Breaking – 14.6

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Breaking from their ranks to some degree, a handful of the soldiers found positions where they leaned against walls or sat on tables.  The one who had interrupted my mother in the middle of writing her plea for help was the one I was most mindful of, because he was being so very mindful of his gun.

Mindful in the sense that there was a kind of forced casualness that he wasn’t selling.  He put his cloth-wrapped gun down, and when Kenzie moved closer to him to poke at one of Rain’s little arms, his hand was too quick to reach for the weapon again.

Help, I thought.  My mother stared out the window, and if she was tense, it was hard to tell because she had a natural rigidity to her posture.

There was only quiet chatter, careful conversational forays into that dangerous space between Breakthrough and Shin’s parahumans.  So often, there was a measured reaching out, a safe topic broached, and the conversation would continue until Chris said something or someone said something a little too biting.  Marquis wishing he had a cup of tea leading in its way to Ashley rebuking him for not being discerning enough.  Then silence.

A minute where Marquis only talked to Spruce, who was back in the far corner.  Where Golem approached Rain.  Vista had her visor off, and hopped up onto a table to sit on it, close enough to Ashley that when they had a murmured exchange of words, she could reach up and stick her finger into the black smoke eyeliner that was projected around Ashley’s eyes.  Ashley didn’t flinch.

A minute where I had to try to get my shit together.  My mom had written about needing help.  Miss Militia had suggested we might need to use our powers and she was on her own out there.  The guards with guns weren’t staying in their lane, moving themselves and their guns around, necessitating that little bit of extra attention.

And I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t wrap my head around all of it.  Any of it.

I saw movement, saw a face in the corner of my vision that served to backhand the warning bells in my brain before I’d even fully processed seeing it.  Then I did finish processing, pieced together that it was Marquis, and I saw how similar he was to Amy.  In hair type and even the way the hair fell across their shoulders, in face shape, and the cast of eye and nose.

He looked so casually confident, wearing a red velvet jacket and a black silk ascot that ninety nine percent of men would not have been able to pull off.  He had a cane topped with a cat skull that looked like it was mostly bone, with inlay only for decoration.

She- I glanced.  She was wearing a red blouse under a black cardigan, and she wore a brooch that seemed like it was meant to mimic her tattoos in style, like stained glass in gold bands with panes of red.  Worn over the heart, vaguely heart-shaped.  Ankle-length black skirt with red trim.

One thing at a time, then.  For now it was peaceful.  My team had other bases covered.

I’d wanted to face my demons, I’d locked myself in this cage with them.  I studied her clothes and remembered the person I’d grown up with, I looked for the mannerisms-

She isn’t well

-that could give me any clue.

Looking at her was like staring into the sun, but it elicited thoughts of something noxious instead, not something bright.

Ankle-length because she’d never liked short skirts or pants that hugged the leg.  Self conscious about the shape of her legs, despite the fact that they’d been fine.  Even now, past the end of the world, little things held true.

To stare into the sun was to do permanent damage to the retina.  To face her down was something more guttural, a feeling at the hollow of the collarbone, an ugly feeling that made me worry there would be a similar kind of permanent damage.

I wanted to expel it, somehow, exorcise it.  To vomit, to say something foul.

To say the simplest thing ever, from the part of me nearest to the center.  I’d grown up telling my parents I loved them.  I’d said I’d loved Amy and I was more certain I had than I was that I’d loved my parents.  We loved family just because.  I’d once loved Amy as a sister for reasons that went beyond just because.  Because she’d had my back and I’d had hers, and because we’d both been fuller, richer people in each other’s company.

But nothing quite mirrored the feeling I was wrestling with now more than my third time with Dean.  Because I had loved him.  After our first and second times together, nervous and still figuring ourselves and each other out, our third time together had been comfortable, heated, intense, and the love I’d had for him had been something I could experience with every sense, something that could brim the fuck over.

Making love as a word had made sense to me, because we’d done it, in all senses of the word, and then we had that love, we’d cuddled after and basked in each other, we’d been comfortable with each other in a profound way.

And I could remember Amy’s comments back then, when I’d told her about it, when I’d tried to encourage her to date Dean’s friend.  How many high school relationships really lasted?  It was worth trying.  I couldn’t imagine a world where I wasn’t better off having experienced this.  How many times had we broken up and gotten back together, she’d asked.  Three.  Didn’t that make me worry, she’d asked?  No.

His parents didn’t love each other and might not have even loved him, and my parents were Mark and Carol fucking Dallon, we were parahumans, and none of that mess was easy.  When he’d been given the unique ability to resolve conflicts by laser-punching people with emotion and reading their feelings, I’d been handed the conflict resolution ability of breaking people.  Neither of us had been able to use our innate, shockingly powerful capabilities on each other.  Of course we’d bounced off each other.  But love drew us back in.  Each time, a couple of the romantic illusions were shaken off, and romantic realities replaced them.  We’d had to learn to communicate, to figure each other out.

That one night with Dean had redefined things for me.  Something I’d carry with me always when it came to putting ideas to the word ‘love’.

And, because it was the elephant, the abomination in the room, I would think of years spent pining.  A love I knew and had known was fake and manufactured that had stayed with me for two years, threatening to wash away and taint every other kind of love.

Now, the mirror to that.  In an uncomfortable, vaguely alien world, surrounded by coldness and restrained tension, staring across a gap and feeling emotion somewhere between disgust, outrage, and betrayal roiling inside of me, I could genuinely say I hated her.

I looked away, out the window, and there was nothing there.  Only snowdrifts, glass opaque with the snow that rested against it, and vague shapes of buildings.  Maybe there would be more of a view when the wind died down.

I looked at my teammates instead, and they were doing their duty, holding their own, being good, keeping an eye or an ear out.  Vista was helping Tristan keep an eye out, her hands folded over the top of a chair leg that jutted up beside her, chin resting on hands.  She was more worried for Miss Militia than anyone, I suspected.

Tristan, Vista and Kenzie were making sure Miss Militia was safe.  If something happened, we could spring into action.

But looking at my team meant they looked back, and I wasn’t sure I wanted them to see my expression or read something into it.  For this moment I held it together.  If Sveta or Ashley tried to be nice and help me then that’d jeopardize that stability.

And if I wasn’t looking in Amy’s direction, wasn’t looking out the window, wasn’t looking at my team- I looked at the guards.

A few of them looked at me with that same hate I’d so recently found so painfully clarified.  They reminded themselves of their guns.  I was left to wonder if they’d be any more ashamed than Yosef if they ended up gunning us down.

I couldn’t stare them down without worrying about provoking violence, much as I couldn’t look at my team without worrying about provoking kindness.

Nowhere for my eyes to sit.  Across a few fleeting seconds, I was as far from stability as I could hope for, panic setting in because I couldn’t even stare at the floor without looking weak, and there were people here I couldn’t let myself look weak in front of.

I looked back to Amy.  Back where I started.  Back to this girl I hated.

She didn’t even know.  No emotion reading power, no awareness.  In the here and now, she said something joking to Marquis, who was moving his head in funny ways.  The tone of that joking statement was one I recognized from childhood, from adolescence.  I could probably think of a dozen specific statements she’d made in that exact same tone.

I hated her more because she smiled, joked, and maybe forgot I was in the room.

Marquis moved his head, and she moved her head, sitting up to try to see what he was seeing.  It meant she looked in my direction, looked at me, and the partial smile she’d maintained as part of her joke or interaction with Marquis fell away.  Their heads were turned to similar angles, shadows fell across their faces in similar ways.

“Do you need something, Marquis?” my mother asked, in what I processed as her ‘you’re in deep shit’ tone from my childhood.

“A haircut,” Chris said.

“If you’re going to be a pain, Chris, try to be actually funny,” Tristan said.

“Or, you know, consider what’s on the line,” Sveta said.  “You’re not making any friends, you’re not getting any advantages by acting this way.”

Chris snorted.

Marquis ignored it all, tilting his head another way, peering at or past the soldiers.  I didn’t look at Amy beside him, who didn’t match his movements, instead continuing to stare.

Marquis looked at my mother, and my mother looked away.  He got around to answering her statement, “I was wondering how they were doing in there.  I’d come over, but… I won’t intrude.”

Intrude.  This greenhouse patio we were situated on was exactly the wrong shape for discussion, resolution, or for opposed elements to be crammed inside without difficulties.  The hall where the discussion, debate, the whatever had been, it had been open and spacious, allowing five representatives and their retinues, and us, a guest, to all gather with a comfortable amount of space between us, the guards arranged around the perimeter.

This was not that.  My inability to even find a place to rest my gaze was an extension of the way this was laid out.  This was a space that was too long, where tables and chairs against one wall became a barricade that ate into the space that could be occupied, something that demanded effort or maneuvering in order to clear a space to sit on.  Once situated at that edge, it was hard to be next to others, to huddle, to turn to face the person beside you without looking through a nest of chair and table legs.

And it wasn’t our space, so we couldn’t exactly rearrange anything or everything.  It was impossible to create a space for actual discussion in here, where we weren’t talking past people.

It made me think of parties, of people gathered in hallways, so conversations happened in the exact same places where people were needing to walk by, voices raised to be heard, noisy, chaotic-

Except we were quieter than not.  We weren’t moving around.  This space would have been comfortable if everyone present was on good terms, but we weren’t.

“They’re fine,” Tristan was the one to volunteer the answer.  “Miss Militia’s addressing the room.”

“From where?” I asked.  “Center of the room, still?”

“Yeah,” Tristan said.

“What does it mean, exactly?” I asked.  “Her being in the middle.  I noticed position mattering.”

Distract me.

But not too much.  I had to watch Miss Militia, keep an eye on the kid with the gun.  I was supposed to watch Breakthrough but holy shit was I not up to doing that right now, and when I had, it had barely mattered with the people I’d wanted it to matter with.  I’d cross that bridge later.

It was Marquis who answered, “In the textbooks they hand out for young men and women on academic tracks to become politicians or innovators -scientists-, they say a good discussion starts at the edges, with agreed upon facts, and it migrates toward the center as a dance, often a duet or a solo venture.  Ideally, you want to get there without someone else stepping in and forcing you to step away from center.”

“She went there and she’s staying there,” Tristan said, without turning around.

“I can make educated guesses, but before making one, I should tell you that dance once had firm rules, but as with many things so deeply rooted in a culture, qualifying and quantifying everything is next to impossible.”

“He doesn’t know,” my mother said.  She turned toward Marquis.  “If you don’t know, admit it.  Don’t give us misleading or incomplete information and leave us to struggle with it.  This is precarious enough as it is.”

“I know enough, dear Brandish.  I would say it’s similar to a filibuster, but with an expectation of ask and answer, to suggest you can hold your position with reason despite an onslaught of criticism or condemnation.”

I looked again through the window at Miss Militia.  Natalie stood at the position at the circle’s edge, hands clasped behind her back, eyes visibly wide even from a great distance.

“Whatever it is, we’re in a precarious position,” my dad said.  “A lot of good, innocent lives hang in the balance here.  It’s frustrating.”

“I’d say what she’s doing is closer to defending a PHD,” my mom said.  “Against a biased room.  I suspect Shin has already decided their conclusion.  It’s smart for Miss Militia to take this stance, because it forces them to justify theirs.  She’s been here for a long time, mediating when she wasn’t elsewhere killing monsters or handling crises, she’s figured out how to play this game.”

“Agreed on every count,” Marquis said.

My mom gave him a dark look.

“Mom,” I said, in part to pull her away from any interaction with Marquis that would end in bone spears and laser axes.  I kept my voice casual.  “Should we talk war stories?”

“I’m sure yours are better than mine,” she said.  I saw her eyebrows draw closer together.  “Why?”

“You were drawing on the window.  It got me thinking.”

I saw her nod, not her usual nod, and I saw her smile a bit.  I was pretty sure she got my meaning.

But the smile changed.  She reached up and touched my hair at the back of my head, smoothing it down with her hand.  “Battle stories could be misinterpreted by our hosts.  They’re very fond of metaphors and proverbs, and might draw the wrong conclusions.”

“Of course,” I said.  My attempt to have my mom give me some idea of what they needed help with wouldn’t work.

“I’m sure you’re eager to share some with me,” she said.  “We shouldn’t part ways without catching up.”

“Absolutely,” I said.  I met her serious look with one of my own.  “I’m glad you’re okay.”

“More or less okay,” she said.

I gave her a one-armed hug, and leaned in closer, wanting to exchange a whispered or muttered word, anything to shed more light on what she’d tried to communicate to me.

The guard with the gun was close enough I couldn’t be sure about getting away with it.

At the same time, though, my mom had her arm at my shoulder.  Her finger tapped.

Then again: tap tap tap.

And again: a thump with three fingers striking the ornamentation at the shoulder of my coat at once.  A tap.  Another thump, a tap.

I wasn’t perfect on my Morse code, but I knew common letters in the alphabet.  E was one tap.  S was three.  The last- P?  No.  Didn’t make sense.  Y?  X?  No.  C.

Esc.  Escape.

If they were trapped, we might be too.  It raised questions about who, if it was Amy included, or just my parents.

“You know what’s shitty?” Vista asked, in the background.  Another track of conversation, overlapping our own.

“I could name a thousand things,” Chris said.

“It’s shitty that Miss Militia is doing this, she’s giving her all, and how many people are really going to know about it?  I think it’s the worst move the Wardens have made so far.  We don’t want to scare people, but we don’t tell them about the Endbringer-level badness we’re dealing with.  We don’t tell them enough about how food supplies might get cut off.”

“It would lead to panic,” Flashbang said.

“As is, it leads to resentment,” Vista said.  “We’re helping but they don’t see that.  They just see…”

“People with a whole lot of power and organization camped out in their backyards,” Rain said.

“Yes.  Exactly.  Thank you, Precipice.”

“In our case,” Chris said, “we made the compelling offer of ‘let us live in your backyard or others are going to do the same’.  We got them on a good day.”

Amy looked uncomfortable, one arm rubbing the other.

“We made compelling arguments,” Marquis said.  “A Mrs. Jeanne Wynn helped.  It seems the honeymoon period has worn off.”

“It reminds me of Brockton Bay,” Vista said.  “Trying to keep the peace, putting in all of the effort, and getting all of the flack.  Clockblocker always- he resented it.  I thought I was okay with it, but the more I look back the less it sits easy.”

“We’re putting in effort too,” Amy said.

“Are you saving the world every other week?” Vista asked.

“Easy,” Golem said.

“Yeah, sorry.  Nevermind,” Vista said.

Amy shook her head.”We’ve taken one hundred and fifty dangerous parahumans who, believe me, could have gone to the Birdcage, and we rehabilitated them.  Addictions removed, impulses tweaked, emotional balances adjusted.”

My father nodded.  He didn’t look like he glowed with pride, but he seemed to accept it, agree with it.

“I wouldn’t call that rehabilitation,” Ashley said.

“What else is it?  I saw enough of how Bonesaw adjusted biology to work with powers that I’ve been able to fix things for parahumans where that’s a problem.  How much harm does that stop?”

The feelings I’d found and clarified were a refuge.  I could look at her, hold on to those feelings, and I could kind of deal.

Was it easier, if I thought of the sister I’d grown up with as dead, if I grieved her to some measure while negotiating with myself to decide just when and where she died, replaced by this person?

I knew she was still alive.  I knew she was complicated.  I knew she probably had a hundred excuses or mitigating factors that went into what she’d done to me and the decisions surrounding it.

But it was sure as fuck not my duty to do anything except what was good for everyone, and do what I needed to do to stay sane.

“Do they know what you did, that Gary Nieves mentioned?” I asked.

Sveta drew closer to me.  I kept an eye out for the ear-tug.

My ex-sister opened her mouth, then closed it.

“They?” Marquis asked, in her place.

“Shin.”

“They know as of earlier today,” Marquis said.

“Can- can I hear it from her?” I asked.

“Does it make a difference?” he asked.

Amy reached out, touching his arm, and he moved aside at her bidding.

“Shin knows?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“We need to know, too.  What happened when you repeated old mistakes.”

I saw her shake her head a bit, turn to look away-

“You don’t get the option of not answering,” I said.

She stopped where she was.  She looked at me, wider-eyed.

“We’re technically a sovereign nation,” Chris said.  “We have lots of options.”

“Shut up, Chris,” I said, without looking away from my ex-sister.

“Shut up,” Amy’s voice was faint.  “Not now.”

Chris slouched back in his chair, long arms draped over the arms, long hair in his eyes.

I pressed, “You have to tell us.  If nothing else, you tell me, because you have zero right to keep anything like this from me.”

Again, that look on her face.

Marquis answered, “You wanted us to keep our distance, fine, we went to another world.  I went with her, to keep an eye on things.  Now you want to be informed about every happenstance?”

If I’m asking?  Yes,” I said.  “And you’re not part of this, Marquis.  Please stand down.”

“I’m her father.  I’m the only family member she ever had who has at least consistently tried to support her through the good and the bad.  I’m not about to stop now.”

No ear tug from Sveta.  Should I have picked someone who wasn’t as close to the Amy fiasco to monitor me?

I looked to Vista, and Vista was silent, no signals, ear tug or otherwise.

“By intervening and interjecting you are making things less good, Marquis,” I said.  “I want the facts from her.  That’s our best road to a positive place.”

“Aren’t facts better from a more objective source?” Marquis asked.  “I may be the best you get.”

“I don’t know or trust you,” I said.  I was mindful that guards might be listening.  “You’ve been level and fair in most things to do with Earth N, I don’t have any grudges, but right now you’re not winning points with me, and if I get answers I want to hear them from the mouth of that person.  I grew up with them, and if a lie comes from that mouth, at least, I’ll know it.”

Hate was a harbor, a refuge.  I could take conflicting feelings and bury them in it.  I wasn’t sure I cared if she died.  I might have been relieved, even.  Hate was dangerously close to love in how passionate it was, but never in my love for her or for Dean or for any teammate or other family member had I ever driven forward, gone on the attack, accused.  Not on this level.  Even in my arguments with my mom, it had been debates and arguments from reason prior to Gold Morning and me shutting down after.

New ground was safer.

Amy made Marquis stand down again.

“I do have it handled,” Amy said.  “I want to stress that.”

“I want to judge that for myself,” I said.  “Tell me.”

I saw her do something I’d seen too many times in our childhood, in our early teen years.  I thought of it as clinging.  Finding an argument or idea and constantly going back to it.  She’d convinced herself she had it handled, and she’d go back to that over and over, even after it ceased making sense.

I had zero doubt she’d done it in rationalizing things as she did them to me.  Zero doubt they played into her spiral down.

She would say it again.  That she had it handled.

“You don’t get to keep silent if I ask,” I said, with emphasis on the ‘I’.

“I checked over all of the prisoners from the prison on your Earth and the leftover parahuman warlords from here.  Put things in place, mental checks, emotional controls, whatever they needed.  Chris handled information gathering, interviews, collected a handful he thought would be useful to keep around as…”

“Lieutenants?” I asked.

I saw Chris shrug.

“I don’t know,” Amy said.  “I wanted to focus on good things, peace, giving you the distance you wanted.  So long as he wasn’t hurting innocents and let me keep one eye on what he was doing, I didn’t mind.  Same checks and balances for him.”

“And nobody checking and balancing you?” I asked.

“That’s not fair,” she said.

Isn’t it?  This is important.  This is billions of lives important.  That’s what you took on here.  And if they’re hearing from outside sources that you’re unchecked and imbalanced then that impacts everything.  Like Vista said, we get dragged in to put out your fires.”

“I have it handled.”

There it was.

“What is it?” I asked.  “You don’t get to not tell me.  Out with it.”

She hated hearing that, which was why I kept going back to it, to hammer in at that idea she was clinging to as a safety.  If I didn’t penetrate that safe ground she could go back to it endlessly.

With each repetition, I could see the emotional pain reach her face, her hands.  Tattooed hands, with two fingers left untatooed, replacements for what she’d apparently lost in her fight against the Slaughterhouse Nine.

I wondered if there was a meaning there.  She’d tattooed blood onto her hands, either consciously or not, but that little addition was like a ‘but not here, not with this excuse’.

I looked again to Sveta, to Vista, to Ashley, to Tristan.

Nobody was telling me to back down.

Okay.

She explained, “After I was done with the capes I started on other people.  Victims of capes.  People like, um, like the people at the Parahuman Asylum.  There’s a facility in your Earth’s Europe.  Not really like the Asylum, more like a big farm, where they do their best to get everyone set up to contribute to society and give them therapy, medical care, and anything else they need.  For some it’s just somewhere warm and clean with animals to cuddle.”

“Please tell me that you didn’t do what you did because of me, or for me.”

Amy didn’t answer.  She couldn’t meet my hard stare.

My dad spoke up, “When someone regrets their actions to the extent that I think Amy regrets hers, I think everything they do ends up being affected or colored by it.”

“That’s not what I wanted to hear,” I said.

“I helped a lot of people,” Amy said, still not meeting my eyes.

It seemed to take difficulty to get through it and explain it.  Fucking good.

“But you hurt someone.  Who?”  I asked.

“A young teenager with control issues,” Amy said.  “I did too much in one week, I was adapting to new roles and trying to handle interpersonal stuff with people who had been loyal to Bianca, who knew I’d been an… acquaintance of hers.  I didn’t listen to the little voice in the back of my head that said I shouldn’t do delicate work, and I made a mistake.”

“What mistake?” I asked.

She didn’t answer.

Amy.

“I’m fixing it.”

“What mistake?”

It was Chris who spoke up, “You know when you’re drawing, and-”

“I want to hear it from her.”

“-it’s very detailed work, and you sneeze mid-drawing, and draw a big zig-zag across the picture?”

“I want to hear it from her,” I said, again.

“It’s that,” Chris said, “Except it was someone’s mind and power.”

I might never forgive him for denying me the ability to make her admit it.

“What’s the damage?” I asked, my neck stiff from tension.

Amy answered, eyes downcast.  “Altered personality, memories not connecting.  She came over with a friend and he said she was different after.  There was a gap and the passenger wedged itself in there.”

“When the passenger butts in, it saves over your work, and the the undo button on the metaphysical keyboard stops working,” Chris said.

“She,” I said.  “At least tell me it’s not some blonde girl-”

I saw the way both of my parents looked at Amy, how Amy seemed confused for one second, then processed what I’d said.

Holy shit.  I’d guessed right.

I’d have been lying if I said I didn’t feel some justice in seeing the pain in Amy’s face.

“-that you’re not being that redundant while you’re repeating old mistakes.”

Unnecessary.  Maybe the only thing I’d regret saying so far.  Words just to cause her more pain.

“That doesn’t have anything to do with anything,” Amy said it in a hollow way, with no energy or emotion backing the words.

And I really hadn’t wanted to be right, to have any character trait to put on this victim – not yet.

“Suddenly I’m really glad I didn’t ask her to look after my battle scars,” Vista said.

“That’s not-” Amy started.  Her expression changed.  Wounded.  “I thought we got along, Vista.”

“A long time ago,” Vista said.

“You guys are making this out to be like I haven’t changed, like it’s a repeat incident, and it’s not,” Amy said, and her voice was firmer, almost angry.  “I’m handling this, okay?  It was one mistake-”

“That erased a person’s personality?” I asked.

One mistake, and I have a support structure in place.  I’m not spiraling out.  I recognized when it started to affect my work, I stopped, took a break, stepped back, got centered again.  It’s why progress with mom is slow.”

The word ‘mom’ sounded so alien from her mouth.

“It’s affecting your other work?” I asked.

“It was.  So I stopped,” she said, like it was the simplest thing in the world, like she was explaining things to someone who wasn’t listening.

“Affected it how?”

“Minor slip-ups.”

“Slip-ups like minor personality erasures, or-”

“No.  Things in my subconscious crept in, or I got placements wrong, or I… colored outside the lines a bit.  But I recognized the pattern, I stepped back, recovered, and fixed the superficial errors.”

She’s not well, my mother had said.

Every time Amy elaborated on her supposedly simple ‘it’s handled’, on ‘minor slip ups’, or just about anything about this, she added new details, raised new questions, painted a fuller and scarier picture.  One where I wasn’t sure she was being entirely forthright, especially when I stood in this long greenhouse, staring down its length at my ex-sister, and that image was a picture framed by my mom on my right, my dad sitting at the aisle to the left, Marquis and Chris near Amy.

None of those people looked like they felt it was ‘handled’.

I looked away from that scene.  I didn’t want to get carried away.

No ear-pull from Sveta.  She just looked horrified.

I wasn’t horrified, I decided.  I realized I had a pressure on my chest like someone was sitting on it, but it wasn’t horror.  A person didn’t feel horror if a steamroller was left to inch forward while unwitting people sat in its path, and they later heard those people had died.

Amy was looking at her dad, who’d said something quiet.  She nodded, unsmiling.

I spoke, which cut Marquis off, “When you say it’s handled, tell me, Amy, well first, start by looking me in the eyes.”

She looked up, locking her eyes to my hard stare.

“Tell me, while looking me in the eye, that you can fix her.  No slip-ups, no minor ‘coloring outside the line’ casualties, whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean.”

“I’m pretty sure I can,” she said, her eyes meeting mine, but even from a distance, I could see them moving by fractions, her gaze moving from one of my eyes to the other.

Even now, I could be reasonably certain when she was telling the truth.  I could tell when she was confident and not confident, and I knew the patterns she could fall into, at least when she got into arguments.

“I believe you,” I said.  Amy smiled and I looked away.

“I’m happy we were able to talk,” Amy said, a haunting voice from the far end of the greenhouse patio.  I didn’t look at her, instead staring out at the storm beyond.

“We’re not okay, Amy.  We’ll probably never be okay.”

“I’m still glad we could talk.  Open lines of communication.”

I continued to look away, to ignore her, because the alternative was that I’d open my line of communication, and tell her exactly how I felt, and I was pretty sure the only people who needed that were me and her alone.  For everyone else, it would spell disaster.

“Are you sure?” Sveta asked.

I folded my arms, shifting my footing, as I leaned back against the window.  I exhaled slowly, trying to control my breathing.  “Yeah.”

No.  I knew my ex-sister too well.  I knew how she would want something so badly she would believe it was so, and she would lie to herself.  She’d then tell that lie to others.  Promises to mom and dad about maintaining after school activities in addition to the hero stuff, training, visits to the hospital, and grades.  Three straight semesters across ninth grade and the start of tenth grade, she’d steadily declined, had maintained the illusion, until they’d forced her to cut back.  Pledges about diets, pledges to me about making friends beyond my friend group.  She would believe it.

“That’s a relief,” Sveta said.

“Not really how I’d put it, if I’m honest,” I said.  “What about you guys?  Any objections?  You okay with this?”

“No,” Rain said.  “No objections, I mean.  I’m okay with it.”

“I’m worried about Chris, but I trust you when it comes to your family,” Ashley said.

“I’m good if this is good,” Kenzie said.  We’d told her about the signals.  If anyone on Breakthrough would see the little things we’d told them to pay attention to, it would be Kenzie.  Our Lookout.

So many things worried me about her, but her not picking up on information wasn’t one of them.

“No issue,” Sveta said.  “You’ve been way more fair about this than I expected.”

Most of my attention was on Tristan, though.  I willed him to get what I meant, where I was going with this.

“You really want my opinion on this?” he asked, picking up on my quiet intensity.

“I want your opinion especially.  We’ve talked about sibling stuff.  I want your take on this.”

“Then okay.  Yeah.”

Yeah.

We’d talked about it.  Permanent solutions, if we had to.

He was in agreement.  It was in the cards, at the very least.

“I’d rather the Wardens had more oversight here,” I said.

Chris spoke, “Separate world, separate nation.  The Wardens have no responsibilities here, no role.”

“Then I’ll rephrase.  I want Amy, at the very least, to make trips out to the Wardens, for checkups, talks with a therapist we trust.  Let’s get to where none of us have to worry about mistakes.”

“No,” Chris said.  “That’s probably not going to work out.”

“Why not?” Rain asked.

“They don’t like us doing the back and forth thing.  Makes it too easy to pass on information, makes us harder to keep track of.  If you come here and you go any further than this little city hub here, the checklist of things you have to do gets long.  Not to mention it’s a hell of a trip to even get here.”

My mom’s hand tightened around my shoulder.

Was that it, then?  My mom’s request for help in escaping?  Parahumans that stayed were expected to remain in their island chain area?

“He’s not lying,” Marquis said.  “I think the trip could be managed.  Long but I suspect Amy is willing to endure long trips if it mends bridges.”

“We’re not mending anything,” I said, harsher than I’d meant to sound.

“If-” Amy started.  She flinched when I turned her way, stopped talking.

“If what?”

“If you’d be open to the opportunity, if you’d at least talk to me when I went, I could pull strings, maybe get an escort they trust to come with me and watch what I do, I know they want me to do certain healings of famous people here to prolong their lives and enrich their cultures, and I’ve been refusing on principle.  If I bartered that healing, I could get permission to come.”

“On the condition you see me?” I asked, my voice hollow.

“On- I’m not doing that or asking for that for me, Vicky.  I want you to feel reassured.  I want you to not be afraid anymore.  I want you to be okay.  I will go to whatever lengths it takes to do that.  Really.  Seeing you would just let me know it’s not making things worse.”

I closed my eyes.

Was it okay to say whatever, if it meant we could get her to Wardens Headquarters?  Get her into that building, up to the stairwell, and then have a portal open.  Push her through as we’d done to Tattletale, but without any humor in the action.  Maybe using one of Rain’s mechanical hands, to avoid touching the dangerous striker-class cape.

And after that just… not open the door again.

“We can talk about it,” I said.

“That’s all I wanted,” Amy said, and the hope in her eyes was naked.

We left the conversation at that.  Chris said something to her that she didn’t hear, which prompted her to move closer, and from that point they were huddled.

I fidgeted.

“You did good,” Sveta said.

I nodded, fidgeting more, glancing at the huddle.

“They’re talking about which strings they’re going to pull to get her to listen,” Kenzie said.

“Thank you,” I said.  “Keep me informed?”

“Will try.  I can only listen to two things at once.”

I nodded.

In the other room, one of the scribe-boys was standing closer to the center, reading from his little notebook.

My mother put an arm around my shoulders, squeezing.  She leaned in closer.  “I’m proud of you.”

I smiled, and the smile was a lie.

Amy, too, smiled.  I couldn’t reconcile that.  I couldn’t make peace with it.  She’d done it earlier, while chatting with her dad, and it bothered me.  She was in a good mood and it was largely because she’d succeeded in lying to herself and thought she’d succeeded in lying to us.  She’d broken someone and I wasn’t confident she was confident in fixing that someone.

She had her little lie, and so did I.

She entertained a world where what she’d done was fixable, to this blonde girl, to me.  She’d tried to convince us.

I offered a middle ground.  Not forgiveness, but talks, a balance, and acceptance of what she was doing.  That was my lie, because I couldn’t bring myself to.

We’d run it by the Wardens at the next opportunity.  It wouldn’t be my team’s biased take on it.  Other hero teams would hear the situation, listen to Kenzie’s recordings, and then decide if it was appropriate, to dispose of my ex-sister, and cast her into another world alone, with no plans to retrieve her.

Would there be pushback?  Probably.  A lot of this hinged on my knowledge that Amy had been lying about how certain she was.

If there was pushback, maybe a test.  If she couldn’t fix this person she’d altered, she was too dangerous.  If she could, I’d back down.

We’d have to give her a chance first, use every resource to get her to a stable place, for this person’s sake, and for absolute fairness.

After that, if it came down to laying down the ultimatum and what was at stake, then I couldn’t imagine a world where she rallied and performed better, fixed this girl and saved herself.  She didn’t handle pressure well.

There was a knock on the door.  Guards moved to either side of the doorway, parting the way.

“If you’d rejoin us?” Luis asked.  “We have some things we’d like to address.”

Slowly, the room filed out.  I was relatively close to the door, so I followed Tristan.  My mom came with me.  I glanced back, in part to check that Amy wouldn’t try to touch me while my back was turned, like she had at Breakthrough Headquarters.

Again, that fucking smile.

I stopped, pulling to one side and letting my mom walk on.  The rest of the group filed out, with the middle section mingled between Ashley, Marquis, my dad, and Chris.

Amy was at the rear, escorted by Spruce.  She saw me, stepped closer- and I stepped back, maintaining a safe distance.

I knew it looked bad.  That we were trying to massage a peace.  But I wasn’t insane.

“What?” she asked.

“Just- don’t move, or I might kill you,” I said.  “Private question.”

I looked at Spruce as I said it.

He checked with her, then with Marquis, and then he backed off.

Just me and my ex-sister.

“What?” she asked.  No smile on her face now, but that light of hope in her eyes.

“Her name.”

“Her- oh,” she said.  “Hunter.”

A punch in the throat.

“I know Hunter,” I said.  I was pretty sure, anyway.  After the community center attack, before Breakthrough, I’d worked with Ms. Yamada to get Hunter sent to the Asylum-like spot in Europe.

“She knew of you.”

Chilling.

“Did you use my name?  Your relationship with me?”

“Did I-”

“Did you convince her that you were legitimate or that you were safe by using the fact we’re related?”

“No,” Amy said.

Not quite a lie like the other, that was something she desperately wanted to believe.  This… a half truth.

I stared at her, and she broke eye contact.

I drew closer to her, fully ready to hurt her if I had to, if she moved a muscle.  True to her word, she didn’t.

I got so close I could smell her, and the smell stirred up memories that Engel had shaken loose.

I might have lost track of what I’d meant to say, but I saw movement.  Nestled in the mane of brown curls that really needed more conditioner, Amy’s little imp Dot was curled up against the back of her neck, face pressed against the side, peering through the strands.  She bared needle teeth at me.

My voice was barely audible when I spoke to Amy.

“Next time, if you want to insult me to my core, try going straight to spitting in my face, instead,” I told her.  “It’s not quite as bad, and at least there’s only some chance you hurt innocents with the collateral damage.”

She stepped back as if I had hit her.  I saw emotions cross her face.  Then that faint light of shaky hope I’d hoped to extinguish appeared once again.

“I’m handling it,” she said.  “I can do this.  I’ll show you.”

I believed her even less this time.

Maybe it was better I hadn’t extinguished it, if it got her to the Warden’s headquarters.

Could I count this as one demon slain?

No.

But I could handle it.  I could see a possible light at the end of this tunnel.

Back to the arena.  To our group, which stood clustered at one segment of the circle.  Natalie was there, her forehead creased in worry.

“How are we?” I asked her.

“Not great,” Natalie answered.  “You?”

“Some resolution.”

“Great.  I hope you won them over.”

The murmur of conversation in the room sounded different from one end than from the other.  Our group spoke in one tongue, other groups spoke in another.

All went silent as Luis stepped forward.  Sleek figure, black, with a braided tie.  His movements were dramatic and echoed our own Earth’s, but they made me think of a showman, not a statesman.

“We stand at the crux of two solutions,” he stated.  “In one hand, we hold a breaking of ties.  We would send you home, keeping only a select few, and we would end all trade, all promises, and retract all contracts.”

That was still on the table.

Miss Militia was tense.

He held out his right hand.  “On the other hand, Miss Militia offers us assurances, and we are not assured.  We don’t trust you as a whole, and as things rest in this hand, we can’t come to a resolution.”

No contract or no resolution?  What?

“By a showing of hands?”

Some raised extended both hands, as if out for a hug.  Some raised their right hands.  Only one held out left hand only.

“Can I comment?” Miss Militia asked.

“You have,” Luis said.

A woman wrapped in loose cloth stepped out of Yosef’s group.  Her hair was braided at the sides, straight along the top.  “By the deal and compact we formed with you, Red Queen, Marquis, Cryptid, in exchange for your freedom to settle and our cooperation and support, you are to protect us against any and all transgressors.”

I looked at Miss Militia.  Her weapon wasn’t changing. What she’d said about being ready to use our powers, was she signaling we shouldn’t use ours?  That we shouldn’t fight this?

Her back was ramrod straight, and her focus was wholly on the other group of parahumans.

Ah.  There it was.  That annoying sliver of hope in my ex-sister’s eyes wasn’t there anymore.

We outnumbered them.  We could win.  And we probably would.

But at what cost?

“Arrest them,” Luis said, indicating us.

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279 thoughts on “Breaking – 14.6”

  1. Well, at least Victoria was able to have a civilized and normal discussion with her sister without feeling to burning need to break her neck. This is an acceptable start.

    On the other hand, they’re kind of screwed because we don’t know what kind of dangerous anti-parahumans weapons these Shin paranoiac assholes have. Its a very delicate situation for our heroes. So….I’m still waiting for DOT TO SAVE THEIR ASS.

    Knowing Amy, I won’t be surprised if Dot will return as…DOTZILLA, the Queen of all Monsters. I won’t say no to this development.

      1. At least they start talking. This is still a start even if Victoria had some pretty nasty thoughts about exiling Amy. Fuck, Victoria, stop thinking like this. Amy is not a mass murder or a sociopath like the ones you arrested and exiled. Sometimes, Victoria rub me up the wrong way.

        1. Is it because you identify with Amy? Maybe not her parahuman powers, but her other characteristics?

          Because, for the record, after this chapter I’m all in favor of the plan to toss her through a portal and “lose the key.”

          1. I wonder if you’ll say the same thing if Amy will save everyone’ ass right now, even her sister who still hates her so much.
            Amy is not bad enough to deserve this punishment, there are people much, much worse than her, but Victoria is too blinded by hate to admit this fact.

          2. Is not a plan, is Victoria having revenge on her, plain and simple. I made the comparison to Love Lost because really, is the same. We knew Rain from before so it was easier to see that he was right and there were a lot of factors in play, that it wasnt black and white. If LL was the one we stuck with during ward we would be rooting for her and we would be wrong.

            Victoria’s thought process went pretty much “I hate her. I hate that she smiles. I hate that she can forger about me while Im fixated on her every move. I cant take this, I need to decieve her with the promise of reconciliation that she is taking for my wellbeing and use it to keep her away from her parent and every person that supports her, which will make her more deranged and make things worse but I dont care I need this” and thay after repeteadly forcing Amy to let go of any coping mechanism Amy has to deal with her, abusing her emotionally in front of everyone without anyone even making a peep of protest.

            Thats what rubs wrong about her. She cant make a good decision when it comes to Amy and if I were Miss Militia, Dragon or anyone else I would disregard her advice completely. If I were Yamada I would ask to put Amy in therapy for real, not as a ruse to get her away.

            What specially rubs wrong about Victoria is that she knows what she is doing. She knows all the coping mechanisms she uses around Amy(Not looking directly at her, not speaking to her directly, having friends to talk in her expense, not forcing herself to answer Amy) so she knows what to hit. She knows what Amy needs and violates those needs. Thats abuse, I dont care how you want to phrase it differently. Is emotional abuse. And likely no one will call her on it because her friends support everything she does.

            Her asking for Amy to be put away, fully planning how to trick her into it is as wrong as the parents of a murdered person being allowed to judge the criminal. Is ethically, morally wrong, specially considering Victoria’s thought process. She only thought of her hate. Nothing else. She cant make this decision.

            And the worse is that probably no one would call her on it, because her friends blindly support her, and the people that may (Marquis/Chris) are villains and their opinion will probably be disregarded. The worse is that she could get away with it.

          3. Amy isn’t evil. She’s incompetent. I think maybe they needed Riley checking her work, not the other way around.

          4. She’s still a person. She’s messed up TWICE, but think about how many people she has helped. Victoria hates her, Breakthrough is on Victoria’s side. Don’t let them cloud your view.

          5. Amy isn’t evil, she’s dangerous. She makes mistakes, which is a normal thing to do, and those mistakes have much worse consequences then what anyone elses would have. I pity her. I wouldn’t trust her, but I think she deserves help (I mean look, she is clearly, clearly mentally ill in a very mundane way not supervillian crazy) as much as any member of breakthrough. (I mean, Tristain did literally almost the exact same thing, for much worse reasons, and he was forgiven by byron and the readers)

            Its interesting that this is one characteristic Vic shares with Taylor. A victim complex. With Taylor, it was that she was so used to being a victim that she painted anyone antagonistic to her as a “bully” even when that label fitted her better. With Victoria, its that she figures Amy’s crime as so bad, that from now on, Victoria is always the good guy and Amy the bad NO MATTER WHAT. And in both cases, I think thats incorrect.

            Amy needs therapy. She needs to have responsibilities taken away from her. She hurts people, and is hurting herself, and she needs to be rehabilitated not punished. Victoria should not be given power to make descions about her fate because quite frankly, all Victoria wants is Amys fucking blood at this point.

          6. I think we need to compare Amy’s success/failure rate to I don’t know… a normal medical professional. Say a neurosurgeon. Or a heart surgeon.

            Amy has lost… zero patients. She has seriously screwed up… two. Not counting Kephri. Minor cosmetic mistakes that get fixed hardly count. Now let’s compare this to the good she’s done, again not counting Kephri. We don’t have exact numbers, but its a crap ton. Millions if she helps get Gimel food aid.

            Hell, even this recent mistake doesn’t sound as bad as Victoria’s recent “mistake” with her mom!

          7. I have to go with Quite Possibly A Cat on this one. There’s not an experienced surgeon in the world with a success rate as high as Amy’s. If we make the medical example, there’s just no ground to stand on when it comes to how she’s done.

            Never mind considering how well real brain surgeons would do in Amy’s circumstances: despised by adopted parent, brainwashed by a sibling, pressed into the life-or-death public service as a teenager, routinely traumatized, deaths in the family, coerced into murder and taboo-breaking by a serial killer intent on recruiting a child soldier, tortured by serial killers, forced to leave a love one to die or operate on them without their consent. And on and on and on.

            She’s gone above and beyond anything we’d expect of any real world human in any comparable circumstance. The one absolute exception is that she’s an utter idiot with regards to her relationship with de-wretched Victoria. She’s doing it just wrong. Just completely wrong.

            What Amy really needs is to get for herself the kind of fix she’s been giving to Shinese parahumans. She’s a mind control victim, a PTSD victim, and has a brain parasite that actively screws with her. This person needs more support. Badly.

            All that said, I do think the text is deliberately telling us that Amy will realize her sister’s fears if nothing changes.

          8. Amy is essentially unstoppable and all powerful, her power allows her to make anything, given enough time.

            If you toss her to another earth, she would be so mad that she would not stop until she had bio engineered every possible super virus and organic portal machine, possibly some alien tech the Passengers know about, as well as super enhancing anyone else on whatever world they stick her.

            She would come back and eradicate all life on every earth.

            If you cannot trust her to do a job, you might be able to convince her to just be a human.

            But you cannot imprison her. You can never defeat her, without death.

            Amy will either be fine, with a therapist, or she will be killed. You cannot let someone all powerful walk around free, that’s why I’m so confused nilbog is alive (I think that’s his name. Goblin king guy.)

            I know that’s a dark way of putting things, but that’s the only way. Wildbow might have a different idea in mind though, he might know of a way to imprison Amy in a way she would be okay with, maybe mind control, mental prisons, eternal coma, time portal, heck, if you convince Amy to go to prison herself, she might go willingly.

            But you can’t send her there unwillingly.

          9. I truthfully cannot understand the people who want Amy and Victoria to be “best friends again” .

            Do I think Amy is a bad person? No. Do I think she’s dangerous? Absolutely. She has an incredible amount of power, and we’re seeing how badly she’s doing, and how messed up she is.
            Victoria was a lump of flesh she couldn’t control, involuntarily in love with the person who made her that way for two years. She could barely communicate, and was abandoned, from her perspective, by the one who made her that way. Two years, not in control of her body or brain. I applaud her for being able to think and communicate without much aggression with that person. I applaud her for the progress she’s made, because I would have gone mad.

            Do I think Amy deserves to be happy? Yes, eventually. We saw her perspective, she’s scared and has almost no support… But I don’t think she deserves to be happy with Victoria, and I don’t think it’d be good for her anyway. She’s spent too long obsessed, and now another girl is seeing the effects. Somehow, she needs to pull herself together, with the help of much therapy. I think she’s gotten more than enough forgiveness from Victoria. She needs to move past her mistake, fix her other mistakes, and put a long series of blocks in place to prevent her ever doing this again.

          10. In addition to (and agreeing with) what had been said above – what do you think would happen if they toss Amy through a portal and lose the key? I’d expect that some months later they would discover a planet-sized Ellisburg to deal with. After having been abused, deceived, betrayed and abandoned by everyone around, Amy wouldn’t have a slightest reason to hold back anymore.

          11. I’m not “in favor of” that plan. It’s bad for Amy, it’s bad for the Dallons, and at best it’s a crude emotional amputation for Victoria.

            That said, I suspect it might be the least terrible option they have available.

    1. Dot was there the entire time, hiding inside Amy’s hair. Victoria spots her when she leans in close to Amy at the end.

      1. I don’t think so. Hiding small creatures in her hair was Skitter’s thing. Marquis is beyond such petty crime as stealing other people’s ideas, and I’m certain he rised his daughter well enough that she wouldn’t do something so boorish either.

        1. Remember that Marquis is an aristocrat. Panacea is a queen. People like that don’t commit any crimes. Their subjects do it for them.

          1. And they definitely don’t steal anything. Why would they do it if they can collect taxes instead?

          2. Also remember that Skitter is Our Royal Majesty of Perpetual Escalation – Queen Administrator. The closest thing to stealing one crowned head can do to another is to go to war with them. Are you suggesting that the Red Queen is responsible for starting a war? Are you aware that making such suggestions can end up with you becoming a head shorter?

          3. I just realized my blunder. I should have said “Her Highness…”, not “Our Royal Majesty…” Please forgive me. I’m just a uncultured foreigner who doesn’t know English well enough to correctly adress royality of English-speaking countries.

          4. …And I just read the paragraph that confirms Jack Baxter’s words regarding Dot’s whereabouts. Looks like the joke is on me this time. I wonder if was there all the time, and I just managed to miss it somehow during my first read-through, or if it appeared later as one of those “ninja edits”…

          5. It wasn’t in the original, but it was in the copy I downloaded 3.5 hours after the chapter was posted before I left home.

  2. If you agree to see Dot becoming a cool monster who’ll save everyone’s ass following (or not) Amy’s command, give this idea a vote herehttp://topwebfiction.com/vote.php?for=ward

    1. I read the ending again and I realized that the only ones they don’t want to arrest are Amy, Marquis and Chris because they want their help to arrest their fellow parahumans .
      I’m sure that Amy will make the right choice THIS TIME, despite whatever Chris and Marquis will choose to do. This time, she’ll not fail her sister and mother. Or I’m too hopeful?

  3. Okay I have to say this and at this point I dont even care if anyone agrees with me or not, but this has been the most unpleasant, disgusting side of Victoria I have ever read ever since early worm when I hated her cocky guts.

    We have seen that Victoria is an unreliable narrator before; she sees and evaluates things from her POV and present what she thinks as facts when is not, like the talk about Amy’s tattoos. That in itself is understandable considering her trauma with Amy and that everyone is more or less an unreliable narrator. But this is too much.

    Victoria repeteadly pushes Amy’s boundaries and comfort zone. She denies her the right to have Marquis or Chris to answer on her behalf, when she often has Sveta or Ashley talking for her to Amy, she forces her to look her in the eye, she denies her every single right she has fought to have for herself. Every single coping mechanism that she uses to deal with Amy, she denies it to her, refusing to acknowledge how she has progressed.

    Not only that, she lied to her, broke her trust and plans to imprison her on a prison world away from her father and only source of support and comfort, even away from Victoria’s own parents, and anyone Amy has ever met. She is making the same mistake of worm, taking someone unstable and isolating them because that is going to make things better??and dont come at me saying “Amy damaged someone, she deserves to be put away” when Victoria herself admits that she will give her a chance BECAUSE she knew Amy cant handle pressure and will screw up. She is fucking her on purpose and abusing her power to get rid of someone she admited she hates. She cant be trusted to iniciate a judgement and imprisoment of Amy BECAUSE SHE HATES HER. This is like Rain’s cluster, wanting to torture him for what he did at the mall. They had no right to judge him, they hated him, they couldnt be impartial. At least they admited it was revenge and didnt made some pretty bullshit excuse about it being justice.

    We all knew they would abuse their power with the prison world eventually, and of course is Victoria who does it. And of course people here will be all understanding because what Amy did to Victoria justifies her abusing her power, betraying her, locking her away and pretty much being the shitty, abusive person she suposedly hates. I guess Rain’s cluster was right to want to kill him then, I mean, he did horrible things and a bunch of people died, that excuses everything anyone wants to do to him.

    Im not going to say I wont read this again as if anyone cares if I read this or not but it will be such a fucking disappointment if people let Victoria get her away and/or condone her behaviour as some kind of bullshit emporwement you go Victoria, you can do no wrong. And I certainly hope Marquis kicks her fucking ass if she takes his daughter away from him. That someone retaliates. Is tiresome that all we have are Victoria’s POV and her friends who of course will support her no matter what shit she decides to pull off.

    1. This was truly the worst part of Victoria’s character, but I absolutely get it. Right now, I want to both say, I understand, and Screw them both.

    2. That tidbit of “My friends arent telling me to stop so is all good”OF COURSE THEY ARENT THEY ARE YOUR FUCKING FRIENDS THEY DONT CARE ABOUT AMY’S WELLBEING THEY WONT TELL YOU TO STOP.

      And Sveta like “Oh yeah, you were good” gimme a break

      1. Peh. If your friends won’t save you from yourself, you need better friends.
        Hermione Granger stands up and tells her fucking friends when they’re being lunatics. She does.
        That the horribly warped and damaged people Vicky surrounds herself with Don’t is a mark against their character… and their breeding.

    3. I mean… I kind of think that’s the point here.
      I hated it. The POV is very convincing, but yes, you are right, Victoria is very much in the wrong here, and all her excuses and explainations for why she needs to push things this far ring… hollow.

      She very much CAN’T be the person to make this choice.
      Luckily she isn’t. Luckily she has just created a situation where the rest of the Wardens will get to make such a choice… but its still shitty. … and tactically stupid.

      Amy is nutso powerful. Throwing her away on dungeon dimension is a recipe for disaster given Teachers portal tech, Marquis danger level, Amy’s danger level and ethics.

      Hell, I’d shoot down this plan on purely practical grounds, but the ethics here is indeed fucked.

      …. that said, Amy really really shouldn’t be a practicing doctor.

      1. There’s something I’ve been saying for a while, and that is how the views of Taylor, and how “right” for lack of a better term, her viewpoints were have shifted in the fandom since Worm. This will happen with Victoria.

        Granted we still haven’t had that Amy interlude, so I don’t know what’s going in in her head.

        1. Actually we had Amy’s interlude… back in Worm (interlude 11h).

          But yes, we probably could learn a lot from another one right now. Maybe so much that we shouldn’t get one? At least not yet?

          1. A face moved on the other side of the bars. “There’s something I need to tell you, Vicky…”

            I stopped pacing in the cell and groaned. “Fine. Talk.”

            “Um. You remember Khepri?” I gave her a flat stare, and she winced. “Right. So, um. I… kind of made her, and then Contessa brought her back afterward and I unmade her.” I opened my mouth to speak, but she plowed forward before I could. “But powers don’t work like that, right? I couldn’t just reset it; the change was permanent. And if I just shut it all off, her power would have come back on its own eventually. So I had to… to transplant it. The power. Move it to… to somebody else.”

            My heart stopped beating. “Who?” I whispered.

            Her face twisted into a crooked, unsure smile, and she pointed a shaking finger at her temple. “Me…” Her face contorted more as I staggered back, and she began to giggle. “It’s been me all along, Vicky. Me. Valkyrie fled me. Goddess served me. Teacher opposed me. Shin appeased me. Always me, there in the middle of it all.” My retreat stopped like I’d hit a wall, but there was no wall. There was barely a me; I was an extension of her. My body straightened of its own accord, and my eyes aimed where she willed. “And I’m tired, Vicky. So tired. Of you. Of your blame. Your hypocrisy. Of cleaning up your messes. I’ve tried to play nice, but I’m done. It’s over. No more running. From now on, Vicky, we are going to work together and you are going to help me with these burdens. Like a family. Like sisters.” She giggled again and my body approached hers. “Like conjoined twins.” My left hand reached through the bars for her right, and the flesh melted on contact, fusing us together. We looked at her handiwork, then we looked at the bars. “…Fuck. Hang on, I can fix this…”

          2. Well, it looks like after Pizzasgood’s comment we may not need Amy’s interlude anymore…

          3. Though perhaps this little fic should en with something like this:

            At that moment I heard a high-pitched voice coming from somewhere within Amy’s hair, “Got you! You really should remember that her power doesn’t let her do anything to her own brain. What really happened is that she has been moving that power from person to person like a hot potato, and now it is my turn to have fun with it.”

      2. If I existed in this universe, I would 100% go to Amy to have me or anyone I loved healed before any Physician.

    4. To be fair, Victoria can’t do any of this without the others on her side. If Auzure, Wardens, Super Magic Dream Parade, Guild etc. agree that the Red Queen needs to be put away, then she should be put away.

      Victoria has major bias and has the right to be so. From Victoria’s point of view, she completely fucked up Victoria, ran away to the Birdcage while threatening massive biologic warfare if she wasn’t and is currently teamed up with Lab Rat clone/Team Traitor Chris and Marquis, who was pretty much Brandish’s worst enemy.

      And people aren’t condoning her behavior in the way that you are making it out to be. They also believe that what is happening is pure bullshit. Amy might not be well, but she is also too powerful to be allowed to make these kinds of mistakes. There are some chances that cannot be taken.

      1. That is a thing, but she isnt about to be put away for that. Is not even subtle, Victoria wants to do so because she hates her. She admits her she hates her, gets angry because she smiled, gets angry because Amy dared to joke with Marquis and forget about her??if this came from miss militia or somebody else it wouldnt be so bad, it would be something rational and impartial. Victoria cant be fair as much as Love Lost couldnt be. From her POV Rain caused her daughter’s death and made fun of it. And yet, she didnt had the right to want to screw Rain over, hers was purely revenge and had not a drop of justice on it. It was easy to see it with her because we were on Rain’s side, guess is harder when we are on the opposite side of the problem this time.

        Victoria has no right. Period. She is every self deluded villain that convinces themselves that they are doing the right with excuses, excusing themselves of abuse because rhwy are abusing their abuser so is legit. If you want revenge, own it. Dont delude yourself pretending you are doing it for actual reasons. If Amy had abused Victoria like she did with her today everyone would be losing their mind.

        Also on the Marquis topic he has been twice the parent Brandish is. Brandish is only caring for Amy after golden morning, and neglecting Victoria now because she cant be a good mother to both her kids at the same time. Seriously fuck her. Marquis has been an amazing father so far, Brandish is now butting in after years of Amy neglect and wanting to be somehow annoyed at Marquis. Meh. Fuck her.

        1. I don’t think an amazing father would be enabling Amy’s current steady slide towards another breakdown, this time with more lobotomies, or her subordinating herself to a three-year-old Lab Rat clone. Marquis is demonstrably not providing the kind of support that Amy needs in order to not fuck up and lobotomize people deliberately or otherwise.

          1. I mean, to be fair, Marquis doesn’t care about those people.

            He’s a cool dad, but we keep forgetting that he is also a kind of terrible person (Murderer, tyrant, kinda sexists…) .

          2. An amazing father would be supporting his daughter no matter what, to the extent he is capable of.

            Marquis can’t provide the kind of support that Amy needs to not lobotomize her patients. (Therapy?) So the fact he isn’t providing that is hardly a strike against him.

        2. Being “twice the parent Brandish is”, really isn’t saying much. If Brandish had been a good parent, Victoria and/or Amy probably wouldn’t have felt isolated enough to trigger to begin with.

    5. So, how would you argue Amy’s situation differs from the addict cape’s? Like that cape, Amy is someone who we’ve seen, and not just here, doesn’t have it under control and repeatedly does poor decisions because of that. Not just what happened here with Hunter, but aligning her with Goddess, etc. What Victoria says here about Amy constantly lying to herself rings true. All that while having a catastrophically strong a power that she has repeatedly shown she has a hard time controlling due to her issues.

      Basically exactly the reasoning they used to justify banishing the hero who did terrible things while high.

      1. Thats a fair point, and to be honest I wouldnt have sent that cape away either. It was his choice and he sincerely got to the point where he would rather be isolated than hurting people because of his addiction. Amy has not decided this and she will be presuntly decieved into imprisonment thinking she will go to therapy.

        Honestly?I would give Amy the Nilbog treatment. Keep her under strict warden supervision at all times, and give her full therapy. Allow her visits from Marquis as she is not by any means a mass murderer or someone bent on killing people or being evil or even criminal. Keep her away from stress or being overworked in using her power, keep her power usage to a minimum if necessary. You know, something that will actually help her, and planned by anyone that is not Victoria?isolating her completely from everyone, keeping her away from her father, is only going to drive her into insanity. Isolating the unstable person is never a good idea. If they could do with Nilbog and Riley Im sure they can with Amy. And for the love of god keep Victoria a mile away from taking any decision regarding Amy.

        1. >Keep her power usage to a minimum if necessary.

          I don’t think this would be good for Amy. She’s advanced a bit since her days of wanting to spend every second healing people, but she still wants to help as many people as possible and preventing her from doing that would only exacerbate her issues.

        2. @Naoru,

          Your idea of imprisoning Amy like they did with Nilbog is one a good idea. Unfortunately, I suspect that the Wardens may not have the resources/facilities for keeping long-term, high-risk prisoners since the Portal attack. Come to think of it, we still don’t know where Bonesaw and Nilbog are at the moment…

        3. Let me rephrase that. Drive her further into insanity. I mean, you’re totally right, but let’s be totally honest. If she isn’t already very mildly insane, she’s nowhere near sane either.

      2. Victoria is the absolute last person who should be involved in passing judgement or sentencing on Amy for the very simple reason that she is the one who was victimized by Amy, and no matter what she thinks, she sure as hell isn’t going to be rational about dealing with her, anymore than Amy is going to be rational where Victoria is concerned.

      3. “So, how would you argue Amy’s situation differs from the addict cape’s? Like that cape, Amy is someone who we’ve seen, and not just here, doesn’t have it under control and repeatedly does poor decisions because of that. ”
        Amy’s messed up what, twice? And saves how many? The Bonesaw plague was millions or billions. She’s almost certainly performing vastly better than say, a surgeon doing comparable work.

        “Not just what happened here with Hunter, but aligning her with Goddess, etc. ”
        You mean she and Chris stopped Goddess?

        “Basically exactly the reasoning they used to justify banishing the hero who did terrible things while high.”
        Except Amy’s terrible record… isn’t that bad. She has Victoria, who would have died without help. And something with Hunter? Although Hunter is still talking it sounds like? So probably not as bad as what Victoria did to Brandish. Victoria just had Amy as a safety net.
        Also truthfully? That was terrible of Victoria. Amy could have fixed him. She would have if they sent him to Shin. He was sent away because Victoria wasn’t willing to bring up the obvious solution. Although in Amy’s case Victoria would need to find a cape who can teach people to control their powers, and those don’t just rain from the sky. 😉

      4. I can tell you how it differs. Currently Amy is doing more good with her powers than bad. She is the equivalent of the most skilled surgeon (now neurosurgeon) in existence. She’s had one MAJOR case of malpractice during a mental breakdown. Got pardoned for it. Since then she’s made one major surgical mistake and afterwards noticed that her hands were slightly shaky during subsequent surgeries. Surgeons that have made two mistakes and otherwise have countless successes do not deserve life in prison, be it on the grounds of justice or utilitarianism.

        1. No matter how much “good” she is doing biologically warping people to not have urges she doesn’t find acceptable, the simple fact is that she “accidentally” destroyed the mind and personally (and potentially body? Chris implies it but nothing else seems to clarify that point) of a girl who “coincidentally” broadly looks like the girl she previously mentally and physically violated.

          Like, I like Amy as a character and I honestly hope that she can find peace, but I’m appalled at how many people are acting like she did the equivalent of forgetting a sponge inside someone.

        2. Shaky surgeons nick bloodvessels. People die.
          I have little reservation with letting people sign up for “Help from Amy” IF they’re being told the fucking risks.
          I mean, my god, Ashley Original killed her fucking parents because her power goes off at random.
          That’s …
          Would you take partial personality erasure to get working hands???
          IT is a choice.

        1. Goddess was an aggressive alpha blonde with an aura of command, and Amy is Amy. How much more explanation do we really need?

          1. That logic is flawed AF. We always need an explanation. Assumptions are always how things go to shiz in Worm or Ward.

          2. We need an explaination as to Why Marquis allowed it to happen.

            By which I mean, By the sound of it neither Marquis nor Amy were aligned, indicating that they contacted Bianca (safely), managed to form an alliance with her, and did so in a way that was “safe” for both of them.

            Which is… more than Breakthrough managed.

            Amy would have had to decided to meet Bianca, and have jumped through a dozen or so hoops to do so safely, and presumably did so BEFORE she met her, and WITH her rather protective father’s approval. Which means that it must have been deemed safe, and tactically useful by at least one A-grade supervillian.

          3. My guess would be that it had something to do with that offer for Amy which Teacher had discussed with Marquis in Teneral e.5. Remember that Teacher gathered a collection of masters who could control human minds. The Megacluster, including Goddess certainly qualifies. Maybe Teacher either wanted Amy’s help in recruitment process, and/or saw her as a possible solution for his “problem” of taking away people’s free will with his power (something he eventually managed to convince Scapegoat to do for him instead)?

            Either way Teacher probably explained Marquis and Amy that he was planning to gather masters, likely even told them why he did that, and asked them for their help. At that point one of two things happened:
            1. Amy and Marquis decided to help Teacher, and one of the things Teacher wanted from Amy was for her to convince Goddess to join Cauldron. Of course Goddess, being the paranoid “alpha-female”, interpreted such recruitment attempt as an attack by Teacher, decided to oppose him instead and convinced Amy to join,
            2. Amy and Marquis refused to help Teacher and, knowing that he collects masters and that the Megacluster was on the list, decided to warn Goddess that he may try to capture or convince her and/or her cluster to join, which led straight to their alliance against Teacher.

            I think that either way it is very likely that Goddess learned that her missing clustermate was in the prison, and was about to be taken by Teacher straight from Amy.

          4. One thing that will probably make everyone who doesn’t trust Teacher is that since he bothered with recruiting Scapegoat even before his attack on the prison, it looks like Amy refused to join him from the begging. If she accepted, Teacher probably wouldn’t need Scapegoat, at least not so much that kidnapping Scapegoat straight from prison before the main attack, and using him to “de-program” Valefor would be justified. If Teacher had Amy’s help before she decided to join Goddess, there would probably be plenty of time for her to do to Valefor exactly what Scapegoat ended up doing.

          5. This whole situation could also be another reason why Amy is focusing on repairing people with mental problems so much. She may suspect that one day she may need to de-program an army of Teacher’s thralls, and whoever else was mastered by his allies, and because of it she could think that she needs to practice. Of course because Teacher is listening it is not the reason Amy could just explain to Victoria in any random place, especially not around people who could work for Teacher, like the guards, Shin representatives, and possibly even any Gimel diplomats. Amy probably can’t even be certain if Victoria herself was mastered until she touches her.

            Looks like one more reason why exiling Amy could be a catastrophically bad idea, and at the same time an explanation why Amy’s actions may be as irrational as Victoria thinks, doesn’t it?

          6. Finally it could explain why Chris decided to ally with Amy. It may be possible that Teacher shared his plans with Lab Rat, and Cryptid may disagree with those every bit as much as Amy and Marquis do. In other words Amy, Chris, Brandish, Flashbang and even Marquis and some other former inmates in Megalopolis prison may actually be a coalition secretly opposing Teacher, and likely knowing better what he plans than heroes like Victoria (or even the mayor, Wardens’ leadership or Tattletale) do.

    6. Actually I think that the sisters seem surprisingly similar as far as their ability to lie to themselves. It is entirely possible that Victoria was correct when she said that Amy isn’t really sure that she can fix Hunter, but at the same time Victoria herself seems to be trying to convince herself that she is actually going to give Amy an honest chance to prove her wrong, and that Amy will fail to do it not because the “test” will be unfair, but because she really isn’t safe and needs to be exiled.

      Be honest with yourself Victoria – you have already judged and condemned Amy, and you don’t intend to let any test to convince you otherwise. You don’t intend to give your own sister a second chance.

    7. I….kind of agree- Amy needs some real-ass real therapy, and/or something to nullify her powers permanently…..though wasn’t Yamada supposed to take this on, back at Vicky’s urging earlier?

      Leaving Amy on a deserted world opens her up to getting Teacher-napped, or worse, breaking her completely, having her develop the zerg/tyrannids, and coming back for revenge in the future.

      I’ve never been the biggest fan of Victoria, but even while I fully, FULLY agree she’s being a huge hypocrite and a jerk here, Amy ‘admitted’ to having fucked up on another person is….like the one singular button that would make things worth between her and Amy than they already are.

      At the same time….Amy absolutely shouldn’t be ‘pushing’ to try and work her way in with Victoria at this point -it’s similar to the ‘delusion’ she has regarding her own control/powers – Vicky’s parallel of her being an addict, while not spot-on, is true in that like an addict, Amy is more than willing to lie to herself and BELIEVE that lie – right up until she slips, again.

      Amy thinking ‘I have a chance’ is like…the worst thing that could happen to here, here.

      But that aside, Vicky’s still an asshole, and this is by far my least favorite chapter of her headspace/

    8. Yeah, this was just awful on every level. I know people point to Taylor almost suffocating Triumph as a point where she has clearly crossed the line in what constitutes a ‘necessary evil’ and is something that she shouldn’t have done, but even then she hated herself for it and threw up in shame and disgust at what she had done. And still it was done to save a small child from enslaved and drugged into compliance, and her choices were driven by her guilt for the role she played in allowing that child to be kidnapped.

      Taylor absolutely went too far, but she still had better reasons and justifications for that than Victoria does for this. This is just Victoria preying on a broken person’s hopes for redemption to get revenge on them.

      Victoria specifically identifies Amy’s supports, tears them down, emotionally abuses her in front of everybody and then builds up a false hope of getting Amy help and possibly reconciliation so she can throw her away in another dimension. This is just disgusting, and far worse than anything Taylor ever did. That Victoria can delude herself into thinking that it will somehow be just because she can set Amy up to fail with a test first is horrifying.

      1. Amy literally mentally handicaps people. She’s dangerous and Vicky sat for a year in a personal Hell because of Amy. Is she overreacting? Maybe. Does Amy need to be controlled? Absolutely.

      2. Finally someone gets what I have been saying about Victoria abusing Amy and purposefully attacking her every coping mechanism and her entire net of support.

        1. So, Vicky, forcing Amy to cave to your will, making her answer and overwhelming hr emotionally? Nice tactic, it couldn’t possibly go wrong again like last time could it?

          But that said, the sister’s emotional states are like boils that need lancing. and I fully now expect that somewhere in this story, that Amy gets the therapy she needs and her overwhelming obsession with Vicky removed. at said point, Amy will return fire and rip Vicky a new one over the whole mess. Of course, Vicky will return fire and it will be even less pleasant than it was this time.

          Or Amy breaks completely and Dot gets modified into the first of an Army of Victorias and we end up with a class s threat ruling ‘Vicky’burg

          Although, I still wouldn’t put it past Wildbow to have Vicky’s narration of this story to be to Amy over coffee after a hell of lot of crap.

      3. You’re right that Victoria is being completely irrational and blinded by hatred. She can see that Amy’s lying to herself but not the lies in her own thoughts. However, I’m pretty sure if any of us were mindraped and turned into a giant, disgusting flesh puddle/construct that your own mother can’t even look at, left like that for two years but under the impression that you will be like that FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, none of us would be any more forgiving. Anyone in Victoria’s position would be equally biased and vindictive. She can’t really see Amy or her situation, just Amy’s crimes towards her and the resulting trauma. This wasn’t her facing her demons, it was her being vengeful–and its a completely human response. She was robbed of the freedom to even think of the situation normally while in the asylum–instead her mind went over the same obsessive, unnatural and incestuous thoughts about Amy. She knew it was wrong but she had no control over her mind. So now, when she’s trying to confront her “demons” naturally all this pent up hatred comes out. Its ugly to watch but I’m not surprised. Victoria is at her worst. We’re seeing the worst side of her because she’s clearly not in a good place. Frankly, this chapter shows her regressing back to the judgmental, pushy, spoiled and angry girl we met in the bank in Worm. At least, partly…Honestly, it all goes back to mental health issues? You say Amy has mental health issues and needs help? Well, obviously but so does Victoria.

    9. Personally, it annoys me when a perspective character is just inherently better than other people. It’s… wanky? I don’t want to read somebody’s power fantasy, and it’s pretty impressive that Worm and Ward have superpowers without being power fantasies.

      I like stories where the characters have problems people do, and they address that in ways people do. And if they fail, then it’s interesting in its own way.

      Here, we can see Vicky is in pretty desperate need of some fresh air. She’s been held down under all this funk for too long, hasn’t had a chance to center itself, and now we’re seeing the edges fray. I’m not going to be impressed if she ‘gets over it’ by being super special, I’ll be impressed if one of her friends notices what’s happening and pulls her out of it before she goes too far, because that’s the kind of thing any person could do.

      That said, readers need fresh air too, sometimes. We’re no more human, ourselves.

    10. Agree that Victoria is deeply flawed, an unreliable narrator, and unkind to the point of cruelty. Disagree that she’s wrong just because her actions are cruel.

      Amy is an unstable brainwasher who just ruined another person’s life, and in doing so put millions of people at risk of starving and freezing to death. We empathise with Amy and Victoria because they’re antagonist and protagonist, but think about what happened to Hunter and to Hunter’s friends and family, then think about the millions of people who might die or lose someone. Wiping away Hunter’s personality was far, far worse than anything Victoria has ever done or said to Amy, but the impact of Amy’s mistake in terms of human life and suffering is higher than a natural disaster like an Endbringer attack.

      This is the diamond of crystal-clear insight hidden in the coal that makes up Gary Nieves’ hatred for parahumans: millions of lives depended on the emotional stability of a deeply traumatised teenage girl who probably had more damage potential than any of the Slaughterhouse Nine, simply because Amy was powerful and in the right place. It might well have been better to kill her rather than let her leave the prison, not because she deserved death, but because the consequences of letting her live were so enormously amplified by her power.

      Victoria is obviously biased, but she doesn’t go far enough in her estimation of Amy’s destructive potential. The girl is like an armed nuclear weapon that explodes when it gets too sad.

    11. I couldn’t agree more, reading this chapter made me feel physically ill which has never happened before from any type of media/entertainment so bravo wildbow.
      I kind of saw this coming from way back in chapter 10.1 there was a lot of foreshadowing from that chapter so anyone having a hard time processing Victoria’s actions this chapter should definitely give that a reread.

      1. Honestly at this point I could use a nice month or two long break from the Dallon sisters, and all the debate about which one is worse. Could we have a Crystal interlude arc or something?

        It’d also be kinda funny if while we’re having this drama everyone else ends up resolving the Teacher situation without them.

    12. And the crazy thing is, Victoria’s kinda always been like this. Part of her intro in Worm was mauling an unpowered guy (the guy was a scumbag, but I digress) and using her mind altering powers to manipulate Amy into cleaning it up for her. My first impression of her was that she’d be Taylor’s Emma stand-in in the parahuman world until we saw more of her. Now she’s doing the same thing she’s always done with Amy, but hopefully it doesn’t end the same way.

      On an unrelated note, Wildbow needs to take it easy on the blonde women. Am I the only one who thinks there’s way too many blonde characters of similar description?

    13. What in god’s name is wrong with you people? Saving lives does not somehow excuse hurting people. A talented surgeon who rapes someone is not somehow excused because of it (and that is actually a very good analogy for this situation). It was even specifically mentioned that the person Amy “broke” was a girl with blonde hair, to make it clear to you weirdos that this wasn’t just a “slip of the scalpel” so to speak; it basically is making it clear that Amy gave into the temptation to alter someone for her own reasons again.

      It doesn’t matter that she was under stress; Amy did something deeply traumatic to Victoria and Victoria completely has the right to not want her in her life. And Victoria herself isn’t vindictive; she was perfectly fine with Amy just never seeing or speaking to her again. But Amy not only repeatedly violates those boundaries – she has also repeated actions (through continuing to alter peoples’ brains) that she already knows she has a problem with and can result in ruining peoples’ lives. Such a mistake could maybe be partially excused once, but that excuse stops working when you continue to willingly put yourself in situations where you can cause that harm.

      I’m not exaggerating when I say that it is genuinely distressing to see people support Amy in this situation, and it makes me very concerned about what personal experiences might be motivating your sympathies here. I sincerely hope you people aren’t demanding others forgive you for harm you caused them in your own personal lives.

      1. I never cease wondering how someone can just throw the word “rape” in, and then suddenly everything else stops mattering (sometimes even whether this word can be really applied or not) – the person in question is invariably a monster, and so is everyone who says anything in their favor. Imagine how would it be if Victoria were a bit younger at the time of S9 attack. Then Amy would be not only a rapist, she would be a PEDOPHILE! (the only word which is even more magic than “rape”) Exile is far too mild for her, clearly she should be burned at the stake.

        It’s also telling that you’d think that people supporting Amy are demanding forgiveness from others for harm caused by them, rather than, say, they are more forgiving for harm done to them (I’m not assuming this is the case, but I’d say it would be an equally, if not more, reasonable assumption).

      2. Your comment caused me to go back and re-read the relevant portion of Carol’s interlude in Worm to see if I was misremembering things. I was, in fact, misremembering things (somehow forgot the part where she treated Victoria like a toy) and have therefor retracted much of what I said about Amy in the previous chapter’s comments. So in my case, that’s “what in god’s name” was wrong with me. Just a simple memory glitch; nothing sinister.

        It was even specifically mentioned that the person Amy “broke” was a girl with blonde hair, to make it clear to you weirdos that this wasn’t just a “slip of the scalpel” so to speak; it basically is making it clear that Amy gave into the temptation to alter someone for her own reasons again.

        Giving in to temptation is only one way to interpret that. Another interpretation is that the resemblance to Victoria reminded Amy of how badly she fucked up before, giving her anxiety and causing her to fumble. That is how I interpret that segment, and presumably how the “slip of the scalpel” folks do as well. There’s also a third possibility, that Teacher somehow meddled and sabotaged her attempt to help Hunter rather than it being a legit screw-up, but for now I’m assuming it was genuine.

    14. I don’t think Victoria is right. I don’t think anyone is right when it comes to this f%&#ed up situation. But I think Amy might be the least right, or at least the ways she’s wrong are going to have far worse impacts than the ways anyone else is wrong.

      Throwing Amy in another world for the rest of her life is going to devastate maybe a dozen people. Letting Amy slowly spiral out of control while trying to help people, convincing herself that she can handle it, while under the thumb of Shin and/or Lab Rat? The best we can hope for is that she remains their loyal, controlled puppet. The worst…well, it wouldn’t be a Golden Morning type of disaster, but it could certainly be on an Echidna or Khonsu level.

      1. > Throwing Amy in another world for the rest of her life is going to devastate maybe a dozen people.

        Are you kidding? *This* is what would most likely result in an Endbringer-level disaster, if not worse. Think of the whole prison world turned to Red Kingdom.

  4. Luis. You are. so hammy.

    I mean, palpatine is less threatrical than you!

    I guess that this is actually another bluff like they did with Ashely, but still…

    It gets complicated to solve this diplomatically. Which means they will get “captured”, and that way we will have a closer look at Shin´s culture & Chris work.

    And… Chris seems to have replicated his Birdcage habits as a cell block leader. Although, as they were vastly outnumbered by the convicts from the prison, I expect this to have been actually a consensual proccess, at least in most of the cases.

    I mean, Chris hates “imperatives” and irrational urges the most by personal experience, so removing “shard conflict imperatives” from parahumans at large scales is actually an ambitious & in-character move, particulalry if they were “Goddessed”. At least, that´s what seems implied from the conversation.

    Sadly, it will somehow not be that easy. Seems Chris is wont to be another anatagonist, maybe to the bitter end.

    Such a waste of a good character. I hope that myassesment of the situation will be proven wrong.

  5. So, I just gotta say, I love the fact that Marquis is such a supportive dad, and also the detail where it shows that even Marquis is kind of… uncomfortable with the situation, even if her doesn’t actively disagree.

    Also, lemme get this straight:
    “News suggests that the parahuman doctor you sent us is actually dangerous and unstable”–> “We will thus arrest you now, using our close and trusted ally, this…. parahuman doctor”
    … wait what?

      1. It is actually quite logical if you remember that at least one of the things they want to do is to force Amy to “do certain healings of famous people here to prolong their lives and enrich their cultures”. This way they effectively get a fair number of hostages they can use to break her resolve not to do it. I expect that Victoria in particular could become a perfect leverage against Amy.

        Which obviously doesn’t bode well for Victoria…

    1. Eh, one of the guys in that room was proud of having killed a kid just because they had powers, I can see them siccing Amy on Breakthrough as a sort of poetic justice, mixed with “we don’t want her working on us because she’s dangerous and unstable, but we don’t care what she does to you”

  6. As I read Vicky becoming more monstrous, particularly when dealing with her sister, I can’t help but think of Waste’s analysis of Vicky in the 12.all interlude:
    “There are courses she could take that would fall in line with my capabilities as they now stand. To be a killer. To be a tyrant. She stands at the edge of those cliffs. If she steps over it, I will buoy her and I will show her that I am very good at enabling her to walk those paths.”
    Seems like she’s closer now to those cliff edges than ever before.

    1. Considering just how bad mistake it would be for the heroes to exile Amy (even just for purely practical reasons – she is probably one of the very few capes who can de-program mastered people, and between Teacher’s collection of masters, and an entire mastered Chiet capital and possibly also mastered Contessa, there will likely be a lot of demand for an ability like that soon), Victoria is almost bound to do just that. This is a Wildbow story – things must go to hell before they get better, don’t they?

  7. Damn. Hunter, the girl that boy mentioned from Arc 1, is being brought up again.

    Fuck. Wildbow had put that one on the backburner for a while now. Fucking shit that shit is good.

    Now, it’s time for JAILBREAK!

    1. The minute it was mentioned they were at the Not-Asylum, I thought it was Hunter, and I really, truly hoped it wasn’t. Because had it been someone else- anyone else- it wouldn’t have hit quite so hard, quite so close. But they’re blonde, like Vicky, and they know her, and… And Amy slipped. I’m not sure I agree with throwing Amy into exile, at least not until she’s tried to fix Hunter and either failed miserably or done something similarly apocalyptic, but I’m also not sure I disagree, either.

      Honestly? I think I feel better about exiling Amy than I did about exiling Drillbit- and I agreed with his choice to go. I just don’t know if it’s a good idea.

      1. Jailbreak!

        Brandish “I’m a lawyer< I know a bit about jails!"
        Marquis. "I know, you sent me to the Bird cage!"
        Vista "Will you two fucking concentrate?!

    2. Jailbreak ? No, no. First, it’s time for Laveres vs Dallons – round 2.
      Last time it only ended because an helpless infant Amy ended up in the line of fire and Marquis gave up for her sake.
      I’m not expecting a repeat of that, especially with Cryptid assisting them.
      If we’re lucky noone will die too horribly.

          1. I want him to fuck her over in combat, not sexually. Though now you made me think on kinky hate sex so…

        1. I want to see them fighting too but I doubt that Marquis will be eager to hurt a woman, even his enemy, given how much he respects women, or Amy will allow him to hurt her beloved adoptive mother. As for hot pasionate hate sex, that would be a posibility :). Imagine everyone’s expressions when Marquis and Carol will suddenly rip off each other clothes, trying to sexually top each other. Shin people will be like: classical example of capes madness. Another reason for not trust them.

          1. He’ll hurt a woman for his daughter’s safety. This is the exception he’ll MAKE. However, I fail to see Carol wanting to hurt Amy. Victoria, on the other side…

          2. > “As for hot pasionate hate sex, that would be a posibility :).”

            Okay, I know everyone here is talking like this is a normal and pleasent thing, but what the fuck?
            That just sounds… like… really upsetting. 🙁

            And…. you know what- dear internet, please do not try to explain. This is not a thing I need to know.

          3. It’ll be settled in the ancient Earth Shin trial by combat. The champions chosen will be Amy and Victoria, no powers. The combat shall be mud wrestling.

        2. I mean… Brandish has screwed up pretty bad in the past… but right now she actually seems pretty legit and on point.

      1. One more argument against jailbreak, at least before the situation becomes more clear:

        De-escalation.

        Hopefully even with Amy around Victoria still remembers this principle, especially since there are potentially millions of lives at stake at the moment.

        1. Think about it this way:
          – Nobody is executing the arrested capes yet.
          – There are plenty of people (Cheit, anti-parahumans) who think that the main problem humanity faces is conflict and strife, and that parahumans are the source of this problem. Remind them that unpowered humans – like Shin governments can do it too. At the same time show them that parahumans can show enough restraint to avoid violence when attacked like that. This way some of the problems Megalopolis and its capes have may lessen, or become Shin’s problems instead.
          – Intentions of Shin governments aren’t pure. At leasta part of what they’re doing is meant to break Amy’s resolve to not make their leaders immortal. On top of it there is a good chance that at least Luis is secretly a parahuman. It is probably better to peacefully wait until those facts come to light, because this may be a golden opportunity to turn the public (including Shin’s) against those governments, potentially having those governments replaced by ones less corrupted and less hostile to Gimel and capes.
          – Remember that they still need to Teacher think that the heroes have very low morale at the moment. Appearing to be defeated can accomplish just that. Just remember that capes known to have short tempers should probably make some fuss over being arrested. Otherwise the act won’t be convincing.
          – The diplomats (at least Breakthrough) don’t know how likely it is that Shin will actually stop supplying the Megalopolis, but trying to run will probably increase chances of that. (Side note – the diplomats also don’t know how long will the city really need to depend on those supplies, and as I stated elsewhere I suspect that Nilbog may be working on solving the food problem at least.)
          – The diplomats don’t know if they can count on outside help. Perhaps someone like the Coalition or other Shin dissidents will break them out – it would be a perfect opportunity to both make contact with people on Shin who are potentially more sympathetic to Gimel, and to give those people more power on their planet. Perhaps Gimel’s organizing the rescue – they probably know better if such rescue is necessary, and are better equipped to execute it. Perhaps even Dot is organizing something, and wouldn’t it be nice to give her her five minutes of glory?

          The bottom line is that most of the time the best thing an arrested diplomat can do is to offer no resistance, and it is not only because regular diplomats usually have no chance of breaking free on their own, but the very fact that they are arrested or imprisoned usually works in favor of their country in more than one way. This means that as long as the worst thing they can expect is imprisonment and no more pressure they can handle there is probably no good reason for our diplomats to run. If it will look like they may be killed or tortured or it will look like one of them is about to loose it and do something drastic (for example if Amy’s behavior would indicate that she may unleash some sort of plague) – it will be a different story…

          1. Just remember to treat a risk of one of the capes cracking under stress and torture seriously. We don’t want another case of Skitter vs. Alexandria and Tagg, do we? And Amy is not the only of the capes who have gone nuts when situation was really bad. Half of Breakthrough is different from her only in that they don’t have potential to do damage on global scale.

            One more note – some people have pointed out that if Shin government manages to hide the arrested capes somewhere, Gimel capes may not be able to find them, and as a consequence – break them out. This may not be the case. Not only does Gimel have capes whose power would probably let them get such information easily, it may be enough for the diplomats themselves to know where they are to inform Gimel. Remember that Rain will see his cluster tonight, and I’m certain that Colt will be happy to pass a message from him straight to the bunker.

            The only problem is that Teacher’s people may intercept it depending on how much they really know about what’s going on in the dream-room. But this is not something that Breakthrough is aware of, so it shouldn’t influence their decision to use this channel of communication.

          2. Almost all of this is likely a Teacher plot somehow. I’m willing to bet he lined it up for the “Coalition” to abstain and some additional work around getting Shin to hear the encounter with Nieves, Breakthrough to go to Shin and Shin to possibly have some additional information on Breakthrough the team didn’t know going in.

          3. On some level it definitely is a result of Teacher’s plot, though I’m not sure if he did more than just ensure that people like Nieves got the dirt on capes in a way that people believed him (this one is obviously at least in part his fault), and made sure that the right people on Shin saw the recording of confrontation between Gary and Breakthrough (Shin government reacted suspiciously quickly, didn’t they?)

            Either way looks like Teacher may benefit from the situation even more than he suspects. It looks like he might have just eliminated entire team Breakthrough and three Wardens from the list of people who can raid his complex.

  8. I wrote, and the words were a typo thread:

    “defending a PHD,”
    *PhD

    “shook her head.”We’ve”
    Missing spaces and wrong quotes.

    “and the the undo”

    1. Technically not an error, but Golem and Vista were “Imped” in the previous chapter to such degree that before this chapter was posted, I was convinced that they never made to the greenhouse and stayed with Miss Militia instead. Perhaps they should have been mentioned in the previous chapter around this point:

      I didn’t want to do this.  To have this conversation.  The room we entered was like a greenhouse patio, with tables and chairs set against the wall.  Snow was piled against the glass.  It was warm.  I could see Miss Militia if I looked past the guard and through the window into the meeting space.  As the guard moved, though, my vision obscured.

      Tristan was keeping an eye on the window too.  He looked at me, then back to the window.

      Yeah.  We were on the same page.

      I so didn’t want to do this.

      Amy sat on a table.  My mom sat on a chair beside her, my dad beside her.  Marquis was a distance away, closer to Chris.

      A good fifteen feet separated us from them.  A gulf.

      and possibly also once or twice after?

      > So often, there was a measured reaching out, a safe topic broached, and the conversation would continue until Chris said something or someone said something a little too biting.

      I think that the first comma is unnecessary.

      > A Mrs. Jeanne Wynn helped.

      Either scratch “A”, or change it into “And”?

      1. The last bit works. There’s more than one Mrs. Jeanne Wynn, even if everyone in the room knows exactly which Mrs. Jeanne Wynn was involved. The ‘a’ actually reinforces that, by implying a ‘certain’ Mrs. Jeanne Wynn helped.

        1. Perhaps you are right. It sounds like a very dismissive, arrogant, even offensive way to call the mayor of Megalopolis, but maybe it fits Marquis, and what he wants to communicate about his feelings regarding both the city and its mayor.

          1. It’s not, actually. And I did not intend to give that impression. If she was present, maybe it would be offensive. But she’s not, so it isn’t. It’s like… you’re discussing a big donation for your pocket charity (helping a local with terminal illness, or the like), and it came from somebody famous or important. Like… “We had a donation of £10,000 from a Mr. Samuel L. Jackson.” Everyone knows who he is, it’s the thought of him getting involved in helping some nobody like the local with a terminal illness.

      2. So often > Every so often
        fell across > falling across
        us, a guest (maybe “as guests”?)
        -scientists-, (extra comma)
        head.”We’ve (missing space, reverse quotation mark)
        untatooed > untattooed
        anything,” > anything.”

  9. On one hand I can see the argument for Amy being a ticking bomb and her power being highly dangerous, she did create Khepri. On other hand, ticking bomb is how I would describe half of Breakthrough, though their powers are not as dangerous. The interactions between Amy and Victoria are always very unpleasant.

    1. The ticking bombs in Breakthough are IEDs. Amy,conservatively speaking, is a mulit-megaton nuclear device. All discussions of what to do about her are colored by the issue that she could have a bad day and set events in motion that would kill billions. Dealing with her then probably wouldn’t stop the deaths caused by whatever super-plague she hiccuped up.

      1. Yes. And that’s a good reason why, if you’re dealing with such a device, you’d better not kick it or hit it with a hammer for being bad and dangerous, and surely as hell you don’t want to drop it into the nearest canyon, hoping that it won’t harm you when it blows up there (which it surely will). The only real options you have would be to destroy the device (I hope neither the readers nor the heroes are willing to go that far with Amy), or to disarm it (in Amy’s case, to give her good therapy and supervision).

  10. I’ve been enjoying the entirety of this book, but the last few chapters have been especially great. Here’s to more incredibly tense conversations in the future

  11. So three birdcagers and cops against like 11 heroes? I want to say the heroes will win but these three are scary individually. Their only hope is to incapacitate Chris and Amy immediately and hope marquis is too distracted to go on full offense. Also if some of the shin assholes go down I wouldn’t be mad.

  12. Tactically, I don’t see a win for Shin immigrants. All 3 are vulnerable to being wrapped up by Golem or Tristan (in hands/rock), Cuff and Ashley can hit hard, Tress could wrap up Chris.

    For Amy…safest is for Miss Militia to be quick and decisive with a bullet.
    In fact…do you think this is meant as a lose-lose for Amy, Chris, and Marquis? Fight and get beat, or don’t fight and break the deal?

    1. You seem assume that the Gimel capes will try to run from where they currently are. It is entirely possible that they will wait for a better opportunity – for example while being taken to their cells, or even after they will be put in there. It may even be that they will decide to wait for a few hours or even days and see if the matter will be resolved peacefully, or if they will get help from the outside (either from Gimel, or even from some Shin people who are dissatisfied with their arrest – remember that not every government was present, and even representatives of those who were there were far from unanimous decision).

    2. There is another option. Miss Militia, Breakthrough and Co let themselves be arrested, rather than fighting.

      1. I even think that they probably should let themselves be arrested and calmly wait for outside rescue or even for the governments of Shin to let them go eventually. It would ruin reputation of both Gimel capes and Gimel in general if their ambassadors tried to use force to resist arrest. On the other hand if they let themselves be arrested it is Shin that looks bad, possibly to the point that the incident gives Gimel’s government a pretext to intervene, and weakens Shin’s position in any future negotiations.

    3. The issue is Chris could have made back ups for him and/or Amy. Or Amy could have jailbroken one or more of the Shin capes. Or Chris could have learned how to jailbreak Amy. Or have reinforced all their bones and given them regeneration powers. It could work, but it could also end with a Khepri swarm invading Gimel.

      Not to mention that fighting would mean they get no aid and millions die.

    4. Marquis single handedly took on the Brockton bay brigade 15 years ago, that is to say 1:5, and he was DESTROYING them. He only lost because of threats to Amy (who admitedly is still here).

      All I’m saying is that the threat level on Mr Lavere is VERY high.

  13. Lots of people saying Victoria is in the wrong here, but:

    -Amy is a potential S-class. She can literally start an airborne pandemic at will.

    -Amy is NOT good under pressure unless she is being directed by someone she trusts/agrees with. Victoria said this, but we have seen it proven time and time again – when Amy fails, she’s stressed and alone (or simply in charge). Even fixing Vic was due to Taylor’s explicit direction.

    -Amy is drifting ever more toward “the ends justify the means.” We have seen this with her attempts at redemption via rehabilitating supervillains… whom she herself helped free from prison.

    -That said, her highest goal seems to be redeeming herself in Victoria’s eyes. She is clearly willing to sacrifice a LOT and take SEVERE risks to accomplish this.

    From the above, it doesn’t seem like much of a jump to assume that Amy would go s-class if she thought it was best for Victoria or even just if she thought it might help fix their relationship, particularly if the decision had to be made by her alone in a high-pressure situation.

    Like this one.

    Inb4 Earth Shin pandemic next chapter?

    (And dumping Amy through a portal wouldn’t be THAT bad for her. She can build her own civilization-harem of Glory Girl clones from local animals and debris!)

  14. Does anyone else thinks that what Amy is doing to “fix” all of those capes with mental issues may be going a little bit too far, even if it is consensual? It is not like we can assume that everyone of them realized just how fundamental changes Amy’s power may do to their personalities, or that they fully understood involved risks. It is also difficult to believe that at least some of these people didn’t feel strongly pressured to agree or were old enough to even be allowed to give their consent without consulting their parents or guardians (wasn’t Hunter just a child for example?). I feel like what Amy has been doing could be justified in some very rare cases, but she seems to have been doing it with everyone who seemed problematic, so I don’t believe that all of her patients should have been treated the way they were.

    1. On top of it Amy seems to make an assumption that people turn to crime only because of some mental or emotional issues or other medical reasons beyond their control. While I think that it is a more common reason than criminal courts verdicts seem to suggest, I don’t think it is safe to assume that it applies to every criminal.

      Some people are forced to become criminals because of other reasons (for example economical), some do it because of social pressure or even outright injustice of the society against them, some choose to become criminals despite being perfectly healthy mentally and despite not being under any outside pressure, and some convicted people are simply innocent. None of such people could or should be “helped” the way Amy does it, because there is simply no medical cause for their real or perceived criminal behavior, and doing anything to their brains should be considered doing unjustified harm. Did Amy take all of it into account before she started “fixing” people’s brains? Somehow I fear this may not be the case.

      1. Finally if we agree that not every criminal should have their heads “fixed”, who should decide which one of them should get a chance to be treated by Amy (even assuming that the criminal in question gets to have a final say in that matter), and based on what criteria? Should every mental issue connected to a crime be “treated” in such invasive way? For example should really every person with anger management issues who committed a crime in anger have that anger just “taken away”?

        The way I see it Amy may have not so much helping people she treated as turning them into drones with no characteristics not fitting expectations of the society. Should society be given such power over individuals? Should it even let the individuals themselves let something like that be done to themselves? And once again- if the answer is “yes in some cases, no in others” who should get to decide which case is which, and based on what?

        1. While I doubt the situation is entirety safe sane consensual at the moment as an idea I dont think its bad per se. Irl, the closest comparisons I can think of are chemical castrations on paedophiles which many convicted sex offenders have volunteered for because they see themselves as genuinely unable to control what they feel and know its disgusting.

          As for the rest, mental illness treatments often do have shitty side effects though being turned into a blob monster isnt one of them. Whats more, because being mentally comprimises your judgement in the first place AND makes you deemd “un trustworthy” by society, consent is a HUGELY complicated topic in the first place. I’ve known people who seriously struggled with mental illness and all I know is there is no easy way to handle it. In general, medical treatment is all about the toss up of “which is worse, this or the cure” and honestly I don’t think a looney biokinetic is any less a legitimate option than drugs, lobotomy, chemotherapy or electroshock, all which are dangerous but IN CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES are better then the alternative.

          1. I get your point, but again – who should get to decide that the particular case justifies using Amy’s method, based on what criteria (I understand that you gave “which is worse, this or the cure” as a general guideline, but what about the specifics), should there be an appeal from such decision allowed, and who will take responsibility or repair the damage (and how) if something (from the decision process to the treatment itself) goes wrong?

    2. Yes, I absolutely agree that it seems like she’s been going too far. She has such an incredible power, it is almost inevitable. Doing those kind of tweaks on people is super sensitive and is a HUGE deal.

      I don’t even know if how incredible Amy’s power is can be overstated. It’s one limitation is that she has to be touching someone. The changes themselves can be almost instantaneous. And she can do pretty much anything. Ever since her power was introduced you can’t help but remember as you read each scenario that in this universe Amy could “fix” a multitude of “problems.” Because her power is to change people physically and mentally any way desired! Imagine a flawed individual having that kind of power and you have this memorable, broken character. So OP.

      And here she went, trying to be helpful. O_O *will get popcorn for future descriptions of Amy’s help*

  15. Thinking on the contrast of Amy’s clothes (ankle length skirt especially reminds me of Jewish sense in how it relates to modesty) to Victoria’s, a bit like the contrast between them as they were, Victoria as the bolder, prettier and more confident, Amy as the one more anxious (or rather self-conscious as Victoria aptly puts it), unpretty and hiding away behind clothes as well as being the medic hiding behind physically powerful sister heroine. The contrast is different now, what with Victoria’s more solemn and grim demeanour and Amy’s edgy tattoos, but interesting to see that some old contrasts between the (ex)-sisters remain.

    All the little reminiscences on Amy from childhood and the ways Victoria knew her tells just reminded me they were close once and made me a little sad. I remember that moment in Worm when Amy is having a breakdown and Victoria is telling her they can handle anything together and hugging her just moments before Amy alters her mind. And the way after that happens when Victoria is horrified and looks at her with hatred the same way she does here, even if she does not do anything except merely looking, but even that look feels like punishment enough. Feeling helpless against having your identity and mind altered, and the love you held for other people twisted by that intrusion of forced love would make me hate the perpetrator forever, even without the addition of having two years of life stolen and body taken, so I’m impressed that Victoria manages to distance herself from that enough to have a civil talk with Amy, which by itself was a delight to read, to see Amy challenged and Victoria’s keen bitterness underlining a pertinent investigation of potential risk. Given Brandish’s words and Amy threatening to unleash a worldwide virus or sth like that back in Worm to be Birdcaged, I’m wondering how many more little things piling up it might take for Amy to finally go over the edge and in a fragile mental state decide to wipe out half of Shin population for a reason or another and cause a war between worlds. I’d really like to know what is going on in her head, perhaps it is the growing-but-not-yet-there realisation that she might not ever reconcile with Victoria or have her forgiveness that is making her sloppier in her work? (Pity Jessica isn’t able to shed a light on the situation.) As it is, I think it will be the moment when that hope in her is extinguished that she will snap and the breakdown everyone is anxious about will happen. It is interesting that however Marquis, Chris, the Dallon parents appear to be on her side to varying degrees, none of them seem at ease with her present state, and appear in subtle agreement with Breakthrough members on how much Amy’s insistences on handling the mistakes sound just like what they sounded to me – ominous self-delusions, as in, ‘it is fine’ repeated until it stops being fine, and then hell breaks loose..?

    Even with the way there might be strong objective grounds for Wardens on considering permanent solutions, not in the least to stabilise the situation with Shin and beyond, I was sad at the part of Victoria thinking how it would be an opportunity to trick Amy into being safely imprisoned if the push came to shove and she was determined to be too dangerous. The situation would be sth like, “sure, it needs to be done, but that betrayal would be like a twist of knife in the back”, and would be very compelling to read for that same reason, if the situation did ever head in that direction.

    Finally someone told Chris to shut up, his comments did start to grate after a while. He still acts like a teenager, he still kind of is one, but he embodies many of the most annoying/unattractive/tiresome sides of teenagers at times; a nice balance with when he finally starts volunteering useful comments in the latter half of the chapter.

    Marquis stylish as always.

    Some nice Marquish-Brandish hateship. Now that I think on it, it’s interesting how that hate (except wayyy worse) is passed on in some way since mirrored by their respective daughters for each other.

    Interesting to see how Amy’s work with Riley might have shaped her view, helping her to view alterations in a more amoral, detached/scientific way. Perhaps the same thing led her to overestimate her own capability to undertake risks, however much it is the other who would feel the consequences of her mistakes.

    As much as she had it coming with her persistent refusal to face the gravity of her actions to others, Amy’s hurt at Vista’s rebuke felt palpable.

    “I knew she was still alive.  I knew she was complicated.  I knew she probably had a hundred excuses or mitigating factors that went into what she’d done to me and the decisions surrounding it.
    But it was sure as fuck not my duty to do anything except what was good for everyone, and do what I needed to do to stay sane.”

    These two paragraphs felt especially striking. Victoria is able to still recognise Amy’s humanity whilst in a position where it would be very tempting to ascribe her none, but at the same time acknowledges how unfair it is to expect Victoria to do anything but what’s necessary, including expecting her to pass any judgement – not only unfair to Amy, but also unfair to Victoria in expectation for her to be fair to Amy while having every (understandable) incentive not to be. Hence why it’s fine for Victoria to confront Amy as a part of team, challenge her to address their personal issues, but when it comes to greater picture, to leave to each of her teammate to make their own impression and leave the final verdict on cost-benefit of “permanent solution” to Wardens. (As much as I would say that Amy’s far from being the biggest potential threat the Wardens should worry about.. for now, not really guaranteed to stay that way in future.)

    Great intense moment with Victoria whispering to Amy. Regardless of good or evil, which is a far more complex issue in this story, there is certainly that protagonist-antagonist feel and the inherent opposition of both.

    Excellent character-driven chapter. Now onto the arrest, uh. If I understood right and everyone except MM, Amy, Marquis and Chris is being arrested, does that mean these four would have to play the part (well, maybe not as much in Chris’s or Marquis’s case…) of being Breakthrough’s and the rest’s jailors or sth in order to have that peace with Shin? In which case Breakthrough and co might play along, but have to make their own escape/way through the foreign world later on.. in any case, will be intriguing to see how this plays out.

    1. Why has nobody responded to the above comment yet? There are a few minor things I don’t agree with, but for the most part I think it is very good.

      The first thing I think is wrong in Ae’s comment is an assumption that Amy is as self-delusional as Victoria thinks. The fact that Amy couldn’t calmly meet Victoria’s eyes when Vicky forced her to do so while responding to a question about the chances of healing Hunter tells me that Amy knows deep down that she can’t be as certain about it as she makes it sound, that she knows that she isn’t telling the truth. This in turn makes me think that Amy’s response to this question is more defensive than self-delusional. The fact that Amy may actually make not only her, but also everyone else’s situations worse by admitting that she may be unable to “fix” Hunter right in front of the guards is probably also a factor.

      This in turn makes me think that it is entirely possible to convince Amy to accept professional help and oversight by therapists Gimel heroes can trust – it could possibly even be organized more or less like Victoria proposed. Sure, letting Amy stay free is risky, but I don’t think that the risk is so high that it justifies a dimensional exile. At least not yet.

      Also note that despite of what Ashley said, Victoria definitely shouldn’t be trusted to judge Amy correctly. Especially not now.

      Finally I can’t be sure, that last scene can be interpreted in more than one way, but I think everyone – Breakthrough, the Wardens and “Amy’s group” may be getting arrested right now. Maybe not Natalie, but I wouldn’t be surprised if even she was.

      1. Thanks for the compliment 🙂

        Maybe it didn’t come across clearly, but in any case, I agree with the point about Amy, there are shades of what would be defensiveness or self-delusion or both in her responses. As for Victoria “judging” Amy, I don’t see it exactly that way – yes, that she shouldn’t pass any official judgement/decision regarding Amy as that would be unjust to them both and that definitely should be left to others aka Wardens to see how to go from there, but she can face Amy and ask difficult questions, not for closure as much as to see how Amy responds, I think that is as far as I meant, and I’m glad as it gave us a very interesting conversation (sometimes character conflicts seem better than even especially good fights).

        And yeah, I would like it if it were possible for Amy to work out the deal with Gimel/Wardens/professionals for help but I somehow think a lot of things will go awry before it ever happens, mainly either because of Victoria or Amy doing something even if a third party doesn’t :/ I also don’t think right now that Amy presents a direct threat, but with the way how fragile her personality has been in past, it takes just one catastrophically bad day and it is very easy for her in a moment to create another Khepri or a like S threat for heroes to contend with or make an air borne plague, and I think heroes are aware of this in the back if their minds, hence their cautious approach (though I commend that there were no snap decisions yet, which could make everything worse).

        As for the last scene, I think now that when he says “you, Cryptid, etc.” he is addressing only Chris, Amy and Marquis (and not MM too as I assumed since she was the last speaker before them) and telling them they are their hired protectors so they must arrest Breakthrough and co (indicating them at the end), hence Amy’s face falling halway through as she realises she is ordered to be an opponent to her sister. I think, soon the next chapter will show if I’m wrong.

  16. “When the passenger butts in, it saves over your work, and the the undo button on the metaphysical keyboard stops working,” Chris said.

    Should we treat this statement, assuming it is right, and there is no way around it, as the final nail to the coffin of the idea that Amy could potentially resore Taylor’s powres one day? Or perhaps we should consider the fact that Taylor seemed much better in the epilogue of Worm than in her final stages as Khepri as proof that Chris’ statement is false in that it is possible to heal a person using an equivalent of brain surgery even after their passenger makes its own modifications?

    Perhaps Taylor’s case even shows how to proceed in such case – if the passenger is the problem:
    1. find a safe way to disable the connection that lets the passenger modify the parahuman,
    2. fix the brain (and whatever else the passenger messed with) without passenger’s interference,
    3. safety re-enable connection to the passenger (assuming that it is decided that giving the parahuman their powers back is a good idea).

    Contessa proved that 1. is possible (though question remains if Amy can manage to do it). 2. should be doable assuming that Amy won’t loose her control again. The question is – can 3. be done? I think that it could be possible. Powers seem to be able to find ways to be used no matter what you do to their parahumans. First Bonesaw and then Valkyrie and Nilbog proved that even death and complete loss of original body has to be an obstacle when it comes to that. Something like a brain surgery should be trivial next to that.

    1. By the way I wonder if by the end of Ward circumstances will force Amy p to perform the procedure I described above (or something similar) on Victoria…

      1. I also wonder if theoretically Amy found herself in position to do 3. to Taylor (which may be the only thing that needs to be done to restore Taylor’s powers, as 1. has clearly been done, and Taylor’s state in the epilogue of Worm seemed to suggest that 2. also happened), and if there was a way to guarantee beyond all doubt that Amy wouldn’t mess it up, would Amy do it? Should she do it? Would Taylor say “Please don’t. I don’t want to have powers anymore.”? In what situation would it be justified for Amy to ignore such request, and restore Taylor’s powers anyway?

        1. Regarding the last question Tattletale’s answer from the epilogue of Worm seems to be “No situation could justify that, even a precog like Dinah can’t just go to Taylor and tell her ‘We need you, possibly with her powers, to potentially sacrifice herself to save us again.'” In my opinion Tattletale thinks that humanity doesn’t deserve to ask Taylor to do what she did for it in Worm. Why would she want to convince Dinah that Taylor was dead otherwise?

          1. It’s also important to remember that Shards have their own personalities and ideas on how to work with their hosts. Victoria’s is actually quite willing to try and do what she wants, it’s just incapable because it got messed up and can’t link up to share the information for redefining the force field. Amy’s seems to want to push her to do more interesting usages of her power, wether or not she wants it…

          2. Well, it is not just Amy’s shard. All shard want their powers to be used in new ways. Finding new ways to use them is pretty much the main purpose of this phase of the cycle. The only difference is how exactly they push their parahumans to use them, not if. Even Victoria with her shard has some disturbing opinions on who Victoria should be (a “killer”, a “tyrant”). It may not be pushing Victoria that much in that direction, but I doubt that it does nothing to influence her, especially since Victoria has killed already.

            Why would Queen Administrator, which has managed to turn Taylor almost entirely into an inhuman monster at the end of Worm not want to regain connection with such interesting parahuman (even Scion noted that Taylor gave QA an unusually large amount of potentially useful data). Why would other shards want to influence events in such way that QA-Taylor combo would return to the game and produce more interesting data for them? Judging from shards’ interlude even Scion’s death did nothing to undo their willingness (or maybe programmed imperative) to gather more data…

          3. By the way, note that Victoria’s shard considers her host to be particularly valuable. I think that one of the major reasons is that Victoria finds out new, interesting ways to use not only her own power, but also powers of other people. She invented plenty of those after all – from simple combat moves utilizing synergies between different powers to things like “Rain therapy”.

            And it makes sense – shads originally were parts of greater whole, and were supposed to contribute to success of that whole, not pursue some sort of individual successes. This means that from her shard’s point of view it doesn’t matter much if Victoria finds a new way to use her own power, or someone else’s. Both contribute to success of the entire entities the shards were supposed to aim for.

          4. The above comment also explains why other shards would have a reason to ensure that Taylor will get her powers back again – making such valuable host participate in conflicts and contribute her ideas contributes to that collective goal of all shards.

            Perhaps this is even why Taylor seemed to wear plot armor throughout entire Worm – once the shards realized how good she was, many of them probably did what they could to keep her alive and active, just like Victoria’s shard said it would ask other shards to spare Victoria if possible.

          5. One more thing – if the shards have a reason to turn Taylor into an active cape again, it means that humans will need to constantly oppose them to make sure that Taylor can stay retired. I think Tattletale may understand this, and is working on it. Why else would she deceive Dinah about Taylor’s ultimate fate? Looks like this sort of behavior may be just another reason why Tattletale seems to be in some sort of conflict with each other – this is just another Tattletale’s goal that directly opposes what shards want to achieve.

          6. IN part I would say that Tattletale and the Undersiders let people think Taylor is dead because it lets her live her life in peace with her father. Taylor ‘got out’ and the Undersiders will defend that to the last I think.

          7. Here is an observation about Taylor’s “peaceful” life on Aleph.

            Even assuming that the Undersiders know where Taylor is, and are doing their best to ensure that nobody from outside of Aleph can go after her, they probably can’t do anything about people who are already on that Earth. Remember that during her conversation with Annette Taylor mentioned that “a few” people from Bet managed to sneak in to Aleph together with Aleph natives who during GM ended up on other Earths.

            “A few” makes me think that there could be more than two (Taylor and Danny). In other words almost any character from Worm who hasn’t appeared in Ward or been 100% confirmed dead could be on Aleph. Taylor could know who at least some of those people are, and potentially vice versa.

          8. I thought a bit about who from Bet could have ended up with Taylor on Aleph, and came to some surprising conclusions. The first one is that whoever it is, at least some of them are probably really big guns as far as capes are concerned. This is because Taylor thought the following in the epilogue of Worm:

            They were okay. They were safe. If and when a problem came up, if it somehow reached this sealed off Earth, she could stand by to let someone else handle it.

            If Taylor thought that someone on Aleph could deal with whoever could reach that Earth from the outside, then she had to know that Aleph has some really powerful defenders, and the Travellers alone are probably not enough.

            The second conclusion is an actual list of known capes and cape groups form Bet who I think could be on Aleph roughly from the least to most surprising:
            – Canary,
            – Clairvoyant,
            – Labyrinth and Scrub (would actually explain why no new portals seem to have been created by them post GM),
            – Shadow Stalker,
            – any unaccounted cape clones (both Echidna’s and S9000),
            – any of the Yàngbǎn (from just Cody and Thirty-two, to the entire organization – considering how much they like their isolationism it could be tempting for them to go to Aleph that was supposed to be sealed, and try to find a hiding place for themselves there, and possibly even also for their imperial family),
            – Dragon (sure, there are safeguards against running two Dragons at once, but we know it is possible to work around them, and on top of that it is entirely possible that those safeguards wouldn’t work if one Dragon was on a sealed Earth, and the other one outside of it).

          9. Actually add any Chicago Wards who were not confirmed dead, but also did not appear in Ward yet, starting with Tecton.

          10. Actually I think that Chicago Wards, especially Tecton make a ton of sense for several reasons:
            – If the Undersiders knew where Taylor was before the portals to Aleph were closed, they wouldn’t leave her without parahuman protection on that planet, would they? And since they are obviously not there, then the second best choice would be Weaver’s team. Golem and Cuff probably didn’t go, because out of that team they were probably the ones who were most uncomfortable with Taylor.
            – The Chicago Wards themselves would be interested in protecting Taylor.
            – There is a portal-sealing device on Aleph, which, like all tinkertech, almost certainly requires tinker maintenance. Tecton just happens to be one of the very few tinkers on my list.
            – In the epilogue Taylor had a prosthetic hand, and mentioned that she was still getting used to it, and that she used to have a better one. At the same time her prosthetic seems to allow her to perform some simple actions, so maybe it is a piece of tinkertech made by a tinker working outside of his speciality to replace one made by a tinker much better suited to make such things (like Bonesaw), he wasn’t able to maintain. Fits Tecton again.
            – Tecton was mentioned by Ava in chapter 10.10 in a way that suggests that he may still be alive, yet he is nowhere to be seen in Ward. Why is that? He would be an obvious candidate for the Wardens!

  17. Beatiful Thinker moves. Carefully orchestrated media to give Shin the leverage they wanted over Amy, and no matter what occurs next

    1. “I know they want me to do certain healings of famous people here to prolong their lives and enrich their cultures, and I’ve been refusing on principle” – The motivation of Shins Oligarchy, and probably sole reason they were:

    “By the deal and compact we formed with you, Red Queen, Marquis, Cryptid, in exchange for your freedom to settle and our cooperation and support, you are to protect us against any and all transgressors.”

    Its why they requested Breakthrough as diplomats, and their fishbowl isolation terminated when Breakthrough “agreed” to therapy.

    2. If Amy, Cryptid, Marcus (ACM) refuse to arrest. They breach contract allowing them to arrest Amy and coerce her cooperation.

    Trade stops, and both Breakthrough and Wardens are to blame.

    3. If ACM try to arrest and fail. Same result different coercion.

    4. If ACM succeed either through hidden overwhelming force, or voluntary incarceration, the only difference from Shins perspective is the controls they get to

    5. If they escape with everyone present, war looms and the only way to avoid it will be to surrender Amy and associated “criminals and diplomats”

    Never attribute to malice what can be explained by politics and greed.

    Nicely done Teach. Breakthrough and MM severely isolated and unable to act against Teacher.

    1. “Arrest them,” Luis said, indicating us.

      Note “us”, not “them”. I’m afraid that not only ACM are getting arrested, but also the diplomats… And this is something that may have been Shin governments’ critical mistake. By arresting diplomats they may have burned one bridge too many – who will ever want to make any deals with them if they won’t be certain about their diplomats safety? Gimel may still have to as long as it is dependent on food supplies from Shin, but what will happen when it is no longer the case? What will stop Gimel from mobilizing their capes and possibly even threatening to use some equivalent of WMD against Shin?(And it can be quite literally a WMD – remember that Valkyrie has Bakuda who constructed a bomb that could destroy a good chunk of Eastern US if it went off.) Who will defend Shin and blame Gimel then?

      And who knows? Perhaps the city won’t be dependent on supplies from Shin for that long? Last time we saw them Bonesaw and Nilbog were working on some plants. Who says that they weren’t looking for a way for the city to become self-sufficient at least as far as food is concerned?

      1. How many diplomats are there? MM, Vista, Natalie, Breakthrough, ACM.

        They have a bunch of recently docile and obedient Amy’d parahumans in their citizenship, and a planet to hide them in.

        With current events, who could actually mobilise hero capes willing to war against their food supplier. Citrine (even if inclined) couldn’t authorize that action – especially Valkyrie or pitchforks would be raised.

        1. Gimel has plenty of thinkers, strangers and masters who probably could find a way to locate the diplomats. They wouldn’t need to search the entire planet after all – all they would need is to find one document where their location is noted, or find one person who knows and make them talk. Most capes could probably do it. Some of the ones with sorts of powers I mentioned above could probably even accomplish it without rising any alarms.

      2. Not that I’m suggesting that Valkyrie would actually allow any WMDs to be actually used against Shin because of some arrested diplomats. All I’m pointing out is that she could make such a threat, and with Shin’s provocation it wouldn’t be even clear to third parties who is the aggressor here (so it is possible that Gimel.US could get away with it more or less fine, diplomatically speaking). At the same time Shin seems to be so afraid of capes that they could fall for such bluff.

        Realistically though, I suspect that if Gimel takes military action because their diplomats were arrested, it will be something on a much smaller scale – for example a surgical strike limited purely to freeing the arrested diplomats, followed by cutting off all diplomatic relations with them and a propaganda campaign intended to present Shin as aggressors. It could even help with some internal problems the Megalopolis has – for example it will give the public some enemy other than parahumans to worry about.

        The best case scenario however would be in my opinion resolution of this entire situation without Gimel’s involvement. Perhaps that government which did not take part in negotiations (“The Coalition”) together with the governments whose representatives were against the arrest could rescue the arrested capes in order to use the scandal to gain some sort of leverage against the governments that decided to arrest them?

        1. Sure it could happen, but MM, Vista and Golem are the only diplomats Gimel would potentially be willing to (possibly) sacrifice thousands of lives by escalating a conflict vs agreeing to concessions to reestablish food and resource deliveries.

          S9, Garrotte, Fratricide, Stalker, Fallen x2 and Psych patient almost Patricide are the diplomats being arested.

          Neive has to argue that they had their second chance and Shin is more capable of incarcerating them… sidetracked … perhaps that is the/Teachers goal, to establish Shin as the place for “rehabilitating” parahumans openly, something Breakthrough just argued for that morning.

          Heh.

          1. Miss Militia, Golem and Vista are arrested as well, Luis said that they can’t trust MM and all her diplomat anymore so all of them are arrested. Not sure if Gimel will start a war for his arrested diplomats, so their only chance to escape their arrest and whatever punishment shin have for them is if Amy will help them, instead of just arresting them, or if Kenzie will have an ace upon her talented tinker’ sleeves. Miss Militia seems to refuse to fight back, despite being în danger to be arrested.
            I’m not sure if Luis is Teacher’ s pawn or not but he’s obviously paranoiac about all parahumans, including their best diplomats (he and other Shin leaders). Maybe Teacher have no thing to do with Shin, but their certain paranoia after their horrible experience with Goddess.

          2. @lu-lu this is a power play for Amy, and political positioning.

            How she behaves next will cause her to break some law, and if she is actually trying for redemption she can’t escape to Gimel and leave all the people she’s helped

          3. Here is another idea. Cheit may like the city every bit as much as Shin does, but diverged recently enough that they should share the basic idea of diplomatic immunity with Gimel (even if they would probably call it differently, and use some religious doctrine to explan it). Moreover Cheit is no stranger to war, has capes, and is looking to expand into other Earths. How bad would it be for Shin if Cheit was to learn that Shin arrests foreign diplomats? Remember that even if there are no portals or chains of portals allowing to move between Chiet and Shin while bypassing Gimel Teacher could probably have his students create them. Could arresting Gimel diplomats be used by Cheit as a pretext to justify invading Shin?

          4. As for C.U.I., I imagine that they could theoretically become involved (assuming they even know about the situation), but remember that:
            – last time we saw them they seemed to be happy to isolate themselves as much as possible,
            – while they may have more numbers than the city, or even entire Gimel, they are unlikely to match places like Cheit or Shin in that respect,
            – due to political and philosophical differences between them and the Megalopolis, they may be unwilling to get involved in any inter-dimensional conflicts surrounding the city, unless they saw some way to gain from them, or feels that such conflicts are a threat to them (which may or may not be the case, depending on what their take on that whole mess with Kronos Titan).

            Remember that since around GM C.U.I. was happy to close all doors to their world and apparently interact with other words only through whatever deal they made with Teacher that made it possible, and through occasional raids against other words housing refugees from Bet, they probably don’t care about diplomacy enough to worry about someone who arrested Gimel diplomats.

            Finally we don’t know just what sort of losses the Yàngbǎn has suffered during Gold Morning, and how well they recovered from them. It is entirely possible that C.U.I. simply doesn’t have enough military (parahuman or not) to be able to risk becoming involved in a war with powers like Shin or Chiet.

            Like I said in the previous chapter if there is an Earth that could potentially be willing and able to protect Gimel from other Earths highly developed civilizations and with mostly untouched populations, it would most likely be Aleph, or at least some coalition of its Western countries built around Aleph’s US (or possibly someone like EU, if Aleph’s aid would be more economical than military).

          5. No way man, Aleph protecting Gimel would be a narrative dead end. Also it would indicate an imagination stunted by too much CNN. WB ain’t American so he doesn’t roll that way.

          6. It would be an end of Ward, but I wouldn’t exclude a possibility that it will happen during the finale of this story. I even commented a couple times that Aleph could be an interesting Earth for Parahumans 3 to take place in. After all multiversal crossroads like Gimel can hold reader’s interest for so long, and we have yet to experience a Parahumans story set mostly in a place that is fairly mundane from our point of view, wasn’t shaped by capes to the extent Bet or Gimel, and isn’t really all that well prepared to deal with their presence in large numbers.

          7. And obviously if Aleph become Gimel’s protector, or finally accepted ex-Bet population as refugees (something they were apparently rather unwilling to do during the epilogue of Worm), we could easily both have Parahumans 3 set on Aleph, and keep most of the current cast instead of starting from just Taylor, Danny, Annette, and the Travelers who managed to return home.

          8. Besides if Wildbow went with the refugees variant instead of a protectorate, Ward could have a sort of “Empire Strikes Back” ending in which the good guys lose Gimel to its opponents not because there really could be no better outcome (like when they lost Bet to Scion), but because they actually made some sort of mistake.

            I think such scenario has some interesting potential. It would mean that not every Parahumans story needs to end with protagonist’s victory. It would also mean that after Ward in which the capes are unjustly accused of not doing enough to save humanity, in Parahumans 3 the capes would have to deal with the fact that this time such accusations are entirely justified.

          9. Besides imagine the confusion and narrative potential of the fact that if people from Bet immigrated to Aleph in large numbers, people from both societies would start running into each other’s counterparts, and counterparts of people they know. Just Taylor meeting Aleph’s Annette was interesting, but what would happen if such meetings became daily occurrence everywhere? And perhaps more interestingly what sort of people unpowered counterparts of older capes we know would be? It would be a perfect way to explore not only the concept of how differently lives of two people who started at the same place could be. It could possibly offer some fresh insights into how much being connected to a shard affects human personality.

  18. The more I read the more I’m convinced we are not actually supposed to sympathise with Victoria. If you compare her actions to whats going on in breakthrough: Rains cluster wanting retribution despite his repentance (Victoria to Amy) Byron forgiving Tristan (what Victoria refuses to do) Sveta getting treatment from a biokinetic despite the risks and fuck it, actually vastly improving her life (what Amy is trying to provide for others) and it paints a fantastic meta picture beyond Victoria’s viewpoint. No way are all these parallels unintentional, and I think its time to award Victoria the WB Ambiguously Sympathetic Medal. Level up!

    I think with every protagonist WB has written, there has been a point where the reader has to decide are they actually rooting for them, or would they be a villain from any other POV. Its sorta what I love about WB as an author. Theres so much up to interpretation and I think every protagonist so far has had a good chunk of the readers unable to root for them because they do very legitimately shitty things.

    I think for me Victoria is the character I can’t root for even while I acknowledge that she’s not really worse than Taylor, Blake or Sy,it’s just for me the unlikeability has tilted too far in a particular direction in a way that isn’t cancelled out by how entertaining I find her. Which is kinda what happens with very grey characters in very grey worlds.

    The funny thing thing is as much as I dislike Victoria and as much as these last few chapters have highlighted what I dislike about her, she’s more interesting like this, and I’m very happy to see her dealing with Amy and her family and Tattletale cause that personal conflict is so much more interesting to read- even if it.makes me want to spit in her face sometimes. I kinda hate the character, but she’s a well written hateable character and I am enjoing this a lot right now.

    1. Excellently put. Perhaps it was just because I could empathise with Taylor far more than Victoria, but I never found Victoria as compelling a protagonist, and this has been emphasised every time Victoria and Amy interact.

      This isn’t to say that she’s not a compelling *character* or not well-written, because she certainly is, but right now it’s really hard not to hate Victoria for what she’s doing and planning to do to Amy.

      1. Maybe it’s because I’ve been discussing trauma recovery in other contexts a lot lately, but I find both Amy and Victoria incredibly moving and tragic in the story as a whole and this chapter especially. Neither one is a true monster of a person, but they both need to do some fucking inner work. It’s always easier not to and just let your trauma take the wheel, which is what I see both of them doing right now. But both have shown a real commitment (when not in the vice of their own triggers) to helping others heal, and I have hope that they might eventually be brave enough to attend to themselves in that way.

        1. As second-generation capes, they both had fairly minor triggers, right? I certainly wouldn’t compare Victoria’s basketball game with Carol’s lightless captive starvation and attempted execution. So they’re not in the vice of their triggers so much as that of later stuff caused by their powers. Is it possible that lame triggers leave capes unprepared for just coping with their powers? Theo seems alright, but he is third-generation and I wouldn’t call his trigger lame. Regent and the Heartbroken are also 2G triggers, and they certainly have had difficulties coping with their powers. Maybe they had lame triggers? This is another log on the “eventually Aiden will be the big bad” fire… IIRC he had a bad dream?

          1. Amy’s case may be a bit special. Remember that a lot in the second generation trigger process is shaped not by genetics, but by proximity to other capes, especially, but not exclusively cape parent or parents. The thing with Amy is that she was separated from her birth father long before she triggered, but she still got a power that seems to be related to Marqis’, not any capes she was around when she triggered.

            Perhaps her knowledge that she was adopted was enough to establish the link? Perhaps her shard was with her already when she was still with Marqis (just like Grasping Self supposedly observed Ryan long before he triggered)? Either way even without the fact that Glaistig Uaine clearly considered Amy’s shard unusual, I wouldn’t assume that Amy’s trigger followed typical rules for second generation triggers, simply because Amy’s family circumstances were different from those of most second generation capes.

          2. Yeah, unfortunate word choice: I meant “trigger” in the mundane sense, not the aliens-invading-your-mind sense. Sorry about that.

    2. Well, there has been some discussion a few months ago about whether Victoria will “pull reverse Taylor”, and become a villain. Perhaps she is already doing it. One thing to remember that in Parahumans a difference between a hero and a villain is never completely clear, so you could argue that any given cape is at least a bit of both no matter what their official title is. Why would Victoria be an exception?

      1. The bottom line is that Victoria is human, and that practically guarantees that she has her darker side, no matter if you call her a hero or a villain. This obviously doesn’t mean that there is no chance for her to redeem herself, but means that you also can’t expect her to never be morally wrong. Even Victoria herself is perfectly aware of that – after all, she admitted way back in chapter 1.9 the following regarding her reasons to ask Jessica to find a therapist for Amy:

        I knew what she was thinking. She wondered if it was selflessness, or if I was a surprisingly good person. I wasn’t.

        At least from that quote you can tell that she isn’t quite as hypothetical as some people seem to think.

    3. 🙂 it’s a shame there’s no like button in the comments, because that’s exactly what I need to properly appreciate your post.

      1. I’m glad there’s no like button, it’s just an arbitrary way to get a small dopamine hit and doesn’t give equal proportions to people’s actual discussions. Without a like or dislike button, you have to actually influence or challenge someone with the words you type out onscreen and how you articulate them. Which is why I wish other websites were more like this.

    4. As Marquis so nicely puts it “Agreed on every count” I made the conexion with Love Lost and the rest of Rain’s cluster but I hadnt noticed the other bits so thanks for that. I thinks what angers me is the posibility that no one will call Victoria on her bullshit. I dont know if someone from breakthrough will because they are too biased on Victoria’s favor, but as Dumbledore wisely said, Is easier to confront your enemies but is not so easy to do so with your friends. Victoria needs it, and if they are good friends they will. Though that “You were good” from Sveta kicks my hope.

  19. Victoria showed a pretty ugly side of herself this chapter, with everything she’s just done probably making the Amy situation far, far worse in the long run. Her plans to throw Amy in the prison world and lose the key are… dark to understate things, if not understandable considering how much trauma she’s been through.

    Amy saying she’ll go to whatever lengths it takes to make Victoria feel reassured is… highly concerning. Screwing up another blonde girl’s mind and the talk of all these corrections and changes she’s making to the prisoners makes be believe Amy is going to backslide in the future and undo any progress she’s made, if not already doing so.

    Gah morally wise this is such a difficult debate. Protagonist centred morality is definitely playing a part in my judgement of the situation though.

  20. Nestled in the mane of brown curls that really needed more conditioner

    This chapter had me pretty down, even with reading it at a live jazz performance, but then Victoria threw in this little quip about Amy’s hair and I spent the next ten seconds laughing uncontrollably. Thank you.

  21. Wow, good stuff. I am not going to bother reading the comments but it seems like there’s a ton of debate about how bad/wrong Amy and Victoria really are. For the author’s record, I feel bad for both of them, and I would actually hold both of them at arms length in terms of trust. But Amy’s power is scary as shit and I tend to agree with anyone wanting to consider her threat level what it truly is. Her mother says she’s not well? Holy crap, people. Yes. It sucks to be her. Now please put some preventive measures in place to save us all AND save her from her very imperfect, human self. She wants to do better, but saying she’s fine and hasn’t done anything wrong? Enabling and delusional. She’s so dangerous it’s not even funny.

  22. And then Natalie saved the day by asking “Wait, what are they being arrested FOR”?

    Wait, seriously, for a legal arc, they have both Carol and Natalie, that’s pretty good, right?

    1. They are being arrested as agents of a foreign nation. I don’t think that the empowered international deliberative council of Shin needs any additional legal reasons.

      That said, this is a major diplomatic faux pas. Not quite a declaration of war, but close. And I don’t think Shin, for all of their fancy secret weapons, can actually win a war against the Wardens+.

      1. It is not quite impossible that Shin has some “secret weapons” that could be very effective against capes. Remember that their parahuman studies were supposedly at least as advanced as Bet’s. Sure, Goddess would probably shut down any research into anti-cape weapons, but it is not impossible that people of Shin could figure out how to hide such research from her (she might have her danger sense, but at the same time she was fairly naive, and probably not the sort of a person who could really ensure that there was absolutely no conspiracy against her in any corner of the world).

        Also remember that Shin enjoyed over two years without her already. It is entirely possible that they might have used that time weaponize whatever insights into powers they got from the sort of research Goddess would approve of.

        All of that is assuming that researching powers can actually lead to development of some anti-cape wonder weapons. So far there is not much to indicate that it is even possible, or at least easy enough to be done in just a few years since Goddess arrived on Shin. It seems likely that the entities have foreseen such possibility and set their shards up in such a way, that it wouldn’t happen.

        On the other hand Eden’s and Scion’s deaths were also supposed to be impossible, so it looks like whatever safeguards the entities might have used to prevent humans from figuring out how to effectively fight shards and their hosts may not be perfect, especially since those safeguards might have depended on existence of shard networks or on direct interventions by Eden and Scion.

  23. I can’t wait till rest of breakthrough discovers Victoria’s real plan….
    Rain will disagree because he believes people deserve a chance for redemption, Tristan and Byron will disagree because they will see this as going to far against a sibling and Natalie will disagree because it goes against the spirit of the law.

    while Sveta will agree because she feels so indebted to Victoria and can’t handle disagreeing with her, Ashley will agree with Victoria but will insist that this is revenge not justice and Kenzie will go along with it because her favorite people say it’s ok.
    Wow this is gonna make Captain America Civil War look tame in comparison

    1. Actually they probably know already. Remember that after Victoria re-used their “anti-Teacher gestures” to indicate that she wasn’t telling the truth about what she thought should be done with Amy Ashley quickly assured Victoria that she is willing to trust Victoria’s judgement as far as her family was concerned, and none of the others protested.

      1. ‘“I want your opinion especially. We’ve talked about sibling stuff. I want your take on this.”

        “Then okay. Yeah.”

        Yeah.

        We’d talked about it. Permanent solutions, if we had to.

        He was in agreement. It was in the cards, at the very least.’

        Pretty heavily implied Tristan at least knew exactly what Vicky was talking about, and was fine with it.

        1. Well, it is not surprising that Victoria asked Ashley and Trisan for their opinions first. They are the co-leaders of Breakthrough after all.

  24. We often wonder what an arc title tends to refer to and make guesses. In this arc, the money mostly seems to be on Amy breaking down. however, it increasingly looks like she already has. I would love to see her have her shard influence nullified and the indoctrination removed even if only temporarily, and then see her cut loose as AMY, when it comes to Victoria, (ala Clockblocker vs Skitter,)and see Victoria faced with her own hypocrisy.

    To be fair to Victoria though, she is also breaking and currently not thinking anywhere near straight.

    And as for parallels, weirdly enough, there is apparently rivalry going on between marquis and Branish ala Amy. And Brandish just keeps losing

    One semi unrelated thing, both of Amy’s fathers are called Mark… Mark Dallon and Mark Izz… (Not sorry.)

    1. > To be fair to Victoria though, she is also breaking and currently not thinking anywhere near straight.

      Seconded. This is the key thing to consider before judging Victoria. I personally don’t see the reason to think that the rift between the sisters is impossible to mend. In fact I think that we are seeing the beginning of the process, and the fact that both sisters are getting arrested is probably only going to help with that – give Victoria time to cool down, give Amy an opportunity to both explain herself, but also to let Victoria convince her just how badly she needs help.

      1. And it is important to note that Victoria may be the only person capable of convincing Amy that she is not well, and needs professional help. Even if we didn’t know from Worm how Amy feels about Victoria, the very fact that Amy is so defensive when pressured by her sister hopefully would clue us in.

        Of course the difficulty is that first Victoria needs to look past her own prejudice and accept the fact that Amy is not some monster beyond all hope of salvation, but a person who can be healed. This is probably something that only Amy can convince Victoria about. But for that to happen they need time and an opportunity to talk freely, preferably alone or with someone they are both could trust to be their mediator. Maybe Sveta could fill this role?

        1. The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that it would be ideal if Amy, Sveta and Victoria ended up in the same cell with no other witnesses.

          The way I see it at the moment Victoria doesn’t act rationally because she is still very much afraid of Amy. This means a fight or flight reaction. If they weren’t forced to be in the same room, Victoria would probably run at the first opportunity. Being locked in a cell makes “flight” impossible. “Fight” is also a problem – because in this case it takes form of Victoria behaving very aggressive towards Amy (even if it is just a verbal aggression). This in turn makes Amy behave defensively, and as long as she does that, she won’t accept the fact that there is some truth in Victoria’s words.

          The first way in which Sveta can help is to make Victoria stop behaving too aggressively. Vicky and Sveta already have an agreed upon sign telling Victoria that she should back off.

          The second thing is that Sveta can make Victoria actually feel safer in Amy’s presence. Nobody else can do it at the moment as well as Sveta can, because Victoria is convinced that most people underestimate both the suffering she went through (and is still going through) because of Amy, and a threat posed by Amy. Victoria can trust that it is not the case with Sveta. Nobody else, except possibly Jessica, understands just how much Victoria went through both in the asylum, and later – when she was dealing with her breakdowns and panic attacks which happened whenever she remembered Amy. This means that Victoria can be sure that Sveta will protect her from Amy if necessary, allowing Vicky to relax and as a consequence stop being so aggressive.

          The third thing is that Sveta, as someone who inadvertently harmed and killed a lot of people, can also understand Amy’s problem with controlling her power. This is important for both sisters – for Amy, because this is what it can let her trust Sveta well enough to accept her as a mediator, and for Victoria, because Sveta can point out to her that the fact that Amy doesn’t fully control her power is not her fault, and that it may be possible to help her with that just like various therapies and support systems (from psychotherapy which started back in the hospital, and lasted until early Ward, followed by support she got from her team, then “Rain-therapy”, all the way to what Mr. Bough did for her).

          Finally Sveta can let Amy fully realize why Victoria has been so aggressive. Amy probably still doesn’t fully realize just what Victoria went through in the hospital and later, and Victoria is unlikely to share all of it with Amy, especially not in a way that Amy would fully believe in. Sveta can fill in the blanks left by Victoria, and confirm Victoria’s words for Amy letting her understand the real depth of her sister’s trauma and fear, and through it – the reason behind Victoria’s aggressiveness.

          1. Agreed. Victoria seems to be finally allowing herself to express emotion and directly addressing Amy is a start. Also, when Victoria says she could honestly say she hated Amy, I don’t actually think she does, I think shes fears her (with very good cause) and has mistaken that fear for outright hatred. But the as emotion Victoria would want to, or be able to adit to is any lingerign trace of affection. I’m of the opinion that if she truly honestly genuinely hated amy, she would find away to kill her that no one would either know about, or if they did, couldn’t argue with, (at least in her own mind).

            Ironically the thing that could break Amy’s obsession could be Victoria using her aura although this time, deliberately, edging Amy back to sanity by small doses.

            Now, going back to another topic, (becasue i couldn;t reply elsewhere) when you read Taylor’s epilogue in worm, it mentions “This locked off Earth.” I saw nothign to confirm it was Earth Aleph (though that is the running theory). But the problem that faced was it A) beign the home world of the Travelers awho knew Skitter fairly well B) it was the closest Earth to bet and shared news and pop culture exchanges which would mean that afair number of Aleph’s inhabitants would have heard of her anyway.

            if anyway can find anything in text that outright confirms it’s Aleph, I’ll corrct my mental notes.

            Finally, if Gimel has a Britain equivalent, I bet swimming lessons are mandatory…

          2. Ah, “hate” is such a nice word. Potentially describing such a wide range of feelings, and still often misused to describe other feelings like fear, or blame. By the way this is another component of Victoria’s feelings for Amy, which contributes to Victoria’s “hatered”. On the other hand let’s not forget that overt displays of hate are nothing new for Victoria – she almost immediately processed the “love” which Amy imposed on her into hate. Even back in Brockton Bay Amy commented that Victoria reacted with hate to what wos done to her brain, because it was the feeling so close to love.

            There is also another thing about Amy’s and Victoria’s love that I feel should be pointed out. Victoria described her artifical love as incestful, and implied that Amy’s love is just as incestful. But what if this is wrong? We know that Victoria with her experiences with Gallant would immediately draw a connection between love and sex, but what if there is no such strong connection in Amy’s mind? For all we know Amy’s love for Victoria could be almost entirely platonic, and an idea of having lesbian sex with her own sister could be as abhorrent to Amy as it is to Victoria. Maybe all that Amy desires from Victoria in a physical sense is just an occasional touch, hug, and entirely innocent cuddle. For all we know Amy could be entirely heterosexual or asexual.

            As for the world Taylor ended up in, I think it is strongly implied that this is indeed Aleph. Remember that Taylor knew that she could find Annette out there, and that she also knew that the divergence happened before Annette met Danny. Remember that we never saw Khepri interact with any world other than Aleph that looked to be close enough to Bet to have a point of divergence in that timeframe. Remember that Annette immediately understood what Taylor meant when she introduced herself as “her daughter from Bet”, and that Taylor knew that this explanation would be sufficient. This implies that knowledge of Bet’s existence (and the name Earth Bet itself), and the fact that it is a parallel world to Annette’s must have been not only common enough for Taylor to safety assume that an essentially random person like Annette would have heard about it, but also old enough for Annette to internalize it, and its implications enough to realize just what sort of connection she shared with Taylor based on Taylor’s explanation.

            Last, but not least remember that Annette said “Oh. Sometimes I’ve idly wondered, ‘what if I met the other me’, but you don’t really think it’s going to happen.” Sounds like she has wondered it for more than just a bit less than a year that passed between GM and the epilogue, doesn’t it? And to say “what if I met the other me”, Annette would have to be convinced that there was exactly one “other her” she could meet. I can think of no other worlds than Aleph and Bet where someone as old as Annette would be convinced about something like that it for years, not to mention that Annette said it in context of discussing Taylor’s mother, so it seems obvious that the person she wondered about was in fact Bet’s Annette.

            (We know that it couldn’t have been longer than that both because Taylor told Annette that she is eighteen, and because she told that her mother died in car accident six and a half years ago. GM happened in June 2013, we know from chapter 21.2 that Taylor’s mother died in 2008, and from several sources, including chapter 25.1, that Taylor was born on 13th of June 1995 so for the timeline to fit Bet’s Annette had to die in early 2008, and the epilogue must have happened in mid-2014, shortly before Taylor’s nineteenth birthday).

          3. (By the way note that it is actually a little less than six and a half years between the begging of 2008 and 12th of June 2014 – the last day during which Taylor could honestly say she was eighteen, so unless Taylor badly miscalculated, was intentionally very imprecise or outright lied to Aleph’s Annette for some unknown reason, I’m willing to bet that Taylor’s mother died in very early 2008 indeed, and that the epilogue of Worm happened very shortly before Taylor’s birthday. My guess would be January of 2008 and between very late May and 12th of June 2014 respectively.)

          4. To be fair Amy’s feelings for Victoria were definitely not entirely Platonic. She did feel jealous when she saw Victoria’s cuddling session with Gallant, and definitely not because she was interested in him. She did appreciate physical side of Victoria, and, judging from how Wretch turned out, had some fantasies about Victoria’s body. She was certain that what she felt for Victoria wasn’t just sisterly love.

            At the same time though we need to remember that when this whole fiasco started Amy was around sixteen years old, full of anxiety, socially awkward, and almost certainly a virgin. Chances are that she didn’t know that well herself how far she wanted to go with Victoria, what expressions of love she was comfortable with, and there is an even bigger chance that she wouldn’t be able to communicate it like an adult (which is not surprising, considering that she very much wasn’t one).

            On the other hand Victoria was also a kid (around seventeen), but a very outgoing one, and past sexual initiation. For her Amy’s confession of love very clearly implied a desire for sex. Something that Amy never really said, and, despite of what Victoria thought, might not have even been sure she wanted. The situation is even more complicated because it is obviously not always entirely clear where an “innocent” cuddling ends, and sex begins, and the sisters could have very different definitions of this boundry.

            If Amy’s confession wasn’t preceded by manipulating Victoria’s brain, and if both sisters were emotionally mature, it is entirely clear that they could explain what they wanted from each other in a reasonable way, and either come to a conclusion that neither of them is uncomfortable with what the other one wants, or they could have reached some sort of compromise, set some boundaries. But what really happened was obviously completely different. Amy was panicking ever since she saw Bonesaw and Jack in her home, Victoria panicked as soon as she realized that Amy did something to her mind, later Amy, who was already in a very irrational state of mind, ended up alone with Victoria, all her old and fears, a conviction that this was the last time she was going to see her sister, whose entire life just collapsed. Add to it that Amy’s passenger probably used this opportunity to mess with her mind and it is no surprise that Amy lost all her inhibitions, and did something she would never normally do.

            If circumstances were different none of this would happen, and perhaps Amy would discover that she never saw Victoria as a sexual partner, and possibly eventually found someone else. At the same time perhaps Victoria would have found Amy’s feelings completely acceptable, even if not exactly the same as what she felt for Amy.

  25. Here is an idea to keep in mind in case Wildbow decides to draw names of the main protagonist from mythology again. Khepri is closely associated with scarabs (which fit overall theme of Worm and naming convention of Worm arcs), morning sun (which we could associate with Gold Morning and with naming convention of Ward arcs). What if Wildbow decides to link Ward with whatever he is planning for the third Parahumans book (assuming he plans to write one of course)? Could he use another solar deity to indicate the link between Ward and whatever he has planned for the sequel?

    For example example could be to use Atum (an Egyptian god associated with evening sun) and link some other attribute of this god to whatever is planned for Parahumans 3, and possibly the event linking it with Ward, which could happen in Ward finale. This is obviously just one of many possible examples. He could also use anyone or anything else that symbolizes both the sun and something else, and use that “something else” to indicate where the story is going post-Ward. Bottom line is that we may want to keep an eye on everything in the story that may symbolize the sun (or even more generally – light or even day or day-night cycle), and at least one other thing. Whatever that one other thing is may offer some very general, abstract clue about what the finale of Ward could be and/or where the series is going.

    1. For now I think that the transition from the city of gold to the city of crimson may represent going from sunrise or morning to sunset or evening (and the red sun and sky which can often be seen around sunsets), so thinking about a deity like Atum as a possible link to Parahumans 3 doesn’t seem like such a long shot to me.

  26. I’m guessing that the order given to one group of parahumans to arrest the other group is another test. Previously, Luis tested Ashley in a similar way and she passed the test. In this case, violence on the part of any of the parahumans would fail the test. It’s possible that Marquis and Amy are supposed to point out that they do not have the legal authority to perform an arrest, but we don’t know enough about Shin to know for sure. Maybe Luis’s words DO give them that authority.

    1. If this is another test, and its conditions have been openly discussed in presence of Miss Militia and Natalie, I wonder if everyone will be paying close enough attention to Kenzie, or just trust her enough to let the arrest happen. Remember that she has been listening in on what is going on in the main room the entire time, so she would know what the test is about. All she would need to do is to discretely signal that it is fine to give up. Maybe one of those anti-Teacher signals could work, at least on Breakthrough? The big question is – if Breakthrough decides to stand down, will other capes in the room trust them enough to play along?

      1. I guess that if Victoria is still rattled enough to miss signs given by Kenzie, that “back off” sign she discussed with Sveta could come in handy too.

  27. woah… this chapter was SUPER INTENSE. i feel like i understand amy way better now. and honestly im on team trap amy on an uninhabited world or kill her. her survival is just NOT WORTH IT. shes so scary and fragile. she wont even fully own up to the things she does wrong, wont even fully committ to leaving victoria tf alone, wont even go to therapy unless its as a bribe. she is living deeeep down in delusion town. this fight is gonna be intennnnnse. poor hunter, really creepy that she was another blond girl that just so happened to have a tie to victoria. glad that breakthrough seems to be on victorias side! even though her parents disturbingly ARENT

  28. Wouldn’t it be interesting if there was something to that theory about “pathogens in the greenhouse” Victoria thought about in the last chapter? Except not quite pathogens, and not from Shin government…

    Could Amy spread a virus in that greenhouse? One that actually immunizes people against some plague she can release at any moment, but lasts for such a short time that only people who were there with her would be affected? Sort of like an airborne vaccine? This way she could threaten to release a biological weapon and only worry about the fact that Miss Militia and Natalie are not immune, and that ten unpowered guards are.

    Of course it could be that Kenzie would have no immunity if the vaccine needed to be breathed in, but this is a complication Amy wouldn’t know about because Kenze masked the pipes leading from her air filter to her face…

    Not that I believe that it happened, but I think it could be an interesting plot twist, and a reminder for everyone that the Red Queen is not to be trifled with. (Though at the same time doing so would probably only convince Victoria even more that her sister needs to be exiled.)

  29. Like many on here, I do like Taylor more than Vic. However, the vitriol directed at Victoria and the touting of Taylor’s graces is frankly annoying, as is the comparison of the two ad nauseam at every point in the story.

    It’s true that Victoria shouldn’t be the one to make decisions concerning Amy’s future — she can’t be objective. That doesn’t mean that her *feelings* toward Amelia aren’t justified. It’s easy to write off Victoria’s attitude and scowl and condescend and screech about hypocrisy and self-righteousness perhaps because what happened to her at Amy’s hands occurred before the events of Ward. But I think some need to consider the gravity of what was done to her — her mind, her feelings were violated and overwritten by someone she trusted, who used methods she previously swore off. After that, in another incident, that same person then deformed Victoria into a monstrosity, forcing her to be institutionalized (her mind still altered, lest we forget) for an extended period of time, during which her own mother strayed away from meaningful contact. And to finish things off, said person fixes her, but with the flesh of animals, leaving her at risk in the future during medical procedures(along with the Wretch).

    *Anyone* who was the victim of this would be justified in hating the person who caused it and be vehemently wary of that person and that person’s future actions. Again, I’m saying Victoria’s *feelings* are reasonable, not her plans for Amy. But as she has those feelings, of course Victoria handles Amy in the way she does and of course she wants to be the one in control. If anything, the people around Vic should step up more than they have.

    1. I like what you’re saying and agree with it. Though personally I feel like we should all wait til Ward officially finishes before comparing which protagonist we like more, as that would be most fair.

  30. I’m reeling still.

    Somehow, despite everything in these two books, despite a partial read of Twig, the realization of who Amy hurt wrecked me. Struck me with a visceral horror, more than almost anything we’ve seen.

    I physically recoiled at “She came over with a friend and he said she was different after.”

    It’s an interesting question how Wildbow did that, exactly. That beat landed on me like a 4th-floor piano.

    1. > That beat landed on me like a 4th-floor piano.
      Did you read “Harry Potter and Methods of Rationality”? There is a moment with such effect, at least it was on me.

  31. Here is a scary idea. What if Amy can’t, or won’t be trusted to fix Hunter? What if she will be in no position to finish her work on Carol’s brain? What if the heroes decide that Amy shouldn’t be exiled, but her case can’t be handled by regular therapists alone?

    There is one person other than Amy who probably has a power which could potentially help with all of those cases, and experience with using this power. The scary part is that this person is Mr. Drowsing. The heroes might have set a dangerous precedent by entrusting Sveta’s body to his colleague. What if they decide to go one step further and offer Mr. Drowsing a similar deal to the one they offered to Mr. Bough?

  32. Here are two more scary ideas:
    1. This one is mostly about Aleph. How long it takes to mine and enrich enough uranium to construct a nuclear bomb? Shouldn’t a little over two years be enough?
    2. This one is about all sealed worlds like Aleph and presumably wherever C.U.I. is hiding. If Kronos Titan extends to those worlds, what sort of hornets nests has his appearance there stirred there?

    1. > How long it takes to mine and enrich enough uranium to construct a nuclear bomb?
      AFAIK, this requires specific centrifuges which are pretty hard to build, especially if you have other concerns like hunger and winter’s cold.
      It requires whole industrial infrastructure only on top of which you will get millitary-grade uranium. I have not noticed a lot of factories on Gimel, but there are a lot of indicators that industrial infrastructure is barely exist – no goods “Made in Gimel” (clothes, phones), construction works is done from imported materials and so on.
      Powers can provide some shortcuts in technology, but it doesn’t look like capes are willing to perform mundane work like construction, so I am not expecting a lot of capes helping with uranium enrichment infrastructure.

      No, two years is not enough, IMHO. Only if there is hidden laboratory with Tinkers ~forced to build bombs.

      1. I didn’t want to suggest that Gimel could be producing nukes. People in world with a high concentration of capes or at least connected via portals to the network of worlds accessible from Gimel should realize that producing nukes is just begging for serious nuclear trouble courtesy of some villain or even an Endbringer.

        What I meant is that after Aleph was cut off from other words someone out there could have a “bright” idea that they no longer need to worry about inter-dimensional cape invasion, and that local capes are so few and that they should be easy enough to deal with, so there is no longer any reason not to produce nuclear weapons anymore.

        1. Ah, enrich uranium on Aleph.
          IMHO, if Aleph was somewhat on our technological level at 2013, they should be able to make nukes in months. Any country with big amount of nukes on our Earth should be able – USA, Russia, China. Two years more than enough.
          I just don’t think they stopped to have nukes in the first place. Incident with Scion destroying nukes happens on Bet, as far as I see, and it was unknown Scion could travel between Earths by himself before Oil-rig battle.

          1. Looks like you are right. In chapter 19.7 of Worm Tattletale explicitly mentioned that Aleph had nukes then.

  33. latest conclusion, Fuck Amy.
    she did the same.fucking.thing.TWICE, and has the fucking gall to babble about fixing things in the same sentence as admitting she irreparably scrambled a victims personality, a victim it appears she lured into touching range by lying about who/what she was/is, and is as delusional as CAROL about the chances of repairing the family.

    im finding myself wondering if someone suggested she stop/ seek help this time too, and she told them “nono, hold my beer, ive got this” again- if the pattern PERFECTLY repeated, and the real damage was done blindly scrabbling to fix things in a panic after a minor mistake…

    1. Well I’m not surprised to see the pattern reported. That old rule Amy had about not touching brains because something could go wrong was practically begging to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The fact that she got mixed results once she broke that rule – broke both Victoria’s and Taylor’s minds after successfully healing Mark, then managed to undo most of the damage to Victoria and so on probably only made her spiral down this road. The problem here is that Amy knows she can heal a variety of people’s mental problems with her power (and we know just how much she always felt the responsibility to do everything within her power to help), while at the same time she also knows that she doesn’t have a 100% success rate. This means that she is strongly tempted to keep trying things she isn’t certain she can do right in hopes of figuring out what she did wrong exactly, and how to avoid similar mistakes in the future. And since she doesn’t operate under Youth Guard’s oversight and their rules about her maximum daily working hours, she probably keeps overworking herself. Being overworked coupled with her insecurity regarding her ability to safety use her power to do some more complicated procedures (especially working with minds or around her parents’ shards), and her conviction that she can figure out eventually how to perform such procedures correctly is an obvious, if somewhat multi-factored, recipe for disaster.

      Perhaps it wouldn’t even be so difficult to put Amy in a much healthier and safer frame of mind. Just impose and enforce clear restrictions on her work load again, temporarily prohibit her from taking more difficult cases, put her under supervision of both a good psychotherapist, and someone who can verify her work for early signs of problems (like Bonesaw), and let her work in a controlled environment – first, with all these restrictions still in place getting back into a better mind frame, and then on figuring out which of these restrictions can be safety loosened or lifted altogether. Ideally the effect could be that she would eventually become able to safely do most if not all of the things she ever attempted to do, and possibly even more than that.

      1. And Riley’s involvement would probably be very important during every stage of the process. It is not only that she could prevent Amy from doing too much damage by reacting early on if Amy makes a mistake again. Just knowing that she has help of someone who knows what she is doing would probably greatly reduce Amy’s anxiety when it comes to using her powers, reducing chances of errors in turn. Finally once Amy is ready to start working on brains and CPs again Riley will probably be able to offer expert advice. After all she probably knows much better than Amy how to work with those without causing wholy unpredictable and disastrous results.

        Ironic how the girl who played a critical role in breaking Amy’s mind could eventually became just as important when it comes to fixing it, and on top of this Riley could accomplish both without touching Amy with a scalpel even once. The question is – is Riley up to the task? She has her own mental problems too, after all.

        1. Another person who could potentially play a crucial role in putting Amy in a heater mind frame would be Victoria. A little bit of sisterly love an acceptance (just without letting Amy’s imagination and emotions go too far this time) would probably do wonders to cure Amy’s low self-esteem, which in my opinion is one of the most important factors causing Amy’s problems.

          Just like with Riley though, Victoria’s own emotional problems can become a big obstacle to implementing this idea.

          1. By the way it would probably also help a lot if certain people refrained from criticizing Amy’s behavior or going out of their way to tell Amy just how much they don’t trust their abilities. I’m thinking mostly about Chris, but also Vista here. This is one thing that all three Amy’s parental units seem to be actually doing right. Even when Carol had something critical ro say to Victoria about Amy, she made sure that Amy won’t hear it.

            Obviously someone will sooner or later need to break it to Amy just how badly she needs help (and I suspect that Victoria will eventually need to be one to do it), but it should be done gently, and definitely in a more private and calm setting.

          2. I am on the opposite end of spectrum. They are an incredibly toxic combination. Somebody who can be so easy to be pushed around should not be around people who can steamroll them. And Victoria steamrolls over people. Amy is going to be forever read to do everything for V because of their history. It is sad but i do believe that any relationship they have, if it is going to be a working one, should not involve them being close to each other in any way or form. Maybe letters?

          3. I agree that if Victoria and Amy were to be left together alone, there is a good chance the things would spiral out of control, and in a really bad direction. I do hover think that if their early conversations were moderated by someone they can trust, and who can understand both of their points of view, things could go really right. As I explained a few comments above I actually think that Sveta is in a perfect position to be such moderator. Perhaps not alone (since there could be a risk that Sveta would be somewhat biased towards Victoria, though I don’t think it would be as bad as you seem to think judging from your comments three threads below), but as a small circle of moderators (probably no more than two to three carefully selected people).

          4. As for who else could be among the moderators, perhaps someone who could see just what Amy went through in the Birdcage? Probably not Marquis though, at least not just him. He is probably a bit too biased towards Amy, possibly not quite empathic enough, and most likely not acceptable to Victoria.

            Maybe Dragon?

          5. the problem is, i dont see that, realistically/predictably, ever happening-
            the interference in her brain, i could MAYBE see Victoria eventually coming to terms with,after years of Therapy easing her into accepting it was a genuine accident..

            but the dealbreaker for ANY remaining positive familiar interaction was that she gave UP,took the easy way out of the situation,and ran away to the birdcage, and left Victoria trapped both in a horrific physical state and with the “love me!” brainwashing still in place- she was left in a physical AND mental hellscape for literal years when it would have taken SECONDS to abate at least ONE if she’d cared enough (from Victoria’s likely viewpoint), which is something Amy is completely oblivious about…

          6. Actually a big part of the reason why I think people like Marquis and Dragon could help is that they could explain to Victoria that Amy’s stay in the Birdcage was anything but easy, and so much because it was a prison. Remember that Amy is very much in love with Victoria. The feeling may be considered incestful, it may be considered artifical (though we could argue just how much Victoria’s aura influenced Amy’s feelings, or if anyone in the parahumans setting ever realized that this was a factor), but it doesn’t make Amy’s love any less real. The result is that Amy was suffering all this time because she not only realized she broke Victoria, but simply because they were supposed to be permanently separated from each other.

            You could argue that in a way it is Victoria who had it easy on the emotional front. Amy ultimately “fixed” Victoria’s “love” for her, but this is something Amy can’t do (or even would do if she could) to herself. This means that from Amy’s point of view, while Victoria has a chance to move on from that entire fiasco, Amy likely won’t ever be free from feeling her unrequited love. This love is just as permanent as her tattoo representing Victoria. The fact that Victoria reacts to this feeling with shows of anger and hatered is just cruel to Amy. Someone needs to explain it to Victoria.

            I also wouldn’t say that going to the Birdcage was an “easy way out”. Amy didn’t do it to flee from responsibility for what she did to Victoria. She did it because she was convicted that she can’t help Victoria anymore, and that if she wasn’t separated from the society she would sooner or later do something worse, potentially even with global consequences. This is another thing that someone needs to explain to Victoria.

            Victoria probably won’t believe Amy if she tried to explain all of this. She probably even wouldn’t let Amy finish her explanations. This is where people like Dragon and possibly Marquis come in. They witnessed what Amy went through in the Birdcage. Dragon likely even saw Amy’s emotional state when the latter asked to be taken to the Birdcage (so have Brandish and apparently Miss Militia by the way, and they can probably contribute on this front). They can confirm Amy’s words to Victoria, fill in any blanks in the story left by Amy, present it in a more balanced way that Victoria would be more likely to understand and believe. Heck, if Tattletale and Chris decided to finally show some empathy they could act as Amy’s character witnesses. Lung could do it. Theoretically even Teacher could do it. Valkyrie could do it if she figured out how to come out of her own shell and show as much empathy to Amy and Victoria as she showed to her “shades”, her “flock”, or even the paradog, and if she figured out how to open herself up to “normal” parahumans like Victoria the way she opened up to Riley and Jamie Rinke. Even Aisha, Rachel and Grue’s clone could fill in some blanks about Amy’s behavior and emotional state on the day everything between the sisters went wrong. Riley could explain just how badly she shook Amy when she came to the Dallons’ home. Mark could confirm some of Riley’s words…

            A lot of Victoria’s hatered comes from the fact that contrary to what she believes she simply barely knows Amy’s side of the story, and she simply refuses to learn more, especially from Amy herself. This is where all of those people I mentioned above come in. They can tell Victoria some things she wouldn’t believe if they came directly from Amy. They can confirm Amy’s words. Hopefully they can do enough to make Victoria listen to Amy herself. And they could maybe even tell Victoria a few things about Amy that Amy wouldn’t for a number of reasons ranging from shame and anxiety to the simple fact that there are things about Amy’s emotions she doesn’t understand herself.

            I singled out Dragon because she probably knows more than most, and in my opinion has a combination of empathy and Victoria’s trust needed to do it right. I did the same with Marquis, because he may be the only person out there for whom Amy’s happiness is the most important thing in the world, and who at the same time understands just how important Victoria is for that happiness. Remember that Amy probably spent a lot of time telling Marquis about Victoria. He even was the one who suggested the tattoo when Amy admitted she feared she was starting to forget her sister.

            On the other hand Amy probably still doesn’t fully realize just how bad those two years in the hospital were for Victoria, or just how bad were the two years that followed. Elder Dallons and Crystal can tell Amy a bit, especially about the years in the hospital. Most Breakthrough members could tell a lot about Victoria’s feelings during last few months. Even the Undersiders and the Heartboken could offer some insights when it comes to that. Jessica probably could tell Amy even more, if she could find a way to justify to herself breaking her professional confidentiality – just another instance where Jessica the therapist comes into conflict with Jessica – Victoria’s friend.

            Then there is the fact that Victoria blames Amy for Gallant’s death. The feeling may be irrational, and Victoria may know it, but it makes it no less real. Considering that Amy saw Gallant as a rival for Victoria’s love it would be a bitter pill to swallow for her, but I think that she may need to know about it too to fully understand how badly she hurt Victoria with that artificially created feeling. How badly she spoiled the very concept of love for Victoria. The problem here is that because Victoria understands just how irrational blaming Amy for Gallant’s death is, she is in my opinion very unlikely to mention it to Amy, and there are very few other people that know, and could tell explain it to Amy. Maybe Vista knows or suspects? If she does, she certainly understands just how big deal it is for Victoria. Maybe Jessica or Sveta know and understand as well?

            I singled out Sveta because she can tell Amy a lot about both the hospital period of Victoria’s life and her recent emotional struggles with memories related to Amy, and because Sveta is one of those people who are gentle and empathetic like Dragon, while at the same time Victoria’s happiness is probably about just as important to her as Amy’s happiness is for Marquis. There is also the fact that both Dragon and Sveta know from personal experience just how horrible it can be to be unable to control one’s body (or simply to have no body to control in Dragon’s case), to have artifical imperatives imposed on their behavior (not quite the same as artifical feelings but maybe close enough?), or, in Sveta’s case, to be unable to fully control one’s power, and to be controlled by it instead – things that the sisters were, and in some cases still are dealing with. In other words the three people are the ones who in my opinion have an exceptional combination of very good means and very strong motivation to help Victoria and Amy.

            Bottom line is that while it is ultimately up to Victoria and Amy to see each other’s sides of the story, to understand each other, to forgive and accept forgiveness, and to reconcile, they don’t have to do all of it alone. There are plenty of people who can, and want to help them. And let’s face it – the sisters could use all help they can get on this front.

      2. I agree on the rule aspect. I work under a lot of self-imposed rules, myself, and it is important for me to keep to them even when common sense says to bend them. A rule once bent/broken no longer has the same hold on my brain. It is a strategy to deal with the world – a strategy that was denied to Amy, with catastrophic results.

        A theme I noticed in Ward are coping mechanisms – Kenzie’s rule against hugs, the brother’s strict time limits on using their body, Victoria’s own efforts. Perhaps it’s an after-effect of therapy and the increased awareness of their psychological processes that comes with it. One of Amy’s was her rule – she knew that she would mess up, so she put this safeguard in place. She was forced to break it and then messed up. It must be profoundly aggravating to her – she told them until she was blue in the face that she will mess up, they ignored her and forced her outside limits she put up for a reason, and now it’s her fault. Victoria’s pushing of Amy’s boundaries is particularly vile.

  34. Amy needs help. That much is clear. Amy is in minor denial, and seems highly unstable at the moment. That much is also clear. Any would highly benefit from therapy. Clear as day. Victoria is heavily biased, the last person to talk with about Amy, and completely full of shiz with the whole “kill her or imprison her forever” plan. The biggest truth so far. Somebody please get this girl before she unleashes a mentally unstable, pissed off Class S nuclear bomb leaking radiation at the seams.

    1. oh God, the one person I can think of who cut through Amy’s delusions and knw what’s she thinkingadn planning at the same time is Tattletale. Sure, I’ve mentioned he idea of the three of them being trapped in close quarters together before. and now we even have a precedent…

      Ah crap, the three of them would make a powerful anti teacher trio… and soemone with a tactical brain will think of that and try to make it happen, especaly if they have impaired social skills

    2. Minor delusion? The fact that she committed the same mistake to two similar women, and is repeating the same words as she’s had before, verbatim, “I can handle this” when the record shows she struggles to do, proves it’s major and she needs help with.

  35. Does anyone else think that all problems heroes faced in this arc – spies in the bunker, “book promotion” which was essentially was an anti-parahuman rally, inter-dimensional diplomatic maneuvering and even Dallon family drama – were ultimately nothing more than results of Teacher’s delaying tactics? Remember that the Cauldron wanted to enter the “red book territory” later than it happened. Also remember who they hold in a cell.

    The clock is ticking, and the title of this arc can also be about what is happening to Contessa’s resistance…

    1. It’s a reasonable theory, which I will keep in mind. Now, I’m just waiting for them to save Contessa, before Teacher uses her to take over the world. I’m still wondering if her PtV told her to make herself like this, in order to be saved.

  36. I am incredibly impressed how consistent the core character of Victoria is written.
    I have never liked her as a person, because under all of it, she is still the same self-righteous bully she was back in Worm but i am surprised she has not even remotely admitted to herself what her powers did to Amy. Which… is surprising, since I can’t believe this has never been addressed. Her reactions make perfect sense, top to bottom. Her reasons do make sense as well. What I realised is how bad her own support system is, especially Sveta, with her absolute ‘yes, maam’ attitude who really would never oppose Vicky in any way. Ashley would but she is another can of worms. Honestly, Victoria has managed to surround herself by people who don’t have the intellectual rigidity to call her on her bullshit, because mentally, all of them are deeply traumatised. This is really bad for Victoria, especially in the wrong run, because she genuinely believes she herself has gotten better. Yamada is amasing but even she has managed to miss that aspect. Victoria can literally beat down almost anyone who can stand up to her or those who can, are cowed to her in one way or another. Lisa and individual other characters who can even remotely call her out on her bullshit, she carefully pushes them into mental compartments that she dismisses them or ignores them. Some people outgrow the bully aspects of their identities but it is creepy how much of Vicky’s core identity is a bully and she does petty shit. Sometimes she acknowledges, she is obviously trying to do better but… so much more to go.

    I find this brilliant but she as a person is deeply unpleasant because she manages to lie to herself in a very amasing way. And she has her perfect get out of jail-free card, the 2 years where she became a monster. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe there is a person who would not have had their psyche mangled horrifically but with somebody with her personality? It has resulted in this individual with this particular compilation of traits. Fascinating read.

    (p.s. A lot of these things can be applied to Amy, including the part that there are not many that can stand up to her convincingly but also, nobody who she can actually really support her in a way that she can start building herself up. Her dad is obviously trying to be that but he is her parent and only one. Chris… is not benevolent enough and honestly, he has his own can of worms and issues)

    I am unsure if

    1. Spot on.
      I just wanted to add that we can’t blame Sveta for not having the spine to stand up to Vic. She literally does not have one.

  37. “I’m pretty sure I can”

    Single scariest line of Ward so far. There are certain questions for which the answer should not involve the phrase “I’m pretty sure”. As screwed up as Victoria’s perception of her sister is, she’s also in a uniquely qualified position to spot someone else trying to convince themselves that they can make objective judgements regarding whether they’re “okay” mentally speaking.

    That’s a particularly dangerous circle to share a Venn Diagram with “Is desperately trying to make up for past mistakes” and “Is in a position to casually destroy people’s lives”. The center of said diagram actually gets increasingly crowded as I think about it, though, so at least Victoria and Amy have company.

    1. True.
      However, keep in mind that Amy has NEVER been confident in herself. It makes sense that she is doubting herself. Especially since she has slipped and made mistake. Again. And she is being pushed by V, which makes sense that she will be nervious. I would have been surprised if Amy was using any other kind of vocabulary. Don’t get me wrong, I am not faulting V in any way for her fear or resentment, because all of them are perfectly reasonable.

  38. I would love to know how Tattletale’s power would work if she was thrust into this situation with people who have completely different social nuances from her earth.

  39. Forget Victoria falling back into old bad habits and doing more to destabilize Amy than anyone else in the room, what exactly is Shin’s plan here? If taken on face value, it’s kinda…dumb. On the other hand we’ve seen their cultural taste for poetically faffing about indirectly.

    Also, major red flags regarding Shin have problems with Amy traveling due to increased ability “to pass information”. I mean, it basically sounds like parahumans are imprisoned on a giant island-sized interment camp (and conscripted), yippee. So, maybe there was a reason Goddess conquered these schmucks.

  40. Ok, here is a theory on how Victoria could have misinterpreted what is going on in the worst possible way. Part of it is something I posted above. Sorry for repeating it, but I need it for the full picture.

    The basic assumption is that neither Amy’s group nor Shin’s leadership are as naive, misinformed, prejudged or dumb as they appear to be. They are playing the same game that the Gimel heroes play with Teacher. This explains things like the apparent hostility of Shin’s governments or Chris’s obnoxious behavior. It also explains why the diplomats are being arrested – not just because they are capes, or to test if they will turn violent, but because it needs to be verified if some of them are Teacher’s agents, while at the same time convincing Teacher that Shin is every bit as prejudged against capes as a word dominated for years by Goddess is supposed to be.

    There three things that lead me to this conclusion.

    First is that Kenzie remained calm, so the situation can’t be as bad as it appears.

    Second is that people of Shin know capes well. They probably have more insights into capes than people of Bet. This means that they obviously should understand that no capes are equal both in character and in power. Remember that they were conquered by Goddess, who mastered their capes. The conclusion is that Shin should be most afraid of master capes. The most dangerous concentration of masters right now is Teacher’s Cauldron, and Amy and her group could tell people of Shin all about Cauldron.

    Remember that Lung has been working with Teacher for years, and promised to make sure that Teacher will die eventually. He is a perfect source of intelligence on Teacher. Amy and Marquis also probably know what Teacher is up to, because he contacted Marquis to ask him and Amy for help back in Teneral e.5. He obviously had to explain to Marquis, and through him – to Amy what he planned to do than we saw in Teneral. Cryptid – a paranoid clone of equally paranoid Lab Rat probably also has some insights on what Teacher planned back in the Birdcage, and obviously had to be afraid of those plans, and of Teacher himself.

    This brings me to the third reason for my conclusion. Amy has a power to do something that Teacher wanted from her, and eventually got from another parahuman healer, but at the same this power is a perfect counter to Teacher’s trump card that everyone is afraid of – the ability to master people. Teacher probably hoped that Amy will agree to de-program his thralls just like Scapegoat ended up doing.

    The fact that Teacher risked kidnapping Scapegoat from the prison shortly before his big attack means that to Teacher Scapegoat was a more important asset than any other cape he could grab from the prison, and that means that Amy refused to help Teacher. Otherwise Scapegoat would be redundant, and as such – a much lower priority, almost certainly low enough that Teacher wouldn’t risk his big attack on the prison by grabbing Scapegoat earlier.

    This explains why Amy allied with Goddess – Goddess was potentially a master second only to Khepri, and since Amy knew Teacher’s plans, she realized that Goddess and her cluster would be targeted by him, and that is is imperative to make sure that Teacher will not get his hands on the Megacluster, one member of which was in the prison.

    It also explains why Amy is working on healing minds so much, and why Shin wants her. Teacher will likely produce an entire army of people who will need to be un-mastered (in fact he just did it to the entire capital of Chiet), and Amy is probably the only cape who can do it (remember that she could remove Goddess’ master effect), and isn’t working for him. This means that a big part of what Amy is doing is practice for the time when she will potentially need to de-program those armies. The fact that she is healing people’s mental issues is ultimately just a side-effect of this training. And Shin obviously wants her because she can not only remove master effects, but probably also detect mastered people (like Teacher’s agents for example) just by touching them and taking a look on their brains.

    What will likely happen now is that to Victoria’s horror the next thing that Shin government will demand after arresting the diplomats is for Amy to touch each one of them in turn and verify that they are not under master effect, or something else that will let Teacher see or influence the events in the council room. Once this is done Shin governments will be able to start discussing any deals and concerns regarding Gimel for real, without having to put a show for any Teacher’s agents or “unwitting eyes”.

    One more thing – what Brandish attempted to achieve with that “secret message” to Victoria. It is entirely possible that Carol doesn’t know why Amy insists on working on people’s minds, and is more concerned about Amy than she should be, considering that Amy’s behavior has not only a rational explanation (practice for the time she will need to un-master entire armies of people). It is also possible that Carol is also acting to deceive the Teacher. Maybe she is even perfectly healthy, and is only pretending to have neurological problems just to deceive any Teacher’s agents. It may also be possible that she Wants Victoria to escape, because she is afraid of how badly Victoria will react once she hears that Amy will need to check her brain for any signs of Cauldron’s tampering.

    A final observation. If what I said above is more or less correct, exiling Amy could be the second worst mistake the heroes can do (the biggest would be just killing her outright), because Amy is potentially a critical asset needed to successfully deal with his active agents, and to deal with any lingering master effects after Teacher and his collection of masters are defeated.

    1. And the best thing is that Teacher’s ultimate goal doesn’t need to be bad. Amy, Marquis and Chris may even agree with it. Remember how Teacher in Teneral he proposed Marquis “An alliance, not for villainous purposes, but to achieve something greater”? Doesn’t it sound like a worthy goal? And at the same time doesn’t it bring Cryptid’s fourth imperative to mind?

      Maybe Marquis and Amy refused to help Teacher not because the goal is wrong, but because they disagree with his methods? They could be especially concerned about how much power his collection of masters could put in his hand. On that note it is probably very fortunate that Teacher failed to get his hands on two of the three most powerful masters known in the setting (Khepri and Goddess). I wonder if he is trying right now to figure out how to convince Ziz to join him…

    2. I don’t think this idea is impossible, but basically everything you bring up has a simpler explanation (and often one that fits better with characters’ internal motivations and/or Ward‘s themes). Amy might be messing with minds to prove to herself that she’s not going to make the same mistakes she did before (and/or practice to stop making them), Kenzie is good at faking “everything’s okay” and defaults to that even when letting on that she knows more than she should wouldn’t risk her getting shot, Shin is irrationally prejudiced* against parahumans, etc.

      *Redundant, I realize, but the irrationality is an important point that I didn’t want to be missed.

      1. I seriously doubt that the most obvious explanations are right ones this time. For two reasons:
        1. Wildbow likes to surprise us, and keep us guessing,
        2. Victoria is clearly both ignorant of plenty of relevant facts at the moment (I would even say that she is completely lost), and in an emotional state which makes it very difficult to make objective observations and think rationally, so we really shouldn’t trust what seems obvious from her point of view at the moment.

        I’m not saying that everything that I said has to be true, but I suspect that the truth about the situation is really far from what Victoria suspects, and that Amy’s group is actively opposing Teacher (there are just a lot many little things indicating it). The rest is just what an extrapolation in the direction that seems logical to me.

        Also remember that Shin had its capes before Goddess took over. In fact mastering them was pretty much how she managed to do it. This means that people on Shin had to know even before she came that not all capes have to be bad news. To me their current prejudice just seems too extreme in light of this fact.

  41. Wowie this reminds me of the whole Bryon vs. Tristan debate a few arcs back. Forget the fact that Shin is trying to put parahumans in a concentration camp and cause diplomatic devastation, the sibling rivalry is obviously more important.

    I really think people are thinking way too ill of Victoria and unfairly criticizing her for actions she has yet to even commit, and she even said to herself she’d go through due process with the Wardens about exiling Amy, and if they don’t agree she’d back off. Victoria doesn’t have the authority to act on her thoughts, the Wardens do. Plus you can’t blame her for feeling the way she does, her feelings are valid, if worrisome.

    Amy doesn’t deserve exile imo, she deserves therapy and support. But she also needs to understand when to leave things alone, which she clearly hasn’t learned after handling Victoria and Hunter. Once she broke her one rule she swore to keep, everything fell apart.

    I feel sad that two sisters who were once close are now so detached and lack understanding with each other’s trauma. But I have hope reconciliation is eventually possible, and the two will come to a meaningful understanding. This chapter shows signs of that.

    1. I don’t understand this push at their reconciliation. I truly… don’t… get it.
      Why SHOULD they reconcile? What is the point? Neither of them getting to a place where they can be close is and should be a completely acceptable option. Some things, even though you get over them, leave you in a place in which you don’t repair the rift caused. What is with this obsession that they should become close again? Frankly, they are a horrible dynamic and quite toxic to each other. Amy can’t stand up to V and V steamrolls over Amy.

      Also, is it just me who thinks Sveta sounds VERY much like Amy?

      1. What can I say? You clearly seem not to share the author’s belief that secon chances, fresh starts, overcoming past mistakes, and one’s traumas and limitations of both body and character, and last but not least – forgiveness and reconciliation, are pretty much always, if sometimes very difficult. In fact Ward seems to be very consistently optimistic about that so far. Almost every protagonist, and even plenty of antagonists of note we’ve seen for any extended length of time in the story so far has actually either shown some progress on at least some of those fronts, a desire for such progress, or at least indications that the progress is possible.

        I won’t tell you that your opinion is wrong, though quite clearly the author (and myself by the way) disagree. Just don’t be surprised when the sisters eventually do reconcile, because at least up until this point everything in this story has been suggesting this conclusion.

      2. I want Amy and Victoria to reconcile, and also know that part of that needs to be fixing the toxic dynamic that’s been festering between them.
        Why do I want that? Because they’re sympathetic characters, and I can’t think of any way to sever ties between the two that wouldn’t hurt them as much as it helped. Reconciliation won’t be easy, and they’re on the wrong track so far, and the world trying to fall apart is only going to make things worse…but dammit, I want them to succeed, no matter the odds!

        My head knows they won’t, but my heart hopes they will.

  42. You profoundly misinterpret what I said and I am a bit miffed at the attitude you are taking here, because you don’t even attempt to understand what I said or why. I assume this is because you can’t imagine anything outside of the dichotomy “everything is perfect/we hate each other forever”. Which… is frankly kind of weird. Not even ENTERTAINING that these two characters may not end up close because WORM/WARD have been about “second chances” for me smacks at completely ignoring that you can forgive somebody, you can give somebody a second chance, they can have a fresh start and that the personal relationship with that person can never be repaired or to be the way it was before the story.

    Oh and talking on behalf of W. or telling me i don’t understand his ideas are… a tad presumptuous.

    Actually, I have observed that Wildbow understands about complex relationships enough to write complex stories with complex characters. This push of Amy and V is happening only outside of the story and in the comments. None of the other characters act in any way that this is an expected or ultimate outcome. Even V and Amy’s parents are perfectly aware that the relationship between these two young women is uncharted territories and sure as hell won’t be “back to the way it used to be”.

    Talking from perspective of ‘trauma changes people’, not expecting an outcome gives a lot more breathing room for the agents affected to figure it out and to make their decisions by themselves without external pressure. Of course, this is a story, so thankfully, the comment section is just that, the comment section. But it is still a thing that people expect that things can be fixed, a relationship salvaged completely ignoring that this may not be the best thing for all involved or if there is a relationship, for it to be different than it was, regardless of closeness.

    1. I’d say that the reason for that is mostly just fans being fans and wishing that their favorite characters’ lives would be all shiny and happy and nevermind the story logic. Same reason why people continue to bring up Taylor’s return, despite this story having no more than a couple of *words* about her.

      1. Maybe you are mostly right, but regarding Taylor’s return note that a lot of what I some other people are doing is not only wishing for her return, but also analyzing loose ends and other clues in the epilogue of Worm which seem to indicate that the author himself has at least left himself an option of pulling her back into action prepared plot hooks to do so.

        Who knows? Maybe Wildbow is secretly also a Taylor’s fan?

      2. I’d argue that there’s a bit of story logic in wanting Victoria and Amy to make up. The conflict between them is a driving force for each of their character arcs, and both were essentially made into what they are today by their previous interactions (literally, in Victoria’s case). Just cutting that relationship off could be made narratively satisfying, if tragic, but it’s not the first thing the mind jumps to when trying to figure out how that story ends.

        I don’t get the Taylor thing, though. Her story was one of overcoming increasingly imposing threats by making greater and greater sacrifices; sacrificing herself to save the world was a fitting end to that character’s journey; tragic, but the same flavor of tragedy that tainted her entire cape career. I don’t get why anyone would want to bring her back after that…but then, I don’t get why anyone would want to have her final sacrifice reverted through inadequately-explained methods, either.

        1. I would actually want to see her back not only because I like her, but also because I think that she could be a very different person now than she was in Worm. Remember that during GM and even its aftermath she suffered an enormous chain of traumatic experiences. Moreover she was left in a world mostly devoid of capes (a rather foreign concept for her), without power to defend herself, with permanent damage to her mind and body, and with many of her go-to ways to cope with emotions (like her ability to “push” them into her swarm), and a lot of her support systems (including most of her “anchors”) gone. The fact that she no longer has her power probably also means that she could be much less prone to escalating conflicts. Finally she is no longer has a reason to believe that she needs to be humanity’s savior, so she has a reason to think twice before sacrificing herself again.

          I suspect that if we see Taylor again, she will be as different from herself from Worm as Victoria from Ward is different from Glory Girl from her interlude in arc 2 of Worm. I’m not saying that we need to see Taylor as the main protagonist again, but in my opinion there is too much to see about post-GM Taylor (and her situation on Aleph, which is also completely different from anything she has ever been exposed to in Worm) to just leave it at a few scenes in the epilogue of that story.

          She is simply almost a new character in a completely new situation, while remaining a person most readers deeply care about. Not re-visiting her would in my opinion be a waste of a perfect opportunity to tell a new, very different story which has a benefit of having a character most of us would be strongly invested in emotionally from the start.

          1. And that’s why such a story would come across as an attempt to please fans. If it’s a new and very different story, then its character could as well be different too. But then it will have to earn readers’ investment from the very beginning, instead of picking a low-hanging fruit of their investment in essentially another character. An example comes to mind: have you read Orson S. Card’s Ender series? I enjoyed both “Ender’s Game” and “Speaker for the Dead”, they both are great and very different stories, but they have little reason to share a protagonist. At the very least it feels strained. And then later I learned that the author had indeed meant the protagonist of “Speaker for the Dead” to be a completely different person, the name “Ender” was just tacked on for some reason at the very end.
            Worm is an awesome story, but it’s over. And it ended in such a definitely *final* way like few stories do. Any attempt to continue Taylor’s story after such a final would only spoil it.

          2. Note that I myself told that I don’t necessarily see Taylor as the main protagonist and point of view of another story. All I’m arguing for is to re-visit her in a more substantial way than a simple cameo. I think she could fit well in a role similar to the one played by Tattletale in Ward – an important, recurring, but ultimately secondary, and not always present supporting character.

          3. Well, I didn’t assume that you want her necessarily as a protagonist. Everything I said still applies if she’s on the sidelines.

          4. In my opinion Taylor also could play a more important role – closer to that of regular Breakthrough members for example, if the author felt the need to explore her personality more than he does with Tattletale right now. I also think that she could be a great mentor to main protagonist of whatever story she would appear in – one with a wealth of knowledge and experience to share, but at the same time with many serious problems that complicate the protagonist’s life.

            But yes T.T.O. – if Taylor was to become the main protagonist again, it would probably be a risky move that would need to be perfectly executed to avoid criticisms like yours (especially since, especially early on, people seemed to criticize Victoria in Ward for being too similar to Taylor from Worm), though, unlike apparently you, I believe that Wildbow actually has what it takes to pull it off. I’m obviously not arguing that it would necessarily be the best thing for him to do – that depends on a story he would want to write, but he could, and I wouldn’t automatically assume that he is making a mistake of “picking a low-hanging fruit”.

            Ultimately all I am saying is that in my opinion Taylor may have felt that her life was over in the epilogue of Worm, but in my opinion she still has a lot of potential as a character which begs to be explored in some way in a future story, and that judging from various things we saw in the epilogue of Worm Wildbow has clearly indicated that he left himself this option.

          5. > Well, I didn’t assume that you want her necessarily as a protagonist. Everything I said still applies if she’s on the sidelines.

            Now I’m actually surprised. Do you really think that Wildbow couldn’t pull off having Taylor even in the sidelines of a story without feeling that he is doing it as nothing more than just some sort of cheep attempt to please fans? By that logic shouldn’t he have avoided bringing any of the other fan favorite characters from Worm back in Ward? Maybe he shouldn’t even write more than one story in the Parahumans setting in the first place?

          6. And what is so special about Taylor that only she should never be brought back? Isn’t making an exception just for her also a form of fanboyism. I get not bringing Taylor back if the author has nothing more interesting to write about her, but saying that he should never do it just because it would be understood as an attempt to please the fans is in my opinion just as irrational as saying that she should absolutely be brought back, because the fans want to see her.

            She is ultimately a character in the setting. If there is an opportunity to make a story more interesting by using her then why not do it? In my opinion it is perfectly possible that she could make a story set in this setting, because she is interesting, deep, and probably different enough from Taylor we know from Worm, not to mention difficult to replace in some roles – for example how many unpowered people with her experience and reputation do we know?

            Shouldn’t it ultimately depend not on what some fanboys like us feel about bringing or not bringing her back, but on whether the author thinks she has yet a role to play? All I’m saying is that I feel that she could, and that the author himself wrote the epilogue of her story in a way that suggests that she might.

            I also said that I would like to see her back, and I while I can accept an argument that someone wouldn’t like it, I think we should be very careful just how for we push this. Outright telling the author that he should or shouldn’t bring her back based on our preconceptions about how stories in the Parahumans setting should look like or how they would be received by the community based on this decision alone, would be quite disrespectful both to the author and the community in my opinion. Can we agree at least on that?

          7. > Do you really think that Wildbow couldn’t pull off having Taylor even in the sidelines of a story without feeling that he is doing it as nothing more than just some sort of cheep attempt to please fans?

            I doubt it’s doable at all, no matter the writer’s skill, it would come across if not as pleasing fans, then as reenacting a tired old trope like a battle-hardened veteran turning into a wise old mentor in the sequel. Such difficulty isn’t unique to Taylor – for example, I enjoy every bit of Valkyrie and Contessa appearing on-screen, especially their interludes, but I think it would be insanely hard to make a good story with either of them as a protagonist. Of course, I can speak only from my perspective, so it’s just my feeling about how could I perceive the story; other people might see it differently and enjoy different things.

            A sequel of a successful story in the same setting could also be a “low-hanging fruit” (and it often becomes just that), but it’s also a challenge, and it’s certainly doable. There need to be enough similarities for the setting to be and feel the same, enough differences for the story not to be rehashing the previous one, and the previous story sets levels of expectations which the next one strives to live up to. When you have a whole world to pull it off, it’s doable. But if it’s a single *character* with the same constraints – Taylor needs to be different and the same simultaneously, I can’t imagine how could it be done without one or the other falling off. And she had set expectations about her personally so high that she can’t possibly match them in the sequel. It’s entirely understandable for me that she herself thought that way.

            And yes, to be entirely honest – part of my reasons is me being a fan in my own way:) And wishing for Taylor to be happy as I see it: in peace, away from all the fighting, away from responsibility, and not trying to top the impossibly high level she herself had set.

            > Outright telling the author that he should or shouldn’t […]

            Well, I didn’t say that he should or shouldn’t do something, and neither I said anything about the reaction of the whole community. I just said that I can’t imagine certain plot directions being possible to execute well (again, in my opinion). But in general, I think that our discussions in the comments don’t play a noticeable role in the plot development, and that’s a good thing. After all, it’s not the commenters who created an awesome story in an awesome world, which gathered us here in the first place:)

          8. But regarding the clues in the epilogue hinting at possible Taylor’s return – it seems to me that you’re overthinking it…

          9. >> Outright telling the author that he should or shouldn’t […]

            > Well, I didn’t say that he should or shouldn’t do something, and neither I said anything about the reaction of the whole community.

            I never wanted to suggest that you have said anything of the sort. I just added that paragraph because I realized that the discussion was heating up to a point where it was likely that either one of us would write something that could be interpreted as crossing that particular line.

          10. By the way here is another clue that Taylor may not only return, but even do so in Ward.

            Teneral – the name of the last arc of Worm means imago state of an insect – something that has to achieve its final form yet. So far events of all chapters of that arc other than Interlude: End had direct, important consequences in Ward. This makes me believe that the “final form” of Teneral is Ward. And that in turn leads me to a conclusion that everything we saw in Interlude: End will also have direct consequences in Ward, and I just don’t see it without not only Undersiders’ meeting, but also Taylor’s scenes becoming relevant to Ward.

            Perhaps the title Teneral even also means that Taylor has yet to achieve her final form? Wouldn’t it be nice for her to become something even greater than Khepri? My only fear is that the only things that may qualify as “greater than Khepri” seem to be the Entities, Endbringers, Kronos Titan, and perhaps Sleeper.

          11. Of course for Taylor changing from imago into an adult stage could also simply mean turning from “Taylor Hebert. Eighteen” into a fully mature person, which would be a natural direction for her to go, and require no world-shaking powers, but instead maybe things as simple as finding a regular job and starting a family?

          12. And on the topic of a steady, regular job, note that there is a sort of capes Taylor has never been. One that it is probably most difficult for any parahuman to be. A full time rogue.

    2. Ok, maybe I should have said that it is clear to me that Wildbow’s beliefs are just like I described. I obviously don’t sit in his head, and don’t know his thoughts. I may even be wrong about whether he decided to take Ward in as optimistic direction as he does (though since even people like Love Lost and Cradle seem to show early signs of self-improvement, I would argue that this is exactly the direction this story is going at).

      I also don’t say that I think you are not entitled to your opinion, just that I disagree with what I think it is.

      As for why would people like Victoria and Amy reconcile, I think that it should be obvious. Both would be happier if it happened. Victoria would make at least some sort of peace with her inner demons, which would give her a chance to find happiness. Amy would at least get Victoria’s forgiveness, and knowledge that at least Victoria doesn’t suffer anymore quite as much as she used to. If Amy truly loves Victoria then she should desire Victoria’s happiness more than any Victoria’s expressions of love for her, and considering that she refused Chris’ offer to “give her Victoria”, and has generally been giving Victoria her space, I think that this is the case.

      I’m not saying that things between the sisters will necessarily return to the point where they were before this whole fiasco started in Worm. It is perfectly possible that they will agree to forever keep their distance from each other. But just agreeing to it based on mutual understanding would be a tremendous progress compared to the current situation where Victoria tried to force separation and severed all lines of communication out of fear, and Amy retreated not as much to give Victoria happiness, as simply in an attempt to spare her even more suffering.

      Remember that Amy doesn’t even fully understand the true depth of Victoria’s suffering, because Victoria hid many things from Amy – like the fact that her forcefield has been permanently altered in a way that reminds her of her trauma, the fact that she can’t help but irrationally feel that Amy is responsible for Gallant’s death, or the fact that even thinking about Amy gave Victoria panic attacks. How is Amy supposed to give Victoria a chance for happiness, if Victoria doesn’t even let Amy know the true nature of her trauma?

      At the same time Victoria doesn’t fully understand Amy’s suffering. She probably sees Amy mostly as some sort of a monstrous, permanently unstable sexual predator, while in fact outside of her two slip-ups – one when Amy broke her mind, and the other one when she broke her body (remember that both happened under extreme stress – even without doing what she did to Victoria Amy would likely remember those few days as the lowest point in her life), she did everything in her ability to help Victoria – just like she always wanted to help other people.

      1. There is also a more pragmatic reason – I believe that if a person, especially as emotionally vulnerable as Amy, is treated like a monster by someone as important to them as Victoria is to Amy, they actually are more likely to break down emotionally and do something monstrous. Remember that, like I said, the time when Amy broke Victoria were some of the worst days of her life. Do you think it is a good idea to give her more bad days, or to keep her happy?

        1. Reminds me of Durkon’s recent arc in Order of the Stick. Difference is, it’s not Amy waking up after her worst day, deciding whether she was going to make this a new worst day or not (which she handled…okay-ly), but people worried about Amy’s next worst day giving her one in a way that they hope keeps her worst days away from other people.

          …The connection makes sense in my head.

  43. Victoria’s demonization of Amy, though in character, is pretty wearing. It’s also not justifiable, and the amount of support she gets from characters who really, REALLY should be more objective is starting to verge on unbelievable.

    Amy has performed countless power-assisted surgeries. She’s quite possibly among the capes with the highest tallies of ‘people saved’ (depending on how you count capes participating in Endbringer fights). She was instrumental in defeating Scion. She’s failed TWICE that we know of. Neither failure was fatal (or intentional) and both are (probably) ultimately reversible.Any mundane surgeon with that kind of success ratio would be celebrated.

    Then let’s look at the ancillary factors. ‘Orphaned’ so young she barely remembers her father (because for all reasonable intents and purposes, being sent to the birdcage might as well have been a death sentence), taken in (unwillingly!) by the people responsible for putting her father away, unloved by her adopted mother, a depressed father who’s not ‘present’, multiple violent deaths of people close to her, made to become a child soldier after triggering young, and overworked SAVING PEOPLE’S LIVES as a minor volunteering at hospitals. Targeted by a group of villains specifically known for breaking their targets, mutilated by Siberian, and nearly killed multiple times. That’s before the whole ‘living in a supermax with the worst parahumans alive’ thing (which she self-selected into, rather than hurt anyone else) and the actual end of the world. And she’s still helping people, largely without compensation, it seems.

    Then take Victoria. Similar upbringing, minus a few traumas. Multiple instances of losing control of her powers and causing serious (and likely permanent) injury to non-capes, for no better reason than ‘I’m angry and powerful and I can get away with it.’ Brainwashing her sister with her aura, indirectly causing the cascading trauma failure that ended up happening. The only reason she hasn’t done much, much worse than Amy is because 1) her power isn’t capable of the kinds of things Amy can do and 2) because Amy was there to patch up her mistakes. And yet we’re supposed to accept that Amy is an irredeemable monster, but Victoria has changed and matured?

    Like…I get that Victoria lacks perspective. It’s frustrating, but sure. I can see her not being willing to step outside herself and look at the big picture, and as the victim, it’s her prerogative to be as unreasonable as she likes about withholding forgiveness, and it’s not her fault that she’s got PTSD (probably shouldn’t be an active cape, much less leading a team, though). But the way that virtually EVERYONE in the story seems to rally behind Victoria in labeling Amy a dangerous villain is completely insane. I’d MAYBE buy it from Sveta, because she’s probably got understandable hangups about non-consensual body modification (and she’s Victoria’s friend, so she’s expected to take her side), but aside from those two…no. And the idea that ANYONE would let Victoria make decisions about Amy is laughable.

    1. Thing is, the only members of Breakthrough who actually know Amy are Victoria and Ashley. The rest only know her through Victoria’s accounts. Also, the way Victoria is lying to Amy right now and pretending to be willing to cooperate? Breakthrough may be doing the same with Victoria, pretending to go along for now rather than hash this stuff out in the heat of the moment in the middle of a diplomatic crisis on a foreign world while guarded by armed paraphobic soldiers.

      Also, what you said about Amy’s failures being unintentional is somewhat false. The bits where she modified Victoria’s and Hunter’s personalities were indeed unintentional, as was leaving her as the Wretch, but there was another big mistake in there. In Worm Interlude 15, Amy explained about how after letting Victoria heal in the cocoon, she wanted to make Victoria smile at her and hug her goodbye. Then she dropped that line about how she could “tweak, expand, change things to serve more than one purpose.” It’s clear that this was meant for Amy’s amusement, not as a parting gift to Victoria, because afterward she “started undoing everything, all the mental and physical changes.” If those alterations had been intended for Victoria’s benefit, she would have left them in place. Also, don’t forget this part: “I got so tired, and so scared, so lonely, so I thought we’d take another break, before I was completely finished. I changed more things. More stuff I had to fix. And days passed.” Note the bit about how she “changed more things,” creating more alterations she needed to undo. So she admitted to purposefully performing recreational, unconsensual plastic surgery on Victoria at least twice.

      To be fair, she was experiencing a mental breakdown at the time. When dealing with the kind of absurd bullshit she’d been dealing with, it’s easy for totally unreasonable courses of action to seem reasonable. I can view her with sympathy and call her treatment of Victoria an understandable mistake given the circumstances. I cannot, however, call it an accident or unintentional. It is not equivalent to a simple failure while doing surgery. It’s more like a surgeon who’s just had the worst time of their life succumbing to temptation and molesting their patient while she’s helpless.

      I can forgive Amy that, so long as she doesn’t do it again. When pushed to the brink, people fuck up. Amy is no more evil than Tristan, Rain, and Ashley, she genuinely regrets her actions, and she’s actively trying to make the world better — and mostly succeeding. I hope that Breakthrough does come to recognize that, but I wouldn’t expect them to take a stand on it right now. If Victoria were arguing for an immediate, summary execution, then sure, speak up. Otherwise, probably best for them to stay focused on the more immediate issues and worry about curtailing Victoria’s revenge later on.

  44. So much fluidity in the interactions, so many one liners. So much twists in the interactions and the one liners.

    I am extremely biased when it comes to your work, but I think that this was one of the serial’s most, if not the most solid chapter yet.

  45. I’m loving a lot of the Vic and Amy discussion here in the comments. I think I finally have a firm handle on just why the anti-Amy faction strikes me as so wrong (but well intentioned).
    Amy made some pretty serious mistakes, but is mostly (not entirely as Pizzasgood points out) well intentioned and is committed to acting to improve the lives of very many people.
    This makes her very very similar to many other people in the setting. Taylor, Colin, Brandish, and Victoria herself all come to mind as people committed to trying to do the right thing, to trying to be heros, but who have done things that don’t live up to the best version of their own values.
    Very few of us view these people as unredeemable – – because they are redeemable! And so is Amy.

    Specifically let’s look at Amy’s mistake with Hunter. We don’t know exactly what happened, but we know Hunter probably wanted some kind of help, and that she came away with personality changes that were unintentded.
    Let’s compare this with Victoria’s mistake where she let the wretch out and unintentionally gave her mother brain damage, which severely harmed her motor functions. One thing tramautic brain injuries can cause is personality changes.
    In both cases we have unintentional actions with similar possible outcomes. We should judge the instigators similarly.
    The parallels also make me wonder if Victoria is projecting her unease at Amy being bound to make another mistake, to send someone else to a hospital, or rather a place where only Amy can save them, onto her sister. She certainly has a lot to worry about with her own actions repeatedly causing consequences that could only be fixed by Amy. (Broken spines and brains)

  46. Shock therapy is something that I always felt could go wrong far more often than go right. Facing one’s fears is something the modern society likes to tout, but it can only worsen the situation in a lot of cases. While I was glad that Victoria made this decision and hoped it would go well, I also couldn’t help but fear it wouldn’t end well – and it didn’t. There was no way to safely disengage from this situation once it passed the progressing stage into the destructive stage.

    Victoria tries to stop the destructive spiral by looking away, but cannot. She cannot look at the team in fear of them noticing and worsening the situation (at least from her perspective). She cannot look at the guards in fear of provoking them. She does her best to start a conversation to take her mind off it, and while it works for a time, Amy ends up joining in and there is nowhere left to run.

    Now, I do not want to be unfair to the other side. Thanks to the comment section, I feel like I have a fuller picture of the situation. I agree that Amy probably didn’t know how her input would affect Victoria – from her perspective she could just as well look at her sister talking about the current situation, and take it as a tacit permission to join in.

    Victoria herself sums it up best “I knew she was complicated. I knew she probably had a hundred excuses or mitigating factors that went into what she’d done to me and the decisions surrounding it. But it was sure as fuck not my duty to do anything except what was good for everyone, and do what I needed to do to stay sane.” On a purely theoretical, rational level, she can acknowledge Amy’s humanity and the complexity of the situation. But she is not able to carry it over to her actions. The first imperative: survive. She holds tightly to the signals from all others, watching out intensively for the ear tug, so that she can focus on self-preservation.

    She can no longer disengage from her trauma at this point. A quote from Shadow 5.11 cuts right to the heart of the matter “A therapist I’d talked to while Mrs. Yamada was away had explained it to me as a consequence of trauma. Some things were just so big in our own heads that they had their own gravity. They demanded to be dwelt on and they leveraged that dwelling to tie everything back into themselves, every detail they invoked and every question they raised. They were impossible to figure out but we had to try, and that trying became more leverage.” She’s passing the emotional event horizon and can no longer pull herself out. She might still be able to disengage with the help of others, but it doesn’t come.

    One of the most painful aspects of her situation that it was done to her by her sister, someone she loved and trusted. It isn’t something that could ever be separated from her trauma, it is something that will always be present. Victoria tries her best at cutting this Gordian knot of agony, speaks of Amy “that person”, “them” rather than speak out.

    The conversation spirals down a dangerous path. Amy slipped up and mentioned something too close to Victoria’s trauma for Antares to just ignore it. It is a painful subject that will only make everything worse, like poking at a wound, but she is unable to let it go. She has to.

    Amy’s story provided me with a temporary breath of air, giving me something else to consider. Of course, it is yet another aspect adding to a situation that is already complex enough: her power. Amy has a potential to do immense good as well as immense evil, and it cannot be ignored. Already in Worm it ended up outweighing all the other facets – the question could no longer be whether Amy -should- go to Birdcage, it could only be ‘do we send Amy to the Birdcage or leave free an unstable parahuman who can unleash a deadly plague and admitted might do it otherwise’. Victoria’s trauma is one of the most important events of both of their lives, but in this context, it can never be one of the most important factors in the decision.

    I do not wish to overemphasize the “immense evil” part. Not when the immense good hits so close to home. People in the comment section have already compared Drillbit’s situation – he chose to be exiled because there was no way for him to escape his addiction and he recognized that he would do harm if he remained free. Would Drillbit take the Amy option if it was offered? I know I would – if there was a chance I could be fixed, I would take it, even at a cost being erased. I acknowledge that this admission can mean that I do not understand the gravity of the situation, or that my mental illness colours my thinking to the point that I can no longer make a really informed choice. I do not claim that such circumstances apply to all who would solicit Amy’s help, only recognise it in my case.

    A theme in Ward and the parahuman lives post Gold Morning overall is second chances. Amnesty gave everyone a second chance. Rain and Ashley got their second chances despite their (more or less) past. But Victoria can no longer give a second – or third, or any more chances to Amy. She repeated this mistake, and therefore can no longer be trusted, at least in Victoria’s eyes. But it isn’t just the question of Amy’s work. Having her backslide like this is a huge threat to Victoria’s comfort and well-being, forcing her brain to immediately come up with a solution to make it better.

    And this solution is exile. It is not fair, but Victoria is not capable of being fair – not out of malice or pettiness, but out of the gravity of her trauma. As I quoted before, it ties back to everything, and she is unable to do anything but self-preservation. I admire that she still has the presence of mind (or perhaps has developed an instinct) to look for signals from others. The question is, whether they agree with Victoria; are too horrified to realize what she expects of them; or do not give the signal because they think she would not react well.

    It’s very well written, to the point that it turned off my critical thinking skills and I couldn’t do anything but empathize with Victoria. Only by reading the comment section could I garner clues about the bigger picture, and get a fuller perspective. I especially appreciate the reminders of how abusive Victoria’s actions look from an outside perspective, and of how much good could Amy do.

    ShawnMorgan made an especially striking observation, but I could not find a reply button under their post. They argued that what Victoria feels for Amy is more fear than hate, and upon a quick reread I found some quotes that might confirm this hypothesis “The feelings I’d found and clarified were a refuge. I could look at her, hold on to those feelings, and I could kind of deal.”, “Hate was a harbor, a refuge. I could take conflicting feelings and bury them in it.” They spell it out that Victoria uses hate as a blanket to cover her other feelings under, a coping mechanism of sort. Hate is easier to deal with.

    Her hate for Amy has been compared to what Rain’s cluster felt, and I agree with this connection. One line from earlier chapters stuck with me in particular, about how in an ideal world, they would want Rain’s permanently tortured, but they would settle for just having him dead for safety’s sake. Their fear (of what Rain might continue to do and what may happen to them if he’s alive) won over their hate. Victoria is brute forcing her hate to win over her fear.

    Ward is one of those works that is realistic in a profoundly painful way – ugly, complex and impossible to solve. It is a mark of great writing, of course, I have no intention of insulting the author or his story – I merely wish to express in detail what, at least for me, makes it so brilliant and awful. In a vacuum, perhaps there could have been a perfect solution that would do right by both Victoria and Amy, but they do not hover in vacuum. They have Shin, Teacher, the Dallons, the Shards, the entire world to contend with, and they can never give their problems time and effort it requires. It won’t end well. Nothing ever does.

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