Breaking – 14.4

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Cue the damage control.  Theirs and ours.

Theirs was the Warden’s.  A series of terse messages telling us to wait at a set location.  I sent them messages and mentioned the texts from Shin, which got us a reply with only a repeated ‘Wait there’.

Ours was an eleven year old girl.

As much as I would have liked to have the backup and convenience of Kenzie arriving first, a part of me was secretly glad that the Wardens’ response time would be better than that of an eleven year old who needed to ask around for a ride.  It took us five minutes to get to the building specified, a storefront that was available for lease, that was more than a little too close to the mess of the portals in the city’s heart to find anyone willing to invest.  The key to get in was inside a mini-safe attached to the door, the Wardens supplied the four digit code.  It got us out of the cold and it gave us some privacy.

Natalie arrived with the Wardens.  A part of me wondered if they’d sent recognizable faces because Breakthrough had achieved the special status of needing specialized, practiced handling.

I felt okay with how that had gone, all considered, but okay was a far cry from perfect and I felt like we needed a lot of perfects to get things back on track.  I was tense, even considering the positive emotions of seeing Vista, Golem, and Miss Militia.

The Wardens settled in a short distance away, while Natalie hustled across the divide to our side.  I put my arm on her shoulder and murmured, “Thanks for coming.”

“They called, said it’d help,” Natalie said.  She was wearing her puffy jacket, and her hair, which was normally cut in a pixie style and kept combed very close to her head, was even more close to her head with the moisture of the wet snow.

“Okay,” I said, my eye turning toward Miss Militia.

Vista had a heavy scarf draped over the parts of her costume which exposed skin, and wore what looked like a very thin jacket for the cold weather.  The visor hid the details of her eyes but showed light and shadow, and the heavy eyeliner was still a thing, apparently.

Miss Militia wore her outfit in her red white and blue, form-fitting and color-swapped version of military fatigues, a flag scarf covering her lower face, and something between a hood and a scarf covering her head.  When she pushed her hood back, snow fell to the plain, unadorned floor of the store.

Golem, I saw, had removed or hidden away the kind of silly looking fans or ‘fins’ that were part of his costume, a series of different common materials.  Nice looking armor that was obsidian black with hands and arms etched in it in a way that only showed in the right light.  Each panel was trimmed in silver.  He wore a serious-looking mask.

Vista and Miss Militia wore armbands.  Golem had the emblem marked out on one bicep.

“It’s good to see you, Victoria,” Miss Militia said.  “Long time.”

“Long time,” I said.  “Wish it was under better circumstances.”

“I’m glad you’re doing as well as you are,” she told me.  She turned her head.  “You too, Tress.”

The comment to Tress sounded like it had come from further away.  Ever since my run-in with Engel had… I wasn’t even sure how to put it.  I hadn’t been at rock bottom, only for something to reach up from below and drag me further down, but I’d been reminded what that something reaching up had felt like, and that had shaken things loose.  I’d remembered small details that had previously been hidden away under the cloak of altered memories, and slivers and fragments of those memories kept coming up to the surface.  Now one loomed, like a threatening person in my peripheral vision.  I ignored it.

“Have you talked to the mayor?” Miss Militia asked.

“No,” I told her.  “Should we?”

“We tried and her phone line is busy.  We sent someone over to have a chat with her.”

She met my eyes.  That vague shadow loomed closer, and I looked away.

“I have no idea if we did the right thing,” I said.  “It didn’t feel right, defending her.”

“In terms of maintaining the peace overall, it may have been best,” Miss Militia said.  “But people like her have a way of making others make those compromises on their behalf.  Be careful.”

I couldn’t quite bring myself to meet her eyes again, which annoyed me.  I wanted to sound confident and I wasn’t confident, but it was for completely different reasons than she was likely to expect.

It wasn’t like Sveta where she got stuff in dreams and then digested it over the course of the day.  It was a more haunting, incoherent edge to thoughts, where I started thinking about negative things and got into vaguer territory where I couldn’t place faces or line up events, but where the negative emotion was ooze-thick.

Miss Militia had been there.

“Miss Militia was kind enough to explain things while we walked over,” Natalie said.  “I’m not sure what my role in this is.  It’s not criminal law, and criminal law has… kind of ceased to apply to supervillains, as far as I can tell.”

“It applies,” Golem said.  “But it applies in a narrow window between the threats and chronic offenders we have to take severe action against, and the moderate to minor offenders who get off with slaps on the wrist because the courts don’t have the resources to process them.”

“But this isn’t that,” Natalie said.  “You want me to be a secretary.”

“No, not a secretary.  An ambassador,” Miss Militia answered.  To the rest of us, she explained, “Earth Shin was mentioned, and if we are dealing with Earth Shin, then we’ve found it helps to have non-parahumans as intermediaries.  This is the world that Goddess ruled for several years.  She divided it into fiefs and gave control of those fiefs to people with powers.  A good number abused the power they had.”

“Abused how?” Sveta asked.

“In just about any way you could imagine.  They accepted the reintroduction of parahumans as a purely passive, hands-off involvement, with stipulations.  The parahumans would keep to themselves, but they’d act to protect Shin in the event of any disasters or invasion.  In exchange, they would be free to settle the Alleghenian Ridge.”

“I have no idea what that is,” Rain said.

“Landmass cutting diagonally through their Atlantic Ocean,” Sveta said.  “It allowed earlier settling of their North America.”

“They’re spooked,” Miss Militia said.  “They saw video of your debate with Mr. Nieves and they’re very agitated by what was mentioned about your sister.”

That horrible feeling pressed in.

“Is there a way you’d prefer me to refer to her?  Her old cape name?  Her old name, her name that she goes by when with her father?”

“Doesn’t matter,” I said.  “But thanks for the option.”

“Amelia Claire Lavere negotiated the peace but neglected to mention any problems or issues in controlling her power.  She was presented as a healer in good standing who played a role in averting the end of all worlds.  Now they’ve heard other stories, they’re asking questions.  Your parents got in touch with you?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “My dad did.  He wants me to smooth things over, and he said there’s a good amount of evidence that this could blow up.  Ties back to the job you assigned us, keeping tabs on the anti-parahumans.”

“You mentioned this, but text only conveys so much.  It extends to Shin?”

“To Shin and back.  I only got so much info myself, but it sounds like certain factions in Shin are pretty angry at capes- which is understandable.  You don’t tend to feel warm and fuzzy about people who take over your world.”

“Understandable,” Miss Militia echoed.

“But they’re violent, and my dad thinks they’re getting information and other stuff from us, and our more dangerous anti-parahuman types are getting resources and manpower from them.”

“How bad is this?” Tristan asked.

Miss Militia answered, “With mutual control over the portal and cooperation with three of the five major governments in Shin, we don’t think there’s been too much damage, exchange of weapons, or manpower.  There are strict rules about passage through.  Vaccines, diet prior to passage through, allowed gifts, ID…”

“Diet prior?” Tristan asked.

“They don’t want seeds or other contaminants from foreign worlds getting crapped out, taking root, and becoming invasive,” Sveta said.  “You go to the bathroom in a bag and bring the bag with you until you go home or they can dispose of it in a careful way.”

“Oh no,” Tristan said.  “Please tell me this isn’t a thing.”

“Or you don’t eat for a certain number of hours prior and flush your system,” Miss Militia said.

“Uh,” Tristan said.  He looked at me and I nodded.

“Best option is to keep your visits short,” Vista said.

“Thank you for saying the first sane thing.  Short visits are doable,” Tristan said.

Miss Militia looked us over as she talked, “I talked it over with Warden leadership, and we’re looking to bring Breakthrough over for a short duration stay.  Vista, Golem, and myself would be joining you.  Natalie’s presence will help temper their fears.”

“To make apologies for my sister,” I said.  “Like we were just talking about people forcing us to compromise on their behalf.”

“That’s true,” Miss Militia said.

“Right now, what I want are solutions.  Not mitigating the damage, coping, making do, and just trying to get through today and reach tomorrow.  I want lasting answers.  We’ve got Teacher looking over our shoulders and I’m still holding out hope that we can find a way to deal with him, because the constant meetings that go nowhere are wearing on everyone’s sanity.  But I also want to deal with the criminals, I want to deal with the other worlds.  I want to get out ahead of what happened to Dauntless and to the broken triggers.  Can you tell me that this is that?”

“A permanent or long-term solution?”

“My sister,” I said, “Nieves said she was still unbalanced.  Cryptid kept secrets that have me pretty nervous about what he’s up to now.  They’re surrounded by parahumans that they have some measure of control over.  I want you to tell me that this situation isn’t a fragile one.  That if there’s a fix today it won’t break tomorrow.”

“I can’t tell you that,” Miss Militia said.

She’d always been straight with us.  I’d run into her a lot while patrolling, given our schedules.  I’d run into her more when I was part of the Wards, for that brief span of time.

I could only nod, absorbing that.

“Are you saying it is fragile?” Sveta asked.  “Or-”

“I don’t know,” Miss Militia said.  “I don’t know how fragile or secure she is because I don’t know her.   I don’t have a good read on Amelia Lavere.  I’ve been over there interacting with their leadership for months, but that hasn’t extended to any interactions with Amelia.”

“What about Cryptid?” Rain asked.

“Some.  Very brief.”

“I’m not saying I’ll say no, or that I’ll tell my team to say no,” I said, carefully.  “But if our actions here aren’t going to fix things, is there a possibility we can look into other answers?  Answers that don’t leave this as a fragile mess to handle tomorrow?  More long-term answers to my sister or Cryptid or anything else?”

I shifted my footing.  The signal I was thinking about Teacher.  The operation to infiltrate his base of operations.  I didn’t want Amy and the Shin situation hanging over our heads.

“You’re thinking of the prison.”

“I’m thinking of anything.  If you trust me enough to have me, have us get involved, then I want to know you trust me enough to listen if I say that I know her and she’s too dangerous to be left alone.”

The door of the store opened.  Ashley stepped away from our group to go greet Kenzie, as she pulled her helmet off.  Kenzie hugged her friend as soon as her arms were free.

“The Wardens have been debating the subject ever since Goddess attacked the prison and Amelia Lavere went to Shin.  We’ve been on the fence, and depending on how this goes, we may find ourselves unilaterally on one side or the other.  If you have an opinion on the matter it will be taken under serious consideration.”

I nodded.  “Then I’m fine with this if my team is.”

“I’m a little worried about you talking about permanent solutions for dealing with a sibling,” Tristan spoke up from behind me, prompting me to turn around.

“I’m not thinking of that kind of permanent,” I said.  “And it’d be a group decision.”

“Still sounds uncomfortable.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“I’m always up for new places,” Sveta said.  “And anything that unites the different worlds.  Exploring what was out there was the happiest I’ve ever been and I want that happiness for everyone.  I think this makes a lot of sense to do, especially if we can find out more about what the anti-parahumans as a whole are doing.”

“And Chris.  He feels like he’s our responsibility,” Rain said, bringing up the elephant in the room.

“He’s his own responsibility,” Ashley said.

“But we should check on him, right?” Kenzie asked, gripping Ashley’s sleeve.

“Yeah.”

“I agree we should get what info we can on the anti-parahumans,” Tristan said.  “Deal with Victoria’s family stuff.  Check on Cryptid.  I’m just worried this is going to blow up.”

He blurred.

“Yeah,” was Byron’s contribution to things.

“Do you have other obligations?” Miss Militia asked.

“I’m done my obligations for the day,” Kenzie said.  “Found the kidnapped kid, told the authorities, gave them all the info, camera feeds showing where the crooks were, and where the kid was.  They let us in on the raid.  Aiden didn’t get to do much, and Darlene just hung back, but Candy messed one guy up so bad.  I don’t think the cops minded.”

“Concerning,” Byron said.

“It’s fine.”

“No other obligations,” I told Miss Militia.  I shifted my feet again.  I saw her nod to herself.

“Have you all had your shots?” she asked.

“Shots?” Tristan asked.

“For going between worlds,” I said.  “I got some while with the Patrol.”

“I got them when out with Weld, for all it mattered.  I rarely got sick, before.”

“If you don’t have them, we have a single shot we can give you that will boost your immune system for a while,” Miss Militia said.  “The doctors debate its effectiveness but it can’t hurt.”

“Can’t hurt,” Tristan said, chuckling a bit.  “But that’s good to know.  I can deal with one needle.”

I wondered if I should let him entertain his delusion.  Instead, I decided to give him advance warning, just so he wouldn’t be upset or bothered.  I told him, “The kids in the Patrol block would get told to get their shots, get their shots, you’re going to be expected to go to populated worlds with their own diseases.  Gotta do it if you want to do this seriously.  Then some wouldn’t, thinking getting one needle once in a while was better than getting ten over the course of a couple of months.”

“Isn’t it?” Tristan asked.

“It’s a huge needle, and it feels like getting kicked by a horse after.”

He chuckled.  “Great.  That’s hilarious.  Poor kids.  Poor us, not knowing we should prep for this kind of thing.”

I’d figure something out for Tristan.  But that would happen at the portal.

We stepped outside, and Miss Militia locked up the store while Vista did her thing, lowering the roof of a derelict building toward the ground.  I could hear the groan and pop of the construction material, and saw Kenzie and Natalie both looking anxious.

“I should fix my coat so my power doesn’t run into itself,” Vista said.  “Sorry to disturb the illusion.”

Her jacket went from being thin and compact to expanding out, heavy and thick, covering just a bit more of her upper body, as a full-fledged coat.  While small it would have the same effective insulating properties, I was pretty sure.

We stepped up onto the roof.

“What do we need to know about Shin?” I asked.  “Ettiquette, rules, standards?”

Miss Militia explained, “Be nonthreatening.  One hand behind your back while you shake hands, but keep it open, not clenched.  Outside of that, I don’t think it’s too difficult.  They either know our customs and speak our language, due to Goddess’s enforcement of English as a universal language, or they speak their own language and the translators know us and will adapt.”

“Universal language?” Sveta asked.  “Ew.”

“It’s convenient, if nothing else.  Divergence was ages ago but the world progressed along fairly similar tracks.  They had a very war-torn past that leaves them conflict averse.  Wars in their approximation of Europe saw multiple groups fleeing across what our side has termed the Alleghenian Ridge.  To them it’s the Spine or the Bridge, in various dialects.  Many groups fled, then either conflicted with or mingled with previous refugees and settlers at the end of the long journey.  The coalition of nations that resulted is going to be who we’re spending the most time talking to, if we talk to any Shin governments.”

The roof was gradually returning to its normal height.  Vista had trouble manipulating terrain that was occupied, so she was just leaving it to revert.  She pulled out her phone, and punched in some things.  I knew from experience that she was making sure air traffic controllers knew which areas were no-go.  We were covering some ground.

“They like Miss Militia,” Golem said, while Vista fiddled and the building we were on returned to its normal height.

“They appreciate the ‘wields a big stick and walks softly’ approach,” Miss Militia said.  “I wield a very, very big series of sticks and I try to be gentle, and that seems to be something they respond to.”

Vista began to distort space across the rooftops, closing the distance between us and our destination.

“Do we need to worry about Teacher here?” I asked.

“It’s a consideration, but it may always going to be a consideration,” Miss Militia said, and her voice took on a darker tone.

“I want to think we’ll find a way,” Rain said.  “I’ve spent too many years under the thumb of people who wanted control.”

“That may be something to bring up in conversation.  Try not to volunteer or force information.  They’ll have questions about what came up.  They may have questions about the Lady in Blue, too, but don’t bring her up.  Be human.”

“The Wardens that have been dealing with them have been taking off their masks,” Golem said.  “But we’re hearing about this sketchy underbelly of Shin where they have the rabid anti-parahumans and now those people are talking to people in our world.  They might end up getting descriptions or photos there, then using them against us here.”

“It’s up to you,” Miss Militia said.

Vista was working to close the distance for us.  With the way the sky was distorting and pinching together, the station was visible and looming closer.  The world warped in a rough donut shape around the clear picture  of the destination.

Fuck, a part of me had hoped that there’d be a long train ride or car trip, that I could get my head sorted out and come to grips with what we were doing.  That I’d be seeing Cryptid, my mom and dad, my sister.

That I might be seeing Amy sick-

Again, that sliver of a memory.  Not anything coherent, but a vivid and complex tapestry of feelings without anything to map to.

Like how Miss Militia staring into my eyes made me think of a scene where I was still in that abandoned house, partially covered with a sheet, while the Protectorate tried to figure out what to do.  Feeling vulnerable, wounded, scared, and hearing Amy’s voice in the background.

Thinking of seeing Amy sick and lost in her own head felt like its own similar thing, but I didn’t want to dwell in that memory.  At least the memory of Miss Militia could be excused away as her being compassionate in her own stoic way.  Meeting my eyes when my own mother couldn’t.

I wasn’t ready for this and we were being thrust headlong into it.

I turned my thoughts elsewhere: got to deal with the anti-parahumans so we can act against Teacher without things burning down in the meantime.  Or this is their busywork while they procrastinate.  I don’t know.

We’ve got a looming mission and I don’t feel like we’re getting more ready for it.

“I built your thing, Capricorn.”

Some eyes turned to Kenzie.

“The camera that should show the hidden twin in real-time.”

“Just like that,” Byron said.  “I thought it would be weeks or months.”

“It’s kind of been weeks, but I didn’t have the scans and stuff I needed to puzzle it out.”

“Yeah,” Byron said.  He paused, then added, “Thank you.  I don’t really have words.”

“You don’t need words.  I’m happy if you’re happy.  Maybe mess up my hair or punch me in the shoulder or give me a hug, I dunno.  You know, after, if it works.”

“No,” Swansong said.

“No?” Kenzie asked.  “Huh?”

“Only if you can say you didn’t work yourself to the bone and stay up nights.”

“I didn’t.  I really didn’t.”

“Good.”

“I was working on other stuff.”

Ashley grabbed Kenzie’s ear, giving it a mock shake.  Kenzie laughed, her head ducked down where I couldn’t see any smile or lack thereof.  Ashley was smiling a bit, which told me it was probably fine.

“I’m not much of a hugger, or a hair-messer-upper, or an arm puncher,” Byron said.

“It’s okay, that’s-”

Byron reached out with one arm to pull Kenzie against his side, giving her a bit of a squeeze.  Her head bonked against Byron’s armor.

“Thank you.  Whether it works or not, I appreciate it.”

“Yep.”

“Not much of a hugger, huh?” Vista asked.

“Special moments and people, I guess,” he said.

“That’s fair,” Vista said.

Kenzie bounced a bit with her excitement as Byron ended the hug.  “It didn’t really take that much.  It was something I did eighty percent of the work for a while ago, while I was trying to figure out how to do it.  Then I got info when Cahoot’s power worked on the Capricorn brothers in a funny way, and I scanned the data from that.  Not positive on the voice, but we’ll try it out, yeah?”

“Cahoot,” I said.

“Like saying you’re in cahoots with someone!  It’s Darlene.  It was Chicken Little’s idea.”

“You need to stop letting him name things.”

“I thought it was okay.  And Darlene sorta likes it because Chicken Little came up with it.”

“It doesn’t suit her at all.”

“But-”

“It really doesn’t,” Ashley added.

“Don’t do that to that poor girl,” Sveta said.

“But-”

“Cahoot makes me think of a guy,” Golem said.

“That’s sexist,” Kenzie said.

“And someone wearing those masks that were really common in the late nineties, where there were smiley faces, or cyrano masks, or other wacky, leering faces for masks,” Golem said.

“Absolutely,” I said.

“The Crowley Fallen wore those masks even after they fell out of style,” Rain said.

“I could see it working,” Golem said, in a tone like he’d seen how upset Kenzie was and was trying to pacify.  She responded positively to it.

But no.  Not ‘cahoot’.

“You have pictures of her on your phone.  Show him,” I told Kenzie.

“You keep track of what she has on her phone?” Golem asked.

“No.  I’m betting she has pictures of everyone on her phone.”

“Not everyone,” Kenzie said, before pulling off a glove with her teeth so she could manipulate her phone.  Her mouth obstructed, she muttered around the glove, “mof eepl.”

She showed Golem a picture of Darlene.

“Oh.  No.  Absolutely not.”

She turned to Vista, who was already shaking her head.

In vain, she turned to Miss Militia.

“A girl that pays that much attention to costume-”

“Those are everyday clothes.  She likes the kind of fashion that’s expensive and timeless, like pretty dresses you could see a girl wearing today, or twenty, or thirty, or fifty years ago.”

“Don’t call her Cahoot,” Miss Militia said.  “I can’t think of a name less fitting.”

“Other options were like, Hookup, right, that-”

“No,” Vista said.

“We already vetoed that.”

“But Candy liked it and-”

Kenzie saw the heads shaking, the looks of disapproval.

“Intertwine?”

“I’m guessing that’s another Candy nickname,” Tristan said.

“Yeah.  No go?  Um.  Syndicate?  That came up.”

“A little overdone and a lot villain-sounding,” I said.

“I like that one,” Ashley said.

The landscape in front of us continued to pinch together, the ‘donut’ getting bigger, but the picture got bigger too.

Vista lowered us down through the ‘picture’ of the destination to the street level, stretching things out so the ramp-like extension of the rooftop didn’t get in the way of traffic.  Cars still slowed, wary, and we hurried to cross so we wouldn’t be interfering with their routes.

Lookout pulled her helmet back on before we got too close to the people on the ground.

Putting us at the foot of the station.  The station had American and other Gimel flags flying from poles along the left side.  To the right were standards, flags that draped down, each with its own iconography, colors, and shape at the end, whether it was two triangular tails or something rounded off.

I’d actually seen some of the images on clothing, and I hadn’t mentally connected to them being anything like flags.  I’d figured it was from a game.

Vista fixed her coat, compacting it and adjusting the fit while we filed indoors.

The interior was red and black checked floor, and elaborate wooden fixtures that looked much like a bank’s setup, with people behind terminals.  The place was desolate, with ten staff members standing by and waiting for work while there was nobody in the terminal.  They looked at us with interest and wariness.  Everyone had a nametag, and the tags came in yellows and red.

We had paperwork to do, and Sveta and I were processed quickly, because we’d been regular travelers through the portals.  For the others, there were forms to be filled out, white pen on red paper, and then they had to sit and wait for their shots.  Those shots would boost their immune systems and help them endure any disease or communicable illnesses, but they’d also kick any allergies into overdrive.  It was like a horse kicking you in the arm and giving you a light cold, at a minimum.

Still, it was better than dying.

“How do you want to do this?” Sveta asked.  She hung out beside me, with Vista and Golem hanging nearby.  Miss Militia was talking to people who looked like administrators.

“I have no fucking idea.  A lot depends on how she is.”

“What about your parents?”

“My dad messaging me was the most I’ve really heard from them, and it was all business.  I think they’re mad.”

“I have your back.”

“Thank you.  But go easy.  As nice as it would be, we don’t want to scare the locals.  This is about making a positive impression and reassuring.”

“I’m worried about you,” Sveta said.

“I handled things when Nieves brought her up.  I can hold it together while we’re there.  She probably wants to play nice, maintain good relationships with Shin.  If it gets ugly, I walk away.”

“Alright.  Can we have a signal, in case I need to nudge you to walk away?”

“Touch your left ear?”

“My left ear.  That’s the signal that you need to back off or check yourself?”

I nodded.

“Alright.  Thanks.”

Costumes were awkward to put on and take off at the best of times, and getting the necessary shots meant pulling off the upper body of costumes.  Byron had to unstrap his armor around his arm, get the shot, and then switch to Tristan.  Kenzie and Rain had to unzip and pull an arm free of their sleeves.  Ashley had to remove her coat, which wasn’t so bad.

I nudged Vista.  “Do me a favor?”

“Sure.”

“Shrink those huge needles down for my teammates?”

Vista smiled.  “This is for Tristan, right?”

“I think everyone would appreciate it.”

“He got super talkative and chuckly when the subject of needles came up.”

“Go,” I said.  I was sitting on a railing, and I twisted around, sticking the toe of my boot into her ass cheek to prod her forward.

She went.

“Looks like Precipice and Swansong are getting expedited,” Golem observed.

“I’m betting they got a bunch of booster shots before going to prison.”

“I wanted to ask,” Golem said.  “Precipice was Fallen, before?”

“Yep.  Open secret,” Sveta answered.

“You think he’d mind talking about that kind of stuff?”

I exchanged looks with Sveta.

“Can’t say for sure,” Sveta answered, “But I think he could use a friend who ‘gets it’.”

“That’s it, isn’t it?  Getting it.  Cuff’s the best, but I can talk about stuff and I feel more lonely than before I brought it up.”

“Tell her,” Sveta said.  “Communicate that.  Don’t freeze her out.”

“I’m not.  That’s not it.  She can be understanding if I’m really clear or even if I’m really blunt about, hey, this is a big deal to me, right?  But it takes work and reminders that, y’know, this thing wholly outside of her experience is a thing that’s pretty profound to me.  Sometimes you don’t want to constantly put in that work and you want to get straight to figuring it out.”

“Yeah,” Sveta said.  She sighed heavily.

“They’re bringing out the stethoscope for Kenzie.  Deep breaths,” I said.

“What does that mean?” Golem asked.

“I’m guessing all the Wardens who’ve been through this process were in pretty good shape.”

“Kinda gotta be.”

“They’re worried about allergens, allergic reactions, lung capacity, and other issues.  Which means that if they’re not sure she can handle it, she gets filtered air.”

“Oh,” Golem said.  “Someone did mention that.”

Sure enough, they brought out the little tank, with the plastic tube stretching up to the face.  Kenzie would get the tubes up her nose, and she’d get the schpiel about how to breathe and what to watch out for.

“She’s going to die if she gets talking and can’t breathe through her mouth,” Sveta said.

“Being unkind isn’t like you, Sveta.”

“I’m not trying to be mean or bully her.  It’s a real concern.”

“Hm.”

Everyone wrapped up.  Needles done, Kenzie got her air filter and nose tube, and with Swansong’s help, fixed the filter to her belt.  She then fiddled with her phone, and the nose tubes were filtered away, hidden by the projection.

“Don’t suppose you could hide our identities?” Rain asked.

“I would if I could, but I didn’t bring complicated projection boxes or anything today.  Shuttling things back and forth is such a pain.”

“It’s no big deal,” Rain told Kenzie.

“You know what’s a big deal?  The air that comes through the filter is super cold,” Kenzie said, with a hint of nasality.  “I’m getting brain freeze just by breathing.”

“It’s about to get colder,” Miss Militia said.  “Ready?”

No.

No I wasn’t.

I didn’t want to face anyone on that side of the portal.

Earth Shin.

But we went.  I didn’t voice my protests.

The station was a nice one, with crenellated pillars and every wall having some kind of decoration or mural.  Earth Shin had constructed it, and that should have been a prelude.  We passed through, and we found ourselves in the other side of the station, and from there, walked past desks where we showed our paperwork, permits, and records of our shots.

They also had guards on their side.  Men and women with guns draped in cloth, to the extent the weapons looked more decorative than functional.  Each had what looked like a praying mantis limb folded up over one shoulder, steel and gleaming, and a narrow blade that attached to their right legs, like a rapier without a handle.

When we left, guards followed us- two of them for every one of us.

Into Shin.  Once Goddess’s earth.  Now Amy’s.  The temperature was easily ten or twelve degrees lower than it had been in the Megalopolis, and the sky was filled with snowdrifts.  It didn’t take away from what was a pretty amazing view.

Skyscrapers, but modified, augmented, and decorated.  The Wardens’ old headquarters had included a giant statue as part of it, but it was the norm here.  A skyscraper with a castle built into one face of it.  A tower was crowned with statuary of what might have been a hawk.  Red was a dominant color.

“How advanced are they?” Kenzie asked, her voice still nasal.

“They lunged ahead of our Earth a long time ago, but they also had two near-extinction events that slowed them down.  That’s not counting Gold Morning.  Let’s walk and get out of the cold.  The meeting hall is this way.”

It was only a few minutes of walking to get there.  Vista didn’t use her power.

Five standards hung over the entrance.  When we entered, there were five groups.  I saw the flicker of Miss Militia’s weapon, going from sword to nebulous blur to the sword again.  A signal?

I hadn’t expected warmth.  I didn’t get it, but I didn’t get it to such a surprising degree that it left me a bit off guard.  Yes, these were people who had been conquered by parahumans once.  But they were also people who had invited us.  The atmosphere was cold.

Two of the five groups had styles that resembled our own back in the Megalopolis.  Outfits that resembled suits, with simple braids instead of ties.  Braids for belts, the ends left dangling.  I liked it more than what we had back home.  It was similar enough to home, though, that I had to wonder if Goddess had had any influence, or any culture had leaked through.  This world had been her plaything.

The other three groups favored clothing that flowed more.  I could see where a history rooted in some distant commonalities and practical sense had led to some things occurring over here that coincided with what we had back home.  One of those three groups seemed to like clothes that made them look very boxy, with an almost straight line down from armpit to ankle for tunic and pants.  The other two wore clothes that wrapped around them.

Miss Militia lowered her hood, which was the cue for those of us that had been wearing helmets and hoods in the blistering cold outside to remove our headgear, to expose faces.

I fixed my hood, draping the front portion around my shoulders, and checked over the others, making sure they were okay.

When I looked up, I saw my mother, intact, leaning on my dad.  They were in the company of Marquis and one of Marquis’s underlings.  Spruce, I was pretty sure.

Following behind, my sister was in the company of Chris, who had done his best to grow up early and hadn’t quite hit the mark.  He was distorted, his torso stretched out, his arms stretched down, legs roughly the right proportions, but there was an uncanny issue in there, a rounding error in calculations, or the sum total not adding up to parts.  His hair had grown in rather long considering it hadn’t been that long since he’d left, and he still slouched, despite being tall.

No transformation here.  Just… riding the side effects of past transformations.  He barely reacted as he saw us.

But my sister?  Amy?  Her reaction mirrored mine.  Stopping in her tracks.  Quiet horror or unease.  Then resumed motion.  She looked away before I did, but I did look away too.

The tension was palpable, and I wasn’t sure it had anything to do with us.  If Gary Nieves could see how Chris and Amy were right now, or if he could see how my parents were, he’d be quickly disabused of any notion they were in charge.  To look at them, they looked like they expected the guillotine.  Chris seemed most at ease, but he was still tense, muscles on his lanky limbs taut.

“Something’s up,” Tristan said, quiet.

“Feels way more hostile than the last few times I came,” Vista added.

“They were three-two in favor of working with us and one of the three got replaced,” Miss Militia said.

“Why?” Tristan asked.

“I don’t know,” Miss Militia said, under her breath.  “But be ready to use your powers, and tell the others to be ready for the same.  Nonlethal if you can help it.”

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208 thoughts on “Breaking – 14.4”

  1. Typo/errors thread?

    What happened to chapter 14.4, and the “Next Chapter”/”Previous Chapter” links?

    1. “I’m done my obligations for the day,” Kenzie said.

      To “I’m done with my obligations for the day,” Kenzie said.

    2. > I don’t have a good read on Amelia Lavere.

      There are three spaces before this sentence.

      > The kids in the Patrol block would get told to get their shots, get their shots, you’re going to be expected to go to populated worlds with their own diseases.

      Not sure about this one. Scratch one ‘get their shots’? More modification of that paragraph may be needed, because right now it isn’t entirely clear to me what Victoria wanted to say there.

      > The world warped in a rough donut shape around the clear picture of the destination.

      There are two spaces between ‘picture’ and ‘of’ in the chapter text.

      1. get their shots, get their shots, (repeated)
        Ettiquette > Etiquette
        may always going to be a consideration (doesn’t sound right. maybe “may always be a consideration from now on”?)
        picture of (extra space)

      2. I feel reasonably certain the repetition was intentional — I would have said it twice in that context too. It’s like a parent nagging a child. “Get your shots.” “Get your shots.” “Get your shots, you’re going to need them.” “I told you to get your shots, didn’t I.”

    3. >“It’s a consideration, but it **may always going to be** a consideration,” Miss Militia said, and her voice took on a darker tone.

      It may always be a consideration?

    4. Ettiquette -> Etiquette

      “It’s a consideration, but it may always going to be a consideration,”
      Awkward syntax, maybe just “it may always be a consideration” (unless Hanna’s English is deliberately off)

  2. Good stuff! I can’t wait to see more stuff on Earth Shin, I’m pretty sure I’ve been looking forward to the Amy confrontation for the entire duration of Ward and through a lot of Worm.

    1. Hey Cahoot is a great word. And you try coming up with a non pervy sounding codename for Darlene.

        1. Agreed, it’s also less critical-sounding than some alternatives, making her less of an obvious first target.

      1. @negadarkwing: Cahoot would be okay if she was a boy. Unfortunately, naming a girl Cahoot guarantees that she’ll become known as Cahooters.

        I vote for Stitches. It’s a little edgy, but so is she. Stitches can hurt, and they can help. They’re fashion-related. And like stitches, she connects the team together into a more coherent whole.

      2. If I were her, I’d tell everyone to pike off and go with Hookup. Fits pretty well, and she liked it. And Clockblocker is okay but Hookup is not?

        1. I guess Valkyrie should finally get around to resurrecting Clockblocker, so he can tell Darlene exactly that.

        2. Clockblocker was picked by a sixteen-year-old boy. Darlene’s an eleven-year-old girl. If Darlene were the same age Clockblocker was, it’d be less bad- that’s the age of consent in the UK, and parts of America too I think. Plus, as a boy, there’s already less of an association with innocence than there’d be with a girl. Also, Clockblocker announced his name on live television with no warning to the PRT. They didn’t like it and made him do penance- but they couldn’t change it, because the Youth Guard liked giving their charges a choice of name and disliked unnecessary rebranding.

      1. Oh, come on! Taylor wasn’t that bad! Weaver was a decent name, and it took her only a couple months to come up with that name since the day she became Skitter.

        1. Was it ever stated that Taylor herself came up with that name? It could be one the PRT gave her.

          1. From chapter 23.1 of Worm:

            I’d picked the name Weaver based on the idea that I’d be using thread more, but I didn’t have any prepared, not here, not yet.

            Sounds like if she didn’t come up with that name, at the very least chose it from some longer list of suggestions.

          2. Considering that in chapter 22.6 Calle had merely five minutes to write the deal between Taylor and the PRT-slash-Protectorate because the press was already there, I doubt that there was enough time to brainstorm and choose Weaver at that point, especially since at that time the heroes had to come out with a script for the conference, and instruct Taylor how she should say there. It’s not conclusive, but I think that the time pressure at that point meant that Taylor probably had to came up with Weaver even before she surrendered to PRT, and at most confirmed that the heroes woudn’t consider it some sort of PR disaster if she revealed that choice during the conference.

      2. She didn’t come up with it, but the name “Skitter” was great for her. It evoked the creepiness, the uncertainty, the agility, the formlessness. “Bug Girl”, as Lung preferred to call her, limited her to a single definite human who could be hurt like other humans. “Skitter” was an uncertain action that might be taken by uncertain millions of little crawly things that Skitter’s enemies might not even see.

        1. That’s an interesting angle. I didn’t like the name ‘Skitter’ and perceived it like Taylor just didn’t come up with a name at the very beginning, before ‘Skitter’ got stuck to her, and didn’t care afterwards.

    2. Maybe something in French? I don’t know the language, so I can’t really suggest anything concrete, but I think it would fit one of the Heartboken, and due to lower number of speakers it would probably be easier to find a good French name that is not taken already.

      1. Except there’s Canadians in the Megalopolis, and Louisianans as well, both areas with French-speaking minorities. Plus there might be French capes that moved to the US because they don’t like what’s going on in Europe’s Earth, if such a place exists.

        1. Still probably far less French speakers than English speakers. Not to mention that the fact that French isn’t a very exotic language in the city probably even helps in some ways. This way Darlene wouldn’t have to explain the meaning of her name to everyone she meets and then spend a couple of hours correcting their pronunciation. I didn’t want to suggest that her first choice of a French name won’t be taken, just that it would probably be easier to find something that works.

          1. > Still probably far less French speakers than English speakers.

            Yeah. It’s a very popular language in Canada (30% can speak it) but the USA has almost nine times as many people and only a small fraction who actually know enough French to be useful (Louisiana only makes up 1.3% of the country’s population). If we assume casualties were evenly spread throughout the USA and Canada, then I’d expect somewhere between one-in-thirty and one-in-twenty residents of the city to understand French.

          2. Here in the UK, French is taught in schools. I think a foreign language is mandatory, though not all the way to GCSE. French is the most common choice, with Spanish coming second- and if my sister’s school is anything to go by, German is third, as she learnt all three in school (she eventually dropped French and Spanish, because she found German more challenging).

            Not everyone can speak French to a reasonable standard- I can understand the odd word or phrase, if I’m lucky- but there’s quite a bit of French comprehension at the least.

          3. We’re required to take a couple years of a language too, but Spanish is overwhelmingly more popular with about 72% of us choosing it. French is second most popular (14%), German third (4.4%), and Latin fourth (2.3%).

  3. “Skyscrapers, but modified, augmented, and decorated.  The Wardens’ old headquarters had included a giant statue as part of it, but it was the norm here.  A skyscraper with a castle built into one face of it.  A tower was crowned with statuary of what might have been a hawk.  Red was a dominant color. ”
    JUST PERFECT FOR AN RESPECTABLE AND POWERFUL RED QUEEN.
    Carol is perfectly fine. Good. Another lie coming from Teacher and believed by someone like Gary, not surprising (of course, unless Gary is Teacher’s pawn).
    Excited to see Miss Militia in action again.
    I wish to trigger with the power to go forward in time cause can’t wait until saturday to see what Amy is going to tell to her sis.

      1. Still Gary have a lot of informations, true or credibile lies, that he normally should not have.

    1. Even if Gary was right, they brought Carol to Amy for medical treatment. Amy who can heal any physical wound that doesn’t kill, including brain injuries now that she’s willing to modify brains.

      It might not be the same Carol as before, but we don’t know that yet.

  4. Miss Militia is back! Yaay! Felt a rush of warmth as soon as her name was mentioned. I also like how Victoria’s sense of present is intertwined with the flashes of past at seeing a familiar face who was also there in her worst moments. An excellent set-up atmosphere, somehow optimistic and darkish at the same time. I love that moment of MM having met Vic’s eyes then when her mom couldn’t. She remained a very steady character throughout and always felt like one of the “realest”, most human characters to me, a rare thing.

    Laughed at the names discussion. And when Syndicate comes up and Vic mentions it sounds villanous and Ashley immediately goes “I like it.” Of course you do, Ashley.

    Great to have Golem back also. Yes Theo, talk to poor Rain. Lol Tristan and needles. Cute moment with Byron and Kenzie there.

    Excited at this arc. Alternate Earths always sounded very interesting and I’m glad we are visiting another one, as it is wading into an unfamiliar territory with kind of familiar but unfamiliar sights and people and rules to Victoria and readers alike. Wonder if they will somehow be trapped there and forced to run and hide in this unfamiliar world from these Shin rulemakers that might be plotting sth, before they manage to claw a way back to their Earth. Plus a chance to finally meet Chris – what is his agenda here and now anyway? – and Vic’s family again, but most importantly – Amy! And especially with this tension with the Shin blokes, can’t wait to see how catastrophically or not will their reunion, and the whole dyplomatic mission in general, will go.
    And the discussion held before on how to deal with Amy if it becomes necessary was very interesting, made me wonder as well… can’t hazard a guess – will Amy have a horrible fate or will Victoria have a horrible fate or will BOTH have a horrible fate or will it end surprisingly better and kind of okayish… as always, with this calibre of writing it is far from predictable so anything goes.. but we will see…

    1. > Great to have Golem back also. Yes Theo, talk to poor Rain.

      Definitely agree on this one! I’ve been waiting for those two to compare their notes ever since we saw the Golem when the Wardens returned from their off-world mission on the night Navigators were attacked. Glad to see the topic finally came up in a conversation between characters.

      It is interesting though that Golem seems to have bowed to the will of Fashion Police, and removed his “utility panels” from his costume. More seriously I think it might have more to do with him trying to appear non-threatening to people of Shin, or with figuring out a better way to achieve the same effect, but until his reasons are explained clearly in the story, I can always pretend he is simply wary of the FPD, can’t I?

      1. By the way, do Victoria’s thoughts on clothes worn by representatives of Shin governments mean that FPD has omniversal jurisdiction?

          1. You mean it doesn’t cover places with not enough light to see? No wonder darkness makes Victoria uncomfortable.

          2. I think I may have finally figured out what Clairvoyant power is really supposed to be used for…

    2. Clearly the biggest goddamn subversion imaginable will happen and Amy and Victoria will work through their issues, and the Daltons will in fact be a happy family again, and Parahumans 3 will take a surprising turn and be a slice of life sitcom. Calling it now.

      1. Who wants a Parahuman 3 sitcom with Ashley, Victoria, Lisa and Amy as its protagonists, forming a cute family and raising Kenzie, Aiden and Heartbroken Kids as their own? Rachel will be the big aunt and the only villains will be their noisy and envious neighbors. Like this idea?

        1. Ratcatcher, Dot, and Simurgh as the trio of wacky side characters who are constantly up to shenanigans like trying to sell cocoa plants to an Earth where they never evolved, but accidentally getting coca plants instead.

          1. @scorpion451
            and Defiant as ‘da chief’ of police who picked the wrong day to stop drinking

          2. “Accidentally”

            Simurgh: All according to plan
            Victoria: What was that?
            Simurgh: Nothing! *wackily exits scene*

      2. I actually think that’s quite likely. The biggest theme of Ward has been recovering and overcoming past events and trauma and becoming better people. It’s going to be messy and difficult, but I do think that Amy and Victoria will reconcile at some point in Ward, even if they go their separate ways afterwards.

        We have Tristan and Byron set up from the beginning as an obvious parallel to Amy and Victoria. The gay sibling victimises the straight sibling in a moment of weakness that they are immediately horrified about and tries to fix. Both situations have one sibling losing control over their body due to the other. Amy tried to fix things immediately, but Victoria wouldn’t let her, and then after the Nine Amy was too mentally broken and her shard sabotaged her, so no matter how hard she tried she could never fix Victoria. Eventually she left for the Birdcage rather than make anything even worse than she had.

        Tristan took several months to choose to fix his mistake and release Byron, but he looked for a way to escape culpability for it, unlike Amy. However, he never had the option of leaving Byron, so Byron experienced everything Tristan did, every moment of nausea and shame and guilt, every physiological tell of his emotions and how he acted. Unlike Victoria, who couldn’t remember anything about Amy’s horror and remorse, Byron knew of every moment of it. He knew how much Tristan hated himself for what he had done, and the amount of time he spent knowing that allowed him to come to terms with it and forgive Tristan.

        Victoria remembers nothing of Amy’s remorse or how she was broken, only being left behind as the Wretch, so she could never forgive Amy for what happened. Given how being forced to stay together ended up with Byron forgiving Tristan, I’m expecting the trouble that kicks off to force them to work together for the rest of the arc and eventually end up with Victoria accepting that Amy had never meant to hurt her and had broken herself trying to fix her fuck-up.

        I doubt the Dallons will ever be a happy family again, and I’m expecting that Victoria and Amy will go their separate ways, but I also expect there to be some degree of reconciliation and healing between then by the end of Ward.

        1. It may be obvious, but good catch none-the-less. I think I noticed some of the parallels, but when you put it like that it’s really striking. See also the proactive vs reactive or maybe introvert vs extrovert angle, or whatever we want to call that difference in personality.

        2. > Unlike Victoria, who couldn’t remember anything about Amy’s horror and remorse, Byron knew of every moment of it.

          Looks like now we know what sort of critical facts Victoria is about to remember now that encounter with Engel seems to have weakened her memory block. By the way, if I remember correctly Amy made it so that Victoria simply couldn’t memorize anything from those three days Victoria spent in Amy’s “care”, and Victoria could clearly remember the exact moment when the block was removed and everything afterwards. If now Victoria remembers something more than that, it seems more likely to me that Amy did not fabricate any false memories, as Victoria seems to think, but that she is getting those memories from a place different than her own brain, which was supposed to be unable to remember anything between two very specific moments when Amy set up and removed the block, while having no particular problem remembering anything that happened before or after.

          And we all should know just what (other than her own brain) stores Victoria’s memories. Looks like Engel’s power may affect parahuman-passenger connection somehow… Could it be a chance for C53s to regain their lost memories? If this is the case, why hasn’t it happened to at least some of them yet? It is not like at least some C53s haven’t been exposed to Engel’s power. Maybe it has something to do with some difference between what Amy did to Victoria’s memory, and the method of sealing memories used by the Cauldron (presumably Slug’s power)? Or maybe the key element was something more subtle, like Victoria’s emotional state when she met Engel?

          1. Or perhaps Engel’s power does make C53s shards slowly put blocked memories back into their passenger’s head, and Egg simply kept quiet about it, while Sveta has not realized, or at least hasn’t been sure about it to announce that she’s been getting more memories back than her past dreams gave her. Perhaps Sveta did remember those scenes from her past as Nayet just as clearly as they were described in her interlude?

          2. Another observation. If Victoria remembers everything from the period when her memories were blocked, I suspect that her opinion on the Undersiders, especially Tattletale and Skitter will change dramatically, because those two tried to convince Amy to put Victoria back together as soon as possible, fearing the scenario that actually ended up happening, and ended up relenting only because dealing with Slaughterhouse Nine was a more pressing concern.

          3. And probably the most important question – if Victoria remembers what Tattletale and Taylor tried to do for her (or that it was Tattletale who sent Brandish their way three days later, if she wasn’t told about that detail yet), will Tattletale power let her realize the danger soon enough to successfully run and hide, or will Victoria’s mover power prevail, and poor Lisa will get her long overdue hug?

          4. Oh, and before you tell me “Of course Tattletale’s more mature shard will triumph in this conflict”, remember that Victoria may decide not to fight a fair one-on-one duel, and team up against Tattletale with Sveta.

          5. …and Kenzie. She will obviously also both need and want to be a part of this operation.

          6. @Alfaryn I suspect there’s a whole lot of people who’d be happy to help Victoria, too. Lisa doesn’t stand a chance

          7. I wonder is if their shards would be happy to get the data from this sort of “conflict”.

          8. I also don’t think that either Aisha or Ashley would help either side. I imagine they would be too busy cackling…

    3. Yes on all counts.

      Re: Shin blokes, I seem to remember Goddess being super-wary of the inhabitants. She may have used her abilities far too thoughtlessly and selfishly, but…it didn’t seem like she /meant/ to be a bad person. Ruling over a world of people used to conflict probably wasn’t as easy as it seems from the outside.

      If they’re technologically advanced but have suffered three semi-apocalypses in the past 100-200 years…it kind of sounds like they have advancement tech, but their civilization machinery, their civil institutions, might be a bit fragmented and lacking. Capable in science, but lacking the economy to organize mass production of things or unite multiple high-tech technologies in a single product, speculatively speaking. Which kind of sounds like a nation of Tinkers, now that I’ve said it.

  5. I think a vacation to picturesque Earth Shin is just what Victoria needs. I hear it’s lovely this time of year.
    Okay, not really. It’ll definitely be interesting though.

    Glad to see Carol hasn’t been turned into a hydra at least…

  6. So I was expecting Option 1-Amy is doing things every bit as badly as Victoria and the people who hate Amy are dreading. Or Option 2- Amy is actually doing a amazing job and Victoria is going to have to deal with dealing with that. Wildbow goes with Option 3- which seems to be Earth Shin is got them under a proverbial guillotine. Which incidently is a great cape name if you’ve got the right power and look for it.

      1. Together, sure. Individually, though… If Lisa had become a hero instead of a villain, I could see her calling herself Proverbial, and a villainous Rain could easily be Guillotine.

    1. I find it unlikely WB would ever Amy just as evil as Vic believes she is. Much too easy, and he only does stuff like that with villains like Jack who can be tricksy in other ways. Amy is trying her best same as she’s always done. Sometimes her best just isn’t that great.

  7. 1. An entirely new landmass in the middle of Atlantic on a world that presumably diverged recently enough to have humans on it? There’s got an interesting story behind this.

    2.

    Those shots would boost their immune systems and help them endure any disease or communicable illnesses, but they’d also kick any allergies into overdrive. It was like a horse kicking you in the arm and giving you a light cold, at a minimum.

    Still, it was better than dying.

    Looks like those shots are not an option for people who have a tendency towards potentially life-threatening allergic symptoms, like asthma for example. Good to see that at least the filtered air option is available as a backup solution. As someone who went through a couple of such serious asthma attacks, I really appreciate this touch.

    1. 3. I wonder if Victoria’s returning memories will reveal something critical during her interactions with Amy and Carol.

    2. Thinking out loud here.

      You know, I can’t help but wonder that the “shots” are more nefarious than they seem. MM’s closing remark is indicative enough that fecal matter is minutes from hitting the proverbial fan. Our cast just so happens to have conveniently underwent a intravenous procedure, and given Earth Shin’s history with off-world visitors, it wouldn’t be a stretch if these immune system boosters are not what they were advertised as. Whether they are ticking time bombs, or just a precaution, the reaction that Amelia gave to Vicky is very reminiscent, IMO, of the meeting between Breakthrough and Goddess – almost as if Amy knows that something is up, but is powerless to help.

      The only question is whether Amy and co. were also subjected to it. Vicky sounds pretty certain that Chris’s group is anything but in control, which implies that Earth Shin has some leverage against them. The only (admittedly strong) evidence against this is that Amy and Chris happens to be biology warping parahumans. If anyone was to counter bio-warfare, it’s Panacea. In the worst-case scenario, if they were somehow coerced into fighting Gimel on behalf of Shin, then the situation is more dire than our heroes are led to believe.

      After all, after the unexpected but welcomed ending to the Sveta / Orchard business, we’re due for some good old fashioned horror.

    3. 4. Isn’t it funny that after being scolded by Victoria for initiating a hug in previous arc, Kenzie found a way around that rule by asking Byron for a hug instead of something like a monetary compensation for giving the twins her “dimension camera”? Do we need to worry that she will start doing it over and over again to a point where her addiction to close human contact will ruin her financially?

      1. Actually, that’s still a violation of her rules since Byron is a friend (though I don’t know if Victoria is aware of the full extent of the rules). Here’s the bit from when Victoria offered a hug in 7.x:

        “Can I give you a hug, or-”

        More than anything, Kenzie wanted one, even a one-armed hug.

        But Victoria was a friend and the rules were that she didn’t hug friends. That threatened to cross boundaries.

        “No,” Kenzie said. And she wished with all her might that Victoria would hug her anyway, because that wouldn’t break the rules if Kenzie wasn’t the one doing it. It would make things feel so much better.

        There was no hug. Victoria listened when she said no.

        Kenzie’s rules suck, and I don’t blame her for falling off the wagon.

        1. It doesn’t break rules if her friends are the ones initiating.

          …yes, okay, asking for a hug probably still goes against her rules, given how easily Kenzie can run it into the ground.

    4. 1. Is this the first example we’ve seen of this? Did Brockton Bay exist on Aleph? I’m not sure… I wouldn’t be surprised by a retcon of some sort…

      1. Brockton Bay has clearly been around for much longer than since the point of divergence between Bet and Aleph, so it must exist on both Earths.

    5. @1 – Note the temperature.

      Gimel is supposed to be having a bad winter, yet Shin is dramatically colder. They’re probably mid-Ice Age, at or beyond our Glacial Maximum.

      This “Spine” slash “Allegheny Ridge” thing is just what happens when the water recedes from the Azores et al. I’d guess there’s a larger mass around the Aleph/Bet/Gimel archipelago, with island chains extending north and south from there. An ice age is probably the only point of divergence that could achieve that geographic effect without taking place before the evolution of Homo sapiens. Frankly, an ice age might be the only way that doesn’t predate the entire Homo genus.

      That assumes though that Wilbo is sticking with the hard science here and takes the butterfly effect’s implications at face value. If not, then anything’s possible, I suppose. But I think that’s the way of it.

      The other “hard” option is that humans developed civilization and it survived a meteoric/cometary impact that dramatically altered the climate and maybe even geography. Seems less likely, that.

      Interesting aspect, though: Given a timeline divergence that could be in or near 6 figures in the past, Shin humans could very easily not be Homo sapiens at all. They could be as different from baseline Bet humans as were Neanderthals or Denisovans. If the author is erring on the early side for the timeline split, they may even be Hominidae but not Homo – different enough that reproductive issues might be a factor.

      This is neat!

      1. Good idea about Ice Age on Shin, and I think I can even provide a theory which could explain how one could start there in a a very recent past. It was suggested that the planet suffered two near-extinction events before Gold Morning in recorded history – so probably no more than just a few thousand years ago. What if at least one of them was something like a mayor volcanic eruption or meteor impact which ended up with a release of enough particulate matter into the atmosphere to block enough sunlight to cause a few cold years? Could such event affect ocean currents enough for the situation to turn into a lasting Ice Age?

        Gimel’s extreme temperatures are a bit more of a problem for me to explain. My first reaction when I read about those was “Does this planet have a different axial tilt?” The thing is, Earth’s nutation is a very stable, predictable process, so if something like a collision or near collision of Gimel with another celestial object was to disrupt the enough to result in a noticeably different tilt, it would have to either happen a very long time ago, or be very big collision. Neither explanation seems very likely to me because while Gimel did not have any major native human population (or possibly no native humans at all, can’t remember which one was the case) it does have an otherwise familiar biosphere, which seems to indicate that the point of divergence was probably somewhere between a few tens of thousands and a few tens of millions of years ago (and my gut feeling is that a minor disruption of nutation that long ago wouldn’t result in a major difference in axial tilt), while a major collision would be an extinction event which would probably change Gimel’s biosphere enough to make it very unfamiliar to settlers form Bet.

        On top of it as far as I remember no difference in axial tilts between Bet and Gimel was ever mentioned in Ward, and I think that four years of presence of people from Bet on Gimel would be more than enough time for people to notice (astronomers and similar specialists from Bet would probably need no more than a single night) and inform the public, after which point people would keep mentioning it whenever they needed something to blame for too cold or too hot weather.

        So it is probably something different. Perhaps it is a difference in ocean currents again – this time resulting in differences in humility across the globe, which in could lead to reduced heat capacity of Gimel’s North American continent resulting in higher yearly temperature amplitudes there? Or maybe it is a change in wind patterns around East Coast of Gimel’s North America (which could still be an indirect result of changes in oceanic currents) which means that the general area of Megalopolis gets less air from the Atlantic, and more air from the continent compared to its Bet counterpart, with similar results? Could such factors result in a climate differences as big as we observe between Gimel and Bet?

        1. How big of a difference is there? I wasn’t paying much attention to it since I hadn’t had the impression that it was anything more than people being more sensitive to natural climate variation due to the lack of amenities. A New England winter can be harsh anyway, but factor in a lack of plows, poorly laid out roads, shoddy construction, less availability of heating, and millions of immigrants used to milder climates… But maybe I’ve missed some details and was wrong to assume they were just being whiny.

          If there is a real difference beyond normal weather variation, it’s worth considering the possibility that the issue lies not with Gimel but Bet. After all, Bet endured thirty years of capes and twenty years of Endbringers. Leviathan in particular might have altered Bet’s ocean currents enough to make lasting climate changes — changes Victoria would have grown up with and considered normal.

          On the other hand, something caused Gimel’s humans to not thrive, and we’ve yet to see any direct evidence of Dire Whales. Perhaps it was a climate difference after all. A harsher ice age that wiped out too many humans, or maybe a gentler one that didn’t challenge them enough.

          1. Here’s something interesting about Gimel from chapter 21.5 of Worm:

            Fresh water, lumber.  Geological surveys suggest there’s mining, and that’s all in close proximity to the portal.  Plant, animal and insect life seem to have evolved in rough parallel to our own.  Worldwide, there’s few signs of pre-existing human civilization, and no human life that we’ve been able to detect.  The deviation point seems to be nearly five thousand years ago.  Several teams are working on analyzing the sites where humans settled, looking for the cause of extinction.

            Maybe the apparent climate differences (assuming they are real, and not just a product of people’s perceptions – I’m still looking for a proof one way or another in the text) are tied to whatever extinction event wiped out human life on Gimel? Either way I think that we should keep an unexplained extinction event at the backs of our minds when considering possible threats to the city, or people on the planet in general. The deviation point merely five thousand years ago seems to pretty much nix the axial tilt as a possible explanation of any climate differences unless powers were involved somehow (and that would probably mean that either another Entity visited Gimel thousands of years ago, or some power messed with flow of time on that planet on scale far greater than any time-based powers seen to date seemed to be able to do), as any collision capable of significantly shifting axial tilt over such short span of time probably wouldn’t just kill humanity, but devastate the ecosystem beyond recognition, and undoubtedly leave a lot of other easily identifiable evidence all over the planet. A near-collision with some object from outside of the solar system massive enough to change axial tilt could be a bit more difficult to identify, but probably still possible.

            Other possible explanations of climate changes related to Gimel’s motion could be outright change of its axis of rotation, eccentricity of its orbit, parameters of orbit of its Moon, or possibly even Sun’s luminosity and/or mass, but they are problematic for reasons similar to the one about axial tilt – any astronomer would have immediately noticed, and by now everyone would know and mention it at least from time to time.

          2. I was thinking no global warming due to diverging technologies and less people. Global warming started during the industrial revolution, so thats a reasonable amount of divergence. Speaking of industrial revolution, maybe some sort of mini ice age, like what happened in the 19th century? Cold enough to freeze the Thames which literally never happens, but a blip that only lasted a few years.

          3. I would agree with this explanation of the problem was only that winters in Megalopolis appear to be surprisingly long and cold. The problem is that summers there seem to be suspiciously hot too.

        2. I always figured the climate differences were because Gimel, with no native human life, hasn’t had about two centuries’ worth of greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere, so they were going from a world with global warming with one without global warming.

          I would be interested in finding out if there’s American Cheetahs on Gimel, though.

          1. I personally hope that the we get to visit that parahuman asylum in Gimel’s Europe that was mentioned a few times, and see aurochs in that general area.

          2. And Irish Elk, the giant relative of today’s Red Deer, with massive antlers. Nearly seven feet tall (6’9″, or 2.1m) with a twelve foot rack (3.65m). Honestly, I’d rather see one of those than an auroch, which is simply a very large cow.

          3. Unfortunately there is probably no chance for either American Cheetahs and Irish Elks. From chapter 21.5 of Worm we know that the point of divergence between Bet and Gimel was “nearly five thousand years ago”, when those animals were probably already extinct (at least on our Earth). Aurochs on the other hand survived until early 17th century…

          4. Well, at least I can console myself with the knowledge there’s dodos on Gimel. And marsupial lions, and Falkland wolves, moa, and maybe even elephant birds.

          5. Global warming isn’t quite that significant. We’ve “only” increased the average temperature by about one degree Celsius. That is a massive thing when you think about the scale of a planet, but in terms of differences we can actually feel? It’s insignificant. That one degree gets lost in the noise; you only see it when you do statistics to a big swath of temperature readings, weather events, etc.

            That isn’t to say that global warming isn’t a big deal. It’s obviously a deal of planet-sized bigness. But people do tend to exaggerate. Global warming is a horror story, but it’s the slow and inexorable sort of horror, not a thrilling tale of the end of the world. It’s also the sort of horror story where most of the protagonists survive and get to feel guilty about their role in the deaths of those who didn’t.

          6. We’ve increased it by 1 degree since records began. Records began after the Industrial Revolution; before then, there wasn’t the skill or technology to measure it, and if there was, there wasn’t the desire to keep a record.

            But yeah, it likely isn’t as significant as I thought. Still might be a mini-ice age or even a continuation of one- our Earth is simply in an interglacial period, after all.

          7. @Earl of Purple

            Unfortunately there is no 100% guarantee that any of the species we mentioned are alive on Gimel. Remember that it went through some sort of extinction event that wiped out entire humanity at some point at early civilization stage. Until we know about the exact nature of that event, the only way to be certain that a particular species is alive on that planet is to actually observe it in nature.

            @Pizzasgood

            While I’m still looking for something definitive in the text that would tell us if climate of Megalopolis is objectively more harsh than its counterparts on Bet bet were, I’ve already run into two quotes which suggest that at least some of it may be Victoria’s subjective impression caused by the fact that Brockton Bay supposedly had a relatively mild microclimate.

            From chapter 2.4:

            “Brockton Bay was always nice, weather-wise.  It didn’t have a lot going for it, but it did have mild weather.  Once upon a time.”

            From chapter 3.1:

            Brockton Bay had been a port, growing as the industry did.  A lot of what made it work as a fledgling port city made New Brockton work as one of our first footholds in Earth Gimel.  Lumber, quarrying, some surface level minerals, and geography protected from the harshest sweeps of cold weather from the north.

            While we are on topic of microclimates, we may also have forgotten another important factor – dense cities full of concrete and asphalt generally have much worse heat retention than lush countrysides. A city with over 50 million inhabitants would probably both have quite a bit higher average temperatures, and higher temperature amplitudes than the same area would if it was covered by forests for example.

          8. Surprisingly, the industrial revolution was only a small factor (makes sense in hindsight, given the far lower population). For context, historic carbon dioxide levels for the last 800,000 years oscillated with a period of around 100,000 years. The troughs have been from 180 ppm to 200 ppm, with the peaks usually between 240 ppm and 280 ppm (three cycles ago it hit 300 ppm, but the other three of the last four cycles all peaked at 280 ppm). We were at another normal peak of 280 ppm when the industrial revolution kicked off, but we only gained about 20 ppm during that time. Since 1900 we’ve gained another 110 ppm, putting the current value at 410 ppm. So only 15% of the 130 ppm excess we’re experiencing was produced in the industrial revolution.

            It would be convenient to blame our ancestors for this mess, but the bulk of the problem came from people still alive today.

          9. @Earl of Purple

            Here’s an extinct animal species which may interest you. According to two articles I’ve found on Wikipedia an isolated population of wooly mammoths might have lived until somewhere from 2000 BC to 1650 BC on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean, so they may have been around at the moment of Gimel’s divergence, and while the main reason for their extinction was climate change, the presence of human hunters no the island is suspected to also be a factor.

            Depending on what caused humans to go extinct on Gimel, maybe there is a chance that there are mammoths still alive on that Earth?

        3. Guys. People. Mortals.

          Some years are just colder. I’m pretty sure it’s just a cold winter on Gimel?

          Year on year temperatures vary. It does happen. It’s normal, even.

          That said, large developed cities generate and “hold” heat, simply by virtue of having lots of humans and engines and devices in them, while tall buildings cut down on wind. That might imply city-dwellers from Bet are finding the new, incomplete city colder….mayyybe. It *does* imply Shin’s climate is even colder than Victoria realizes.

          Anthropomorphic climate change could be a factor, but doesn’t explain the dramatic difference. Bet wasn’t ahead of our world, and in our world the shift has been a lot smaller than the disparity the text suggests. Gimel may be net cooler, but it’s doubtful that people would notice if they had proper heating and shelter, unless it was an especially cold year.

          1. We are fully aware that four years of spotty historical records aren’t exactly enough to tell anything about Gimel’s climate for sure. It is actually one of the reasons why I’m looking for more evidence in the text – not only to prove or disprove that the last couple of winters on Gimel were very cold, and summers were very hot, and it is not just Victoria’s perception caused by the fact that she lived most of her life in Brockton Bay which was supposed to have a mild microclimate, but also to see if there is anything that suggests that Bet’s (or now Gimel’s) scientists have came to any conclusions on the topic, and what they based those conclusions on.

            Another thing I want to try to figure out is when the first snowfall of the upcoming winter fell in Megalopolis, and compare it to our world’s historical data. If for example it turns out that it happened a month earlier than it does on at least 95% of years in corresponding area of US East Coast, then we will be able to say that this “climate difference” hypothesis may be based on facts.

          2. Looks like the climate difference between Gimel and Bet may be real!

            Tattletale’s interlude took place in either September or October. We know it from Aiden’s count of months since his birthday:

            “You forgot my birthday.”

            “Four month belated birthday.”

            “Isn’t it six months?” He started counting on his fingers. “September, August…”

            She pulled her hand back away from the handle at the back of, the truck, moving it in fits and starts as he went from August to July, July to June…

            He stopped, looking up at her with the mask in one hand. She smiled down at him.

            “Four months, yeah,” he said.

            Timeline page of the Worm wiki suggests it was early to middle October (based on the fact that it states that conflict on Bet’s Africa in “Early October”, and Wardens return from there on the night when Tattletale’s interlude starts).

            At the same time at the end of Tattletale’s interlude – just one night after Wardens returned, we see Sherwood Span, where the villains had their meeting, covered in snow. Assuming that Sherwood Span a part of Megalopolis, and lies on Gimel (and its name seems to support this assumption) it looks like the winter did indeed start earlier than when we could expect it to happen in the counterpart area of pre-GM Bet, doesn’t it?

          3. That was intended 2/3 in jest. We go to an extra-cold Earth, and suddenly much analysis of the climate of the planet they just left. Seemed amusing.

            I hope it did not offend.

          4. Of course you did not offended. Not me at least. It is just that while that comment was obviously mostly a joke, it also presented a valid argument. It just seems that I’m nerdy enough to attempt to use elements of scientific method to analyze things like climates of fictional worlds, and that obviously includes questioning previously made assumptions – like the one that Gimel’s climate is different from Bet’s.

            I actuality appreciate which show these sorts of problems with my logic, all I wanted to say by “We are fully aware that four years of spotty historical records aren’t exactly enough to tell anything about Gimel’s climate for sure.” was just that based on everyone’s contributions to the discussion so far, I didn’t believe that anyone here missed the fact that we were trying to figure out possible reasons behind Gimel’s harsh climate without demonstrating that the weather we saw in Warm was in any way unusual (something I believe I’ve shown with those bits of text I pulled from Tattletale’s interlude), or that the difference is big enough to prove that we are dealing with a different climate here, and not just a random, short-term deviation from climate we know from our Earth, which I assume (another unproven assumption by the way!) to be almost identical to the climate of pre-GM Bet.

            Of course I still don’t think we have shown that Gimel’s climate is actually significantly different from ours or Bet’s, though I think that by now we have enough evidence to say that it seems likely.

            I could also point out that we haven’t proven that everyone who took part in this discussion realized just how much we have built based on insufficiently verified assumptions here. But I’m not going to. Considering how well thought out everyone’s comments on this topic have been so far, I’m going to take this one on faith.

      2. > Gimel is supposed to be having a bad winter, yet Shin is dramatically colder.
        > They’re probably mid-Ice Age, at or beyond our Glacial Maximum.
        There is such thing as Continental climate – very cold winters and hot summers, for example in Siberia and Mongolia on our Earth. -55 ‘C happens where people lives, -40 ‘C happens in Moscow.

        1. They aren’t in Siberia or Mongolia. They’re in Shin’s equivalent to the greater New York metropolitan area.

          Shin has what sure appear to be native humans, so its past was identical to our history sometime in the last million years, so the region simply can’t be comparable to Siberia and Mongolia. The Appalachians and Atlantic are still right there. Could be quite different from our New York if there’s an ice age on, but not to that extent.

          1. > They aren’t in Siberia or Mongolia. They’re in Shin’s equivalent to the greater New York metropolitan area.

            I know that we probably haven’t seen any Labyrinth-Scrub portal that doesn’t connect a spot on one Earth to its exact counterpart on another Earth as far as geographical coordinates are concerned, or that Khepri probably had no reason to use these two capes to make any portals that don’t, but is there an actual evidence that a portal connecting for example Asia on one Earth to America on another can’t be made using this method?

          2. It was stated that the places connected by this method can only be exact counterparts, when Khepri started using Labyrinth/Scrub instead of Doormaker. Don’t have time to search for quotes though.

          3. > They aren’t in Siberia or Mongolia. They’re in Shin’s equivalent to the greater New York metropolitan area.
            1) As far as I see – it was not stated, as well as that they are near ocean or sea.
            2) Earth Shin have “Alleghenian Ridge” which is “Landmass cutting diagonally through their Atlantic Ocean”, while Allegheny Mountains on our Earth is inside North America continent (if I took reference right). So it is possible, that Shin’s counter part of New York is deep inside some continent and near/on big mountain range.

          4. @Alfaryn @OverQuantum

            In addition to the text telling us so in Speck, we learned in the Echidna arc that Scrub’s power is teleporting globes of space between identical points in parallel Earths. The power tried not to teleport *in* chunks of objects, but it was pulling air and pavement from the precisely same spot in other dimensions.

            It’s New York.

            Shin’s New York almost certainly is distant from the coast… to some degree. Hard to expose the Midatlantic ridge otherwise. But we have no evidence to suggest it is thousands of miles from unfrozen water yet.

          5. This is actually an interesting information with certain implications beyond the obvious limitation of Labyrinth-Scrub method. For example – how do the Teacher’s portals work exactly? On one hand they seem to not be restricted to linking two points with the same geographical coordinates on two Earths, like Labyrinth and Scrub’s do, but on the other hand the portal Teacher’s group used to go to Chiet appeared to have an actual volume, unlike apparently two-dimensional Doormaker’s doors. At least that is what happend to Overseer when she was going through seems to suggest.

            Just how do Teacher’s portals work? Do all of them work the same way? Are they based on scans of other powers, and if so – which ones? Doormaker’s? Labyrinth’s and Scrub’s? Professor Haywire’s? Some other powers with similar effects? And how do Kenzie’s portals compare to Teacher’s? Between the fact that Kenzie made her first attempts to create teleporters before she got her hands on Teacher’s tech and the fact that as a general rule no two tinkers solve the same problem in exactly the same way, I would expect that there could be some interesting differences…

          6. @ Admiral Matt says:
            > Scrub’s power is teleporting globes of space between identical points in parallel Earths
            Were it was stated, that this portal is Scrub’s work?

          7. New York city is at 40.7 degrees N latitude. The southern most point of Mongolia is at around 41 degrees N latitude. It’s not implausible that a New York very far from the ocean could have a similar climate, especially considering that a mid Atlantic landmass would likely disrupt the ocean currents, specifically the gulf stream which I think makes New York warmer than it would otherwise be (especially in summer). There might be a similar western boundary current in whatever ocean(s) replace the Atlantic but it could be possible to see an alternate current set up in which costal New York is more heavily influenced by currents driven by ice melt off of Greenland instead of tropical water from the Gulf of Mexico. All this is isn’t accounting for the influence of an ice age. I seem to recall hearing that New York was under a mile of ice in the last ice age on our earth…

      3. Other thoughts (others have touched on this one): Nuclear winter.

        Shin America was colonized by refugees from Europe via the Spine, so the sea level was already low enough then. But if they’re extremely risk averse now, and they’ve had two catastrophic die-offs since technological civilization arose, nuclear weapons and/or kinetic weapons (dropped from space) are liable to be responsible for one of them.

        Another is climate control. A civilization that arose mid-glacial maximum finds the ice age is ending. If it happens, crops will fail en masse globally, and plausibly a majority of humanity would perish. If they try to reverse or control a climate shift that big, they might cause that crop failure in the other direction.

        But given how flighty they are about warfare, it likely caused one or both of those events.

        1. Perhaps Shin simply turns down the local temperature any time they’re having visitors as a means of slowing contagions and encouraging their guests to go home promptly.

          1. Bahaha.

            Well, MM said they avoided wars and aggression. Not a word about not being passive aggressive.

    6. 1. An entirely new landmass in the middle of Atlantic on a world that presumably diverged recently enough to have humans on it? There’s got an interesting story behind this.

      Sounds more like wonky plate tectonics. I wouldn’t be surprised if their Pacific Ocean was a little larger than Aleph’s or Bet’s.

      The Earth’s crust isn’t all one solid piece, it’s a bunch of “cracked eggshell” chunks (tectonic plates) floating on the much thicker magma layer (called the mantle). These plates pressing and grinding against each other, or moving apart here and there, are how you get stuff like mountain ranges, volcanic action, or continents drifting apart.

      There’s a major “well” in the Atlantic Ocean (the mid-Atlantic Ridge) where magma comes up from the mantle, which causes the seabed to creep outward. The Mariana Trench in the Pacific is where it folds back under and is subsumed back into the mantle. This is the cause behind continental drift.

      If Shin has a landmass along the mid-Atlantic Ridge, then something especially screwy must be going on with their plate tectonics. Their continents probably look a bit different from Aleph’s and Bet’s, and if the mantle is coming out THAT fast it might imply a whole lot more geological activity. Which, yeah, near-extinction events.

      Humans IRL already had a few near-extinction events and genetic bottlenecks (IIRC, the number was supposed to be three), and there are certain interesting consequences because of that. Most of our languages and cultural development can be traced back to these chokepoints, with the exception of a very few isolated cases, and our genetic diversity is a whole lot lower than most animals.

      Earth Shin having more near-extinction events than that would have very interesting consequences on its development as a result. They probably didn’t have enough bottlenecks to hit “cancer is contagious” levels of genetic similarity, but certain genetic traits that are rarer in Bet/Aleph might be more common there, or vice versa. Their culture and language as well, but that goes without saying.

      1. Sounds more like wonky plate tectonics. I wouldn’t be surprised if their Pacific Ocean was a little larger than Aleph’s or Bet’s.

        Sorry, meant the other way around.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if their Pacific was a little SMALLER, not larger.

      2. While I don’t disagree with the general idea, I’m not sure if such difference could be explained by “butterflies” messing with plate tectonics alone it time since the earliest possible moment of divergence. Remember that there are native humans on Shin. This means that the divergence couldn’t have occurred more than a couple hundred thousand years ago.

        1. I’d imagine that’s why their Atlantic Ridge is a ridge, and not a full-blown continent. At some point during normal human development, something started exerting unusual pressure on their planet, or screwing with the normal magma tides, or something along those lines.

          Destabilized moon orbit, for instance. Maybe the divergence actually happened right from the beginning, but it’s something innocuous like the moon is just a bit (relatively speaking – moon is big) ahead or behind where it would be normally. Everything progresses more or less identically to how it did for real, because this isn’t something life on Earth is going to feel if the difference is just positioning. Maybe the *slightly* delayed tidal action prematurely wiped out one species at a critical moment, but that might be the extent of it.

          Sometime after life hit a recognizable point for us (dinosaurs dead, a certain category of bipedal ape starts getting ambitious, etc), a really big asteroid that normally would’ve been a near miss ends up hitting the moon instead, and now it’s just a little wobblier than normal, putting unusual pressure on Earth’s plates. The bipedal apes hadn’t figured out writing yet, so the event goes unrecorded. Nothing of note happens at first.

          Tens of thousands of years later, what would’ve been an already deadly hurricane gets upgraded to a massive deathstorm that wanders halfway into Russia before losing steam, kneecapping China and India long before they can get off the ground. Sometime after that, the Santorini eruption happens, and it’s a whole lot bigger than it should’ve been. Half the planet is blanketed in the natural equivalent of a nuclear winter, agriculture collapses, and civilization regresses back to hunting and gathering for a while.

          I mean, I’m just spitballing, here. It’s just that the main hint to what happened is “the Atlantic ocean has a landmass that shouldn’t normally be there,” and the list of things which can cause that is awfully small.

          1. The list of things that can cause that *quickly* is even smaller, and that list pretty much kills almost all life on the planet. Tectonics is extremely unlikely because it’s either too slow, or it would have eliminated most multicellular life.

            In my opinion, an ice age is a less problematic solution. Ice ages can and do just happen, would reveal parts of the mid-Atlantic ridge if severe enough, and hominids have survived loads of them.

  8. MM is back, with a disconcertingly incomplete pre-action briefing. “Oh yeah, they want to kill all capes now.”

    1. She’s working with the information she has. Problem is, that information is getting obsolete fast. She didn’t know it was obsolete, either, so the pre-action briefing shouldn’t have been incomplete.

  9. Hey, guys, remember me talking about my fanfic a while back? Nobody answered! So I’m gonna try again here. Please assist me with my fanfic on Reddit. If you want info, just ask.

        1. If you mean, what does it cover, it’s about several teams and such, but a group of my main characters is a hero team, the Benefactors, a group of heroes with powers that all benefit other capes. It’s post Gold-Morning, more will be explained later, but 2 Words as a minor spoiler for talking with me: Manmade. Entity. For contributing, want a cameo character?

          1. Oops, i did in fact mean what does it cover, sorry about ‘that’ particular typo. And cameo character sounds cool. (requesting that he speaks all four languages of the UK. Now iI just need to try and get my Reddit sorted.

          2. So… All four languages of the UK. That’s English, Welsh, Scots Gaelic and Irish, I think. There’s more than those four here, though. Cornish is undergoing a revival recently, though I think it was extinct for a bit. And there’s Polari, a street language most recently used by the gay community when homosexuality was outlawed so they could arrange meet ups and events without being arrested.

            And there’s Manx, spoken on the Isle of Man (which is a dependency, not actually part of the UK) and several languages descended from old Norman French spoken on the Channel Islands, which are also dependencies.

          3. I’ll try, man. Ok? I already posted my reddit. Check it out! Also, you can pick to be Parahuman or non Parahuman, and pick your power and rating, as long as it’s 5 or lower: no Contessa tiers! This is a fairly contained story, and nobody wants an army of thinker 10’s and such. There will be “strong” Parahumans, but nothing too strong. Also, when you’re talking about Entities, you have literally no choice but to keep the story contained, otherwise it becomes dull.

  10. I love Shin’s architecture. It’s really cool, castles in skyscrapers. Wonder if that’s something Goddess instituted, or just took advantage of. Either way, I wish I lived in a castle skyscraper. Or better yet, worked at one. A few gargoyles would really improve most buildings, I think. Pity they’re out of fashion.

    1. I think maybe it’s a result of having modern-level technology during their equivalent of the Middle Ages.

      They had a lot more time to perfect making their buildings awesome, and they were doing it during vaguely similar “fall of civilization” feudal times following one of their apocalypses.

  11. It’s a trap! I’m also really excited to see how the development of this new world went compared to ours.

  12. Assuming that capes from Shin still don’t know about character assassination attacks Teacher pulled off, what do you think are the chances that someone “helpful” gave Brandish, Flashbang, Panacea and Marquis a “leaked” copy of “Victoria’s” diary?

    1. Ding ding ding.

      Plus all details on S9 recruiting Amy, mutilating Victoria with memory modding as her first act. Never leaving as she worked with Bonesaw regularly after release from the birdcage. Mom and Dad evidence of ongoing abuse

      Mom has almost certainly under Amy’s compulsion since prior to the BBQ

      1. Nah, I doubt that Amy messed with Carol’s brain, given what happened the last time she touched someone’s brain. Carol’s just a really shit mother, that’s all. Carol and Amy are both broken people trying their best to help without really knowing how to. In Amy’s case, it’s about giving Victoria some space (which, tbf, she did for two years until Carol ambushed them both) and for Carol it’s being a mother to more than one child at once.

        1. I was posting as a Teacher misinformant, but ive convinced myself its true to some degree after listening to the recent podcast chapters. Carol specifically mentions Amy could have a positive effect by removing a drug addicts need. Carol still has ‘entrapment’ issues with her power, Vicky doesnt love her any more, and Marquis is all about family.

          I can hear Amy suggesting “I cant help Victoria, but I could help you forget your fear Mom”.

          Amy was pretty vindictive to Skitter and co in Worm. I can totally buy her being a willing Teacher and Labrat puppet, and we know removing and modifying memories is in her skillset

          1. Amy was vindictive because she was in horrible situations whenever she interacted, but based on her personality, I really doubt that she would willingly become a puppet for Teacher.

            I still think that her attempt to touch Victoria in arc 9 was an attempt to remove Goddess’s influence, so I can see her slowly getting comfortable with changing brains for the better, but not doing so for her own power or convenience.

          2. What insight into her personality have we had since her exit from the Birdcage?

            As devils advocate.

            She gained insight, power and manipulation during her incarceration, ruthlessness tempered only by Marquis ‘honour’. Bitter with Carol after learning how her father was captured and understanding her mothers true resentment growing up, decides that isolating Victoria and her mother will send her love running back into her arms with no other choice.

            After accepting Teachers deal she is unlucky to be ensnared by goddess (Khepri got her), and is only saved from her influence through Labrats efforts owes him a debt and is thus Chris’ and Teachers willing pawn, possibly being masterfully used by Marquis

          3. Carl, do you mean that unbeknownst to Marquis, Amy become Teacher’s student back in the Birdcage? It would explain how she was able to put Victoria back together once she got out, why Teacher proposed Lung to become his student (to have an inside man who could sneak Amy out of her cell block to be “teachered just a little bit” without Marquis’ knowledge), and why Teacher had no problem with Marquis being a go-between who presented Teacher’s proposal to Amy in the epilogue of Worm.

            Just another reason to think that Teacher won the battle for the prison.

          4. It would also explain why back at the end of chapter 10.2 Ashley pointed out that Amy behaved like a subordinate, but didn’t specify that she was Chris’ subordinate. That would be because she was Teacher’s.

            Maybe this is also why we saw Teacher use powers to subjugate Chiet, but not Shin? Because Shin (or at least all capes there) has been under Teacher’s control from the day Amy got there? Maybe it is also the reason why Victoria’s parents did not come back to the city? How difficult would it be for Teacher to secretly master every cape who moved there with Amy, once she was compromised?

          5. I’ve taken a look at Lung’s interlude back in Worm, and noted two things. One is that Lung threatened to kill Teacher if Teacher tried to use his power on him, but at the same time Lung agreed to work with Teacher for a while, so maybe Lung is not Teachr’s thrall after all. The other was this:

            Teacher is working to undermine everything you and your daughter are striving for, Lung thought.

            Would turning Amy into Teacher’s thrall qualify?

          6. Finally, maybe the message Amy had for Dragon back in the Birdcage that never reached Dragon due to Simurgh’s interface was an admission that Amy was about to accept being Teach’s thrall in return for enough control over her power to put Victoria back together? Maybe the fact that this message was misfiled, but still recorded somewhere within Dragon’s systems was what made killing Dragon increase humanity’s chance of surviving Gold Morning? After all if Dragon ended up receiving this message, Amy would probably not be allowed to work in that field hospital during Gold Morning unsupervised, and if that was the case she would most likely be in no position to unleash Khepri?

          7. One more thing – if Teacher boosted Amy’s memory to a point where she could completely restore Victoria’s body, then maybe Amy actually could implant some false memories about events of the day when Brandish found her daughters, just like Victoria suspects.

            Alternatively Teacher might have given a boost not to Amy’s memory, but let her experience with perfect clarity everything any person she touches or even comes close to ever remembered. It would not only explain how Amy could restore Victoria to the exact shape she was before Amy broke her, but also why Amy immediately recognized Chris as Lab Rat despite the fact that theese two people were supposed to have somewhat different DNA, and the fact that Chris thought that Amy should have no way to even come in contact with his tissues before she knew who he was.

          8. A slightly less extreme power Teacher could give to Amy (and as such more plausible if you remember that she doesn’t behave like a mindless thrall, but perhaps as someone under only a very subtle influence – like Saint in Worm) would be just an ability to tell the exact shape of body (and possibly also state of memories memories) of any person just by coming into contact with their DNA. Not only it would allow Amy to restore Victoria’s body to the shape when she was 16, but also potentially remove all memories Victoria has formed up to that point.

            Not to mention that the same ability could let Amy recognize Chris as Lab Rat even if she never had a chance to touch the latter. All Amy would need is for Cryptid to still have enough of Lab Rat’s DNA for this ability hypothetically given to Amy by Teacher to let her see that this DNA could result in Lab Rat’s body.

            Side note – if Ashley submitted herself to Rain-therapy to get a better handle over her power, I wonder if Amy could give her her hands back. Wouldn’t it be ironic if Ashley did not have to depend on Rain-the-tinker, and instead had to depend on his emotions power…

          9. I’ve just re-read the last part of Lung’s interlude, and I have to say, that Lung wasn’t referring to any suggestion by Teacher to turn Amy into his student, but at the same time a lot of what was said there suggests that it would be very convenient for Teacher to master her, because she had information about the entities Teacher didn’t want to reach Dragon, and that Lung would probably not rise an alarm when it happened.

            By the way I suspect that there is a lot of information in that scene which may explain what current Teacher’s goals could be, or why Lung could part ways with Amy an Marqis soon after coming to Shin. As for the latter – Lung realized at the end of his interlude that he always wanted to be accepted by people without having to confirm to their standards, and he got something along those lines from Marquis and Panacea. Lung also promised that Teacher will die when he will no longer be useful to him. It makes me think that if Amy has been mastered by Teacher in Birdcage, and Lung knows about it, he could have two reasons to kill Teacher – because Teacher tried to take his freedom, and because he took Amy’s. If this is the case Lung may be somewhere out there plotting Teacher’s demise.

          10. At the same time since during Lung’s interlude Saint was instructed to censor any messages from Amy to Dragon, so that the latter wouldn’t learn about “power granting entities”, as Teacher called the shards based on Amy’s explanation, perhaps Simurgh did not intercept the message from Amy as we saw in Marquis interlude just to hide if from Dragon, but also to hide it from Saint, and make sure that the first person to find it would be Defiant, as it probably happened in Saint’s interlude.

            Coupled with the fact that in the epilogue of Worm Teacher seemed very upset when Lung destroyed the clone Simurgh was trying to make, I suspect that Ziz may have been be working to undermine Teacher’s plans in some way since mid-Worm, and at the same time probably gave Contessa an idea that cloning capes could be used to bring them back to life.

            Perhaps Contessa actually killed Taylor at the end of Worm, and the person we saw in the epilogue is a clone, and doesn’t even realize it?

    2. By the way if Victoria’s family been kept in the dark about current events surrounding Gimel capes that they would still believe that the diary’s authentic, they will likely be quite surprised once they realize that what they see when they look at Sveta is not Kenzie’s projection over a new prosthetic body.

      1. Re: Amy and false memories, any of your guesses.

        We haven’t had an Amy pov since the birdcage from memory, so I’m mostly trying to upend the general assumption that she isnt a protagonist.

        Amy has the ability to alter memories, and was at the bbq prior to Victoria. Victoria is hinting at breaking through at least some memories. Brandish has had some seriously wtf responses to Victoria. Valkyrie is terrified of something, perhaps it is from her observations in the birdcage?

        She could have been both protagonist, and caught under goddesses sway for a period … [waay ot] rescued by Chris, who must have had at least 1 online persona in contact with Teacher prior to the jailbreak established with Labrat bonafides

        1. How did goddess and Amy meet?

          Did Chris immediately jump ship from Breakthrough to rescue Amy for another entity, that already rescued a power modifying cape

          Everyone is a clone!

  13. Fascinated by the little worldbuilding touches in this chapter. It’s pretty cool to consider the little details of the implications of alternate earths, like the invasive species thing.

  14. Hmm…Where is Dot in all of this? She doesn’t seem to be on Amy’s shoulder….

    Also, Victoria somehow having some significant power in determining on whether or not Amy gets sent to an abandoned world for ever and ever is all kinds of messed up – she absolutely should not be the one making that call.

    I think the major issue, though, with Amy getting more involved is the potential power imbalance Amy has – yes, she’s trying to ‘be better’ and thus not go off all bio-plagues and experimenting and stuff…but the potential is ALWAYS going to be there – and that, if nothing else, means I have trouble foreseeing her and Vicky ever making up – unless she can somehow clearly demonstrate to Vicky that she won’t ‘fall off the wagon’ again.

    1. > Hmm…Where is Dot in all of this? She doesn’t seem to be on Amy’s shoulder….

      Managing the cape enclave during her queen’s absence?

      Seriously though, it is a good question.

        1. Why is Carol leaning on Mark instead of Amy (of not outright sitting on Amy’s shoulder or lap) if that’s the case?

          1. Because she’s Carol now. Sitting on Amy was a Dot thing, not a Carol thing. Carol must do Carol things.

          2. Hmm, unless Amy second-triggered or otherwise managed to un-Manton her power when we went looking, she obviously couldn’t turn herself into Mark. I guess it means that Chris has finally figured out how to make syringes that change people not into something monstrous, but into perfect copies of other people.

      1. Maybe Dot is the person who Amy “did the same thing she did to Victoria”, as Gary suggested?

        1. Whoops, the above comment was supposed to be a direct answer to anon’s, not my first response to it.

          1. Maybe Dot has been sent through a random portal to bring back all the other Nilbogites but quietly so that Amy has a secret army?

  15. See, the funnest part for me was just Marquis and Carol standing next to each other.

    “Ahh, so you’re the one who gave my daughter a emotional trauma for 12 years”
    “Ahh, so you’re the serial killer who introduced my daughter to a life of crime”
    Plus, you know, the general hatred that Carol has for Marquis.

    And Mark sitting in the middle twiddling his thumbs and trying to make pleasent conversation with the daughter he hasn’t seen in a while.

    1. Well, Marquis has proven that he can be, shall we say, polite in an aristocratic way in his interactions with people, while Carol can be what I would describe as professional. Neither seems to be a type unable to control themselves in company of a person they don’t like. What really surprised me is that Carol was leaning on Mark, which, depending on how she was leaning exactly, could indicate that she didn’t just keep her emotions under control, but was actually relaxed. Seems strange not just because of Marquis’ presence, but because of how tense the overall situation seems to be.

      Then perhaps it was just more of a “I need emotional support” than a “I’m just happy to be in your presence” sort of lean.

  16. Considering how much Vista’s power and control over it seems to have progressed since Worm, how much does she even walk anymore? Does she remember to exercise to stay in shape? Is she in danger of developing the sense of detachment from people Victoria associates with flying?

    1. As long as Vista wants to stay badass, she won’t forget leg day.
      I also doubt she’ll ever end up feeling detached from people, since her power is affected by their presence (unlike Victoria’s).

      1. The way I see it, with her current power that lets her get to places like building roofs as quickly as she can do it now, and just stay there for a journey as long as the one we saw in this chapter seemed to be, Vista could potentially become quite detached if she was a very different person. However avoiding contact with people to the point where it could happen seems very out of character for her.

  17. “In terms of maintaining the peace overall, it may have been best,” Miss Militia said. “But people like her have a way of making others make those compromises on their behalf. Be careful.”

    Is this character development? Neat.

    I guess Skitter had more of an impact on her than was immediately obvious.

    1. > I guess Skitter had more of an impact on her than was immediately obvious.

      Is this an intentional reference to a similar thought Aiden had in his interlude?

      1. … did he? If he did, I’d start to suspect Queen Administrator still hasn’t recovered from its personality overwrite post-Scion, because that’s just uncanny.

        1. Well…

          Taylor had only been around for a short while, but she had made an impact too.

          Similar enough?

          1. Well, if you want a really scary thought about Queen Administrator, consider what butterfly effects did with all of those Earths we saw in both Worm and Ward. I also wonder is the Queen is responsible for El Niño.

            On an unrelated, but similarly creepy note, I just got an idea for a crossover fanfiction in which Taylor and/or QA end up having something to do with a certain test given to a pilot called Pirx.

            And some people think that a single fly is not a big deal…

    2. I thought that comment was mostly just a vague aphorism, but now that you mention it…

      1. Well, I think that after what Miss Militia read in Tylor’s letter, she might have reflected on whatshe knew about Taylor’s motives, actions and their results in more depth than most people would, so I think that it’s quite possible that Taylor has indirectly influenced Miss Militia’s world view to some extent…

  18. oh man shins been mama mathers-ified like cheit havent they. RUN BREAKTHROUGH, BEFORE IT HAPPENS TO YOU AS WELL

  19. > I can deal with one needle.”
    > Vista smiled. “This is for Tristan, right?”
    What is the issue Tristan have with needles?

    1. He’s got needle-phobia. Don’t know the exact name of it, but he doesn’t like needles in the same way I don’t like heights. Nothing necessarily caused it, I think, he’d just rather go through life avoiding each and every sharpened metal stick with which he might be poked, prodded or stabbed.

      1. Also, he’s part of Capricorn — every time they need a shot, they get to experience it twice.

  20. And now we have Victoria Dallon in a situation where she has to convince Amy that Vicky was not master manipulator and coercing people to do what she wanted. Which, with Amy having seen how Victoria could be, should make convincing others somewhat difficult.

    And Amy’s reaction to Sveta and how she got her new body should be interesting. I expect a cold fury at Vicky’s hypocrisy on the subject.

    and 10000 to 1 odds are Carol, Mark and Marquis are now a throuple by .. shenangigans

    1. “and 10000 to 1 odds are Carol, Mark and Marquis are now a throuple by .. shenangigans”

      I called it first!

      But I’m not proud…

  21. Cape names are hard! Her power is so ripe for ribald punning.

    I like Syndicate and it bugs me they’ve dismissed it. I have a cultural bias though. How do others here perceive it?

    For me it only has mild negative associations – Hollywood and old PC games, and many more positive associations. I’ve been a member of work social club syndicates, sporting association syndicates and one of my best friends won $50k through membership in a lotto syndicate. I also loved the game Syndicate to, so even my negs are positive.

    How about Gestalt?

      1. Non-issue; Darlene isn’t aiming to be cute. Darlene wants to be a lady. Gestalt doesn’t sound terribly feminine, but it does sound sophisticated. It would work.

        1. There’s a bigger issue with the word.

          If you were a cape teaming up with a semi-familiar cape named Gestalt and she offered to ‘add you to the network’, how inclined would you be to agree? 0.0

          1. ?
            I’m a lot more likely to yes v Hookup given her age.

            That phrase sounds more like social networking to me 😉

    1. Hearing syndicate as a noun makes me think exclusively about crime syndicates. The only positive thoughts I associate with syndicate come from the verb form, and those mainly pertain to newspaper comic strips.

  22. – Amy and Chris looking like prisoners? I don’t think so
    – ooh, Earth Shin tech level is higher than Bet’s non-tinkertech (by far apparently, further still if not for near-extinctions and Gold Morning)

  23. I may be a bit late to the discussion, but after thinking about this chapter for a while, I have a few speculations/predictions/theories.

    1. Amy promised the villains that they’d be in positions of authority on Earth Shin. They’re probably not too happy with how things are actually turning out. I can see Amy getting in trouble for overpromising.

    2. I’m very sure Chris has some kind of plan to turn this situation around in his favour. “Chris seemed most at ease, but he was still tense, muscles on his lanky limbs taut.” Sounds a bit like an ambush predator ready to strike. Maybe his mutant puppet army is ready for a test run.
    It’s possible that the Wardens know (some of) what he’s up to, and don’t want Teacher to know. Miss Militia mentioned that she has been in contact with Shin leadership for months, including some brief meetings with Cryptid, but I noticed that she never gives any details on those meetings, or mentions even once what she thinks of Cryptid.

    3. I may be wrong on this one, but I think Carol still has some brain damage from being wretched. Vicky notices her “leaning on” Mark, which to me suggests that she has some trouble walking. As to why she’d still have left-over damage after getting healed by Amy – it seems likely to me that Carol wouldn’t give Amy permission to work on her brain. As much as she downplays the things Amy did to Vicky, I think deep down Carol doesn’t trust Amy not to screw up again. So it’s possible that Amy just fixed her skull and spine, but Carol prefers to let her brain heal by itself over time. We’ll probably see next chapter is this is the case.

  24. Why do I have this sinking feeling that Jeanne and Kurts may have just ended up in cells next to Fortuna? Wouldn’t Gary’s attack on mayor’s reputation be a perfect moment to capture them? Not only it could make it a bit more difficult for the heroes to figure out that these people were kidnapped (though probably not too difficult considering that they have Tattletale’s support right now), it could also further damage mayor’s image in public eyes, because to many of them she would likely appear to have gone into hiding like a guilty coward, instead of making some sort of a public statement to respond to Gary’s accusations, like an honest, brave politician with nothing to hide would do.

    1. Of course they could also actually be hiding, in which case my first guess would be that they’re using Palanquin’s services and/or doing something with the Undersiders that Tattletale did not inform the Wardens about. I think in this situation it would make sense for the head of Ambassadors to seek help from the other major ex-Brockton Bay villain group, or from the most prominent mercenaries from there – basically the two groups that knew about her secret identity for a while, and wouldn’t hold her villainous past against her. It doesn’t hurt that we actually saw Citrine and Harbingers in company of representatives of those two groups merely three weeks ago at Gimel-N portal station.

  25. Here’s a random thought. How many people on Gimel still use spider silk, especially for their costumes? I would imagine that some capes might have gotten rid of the material either because of its association with Khepri, or for practical reasons – for example because their spider silk costumes were damaged, or they simply grew out of them. On the other hand I would imagine that there would be some people who would go to great lengths to keep those costumes in as good shape as possible, because of their durability combined with light weight. Not to mention that the Undersiders would probably pay good money for anything made of this fabric, not only because of its sentimental value, but also because Parian may be able to do a wide range of repairs and modifications needed to make them fit any person. She could even be doing it not only for the Undersiders, but also for other people, either for money or favors. Moreover I suspect that it could be a superior material for her cloth animals, tripwires, etc.

    Or maybe spider silk simply decomposes/falls apart/rots etc. in less than two and a half years, and there is simply none left?

    1. Assuming that she has enough material, Parian could also give selected people costumes made of spider silk as a show of trust, gratitude or appreciation. I wonder if one day Victoria will get one. I’m sure that she, of all people, would greatly appreciate such gift, assuming it was appropriately fashionable of course, but I’m sure Parian would have no problem meeting Victoria’s standards.

  26. So, if I understand it correctly… There’s an equal chance of either a peaceful meeting or violence? Since the non-Shin capes are unsure of the political landscape they’re preparing for vioence, but it’s just as likely that this is just general tension and it will end in non-violence?

    Of course it would be the cruelest of ironies if this arc leads to Victoria having to help _Amy_ re-establish a Cape dictatorship after the talk she and Breakthrough had with the Bigo- I mean Gary Nieves.

  27. “Again, that sliver of a memory. Not anything coherent, but a vivid and complex tapestry of feelings without anything to map to”.

    Long lasting effects.

    Engel, what the fuck..?

    ###
    On to 14.5.

    1. It’s not anything special or long-lasting about Engel’s power. It’s just that her power happens to trigger Victoria’s PTSD in a fun new way that she’s not used to coping with, and that’s left her stressed out well beyond her exposure to the power.

      1. I wouldn’t be so sure. Victoria clearly stated “I’d remembered small details that had previously been hidden away under the cloak of altered memories, and slivers and fragments of those memories kept coming up to the surface.” Chances are she actually remembers something she was physically unable to remember before. The interesting thing about it is that as far as I remember from Worm Amy didn’t alter Victoria’s memories then (or at least she said she didn’t), but simply made Victoria unable to memorize anything for three days.

        So did Amy lie? Or is Victoria wrong about what happened to her then? Or perhaps Victoria’s memories were altered later, for example when Amy “repaired” Victoria’s body and mind during the aftermath of Gold Morning?

        1. Another option: A natural response to traumatic events is for your mind to block those memories so you can’t remember the traumatic event. This is a natural attempt by your brain to shield you from further trauma related to remembering the event. It doesn’t always work; the brain can’t delete memories deliberately, just obscure them in such a way the conscious mind can’t access them. The memories are still there, and may emerge in dreams, through hypnosis, or if another, similar traumatic event occurs. Engel just happens to have pressed the emotional buttons to trick the brain into thinking the third had occurred, I think, so the blocks Victoria’s mind put up to shield her from the memories are failing.

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