Breaking – 14.2

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What was the saying?  Three could keep a secret, if two of them were dead?

I wanted to have more faith in humanity than that.  Three could keep a secret, if everyone involved had balls or tits in a vise, or if their throats were directly on the line.

Problem was, we weren’t talking about three.  We weren’t even talking about a mere thirty.

Advance Guard had thirteen capes on its roster right now.  Foresight had nine.  The Shepherds, who’d kept to themselves and hadn’t interfered or been involved with Breakthrough or Breakthrough’s business nearly as much as the other two teams, had sixteen.  The Wardens had twenty-five.  Breakthrough had five to seven, depending on how Capricorn was counted and if we included Lookout.

And I wasn’t even counting the likes of Fume Hood, who had been looped in, or the Major Malfunctions, who by their own choice hadn’t.

Not everyone was in the loop.  Team leaders were making tough calls and leveraging their knowledge of the people on their rosters to decide if those people needed to be lied to, left in the dark, or told.

Every decision involved its own kind of stress, and I wasn’t thinking merely of stress of the emotional kind.  I was thinking of stress lines appearing across a metaphorical piece of metal.  Something solid, seemingly unshakable, that was being pushed just enough that the damage was leaking in.  Cracks formed, and those cracks threatened to become breaks.

The Wardens had expanded their headquarters over the last few days, and yet the number of capes that were housed within had increased by several factors.  Each team had made its individual calls on who to inform and who to leave in the dark.

There were capes in attendance who were too short-tempered, unreliable, or otherwise prone to break under stress to have out in the city.  There were capes who could, but who were sitting this one out, because they had other shit going on, or because the stress of it was too much.  Effervescent was one, and she’d been open about the reasons why: she had a substance abuse problem and acting like she’d been pushed to her limit put her at the cusp of a slippery slope.

It showed.  In expressions and in appearance, in how close capes sat to one another and how far they sat with personal space established.  It showed in body language, in arms folded, in tension, and in the tone of the chatter that I could hear but couldn’t decipher, or in their intent silence.

All to keep our ruse going.  We pretended to look more stressed than we were, more desperate.  We pretended we were more ready to pick fights, to turn to our coping mechanisms, or show evidence that our coping mechanisms had failed.

Some capes in attendance were only barely keeping their identities secret.  Two of the Shepherds were wearing clothes I wouldn’t have worn leaving the house: stretch yoga pants with patches where they were worn thin, and plaid sleep pants.  Both wore their masks, but the one with the plaid sleep pants hadn’t even brushed her hair.

I saw Victor- Brockton Bay native, named for his power, not because it was an actual name.  The costume had been changed so it didn’t have that bold red, black, bit-of-white color scheme, but he’d kept the name, I knew.  He was talking with one of Capricorn’s old teammates from Reach, and had his girlfriend with.  She seemed to be Gospel, an ex-member of one of the smaller religious teams.  Rune sat at the opposite corner of that collection of Shepherds.  She’d changed her name to Scribe, updated her costume by adding a brimmed hat and a crook-topped cane that she could use to write her symbols, but it was hard for me to not see her as Rune.

Two days ago, the pair of them had been outed.  Victor hadn’t really been hiding it, but he’d kind of been exposed to the public years ago, and had more or less dropped off the map for two years after that, long enough for most people to forget.  After they’d been revealed as ex-members of the Neo-Nazi gang back in Brockton Bay, Victor had been open about it.  He’d written a letter about his past life, his attempt to use the amnesty to be better, how he had someone close to him that inspired him to be better, he’d found God, he condemned everything about who & what he’d been, blah blah blah.  He’d still been a guy who had a history that was violent and stark enough to have records remaining after the end of the world, who’d done what he’d done when he was a full-fledged adult.  The letter had been an apology letter without an actual apology or trace of contrition.  I was kind of glad in a way that the public hadn’t really bought it, but his team was standing by him.

Rune, by contrast, hadn’t written any letter.  Her silence had been damning, and I suspected that if she hadn’t already been brought here to the Bunker and firmly asked to stay here, they would have enforced it then.  She was benched, and she had no friends for the time being.  Nobody to talk to her.

Cracks.

Our last arrivals were trickling in.  Capricorn sat on a table next to me, strapping on his armor while Sveta provided a hand as needed, to hold things in place or hold straps out ready for Byron to grab them.  Ashley had set aside her coat.  Rain had stepped over to a storage area to switch over to a proper costume.

I remained much as I was.  No secret identity to protect, and I was comfortable as-was.

Gundeck and Solarstare entered, with Rain among the half-dozen people who were right behind them.  Gundeck was a big guy, loaded down with his weapons, but even though his power left him able and ready to carry a whole arsenal with him without buckling, he moved like a burdened man.

He’d apparently promised his family he was out of the game after Gold Morning.  At the same time, he was leading a double life.  They’d found out in the midst of all of… this.  I wasn’t sure how much was Teacher and how much was that he’d shifted his priorities to more… I didn’t want to say important things, but the ramifications of what we were doing were important.

More cracks.  If not an outright break.  He really didn’t look so hot, and I could only see his general body language and the twenty percent of him that his costume didn’t cover up.

Rain was in costume, with a silvery-white hood and upper body to the costume, a glowing crack running through one of the eyes of his gunmetal mask and down to the edge near the cheek.  His mechanical forearms and hands, attached at the elbow, were smaller than his ordinary hands but still five fingered and dextrous, colored the same way as his mask, with finer glowing cracks running along them.  The lower body of the costume didn’t hug him, but it wasn’t quite ‘pants’ either.  Silvery-white panels, some devices and weapons, and decorative tinker attachments contrasted the darker material.  More of the decorative attachments joined the fabric to his metal boots, and bridged the divide between the upper and lower half of the costume.

In my opinion, he’d graduated from a thrown-together costume that didn’t do anything explicitly wrong, but didn’t do anything explicitly right either, to something that looked good.

More came down from upstairs.  The floor above us was still partially under construction, but they’d been hanging out.  Egg, Engel and Scraping were staying here to stay safe from Teacher, and were finding friends, because Engel at the very least was the kind of person that people were drawn to.

Engel and Egg found a place in the crowd near the Shepherds.  They looked our way, and Engel stared at Sveta, hard.

Sveta, for her part, kept her eyes toward the front of the room, avoiding any interaction with the glowing, sense-scrambling Engel.

The influx of people saw the crowd shift.  The way the crowds were organized, each team had sort of gathered with its most familiar allies nearby.  Small teams stuck to the big teams that they tended to work with, which put some of the smaller religious teams I didn’t know in the Shepherd’s orbit, Navigators and Kings of the Hill closer to Advance Guard, and Foresight had… not many.  Auzure was close to them but not close enough for them to talk among themselves.  We were close, and we’d exchanged hellos, so maybe Breakthrough counted.  They were on the best terms with the Wardens, though, which counted for something.

With the people finding their places, Gundeck and Solarstare stepping up to the front of the room, Rain joining Breakthrough, and others finding their respective teams, some were squeezed out.  Vista widened the gap to slip between people, which seemed to take some effort, and then ducked into the space between me, the wall, and a table.

“Thank you for coming in,” Cinereal addressed the room.  “Tensions with one of the border worlds demands the attention of some of the Warden leadership, so I’ll be handling this meeting today.  Those of you that know me know I’m strictly business.  I won’t mince words, I won’t give you context that doesn’t matter, so pay attention.”

For the most part, the way the PRT, Protectorate and Wards programs had been run had been a closed-doors thing.  The public didn’t tend to hear that so-and-so was a good boss or that one PRT director in one city was a stickler for routine.  At best, those without boyfriends in the Wards would know that one newly appointed PRT director had a history of being a politician in a cape-heavy area, or they’d been FBI, or they’d risen up from the ranks of being a PRT squaddie or investigator.  When it came to Protectorate or Wards, similar thing.  Guesswork and whatever they decided to reveal.

But Cinereal stood out.  Atlanta was something like one thousand three hundred miles from Brockton Bay, but we’d heard about what a hardass Cinereal was.

She faced the room without flinching, with several capes, mostly Foresight, arranged in front of her, also facing us.  Crystalclear was among them, as was Effervescent.

Tattletale didn’t form the lineup, but she sat near the back, amid the Wardens, her eyes scanning the room.

“We’re close,” she said.  “We want at least two more entry points, ideally three, and with some help we’re getting there.  One day, maybe two, then we move.  We’re handling that and we’re holding off some of the big dangers, like war and the Machine Army.  Your job, each and every one of you, is to maintain and support the peace.  If the best way you can do that is to stay out of everyone else’s way, then do that.”

Ashley gave me a look over her shoulder, her head tilting with the motion.  It made the projection of smoke spill down from her eyes and bounce off her shoulder.

Sitting on the table, Byron tugged at his straps, fixing on the last pieces of his armor.  He tugged again, then twisted around, trying to see what he was doing.

They weren’t the only signs of restlessness around the room.  I suspected a lot of people here had hoped to hear something closer to a timeline of hours, not days.

“There are two ongoing wars between villain factions in two locations,” Cinereal said.  “The first is between Semiramis, Little Midas, and Bluestocking, Earth N.  The Wardens and Foresight have discussed it and we would like to push for a stable alliance between Bluestocking and Semiramis.  For those of you who don’t know, these are behind-the-scenes operators who are stepping in to fill a void after Marquis has left for Shin and Lord of Loss was arrested.  Auzure, you have a working relationship with Semiramis.”

“We do,” Lark said.

“You’re up to date on who these individual faction leaders are, and what they represent?”

“We are.”

“Talk to Semiramis, then.  See what it would take, and broker a peace with Bluestocking.  Offer assistance in taking down Midas.”

“We can try.”

“We need better than try.  We need success.  All three parties know about Teacher and we need that handled.  We want Midas arrested and at least temporarily shuttled to our prison world, and we want Bluestocking and Semiramis cooperating with each other and with us.”

“We’ll manage it.  Can we bring in others if we need help with the actual handling and takedown?”

“Yes.  Talk to the Wardens if you need help organizing that,” Cinereal said.  She got a nod from Lark and moved on, addressing the rest of us, “The second war is over the portal-wracked areas in the heart of the city.  Those of you who are more used to working over there will recognize the names.  Deader and Goner operate from a corner world much as we’re operating from the Bunker.  Barrow is a corner world, in a manner of speaking.  The Lords of the Pit have the villains of the Pitstop under their thumb.  We think the best use of resources would be to put Advance Guard on this.”

“We’ve already been preparing to handle it,” was Mayday’s response.  “While I have the floor, I also want to say we’re taking the last steps to fold the Kings of the Hill into Advance Guard.  If you’re looking for them, it’s best to go through us.”

The fox and the hound, Foxtrot and Houndstooth, raised their hands.  Dangerous mischievousness and stoic seriousness, respectively.

“Good.  Consolidation helps.  We are very curious and very interested as to whether any of the other corner worlds are shielded from Teacher’s eye.  If possible, we’d like to talk to Barrow and to have Deader and Goner in custody for interviewing.”

“We’ll make it happen.”

“If you can’t, at least distract them.

“Shepherds, we want you at the east end of the city.  Boston, periphery of New Brockton.  You have the numbers and organization to do it.”

Moonsong answered, “We talked informally with Legend about it last night, I told him I had reservations, and he seemed understanding.  Things feel fragile right now and if we split up too much or stop maintaining a lot of face to face contact, that leaves us weak.”

“We need all bases covered for one day.  Perhaps two.  There’s-”

Cinereal, in her ash-gray costume with a bird motif, feathers weaving together and criss-crossing along the length of her robe and at the edges of her mask, turned her head as some members of her frontline of thinkers broke ranks.  Crystalclear had stepped away first, going to talk to Effervescent.  Tattletale hopped down from her perch of a stack of chairs and joined them.  Countenance, Foresight’s team leader, joined them to make it a group of four.

“Is there a problem?” Cinereal asked.

“Nothing confirmed,” Countenance said.  “We’ll take some people upstairs to talk, if that’s okay?”

Cinereal nodded, gesturing for them to go.

The thinkers rounded up a few members of one of Advance Guard’s tertiary groups.  People I didn’t recognize.  After a short pause, they also gathered up two members of one of the Shepherd’s teams.

All were escorted upstairs.

“One or two days, Moonsong.  Knock down the nails that stick up.  Keep any villains from getting cocky, keep any big incidents at bay.”

Moonsong looked surprisingly stressed out by the notion of having to distribute her team across several areas of the city.  I’d have to ask Byron, who was staring at Moonsong, while absently adjusting his armor.

The armor- I turned to look.  The straps that he’d been tightening for the last forever dangled off the side of the table and down to the floor.

I turned to Vista, who was smiling to herself, and I elbowed her, which set her off, in a fit of soundless, supressed laughter.

Byron noticed, and then noticed the straps.  He gave Vista a push on the shoulder.

“Breakthrough,” Cinereal said.

All at once, we were at attention.

“You’re missing a member,” she said.

“Lookout is part of a new team now.  We support her and she acts as an adjunct teammate, but officially she’s part of a new kids-only team.  They’re on a job handling a kidnapping.”

“We hoped to talk to her about security and protocols.”

“We can let her know and send her your way.”

“Good. We would like you to handle some of the rising anti-parahuman sentiment.  It’s been simmering for a while now and we think it’s going to boil over.”

“Assessing our abilities and where we stand in the big picture, I’m worried we’re not the best choice for that task.”

“You may be the best we have.  We would have sent Legend and some other Wardens, but current events have forced us to refocus.”

“Could I suggest that we help out the Shepherds, and the Shepherds send their best front-facing capes to handle this?”

“The Shepherds are mired in scandal that’s about to get worse.  I won’t say more on that subject.  We feel that if they get some concrete victories, this will help.  You, meanwhile, have been involved in this exercise from the start, we want to keep you close to the bunker and available in case we need to act, and like it or not, your appearance on Hard Boil made you visible to the civilian side.  Your voices explained things that they had wanted to know.  You opened a dialogue, now use it.”

Her voice was hard, brooked no nonsense, and struck a tone where I felt like anything I said, one way or another, would make me look and feel like a petulant child.

“Got it,” I said.

“Good,” she said.  She turned her head, then pointed across the room at Tattletale, who had apparently just come down the stairs.

“Three moles,” Tattletale said.  “The others are figuring out when and for how much, but I can tell you right now that they’re new, they weren’t moles before, so they didn’t know much.  He doesn’t know anything about what we’re aiming to pull, yet, or he’d be acting differently.”

“Just the three?”

“So far,” Tattletale said.  She grinned, even though what she’d said was chilling, not funny.  It wasn’t a Kenzie thing either.  She was just way too fond of her own wit sometimes.

“If you try, you will be caught,” Cinereal addressed the assembly.  “It’s not worth it.”

Tattletale went back upstairs.

Cinereal paused, her eyes searching the room, as if she could see the traitors or informants in our ranks, who might tip off Teacher and spoil everything.

We were out of the limelight, in any event.  Byron was trying to fix his straps and looking a little bewildered as he tried to figure out which parts had stretched out.  Vista helped by contracting it back to its normal length, moving her hand to indicate.

I bumped her elbow with mine, moving her hand closer.  Byron noticed the moved hand, looked up, and moved his arm close enough that Vista could touch the straps.

She fiddled for a second, pulled the straps tight, then gave his arm a pat.

“Thanks,” he whispered.

“It was my fault anyhow,” Vista whispered, before turning her full focus to Cinereal.

Not her full focus.  Her hand reached past my coat for my side, thumbnail poking through my shirt to my stomach, fingernails at my back.  A claw of revenge, for forcing her hand.

Entirely undeserved.  If she’d embarrassed herself because I’d pushed her, I’d feel like shit and I’d deserve the revenge claw.  But she hadn’t.  We needed the bright moments, against such a grim backdrop, and we couldn’t take or maintain those moments so long as we had our greater deception.  A secret kept by, if I was counting right, seventy-two people in this building right now.

Cinereal continued, “Clip Kidz, we have a special errand for you, if you’re willing and if your guardians are willing to sign off.  We will pay, but we need you to take on a mission that we know will fail, because it’s important that Teacher thinks we’re putting up some resistance.   If you’ll stay after? Thank you.  For the other smaller teams, you’ll be running errands for us or supporting the larger squads.   One of those squads is us, because we anticipate an attack on the Bunker by Teacher once he realizes what we’re doing…”

She went on.  It hardly mattered.  To one in three of us, it felt like busywork, meant to bide time while the Wardens figured out where they could access or crack open portals to Teacher’s realm.  Those in that group wanted to move now.  Forget the extra portals, just send more people through the four or so that we had.  They were restless.  For many of them, the other shoe hadn’t dropped yet.  Every hour that Teacher was left to his own devices, their secrets and relationships all hung in the balance.

To another one in three of us, I was pretty sure, it felt like a doomed proposition.  That the attack on Teacher’s base would be hard, and resources we were committing or spending now would be resources we didn’t have against Teacher.  Or at least, we wouldn’t have at full readiness and capacity.  It was necessary to keep up the act, but ugh.  That group would be the quiet ones, the ones who were chin up and shoulders square today, but who dreaded tomorrow.  For many of them, secrets had already been spilled.  They’d felt Teacher’s hand and the associated hopelessness.

And to the last group, one I subscribed to, both were true.  It felt like the Wardens knew the attack would be devastating.  It felt like they were being safe, distracting us, preoccupying us.

Not chin-up, not shoulders-square, not restless either.  Just… dealing with a sinking feeling in our guts.  I was certain that nine out of ten of us had come to this meeting hoping to get the order, the news that we’d be attacking in a few hours.  It was too hard to believe that things would be easier or better tomorrow.

But we’d wait, we’d lie, and we’d confront the worst sides of ourselves, while trying to convince ourselves that we weren’t playing into the asshole’s plan by doing so.

The worst of ourselves.  I hadn’t expected a crowd.

“What the hell do we even do about this?” Rain asked.  “Christ.”

The swearing was a nice touch.  In figuring out how to present the best picture for our would-be attackers, we’d started talking to each other about our tendencies and habits when stressed, reminding one another, or pointing out things we did that we weren’t even aware of.  I’d told Rain he amped up the religious swears when the stress was at its highest.

We stood on a rooftop, looking down at the scene.  A single street was littered with people from one intersection to the next.  They weren’t shoulder to shoulder, but they were close enough that people had to weave and made it about ten steps before they had to ‘excuse me’ their way through.  Most of the focus was around a single place, a bookstore, and the building interior was packed, with employees wearing store colors beneath jackets that weren’t store-branded, keeping too many people from making their way inside.

The people who weren’t indoors were watching through the store window.  Though it was cold and the snow came down in thick wet bullets halfway between raindrop and snowflake, the crowd was more interested in watching than in seeking shelter.  Large screens displayed the video feed from the inside.

I’d expected signs and angry cries.  Instead, they were book readers.  They were silent, intently focused on what was going on.

“You and Vista were getting chummy,” Rain said.

At first I thought he meant me.  Then I saw him looking at Byron.

“She pranked me good.  My head wasn’t anywhere near my armor, I was thinking a clasp was broken and it kept loosening.”

“She’s pretty cool,” Rain said.  “Y’know?”

A little blunt there, Rain.

“She is,” Byron said.  He glanced at me.

“No question.  If the world had more Vistas, it’d be a better place.”

“You should talk to her more,” Rain said.  “Ask her out or something.”

So damn blunt.  You’re going to scare him off.

“Nah,” Byron said.  “I shouldn’t.  Wouldn’t be nice.  I think ‘girl I’d want to spend the rest of my life with’ and I think of Moonsong.  I think ‘attractive girl’ and I think of Moonsong.  I think of girls I might take home for the Christmas holiday and I think of Moonsong taking off her coat in the entryway.  It wouldn’t be fair to anyone, if I wasn’t totally over Moon.”

“Oh!” Sveta said.  “This is a good opportunity.”

“What?” Byron asked.  “For what?”

“That device Kenzie made, so whichever one of you two was stowed away could talk.”

“She’s working on the final touches, she said.”

“Nope!”  Sveta said.  She reached into her pocket, withdrawing a supiciously phone-like container.  “Ta-da.”

“That’s your phone,” Ashley said, deadpan.

“It’s built into the phone case, but it’s not a phone.  See?  I turn it on, press it to Byron’s arm…”

Byron stuck his arm out.

Sveta leaned in close to the phone, tilting her head to put her ear near it.  Then she switched to a deep voice, “Beep, boop, boop.  Test, test, I’m Tristan, and after hearing Byron say all that, I might actually manage to throw up in this extradimensional space, it’s going to make such a mess, and I’ll never be able to clean it up.”

Byron dropped his arm, moving it away from the phone.  He blurred, shifting over to Tristan.

“It works,” Tristan said, in the dullest, most unsuprised, unexcited tone he could manage.  “Also, after hearing Byron get mushy over Moonsong, I might throw up.  Good thing I’m not in an extradimensional space as I do it.”

“See?  It’s amazing,” Sveta said.  “Good work, Lookout.”

Her phone illuminated, showing a new text.  A thumbs-up icon.

“In all seriousness, though, the way things are right now, don’t speak for me, don’t put words in my mouth,” Tristan said.  There was a tone to how he said it that made Sveta take a step back.

“Sorry,” she said.  Then, like that wasn’t enough, but she couldn’t think of what else to say, she said, “sorry.”

“Are there any boys you’re ga-ga over?” Ashley asked, sounding very much like the words ga-ga shouldn’t have ever left her lips.  Her expression reflected a similar sentiment.

“What the fuck am I going to do with boys?” Tristan asked.  “I can’t do anything.  We can’t act, we can’t get the Wardens to take us seriously.  They assigned us this garbage watch-the-people-at-a-bookstore job.  Which would be bad enough, but I’ve got Sveta putting words in my mouth-”

“I said sorry.”

“And I swear I’m going to lose my mind.”

“Maybe you should switch out, cool down?” Rain asked.  “It’s Byron’s turn anyway.”

“Fuck him,” Tristan said.  Metal clicked against metal as he settled in, arms crossed, looking down over the roof’s edge.

Tristan was signaling – left foot planted a bit ahead of the right foot.  The signal had been Rain’s idea, with either arms being folded or footing being our cue to one another that we were playing a part.  That we weren’t really upset.

Still, it was spooky to go there, to see backlash and hear friendly voices sound so unfriendly.

My hands in my coat pockets, I looked down from the roof’s edge.

A narrow woman with short black hair shot through with gray was speaking, face displayed on the screens.  I recognized her but couldn’t place the name.  I was so bad with non-parahuman names.

“What’s her name?” I asked, to change the subject.  “Woman in the window.”

“She wrote a book, didn’t she?” Rain asked.

“Yes,” Ashley said.  “I read it, but I forget the name.”

“What’s the book?” I asked.

“Deconstructing power,” Ashley said.  “I like deconstructing things-”

She made an intentional spark with her power, a flicker of shadow twice the size of the flame a lighter might’ve made, and loud enough I worried heads on the ground five floors below us might turn our way.

“-and I like power.  It was fine.  Wasn’t a very good deconstruction or look at power, I think.”

“It’s apparently made the author popular,” Byron observed.

“Other person on the screen,” Rain said.  “Gary Nieves.”

“Ex-candidate for mayor,” I noted.

“He’s been a voice surrounding this general sentiment,” Rain said.

“Paying attention, huh?” I asked.

Rain nodded.  He turned his head slowly, glowing eyes of his mask surveying the crowd.  “I like paying attention to what ideas are taking hold and how.  Makes me feel more secure, like I won’t be blindsided by that stuff again.”

Speakers planted outside the bookstore that was hosting the informal presentation, dialogue, or debate had Gary Nieves’ voice now, distinct from the woman’s.

The crowd was reacting.  Little by little, step by step, they were being hyped.  Finding courage.

“What’s he saying?” Byron asked.

“I don’t know, but I want to know,” I answered.

“Let me,” Sveta said.  “I can go incognito.”

She pulled off her mask, then pressed it to her stomach.  Skin pulled away in strips, and then fat, muscle, and other structures were their own layers.  All the organs were there, but as necessary parts were pulled away, the organs went still, shriveling, moisture sucked into other surrounding spaces.

The mask was wrapped up  by the strips, then drawn into her stomach.  Strips then fell back into their natural order, with one or two misfires before something tidy was managed.  Only a slight bump suggested the mask’s presence.

Then, more dramatically, she did the same with the remainder of her costume.  The costume was salvaged from her damaged prosthetic body, forming armor that she wore with curling, wavy components to it, all painted either in a dramatic fashion with bright reds, yellows, and oranges, or in deep, cold greens and blues.

It took her some doing, to pull in the armor and wrap herself around it.  There were places it protruded through the skin, but it was set deep enough inside her that that when she pulled her coat out of her bag and pulled it on over everything, her silhouette was normal.

“Pretty cool,” Byron said.

“It’s uncomfortable.  I’m going to head down.”

She made her way down the side of the building, strips of her being helping her down, more appearing as she needed them to seize handholds.  The rain had settled in part, but the snow still came down hard.

My phone rang.  I put it on speaker.

“Woman named… Reidleigh Darleet is talking.  She’s the author,” Sveta reported.  “They’re talking about the amnesty.  Violent capes getting a pass.  The Drenched.  Valkyrie.  A… bunch of villain names I’m not sure I heard about.”

“Me,” Swansong said.

“Didn’t come up,” Sveta said.

“I’m offended by that,” Swansong said.  “I’d be offended if I were named, but being ignored is worse.”

“I think I’m okay with you not being named,” I told her.  “Earn your reputation as Swansong, don’t lean on what you did as Damsel.”

“I’m both,” she told me.  “All three.  Who I was, who I am, and who I want to be.”

“I guess don’t let one happen at the cost of the other two.”

“I’ll do that as soon as you take your own advice,” she told me, archly.

“Woah, hold up,” I said, my voice overlapping with Tristan’s, who’d said something similar.  “Dial it down.”

“Hmph.”

Her footing was right, at least.  Fuck me, though, we needed a middle ground that wasn’t her ranting at people on a train and murdering teammates with words.  She was so good at wearing this latent hostility that it spooked me a bit.

“Shitty thing is,” Tristan said.  “I think my parents would attend a group like this.  Powers fucked all our lives up.  They’re not exactly shaking the pom-poms.  Especially not for me.”

“Bitch at us when you don’t have any parents, like Sveta,” Swansong said.  “When you’ve killed them by your own hand, like I did, or when you’ve smeared your mom’s head across concrete, like Victoria did.”

My blood ran cold.

Ashley met my eyes, and there was nothing there.  Cold, emotionless, unflinching.

“Not fair,” I said.

“Cries for fairness are the loser’s prerogative.  Don’t be a loser, Antares.”

Fuck me.  I’d need to have a chat with her, because that hit a little too close to uncomfortable territory, tracing a ways back to a basketball game.

Tristan spoke up, “I’m not trying to one-up anyone, I’m saying it sucks.  It doesn’t have to suck the most to count.”

“If Cryptid were here, he’d have a good immature joke about sucking the most,” Rain observed.  “I miss Cryptid.  How fucked up is it that I miss Cryptid?”

“Very,” I said, at the same time Swansong said, “Exceedingly.”

“Alright,” Rain said, a little defeated.  “He was alright company sometimes.”

“Guys,” Tristan pointed down at the street below.

On the monitor was a grainy gray image, like one from a security camera.  The figure in it was unmistakably Ashley, Hollow Point era.

“Guys,” Sveta said, over the phone.  “I don’t know if you see-”

“We see,” I said.

“But it’s Swansong.  They didn’t mention her earlier because they’re using her as one illustration of their bigger point.  Trying to get people upset.  They’re talking about her place being provided for her, about support, how she abused amnesty when others didn’t get a shot…”

Swansong was shaking her head.

“We can deal with this,” I said.

Swansong’s answer to my statement was to step off the edge of the roof.

Shit.

Shit.

I followed her off the edge.  I flew down to make  up for the second or two I’d taken to process implications, then veered off as I saw her move her hands into position, one a little too close to me for comfort.  I didn’t want to get clipped by a lazy blast.

She blasted once to break the momentum of her fall, twisted in the air, and blasted again to reorient.  Her boot skidded on sidewalk covered in salt and gravel.

“We don’t get anything by doing this,” I said, as I put myself in her way.  I was aware members of the crowd were watching.   Behind me, the crowd parted, getting out of Swansong’s way, even though she’d stopped in her tracks.

Tristan was drawing out orange motes.  They solidified into a pole.  He slid down, controlling his descent with both feet and one hand at the pole, one hand on Rain’s shoulder.  The pole broke, and when it did, Rain stopped in mid-air.  With his grip on Rain’s shoulder, Tristan stopped too.

Together, they stopped once more on the way to the ground, landing heavily.

Sveta hung back, with the crowd.  Probably a good thing, because she wasn’t costumed and she passed for ordinary.  She could do things from that angle that the rest of us couldn’t.

“We don’t get anything by hanging back and watching,” Swansong said.  “Let’s open a dialogue.”

“You need to say that last bit without flexing your hands,” I murmured.  I glanced down at her feet.  She was putting on a show.

I was really, really worried that the show would bleed over into reality.  This really wasn’t the time to play with fire.  It made things more authentic, I was sure, but it was also playing with a really fucking volatile situation.

“Maybe you need to go,” I told her, my voice low.  “Let the rest of us handle it.”

“It’s about me.  It’s relevant to me.  My reputation.  They’re saying I was subservient, lesser, groveling for handouts.  I earned my money.  You don’t know me, you don’t know the answers to the questions.”

“I know you might do something you regret here.”

“I don’t play second fiddle, and I don’t bow down or back down.  At worst, I’m a partner.”

“Be a partner then.  Listen to what your teammate is saying.”

She set her jaw, knuckles cracking as she clenched her fist.

Rain and Capricorn caught up with us.

“I’ll let you take the lead,” Swansong said.

“Thank you,” I said.

“But we have to go,” she said.

The crowd had backed away, and in doing so, they’d opened a more or less clear path to the door.

I looked at Tristan.

“Yeah,” he said.  “We might as well engage them somehow.”

They’d moved on from Swansong, talking about others.  We approached the door, and the voices that came from speakers while we were outside became voices from speakers inside, resonating as they bounced off of bookshelves, walls, and ceiling.

I’d dealt with too many racists back in Brockton Bay to be optimistic about dealing with bigots of another stripe.  I could use the minute we had here, while they finished their segment on a villain from the west end of the city, and I could try to figure out what my arguments were.

I didn’t have any.

“For those of you who don’t have a vantage point to see,” Mrs. Darleet said, her voice smooth, one that made me think she’d practiced it over radio.  “Swansong , who we were just talking about, has graced us with her presence.”

Swansong swished her dress with one hand and swept a hand in front of her as she curtsied.

“Along with three others,” Gary Nieves said.  “All in costume.  Naturally intimidating.”

“Naturally,” Swansong said.

“No,” I said.  “That’s not our intent.”

“It’s the result, isn’t it?” Gary asked.

“It is.  Unfortunately, it is,” I answered.

“If intimidating us into silence isn’t the intent, then what is?” Gary asked.

“Clarifying facts,” I told him.  “Swansong wanted to clear her name, I think.  I and my companions wanted information, though we kind of planned to wait until all was done.”

Although I’m worried you might have started a riot or provoked something if you’d gone on too long.

“Clear your name?  You didn’t benefit from the amnesty, Swansong?”

“I did.  But I was on thin ice.  When I killed a killer that ice broke.  I accepted my punishment.”

“You admitted to the charges and punishment, so I can skip my second question.  Funny, that you admitted to murder, and yet you’re still here.”

“The prison is gone.  I’m doing my part by cooperating and helping to permanently remove villains,” Swansong answered.  “There’s no place to put me and they don’t consider me a priority.”

“An admitted killer isn’t a priority.”

“Seems not,” Swansong said.

“Gary,” I said.  “If you want, we look into giving you an inside look at the process.  Obviously we can’t let you talk about details, because the villains could use that, but you’d be free to agree, say the idea is flawed, say it’s inhumane, even-”

“Can it be inhumane if you aren’t human?” Gary Nieves asked.

“I think it can,” I said.

“I’m noticing you didn’t protest and say you were human,” Gary pointed out.

The reality was that I wasn’t sure if I really could say parahumans were human, exactly.  Too many structures went out the window.  Humans were social animals and parahumans were so often solitary, banding together by necessity and circumstance, but not by gravity and natural bonding, like humans seemed so able to do.

“I think my energy is better spent on other arguments,” I told him.  “Whatever you want to call us, we think, we feel, we have ties to loved ones.  Introduce humanity to an alien race from another planet with all of those qualities and I’d protest any cruelty or injustice turned their way.”

“She would,” Rain said.  “She’s a natural hero.”

Thank you, Rain, but it’s best to stay quiet, I thought, as I met his eyes and shot him a tight smile, I willed him to absorb the intensity of the thought.  If they turn on you or point fingers at you, this all gets messy.

“And I don’t think we’re that alien,” I added.

“Putting questions of cruelty and the inhumane aside, can you really say it’s fair, if Parahumans like Swansong get preferential treatment?  If people are dying out in the cold while a girl who got lucky gets her choice of apartments?”

“It’s-”

“It’s a tired old falsehood,” Swansong said.  “I’m no slave, I’m no servant.  I’m not an animal with my apartment as my pen to keep me contained.  They had questions, I was in a unique place to answer them.  I died, I came back.  I remembered things.  When I dream, I dream of other mes.  The labs were interested.”

“When the world ended, we wanted answers,” Tristan said.  “She was getting paid to help provide them.  Enough to pay for an apartment.  She’s working for the heroes and she’s doing so with the okay of the mayor.”

“The mayor,” Gary Nieves said.

I had a bad feeling.

“Do me a favor, Vince?  Open up my second set of slides.  Then go to slide… sixty-eight, I think it was,” Gary told the guy who was managing the slideshow that went with the talking heads on the screens outside.

Slide sixty-eight wasn’t the mayor.  It was Amy.  It was Cryptid, as some polished, gaunt figure that was so tall that Amy’s head only came to his elbow.  Marquis stood off to the side.  Other parahumans in fine clothing and costumes were arrayed around them.  A photo.

“No, wrong slide, that’s Earth Shin,” Gary said.  “Go forward.”

The next slide was a digital photo of Cheit leadership, in their long suit-jackets and straight-leg slacks, walking with sandals on in weather too wet and chilly for it.  The right half of the image had a zoomed-in version of one of their arms, where skin could be seen through the cuff.  The man had a vein running along the back that glowed like white hot metal.

“No, that’s Earth Cheit,” Gary said.  “Next.”

A candid photo.  Marquis and Lord of Loss on the rooftop of the Lodge.

“That’s Earth Nun,” Gary said.

“We get your point,” Tristan said.  “And that’s outdated.”

Being right doesn’t mean he’s wrong, I thought.

“Outdated?  So humans are in charge now?” Gary asked.

Tristan shook his head.

“Good enough for my point that you say you’ve already grasped,” Gary said.  “Next?”

The mayor, side by side with an image of Citrine from the Brockton Bay era, pre-Gold Morning.

The room filled with murmurs.

“Tell me again how the mayor signing off on your activities is okay.  Tell me how we’re supposed to be okay with secret after secret, lie after lie, coverup after coverup.  With people wearing masks while leading double lives.  Tell me how we’re supposed to be okay with the fact that every single world we’re in regular contact with, our world included, is under the thumb of parahumans, openly, otherwise, or currently undergoing a transfer of leadership between powers.”

Amy.  The thought made my thoughts skip beats, turned mental connections into dead ends.

Yeah.  Fucking thanks, Cinereal.

Gary had been ready, waiting for someone to take a stand or speak up, to drop this.  He’d planned to drop them as attention-grabbers late in this specific event, or he’d been holding them in reserve for when he was challenged, quietly changing minds and turning hearts away from capes in the meantime.

This was more serious than we’d been led to believe.  Gary was armed with all the damning information.

“You’re right,” Rain said.

I turned his way, caught off guard.  I wasn’t the only one.

“It’s not okay.  This whole dynamic is- Jesus, it’s fucked.”

I was betting that ‘Jesus’ wasn’t because of my tip to him.  It came from his stress, speaking in front of so many eyes.

Rain looked to me, to the others for support.

I nodded.  Swansong didn’t move, holding her head high.  Tristan put a hand at Rain’s shoulder.

The crowd was talking among themselves, and Gary seemed to be waiting for them to drop in volume before responding, visibly forming his response.

Rain didn’t wait.  Rain went ahead, and people shut up because they wanted to hear him.

“You’re absolutely, totally right,” Rain said, visibly agitated with the public speaking, being in the limelight.  “And we’re on your side in this.  More of us than you’d think, we agree with what you’re saying.”

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158 thoughts on “Breaking – 14.2”

  1. The Wardens have only 25 members? That’s a lot less than I would have thought.

    No mention of The Guild? Are they still a thing? I know there’s some overlap (Narwhal and D&D are Guild and Wardens, right?).

  2. “The right half of the image had a zoomed-in version of one of their arms, where skin could be seen through the cuff. The man had a vein running along the back that glowed like white hot metal.”

    Does Earth Cheit … have the Pastor working for them now?

    (Or it could just be Cauldron vials, but that’d be a bit less interesting.)

  3. This insufferable asshole Gary is a combination between Senator Robert Kelly and William Stryker (X-Men). If he’s given enough power, he’ll kill every single parahuman with his own hand while laughing like a maniac all this time.And of course that Rain PRETENDS to agree with him just to fool the Teacher’s spies (like how Vic and her people play their cards).

    This fascist sees parahumans as non-humans in the same manner nazis see the “inferior” humans as animals. Victor and Rune are no longer nazis but heroes but their role was taken over now by Gary,

    PS: I agree that Gary lost some people he cared about during that parahuman attack, but he have no right to hate all parahumans with no exception only because of few bad apples. He (and people with his mentality) sucks.

    1. I mean…. mainly he seems concerned with the developing class structure, that is getting more and more locked in.

      And Rain, who grew up in a cult where the parahumans mattered, and everyone else was “slut or soldier” has every reason to Genuinely agree with his point on this. I don’t think Rain’s faking… and I don’t think Neives is deluded to be concerned.

      1. His speech reminds me so much of Goebbels’ speech on jews: that they’re not humans, they’re all a danger for society and naturally evil. Gary tries to convine ordinar People that Parahumans are naturally evil and dangerous because they’re not humans. He doesn’t care so much about classes like he care about convincing People to riot against all Parahumans. Either he’s a giant dick or he’s Teacher’ pawn, with his knowledge or not. Rain plays a smart game. He agrees with Gary in order to make people hate only a small part of Parahumans, not all of them, andin case if Gary is Teacher’s pawn.

        1. Except that Goebbels was making up stuff to demonize Jews, while what Gary says is actually true. Parahumans are in positions of power, which they often achieved through illegitimate means – like hiding ex-cauldron past or taking over through raw strength. They are influenced by alien beings, that are trying to cause as much conflict as possible.

          Besides, humans hate unfairness. We really don’t like to be ruled by somebody without moral authority. Deus Vult, democratic mandate, force of tradition, currently parahumans don’t have something that would justify their rule, yet they are in charge. And they receive perks, wealth and privileges, that normal people don’t get.

          1. If Gary hated only parahumans in position of power, then maybe I’d have agreed with him (even if Number Man was better than any ordinar human at saving and fixing the economy) and Citrine wants honestly to improve the city. But Gary hates all Parahumans, good or bad, seeing them less than humans. He’s clearly not right for hating an entire group of people who are not even responsible for getting powers in the first place (they never asked for powers or aliens driving them to conflict). Gary is just as unfair in his judgement as parahumans in position of power are for taking power without asking for approval.

          2. Gary doesn’t see parahumans as less than human. He sees them as other-than human, and in many ways superior. Which is why they terrify him.

            He’s driven by fear, not hate.

          3. > Parahumans are in positions of power

            Well of course they are and will be. And there’s nothing anyone can (or should) do about it, except killing every parahuman right after they trigger. And even in that case, some parahumans would probably manage to hide their abilities or give enough incentive to the anti-parahuman leaders, and then they still will be in power.

            > which they often achieved through illegitimate means – like hiding ex-cauldron past

            Just how is this illegitimate? They wouldn’t need to hide it if there wasn’t so much anti-parahuman bigotry around.

            > or taking over through raw strength

            That’s bad indeed. But, you know, regular humans have been doing that throughout over all the history. And the solution for that would be not to assign blame to some specific category of humans, but to work out such a political system which would be resilient to taking over by force (something that’s not quite solved yet in the real world, without any parahumans, by the way).

            > We really don’t like to be ruled by somebody without moral authority. Deus Vult, democratic mandate, force of tradition…

            That amounts to saying that “moral authority” could be basically anything. By the way, Citrine didn’t just step up into the mayor’s position, she was elected. Here’s a democratic mandate.

          4. Should Mother Mathers be allowed to run for office, without disclosing, that she is a Parahuman and what her powers do? Even parahumans without such terrible powers are a question mark, due to influence of passengers. I think Parahuman status is something voters must know to make a legitimate choice. Citrine`s democratic mandate is severely damaged by all the things she hid from people, who chose her to lead. When it inevitably goes public, I don’t think they’ll accept “If you knew, you’d never have voted for me, since you are bigots” as an explanation.

          5. Should Mother Mathers be allowed to run for office, without disclosing, that she is a Parahuman and what her powers do? Even parahumans without such terrible powers are a question mark, due to influence of passengers. I think Parahuman status is something voters must know to make a legitimate choice. Citrine`s democratic mandate is severely damaged by all the things she hid from people, who chose her to lead. When it inevitably goes public, I don’t think they’ll accept “If you knew, you’d never have voted for me, since you are bigots” as an explanation.

            Should gay people be obligated to disclose their sexuality before running for office? I’ve heard that homosexuality is very dangerous, potentially resulting in eternal damnation (i.e. worse than Gray Boy). If a mayoral candidate thinks that it is okay to dabble in and be influenced by such dangerous evil, shouldn’t they have to warn everybody?

            It is one thing to be upset that she didn’t disclose her criminal history, but being upset that she didn’t disclose her status as a cape is quite another. At least, as long as she didn’t lie outright about it (lying is bad; deflecting or refusing to answer is not). Nor would it be legitimate to be upset that she didn’t reveal her sexual orientation, gender identity, religious beliefs (or lack thereof), favorite flavor of ice cream, Myers–Briggs results, martial arts training, ancestry, blood type, BMI, exercise routine, diet, or whatever else. These are all things people might be curious about as they may affect how she runs the city, but they are not things people have any right to know. It is up to the candidate whether or not to disclose them, and it is up to the voter to decide whether to vote for people who refuse to inform them about things they consider important.

          6. I’ll give you an example of a real life law that works in a similar way to what Kessler is proposing. Polish lustration law. It is meant to prevent members and collaborators of various former communist security services from basically taking over the country. According to various estimates we could be talking about some hundred thousand to even over two hundred thousand people here, whose identities are as a general rule unknown to the public. Remember that a lot of work that those institutions did basically boiled down to invigilating Polish society, gathering blackmail material on everyone of any importance witin that society, and using that material, as well as many other not always legal means, to ensure that the society remained loyal not only to Polish communist government, but ultimately to government and the communist party of USSR.

            The law dictates that any candidate to one of various positions of power in Poland (from the President of Poland all the way down to rectors and deens of state-owned universities) has to make a written declaration whether they knowingly and willingly worked for the communist services in question (basically a simple yes-no answer to the question defined by law). Those declarations are publicly available, and in case of elective positions – provided to voters together with a list of candidates. You can take almost any position even if you declare that you did work for those communist services, but if it is later found that you lied in your declaration (there is a separate legal procedure for that involving among others the so-called “lustration court” – basically a specialized department of the Appeal Court in Warsaw, and Supreme Court to which any appeals from the decisions of lustration court go) you may not only lose the position you wanted to get when you made your declaration, but also the right to candidate to similar positions for several years.

            The law is a compromise between leaving secret members and collaborators of communist services in higher places completely out of control of public opinion, and cutting them from public life completely (again – we are talking about over a hundred thousand people, many of whom had a choice between “collaboration” – sometimes as simple as signing a declaration of loyalty and a few harmless, often fake reports, and not getting a good job, not getting promoted, not getting a flat, a car, a passport etc., not to mention the people who for example really worked on ensuring security of the state secrets from foreign spies for example). The compromise is working since 1997, with some changes made in 2007, so while it is controversial as hell (there were not that many topics in Polish post-communist era politics as hotly debated as lustration) it seems to be a solution that generally is good enough for most people in the country.

            As for capes, I would say that their powers and their secrets (including, though definitely not limited to their secret personalities) make many of them potentially far more dangerous than any members or collaborators of former communist state security machines.

            The least that the voters should be entitled to know is whether they are casting their votes on capes. They should probably also known what the cape in question could do (what are their powers, what history they had and if that history means they may harbor some important secrets or have connections to known criminals etc.). The law doesn’t necessarily have to require that every candidate for important position has to reveal all of those details about themselves just because they happen to be capes, but at the very least it should let people know that they may be dealing with a person who used to be (or even still is) a masked parahuman criminal, or who could have a power or knowledge which is beyond what is available to regular, unpowered people, and which could be used to manipulate public opinion (like certain master powers for example) or otherwise abuse democratic institutions to gain more power than what the voters would normally want or expect to give them if they were aware of those facts. One of the assumptions of democracy is that voters are in position to make informed decisions and can be assumed to have certain mental faculties including free will and ability to make rational decisions while doing so. Powers can mess with all of that.

          7. Change the last sentence above to “Powers, capes privileges and the effect Shards have on their minds can mess with all of that.” The fact that parahumans enjoy certain rights, including the right to maintain secret identities in almost all situations is often even more damaging than the powers themselves. The fact that their Shards can do everything from driving them to conflict to making them as insane as for example Bonesaw was during her “best” times with Slaughterhouse Nine is also something that voters would probably want to take into account…

            Note that for example there is absolutely nothing about Citrine’s power that makes her appointment as a Mayor a problem. The problems with her are that she used to be a villain (something voters would probably like to know, and would know if she was an unpowered criminal), and the fact that some of her decisions seem like they may have been precisely the right ones to draw the city into conflict with Chiet (which may end with outright war) or with Love Lost-Cradle-March trio (with Kronos Titan as a result).

            Even if a cape is perfectly mentally stable and doesn’t have any undesirable tendencies, other capes are likely to attack them, and if the person being attacked happens to be the Mayor for example, the entire city may get drawn into conflict. In other words even if Citrine did nothing to provoke the conflicts I’ve mentioned above, the fact that she is a cape probably contributed to the fact that other capes decided to target her, and since she is the Mayor with assets like hero teams to protect her the attacks on her weren’t simple street level fights, but things that endanger the entire city.

            In other words one more reason for the voters to know that a person they are voting for is a parahuman is that while a parahuman may use their power to protect the institution they are a part of (like the government of the city, and by extension the city itself in this example), their mere presence means that those institutions are also more likely to come under attack by other parahumans, and that may have serious negative consequences for everyone even remotely connected to those institutions (like pretty much the entire population of the city in this example).

            Perhaps it is better to keep capes on the front lines, or at least in unimportant enough positions that nobody will feel like they need to threaten lives and livelihoods of millions of people to get to those capes? Sounds like a risk that voters may want to be aware of and take into consideration before deciding to make a parahuman their Mayor, don’t you think?

          8. The secret identities thing probably isn’t actually a parahuman specific privilege. If a badass baseline had a mind to, they could make themselves a costume and go do cape stuff. Being a cape without powers is more difficult and requires being a little bit insane, but it is entirely doable.

          9. By the way, here is an observation about the fact that a cape in high position in government can actually be a danger to the people that government is supposed to protect simply because if someone targets that cape, they are likely do a lot of damage that will affect regular people in the area.

            Don’t you think that Tattletale – the de facto ruler of New Brockton is doing a better job protecting her people from situations I’ve just described than Citrine – the Mayor of the city does?

            Think about it like this – when Undersiders under Tattletale’s leadership controlled Brockton Bay, and later New Brockton and a new group of villains threatened the city they did one of two things – either quickly attacked in a way that kept the fight on a small tactical scale (for example when Heartbreaker came to Brockton Bay), or retreated from the city entirely (like when the March came to New Brockton). Either way the risk to civilians was minimal.

            What did Citrine do instead? She ensured that she had entire armies of heroes (Wardens, Breakthrough network etc.), and sent them to fight while she and her husband (and at least a couple of Number Boys) stayed in her ivory tower, and came out of it only after the battles were practically over. It happened during the battle for the prison, it happened during the crisis with Love Lost, Cradle and March (she said she couldn’t engage herself because she was under some other attack at the time, but I wonder how much truth was in that), looks like it may happen with Teacher (at least her “armies” are planning to take the fight to the enemy, but she knew where to find Teacher for years, knew that he would attack the city sooner or later, and still let him strike first, and he did it in a way that damaged social order within the city potentially endangering a lot of its citizens – Citrine probably should have organized the attack on Teacher’s Cauldron months ago), and I wonder if when Chiet or Machine Army attack she will also stay in the city hall (or wherever she resides during such conflicts) not do much to keep the conflict away from the city and its population.

            Of course what I said above is not entirely fair. The portal currently bisecting New Brockton and Kronos Titan are both great proofs that Tattletale hasn’t always managed to keep conflicts from harming that city’s population. She also knew that Teacher had to be dealt with at some point, and where to find him, and also didn’t manage to strike at him before he made his move (or rather moves, because things like the portals explosion was undoubtedly also largely his fault).

            However despite what I wrote in the last paragraph, my overall feeling is that when Tattletale feels like has any sort of control over where and when any attack on her or any cape fight in her city will happen, she does her best to keep the civilians away from the line of fire by either attacking first or retreating from the city in a way that keeps any fights on small, tactical, street-level scale, while Citrine stays put behind the lines of heroes (and even unpowered law enforcement like the Patrol Block) until she feels it is safe to come out, which means that if someone wants to get her, they will likely do a lot of damage to the city itself and its population before they will be able to confront her directly.

            I hope that I misjudge Citrine here, that both she and her husband had good reasons to either not appear in places of major parahuman conflicts in or close to the city (not to mention Number Boys only two of whom really took part in the battle against Cradle, and only because Victoria essentially guilt tripped Citrine into sending them), and that they will not shy away from fighting on the front lines if it will reduce the chances of collateral damage to the city itself. So far however the way Citrine, Number Man and Number Boys seem to approach parahuman conflicts seem to indicate that they prioritize their own safety over safety of their city and its population, while the Undersiders and even the Heartboken under Tattletale do the exact opposite.

          10. @Pizzasgood

            > The secret identities thing probably isn’t actually a parahuman specific privilege.

            There is a key difference between a cape and a non-cape with a secret identity. The former has a far stronger legal protection. Everyone can use an assumed name or wear a mask, but only a cape can count on their “civilian” identity not being revealed even if they use that fake name and a mask to commit a crime. If for example Citrine was an unpowered criminal wearing a costume featuring a golden mask, and was found guilty, her face and her real name would be revealed to the public. As a cape she would not only probably be released with a slap on a wrist called “first strike”, she would also likely be allowed to keep her civilian identity a secret. Of course if she committed a very serious crime, she could not get some or even all of those benefits, but an unpowered criminal by default wouldn’t get those even if they committed relatively small crimes. This means among other things that a theoretical “Citrine the unpowered, masked criminal” would be much less likely to be able to hide her criminal past while she was a candidate for the Mayor.

          11. Of course it may be entirely possible to fake being a cape by wearing a costume and a mask and inventing a story about having a power which existence is difficult to verify (and in my opinion it actually would be interesting to see a character trying to do exactly that), but I doubt that the law would allow you to keep a secret identity as soon as it will be revealed that you are bluffing about having powers. I imagine that such lie wouldn’t last long in cape-rich environment, as some thinker like Tattletale or some tinker with a lie detector like Defiant would probably quickly figure it out, at which point you would be just one MRI scan away from your power being proven to be a fake.

            As a side note impersonating a cape in a cape-rich environment is probably a very stupid idea, because as a general rule capes, while obviously won’t intentionally go for lethal takedowns in cape fights, will not hold back against unknown capes quite as much as they would against people they consider non-parahumans.

          12. Sorry, I just realized that I probably should have written “pretending to be a cape” instead of “impersonating a cape”.

          13. I really doubt things worked the way you describe; it makes no sense at all, and it especially wouldn’t have worked in the earlier days when they didn’t know about the corona polentia yet. It’s a lot more likely that they took a quacks-like-a-duck approach to dealing with villains. If you behaved like a cape, you got treated like a cape, and if you behaved like a baseline, you got treated like a baseline.

            And contrary to what people have been saying lately, most people would greatly prefer to be treated like a baseline than a cape. The courts were stacked against capes, and no, they did not simply release people on their first and second strikes. The three strike rule was about the Birdcage — automatic life-without-parole in a prison run by supervillains. If you weren’t on your third strike and hadn’t done anything sufficiently horrible, then you still faced normal imprisonment. That’s what happened to Poison Apple, Drillbit, and (temporarily) Skitter and Assault. The idea was to give villains the opportunity to play nice and serve their time in a (relatively) humane facility and maybe even reform — the same opportunity normal criminals get. This may have only been a “slap on the wrist” to the ones who were willing to just break out and resume their villainy, but it wasn’t preferential treatment. The only preferential treatment was the occasional offer to the more sane villains of flipping sides and atoning for their sins by helping the heroes (which of course entailed a lot of restrictions and monitoring; it wasn’t really freedom, just a more comfortable — and far more dangerous — sentence).

            And what basis do you have for the idea that secret identities have legal protection? I don’t recall anything like that. Pretty sure that’s just part of the unwritten rules that the law loosely accommodated, not any sort of actual legal right.

          14. @Pizzasgood

            Ok, let me begin by saying that I don’t question the fact that there were cases when the courts were obviously way too harsh to capes. I wonder if Dragon celebrates the anniversary of her release from the restriction that forced her to always follow decisions of legal authorities by painting some vulgar graffiti on house of the judge who decided to send Canary to the Birdcage. He probably deserves that, and more.

            On to the cases you mentioned.

            Skitter is as far as I can tell by far the most complicated one. On one hand even without murders which didn’t end up on charges list for shall we say “political” reasons there was enough there to put her behind the bars for a long time. On the other hands there was probably quite literally a few dozen metric tons of people who could and would very much like to speak in her defense as character witnesses. If all of those people would be allowed to testify, and assuming that the world somehow wouldn’t end before then the final verdict would probably be something like “Well Ms. Hebert, you have been found guilty as charged on all accounts, but considering that you spent far more time behind the bars by the time we got to this point than anything we could sentence you to, we have no choice but to let you go home. Congratulations on your fortieth birthday by the way.” I think I can’t really judge if the verdict in her case was fair.

            Assault’s (or rather Madcap’s, as that was his villain name) case is simpler, and I think a perfect example of a case where the court was probably way too latent. Remember that he could be changed at least with multiple counts of busting out some of the most dangerous criminals in the world from prison transports, and violently resisting arrest. I already stated some time ago that I don’t feel like I would be qualified to judge people, especially in criminal cases, but my gut feeling is that the verdict in Madcap’s case should have probably been “Fuck this deal you were trying to make with the heroes who brought you in. Fuck anyone who agreed to it and their dog. With a rap sheet like this all you are going to get from me for finally surrendering is the fact that I will send you behind the bars for five years instead of ten. And if it wasn’t obvious already, we are removing this silly mask right now and figuring out your real name, address, and social security number in case you decide to do an encore once you get out.” At that point both Madcap and the public would learn that:
            – the courts treat serious crimes seriously, instead of letting the villains go with a figurative “slap on a wrist”,
            – the judge used to be Tattletale’s nanny (let’s conveniently forget about the fact that Tt almost certainly wasn’t even a cape, much less one known as Tattletale, at that point),

            As for Poison Apple there is probably not enough data tell if her sentence was fair. How many of her crimes were proven? How long was she sentenced for? How killing that unborn baby was classified exactly? It is obvious that it was a case of manslaughter, but “manslaughter” is a very broad legal category with a wide spectrum of possible degree of guilt, and equally wide range of possible punishments. Did the judge believe that Poison Apple felt any remorse for killing that baby? From her conversation with Victoria we know that she did not.

            I’m not even going to touch Drillbit’s case here because I feel that we know even less about this one than about Poison Apple’s.

            Finally, unmasking. I probably focused too much on unmasking convicted capes, because there are not that many cases where we know that a cape was actually convicted and allowed to keep a secret personality despite that (though I would argue that both Madcap and Poison Apple probably should have been publicly unmasked after they were sentenced), but why do even institutions like the police, PRT, and possibly Protectorate and other hero teams working for the government never did anything to uncover “real” civilian personality and all aliases and costumes of every parahuman criminal they caught just to put in their internal files? Sure, with certain powers around security of such personal information could be difficult to ensure sometimes, but this is just a good reason to spare no expense on capes and systems that can actually accomplish it, and perhaps making sure there is also a good system for destroying such information once the suspect in question is proven not guilty, and some time after the ones found guilty serve their sentences. It is not like similar systems don’t exist in many places in the real world anyway. But simply not gathering such personal data on people suspected or at least accused of committing a crime seems like something that is bound to do more harm than good.

            We know why things were done this way on Bet. The official explanation was “We need to keep enough villains sufficiently happy with the law and alive to be able to use their help against the Endbringers.” We also know that the real reason real reason was “Same as above but also against Scion.” The problem is that those were acceptable reasons on Bet when the Endbringers were active, and Scion still alive. Continuing the same policy post-GM and post-amnesty simply does more harm than good in my opinion.

            If you ask me the current standard procedure for handling a guy committing a crime in spandex bodysuit and a domino mask caught by the police (or any equivalent of it meant for dealing with capes) should be the following:
            1. Bring him in to the police station, jail, interrogation room, wherever you can do the next steps of the police procedure.
            2. Unmask them and take a few nice pictures of their face, do your best to learn both their real name and all aliases together with other basic information needed to positively identify them in the future.
            3. Have a specialist give them a basic psychological evaluation. On our world the justification for it would be… “committing a crime in spandex bodysuit and a domino mask”, on Gimel – the fact that capes are proven to be very prone to all sorts of serious mental issues. The court may later decide (and should probably liberally use this right) to order a full evaluation.
            4. Gather any evidence necessary to present the case to the court.
            4a. If you want to engage in some verbal abuse, subject the guy in the spandex costume and a domino mask to a review by fashion police.
            5. Present the case to the court.

            And no secret identities for candidates on public positions! In interwar Poland there were plenty of politicians who practically used two “surnames” – one of them was their real birth name, the other one was the pseudonym they used in conspiration before and during WWI (remember that many of them were considered criminals, sometimes even quite justifiably, in at least some of the countries that partitioned Poland, because of what they did to ensure Polish independence – from things like organizing passive resistance of civilian population all the way to engaging in outright terrorism). Similar thing with Polish underground fighters turned politicians after WWII. I’m sure we could find tons of similar examples in other countries, and as far as I know even Joseph Stalin himself made no secret after the revolution that his birth certificate said “Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili”.

            If Stalin could do it, I think we can demand unmasking and otherwise revealing all aliases and secret personalities from capes who want to take high-profile public functions along with admission that they are capes. This is too important information not to reveal it to the public, especially to voters before they cast a vote on a cape. In other words – you want to take a public position? Make key information about your identity public first.

          15. And sure, you can make an exception for public position such in official hero teams, recognized by the law. Same reasons as for letting anti-terrorists operate in masks. Same limitation too – the identity is not revealed to the public, but is known to and kept secret by governmental bodies overseeing their work.

          16. Since we already brought up Assault let me take this opportunity to post a few more thoughts about him, since I think he not only is an interesting character, but may soon be put in a situation rather painful to him. Sorry in advance that this will be one of those comments that move away from the main topic of the thread.

            The first thing I want to do is to explore the deal he made that let him join the Protectorate without spending a lot of time in prison first. In a more traditional approach to how we understand the role of justice system, I think that the fact he got his deal was quite clearly unjust. He committed multiple very serious crimes, and got a very light sentence for them. It seems clear that in his case the PRT and the Protectorate did not want justice as much as they wanted to turn him into an asset. It seems clear that Madcap showed no signs of remorse, and on top of that the reason he joined the Protectorate was actually quite selfish – he liked Battery in an annoying sort of way. He wanted to both be with her and to mess with her head. His conditions that his new cape name would be Assault and that he would be put in a team with Battery could be considered insulting to her, and possibly even qualify as harassment. And yet… he turned out to be both a great hero, and as far as we know also a great husband! Moreover after Battery’s death he did not quit doing hero work, which suggests that he has really changed, that he has found other reasons to keep being one of the “good guys”. In fact his transformation from a villain to a hero seems like a model example of one of the things that the amnesty was supposed to achieve – convince as many of the former villains as possible to switch sides at the time that the society was simply no longer in position to catch and punish parahuman criminals anymore. You could say that he should be considered a role model for people like Fume Hood.

            All of this leads to some interesting questions. Was the justice system right to give Assault his second chance? Were Assault’s initial reasons to became a Protectorate hero the “right” ones? Is there even such thing as the right reason to be a hero, or is final effect the only thing that counts?

            Another thing I want to discuss is Assault’s relationship with Battery. As far as I remember he probably never knew that she was a Cauldron cape, or that she bought her powers specifically to bring him to justice. He almost certainly doesn’t know to this day that Battery owed favors to Cauldron as a part of payment for her power, and especially what her last favor was supposed to be. Moreover we know very little about how he reacted to Battery’s death. How did he grieve? Does he still do it? Why exactly did he continue being a hero after she was gone?

            Finally I think that with the upcoming attack on Cauldron complex there is a good chance that the heroes will stumble upon whatever files Cauldron got on the heroes that bought their powers. Heroes like Battery and Gallant. Do such files exist? Do they contain the list of favors those capes were asked to do for Cauldron? If the heroes find such documents, should they show Battery’s file to Assault? Should they show Gallant’s file to Antares and Vista? Should the families of those dead heroes be shown those files? Maybe some of those files (for example those belonging to the capes who are already dead) should be widely distributed? Or maybe they should be destroyed?

            Do you think it would be interesting to explore answers to some of the above questions in an interlude written from Assault’s point of view and set at some point in time after the upcoming attack on the Cauldron base, assuming the attack will result in the heroes obtaining Battery’s files?

        2. Hmmm… if its that strongly reminding you of Goebbels’ speech on jews, then I can’t imagine that that’s an accident.
          Sorry, my history isn’t actually strong enough to recognize the name, but I can imagine the context.
          By the sounds of it, WB is trying to make the thing sound as reasonable as possible (by bringing up actual problems in wormverse), while also lacing the thing with as much dangerous stuff from the real world as can be had.
          Sorry if I came off overly casual earlier.

          As for being a pawn or not, based on what we’ve seen of the story so far, it sounds like Gary is Geniune… but has been actively fed information in order to make him act a certain way…. and then gone and sought out more such information.

          1. It’s not actually even remotely similar. Seems more like Lulu heard someone else’s research paper on the subject and needs an outlet for agression.

    2. that’s assuming he actually believes any of his rhetoric- isnt he a knowing catspaw of a Thinker atm?

      1. Last I heard, he was being fed information that he really SHOULD have realized was suspicious…. but no, he was not a knowing cats paw, he was an unknowing one who really should have been more skeptical of his sources.

        Based on his interlude, I think it is a fairly safe bet that he does genuinely believe that Parahumans are a threat, and that parahuman leadership is a serious problem. There doesn’t appear to be anything in the story to suggest Gary is cynical, or power hungry.

        He’s afraid, and confused, and lashing out in a dangerous way… but not a hypocrit in the sense of secretly working with parahumans, at least, last we heard.

    3. Honestly, if you were there, as a base line human, fight to not die o hunger or cold, while the parahumans are ok, knowing that your crimes get you arrested while while parahumans are not, knowing that as far as you know, you might already be a minion or a slave to them, would you not hate them?

      1. > knowing that your crimes get you arrested while while parahumans are not

        The courts have been overloaded for quite a long time. I would guess minor crimes of baseline humans tend to be ignored altogether in such circumstances.

    4. I don’t even think Rain is pretending. Rain, I think, is has an ESPECIALLY good reason to be pissed off about parahumans being in power. He lived most of his life oppressed by a parahuman overlord, and it messed with him.

    5. I don’t think Rain is pretending to wholly agree with Gary. I think he genuinely agrees with some of Gary’s arguments. Which makes sense; Gary’s arguments are rooted in a very real insecurity at the heart of the Megalopolis’s society. That insecurity deserves to be addressed somehow. I imagine that next chapter is going to include Rain explaining how “bitching about parahumans” isn’t part of a good solution.

  4. So, Othala didn’t make it through Gold Morning, apparently. Which kinda sucks.

    But, on the other hand, Rain has the right idea. Instead of attacking all parahumans, he’s directing all the hate towards one parahuman to slow down the change.

    Also, Dinah interlude when? Why is she creating this anti-parahuman ideal spreading? What does she get out of this? Man, you sure know how to build this intense desire to know things.

    Also, Swansong takes no fucking prisoners.

    1. I’m sorry, I’ve heard this idea before but I need some clarification–why do people think Dinah is the one behind the anti-parahuman sentiment??

      1. Teacher said in scapegoat teacher that dinah was influencing them but wildbow clarified in a thread (cant find it)that she only pushed the movement foward to gain traction (don remeber fully)

        1. Teacher had all the reasons to lie to anyone and everyone. And by the way, all the actual evidence we have at this point is pointing to Teacher himself being behind the anti-parahumans. Sorry, but the “theory” about Dinah is just utter BS which gets repeated over and over.

        2. Not only that, but at least one of the things Teacher told Goat ended up not being true. Cryptid killed Goddess, presumably with Red Queen’s help. Teacher and Goat played no part in that, despite Teacher’s promise that “You’ll be my trap for her.” Teacher might claim that Cryptid would never have gotten in that position without Teacher’s machinations, but that would just be more Teacher bullshit.

    1. I’ll be voting against fascist pricks today and also tomorrow with my fellow brits against fascist arseholes. Gary Nieves actaully reminds me very closely of one of one of the EU candiadates and his leaflets in the northwest.

      Back on topic: Amy got mentioned again… I wonder if the arc title ‘Breaking’ is anything to do with her

      Breaking: Breaking Teacher’s grip on everyone and everything
      Breaking: The emotional state of the team
      Breaking: Breaking the silence about Gold Morning
      Breaking: Victoria’s emotional state after she’s tried for so hard
      Breaking: What Victoria still wants to do to Tattletale’s face

  5. Let’s agree on a typo thread:

    “counted for somethign.”

    ““If you can’t, at least distract them.”
    Missing closing quotes.

    “soundless, supressed laughter.”
    *suppressed

    “close to the bunker”
    Capitalisation.

    “a supiciously phone-like”
    +s

    “most unsuprised,”
    +r

    “flew down to make up for”
    “crowd were watching. Behind me,”
    ““Swansong , who”
    Extra spaces.

    “Rain didn’t wait. Rain went ahead,”
    Repetition.

    1. > I saw Victor- Brockton Bay native, named for his power, not because it was an actual name.

      Add space before the dash?

      > he condemned everything about who & what he’d been

      Technically not a typo, but maybe consider changing the ‘&’ to ‘and’.

      > “Good. We would like you to handle some of the rising anti-parahuman sentiment.

      There is only one space between these sentences.

      > If you’ll stay after?

      There are three spaces before this sentence, and only one after it.

      > One of those squads is us, because we anticipate an attack on the Bunker by Teacher once he realizes what we’re doing…”

      There are three spaces before this sentence.

      > “Nope!” Sveta said.

      There are two spaces between ‘“Nope!”’ and ‘Sveta’. I think there should only be one.

      > “Sorry,” she said. Then, like that wasn’t enough, but she couldn’t think of what else to say, she said, “sorry.”

      Again I’m not sure about this one, but maybe the second “sorry.” was supposed to be a separate sentence in which case it should begin with a capital ‘S’.

      > The mask was wrapped up by the strips, then drawn into her stomach.

      There are two spaces between ‘up’ and ‘by’.

      > When I dream, I dream of other mes.

      Not sure how to correct this one, but as far as I can tell ‘mes’ is wrong.

  6. Is Rain fast thinking? Or is something horrible happening? I mean another something horrible? Find out next time, same Ward website, same Ward update time!

    1. “Is Rain fast thinking? Or is something horrible happening?”

      How could you doubt Rain? He’s shown amazing good judgement when talking about he failings of parahumans, especially himself when talking to *checks notes* Chastity…I’ll come back in again.

    2. The funny thing is that half of Gary’s argument (the part about the Mayor being secretly a parahuman) will be pretty weak in discussion with Breakthrough considering that by this point not only half of that team either doesn’t have secret identities, but also the team leader is a New Wave member – the team of capes which argued for more cape accountability, publicly unmasked themselves to add weight to their arguments, AND lost a family member as a result.

      If Gary continues to argue along those lines, Victoria will need only to point out those facts, and she will probably quickly gain a lot of sympathy among the surrounding crowd.

      1. And obviously when Rain tells how he or Erin and several other unwilling members of the Fallen were treated by Fallen capes, it will just gain him crowd’s sympathy and at the same time serve as proof of his honesty on the matter. Pointing out Sveta as another victim of parahumans in power and without any supervision will also gain Breakthrough some points when it comes to the “not all parahumans are happy to be ruled by capes” argument. Stories of at least some of other Breakthrough members could also probably be spinned in this direction.

        I think that Gary may have made a mistake of having this discussion with Breakthrough if he wants to drive a wedge between humans and parahumans, because this team has a lot of parahumans who have been harmed by parahumans in position of power. There is a good chance that some of the less bigoted civilians will actually find reasons to actually solidarize with Breakthrough.

        1. Is it possible, he is being manipulated to direct anger and questions at the hardest point, where Teacher’s reputation strike is most likely to fail?

          1. Yeah. When Ashley descended like Lucifer, I wondered if she knew something Victoria didn’t about their mission – maybe Tattletale thought they needed a major PR screw-up in order to fool Teacher. Now I’m wondering if the hero Thinkers knew Breakthrough could defuse the situation without blowing cover.

          2. Breakthrough may have been tasked with the job of calming anti-parahuman sentiments also because even if they screw it up, chances are they won’t reveal any really big secret that hasn’t already reached public ears. For example despite Victoria being such a cape geek, I suspect that Breakthrough may be the only major team in which nobody knows that Alexandria and Chef Director Rebecca Costa-Brown were the same person.

            Of course Teacher certainly knows that fact and may be just waiting for the right moment to reveal it. That is unless he wants to sell the public a story that Cauldron were true saviors of humanity, and doesn’t want any information out there that would contradict that narrative. Note that none of the secrets leaked so far seem to have anything to do with Cauldron and its crimes.

          3. These people have been through hell. Citrine is the mayor now, so some people will care about who she actually is. Whom Alexandria or some PRT nerd or really anyone else did or didn’t pretend to be four years ago is the last thing that anyone will care about.

          4. The problem with Alexandria being Chief Director Rebecca Costa-Brown is that she broke her own rules that said that PRT was supposed to have no parahumans within its ranks so that organizations like the Protectorate remained under non-powered humans supervision. By being the head of one of those organizations, and one of just three most important leaders of the others, she for decades had more power than any person (parahuman or not) were ever supposed to have. It means that the entire system of checks and balances that was supposed to limit parahumans simply never worked, that it wasn’t something that collapsed only after Gold Morning.

            If something like this gets out, I expect it will be very difficult to convince very many people that something far more drastic than the system used by countries like Bet’s US needs to be implemented to keep parahumans under control, or even somehow eliminate them from society simply because the society has no means of establishing such control.

            Even what C.U.I. did with their capes may be seen as insufficient, because it left capes in a position where they could theoretically control the country. All that would need to happen is for the head of that state to be secretly a cape or to be under Yàngbǎn’s control, and we can’t even be completely sure if it isn’t the case. In fact I suspect that the leadership of Yàngbǎn controls the throne one way or another. It is not like the royal family can stop them from doing so, unless that family contains a cape with just the right power to ensure Yàngbǎn’s leaders loyalty and obedience.

          5. Yeah that was definitely a problem pre-GM. Like lots of other things were problems pre-GM, nobody cares about that now.

          6. The reason why Rebecca’s case is still relevant is that the society of the city is looking for a way to organize itself, to find a new social order that works. The anti-parahuman movement is one of many indicators that show that the people are not happy with status quo, which is still largely based on old laws and the underlying social contract carried over from Bet. The first logical step when it comes to fixing the old system seems to be to take a careful look at the past, and see what was broken then. The fact that Rebecca secretly was both a member of the Triumvirate and the Chief Director of PRT is one of the things that were very wrong with the old system.

            When people will see it, I imagine that they will be very interested, especially because their Mayor turned out to secretly be a former villain. The similarity between those two cases will be seen as proof that the situation with Citrine is neither a one-time occurrence, nor something resulting from amnesty or the chaos of those last two post-GM years, but a result of a fundamental problem with the old system itself – something that could keep happening even after things calm down and people will settle in the city for good.

            My hope is that the people will come to the right conclusions about what needs to be changed (and it seems obvious that some changes must be made). My worry is that with the emotions as hot as they are now the public will overreact and do something really stupid. Teacher may be right about one thing – those people may need to be saved from themselves, from making rash decisions based on their emotions (like xenophobia, which seems drive the anti-parahumans), incomplete, sewed information and understanding of key facts, and without even making an honest attempt to listen to all arguments, to understand the complexity of the situation and to calmly think things through.

            Of course the problem with Teacher is that at least for now he seems to be pouring the fuel into the fire, but let’s not forget that he is also providing the public with some information which is partially true, but (which may be even more important in the long run) is making it more and more difficult for the heroes to keep all their dirty secrets instead of being much more open with the public by engaging in the sort of public debate that Breakthrough has just been drawn into. Two big unanswered questions are:
            – What Teacher wants to accomplish with all of this? A massive riot potentially leading to something even worse, an open, constrictive debate, or something else entirely?
            – What will actually end up happening? This is a potentially very volatile situation after all…

        2. The best thing about it is that Rain’s tactic not only suggests that the division between people doesn’t go along human-parahuman line. It also helps sell the idea that parahumans themselves are very divided internally, which goes well with the general impression that the heroes want to convey to Teacher’s Cauldron at the moment.

          1. Besides imagine how surprising the entire situation must be to Gary. He was prepared to confront parahumans as a human, to fight a verbal battle with clearly defined sides – us-humans and them-parahumans. He has a ton of arguments prepared to serve as his ammunition in this confrontation… And here his intended opponent doesn’t keep to the script and basically says “I’m on your side in this matter.” Considering how bigoted Gary is himself, it will probably be a while before he gathers his wits enough to regain anything close to a control over situation, if he will manage to do it at all.

        3. Well, to take a real-world analogy – despite that jews have suffered much during WWII, anti-semitism is still widespread. That won’t really help.

          1. This approach certainly won’t convince everyone, but I think that there is a good chance that it may be enough for most people. As for your analogy, I don’t think it is valid for two reasons.

            First is that I don’t really think that modern antisemitism, as bad as it is, is nowhere near as what happened before and during WWII. You won’t find countries with democratically elected governments that pursue complete extermination of Jewish nation, while populations of those countries consist mostly of people who either willingly participate, or at least do their best to not see what is going on.

            The second reason is that while a person is either born Jewish or not, everyone understands that any human has a potential to trigger. Two years ago people might have thought that only those with Corona Pollentia could, because there are probably many people who know that some people, including all known capes with normal bodies, have those organs, while relatively few people pre-GM knew that there are ways to gain powers even if you don’t have a Corona. Currently though? I bet that broken triggers drove it home that the situation is not that simple.

            There is a difference between hating a group of people that you know you don’t, never have and never will belong to, and hating a group of people you (not to mention any of your friends or your loved ones) may become a part of at any moment.

          2. And don’t get me wrong. I’m perfectly aware of the fact that there are groups of people who are willing and able to kill entire nations, ethnic groups or other groups of people selected using whatever criteria. There are plenty of examples out there – from aristocrats and land owners in Soviet Union to Tutsi in Rwanda. All I’m pointing out here is that “antisemitism” is a term that describes a very wide spectrum of beliefs and behaviors, and I think that WWII has actually done a lot to mostly remove or at least marginalize the worst forms of it, at least in countries in which population is actually aware of horrors of Holocaust, which means practically anywhere where people receive anything resembling honest, unbiased education in WWII history.

          3. Finally, I don’t think that your analogy applies also because at least as far as we know no anti-parahuman argued for killing all capes. Everyone understands that as long as people will keep triggering there will always be capes out there, and so far probably nobody figured out how to stop triggers from happening, and if they did, they are almost certainly a cape who doesn’t share this knowledge with the public.

            What the anti-parahumans seem to want is to remove the system that gives all the power to the capes, while letting them keep all their dirty secrets and have very little accountability for their actions – especially now that only the capes caught doing most serious crimes face trials, and even when they are found guilty their imprisonment is handled by other capes who probably don’t even explain, much less let the public oversee, their methods. It doesn’t help that even in opinion of Natalie – a lawyer sympathetic to heroes, those methods have no legal basis.

            Another thing that many anti-parahumans may be concerned about is that the capes are known to tend to be more mentally unstable than regular humans, which aside from their powers could be an argument that they need to be more carefully monitored than regular humans (countries like C.U.I. or Russia have done exactly that, and I suspect that many people in the city may think that it was the right course of action).

            Yet another thing is that, as we saw in Glow-worm, there are people who think that the capes enjoyed their special privileges compared to regular humans in return for their efforts in fighting against S-class threats, and the capes failed to keep their end of the deal by allowing Scion to kill billions of people. This is by the way why I think that the capes made a monumental mistake by not releasing a very detailed report about what Scion was, how the powers were connected to him, what has been done to defeat him, and why it was so difficult to do. The consequences of not doing so may be catastrophic for public perception of capes.

            For example imagine that one day someone will for example release a statement that practically all capes were mastered by Khepri and forced to fight Scion, while omitting everything that the capes have done to defeat him before and after that (or even that there was any “after” – if someone wants to trash public image of capes, they will probably not mention that Khepri did not maintain direct control until Scion’s death, or will suggest that Canary’s song was almost as good as Khepri’s power when it comes to forcing capes to fight). Khepri will immediately became a very polarizing figure because some will argue that she is ultimately the savior of humanity, while others will point out that:
            – she is potentially the most dangerous master ever,
            – she released Birdcage prisoners and several other extreme (including S-class) threats (I wonder if people will blame her more for the fact that Endbringers appeared in the fringes of that fight, or for the fact that they did not confront Scion directly),
            – if she acted quicker and made less mistakes she would have saved more people,
            – and probably a few other things of that nature; people tend to have unrealistic expectations and demands when it comes to capes with a power as extreme as Khepri’s.

            The bigger problem than Khepri’s image is that every other cape will be seen as a coward who did not want to fight Scion and was forced to do it unless they manage to prove that they did everything they could to defeat Scion without being mastered by Khepri, and without a detailed, believable account about Gold Morning and all relevant events preceding it (possibly going as far back as establishing Cauldron and all organizations controlled by it – like PRT and the Pretectorate), proving something like that may be impossible. On the other hand if people will learn about the Cauldron conspiracy, they will also not be happy for obvious reasons.

          4. You have some valid points, but it’s debatable. While there is indeed a decline in anti-semitism, compared to the times of WWII, there is also a decline in racism, in prejudice against gay people, improvement in women’s rights, and so on. So it’s hard to say how much of this decline (when we consider anti-semitism specifically) was due to awareness of horrors of Holocaust, and how much is just a general improvement in humanity’s culture.
            And regarding the possibility to become a part of the hated group – for example, you might some day find out that some of your ancestors were Jewish. Or you might fall in love with a person who is Jewish, but you won’t know it right away. The difference between Jews and non-Jews is much smaller than between regular humans and parahumans, and so is the gap separating them, but bigoted and hateful people tend not to think about such matters.

            By the way, could you point me to where was it said about not needing a Corona to trigger (Cauldron vials aside)?

          5. As for the possibility of having Jewish ancestry, I’m obviously well aware of it. I am from Poland after all, and if you choose to play loose with historical facts and call both the Kingdom of Poland before Union of Lublin and Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth after it “Poland” then you will quickly come to conclusion that Poland has for centuries been the country with the latest Jewish population in the world. Even interwar Poland had the second largest Jewish population in the world after US. For most of that time Polish Jews may have relatively rarely allowed themselves to be Polonized or start Polish-Jewish families, but it wasn’t unheard of, and because of it I strongly suspect that most modern Poles (likely including myself) had some undeniably Jewish ancestors in last half-millennium or so, no matter which commonly accepted definition of “Jewish” you choose to use.

            But even the Nazis aware of that “problem”, and that it applied to, say, Germans almost as much as to Poles. This is why if I remember correctly they set limits on the number of generations that needed to pass from the last known Jewish ancestor for a person to be not considered Jewish as far as law was concerned. The entire system had obvious holes in its internal logic of course, but it is not like the same couldn’t be said about the entire Nazi ideology. It did however serve to clearly divide people into “Jews” and “non-Jews” in a way that let a person not only know, but have it officially confirmed that they are not considered Jewish, and unless some previously unknown facts about their ancestry are revealed – they never will be considered Jewish.

            It is not the case with capes – theoretically anyone can become a cape at some point in their life, and there is no 100% certain method to prevent it.

            As for methods of triggering without Corona Pollentia remember that broken trigger that happened during the construction workers protest. It may have been not obvious at first, but once the crowd has parted it was clear that who triggered during each subsequent “wave” depended only on two factors – whether they were a cape already (in which case they didn’t trigger), and distance from the center of the event. If only people with the Coronas could trigger during that event, then the relationship between triggers and the distance from the center would not be anywhere near that clear.

            On top of it there are certain special cases. For example unless Dragon is actually a “biological computer” based on a human fetus (like the ones she created in an attempt to secure her subsystems from Dragonslayers’ attacks) then she not only doesn’t have a Corona Pollentia, but doesn’t even have a brain that the Corona could be attached to.

            As a side note – I obviously simplified the Nazi “racial” classification system a lot just to focus on the problem of the situation of Jews under Nazi rule. For example at least in Germany-occupied Poland all non-Jewish people were divided into four categories, depending largely on how “German” their ancestry was, and a lot of laws did or didn’t apply to you based on which list you ended up on. You may want to look up the term Volksliste if you want to learn more.

          6. > unless some previously unknown facts about their ancestry are revealed

            My point exactly – I think it’s rarely the case when one can be 100% sure there could be no unknown facts about it. And love/friendship/any other relations are other factors which can bring someone close to the group.

            > As for methods of triggering without Corona Pollentia remember that broken trigger that happened during the construction workers protest.

            And one of the manifestations of a broken trigger was people’s Coronas being fixed in space. Even if we assume that the affected people developed a Corona if they didn’t have it before, there’s the issue of a broken trigger being, well, broken. It doesn’t work like it was supposed to, much like Cauldron vials; and in contrast to the vials, the person affected by a broken trigger is unlikely to have a successful cape life afterwards (or any life at all, for that matter). And normal triggers, which work as intended and give working powers, happen to people with Coronas (or rather a Corona is created beforehand, when the potential for triggering is planned). At least that’s how I understand it.

          7. Dragon is certainly an interesting special case – as I understand, she doesn’t even have hardware which is permanently used as her brain, she can live in the cloud, create backups of herself and change bodies at will. But her nature wasn’t common knowledge even between capes until recently.

  7. I think Citrine being elected as mayor was bad in the long run. If she was elected having disclosed, she is a parahuman, it could have worked, but with secrecy and lies, it’s damning. Sure, she has Accord’s plan for perfect city, good for administration, but how good has she been at leading and uniting people? And it’s possible Accord’s plan had flaws inserted by his passenger to produce a conflict.

    1. At the same time someone like her was probably necessary in this position. Her situation reminds me a lot about certain Ukrainian politician who said he was about to become a Prime Minister of a kamikaze government…

      1. Of course the question is whether Citrine is a “kamikaze” politician, who took the office because she knew that someone had to make unpopular decisions that would save the city mean political death to the Mayor, or did she intend to keep it long-term? We will probably know from her reaction as soon as people will start demanding that she steps down.

    2. Pretty sure WoG says that Accord’s power doesn’t fuck with him like the master tinker shard did – Accord himself participates in enough conflict that his shard wasn’t needling him.

  8. I found two minor contradictions while reading. They kind of messed with my immersion.

    The first:
    >There were capes who could, but who were sitting this one out, because they had other shit going on, or because the stress of it was too much. Effervescent was one
    vs
    >Crystalclear was among them, as was Effervescent.

    What is Effervescent sitting out if she’s also involved in the planning and using her Thinker powers?

    The second:
    >“Maybe you should switch out, cool down?” Rain asked. “It’s Byron’s turn anyway.”
    vs
    >“It’s apparently made the author popular,” Byron observed.

    First Tristan acts like he’ll remain in charge and Vic puts emphasis on it with her thoughts. Then Byron suddenly is back without there being any mention of a switch. And right after:
    >“Woah, hold up,” I said, my voice overlapping with Tristan’s, who’d said something similar. “Dial it down.”
    He’s back.

    1. The bit with Effervescent isn’t an inconsistency. When Victoria said that those capes were sitting out, she meant sitting out of the deception gambit. They chose to sequester themselves in the Bunker rather than stay in the City and pretend to be coming apart at the seams. They can still help with planning and participate in the eventual raid.

      1. Oh. That wasn’t clear to me. I thought it was the opposite. That Vic was listing people who, because they didn’t want to participate in the deception gambit, chose to stay uninformed so as to not give anything away.

        But I reread the paragraph a third time and saw that this was due to my own lack of reading comprehension.

    2. The thing with Byron and Tristan could just mean that Kenzie’s device indeed works as advertised. By the way, Sveta’s little joke when she impersonated Tristan for some reason reminded me of my old suspicion that the thing Sveta said to Brandish in chapter 12.6 the latter was so unimpressed with was “My preciousss,” or something equally silly.

  9. The uncertainty of why they are saying things or making choices really works on me.

    Citrine really shouldn’t have been Mayor-President. People like her or Number Man might have been the right fit for chief of staff, but offhand I honestly can’t remember actual leadership ability at any scale in either Worm or Ward. She walks in with a managerial competence +2 modifier and the Staff of Objectively Correct Plans from Years Ago for Somehow Foreseeable Post-Apocalyptic Contingencies and she’s supposed to play George Washington to a traumatized nation? A leader needs more that correctness and magic number powers. Oh and don’t have a secret past as a criminal?

    Nieves is bad because he’s driven by bigotry and also a terrible person. Perhaps parahumans are lucky to have him, though, because if it wasn’t a bigot saying it, because the most damning parts of what he’s saying are all truths.

    Rain is spot on, at least so far. Excellent.

    1. Evidently she also came in with a superior campaign strategy than anyone else. I don’t know how, but she managed to get elected above everyone else by the majority human population.

      Also, we haven’t seen a single bigshot human community leader other than Nieves. Maybe there is simply a lack of true leadership material. But with millions of people (or was it a couple of billions?) you would expect at least a few people who try to unite and lead large swathes of humanity in *some* direction, good or bad.

      1. At the start of the story, it was about 50 million (equivalent to one South Korea, or two Australias, or a sixth of a USA).

        A few million a week were coming through the portals as of Gary’s interlude, and there were 26 million or so still stuck on Bet at that time, so the current population might be around 80 million if they’ve all made it through and didn’t wander off to the frontiers.

    2. So, are you saying it would be better if Citrine and Number Man would back some figurehead “leader” running for mayor, and then be his secret “advisors”?

      1. The way I see it someone like Citrine had to be the Mayor. Too many people wouldn’t survive even the first winter if the city wasn’t run using Accord’s notes and Number Man’s power, and even among the capes it would be difficult to find someone who would trust A&NN. The problem is that on one hand the only way for Citrine to be fair to voters would be to reveal her past before the vote, but at the same time it would practically guarantee that she wouldn’t be elected.

        What should happen now is that Citrine should step down as soon as it is not absolutely necessary for her to hold the position to keep the population of the city alive and not exposed to some sort of immediate danger (like war with Chiet for example). She should also explain why she took the position in the first place, and why Accord’s notes, Number Man’s power and her own training as the Ambassador (probably crucial in negotiations with outside powers) were, and probably are so important. Now that she has proven that this combination of notes, skills and powers works, she should have a decent chance to convince whoever will become the new Mayor that most of her policy should be continued and that she and Number Man should be allowed to work under supervision of the new Mayor. This way Citrine and her husband may become not “secret advisors” controlling a “figurehead” as T.T.O. put it, but publicly known and accepted government employees under real control of democratically elected official.

        The best thing about it is that to convince the public that Citrine and Number Man are really under control of the new Mayor and not the other way around you would need to elect someone who is well known to distrust them. In other words someone like Gary Nieves may actually be a good candidate for the position, assuming that he can be reasonable enough to understand that parahuman involvement in the government is necessary, and unavoidable one way or another. After all what government which includes no capes could handle all problems that the city is facing and on top of it not become a puppet of some masters or strangers?

        And if Nieves can’t see the necessity of working with capes, I’m sure that some other “civilian” candidate will. Perhaps one of the other former candidates for the position (other than Sierra of course because she would probably be unacceptable if people knew about her ties to the Undersiders, and if she didn’t admit those it would be no better than Citrine not revealing villainous past) or even someone like John Druck?

        If no such “reasonable” candidate could be found among civilians unpowered humans who never worked with capes, then possibly we could look among the unpowered humans who were known to be able to both mistrust capes and at the same time managed to form a good working relationship with them. Emily Piggot (assuming that she is still alive and healthy enough to take the office) comes to mind though I’m not sure that she has skills and personality traits necessary to be a Mayor (it is a bit different than running a PRT department after all), or that the public would trust a former PRT Director (an organization which has a bad reputation now, and which may quickly get much worse if someone will release information about ties between PRT and the Cauldron to the public).

        By the way, wouldn’t it be interesting to see Victoria and Emily compare their opinions on the topic of parahuman healing?

        1. I can’t see Gary working with people he obviously hates so much (parahumans) and he’s not a very good leader material either. He’s pretty convincing with his speech, but a good orator doesn’t make a good leader. I also can’t see Citrine being trilling to work with the same man who destroyed her reputation and power, not even for the good of people. My best candidate is Emily Piggot. She’s a good leader and CAN work with parahumans, unlike Gary.

          1. Gary certainly would have to re-evaluate a lot of his convictions to be able to work with parahumans, and during Citrine’s interlude he has shown that he is very unwilling to do so, but if his opinions changed enough for him to actually listen to and seriously consider rational arguments that parahumans from Citrine all the way to Victoria tried to use when talking to him, he probably could change enough to be able to work with parahumans while at the same time remain a candidate the anti-parahuman minded people could accept because of his current reputation.

            He is obviously far from the best person to govern the city, but, depending on how hard-headed he really is, I could see him become one of the better ones who could actually get public support necessary to win the elections. Electing him would obviously mean giving the anti-parahuman minded people far more power than they should get, but perhaps it is necessary to not only to calm the public down, but also (and perhaps even more importantly long-term) to expose all with the model he and other anti-parahumans seem to want – one in which parahumans are mistrusted by the state by default, and are subjected to strict non-parahuman control.

            Chances are that whoever comes after him will have more balanced views – ones on which you could actually build a reasonable, stable, lasting social order.

          2. Sorry, change “expose all with the model” to “expose all problems with the model”.

            By the way I think that what I wrote in that last paragraph of the above post points at what is probably the biggest long-term problem the city has. It simply lacks a good idea on how its social order should look like.

            The models known from Bet obviously don’t work in a post-apocalyptic world where people are more and more aware just how far PRT manipulated the public. It will be even worse once people realize what Cauldron was and what role it played in world order. Plus after Scion’s death there is simply no good reason to continue doing things that way.

            The parahuman rule is so undemocratic that even most parahumans aren’t fine with it. It would benefit only a very small elite and everyone knows it.

            Taking most or all political power from capes, like the anti-parahumans seem to want to do, is not just unfair to capes – it also isn’t realistic. How would a non-parahuman government that trusts no capes defend the city against external threats like Chiet or the Machine Army? How will it handle internal parahuman crime? What will it do with potential or ongoing power-related disasters like the one with Kronos Titan? How will it defend itself from being secretly taken over by capes?

            What needs to happen in my opinion is some sort of a balance between the current situation and what the anti-parahumans want. Capes need to be allowed to take at least some political power, and in case of elected positions – the voters need to see a good reason to vote for parahuman candidates. On the other hand if a parahuman wants to be elected, the voters need to know that they are voting for a parahuman, and who that parahuman is exactly. This means that probably at least the parahumans who candidate in elections will probably need to admit that they have powers and unmask themselves before they do so. At the same time there needs to be a system in place that makes it very difficult and risky for a parahuman to try to circumvent those rules.

            Alternatively there could be two sets of governing bodies – one human and one parahuman – which split legislative, and likely also executive and judicial powers between themselves along clearly defined lines that are accepted by everyone. It would require writing an entirely new constitution, and the system would be alien to most people in the city at first (assuming that they come mostly from “typical” western democracies – and they probably do considering that the city seems to be almost completely American culturally, and that almost everyone speaks English there), but it isn’t something that has no working parallels in our world (for example in countries where councils of representatives of traditional tribes or religious groups share power with “regular” parliaments), so I guess that it could at least theoretically be implemented. Still I think that the solution I suggested in the previous paragraph would probably be better both because it is closer to treating everyone equally, but also because it avoids splitting society along human-parahuman line even more than it is already (and the society needs the exact opposite to happen at the moment in my opinion), and because it is far more like the population of the city is used to, and revolutionary changes like the ones that I proposed in this paragraph generally tend to meet a lot of resistance, and the city probably can’t afford it both at the moment and in the foreseeable future.

          3. Of course there is also a third potential solution. Teacher could come out give powers to everyone who asks for free, or even just dump his stash of Cauldron vials into city’s drinking water supply or otherwise causing pretty much everyone in Gimel.US to trigger, thus effectively ending the problem of division between humans and parahumans in the city, but this is appears the worst solution for many, many reasons.

          4. > dump his stash of Cauldron vials into city’s drinking water supply

            Given what happened when someone had split a Cauldron dose, the city will be overrun by a horde of Echidnas shortly after. Well, that’s a method of ending the division between humans and parahumans, kind of…

          5. On an entirely unrelated note, I wonder if Megan could give Teacher and Scapegoat enough boost for their powers to be able to affect everyone over an area comparable to the size of the city…

          6. For a slightly spookier version I could wonder if Madam Mathers’ power works, or could be made to work through TV, in which case Teacher could probably need to have enough AoE to cover a square big enough to squeeze let’s say 1% of the city’s population. Something to keep in mind before you decide to watch that political debate/sports final/S-class threat announcement (possibly even provoked by Teacher) everyone around you wants to see live.

            Depending on what Teacher wants to do with the city exactly, the boost to Scapegoat’s power could also be considered entirely unnecessary…

          7. I have nothing meaningful to contribute, so…

            “I have nothing meaningful to contribute” came the reply from the TV. The voice sounded familiar.

            Natalie stood behind the device.

            She was just thinking about texting Victoria, to ask her if she had any news regarding Carol’s well-being.

            That was until she saw the zombified expression on her ‘budy’s face.

            “Uh, Tony, what are you watching?” she asked, which seemed to wake him from his trance.

            “I… was watching Hard Boil” he said “They had Nieves arguing- or not arguing, actually with a bearded guy with black glasses and a… strange lady who kept stroking Hamza Kouri’s face”.

            “And they arrived to any constructive conclusions?” Natalie asked.

            “I don’t know. But it left me feeling strange… ” Tony said.

            “Strange?”.

            “Yeah.., like I want to dismantle the TV”.

            She gave him a funny look.

            He met her gaze.

            “Or your cellphone. After you send that message you were… thinking?”.

  10. This will either go terribly wrong or terribly right, and I honestly don’t know which I’d prefer more.

    Let’s put our marshmallows closer to the fire and watch.

  11. The first step to getting people to listen to is admit where they’re right. Good on you Rain, I’m wondering where he can take the convo from here.

  12. In other words, people hate what they afraid of. While in the real world they hated jews/they still hate jews because they’re under impression that jews control the world, in Ward they hate parahumans because a few parahumans control the world and some of them are bad people. They’re afraid of parahumans and honestly believe Gary when he presents all parahumans, including the ones who ARE NOT in power, like monsters praying on non-parahumans (remember Kenzie? He saw her nothing but a monster despite her being the victim of her abusive and murderous parents and he didn’t believe her when she defended herself, he didn’t give her the benefit of the doubt- like he’d give to a normal human- only because she’s a parahuman). I don’t blame people, the only one I blame here is Gary, for using people’s’ fear to advance his obvious antiparahumans agenda. I hope that Rain speech will open many eyes and show people that not all parahumans are bad like Gary wants them to believe and they don’t like either bad parahumans in the position of power, just like everyone else. Let see see how good Rain will be to stop a civil war.

    The irony will be if Gary’s agenda is not actually his but Teacher’s/Dinah’s agenda and he only is doing what they expect from him to do. Working for the same people he hates.

    1. With Kenzie… He may be right for the wrong reasons. She is kind of spooky. Her sense of right and wrong are such, that she’d probably go full villain, if it means being useful and loved. Her reaction to Victoria’s faked diary was unsettling. She can be a good person, but there’s a potential for really bad things there, if she ever falls under influence of bad people. And if her talents are utilized by a tyrant, it’s instant Orwellian nightmare in one Tinker.

      1. I feel terrible sorry for Kenzie. She’s such a good child, but totally messed up by her power and her own parents. She needs emotional support and help and being keep away from any bad influence.

        1. >She needs emotional support and help and being keep away from any bad influence.

          Kenzie: *Is currently chilling with Aisha, Aiden and the heartbroken*

          1. @lulu,
            agree on the first two counts, but still think it is funny that “Legit supervillians” is our idea of a good influence.

            The heartbroken… are a bad influence, but bad in a very different way to the issues Kenzie has, so… probably safe (or rather, as safe as can be had when both Kenzie and heartbroken are involved.

  13. God the characters referring to the anti-parahuman crowd as “bigots” is so fucking irksome to me. Capes are functionally cops with more power and less accountability, and Victoria is seriously going to equate people taking issue with them to actual nazis.

    Here’s hoping Rain, someone who grew up among *actual* bigots, can handle this in a way that’s less condescendingly dismissive.

    1. Pretty sure that refers to the people “taking issue” by calling non-capes “humans”. They aren’t using that term to save two letters and a hyphen.

      1. Capes aren’t really human, though. Not fully. They have alien parasites fused into them that grant them superhuman abilities.
        I think “bigot” usually implies that the person engaging in bigotry is wrong, but Gary Nieves is absolutely correct in everything he’s saying, and completely justified in campaigning against parahumans. If anything, things might actually be worse than he thinks. The mayor is literally Cauldron.

        1. By that logic, we already have people in the real world which are “not fully human” due to having cybernetic prostheses and implants. No “superhuman” abilities from that yet, but I’d bet it’s not for long.
          And Nieves is certainly wrong (because of just assigning blame, attacking the wrong problem and generally making things worse) and totally a bigot.

          1. I think the distinction there is that the prostheses and implants were made by human hands, to serve human ends. If some people had nonremovable cybernetic prosthetics that were designed by hostile aliens to serve their goal of literally ending the world, I think it’d be justifiable to call them nonhuman. Would you call the Borg human?

          2. Given that humans managed to use the powers for destroying those aliens, I’d say humans turned out to be pretty good in making the powers serve human ends against the goals of aliens.

        2. The mayor is doing anything in her power to make the life better for her people, despite her past crimes. Her husband was the one who fixed the world economy, despite his past crimes. There are a lot of hero parahumans who’re doing their best to protect normal humans, some of them even risking their lives to make sure that BIGOTS like Gary will wake up next morning. Gary is a bigot because he attacks all parahumans even if only a couple of them are actually dangerous. He’s exactly like any nazi hating on jews only because he believes that jews rule the world and are evil by their nature. Yes, there are parahumans ruling the world, some of them with malicious intents, some with good intents, but one should not hate on all parahumans only because of a couple of bad apples. Gary is right about the parahumans being in position of power but he’s so wrong about parahumans being nothing but evil monsters only because they have some alien parasites and superpowers. There are still humans with all the flaws human beings usually have.
          Gary is the normal human version of Mama Mathers. Mama Mathers treats normal humans like slaves, Gary treats parahumans like monsters. Double wrong.
          People who believe Gary to be a non-bigot absolute right person must be the same people who believe that hating on jews or muslims is not a real hate, because jews rule the world and muslims are terrorists.

          1. Gary’s right, though. He’s not some conspiracy nut raving about how lizardmen control the House of Commons, he’s correctly stating that the mayor is secretly a former supervillain, and providing photographic evidence.

            Criticizing an elected government official for hiding things about her past does not make you a nazi.

          2. Okay, using an analogy: if someone would point out that the elected mayor is a Jewish ex-criminal, and therefore all Jews are criminals and must be banned from positions of power – would you also say this line of reasoning is right?
            Not all hidden things about the past are equal. Being Jewish (or parahuman) is an incriminating evidence only in the eyes of bigots, and being an ex-criminal is covered by post-GM amnesty and a good track record after GM (and that’s not what Gary has an issue with, anyway).

          3. Why Jews? Sure, Jews have been accused of conspiring to bring about the apocalypse, but unless you can provide some credible evidence that the accusations are true, I don’t see how the situation is even remotely similar.

            But sure, let’s go with Jews. A mayor is revealed to be a Jew, as well as a former member of a Jewish criminal organization implicated in racketeering, multiple murders and human trafficking, but that’s all right since the Jews collectively decided to pardon themselves of past crimes after they killed Yahweh. Every other ruler of any note is also a Jew.

            Unbeknownst to Gary, there was previously a Jewish conspiracy to abduct thousands of people, give them a Jew serum that turned them into Jews, and dissect the resulting Jews to study the process. The Mayor’s boyfriend and campaign manager was very high in that organization, and assisted with the human experiments. He was also friends with Jack Slash, another Jew, who personally instigated the end of the world a few years ago. The old clandestine prison facilities of the conspiracy are still in use, now held by a different Jewish conspiracy, that is fighting a shadow war with the Jew mayor. Indeed, Gary himself is nothing but a Jewish puppet, a pawn in a vast game the Jews are playing with each other. All the information he has was fed to him by Jews, to hinder their Jewish opponents.

            In a situation like this, yes, I think it’s reasonable to argue that the Jews are holding too much power.

        3. Calling your group “humans” is totally terminology you would choose in order to describe reality, and for no other reason. Seems legit.

          Also, the mayor is not “literally Cauldron”. Her boyfriend worked for Cauldron, possibly because the alien that told Contessa what to do instructed her to avoid certain detailed knowledge by using him as a buffer. (I figure there was some degree of familiarity with Cauldron’s actions that would have caused her to swerve from the most direct path.) In that case, PtV would have told Contessa what to tell Number Man to make him follow the path.

          1. Citrine has taken over the world (or at least a world), to enact the plans that Accord drafted for Cauldron to use after the inevitable end of the world. Accord, for his part, was working so closely with Cauldron that he had them on speed dial. Sure, it’s all for the “greater good”, but that’s what the old Cauldron said to justify the atrocities. That’s what Teacher’s saying to the leaders of Earth Cheit. Meet the new Cauldron, exactly the same as the old Cauldron.

    2. > Capes are functionally cops with more power and less accountability

      First of all, let’s not equate heroes with capes in general. There are rogues (by the way, I’d place Citrine and Number Man in this class, as they are neither cops nor criminals now), and there are villains – which are a good reason why society needs heroes as superpowered cops. And second – well, you know, the world ended not so long ago. Given that, it’s a miracle that there is now a huge megapolis with any kind of police and justice system at all, instead of small settlements with mostly pre-industrial technology being constantly raided by wandering bandits. Mostly thanks to capes, I guess.

      1. Yes, people have a relative good life thanks to tinkers and thinkers, who are parahumans. They should show some gratitude instead of listening to a bastard bigot who would rather prefer to see people living in poor settlements than in the comfort of their apartments created by parahumans. Some people are never happy with anything. Give them a hand, they’ll try to take both of your hands.

    3. Entities have picked a lot of racial supremacists to receive powers. Brockton Bay was overrun by white and asian racial power gangs. There is a reminder of that in this chapter. The amnesty has seen them absolved of their crimes, a matter of pragmatism, but I can see why it has been contentious.

    4. It’s really difficult to have a conversation about this properly, given the setting. Perhaps this is the inherent dilemma that most super-genre writing avoids or only samples the shallow surface of (X-Men, for example, offers few strong answers for the “they’re WMD’s” argument). Because it’s a mess. This is a mess.

      Bigotry isn’t defined by being wrong, at all. It often coexists with stupid and wrong claims, but that’s not what the word means.

      Bigotry is associated with excessive devotion to group or faction. It is linked to intolerance, hatred, prejudice and fanaticism.

      Gary Nieves is a bigot. But he’s technically correct so much of the time, it can be easy to miss. A person who wasn’t hateful could make most of these arguments. Maybe they even *should* make most of these arguments. But unfortunately we have Gary, and Gary *also* brings irrationality and hatred to the table. We don’t get to choose.

    5. We can’t, *can’t* just wave off the bigotry here as pure equivalent to real-world bigotry. We’re reduced to the position of anti-racists back in the era of scientific racism, when public “rationalist” consensus was on the wrong side. Except even back then a lot of the racist arguments were made less effectively and more transparently off, than within the parahumans universe.

      This is not much like anti-police sentiment, unless we speak of a world in which all police are of a single race, that is also the race of all leaders of organized crime, and over 90% of that ethnic group is a either one or the other.

      This is not much like anti-Semitism, unless we speak of a world in which over 90% of Jewish people are literally one of the following: part of The 1%, Israeli soldiers in positions where they may potentially be called upon to shoot Palestinians, or people who specifically and actively oppose those groups on a daily basis.

      This is not much like anti-immigrant hysteria, unless immigrants were always fighting each other. Unless some highly-privileged “good” immigrants were constantly fighting *almost all the others* in street battles, because almost all the immigrants outside military/law-enforcement were recidivist criminals or petty warlords.

      And neither of those bad examples covers extremities like:
      The literal end of the world,
      Case-53s,
      Alien brain parasites.

      This is not a strong comparison to *anything*. But it can be compared to almost everything. And that is probably the point. Even if the author didn’t love those themes, it would break the setting not to dig into them.

      1. Well, I’m sure any real-world proponents of the points of view you have listed would come up with arguments about how the group which they are hating is different from any other, and why this difference bears the most significance. But the roots of any kind of such hatred are still the same.

        1. There was an alien invasion. Humans with aliens in their brains appeared, and the world began to fall apart as the result. Then the world ended and almost everyone died. Humans with aliens in their brains managed to stop the initial dying by killing one of the aliens. Then humans with aliens in their brains took over all the governments.

          The psychological roots are exactly the same, totally. The feelings are the only feelings humans have available for the situation. Which is the value of fiction like this. We can still take things of value from this aspect of the work, even though the anti-parahuman movement here can’t really be compared equivalent real-world groups.

          But a defining aspect of organized hatred and xenophobia in the real world has been an absence of reality and a reliance on fantasy. To go to Hannah Arendt, groups desire actions they can’t justify based on the consensus of what is real, so they manufacture an in-group alternate reality that *would* justify those actions. The in-group’s importance to members makes this fantasy the accepted consensus reality. This is a huge and critical part of how this stuff works, and it’s nearly always present.

          Scots-Irish settlers can see a few dozen Susquehannock basket-makers as an existential threat; Germans can all agree Jews control the US and USSR; Floridians can affirm Sharia law is overtaking American cities. Clear factual error and falsifiable arguments not only aren’t an obstacle, they’re a *feature*, it helps delineate between those who “happen to agree” and those “on our team”.

          This here is different in a fundamental way.

          1. The falsehood on which xenophobia is based doesn’t have to be so glaringly obvious that it sounds like hallucinations of a drug addict. It can be subtler, like sophisms, where you achieve a wrong result through non-obvious mistakes in reasoning. And this is what I’m seeing in your reasoning above. Your statements are not strictly wrong, but they imply assigning blame for the end of the world to parahumans (which is precisely the other way around – humans weren’t completely eradicated only because of parahumans), and then goes on to “taking over all the governments” (replace parahumans with capitalists/oligarchs/whatever along these lines, and you get the real-world version of this argument. there is just no way it could be otherwise, and not because of any conspiracy or because oligarchs are a special breed of humans inherently alien and antagonistic to normal humans).

          2. Okay, see now we’re talking! Great analogy.

            Before I dig into it, you claim sophistry is enough for xenophobia. Can you offer one historical example of a xenophobic movement like that? None have come to mind for me.

            I don’t know if you saw it, but I suggested something similar in another comment: Comparing anti-parahuman sentiment to hostility towards…call them “people of means.” &) In order to compare beyond the emotional or psychological aspects, we have to go beyond movements founded on real-world bigotry. For xenophobic *movements*, the context just doesn’t line up. Instead we have your “capitalists/oligarchs” example. That (in a way) is as important a comparison as all the focus on bigotry, and illuminates other aspects Gimel’s problems.

            It’s a good comparison, for a number of reasons. If you throw in powerful people, *of course* the rich and powerful “control the world.” By definition that’s who controls it. It’s also good because the line is crossed between the in-group and out-group: humans randomly become parahumans; sufficiently lucky middle class STEM kids occasionally turn billionaire.

            And there are claims from data and evidence, using systematic logic, that this groups’ existence is a net negative for “normal” people and the world. Yet almost no one in power anywhere wants anything to do with that sort of thinking; vaguely parallel to Gimel and its neighbors that way. An example. As we speak there are reasoned arguments being made that capitalists are the obstacle to stopping climate change. Barring total nuclear war, what is a better parallel to the Bet apocalypse than that?

            And on top of everything, in our world no consensus exists that hostility toward the super rich is a form of bigotry at all.

            Well, that last point is double-edged; Nieves and some large number of his supporters are clearly bigots. Which is why the sophistry comment is so on-point: Do we have *any* historical example of a large social movement full of xenophobia and bigotry, that hewed close to the facts? I’m not sure we do.

            So this movement is led by a bigot and full of bigots; we can mine it for insight on bigotry and apply life experiences to the real thing. This movement is people organized in movements opposed to groups that by their nature harm society even if that is not their intent or their “fault”. I haven’t read Marx, but Wikipedia assures me *that* is almost precisely paraphrasing him.

            I don’t think Wowbild is saying France Insoumise or AMLO in Mexico or Bernie Sanders are leading hateful movements of anti-people-of-means bigots. I *do* think our author is doing what he always does: writing his antagonists to have sufficient motivations. He said recently he didn’t intend the Saint-Dragon debates that happened; he just didn’t have it in him to make a character like Saint and not give him reasons that justified his actions to himself.

            What he’s done here is the same thing. Rather than lazily repeat the X-Men angle, he’s made the antagonist group as complex and justified as humanly possible while also being total dicks. The only thing he could have done to make them more sympathetic is make them not be lead by Gary “You People” Nieves. Which is why Gary’s here. To make the top ~racist less pleasant, Wowbild could easily have made him selfish, or a coward, or dramatically wrong on the fundamental facts. Which is why Gary is none of those things.

          3. It’s curious that you brought up Marx yourself, together with agreeing with my analogy. That brings us straight to the point that the communist movement, the bolshevism, can be the example you’re looking for. The wrongness of its ideas is subtle enough that they still have supporters now, even in the countries that suffered from them (first and foremost in those countries, even); but take this wrongness, add bigotry, hatred and power hunger, and the results are horrifying.

            > This movement is people organized in movements opposed to groups that by their nature harm society even if that is not their intent or their “fault”.

            I disagree that these groups (either capitalists or parahumans) harm society by their nature. First of all – capitalists are people who figured out how to make lots of money (for simplicity, let’s not take inherited wealth into account, as well as illicit activities). In gaming terms, they are munchkins/power gamers – they figure out what does society deem useful and reward with money, and optimize their behavior for getting the biggest rewards. By that very definition, they are *useful*. Second, they still are just people, and if tomorrow all the capitalists magically disappear, there will be new ones soon. If there’s a system in place which prevents new ones from appearing, it’s a totalitarian regime like the USSR; and then there still will be power gamers, but they will be optimizing for different criteria. Most likely, it will be loyalty to the government and to the official ideology – which doesn’t correlate with usefulness for society, in contrast to earning money on a free market.
            The same line of reasoning can be applied to the Wormverse, with minor adjustments. Parahumans as a whole are beneficial to society, which is proven by humanity surviving GM and even being relatively well off afterwards, compared to what could be expected. And they tend to rise to power naturally, because they are “people of means” and, well, have better means to deal with various problems than baseline humans. It could be prevented with a system which would discriminate against parahumans, but the leaders of this new system still would have powers anyway, either because they concealed them or because they had means to acquire them after rising to power.

            And finally, to address your point about capitalists being the obstacle to stopping climate change. The obstacle isn’t capitalists, but rather poor ability of humans to work together (which every reader of Worm is familiar with). And while it could be tempting to solve this problem with a totalitarian power, somewhat like Khepri’s mind control, far more often it leads to even worse disasters. Unfortunately, there’s no working solution for it yet.

          4. I’m not entirely sure that nobody is working on a solution. Perhaps Teacher believes in Hegelian dialectic (or at least some simplistic interpretation of it), and sees the old system inherited from Bet under which the capes have all the power and no accountability as a problem (a.k.a. a thesis). To solve the problem he encourages a reaction to it (the antithesis in form of the anti-parahuman movement) in hopes of creating a tension between them that will lead to an solution (a.k.a. a synthesis). In other words perhaps Teacher supports the anti-parahuman movement not to create the world they envision, but in hopes that the movement will destroy the status quo so some new, better order can be created – an order different from both what the current ruling parahuman elites want to keep, and from what the anti-parahumans want to establish.

            How would such order look like? Would it be based on some sort of compromise and/or cooperation between both sides of the tension/conflict Teacher encouraged? How much collateral damage will this conflict cause before it is over? Could this approach even succeed instead of just destroying the society it is supposed to save? I don’t know. Perhaps even Teacher doesn’t know, even assuming that this is what he is consciously trying to do. Good news is that at least in the time and place it seems that the conflict may be resolved through a public debate instead of something like a riot or an actual civil war between capes and armed anti-parahumans.

            By the way it is funny how such simplistic approach drawn from Hegelianism can lead to entirely different conclusion than Marxism seems to suggest, considering how much Marx’s philosophy owes to Hegel.

          5. Of course what I wrote above is about how I think Teacher may be trying to solve problems of Gimel.US. It is not like I believe that he is trying to stop real world’s climate change, as much as it looks like maybe we could use a help of some superpowered mastermind hiding in alternate Earth, because it doesn’t look like our current efforts in this regard are taking as anywhere close to something we could call a working solution.

            I would however argue that blaming only “rich capitalists” as opposed to “poor proletariat” for the fact that nothing is being done with climate change isn’t exactly accurate for one more reason that wasn’t mentioned here – there are certain groups of workers very interested in keeping status quo.

            To use Poland as an example again (yes, I know I should stop talking about my country so much, but I think it fits perfectly here), any politician trying to seriously reduce carbon dioxide emissions of the country (which are very big for a country with economy as big as it is) would be committing a political suicide not because of they would be stepping on toes of some small, rich oligarchy, but because Poland produces around 80% of its electricity by burning coal, a lot of which is mined locally. Poland has some of the largest still mined coal deposits in EU, and many coal mines still operate either at net loss or close to it simply not be economically viable. The reason why the mines are still working is that most of them are state-owned, and miners who work there are unionized. This means that even token attempts to reduce production of coal (which has to be then burned in the country, because nobody would import coal at prices Polish mines could offer) end up not only in miners protests which already paralyzed streets of Warsaw more than once, but also serious loss of voters support by whatever parties were trying to reduce coal production, because not only miners or their families oppose such changes, most people living in areas where coal is mined also do out of fear of what unemployment among miners could do to the local economy. We are probably talking about over a million votes in a country with around 30 million voters here. Those votes tend go to the parties that oppose any changes in coal mining industry, ensuring that Poland will be one of the biggest offenders when it comes to carbon dioxide emissions (not to mention other pollutants resulting from burning coal) in EU in foreseeable future, thus seriously contributing to global climate change.

          6. One thing that I feel wasn’t spelled out clearly enough in this thread is that a lot of problems mentioned here – xenophobia, bigotry, tendency to prioritize solving the problems that affect mostly you and your people (whatever it may mean in any given context) in short term over the problems that affect everyone equally and will have consequences later – are in large part a result of a bad economic situation, or a threat that the economic situation will worsen. It is no accident that the communists came to power in Russia after years of war draining resources, that Nazis came to power in Germany during the Great Depression, that terrorist groups hold most power in poor countries, or even that the voters won’t like it when you tell them that in order to fight global warming they will need to make economic sacrifices – from becoming an unemployed miner who needs to learn a new profession, to increased prices of fuel and electricity. In such situations people will do two things – try to deal with the immediate problems affecting their group directly even if it means making the global, not so immediate problems worse, and perhaps more importantly find someone to blame and if possible make them suffer for your problems. I even suspect that some pantheons may have been invented so that people had someone to blame for natural disasters.

            Same thing in the city – despite what I wrote two posts above, the fact that the parahumans have too much political power and privileges is not the fundamental problem which caused a reaction in form of the anti-parahuman movement (although it is certainly true that the capes certainly do have too much power). It is the fact that people are still living in tents more than two years after Gold Morning. They needed someone to blame, and the capes were a convenient target because they were different, easy to identify, and there are actually some real problems with them (like their tendency to commit crimes, to manipulate public opinion or the fact that capes are prone to serious mental issues and to engaging in conflicts that can be dangerous to everyone around them).

            The psychological need to blame and hate someone (like the capes in this example) is so strong that it tends to override all logical arguments against it, even to the point where people start to refuse to consider that solution to their economic problems that drove them to this irrational behavior in the first place may come from the chosen target of their hatred. Remember that during Citrine’s interlude Gary simply refused to even read, much less discuss, Accord’s notes Citrine gave him. Similarly the anti-parahumans conveniently forget that not only the capes fought and died to stop the Endbringers and Scion, the city has simply no way to survive (not to mention remain independent) without capes working with, for, and probably also in the government.

          7. T.T.O., you’re reading things into my statements that aren’t there at all. You quote only one sentence of mine, out of context that I feel made it fairly clear the sentence referred to Ward, not real life. Then you attack the sentence as failing to accurately describe real life. Well… of course!

            You’ve also got the idea in your head that I’m a Marxist? Or something? And you really ran with that. Throughout you seem to be unable to differentiate between my mentioning real-world examples related to what you said, and my actual beliefs.

            Quote: “I disagree that these groups (either capitalists or parahumans) harm society by their nature. First of all – capitalists are people [blah blah high school ideology].”
            Politics: I did not say capitalists harm society by their nature. I said movements exist that believe that, which makes them an adequate comparison.
            Bet/Gimel: Earth Bet was objectively worse than our world long before the S9000 gave Zion ideas. Eidolon alone, despite his good intentions, caused the total loss of cities and regions. Spilling David’s vial down the drain would have spared tens of millions of lives. Only the end of the world even allows this to be a discussion.

            Quote: “The same line of reasoning can be applied to the Wormverse, with minor adjustments. Parahumans as a whole are beneficial to society, which is proven by humanity surviving GM and even being relatively well off afterwards, compared to what could be expected. And they tend to rise to power naturally, because they are “people of means” and, well, have better means to deal with various problems than baseline humans. It could be prevented with a system which would discriminate against parahumans, but the leaders of this new system still would have powers anyway, either because they concealed them or because they had means to acquire them after rising to power.”
            Politics: Yay, none!
            Bet/Gimel: So you’re one of those taking parahuman leadership of humanity as natural and inevitable. Might as well just make the best of it? I’m not there, for two reasons. Mankind is starting to get it’s hand on the wheel a bit, via science, power synergy, and the partial elimination of the conflict drive. Second, the text tells us the shards are burning out. The future of parahumans in the world is not natural or inevitable. Yet.

            Quote: “And finally, to address your point about capitalists being the obstacle to stopping climate change. The obstacle isn’t capitalists, but rather poor ability of humans to work together (which every reader of Worm is familiar with). And while it could be tempting to solve this problem with a totalitarian power, somewhat like Khepri’s mind control, far more often it leads to even worse disasters.”
            Politics: I made no such point. I said groups existed that were arguing that. Our topic was social movements: those rooted in glaringly wrong bigotry and those opposed to the powerful for being the powerful. To the rest, I don’t come here to argue politics, but it’s telling that I bring up explicitly democratic “people power” groups out in the world, and you respond “totalitarianism is tempting.” I mean…. LOL

            Bottom line is, you brought up anti-rich “bigotry,” so I responded by referring to movements that were into that. Is it really that interesting (as you put it) that I responded to *you* saying that people hate the rich by mentioning the most famous such group in history? I feel no need to support Marx.

            I do feel a compulsion to talk about Literature thoughtfully though, so I’ll do that.

          8. I think part of the problem here is that the anti-parahumanists’ (we need a better name for them) goals aren’t clear. Are they the equivalent of “Let’s make sure we don’t run into the same traps as the Soviet Union while addressing income inequality” or “Anything short of laissez-faire is evil”? American centrists, or Ayn Rand?

          9. I think the problem with your statement is that you assume that there is something like a single set of goals shared by all anti-parahumans. As far as we know most of them may be random people who have only one thing in common – they aren’t happy with parahumans for one reason or another.

            It is obviously clear that there is some sort of organization or organizations trying to coordinate at least some of those people. Someone is arming some anti-parahumans and organizing them along military lines (though whether they operate as completely independent cells from that point on, or are coordinated by some central from that point on is not entirely clear), someone is pointing people in Dinah’s direction (though, again, as far as we can tell she doesn’t actually command them, only gives them a single advice, and possibly doesn’t even maintain any contact with them from that point on), someone gathered documents with “horror stories” about parahumans, selected Gary as a person who could use them to deal damage, found him, and reached out to him – this almost certainly required multiple people working in some sort of organized fashion, but again – we don’t know for sure if those people did anything but that one thing, and if they coordinated with anti-parahumans doing other things.

            To sum it up – most anti-parahumans are probably individuals not belonging to any organizations. Some anti-parahumans most certainly form small cells. At least some cells may coordinate their actions or even be parts of a larger organization or organizations with clear command structures. I doubt however that we are dealing with some all-encompassing underground state. Not because those can’t exit (Polish Underground State from WWII is a perfect proof that it is entirely possible to coordinate actions of millions of people right under noses of occupants who try to rule along totalitarian lines, without said occupant ever realizing the scale and scope of such underground organization and its activities), but because the heroes have plenty of thinkers and tinkers who specialize in dealing with such widespread conspiracies. If some person or organization wants to promote an anti-parahuman movement, they should probably consider keeping as many anti-parahumans as independent from each other and from the promotor of the movement themselves as possible, just because of those capes specialized in dealing with large, interconnected organizations like that.

            And keeping people separate means they probably don’t have a single doctrine, set of goals, or even name other than “anti-parahumans”.

          10. Of course to further obscure the picture it is entirely possible that some originally independent anti-parahumans may form spontaneous grassroots movements, with no mastermind with any significant resources behind them, and such movements can also grow pretty big, especially in times when people have access to Internet. Internet however is not strictly required – as far as we know Polish “Solidarity” trade union started as such movement that only later created a formal internal structure, made contact and started cooperating with other anti-communist organizations both in the country and abroad.

            So far however I don’t think there have been any evidence of anti-parahuman organized grassroots movements capable of doing more than a protest we saw in arc 1, or a meeting with Reidleigh Darleet, and even in those cases we don’t know just how much of what happened was a result of actions by an organization of any sort (grassroots or not).

          11. @Admiral Matt: well, the sentence which I have quoted was in the context of Ward and your reference to Marx (I don’t remember such character in Ward yet, so I guess the reference was to the real one), so I assumed that it relates to both. And while you indeed phrased the sentence about the climate change as “there are reasoned arguments being made…”, the fact that you called these arguments reasoned hints at you considering these arguments not being completely wrong, at the very least. Sorry if I misinterpreted you, but there’s really no need to trigger at it like that. Misinterpretations happen sometimes, especially if the phrasing allows for them.

            > it’s telling that I bring up explicitly democratic “people power” groups out in the world, and you respond “totalitarianism is tempting.” I mean…. LOL

            Well, I’m not familiar with the exact ideology of the groups you named, so I wasn’t referring to them in my response; I was envisioning some group making an argument like “capitalists are the obstacle to stopping climate change”. In my opinion, posing the question like that is indicative of a raging populism, and a group employing such tactics is either striving to gain wide and unthinking public support in order to gain power for themselves, or is likely to equally unthinkingly employ extreme measures if they’d have a chance to, and both of these cases are a fertile ground for totalitarianism. It is entirely possible that the groups named by you made no such arguments, or made them in a much more reasonable and thoughtful fashion, in which case my reasoning presented above does not apply to them.

            > Bottom line is, you brought up anti-rich “bigotry,” so I responded by referring to movements that were into that. Is it really that interesting (as you put it) that I responded to *you* saying that people hate the rich by mentioning the most famous such group in history?

            It is interesting, as I put it, to see you asking for examples of bigoted and hateful movements whose ideas were not glaringly and obviously wrong at the first glance, saying that you don’t think there are any, and then referring to a movement which I consider to be such an example. If you think that the bolshevism doesn’t qualify as an example because it’s just as obviously wrong as all the other hate groups – well, I can give you that, but a lot of people think otherwise, so I guess it’s not that obvious; if you think it’s because it wasn’t bigoted and hateful – sorry, but it was.

            Okay, off with politics and onwards to Bet/Gimel…

            > Earth Bet was objectively worse than our world long before the S9000 gave Zion ideas. Eidolon alone, despite his good intentions, caused the total loss of cities and regions. Spilling David’s vial down the drain would have spared tens of millions of lives. Only the end of the world even allows this to be a discussion.

            The end of the world not only allows this to be a discussion, it’s the whole reason behind founding Cauldron and all their course of actions. Without that, Cauldron would definitely be villains harming the society by their existence (but only Cauldron and not capes in general). Imagine a world where Scion isn’t going to end it sooner or later, and without Cauldron. No Endbringers, no millions of deaths. Richter is alive and continues his work. Sphere doesn’t become Mannequin. And so on. I think there’s a good chance that this alternate Bet would be much better off than our world.

            > So you’re one of those taking parahuman leadership of humanity as natural and inevitable. Might as well just make the best of it? I’m not there, for two reasons. Mankind is starting to get it’s hand on the wheel a bit, via science, power synergy, and the partial elimination of the conflict drive. Second, the text tells us the shards are burning out. The future of parahumans in the world is not natural or inevitable. Yet.

            The first point is yet debatable at this point in story, but what I like about it is that it doesn’t imply a distinction between humans and parahumans. Conversely, if humanity succeeds at it, the line between them will become more and more blurred with time and advances in science. And regarding the second point – we know that shards *can* burn out. It happened in two very specific cases: one being Eidolon, together with all his massive power sinks, and the second one being Doormaker heavily abused by Khepri. We don’t know yet how fast do shards burn out under normal circumstances. Might as well be well after the Sun burns out, for instance. Btw, another interesting example is Contessa’s shard *not* burning out, despite that her power was explicitly stated to be especially energy consuming.

  14. Oh man, getting vibes from the Goddess arc here. Every conversation will be painful to get through, huh?

    Wild, tinfoil-hat speculation here:
    What is the objective of the anti-parahuman movement? To either get rid of powers, or at the very least to create a society that is more equitative.

    But how do they plan to achieve this? Through armed revolution? I’m sure they could kill or otherwise apprehend most the heroes and villains with enough effort, but that means opening themselves up to bigger threats.

    Through politics? I mean, that might work. There are far more non-capes than capes out there, but parahumans have all the tools to sabotage a healthy political process.

    By alienating parahumans? That’s bound to affect the heroes more than the villains.

    So what if Garry Nieves is connected to people who are far more capable of neutralising all capes, and taking them out of the equation in some way or another. Hmmmmm!

    1. Teacher turns out to be working for the Chinese government, which is just trying to prove it was right all along.

      1. The 样板 is probably the best example of how a society could successfully manage super-powered PTSD victims and function more or less without power subversion of democratic and rule-of-law systems.

        Too bad it had to be a cult run for the benefit of an undemocratic monarchy, I guess.

        Language nerding:

        I do truly enjoy that Yàngbǎn means “example; model; prototype; template.” Wowbild naming is so much fun.

        Is there WoG whether it’s 樣板 or 样板? I’ve been assuming the CUI used simplified characters since it was founded so long after they started being used in the PRC. The wiki has it as 樣板, though, and I can certainly see an argument that a neo-imperial dynasty would revert to traditional characters as a symbolic break from Communism.

        1. > Too bad it had to be a cult run for the benefit of an undemocratic monarchy, I guess.

          Er… Given how it was created and maintained, it couldn’t exist otherwise. Well, with a stretch of imagination I can imagine an otherwise democratic society which allows an island of totalitarianism within itself for a minority which is deemed okay to oppress, kind of like how ancient Greeks had slaves. But I wouldn’t call such society a good example.

          1. I totally agree. Not a good example at all.

            But do you disagree some less awful version of that would be the best example offered to us by the setting?

          2. Well, I can think of ways how could it be less awful. First of all, it shouldn’t oppress and brainwash its members, also joining and leaving the organization should be free. Then, it should allow its members to keep their individuality, not reducing them to “number XX”. Power sharing should also be not mandatory at all times but rather an option in situations when it makes tactical sense. Then, it should be subordinate to a democratically elected government. And with all of that, we kind of turn Yàngbǎn into Wardens, what’s left to improve is a matter of working out the legislation from that point on.

          3. I could see an alternate world where China was run by good people, and still used Null as the center of a Yàngbǎn that just didn’t have the brainwashy aspects. Parahuman volunteers joined, possibly after having an offer extended to them by the government; they’d then go through basic training before getting linked into an appropriate network and starting advanced training. Kind of like how special forces operate in IRL, except with superpowers.
            It wouldn’t have the same thematic purpose as the Yàngbǎn Wildbow wrote, but it could be used to similar in-universe ends.

            (Disclaimer: I don’t actually know how special forces recruit people. I’m just guessing.)

    2. > What is the objective of the anti-parahuman movement? To either get rid of powers, or at the very least to create a society that is more equitative.
      But how do they plan to achieve this?

      I’m pretty sure the anti-parahuman movement (Zion, we need to find a better name for it) is based on real-world alt-right groups and those who exploit them to gain political power. So I imagine the leadership has some pie-in-the-sky idea they keep promising to their followers (akin to Trump’s wall) which they have no plan for implementing.

  15. That… I can definitely see that putting him on the back foot. He’s trying to frame the problem as innate to parahumans, but Rain countered by painting it as an institutional problem instead. Which has an interesting tie-in with Vicky’s comment about treating aliens as human, too.

    They’re implicitly asking the mayor what his plans are to correct the power disparity, and now he’s obligated to suggest a system where parahumans and humans are equal to each other.

    Rain’s got some fucking game.

  16. Rain is on fire in this chapter! (Joke intentional)

    Parahumans are DEFINITELY too powerful politically. When an accident of fate leaves you physically powerful and somehow this means that all positions of power are filled by these “super humans” and all the important decisions are made by capes, that is NOT a good thing. I sorta wish we could see some more reasonable anti-parahumans protesters, cause I can imagine a near future where humans are a subtle second class citizen, especially when you consider that trigger rates increase with each generation. I’m sorta comparing it to the westren patriarchy (not at all a perfect comparison, but whatever). Women technically have the same anount of rights, but the majority of positions of power just happen to be held by men. Nieves is an ass, but he makes a point.

    1. I only disagree with your use of the word “subtle.” I can’t imagine it would be at all subtle.

  17. Should we be worried that Victoria recognized Amy, Marquis and Cryptid, but not Lung on the photo of the current Shin leadership? I mean he could have just changed his costume, but what if he isn’t with them anymore? Where could he go, and what sort of trouble could he cause there?

      1. I don’t assume that he was there. I just suggested that if he wasn’t it could mean that he went his own way after getting to Shin, which probably fits him – he wouldn’t accept being someone’s subordinate without being mastered or something along those lines, and at the same time he probably has no chance to remove the combo of Panacea, Marquis and Cryptid from power, at least not without some sort of a fight so big that the news would probably reach Victoria within hours despite it happening a world away.

        The thing is that probably nothing good will come out of Lung acting solo again either.

        1. Of course Lung could be under influence of master effect of Teacher’s power, which is also bad, because in that case the heroes are likely run into him while storming Cauldron complex.

    1. I’m not sure which is more unlikely, that the glowing-vein guy is Lung despite his powers not manifesting that way (at least not before more obvious manifestations would have shredded his formal wear) or that an Earth as insular as Shin would accept someone like Lung as a leader so easily.

  18. A few more thoughts brought by last couple of chapters:

    1. Did you notice how Sveta is practically the only person in Breakthrough who doesn’t really show signs of having low morale? She is joking. She is clearly enjoying everything that her new body lets her do – from physical therapy to being able to act incognito in a crowd.

    Considering Sveta’s current situation she can obviously do all of it without letting Teacher’s people realize that the heroes are not as concerned and uncomfortable with the current situation as they appear to be, but at the same time I think that it is important for Breakthrough that she can do all of this. Her joy is clearly contagious, and is probably doing wonders to keep the whole team happy despite exploring some of the worst aspects of their personalities. Her behavior probably makes it much easier for everyone to remember that this is all an act, and they shouldn’t take it too seriously.

    2. On the other hand I wonder if Sveta will do some basic mistake in that crowd of people. Being incognito around so many people, not drawing everyone’s attention is still probably a somewhat new for her despite the fact that she did experience some of it thanks to combination of her prosthetic body and Kenzie’s holographic tech.

    It just isn’t quite the same as before, because Sveta’s holographic disguise was far from perfect. There were little things that betrayed an artificial nature of her body, like the fact that she wasn’t able to walk (much less run) around as well as most people with normal bodies, the fact that she didn’t react to touch like most people would, or the fact that Kenzie’s holographic technology couldn’t perfectly compensate for the fact that unlike human flesh Sveta’s body was hard and unyielding.

    All of it meant that Sveta’s disguise wasn’t worth much when she was trying to push through a dense crowd of people for example. Now she can afford to interact much closer with strangers than she did before. The only things that betray unusual nature of her body at the moment are all of those bumps under her skin that come from the fact that her costume didn’t fit perfectly inside her.

    3. I wonder if Tattletale had no problems detecting moles in the bunker, because they couldn’t do much damage there. Notice that when she misses something that should be obvious for someone with her power, like when Taylor left her last instructions before she surrendered to PRT, when Taylor asked Bonesaw and Panacea to mess with her brain, or when those mercenaries who betrayed her in arc 11.

    Sure, on the day when Taylor surrendered to PRT Lisa had a serious thinker headache, but I suspect that even then, and during the other two events I listed Tattletale’s shard intentionally kept information from her to arrange a situation when because of her ignorance she failed to prevent serious harm from happening to people she cared for (and in case of the situations in Worm – losing Taylor in one way or another), which put Tattletale in a similar emotional state to the one she went through when she failed to prevent her brother’s suicide.

    I wonder if it will keep happening in the future. Maybe Tattletale will be unable to prevent something serious from happening to Chicken Little again precisely because she is so emotionally invested in protecting him? Maybe the fact that Tattletale keeps emotional distance from most people actually benefits them in a way, because it makes her power more reliable when it comes to keeping them safe?

    4. I wonder if Trisan intentionally let his pole break in this chapter, and what this whole situation says about both his power and his ability to trust Rain to save him from a danger, like a fall in this situation. Isn’t it also the first time when we saw that Rain’s mover power can affect other people?

    1. 3. Or maybe Tattletale’s power just isn’t that capable. I remember a fanfic I was writing where I was trying to make a running gag out of Tattletale having to remind people that she wasn’t omniscient, and when/if I rewrite that fic I’m definitely keeping that, because I’m kinda sick of Tattletale being perceived as nigh-omniscient. (And a bit irritated that Wildbow’s leaning in that direction. Seriously, how did she know whether Ratcatcher’s pet was a mouse or a rat based on the name?)

      4. It’s not Rain’s power that’s affecting other people, it’s his existence that’s affecting other people. (Wildbow specifically called out that Tristan was holding on to Rain’s shoulder for that reason.)

      1. > Or maybe Tattletale’s power just isn’t that capable.

        You may be right of course. It is a firmly established fact that Tattletale’s power doesn’t always catch even seemingly simple things. However the fact that it so spectacularly failed three times already to warn Tattletale about facts that were necessary to protect Taylor and Aiden from suffering very unpleasant fates, which were from Tattletale’s perspective similar to what happened to her brother (especially in Taylor’s cases – after all Lisa lost Taylor on each of those, for a certain definition of “lost” of course, just like she lost her brother) is making me wonder. Remember that in her interlude Tattletale named her brother, Taylor and Aiden as the three people she wanted to “save”. This makes me think that her shard could pick up on the fact that Tattletale treated Taylor and Aiden just like the person whose suicide had caused her to trigger. If Lisa’s shard has indeed realized that, it may have been trying to use those two to put her in a mindset similar to her trigger. We know (from Tattletale’s explanation back in Worm no less if I remember correctly) that powers tend to do just that.

        1. By the way, I wonder if Tattletale took a clue from what happened to Brandish during confrontation with Cradle, and actually explained limitations of her power in detail to some of her likely allies, like Breakthrough? Something tells me it did not happen.

  19. Clearly the way things are going to play out is that Kenzie will take over the world. After all, what has been the problem all this time? Secrecy. Secret identities, secrets about Cauldron, secrets about criminal history, secrets about the nature and origin of capes, secret cults, secret personality traits, secrets about romance, secrets about diary reading, secrets about Tattletale’s clients…

    So. Kenzie will destroy secrecy. Teacher gave her the idea with his little “No more passwords!” prank. Got her all excited that she wouldn’t be the only weirdo who knows all the secrets anymore, then Dragon pulled the rug out from under her by revealing that it was a huge exaggeration. But it’s the seed, the glimmer of a better future, and it is germinating within her. She will show them. She will show them all. Literally. She will usher in the Era of Public Omniscience by setting up autonomous cameras everywhere watching everything and everywhen, and showing their footage to everyone. Want to see what’s going in that bathroom stall, or in the courthouse, or inside your own skull? Kenzie’s got you covered. No longer will people be ashamed of their bodies, habits, and mistakes, because they’ll see everybody else’s bodies, habits, and mistakes, and they’ll realize they are normal. No longer will people suffer in secrecy, because there will be no more secrets. No longer will people be able to lie about past events, because anyone can simply see for themselves. The entire world will see Kenzie’s love for them, and soon so will the other worlds, and eventually other stars. The Earths will become massive spacefaring cameras, spreading Kenzie’s love and omniscience throughout the galaxy and beyond!

    Chris can run, but he can’t hide.

    1. Not a bad idea, but still lacks one key element. People will also need QA levels of multitasking ability to process all the data coming to them from those cameras at once.

      1. It’s a shame that Contessa killed Taylor, or Kenzie might be able to work something out.

        Wait, strike that, reverse it. It’s a good thing Contessa killed Taylor, or Kenzie might be abl to work something out. (Also, it’s a natural conclusion to a character whose great triumphs always required great sacrifices, but that’s beside the point.)

  20. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I really like how socially-aware Victoria is. It’s not just a contrast with other Wildbow protagonists, it’s something I don’t see in many stories period.

    Problem was, we weren’t talking about three. We weren’t even talking about a mere thirty.
    Advance Guard had thirteen capes on its roster right now. Foresight had nine. The Shepherds, who’d kept to themselves and hadn’t interfered or been involved with Breakthrough or Breakthrough’s business nearly as much as the other two teams, had sixteen. The Wardens had twenty-five. Breakthrough had five to seven, depending on how Capricorn was counted and if we included Lookout.
    And I wasn’t even counting the likes of Fume Hood, who had been looped in, or the Major Malfunctions, who by their own choice hadn’t.

    Or the Undersiders. Even if we only count Tattletale and Lookout’s team, that’s still “at least seventy-seven,” and probably closer to a hundred if we count the Heartbroken, Tattletale’s relevant employees, and miscellaneous heroes Victoria hasn’t met.

    Skin pulled away in strips, and then fat, muscle, and other structures were their own layers. All the organs were there, but as necessary parts were pulled away, the organs went still, shriveling, moisture sucked into other surrounding spaces.
    Ugh, that’s creepier than any Changer or Case 53 I can think of. At least she can turn it off.

    “It’s not okay. This whole dynamic is- Jesus, it’s fucked. You’re absolutely, totally right,” Rain said, visibly agitated with the public speaking, being in the limelight. “And we’re on your side in this. More of us than you’d think, we agree with what you’re saying.”
    …That’s a damn good stance to take. “You’re right, there are problems. You’re just not providing us with solutions that’ll work.”

  21. Here’s an idea about what Teacher may have on the top floor of the Cauldron complex that everyone would want if they knew it existed – an archive containing results of Cauldron’s research on powers, files of capes given powers by Cauldron (both the ones who bought those powers, and the people Cauldron experimented upon), and details of every single Cauldron plot, every conspiracy it was behind, name of every politician they ever bribed, blackmailed or otherwise influenced. I imagine that in right hands (or wrong hands, depending on the point of view) such information could be more dangerous than almost any parahuman power.

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