatures on a planet ended up as one of the shards belonging to Rain’s cluster? Maybe Withdrawal’s fluid is somehow connected to broken triggers? I guess it doesn’t cause them, but maybe it is key to somehow modify trigger mechanisms, and potentially even solve the problem?

          4. On that note, how often do we see tinkers whose primary specialty effectively gives them a strong trump power?

        1. I’m imagining something like snapshots. “Unwitting eyes” don’t have to be restricted to eyes literally.

  23. But in the process of her continued attempts to open the book, type, and explain herself, she made another typo, autocompleting to the wrong word. She made a face, then hit a key combination. A red box encased the lines of text.

    Semiramis: You think he disrupted my deal with Engel and Egg to keep them from connecting dots?

    Tattletale: You connected dots. We are the dots. You know the how, where, and what. I know Teabag’s why.

    I think it is a riddle for us. One of the words in the conversation quoted above was autocompleted incorrectly, and it made Cauldron miss something important. I even think I know what word it was. “Teabag’s” was supposed to be “Teacher’s”. Cauldron didn’t realize in time that Tattletale figured that it was them right then, and killing Old Man wouldn’t accomplish much anymore.

    1. It could be a typo, or it could be Tattletale indulging in her habit of giving people derogatory names. Doesn’t really matter, though, because Tattletale already said that she thinks it’s Teacher earlier in the same conversation; his name came up four separate times prior to this. They know that she thinks it’s Teacher; that’s not the issue at all. The problem they’re trying to solve is keeping people from realizing they’ve been peeking through the Old Man’s eyes.

      1. Well, Teabag could also be another degratory name for Nero, but I don’t think that Tattletale would think “Nero’s why” in this context.

        Also don’t forget that Tattletale probably wouldn’t use a degratory name Semiramis couldn’t connect to the person in question in this situation, so unless Tattletale is sure that Semiramis knows exactly why Nero is the “Teapot Emperor” I don’t think she would use Teabag to describe Nero – she would likely use Teapot instead of Teabag, though admittedly “Teapot” could just easily as “Teacher” be incorrectly autocompleted as “Teabag”.

  24. I wonder what would happen if little Flo and Valefor ever met. If you managed to gag him first, would she be able to make him do some embarrassing song and dance routine every time he thinks about using his power on someone again?

      1. Or is it a conditional sentence at all? I think I overthought the problem to the point where I’m completely confused about which form is correct.

        1. Both work fine, you’re overthinking your overthinking (ba dum pshhh I’ll just leave now thank you very much).

          1. Thanks.

            (Note to self – “Your linguistic intuition is still better than your textbook knowledge of English grammar.”)

  25. Now that I’ve seen inside Teacher’s organization, I kinda dig it. It’s a clever way of networking low level capes to produce high level effects.

    Sure, it’s evil, but it’s also cool.

    Additionally, I now ship Overseer/Teacher. Villain!OTP

  26. It’s kind of funny that Teacher needs all of this to do what Contessa did alone, and nobody guessed what the worst possible thing could be on the top floor, the one way that everyone would hate Taylor appearing, as a Teacherpet.
    Wildbow really knows how to make his readers hate, but it feels pretty unrealistic that the bad guys are so much more powerful all the time, or so over the top evil.

    1. Actually a while ago I imagined Taylor appearing back in the story as something much worse than Teacher’s thrall – a fresh bloody mess on walls, floor and ceiling of her home on Aleph, with a frozen in shock and freshly triggered Danny standing in the middle of the carnage, staring at the largest bloodstain.

      Do we really want to see her again no matter what?

  27. Taylor is to Ward what Lupus is to House, M.D..

    Also re: over the top evil; this is a direct consequence of powers amplifying human traits. The conflict-generating nature of shards influencing their hosts wouldn’t be this effective if we were utopian-grade creatures. Basically Wildbow’s works assert Rousseau was hella wrong and run with it.
    I personally find the fine scale depicted between heroism/villainy and each individual’s motivations extremely human and believable, from the absolute monsters to the quasi-saints (those don’t get to trigger much, obviously – they would only hamper the shard’s growth).

    History’s got a bunch of evil people who took over countries in our world, causing suffering for hundreds of millions. You could even say our current global economy’s a flesh-grinding monster created by a thousand of foolish short-sighted greedy people.
    So, a smart, egocentrical chessmaster with a power that lets him build his ressources over time got where he is in this story. Feels realistic enough to me.

  28. Hey, Custodian, long time no “see”.

    UnFortunately… two days and suddenly Sand Ninjas!

    Fortunately she found a good Anti-Teacher Loop of Thought Defense:

    “We don’t need no education
    We don’t need no thought control…”

    ###

    It can’t be that every time you post an Interlude it becomes my favorite. Maybe the right description is that every time you post an Interlude, you touch a different cord, a different string.

      1. I’ve also considered this one. Probably not something Taylor (or almost any other cape really) would like to happen to her again, even if it didn’t make her brain damaged this time. Not unless there was simply no other choice. Only Teacher seemed really interested in having his own pet Khepri in chapter 30.7, while Contessa maybe considered letting Khepri be free and keep her power in the same chapter.

        But yeah, a scary idea, and at the same time very interesting to explore especially if the situation wasn’t so dire as it was during Gold Morning. For most of her career Taylor thought that her power was relatively week compared to what she needed to do. How would she deal with having way too much power than she would want in almost every situation? Definitely something she would need to talk about with other people in similar situation – people like the other two hosts of “Queen” shards, and perhaps also Dinah, Contessa, Eidolon, Bonesaw and Nilbog…

      2. Had a problem with sending this one. Sorry if it turns to be a double post.

        I’ve also considered this one. Probably not something Taylor (or almost any other cape really) would like to happen to her again, even if it didn’t make her brain damaged this time. Not unless there was simply no other choice. Only Teacher seemed really interested in having his own pet Khepri in chapter 30.7, while Contessa maybe considered letting Khepri be free and keep her power in the same chapter.

        But yeah, a scary idea, and at the same time very interesting to explore especially if the situation wasn’t so dire as it was during Gold Morning. For most of her career Taylor thought that her power was relatively week compared to what she needed to do. How would she deal with having way too much power than she would want in almost every situation? So much that it would make it very difficult if not impossible for her to live as a normal member of the society? Definitely something she would need to talk about with other people in similar situation – people like the other two hosts of “Queen” shards, and perhaps also Dinah, Contessa, Eidolon, Bonesaw and Nilbog…

        1. …Dauntless, Clairvoyant, possibly Sleeper and Endbringers if they don’t do the damage they do voluntarily, Ash Beast if he was still alive, many C53s and patients of parahuman asylums… Come to think of it there are plenty of people who can’t have an normal life because of their power is very long.

          1. Ok, just for fun – a “nice to see you again Taylor” idea. How about Taylor arriving as a surprise guest during Vista’s eighteen birthday party? Would it be a nice enough way to end Ward?

          2. See, I don’t actually believe WB will bring Taylor back, cause she’d probably end up overshadowing Victoria in the readers eyes.

            I just want him to, cause fuck it, I miss Taylor.

            Don’t get me wrong, Victoria is grand, but she’s definitely my least favorite of wbs protagonists. I never get that thrill of her interacting with other people or her powering along the story, or being epically awesome or epically fucking up like I did with Taylor/Blake/Sy. Sure, I can see that she’s a well rounded, sympathetic character, and I don’t dislike her exactly. In fact, I feel if I reread Ward as a whole I’ll appreciate the subtler aspects of her character. I just feel she isn’t as dynamic within the story. So yeah, I miss Taylor, who just had more at stake as a protagonist.

          3. I don’t know about Taylor overshadowing Victoria. I think that Victoria has already grown a lot through the story, and still has room to grow. Remember that we may be only around half way through Ward at the moment, and we probably still haven’t even seen Victoria’s final form, which should come with her final name hinted by her shard.

          4. @Alfaryn

            Taylor showing up on Missy’s 18th birthday. Somehow.

            It would depend on the knowledge of certain players regarding her whereabouts, but I could totally see it in Ward’s Epilogue/s.

            On that note, while I was reading it, I never speculated about Worm’s end, except when I got to Arc 30… I thought that Taylor was going to pack up and go “Worm Hunting” across the universe.

            Now I have no idea how Ward is going to end.

            But I’m slightly leaning towards what @grinvader said ( if I didn’t misunderstand them).
            That Teacher will actually win this round and the Story will continue/end in Parahumans 3.

          5. Even assuming that at the moment out of all people who are not in Aleph only Contessa knows that Taylor ended up there, I wouldn’t exclude the possibility that it will change by the end of Ward, especially if Contessa is somehow rescued from her current predicament.

        2. The OTHER reason, which is probably more fair, that I want Taylor back in the story, even in the most peripheral way (sorry Alfaryn, for this little rant, its 2am where I am) is because this “lets never speak of Kehpri again pact” is ridiculously implausible. And even if no one wants to mention the mass mind rape, (and our narrator is a CAPE GEEK. kehpri was one of the WEIRDEST outliers of cape power of all time. Don’t you find it noteworthy in a story about unusual forms of parahumans?) Theres still the fact that Skitter/Weaver was even if for a short time, a HUGELY important figure in the parahuman community, who personally met an awful lot of important characters in this story. I’m not saying they should be fondly reminiscing about her or anything, but don’t you thinm at some point Victoria might have noted that Tattletales teammate/best friend who was there for a lot of scenes that she has obsessed over due to her tattletale hate on, went on to become the Parahuman demigod who saved the world? Basically, its like the story is going out of its way to aboid mentions of Taylor to the point shes more conspicuous by her absence

          1. Sorry for the late response. Somehow I managed to miss your comment only now.

            I don’t mind rants at 2 a.m. In fact I wrote plenty of my own posts around that time or even later in the night myself, which is probably one of many factors that contribute to the fact that I tend to post way too much, and often make errors that should be easy to catch before posting. There are of course other reasons, like the fact that English is not my first language, or that I probably react way too enthusiastically to both the Parahumans stories, and some comments by other people, but posting when I should be sleeping instead certainly is one of the more important ones.

            As for your reasoning about having Taylor back, I think it is less about her actual return, and more about breaking the taboo surrounding her, and I agree that as traumatic as everything about Gold Morning, what she did then, and what happened to her then was for cape community, I think it will be broken at some point. In my opinion it seems to be eroding already.

            Will breaking the taboo contribute to Taylor’s return? I think it may, but not necessarily has to.

  29. Ooof. Teacher has become a suitably OP threat. We had hints that the Overseer had some kind of dark bias that allowed her to participate in Cauldron’s sacrifices to “saving the world.” Sure, she is also a victim and a child… but as she pointed out, she is also a powerful, “free,” tending, invisible, omnipresent, etc, creator.

    1. Overseer’s “bias” may simply be a total obsession about keeping the complex running. I think nothing more counts for her really, not even what the complex is used for. It is sad really, if this is the case.

  30. Something everyone seems to be either ignoring or not thinking about at the moment: TEACHER JUST HIJACKED AN ENTIRE EARTH’S WORTH OF RESOURCES! That is so stupidly unfair, it isn’t funny, and that’s not even mentioning Mama Mathers (who should have been shot at the first opportunity), Scapegoat (need I even explain how op that combo is?), Valefor (again, way too op), Ingenue (ok, now you’re just going overboard, Wildbow. This isn’t stacking the deck. It’s printing your own deck, so that every card says, “Teacher wins.”), and, in about 2 weeks, possibly F-ING CONTESSA!(Ok, that’s it. I’m switching sides. You fools can fight Contessa if you want, I’m joining the team with 4 brainwashers and a person who’s power is literally, “I WIN.”) So, it looks like the heroes are screwed beyond belief, which makes me extremely excited to see how Wildbow has the heroes BS their way to victory.

    1. You may want to rethink your decision to switch sides – remember that Teacher’s Cauldron probably wasn’t what Valkyrie perceived as “the biggest threat”.

      1. Oh…right…Valkyrie…well, I’ll just be neutral, join the team in my fan fiction I’m writing on reddit. Hey, with your obviously extensive knowledge of the universe, want to help me write it? You’ll get a cameo, and if your character’s well liked, become a minor character.

        1. I don’t think I’m the person you want to help you write Parahumans fanfics.

          I’m afraid that my knowledge of the universe isn’t really that good. I binge-read Worm once, and I still keep finding things (often pretty big ones) I missed or misremembered. Same thing with Ward until somewhere around late arc 9 to early arc 10, when I caught up with the story. I have yet to have more than a short look at everything Weaverdice related available online, and I intentionally avoid WoGs and most Parahumans-related discussions on forums other than this one. There are plenty of people out there who know the setting much better than I do.

          Plus I consider myself only an OK researcher, and a very bad writer even in my native language, not to mention English.

          1. All I really have that most people don’t is a lot of time to waste on Internet, and even that is likely to change in not too distant future.

      2. Well, maybe he’s not the ultimate biggest threat but currently he’s the biggest threat just like all evidences suggest. I predict that there will be 2-3 arc until our heroes will manage to beat him up before he’ll enslave everyone and rule over worlds with an scholastic first.
        Come on, I’m sure that Wildbow will not use the same plot again where Victoria will become Teacher’s mindless slave like it happened in Goddess’s case (well, Vic was more like a devoted ally for Goddess than she was still mastered against her will) because that will be boring and predictable.

        1. Honestly, I prefer the threat of Sleeper or Simurgh over the one of Teacher. They’re more fun and interesting to watch in action than this ugly as sin asshole. Can’t wait to deal with him so we can more to more fun threads.

          1. I think the opposite. I really like teacher as a villain. He has a power that only sounds “pretty good” from it’s description but he uses it in a way that makes it seem clearly overpowered. And he has a background, he wasn’t made up or retconned and he didn’t come from no where. He’s been around in the background plugging away and doing the work and he’s made it big. I like him for super villain.

        2. Alternatively, Teacher wins this one, starting the Pax Magisteria.
          A third book may or may not cover the events that lead to its end.

          That’s basically how far I’m expecting things to go right now. The good guys can’t always win.

    2. People complained that Goddess is way too OP yet she was beaten/killed by two of heroes’ allies, lets call them like this.
      People complained that March is way too OP yet she was certainly killed by 2 villains allies to our heroes and a hero.
      People complained that Mall Cluster, especially Cradle, was way too OP, yet they’re defeated and in process to be exiled (if they weren’t exiled yet).
      Our heroes have some op powerhouses by their side: Dragon, Defiant, KENZIE, Valkyrie, DAUNTLESS (who is more powerful than the entire Master army of Teacher and who might help them once he figures out how to use his vast power without destroying more in his way. I don’t consider Dauntless a threat, on the contrary), Amy and Chris (I’m sure they’ll help our heroes if the things become too ugly), possible Riley and Nilbog. Victoria and unleashed Ashleys are combat powerhouses as well and Lisa is one of the best thinkers.
      They’re also allied with the only people almost equal to Contessa: Citrine and Number Man (with his clones).
      If Dinah is on her free will and not mastered by Teacher, then our heroes are MORE OF A POWERHOUSE than Teacher and his whole organisation so don’t lose hope and don’t switch sides because heroes are surely going to win. Maybe not that easy, but they’ll WIN.
      I think that Contessa will never let herself being defeated no matter what Overseer is saying. She’ll find a path to save herself or be saved by someone else.
      Wildbow always pretend that heroes are screwed beyond belief until he’ll turn the tide and who us actually how screwed beyond belief are the villains.

      1. I understand that people may forget about Imp, but why didn’t you mention people like Vista (a person who was instrumental in defeating March), Foil (Sting!) and Parian (whose creations gave Leviathan more trouble than most brutes who fought him in Brockton Bay) on the list of powerhouses?

        1. I don’t think that Imp will do great against Teacher. If she’ll be noticed by any of his masters and/or surveillance cameras, she’s screwed.
          Vista and Foil are good suggestions, but Parian…really? I don’t want to underestimate her but she was no match for Nursery (one mercenary). She needs time to create a durable “toy” and if she doesn’t have enough time, she’s easily defeated. Unfortunately.

          1. Remember that we probably don’t even know the true potential of Parian’s power. It has been suggested multiple times that she was probably using her power in a different way that was originally intended. Remember how Rain’s emotion power seemed weak until Victoria came up with “Rain therapy” idea? I expect something like that to happen with Parian, possibly on a much larger scale.

          2. As for Imp remember just how much damage unwitting eyes just did. How much damage do you think a pair of invisible eyes that know perfectly well what they are doing could do? There may be plenty “unwitting eyes” around there and only one Imp, but sometimes it is not the quantity that matters.

            That knife Imp carries really isn’t her most powerful weapon – that would be her ability to observe unnoticed, and to report what she did (though of course some sabotage or assassination from time to time can be useful too).

          3. In other words – the first thing to do to understand what Imp’s power should be used (and interestingly also Tattletale’s along with Taylor’s power, intellect and all that studying powers and capes she has done as a Ward, Victoria’s cape geekery, Kenzie’s cameras even Rachel’s dogs etc.) is to read what Sun Tzu had to say about knowing your enemy and knowing yourself. Even Grue’s darkness fits – as a way of denying the enemy tactical information.

      2. I’ve already agreed to stay a hero, hang out with my fanfic characters(want to help write it?), and hold out hope for a miracle. Besides, the light side has better cookies!

        1. Welcome to the light side, buddy. Enjoy your staying. Yes, I’ll help you with pleasure in the limits of my possibilities, tell me what I can do.

          1. Simple. Give me ideas for characters, critique my writing, write some yourself, it’s basically as if we’re co-writers. Also, for your assistance, you get a cameo character, that you can make the powers and ratings for, as long as they stay 6 or lower, and if your character’s popular, then it’ll become a minor character, more fleshed-out, with an arc based off their story.

      3. the reason a lot of folks are being pessimistic, is the logical countermeasures (cut all electronic communications) to the initial method of attack will leave the “good guys” with completely crippled lines of communication, facing an opponent who has all the speed advantages of modern communication- anymore more complicated then face to face coms will be intolerably compromised- postal messanging would arguably offer even more changes to switch out messages)-
        essentially, it looks like Gimel is potentially looking at a outright war with a Parallel in a FAR superior condition, infrastructure wise, where any armed forces they have, parahuman or “normal” will be incapable of trusting communications methods more complicated then Semiphore, whilst the opponent has no such limitations-
        i may be exaggerating, but not THAT much…

        the situation looks/feels …bad, strategically speaking- not quite the equivalent of fighting a Peer interstellar polity that has FTL radio when you dont, but… its not the power disparity thats making this look bad, but that Teacher’s setup makes coordination outside the squad level….very….difficult

          1. You want another dead Vasil in this book ? ‘Cause that’s how you get another dead Vasil in this book.
            Please leave kids out of plans where they’ll have to overstretch their powers to save the day. Taylor willingly asked for it and regretted what she lost doing it.

    3. > TEACHER JUST HIJACKED AN ENTIRE EARTH’S WORTH OF RESOURCES!

      Actually Teacher’s hold on Chiet may prove very weak. Remember that:
      – if Madam Mathers is unconscious or dead, she is unable to control anybody,
      – if she is convicted or forced to switch sides – Chiet may actually stab Teacher in the back,
      – only population of the capital has actually been mastered, everyone else on Chiet still has their free will; they will probably initially follow orders from the capital, but not all of them need to be fanatical enough to continue doing so if the war goes poorly for them, or if they realize that their government has been compromised.

      1. And remember that Valefor had to actually master himself to become completely loyal to his mother and her cause he never fully believed (see interlude 4c). Now this effect may have been removed by Scapegoat, and it could happen that at some point Valefor will decide to betray Teacher and master his own mother to force her to do the same.

  31. I think I just figured out why Teacher with all his masters, thinkers and tinkers isn’t all that scary. The key to defeat them may be Victoria. We keep thinking about her as a melee-oriented brute, and keep forgetting that Victoria has a power she has been very unwilling to use lately, and that after she became a “killer” her shard will probably want her to become a “tyrant”.

    Just imagine what would happen if Victoria got into that complex full of Teacher’s students who work like a well oiled machine and just blasted them with her aura. Should also work on most if not all of Teacher’s masters, and may even break Contessa out of her mind loop potentially turning Teacher’s most valuable prisoner into an instrument of his defeat.

    1. A little more explanation about why I think Victoria’s aura could be devastating inside the Cauldrom complex:
      – it is a labyrinth of rooms and corridors; all Master powers at Teacher’s that we know of disposal require sight or touch (with a possible exception of Valefor, who may need to be only heard to issue some basic commands), Victoria’s aura works through walls,
      – using Victoria’s aura on frontline combatants is risky, because you never know if a terrified fighter will choose a fight, flight at freeze reaction, and especially the first possibility means they are still dangerous; if you use the same aura on staff of a C3I center, like the one Teacher has set up in his decagons, they won’t be able to do their job no matter which response they will choose, and if you take out them, then whatever armies Teacher wants to unleash on Gimel will probably have their command structures fragmented enough to be defeatable by whatever assets Gimel has.

      In other words – Teacher decided to try to make Gimel capes unable to cooperate with each other? Don’t just try to undo the damage done to your side, do to Cauldron what they did to you.

      1. And the biggest obstacle to implementing this plan may be Overseer as she is the only person in the complex who seems to take a threat of a breach by outside forces seriously. Teacher doesn’t seem to be worried nearly enough about the fact that the heroes not only have Doormaker’s power at their disposal, but also made significant progress when it comes to portal tinkertech lately, and may still have an access to Labyrinth-Scrub combo.

  32. Just thought about a reason why that situation with Teacher may end up not in outright war, but at a negotiating table. It is not only about Solarstare’s prophecy, which indicates that Teacher may be willing to talk to Victoria. It is also about Victoria’s current cape name. Antares isn’t just called “the heart of the scorpion”, it is also interpreted to mean “rival to Ares” or “opponent to Mars”. I would say that the way Victoria handled Cradle’s situation already goes somewhat contrary to that name, but if she wants to stick to it, she still should be a force that prevents wars, which would fit her overall theme of de-escalation.

    If Teacher gives Antares a choice between war and negotiations, she should choose negotiations.

    1. Plus I know that I pointed out some ways in which Teacher may lose control over Chiet, but let’s be realistic – what are the chances that he will lose enough of it quickly enough to matter? Gimel can’t really hope to win a war not only against entire Chiet, but even something like a tenth of Chiet. Not unless you call mutual destruction hinted at in Crystalclear’s interlude a victory.

      1. Finally remember that if Teacher will retain his control over portal technology a Chiet-Gimel war will not even be a long one. Remember that the only way for Gimel to somehow negate Chiet’s crushing manpower advantage seems to be using portals as natural choke points to limit the number of Chiet troops who can fight against whatever defenders Gimel may have at once, and the number of places where fighting may be going on. With Teacher’s students being able to open portals at any point in the city at any time it is not an option anymore.

        I can think about a way to prevent Gimel from being overrun by Chiet troops in the short run by effectively cutting the possibility of traveling to and from Gimel through portals. It could be done by using something like the portal-scrambler we saw in the last arc but with a planet-wide range.

        The problem with this solution is that it can’t be used for a long time, because Gimel’s population needs off-world supplies to survive, not to mention that cutting off all portal travel to and from Gimel means abandoning the Bunker, and making it impossible to exile any capes or check on the ones who have already been exiled, as it has been promised.

        Plus Teacher’s students could probably find a way around the portal-scrambling technology sooner or later anyway.

    2. “Ant-Ares ≈ De-escalation”.

      Excellent catch.

      ###

      Um… Solarstare’s prophecy?
      Teacher willing to talk to Victoria?

      I went and reread the scene with Victoria, Solarstare and Vista in 13.3 and found nothing indicating a prophecy, suggestion or hint.

      Unless you mean when Solarstare said to suck-off the monsters to keep them happy…

        1. By the way, Imp was wrong when she compared Dinah to Cassandra. She forgot that Cassandra had been cursed so that nobody would believe her prophecies, which is clearly not the case with Dinah. Solarstare though apparently may have some potential to go in that direction, since people at least seemed to dismiss her words this time.

        2. I just read the comment you pointed me at and the the rest of that thread.

          So… The Fake Diary as blackmail material so Teacher can force Victoria to work with him?

          After proving her innocence and getting a reputation-boost as the “hub of the network of heroes” as a consequence?

          Sconded. Hard.

          BUT.

          Despite you mentioning that Teacher may have tried and failed to reach the Wardens and The Other Cauldron,.. what I am ashamed of not getting is…

          Why/how would Solarstare know that? Would it be something that her power enables her to know?

          I am avoiding WofG too so…

          1. I don’t know what her power is, but a combination of her words, her cape name, and the way her eyes look just makes me think “she can see things that over people can’t”, which combined with the fact that Wardens apparently had some thinkers (apparently none of them as good as Tattletale or Dinah, but still somewhere there in the precognition/supernatural intuition/some other, similar clairvoyance spectrum look into the time effects situation, and try to predict what would happen if someone messed with them) makes me think that Solarstare could be one of those thinkers, and that would mean that she could make something like a prophecy, and not being as good as Dinah or Tattletale could just mean that her words are just harder to interpret correctly.

          2. The fact that Solarstare’s mind doesn’t seem to be completely in the “here and now” also seems to point to some sort of clairvoyance-like power, sort of like Colt’s ability to understand capes’ dreams makes her detached from the “walking world”.

  33. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA YES THIS IS THE TYPE OF UNWINNABLE NIGHTMARE SCENARIO I CRAVE

    Seriously, somehow the string of hard-fought losses against enemies on the same order of magnitude was wearing me down, but now that the enemy has most notable Masters with*ridiculous* synergy, the resources of and a chokehold on a full universe, an army of precogs and clairvoyants, various other OP capes either allied or enthralled, and a *secret weapon*… I’m so fucking AMPED.

    I think it’s partly because, as the chapter went on and the full scale of the operation was revealed, a thought kept popping into my head: “That sure is a nice setup you got there, Teacher. It’d be a shame if something were to… happen to it.”

    The first half bore a striking similarity to a scene in Ra (https://qntm.org/ra): [mild spoilers] a geometrically complicated control room staffed by people with insanely detailed knowledge of the past, present, and future, triaging problems as or just before they occur by arcane methods, like an Ops team on metaphysical meth.

    1. SAME! Let’s all agree: Wildbow’s at his best when he’s putting protagonists through Hell, only to have them pull a miracle.

  34. Has anybody identified the smoke guy? I can’t remember if we’ve seen this guy.

    “He was a nobody, beyond his actions in regard to Engel. He had bought a Cauldron power, got the ability to make smoke and form phantom attackers from the smoke. He had owed a favor and oversight had called it in, before pressing him into service. The problem had been that the creations took a fragment of his mind to function, and when they gave those fragments back, those fragments were clean of any and all influence. He couldn’t be brainwashed. Not permanently.”

  35. “Elijah? Will you see them out?”

    “Of course.” The skinny blond boy smiled, and the smile had an uncanny edge. The fix to his jaw had been too perfect. He blinked, eyes closing over tinker-made spheres. With the faintest of machine sounds, metal whisking against metal, only audible to the Overseer because she had an ear right next to his eye, the irises switched colors from blue to yellow.

    So Valefor’s eyes are not regenerated by Scapegoat, but tinkertech. Moreover they change colors when he seems to be using his power, and Overseer has not heard him speak any commands to potential recruits who refused Teacher’s conditions. She could have simply left before Valefor spoke his commands, but between getting some power from Teacher as his student, and his new eyes, maybe Valefor doesn’t need to speak his commands anymore?

    Cassie has been seen with heterochromatic eyes a couple of arcs ago, while in Worm both her eyes were blue, and there have been all tis talk about “unwitting eyes”, which supplied Teacher’s students with information, but it is probably nothing? I mean if Cassie’s eyes suddenly changed colors for unknown reason, someone around her who knows her would have noticed and rised an alarm, right?

    That is unless only Victoria saw the color change for some reason…

  36. I think we need to pay close attention to one more person close to Teacher. Scapegoat. I always consider his sudden change of heart and joining the Fallen suspicious, especially that even in prison he was willing to take a bullet to heal a fellow prisoner. That doesn’t sound like what Fallen would do, doesn’t it? What if he is a deep undercover agent within Teacher’s team installed there by Dinah and/or Tattletale?

    One more thing to remember is that after he was shot in the hospital, he had a surgery there. Considering that prison staff had been infiltrated by Teacher’s thralls at the time, could it be that the purpose of that surgery was something more than just to save his life?

    1. > What if he is a deep undercover agent within Teacher’s team installed there by Dinah and/or Tattletale?

      I’m thinking that “and” is more likely than “or” in this case. To know that accusing Scapegoat of being Fallen and sending him to prison would mean that he will end up in Teacher’s inner circle would probably require a precog. On the other hand if I remember correctly it was Tattletale who told the heroes that Scapegoat is Fallen, and if I’m right, she wasn’t telling the truth. Considering her power if Tattletale is not telling the truth, I suspect that she is intentionally lying, which would mean that she was consciously working with Dinah. So has Scapegoat, considering that he didn’t deny Tattletale’s accusations.

      It also may be telling that neither the Undersiders, nor the Faultline’s crew were directly involved with the whole battle for prison. There could be plenty of reasons for that, but maybe they did it to reduce the risk of messing with Dinah’s numbers regarding Scapegoat?

      1. > it was Tattletale who told the heroes that Scapegoat is Fallen, and if I’m right, she wasn’t telling the truth

        IIRC, he confirmed himself being Fallen in his interlude.

      2. The distinction between being Fallen (which Scapegoat wasn’t) and being an agent for the Fallen (which Scapegoat was) is small enough that I’d be surprised if Tattletale’s power did pick up on it. Which is mostly because my impression of Tattletale is less omniscient than most peoples’, but still.

  37. Oh dear god… Wildb-

    You actually dreamed up something that mirrors the problems of todays society… And you made it WORSE

    It’s a fucking Thinker/Tinker trollfarm

    1. Why are you surprised? He’s a good enough writer to think of that sort of parallel, interested enough in applicability and themes and that stuff to want to think of it, and I’m not sure he can write a setting that isn’t at least moderately dystopic.

      1. It just never ceases to amaze me.

        After finishing Worm, I picked around 14 worm-fanfics based on reviews regarding plot, originality, humor, what if scenarios and other elements.

        Some were very good, some not so much.

        Then I stumbled upon Wildbow’s posts on Reddit saying what would have happened if a) Amy joined the Undersiders and b) if Leviathan never attached Brockton Bay.

        They were just a couple of paragraphs but they had, if not the depth, the regard for consequences that always prevented everything from going smoothly. It is something that the fanmade stories I read didn’t have, something that I found again in Ward. Maybe the word is… complexity?

        I mean, anyone can write a story based on the Parahumans’s universe. But Wildbow, the creator, is the only one yet that has its rules internalized (or the notes for it) enough to keep the plot and the tonne complex and consistent.

        And it never ceases to amaze me.

  38. Wow. Seriously, fuck Teacher with a chainsaw.
    It would be really ugly if at some point the protagonists would be forced to collaborate with him despite all of this (to put Sleeper to sleep, for instance).

  39. Seriously, Teacher? You have people transcribing conversations? Can’t you have some tinker whip up a text-to-speech program, and maybe have someone correcting its mistakes? Wouldn’t that be simpler and more accurate than designing a high-speed keyboard? This whole operation would be a lot more efficient* if you automated more of this crap. I know you can give people computer-related tinker powers; look at Saint!

    *Also a slightly smaller swirling mass of human rights violations, but somehow I don’t think that argument would get through to Teacher.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *