Breaking – 14.7

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Chris’s brash chortle of a laugh formed the backdrop of the tense, otherwise silent few seconds as every cape present tried to figure out what the fuck we were supposed to do.

“This isn’t a joke,” Luis said.  The way he stood, the light didn’t catch his eyes, so the sockets were cast into shadow.

“I know.  I just can’t- your sheer cojones,” Chris said.

Yosef and the woman I was assuming was his wife looked at their translator, then at Luis.  Both clasped hands together, Luis in front of him, Yosef behind him, and shrugged.

Weird, the things that ended up so similar, in societies so distinct.

“Balls,” Chris clarified, with a roll of his eyes.

“You’re not helping,” Amy said.

“You’re implying I should be.”

I looked at Miss Militia, and she raised her eyebrows.  Her scarf was pulled down, as she’d removed it when we’d all removed our masks, and her lips were pressed into a firm line.

She wasn’t speaking up.

I turned to look at my team.  Sveta looked faintly angry, and I wasn’t sure how much of that was Amy, and how much was this being a slap in the face to someone who’d tried to realize their humanity, only to be defined by how human she wasn’t.

Tristan held a pose almost like Ashley’s usual one, a little arrogant, like someone who was standing a little extra taller because they expected to be knocked down a peg at any moment.

Ashley was unmoving, her eyes dark in how white they were.

Kenzie smiled, hands fidgeting.  But for the movement of my head to look over at the others, I was still, only my eyes moving.  Kenzie’s head was constantly turning, looking to her older teammates for reassurance or guidance.  In the midst of her looking at each member of Breakthrough, she looked for and turned her attention to Chris.  I heard a faint sigh from her.

And Rain, as odd as it was, seemed most at peace with this.  Most focused, and most himself in this alien place.

“We’ll cooperate,” I said, while my head was turned to my team, not the others.  Nobody flinched, nobody bucked or rebelled.  They knew.  We had to.

“I assume Natalie isn’t included in this,” I added.

“She isn’t,” Luis said.  He didn’t even have to look at the other groups for input.  Because we were being arrested purely because of who and what we were.  Parahumans.  Ones they couldn’t trust or pretend to control.

The younger Wardens exchanged a couple of words.  Vista, Golem.

“Okay,” Vista told Miss Militia.

“We’ll cooperate,” Miss Militia echoed my phrasing.

Scribe-boys scribbled.  The room seemed to accept the answer with what I might have called a quiet kind of smugness, not smirking, not gloating or lording over us, but… maybe self-satisfied was the word.

And then there was Amy.  Staring at me.  How many times had she been at the periphery when things went to shit?

Fuck it.  I’d made my decisions.  She didn’t warrant more thoughts until it came to figuring out what to do, and when it came to that, it would be the Wardens who had the power to make the decision, and I would make my biased argument, citing my warning to Jessica about Amy.

Past that, I had other things to concern myself with.

The translators finished.  A few words were exchanged in foreign tongue.  Miss Militia seemed to relax slightly, though calling her relaxed would have been a lie.  She’d put the power into our hands because her decreeing it meant something different than us agreeing on our own behalf.

Luis stepped forward, toward the center of the room, and talked in his foreign tongue, addressing the other groups.  One of the men in the conservative muumuu-style outfits stepped forward.

It was our turn to be outsiders, needing the translation.  Miss Militia supplied it, telling us, “They have different types of prison for different types of criminal, they’re deciding where to put us.  Rehabilitative, holding, reconstruction, castigation, devastation.  I’m-”

Devastation?” Rain asked.

“I was about to say I’m butchering the translation.”

“Please tell me there’s a really frontloaded curve that favors rehabilitation,” Sveta said.

“No,” Miss Militia said.  “Kind of.  They don’t punish for minor crimes the way we do.  They don’t have traffic laws or drug laws in the same way.  But they punish harshly for wrongdoing or even accidents.  Luis is arguing for holding.  Aian is arguing for us to be held in a reconstruction facility.”

Aian was the guy in the muumuu, though the outfit wasn’t bright and hung heavier than a normal muumuu.  His beard was thick and dark, his eyes narrow.  His hair was long but tied back straight against the scalp.  When speaking, he repeatedly held up or held out a hand, bent back so the wrist stuck forward, fingers and thumb curled in to rest against the flat palm.

“Reconstruction sounds scarier than castigation,” Sveta said, “assuming it means what I think it means.”

Rain guessed, “Break someone down, build them up the way you want, instead of just… breaking them?”

“Yes,” Miss Militia said.  “And I agree, Sveta.  But I’m not sure if they plan to actually punish us or take action.  It would be the quality of the facilities given.  Food, the amount of sleep we’re allowed, outside communication.”

“You don’t sound certain they’re not going to punish us or do something more serious.”

“This is symbolic,” Miss Militia said.  “They want to stress they have power.  If they do want to punish us I’ll argue to take on the punishment on behalf of my subordinates.  There’s precedent.”

“Punishment like… lashes?” Rain asked.

“Flogging was mentioned,” Miss Militia said, stoic, doing double duty in explaining and listening.  “They’ve argued down to bloodless lashes.”

Beating?” Rain asked.

“I understand it to be water,” Miss Militia said.  “I won’t say more out of concern for Lookout, here.”

“If you’re afraid of scaring me, don’t worry.  I hang out with Heartbroken.  I don’t scare easy.  I’d rather know.  I like knowing stuff.”

“She would,” Ashley said.

“Water buckets.  They tie you in place and splash you, hot enough to almost burn or ice water, no rhyme, reason, or timing.”

“You’d faint,” Tristan said.  “We’ve looked into stuff relating to cold water because Byron.  With hot water and sudden temperature changes, you’re talking syncope -fainting-, arrythmia, low blood pressure?”

“They may give drugs to keep us from fainting.  I suspect they’d rather we faint, they wake us up or wait until we wake naturally, then resume the process.  There’s a very real motivation here to see us brought low and repeated faintings would qualify, I think.”

“If I could swap out to Byron that’d work,” Tristan said.

“If it comes down to bloodless lashings for Byron, Tristan, then it’ll be your entire team, Vista, Golem, and myself,” Miss Militia said.

“I’m kind of regretting agreeing to cooperate,” Tristan said.

“I’m not,” I said, keeping my voice low.  “No, this is… fuck this, especially if they’re going after a kid like Kenzie-”

“They’d relish the chance,” Miss Militia interrupted.

“Yay,” Kenzie said, her voice small.

“Sorry.  You said you wanted to know.”

“I do.  Thank you, you’re super nice, but I’m a tiny bit scared now.  Plus I think I’d have to disconnect and that’d make me more scared.”

“Disconnect from?” Miss Militia asked.

“My team’s headquarters.”

“Kid Win was similar,” Vista said.  “My old teammate.  Couldn’t take him away from his workshop too long or he’d get antsy.”

“Haha, yeah,” Kenzie said.  Then, as if renewing her efforts, she launched into quiet chatter with a different tone, “At least we’re somewhere pretty.  Every building, all the clothes, the language-”

“Something nice to say about anyone, even the guys who are jailing us?” Tristan asked.

“I’m sure they have good reasons.”

I repeated myself, “I don’t think this is right, I don’t think this is okay, especially if it involves Kenzie or people who are only here for functional purposes, like Vista or Golem.  But I’d rather stay and go through their charade if it means securing supplies for people back on Gimel.”

“Yeah,” Kenzie said.  “I’ve been hurt before.  I just don’t want to be hurt and alone.”

She wasn’t talking about her computers or tech.  She was linked in to Darlene and possibly the others.

“I won’t let it happen,” Ashley said.

Kenzie made a nervous sound, halfway to a laugh.  “I hope so.  Just a bit nervous now.  Not that I don’t believe in you.”

Ashley put a hand on Kenzie’s head.  “Be brave, look confident.”

“Their motivation isn’t the pain,” Miss Militia said.  “It’s about posture and position.  They’re playing a game of chicken, knowing we could threaten them, but they hold supplies hostage.  Even if we went to war, which we absolutely won’t and can’t do, we wouldn’t have their cooperation or supplies in the meantime, and that would cost us too much.”

“Please tell me Luis is arguing for something milder and winning that argument,” Sveta said.

“He’s arguing,” Miss Militia said.  Answering only part of the statement.

As if her words had been a mechanism, Luis fell silent, his argument ended.

Aian said something in response.  I could see Miss Militia’s posture change.  I could see Aian in the boxy robes punch a fist out to his left.

With the way the groups were arranged, Luis’s group, the Founders, were to our left.  There was a group that hadn’t spoken yet, then Yosef’s, two more groups that had been mostly silent, then Aian’s.  To Aian’s left was the group with my mother, father, Marquis, Spruce, and Chris.

And my sister.  Aian’s fist extended to her, specifically.

“It’s about making a statement about them too,” I said.  “The parahumans who came to Shin.  Chris, Marquis… telling them their place.”

“Yes,” Miss Militia said.

“They want them to handle the arrest, put us in our cells.”

“Yes.  And to handle any punishments.  Aian just cut through several of Luis’s arguments by saying that punishments can be more pointed because Amelia Claire Lavere can be ordered to maintain our health,” Miss Militia said, her voice overlapping Luis’s rebuttal, which was quickly followed by a response from Aian.  “If we refuse, if she refuses, we’re clearly lying in reassuring them, either Amy’s too dangerous, we’re too dangerous, or both.”

Okay.  I was on the same page as Tristan now.  Didn’t expect hardball to this degree.

What else could we do though?

“Are they being influenced by Teacher?” Ashley asked.  “This feels pointed.”

“This is how they politic, I’m afraid,” Miss Militia said.   “This seems normal.”

I spoke, “When we investigated Teacher, it all seemed normal or excusable.  Things so close to reality you could believe it happened.  You had to look at the end results and the consequences to find patterns.”

“Luis and his Founders are center, as far as we’re concerned, joined by the group to his right.  Normally the Coalition balances it out, and with my voice or another Gimel voice we can strike a healthy compromise.  The Coalition being absent could be Teacher.”

With them gone, the guys in the ‘center’ were our best advocates.

And our best advocates, Luis’s faction- he was stepping down and back, no longer one of the people speaking.  Ceding the floor to Aian.  Ceding a victory to Aian.

Aian talked, his voice low, and he did all of the talking, with only a periodic one or two word comment or agreement from other groups.  Luis was entirely silent.

Fuck me.  Gary had stirred shit up to score a political victory at home, and caused an inter-earth incident in the process, painting their parahuman saviors and neighbors in the worst light possible.  We went to handle that, just so we could go after Teacher without worrying about what’s happening in the background, and we faced imprisonment, torture, public humiliation…

And worse than imprisonment and torture.  We faced my sister.  My sister who was ‘not well’, according to my mother.  Who was spiraling out, doing her best to mitigate that spiral by moving slowly.  I wasn’t sure her best was very good.

I was even less sure it would be good if she was forced to cooperate in our torture and humiliation.  My torture and humiliation.

The feeling, now, was of something institutional and wholly unfair, something biased against us, that was now dragging us inch by inch toward something ugly.  To my sister being made to lay hands on us, on me, all while being in the worst fucking state possible to handle her shit.  And she hadn’t been handling it.

Aian squared his shoulders, moved his arm, and faced us.  Yosef’s wife approached to stand beside and one step behind him.

When he spoke to address us, his voice was faintly nasal and insistent.  His translator’s voice was normal, but the opening of each statement overlapped with the end of Aian’s.

“All but Militia will stay in a reconstruction facility, where you will join the rounds.  Miss Militia will return to Gimel and explain the situation.”

The ’rounds’ – I  only had to look at Miss Militia’s expression to know how things had gone.    I didn’t miss her glancing at Kenzie.

“If I may-” Miss Militia started.

“You may not.”

“If I may!” Miss Militia raised her voice.

There were murmurs, there was chatter.

Aian ceded, his hand moving to motion her to come closer.

“A general can take the punishment for their men.”

“Are you a general?  You dress as one but you insisted you were something else.”

“I am not someone who leads battles against humankind.  I am someone who leads battle against monsters and fights to make humanity shine brighter.  These people have fought under or alongside me.”

Aian answered.  The translator translated, “Your Wardens, yes.  Breakdown-”

Luis coughed a word.  The translator corrected himself.

“-Breakthrough is not yours.”

“They are my responsibility.  I will stay and I will take any punishment you see fit, as much as I disagree.”

“You will go,” the translator translated for Aian.  “Because we want someone we can trust going between us and Gimel.”

“I will not see people, many of them not quite adults in the eyes of our government, punished for the crimes of adults.”

“Punishments with kind intent and purpose.”

Ashley put her hands on Kenzie’s collarbone, pulling her back into Ashley’s front in a protective hug.

“Unacceptable,” Miss Militia said.  “Our memory is long when it comes to this sort of thing.  You will hurt relations far more than you realize.  I told you from the beginning, they’ve earned goodwill.”

“Then imprisonment until the trade deal is signed and new protections agreed to.  We are insistent on having our presence and security affirmed.  And if these parahumans cause trouble, they will bleed for it.  The so-called Red Queen will ensure they don’t bleed too much.”

“That should be fine,” Miss Militia said.  “It won’t come to that.”

“Do you say that because you know they’ll cause trouble and you’re at peace with the politics of it, or because you’re lying to yourself?”

“Being parahuman doesn’t mean trouble is inevitable.  Have I caused you trouble?”

“You have the gall to ask that after raising your voice in here, threatening us?”

“I made no threat.”

“You are a threat.  You have the power, I’ve been told, to kill all of us here.  Our soldiers might shoot you, but these others you’ve brought with you could kill them, for all we know.”

The ‘walk softly and carry a big stick’ might have been something they prized, but the moment we didn’t speak softly…

Aian spoke, giving the order.  His translator voiced it in English.  “Take them.”

My eye fell on Amy.  The fear that ran through me had a grip to it, paralyzing.  They were putting me in her charge, and I’d just told her off.  I’d just been harsh with her.

Did that impact her willingness to obey?  I had a fundamental understanding of her yet I had zero idea what she might do.  If pushed, did she refuse, try to prove herself to me by refusing to take action against me?  Did she go the other way?

Which was worse?

Did she internalize all of this and slip further?  All it had taken for Hunter might have been a similar hair color and appearance, a bit of exhaustion, and Amy had slipped, had made a critical error.

If we said no, fought, ran, or brought war to their doorstep, then they rescinded aid.  We would take the blame, and they would claim a victory in that, having brought us low and reminded us of our place.

“Us too?” my mother asked.

“You’re the custody of the Red Queen,” the translator said.  “Her responsibility is yours.  Your dereliction is hers.”

This is why they need help escaping.  They were roped in with Amy.  If they left, it was deemed Amy’s failure.  Prisoners in the loosest sense.

We’d had to make our decision.  The Shin parahumans now had to make theirs.  Marquis had no reason to be fond of us but in a weird way I could trust him most.  My dad.  My mom.  Spruce.  Chris.  Amy.  As I got to the last name on that list, the amount of trust I had in the individual dwindled.

Fuck.

I nodded, mostly to myself, and that seemed to be the signal that gave permission to the Shin parahuman group.  Not as organic as Miss Militia leaving Breakthrough to make a call without any input from her, but… whatever.

“What do I do?” Natalie asked.

“Go with them.  You’ll be the back and forth for them and Gimel,” Miss Militia told her.  “Come back here, report to me.  They should treat you well.”

“Damn.  Okay,” Natalie said.

“All of you do your best, avoid responding to any taunts or tricks,” Miss Militia said, her voice quiet enough for just our group.  She turned to Vista.  “And if it comes down to it and it seems they intend to castigate you or anything like that, escape.”

I spoke, “That would mean-”

“Escape,” she interrupted me, turning to me.  “Any of you, if it comes to it, escape.  If it gets that bad, if they’re willing to go that far, trade may not be possible, the situation wouldn’t be salvageable.  At least like this, it was superficially a charade, a heavy-handed moving of segments of the political machine.  We can recover from it.  But we can’t sacrifice people to that machine.”

“Got it,” Vista said.

“For the love of God, be good,” Miss Militia said.  She said it to Vista and Golem, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t intended for them.  It would have been crass to say it to us, and she wasn’t crass.

“What are you guys going to do in the meantime?” I asked.  I shifted my footing, signaling I was asking about Teacher.

“Just focus on yourselves.  We’ll work something out.  This should only be a few days at most before we work it out.  In the meantime, I think they want you to give them an excuse, they can punish you, and use the film of act and punishment for their political enrollments or even televising it for the public.”

“Political enroll- nevermind,” Tristan said, changing his tune as Marquis and the others drew closer.  He looked at Vista, who had her chin set.  She didn’t look anywhere near happy about this.  “This is screwed up.”

“It’s theater.  We’re capes, theater is part of it,” Ashley said.

“Well said,” Miss Militia told her.

Behind Chris, Spruce, and Marquis, I could see my parents and Amy.  Amy hesitated, then approached until she stood beside Marquis.  A diplomat from Aian’s contingent accompanied them.  No doubt to show them where the hell they were going.

“Would it be tactless for us to use weapons?” Marquis asked.

“It might be best,” Miss Militia said.

“Would it, now?”

“You’re effectively their parahumans.  Your weapons and clout are theirs.  Show off a bit if you must.”

Marquis made a hand motion like he was snapping a finger in reverse, and the snap produced a rapier-thin blade from his middle finger.  He waved it in the air before settling on Tristan, Golem, and Rain, bidding them to move.  Spruce joined him.

“Come on,” Chris said.  He pushed Ashley’s shoulderblade hard enough she had to take a step and as part of that, had to manage Kenzie, who was standing just in front of her.  “Let’s go.  I want to get back to my own stuff.”

When she didn’t move fast enough, he gave her another push.  She shot him a look over her shoulder, her neck and jaw tense enough that lines and muscles stood out.

“It’s only going to get worse when you’re in there.  Suck it up.”

“Theatrics,” my mother said, as she walked into the midst of our group.  She smiled at Natalie.  “Earning your pay, hm?”

Natalie’s responding smile was weak.

“I’ll make it up to you,” my mother said.

“I believe you.”

My mother produced a coruscating spike in her hand.  I knew the energy she made could be diffused or left ‘sharp’, and I imagined she’d picked something that would burn at worst, if someone were to walk fast enough into it.

I’d wanted her to guide me.  But she didn’t, instead putting a hand on Sveta’s shoulder.  Because she didn’t think – there was a dwindling number of people to manage us.

“Regretting sending mom here?” I asked, approaching my dad, because the alternative was that he wouldn’t think either, and I’d be left with Amy guiding me.

I didn’t walk a straight line to my dad, either.  I took the path that kept him between Amy and myself.  She had a look in her eyes that was somewhere between wounded and hopeful, constantly changing, and my little maneuver pushed things into the ‘wounded’ for the time being.

Though he held his arm straight out in front of him, the hand he put on my shoulder wasn’t one that gripped me hard.  It was almost reassuring.

“It saved her life,” he said.

Right.  Of course.  “Sorry.”

“I’m sorry this is happening this way.”

I shook my head.

Besides the fact that Amy was behind me and I had no idea what she was doing, besides the fact that she’d tried to grab me from behind once already, and had chased after me more than once in the time since Gold Morning…

No, I’d rather bite the bullet and keep the peace.  How did it go?  Rule of law, then right and wrong, and if neither of those worked, reach out for counsel?  If none of that was possible, do what I could do without regrets?

This was the law here.  It was ridiculous and unjust, pure farce for political points and to apply pressure on another government.

“Fuck me with a salted log, do not fucking touch me,” Vista said.

I turned to look.  Amy, with about a foot of distance between a reaching or motioning hand and Vista.

“I don’t want to fall behind,” Amy said.  “This is hard enough.”

“Give me a second.”

“You’re going to make them suspicious.”

Vista didn’t budge, staring Amy down.  In the meantime, my dad and I were stopped, while the others left the room.  Miss Militia remained where she was, a short distance from Vista and Amy.

“Be good,” Miss Militia told Vista.  This time, the words really did seem meant for Vista.

“I am.  But if it comes down to it, I’m not going to have a squad of soldiers who I don’t know or trust at my back without taking steps.”

Miss Militia looked around.  “You undid it?”

“Just finished,” Vista said.

She walked, Amy following, guards following Amy.  Vista didn’t hurry, and the result was to create a good fifteen or twenty foot gap between myself and Amy.

Natalie hurried to catch up to my dad and I.

“You coping?” I asked.

“I should be asking you that.”

“Life as a cape.  Before I even had powers, I made myself stay up until I heard my parents come back in.  My dad taught me some first aid from pretty early on.”

“I didn’t know you stayed up,” my dad said.

I ignored that, addressing Natalie, “Are you managing though?  You’ll be going home, maybe report to people or tell them what Miss Militia’s more or less going to say so she can focus on other things.  Then, I imagine, a… stiff drink?”

“I can’t drink when anxious,” she said.  “I have a… guy.  Kind of but not really a boyfriend.  Does that sound awful?”

“No,” I said.  “A guy sounds really nice.”

“We’re in a fuzzy territory.  It doesn’t matter, you have bigger things to worry about.  I’ve got someone to give me a hug when I need it, that’s what matters.  I’ll call him once I’m in range for cellular service.”

“Good,” I said.

“I don’t want to sound rude, but… I didn’t expect family to be such a factor.  Carol’s… very different.”

“She’s recovering,” my dad said.

“Yeah.  I get that.”

A glass-covered, glass-walled tunnel with snowbanks on either side separated buildings.

“I’ve talked to Vista a few times,” Natalie said.  Her voice was quieter.  “She sounded really unlike herself just now, talking to Amy.  Scared.”

“Amy’s not that scary.  She’s a good person who’s been through a lot, like most parahumans,” my dad said.

“Vista’s been through a lot.  She’s level-headed, she’s smart, she’s experienced- fuck, she’s more experienced than me, I’m pretty sure.  And she’s scared.  I’m scared.”

“Singular bad experiences, traumas or histories of trauma, and our mental issues can screw up the tools we use to determine if we should fight, fly, or freeze.”

It hurt, hearing that.

“So can love,” I said.  I looked at my mom’s back.  “And guilt, shame.”

It wasn’t a short walk to the prison.  We pulled hoods up and helmets on as we left the warmth of building interiors, the young politician that was showing us the way passing us on to a guy in a guard’s uniform.  We walked past groups of people, all dressed more like Luis than any of the other delegates.

Our destination was a building that looked to be a stout castle, split in two and separated, with an office building growing out of the divide, concrete and tinted windows covered in bars.  Wrought iron fences with whole sections wrought to be bent to right angles, spikes rising up from the face of it in echoes of the multitude of medieval-style towers that leaned out and then up from buildings around us.

Just a few days.  No alternative, we did this, we let the Wardens handle shit and work out an alternative, and we went back.  If we couldn’t, we’d break out.  We had the means.

The cold was biting enough that I was glad to be indoors.  I was less glad that the lobby before the internal prison gates was as small as it was.

I was very aware of Amy entering the space, of her proximity to me, and to everyone else.  Vista avoided being within arm’s reach, and on Amy’s opposite side, guards did the same.  It made everything else more squashed with the sudden influx being what it was.

My dad went to her side, creating a buffer of space where others could move closer without being in immediate proximity.

I’d complained the greenhouse patio was claustrophobic.  This was worse.

From alien political pressure to cold to claustrophobia.  There wasn’t any time or place since I’d entered this damn world that I’d felt capable of breathing.

Vista had talked about how the little things went underappreciated.  That the public would never know about the monsters being slain, the nascent S-class threats that never grew beyond a certain point or figured out how to use their full potential, because the PRT or the Wardens had stepped in.

With orders and directions given in a language we didn’t understand, we were all filed off together into an adjacent area.  The Western of the two half-castles.

Co-ed shower, with only a dividing wall up to my shoulder.

We had to.  As much as I could briefly entertain the notion that we might eventually have to say ‘fuck it’ and stop caring as much about what civilians thought, in practice, if aid for millions was on the line, I’d eat the shit, I’d endure.

I’d fucking endure my sister being here, of all things.

I just had to hope our more temperamental and unreliable allies could keep it toned down.  That we could manage this for the one or two days it was necessary.

We handed over gear, piece by piece, slowly, with multiple guards keeping weapons trained on us.  Because we’d cooperated this far, but when asked to hand over phones, keys, pens, loose change, that was when we’d pull out guns and open fire, right?

Fuck me.  Fuck this.

“Amy doesn’t need to be here,” I said, as I finished removing the stuff in my pockets and started removing ornamentation, like the decoration at my hood and shoulders.

She looked at my mom, as if for confirmation, then said, “I kind of do but-”

Think,” I said.  “Find two rational thoughts, put them together, and think about it, please.”

“I am.  I’m aware this is awkward.  But they want this.  They want us to watch you and I’m not sure where I’m supposed to go.”

I could have choked on the anger I felt.

“Come keep an eye on me,” Tristan said.  “Give Victoria her space.”

Amy was just short enough that only the top of her head, still covered by her hood, was visible over the top of the divider.

I pulled off the outer layers of my costume, my mom and two guards looking, a third guard looking over my red letter – my paperwork from the portal.  They checked me over, one guard examining me, another going over my clothes inch by inch, while I stood on the clammy floor, still with beads of moisture and droplets from when prisoners had used the space.

They let me change back into the tank top and costume leggings I’d been wearing, and they gave me simple shoes and socks to wear.  I kept the socks in my pocket, slipping wet feet into the shoes.  Wet socks would be worse and would get the shoes wet anyway.

I wanted more.  The protection of the heavy coat, a barrier between me and everything else.

After they finished Sveta, I settled into position, still in the stall, my arms resting on the divide between Sveta’s stall and my own, my chin resting on my arms.  My position let me keep an eye on the others while keeping Amy in my peripheral vision.

“You have scars,” Amy cut into my thoughts.

From a vantage point on the boy’s side -she’d moved to higher ground to be able to see faces above the shoulder-high divider- she could see my head and the arm that rested on top.  I dropped my arm and covered the topmost scar with my hand.  Notches where the acid centipedes had raked me.

I pulled the hand away, anger and hate and bitter feelings boiling up.  I could have used my aura or power, if it wouldn’t have been so costly.  Fuck me.

“Don’t follow through with that thought,” Vista said, so I didn’t have to.

I saw Amy look momentarily frustrated and lost.  She looked to my mom, who didn’t respond.  She looked to my dad.

“Hostility doesn’t help any of us,” my dad said.

“Technically speaking,” Chris said.

“Oh my god, please shut up, Chris,” Vista said.

The guard barked a word at her in a foreign tongue.  He was checking her hair.

“I think he said to be quiet,” Marquis said.

“Hostile execution of a certain world-conquering tyrant got me my current position.  A kind of diplomatic immunity,” Chris said.  “Hostility is great, if you have good timing.”

“There are more than a few hostile things I could say to you,” Ashley said.  “The mildest of them is that you’re tiresome.”

The guards moved on from Vista to Ashley, taking the dress from where she’d already hung it over the same divider that made it so I could only see her head, and made it impossible to see Kenzie at the far end of the row.

“Tiresome, says the wannabe villainess who can’t drop the same old act.  Nobody’s impressed, Ash.”

“Hey,” Kenzie said.  “Leave her alone.”

“I almost had a morsel of respect for you, tidbit,” Chris told her, his voice echoing just a bit more in the room with its open area and hard surfaces.  “Leaving this trainwreck was a good idea.”

“I didn’t want to leave.”

“Okay, then I’ve changed my mind about the morsel of respect.  You could be so great, so powerful.  And what are you doing?  You’re obsessing over making friends, the one thing you’re worst at.”

“Like you’re any better?” Tristan asked.

“Don’t say it like that,” Sveta said.  “She does have friends.”

The guards were looking a little anxious about the chatter and debate, all in a language they didn’t understand.

Marquis stepped forward, to put a hand on Chris’s shoulder.  He leaned in close to say something, but Chris didn’t really stop, shrugging it off.

I made a short, small whistle, and when they looked my way, I had my hand at the side of my head, at my left ear, fingers in my hair.  Our signal, meant for me to calm down.

My team, at least, chilled out, with emphasis on the bitterest sense of chill.  Some turned their backs.  Kenzie had hopped up onto the bench in her stall, and peered over the wall at Chris.  She’d removed her headband and pin.

“So you have friends,” Chris said.  “Tell me when you keep them for more than a month without fucking it up.”

Fuck me, I thought for a second Marquis might have said or done something.  He certainly tried to get Chris to quietly leave.  The rest of my team, myself included, held their tongues while simultaneously wanting to backhand Chris.

Kenzie smiled at him, “It’s been a little while, actually.  Um.  I’m sure I’m wearing on them-”

“Imagine that,” Chris said.

I still had to talk to her.  There hadn’t been a great chance.  Too many red flags had popped up.  I wanted to do it while out of Teacher’s sight, and with this circumstance, I couldn’t.

“Um!  Hm.  But I kind of really love them, like, crazy friend-crushing on some of them and crush-crushing on Chicken Little.  My first ever crush-crush.”

“Imagine that,” Chris said.  “You in love.  That’s like saying a trash fire is hot.  That poor Chicken is going to get burned.”

“I don’t know.  I’m not sure.  They get me in ways nobody else has.  I think there’s a way forward, even if I am a trash fire.”

“You aren’t,” Sveta said.

“Okay, thank you.  Anyway, it’s neat.  That’s your catch-me-up on the happenings of Kenzie.”

“The inherent humor in seeing you get thrown in the clink is the only thing holding my interest right now.”

“And Ashley- what?”

The guard was turning Kenzie around.  Her turn.

Out of sight, Kenzie pitched her voice higher to be heard.  “Ashley’s actually really neat to be around in whole new ways nowadays.  She’s grown and she’s warmer sometimes, and she’s still super cool.”

“A compliment from you is like herpes from a hooker, Kenz.  It’s a given.”

“I think you’d be surprised.  She’s changing and she’s trying to change, and even if I only get breakfasts-”

The guard barked at her.

“He’s saying to stop talking,” Marquis supplied.

“How do you say ‘that won’t happen’?” Tristan asked.  “She’s a talker.”

Marquis paused, smiled, and said a single word.

The guard heaved out a sigh.

“I think that was ‘can’t’,” Marquis said.

“Thanks,” Tristan said.

“Anyway!  She’s trying, she’s cool, and even if sometimes all I get to see her is breakfasts and sometimes-hangouts I love being a part of it.”

“I miss you too,” Ashley said.

“Gag me,” Chris said.

“And um, Chris?  Cryptid?  Lab Rat?  Whatever you want to be called?”

His expression changed.

He hadn’t known we knew.

“Um.  I get it.  I know how frustrating it is to be unable to change, no matter how hard you try.  And I know it’s scary too, and lonely.”

“You never got that,” Chris said.  “That I don’t get lonely.”

“You do, though.  Because ever since we showed up all you’ve done is be angry and push and prod, like you’re trying to prove something.  The world’s moved on and you’re stuck being whatever you are and it doesn’t matter how much you change on the outside because on the inside?  You’re still a miserable little fucknugget.”

It was, in any other circumstance, the kind of line that would have seen Chris guffaw, laugh, say something.

Silence followed.

“Um.  Haha, my heart’s beating so fast, because I’m angry, and I’m angry because you missed out, you know.  Because even now?  Even if I might get tortured, I’ll be  happier than you are Chris.  You missed out and you deserve to.  There were glimmers of good in you like when you helped Rain, but you didn’t stick to that and you didn’t try.  You were super cool when you stopped trying to be uncool, and I kind of loved you and now I kind of don’t.  You’re being shitty by pushing us away and making something hard even harder and suckier because you’re scared and resentful and whatever.  I know whatever happens next for you is going to be ten times as hard and sucky as what I have to deal with.  You’re going to be just as alone and even more frustrated because you’re never going to be able to take a drug that changes you deep down inside and makes you any less of a pathetic miserable fucknugget.”

This from the girl who always found something nice to say about anyone.

He didn’t immediately respond.

When he did, it was a simple, “Say what you really think.”

“Okay,” she said.  “There’s nothing sadder than someone who’s unwilling to change for the better.”

I looked across the room at Amy.  I saw her look, saw her expression change, as she looked away.  More different real emotions that weren’t her being wounded or blindly hopeful crossed her face in a few seconds than I’d seen since she arrived in the conference building.

“There’s something sadder,” Amy said.  “When the rest of the world won’t let you change.”

There we go, I thought to myself.  One shot and you missed it.

It was Amy who stormed out, giving Chris the excuse to follow.

They went to the lobby, and the rest of us, once the guards had picked through Ashley and Kenzie’s stuff, with Kenzie’s small pack having a change of clothes they provided, were let through another set of doors and a series of gates.  Each of us had a wristband with a series of symbols.

Natalie saw us off.  When the door shut, it separated us from her.

The prison was a series of hallways, with few rooms beyond an atrium area with a glass ceiling, where it looked like food was provided at other times of the day.  The hallways were lined with thin mattresses, and it seemed to be first come, first serve.

Co-ed, anarchy.  Going by what Miss Militia said, the principle of there being little to no traffic laws and high personal responsibility with severe punishments seemed to hold within the prison grounds themselves.  There were places where guards patrolled on raised platforms or on the other side of windows, guns in plain few.  I could see two cases of them breaking up prisoners – one case where a man and woman were sitting too close together, suggesting that co-ed didn’t mean open season, and another case where things were getting loud- two parents with kids a few years younger than Kenzie were arguing about a game in their natural tongue.

Our priority was to find the quiet, to powwow, figure out where we stood.

We just had to get through a couple of days.

Ashley’s natural intimidation worked in our favor.  When we found a place with only a few people, a little damp where moisture dripped down through a crack in the glass above, they saw Ashley and got out of dodge.

“No cameras?” I asked.

“Guards but no cameras, not here,” Kenzie said.  “I can tell.”

“You’re an asset,” Tristan said.  “And you’re a champ.”

She nodded, no longer smiling, all seriousness.

“How are you for tech, Kenz?” I asked.

She reached up to tap the side of her head.  The sound was artificial, a clink.  “Hairclip.  Projection.  Only a few hours of battery.  I’m gonna turn it off and hide it.”

“Okay.”

“Um.  Oxygen tank and mask.  That’s a good one.”

“They didn’t find it?”

“It was hidden with projection.  I hung it on the shower lever while talking to Chris.  Um.  Oh, I’ve got these…”

She reached up and she scraped a fingernail along the surface of her eye.  Ashley moved closer, to block the guards’ view.

Golem had the biggest body, and he blocked off the view to the side.  He beckoned for Rain to come sit beside him.

“Oh,” Kenzie said, letting go of her eye.  “Vista.”

“What?”

“Can you uh, not do your thing, like, at all?  At least while I’m working on the eyes?  Because your thing borks up my thing and hoo boy.  It would be like pulling a pinecone out of a grape.”

“Not doing my thing,” Vista said.

The action drew a prisoner’s attention.  A woman, broad with bad skin, raised her voice, asking what might have been a question, but which lacked the inflection at the end.

Sveta turned, and with one finger, drew a line from lower eyelid to chin, then pointed to Kenz.

The woman made a face, sympathetic.

Kenzie pulled out the apparatus that had been phased into her eye, six inches long and bristling with antennae and prongs.  She partially removed the one from her other eye, then pushed it back in.

“Not removing it?”

“It lets Darlene, Candy, and Chicken look in,” Kenzie said.  “And I’d feel lonely if they couldn’t.  Besides, it lets me see the cameras, and I want to figure out where they all are before I run out of battery.  If I have time and if I can make tools, maybe a few minor things, I’ll turn this oxygen can into a battery pack.”

The projection setup for the smoking eyelashes was buried in Ashley’s eye as well.  Kenzie removed those, handing them to Rain.

“Can you make something?” I asked.

“What do I need to make?” she asked.

“I’m worried Teacher might try something.  We’re cooped up and we’re easy targets.  Do you think you could give us a way to track what happens?”

“You think they’ll come after us?” Tristan asked.

“I think they might.  Or they’ll try to frame us.  Or stage a breakout attempt.  Our job is to stay in, at least for a little while, keep the peace.”

I shifted my footing.

And if the Wardens need us they can get us.  If not, then the scheduled attack on Teacher happens and we’re stuck on the sidelines because we’re losing this game of political chess.

I saw a few of the others nodding to themselves.

“Should I give Darlene and the others a message?” Kenzie asked.  “Call anyone?  Even for dumb stuff?  I think they’re worried.”

The others named names.  Rain wanted a message given to Erin.  Tristan asked for his parents, and mentioned the subject of Byron, who was still in armor.  A complicated subject to navigate – he hadn’t felt comfortable changing with an anti-parahuman holding him at gunpoint.

Ashley had nobody, and Sveta requested a message to go to Armstrong, just to tell him not to worry.

And me?

Half of the people I knew and cared about were here.

“Citrine,” I decided.  “We’re going to need some help from above.”

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202 thoughts on “Breaking – 14.7”

  1. Well, they have absolute HORRIBLE AND VERY PAINFUL TORTURES: Flogging, burning people with hot water or freeze them close to death (they still have Amy with the mission to not let people die for real which is “nice” of them – sarcasm-) so…Shin is a barbaric place where people are tortured and have zero human rights only because they’re parahumans and nothing else. SHIN IS GUANTANAMO BAY. Who knows how many parahumans they killed in this way but nobody can say anything?

    They should escape as fast as possible because now I’m kind of worried for their physical health and even their lives. They’re not tortured now but who knows what will happen later?

    I admire Miss Militia so much for preferring to be TORTURED along with everyone else.

    Chris is full of shit, as usual, but I still think that he’ll help him if the things will go to far. I don’t know but I still trust him that he’ll not completely abandon his teammates.

    1. I’m just laughing at how excessively hostile everybody is to Amy, for just…existing. I feel like at this point, any attempt to get on their good sides is still going to end up like this: “Hey, everybody! Here’s a free million bucks!” “Thank you, Amy, now come with me and Vista to your therapy!” (Insert Vicky’s horrible plot)

      1. I don’t think I’d want someone with a history of touching people and fucking up their biology when emotionally or mentally distressed to touch me when she was emotionally and mentally distressed either. Especially if I had previously had my biology fucked by that person in the past. Or, you know, if I were close to someone whose biology had been fucked by that person.

        Maybe that’s just me though. Maybe everyone would be uber…logical…and and spit out things like “but she’s worked on so many more people who she hasn’t messed up” and completely trust that person implicitly and condemn the aforementioned people for not doing the same.

        1. Nah, I understand the not wanting to be touched but, it’s just a tad humorous just how hated she is. And by humorous, I mean terribly sad.

          1. I think the sad thing is how stupid she is to not even understand why people closer to Victoria can’t be comfortable being touched by her, like, ever.

        2. I dunno. My typical approach to everything is close enough to überlogical, and I wouldn’t look forward to being under Amy’s care right now. I’m as far from Victoria-esque as it gets, so maybe I’d risk it if the alternative was debilitating enough, I suppose.
          But she clearly needs some help and isolation won’t get her any closer to any clear solution. She keeps repeating mental patterns that were proven unsustainable, and will have to push out of that familiar (but ultimately doomed) comfort zone to find anything workable.

          1. If she’s not willing to get therapy, she needs to at least invest in a pair of gloves. This shit ain’t rocket science…

        3. By this logic no one should want to be around Vicky in hostile situations because she just smashed her mother’s head in with her uncontrollable power and has a history of remorselessly fucking people up with her powers. But of course Vicky gets a pass.

          1. She gets more leeway because that stuff happened in battle. A certain amount of injury among your enemies might be overlooked. Especially if the guy you really messed up was Valefor. There were several people who she seriously messed up and at least one killed in the mission against Cradle, but she went out of her way to get legal cover.

            Her injuring Carol…I don’t know how much of a “pass” she’s getting. It’s been used against her in at least two circumstances that I can think of. Even her injury of Valefor contributed to her unsuccessful attempt to negotiate their way out of combat with Lord of Loss. So no, I don’t think she’s getting a pass.

          2. I would argue that the fact that Amy felt like her life was in ruins when she got her hands on Victoria should also get her some leeway. As for “repeat” with Hunter, we don’t know just how much of what happened was due to some emotional problems Amy may have, and how much because Hunter was a difficult case. Remember that Hunter supposedly had some dangerous power, and it was that power that caused her to be sent to Europe. Chris mentioned that Amy was trying to work around that power when things went wrong.

            Maybe Hunter’s situation has nothing to do with Hunter resembling Victoria, and everything to do with the fact that Amy rushed too quickly into a case that proved to be too difficult for her, because she knew that she was the only hope for Hunter? If this is the case, then blaming Amy may be a bit like blaming a doctor for using an experimental treatment to as a last ditch attempt to save terminal patient’s life when all other methods have failed, just for the fact that the treatment in question ended up killing the patient.

            Of course in Hunter’s case there might have been any risk of death, but maybe her power is like one of those fates worse than death?

          3. >By this logic no one should want to be around Vicky

            David Hunt makes a good point about the differences in nuance for this, but I’d like to point out that I specified that as someone who had been disfigured and had her mind altered by Amy, *Vicky* was justified in her feelings toward Amy, as were the people close to her.

            However, response to your point, anyone who’d been grievously injured by Victoria would also certainly be justified should they have misgivings about her, and it would absolutely be understandable if those close to said victim had similar feelings. But we aren’t reading from their point of view, so people aren’t talking about how irrational those people are for feeling the way they do about Vicky, so I didn’t bring it up.

          4. You are correct, Bigcrawlerguy. Victoria in combat is the equivalent of somebody swinging around a bunch of invisible swords. No one who’s aware of that fact should want to be around her when she’s fighting, and it would be hypocritical and stupid of Victoria to be upset about people behaving that way. The only thing I disagree with is the bit about her getting a pass, because I can’t think of any instances where she got upset about somebody shying away from her during “hostile situations.”

            But see, that’s the difference between Victoria and Amy. Victoria is only dangerous when she intends to be. When she doesn’t want to be dangerous, she puts away the Wretch and makes herself safe for people to be around. There have been no incidences of her accidentally activating the Wretch and then striking somebody with it. She can’t control what the Wretch does, but she can control whether the Wretch is active.

            That is not the case for Amy. Granted, it seems to only barely be not the case, with only the one accidental activation to date at a moment of weakness. However, that single activation is sufficient to prove that it’s a risk, even if a small one, and we also know that it’s a risk Amy foresaw well in advance and viewed as being credible enough that she let Mark suffer for weeks rather than face it.

            If there were just no way around that risk, then fine, whatever. But there are, in fact, two ways around the risk. When not actively working on someone, Amy could just not touch people in the first place, or she could wear gloves. But instead of doing the safe, sane, and polite thing by holstering her guns, Amy’s chosen to twirl them on her fingers and then act all hurt when people flinch.

          5. > Vicky was justified in her feelings toward Amy, as were the people close to her

            Vicky – not *justified*, strictly speaking (in my view, it implies rationality and possibility for any rational person to be convinced by the justification), but at least understandable. The people close to her – just no. If your friend is going crazy over something, it doesn’t oblige you to do the same.

            But Amy not using gloves is weird indeed. Especially as she doesn’t use her power in combat.

      2. > I’m just laughing at how excessively hostile everybody is to Amy, for just…existing.

        Seems like Amy is getting treated by more and more people like the anti-parahumans treat capes? Maybe she is to regular capes what they are to unpowered people? How do we classify the Red Queen (and frankly – all three of them, since they seem to be treated kind of similarly in this regard)? Parahuman(s) to the second power (as in squared)?

        1. I suspect that if Khepri reappeared she’d get similar extra-parahuman treatment too. Valkyrie might have to deal with that too in some situations.

      3. Yeah, it sure is excessive for people to not want a rapist to touch them or watch them strip down and take a shower. They sure are being unreasonable here.

        1. We both know that’s not what I meant. First off, no confirmed rape, except mindrape. Second, that shower BS was quite wrong, but they make it clear she ONLY SAW THE ARMS. So she wasn’t looking at her boobs or anything, though the actual act’s still unquestionably wrong.

          1. ” but they make it clear she ONLY SAW THE ARMS”

            Yes. However, she tried to watch Victoria shower and then got convinced to stay on the other side of the divider. I almost said she was shamed into not watching Victoria shower, but I’m not sure she even understands what’s wrong with her doing that, so I decided to use “convinced” instead.

        2. Oh, it’s that magic word again. The one which is supposed to turn off all reason in those who hear it. Only complete monsters who condone rape are unaffected by it! My mind burns…the righteous hatred, so tempting, so sweet… can’t…resist…noooo…ARRRRGH, KILL AMY, KILL THE RAPIST HELLSPAWN, KILL HER WITH FIRE!!!

      4. Yeah, the hostility is a bit high. Although Amy really needs to learn to back off from Victoria. Someone really dropped the ball by letting Victoria and Amy be on the same planet again.

    2. Heh I was hoping I’d be first but alas you beat me to it. Yeah the comparison with Guantanamo Bay sounds apt. Is Shin really the only place where they have enough supplies to support Gimel? Surely there’s some alternative where our heroes didn’t have to deal with the posturing and positioning bullshit Lucis and Aian and can escape while still securing supplies? I wonder what the Coalition was all about. Chris could help the team steal some supplies whenever he stops being a nuisance. Hopefully Kenzie’s fantastic roast gets to him.

      Idk how much help Citrine will be when it comes to this situation, I just hope she can posture some political leverage against Shin, get them to stop acting like assholes. Who knows though, given how her last conversation went with Victoria.

      I trust Team Breakthrough will work through this situation together, with or without the Wardens help.

    3. I think I reached the point that many viewers had during Goddess and March arcs: critical upset mass and just wishing this arc to be over. Although it would be nice of all those politicians of Shin got their comeuppance, I’m not holding my breath. They are so messed up. At this point Teacher is more sympathetic.

  2. Amy remains determined to never ever get it. Shin is determined to somehow manage bigotry against parahumans, which is really impressive tbh, given how much discrimination is entirely warranted. Victoria is trying very hard To Chill. And Kenzie destroys Chris by believing he has a heart. I love her BTW. ♡

    1. Exposing a child to some horrible tortures only because she’s a parahuman doesn’t show that they manage bigotry against parahumans on the contrary. They’re doing now to parahumans exactly what Goddess did to them, she was a good teacher for them apparently. They’re disgusting fascist pigs and I kind of want Shin to be ENTIRELY DESTROYED but then I remember that there are a lot of innocent civilians there who doesn’t deserve to die for what some nazi pigs like Aian and Yosef are doing. Luis is a good person and maybe there are many like him. Well, I hope that only the nazi pigs will be destroyed, the whole planet should not suffer because of them.

      1. I believe Summer meant “they somehow manage to be more bigoted against parahumans than is actually warranted, which is impressive because a lot is warranted”

    2. I would say that for now it looks like Shin doesn’t “manage” bigotry against parahumans. More like they institutionalized it. I mean they supposedly even plan to “use the film of act and punishment for their political enrollments or even televising it for the public.”

      But then again, it is not that different from certain propaganda campaigns intended to dehumanize certain groups of people. A story repeated over and over again by various countries in our own world, for example around WWII (though certainly not only then)…

      1. Well, yes, that is how you manage it. You have to go all the way to things like “jail parahumans purely for being parahumans with intent to torture them” before it becomes bigotry and not a perfectly reasonable reaction to people who are genuinely more powerful and more likely to be violent and unstable than average. Gary Nieves manages it too. It’s practically impressive.

  3. By the simple fact that Kenzie managed to break Chris down on a molecular level, it is safe to assume that, yes, Kenzie is the daughter of Professional Roasters Victoria and Ashley.

    Also, poor Byron. Stuck inside Tristian again. and this time it’s not even his fault!

    1. Professional? Vic and Ashley? Those are n00bs. Tattletale – that’s the true professional! (although I thought that was Ashley speaking about Chris, until I read that it was Kenzie).

      And Byron is actually a great asset in their situation, given that he wasn’t stripped of his armor. If I were them, I’d make a habit to stuff as much tinkertech as possible into Capricornspace when going into places like this, just in case.

  4. You know, Sacred Hospitality is a cultural tradition that basically every human society that made it past the Stone Age has in one form or another. It has variations in how you achieve it, but generally speaking “invite people to your nation and then lock them up and torture them” is the sort of thing that breaks it.

    What I’m saying is that Earth Shin is teetering on the brink of crossing the Inalchuq threshold. It’s understandable given their massive PTSD from Goddess, but they really can’t expect anyone who doesn’t desperately need it to negotiate with them in good faith ever again.

      1. Honestly if I lived on Shin, I would derad the day Gimel will no longer need Shin’s help. Someone apparently forgot that goodwill goes both ways, and it can be something much easier to lose than regain, just like Miss Militia tried to remind the governments…

      2. Still, it’s a good point. Gimel needs food now, but they’re human beings and they have a fair amount of technology plus plenty of land. They should be able to get agriculture going within a year or two. This episode, especially the horrific immersive 3D recordings that Lookout will fabricate from her experiences or her imagination, will haunt the current leadership of Shin for a long time. They better hope she never catches sight of any authentically Shinian torture equipment, because that will be the verisimilitude that totally sells her footage to even the other citizens of Shin.

        1. I suspect the problem with Gimel’s agriculture isn’t the technology, it’s the infrastructure and the human capital. There’s a bunch stuff that we’ve built up over the years that’s a Rube Goldberg Machine-like system where everything depends on everything else. Building up an agricultural base from scratch is hard. I’d say it’s a miracle they’re as well off as they are. I gave powers a bunch of the credit at the beginning, but it’s became clear pretty early in Ward that another reason is they’re getting aid from, at least, Cheit and Shin. Also, I get the impression that some decisions of resource allocation were sub-optimal. We get constant references to quick, shoddy work that done to make it look like things are okay as opposed to actually making things okay.

          I strongly suspect this snowballs into farm production being less efficient than it could be, so they need more people per capita growing food than Bet did. But how many people are there that actually know farm work? A lesser knowledge base reduces food output even more.

          In short, Gimel’s looks to its neighbors like a failing state with a bunch of human-shaped nuke-equivalents running around unchecked. And that’s kind of what they are.

          1. > Also, I get the impression that some decisions of resource allocation were sub-optimal. We get constant references to quick, shoddy work that done to make it look like things are okay as opposed to actually making things okay.

            There also seems to be a lot of miscommunication about what is actually available. Take those residential buildings we saw in Tattletale’s interlude that had practically nobody living in them. As bad as they were is it really likely that people who live in tents wouldn’t want to move into them as soon as they learned that the buildings were there?

          2. And don’t tell me that people from the tents didn’t move in because they didn’t want to or couldn’t pay rents. Of course they would pay any rent they can afford to just to get out from death traps that tents become during freezing weather, and if they couldn’t afford to pay, then this is a case of serious mismanagement by owners of those buildings.

            Any costs to build those things are already sunk. The rent really needs to cover a difference between the loss of value of those buildings increased by costs of ongoing maintenance taken by the owner in case when those buildings are empty and full, and it just so happens that it usually costs more to leave buildings like that empty. This is because empty residential buildings usually quickly lose value through combination of vandalism and lack of basic maintenance done by tentants themselves (like cleaning and basic repairs). You could even argue that if you would let people live in those buildings for free, the value of your property would probably increase early on, both because buildings that are lived in are usually considered safer than empty ones, and because people would probably start making small repairs – like fixing leaks in pipes that flood their flars, or repairing minor problems with heat insulation (cracks between windows and walls etc.)

            You could probably even make people sign a deal that the owner lets people live for free for a few months under condition that he is not required to cover costs of such basic repairs end the people would still move in just to get out of the tents. This way the tentants would have a better place to live in (arguably even those who can’t afford even to do basic maintenance of their flats), and at the same time the owner of the building would profit just because the value of his property would rise.

          3. And yes, the deal that I just described could be illegal in normal circumstances, but I can’t think that it applies in the city. This is because there is a strong incentive to make deals like that legal in a city in which people are probably already freezing to death in tents. And if the government decides to keep such practices illegal then what could it really do to stop them if the rule of law is already weak enough that law enforcement can’t even keep “alleged killers” like Sidepiece and Disjont arrested due to lack of space in jails or other resources required to process them.

          4. Finally, people from tents would probably be able to pay at least some rent, because they can make money. The city may have a major homelessness problem due to insufficient amount of housing, but as far as I can tell it has no unemployment problem.

      3. Sure but for how long? Either their leadership is monumentally moronic or they plan to isolate themselves pretty quickly anyway.

        Or they’re all teacher thralls (possibly thanks to scapegoat).

    1. To be fair, considering parahumans as humans really bit them hard last time they did. As it hasn’t been a single generation since, I won’t blame them their current state of mind.
      That said, we’re shown a tidbit of all the flavours of terrible that mankind loves to unleash on itself. It would be too rose-tinted otherwise, and wb loves himself some gritty realism where it matters.

      1. Well, dictatorship is a shitty thing in any case, but it doesn’t translate to “considering as humans really bit them hard”.

        1. Errr, WordPress ate the angle brackets. I meant “considering {whatever group the dictator belonged to} as humans really bit them hard”.

    2. Sacred hospitality has also never stopped a king having a political rival imprisoned, killed or exiled. Nor has it stopped the imprisonment of foreign diplomats, and as far as Shin is concerned, parahumans were the ‘politicians’ of the last regime, making them rivals politically, and these ones are diplomats as well.

      Sacred hospitality works between people, not nations, and we’re dealing with nations here.

        1. It’s a pretty modern thing, though. Certainly postdates the separation of Bet/Aleph and Shin. And a thing the Woman in Blue could have dispensed with, during her reign over Shin, if it existed there to begin with. She’d have had no fear of what a national government could do to her when she had a number of parahumans to be her army.

          1. Diplomatic immunity wasn’t official, but it was sort of a thing even back in ancient times, if just because how you treat an ambassador or messenger sends pretty clear messages that need no translation.

          2. Shin wants to send a message, but I don’t think they want that message to be “we insist on being a problem” sent to Wardens HQ, CC’d to Valkyrie, Bonesaw, and Dragon

          3. @Scorpion451
            Plenty of tales about killed messengers, or stuff like sending back the main diplomat’s head to his liege dating back from our antiquity.

          4. Actually I would argue that those stories about killing messengers were told precisely because doing so was considered a major breach of commonly accepted rules and tended to unite people against the offender. Of course certain rulers probably did it precisely because they wanted to show that they were powerful enough to get away with it.

          5. @grinvader “Plenty of tales about killed messengers, or stuff like sending back the main diplomat’s head to his liege dating back from our antiquity.”

            Yes, but those that was considered a bad thing at the time. Mistreating envoys is not something you would do lightly if you had any reason to fear reprisal. If it’s not considered an outright declaration of war, then it works very hard to ensure that said war will start and will be harder to end short of utter defeat on one side.

            Because: how are any negotiations going to take place if one side can’t be trusted to not abuse the diplomats that are sent? Also, a country that has a rep for mistreating diplomats will have problems negotiating with countries other than the one they’ve just abused.

    3. Looks like Shin is on track for another of those “near-extinction events” that it seems to get a lot of.

      1. I tried googling too and didn’t find anything. I think it’s mashup of the historical Inalchuq and the TvTropes term “Godzilla Threshold”

        “Inalchuq was a governer in the Khwarezmian Empire in the early 13th century, known mainly for helping to provoke the successful and catastrophic invasion of Khwarezmia by Genghis Khan.”

        “When circumstances are so dire as to justify the use of any and every thing that might solve it, no matter how reckless, nonsensical, or horrific, regardless of cost. When even the summoning of Godzilla, king of the monsters and patron saint of collateral damage, could not possibly make the crisis any worse. Every so often, the situation crosses the Godzilla Threshold.”

        I think the poster meant that Earth Shin is dangerously close to provoking a war with Bet, a war which would be disastrous for everyone including themselves.

      2. Search for just “Inalchuq”. Basically he was a governor who arrested/siezed a Mongol caravan with an ambassador of Genghis Khan’s travelling with it, and then executed them.

        When Genghis sent 3 ambassadors to the Sultan who had assented to all this, and the Sultan then killed one ambassador and shaved the other two before sending them back. This was a gross violation of the protection of ambassadors that Genghis Khan held sacrosanct.

        In response Genghis declared war, invaded, wiped out the city Inalchuq was in, and conquered the rest of the kingdom. This was called the ‘Mongol conquest of Khwarezmia’ if you want to search the wki article for that.

        Generally one of those ‘you dun goofed’ moments of history where not respecting traditionally held protections of certain people led to an entire empire being destroyed.

  5. Typos from above:

    “I’ll be happier”
    Extra space.

    “guns in plain few.”
    >”view”, I assume.

    1. > “This seems normal.”
      > I didn’t miss her glancing at Kenzie.

      There are too many spaces before these sentences.

      inter-earth > inter-Earth (?)

      > Marquis had no reason to be fond of us but in a weird way I could trust him most.

      Add a comma between ‘us’ and ‘but’?

      > I could see two cases of them breaking up prisoners – one case where a man and woman were sitting too close together, suggesting that co-ed didn’t mean open season, and another case where things were getting loud- two parents with kids a few years younger than Kenzie were arguing about a game in their natural tongue.

      A space between ‘loud’ and the dash?

    2. -fainting-, > —fainting—
      I only (extra space)
      gone. I (extra spaces)
      Kenzie smiled at him, > Kenzie smiled at him.
      be happier (extra space)
      plain few > plain view
      find the quiet (find a quiet spot?)

  6. Chris’s behavior has been overtly antagonistic from the start of the visit, always jabs to upset both sides like revealing the status of Amys patient to irritate bot Victoria and Amy, and at tense times. It wasnt until the prison lice scene where he got direct.

    One could interpret his behaviour as deliberately trying to cause an incident.

    Also. Why were they arrested? Three ‘cops’ and two lawyers, no clarification of why they are being held, before agreeing to only hold them until the new agreement is signed

    1. It’s a game with political and diplomatic stakes; Amy going to Shin with her father and Chris after killing Goddess launched a series of dominos, Carol going there for treatment and the Gimel anti-parahuman campaign steered things in a certain direction.
      Shin’s unstable political leadership decided it was time to use some of its leverage to send a pretty clear message to the various other active factions.

      I don’t think this will do much to placate real threats, but I’m not exactly a politician. They could be very aware of the futility and still find this essential for PR reasons.

    2. He didn’t even have to look at the other groups for input. Because we were being arrested purely because of who and what we were. Parahumans. Ones they couldn’t trust or pretend to control.
      They’re not pretending it’s anything else.

  7. Wow. The Wardens had better be able to pull something off here. Geez, here we get what for me is one of my issues with Wildbow’s story telling. It just feels… One step forward two steps back? Like sure March went down, but then the next threat comes along, and the good guys, especeally the Wardens who are suppossed to be the big good look like chumps again. I know there’s all the offscreen stuff and things we learned about Valkyrie doing, but it still doesn’t feel like the Wardens are actually good at their jobs. They feel impotent whenever what they are doing and what Breakthrough are doing intersect.

    I suppose that this and the way Amy and Victoria are when it concerns each other can be considered realistic and grounded, but I guess that also makes a good lesson on why realistic and grounded can actually not always be things you enjoy reading. I suppose as usual I’ll have to wait through the story to pass a final judgement, and with Wildbow’s past record, I’ll at least accept it in the end, but damn it’s painful to get through sometimes.

    1. > It just feels… One step forward two steps back? Like sure March went down, but then the next threat comes along […]

      Of course it will continue that way, all the way until GM-2. It’s Wormverse, did you really expect anything else? 🙂

  8. So this is pretty clearly a reeducation camp of some sort where they lock up entire families. Shin clearly isn’t skimping on the totalitarianism. I’m looking forwards to meeting Shinese dissidents, though. You can learn a lot about a society from their dissidents.

    1. I wonder if Wildbow wasn’t inspired by North Korea when he created Shin. There have some things in common with torture, reeducation camp, imprisonment without trial/accusations and so on.

    2. You can learn a lot from dissidents, when you can speak their language. No one in Breakthrough can speak Shin’s language, and I doubt the people getting sent to this prison are the highly educated ones that would speak English.

      You never know, maybe some in the prison do do, but it seems like the vast majority of the population do not speak English.

      1. Looks like at least Miss Militia and Marquis understand the importance of that. Somehow it doesn’t surprise me considering their characters and backgrounds.

      2. Goddess, because she was terrible and couldn’t be bothered to adopt a new language, specifically introduced English as the world language.

        1. Well, I mean, if I conquered an entire planet, I’d damned well use my newfound power to make those losers learn a new language rather than waste my far more valuable time on such an irrelevant triviality. There are bigger fish to fry.

        2. But some of their current leaders still need translators from English. Maybe it didn’t spread to the whole world, but rather to those who belonged to elite in Goddess’ time.

          1. Maybe some of those people became leaders because they led anti-Goddess resistance (military or civilian) when she was still ruling the planet? Some of them might have gained political capital on the fact that they refused everything that Goddess represented, including refusing to learn English.

          2. Shin’s noted to have a parahuman-created clone army. Might be Shin’s trying to dump those off, and they’ll probably understand English because it’s a language the elite speak and the commons don’t.

  9. 1. Could someone please explain this exchange?

    “I am. But if it comes down to it, I’m not going to have a squad of soldiers who I don’t know or trust at my back without taking steps.”
    Miss Militia looked around. “You undid it?”
    “Just finished,” Vista said.

    My best guess is that Vista had created space around herself for soldiers to not reach her immediately and being undoing it then Amy tries to escort her away.

    2. “When speaking, he repeatedly held up or held out a hand, bent back so the wrist stuck forward, fingers and thumb curled in to rest against the flat palm.”
    Any reference to gestures in our culture(s)?

    3. “They don’t punish for minor crimes the way we do. They don’t have traffic laws or drug laws in the same way. But they punish harshly for wrongdoing or even accidents.”
    Any ideas what could it say about Shin’s culture? What it could mean for Breakthrough and Co?

    1. 3) sounds like they prioritise consequences over intent in legal matters. I’d associate that with more pragmatic views, and a more dog-eat-dog kind of world. They’re probably not living easy lives and have better things to do than care about (relatively) trifling matters.

      1. “3) sounds like they prioritise consequences over intent in legal matters. I’d associate that with more pragmatic views, and a more dog-eat-dog kind of world. They’re probably not living easy lives and have better things to do than care about (relatively) trifling matters.”

        This reminds me. It’s mentioned that it seems colder on Shin, and the extinction events led some to think there was a more recent Ice Age, or the years without summers going on. Which makes it weird they are one of the major food providers. Along with Chiet “We’ve got 12 billion mouths to feed.” Meanwhile Gimel, despite have access to one unspoilt earth can’t feed themselves. Yes they lack infrastructure, but if they can build a city for fifty million with golden skyscrapers in two years, they should be able to clear fields and build a fishing fleet. Heck without humans fish stocks would be far, far higher. It’s just… I’d be able to overlook it if it didn’t keep coming up. Like how Superman can disguise himself with glasses, but then Clark has to keep going to the optomitrist for a story, it just keeps pointing that out and straining the suspension of disbelief.

        1. The City totally breaks the setting and it’s best to ignore it and try to pretend they’re living in the actual post-apocalypse, yes.

          1. I know I’m down below disagreeing with the food stuff, but…. Yes. I’m not sure I share your reasons for that opinion, but the opinion, yes.

            Their country was destroyed, most people died, they have limited resources to rebuild, and they need to build it all ridiculously fast. Every part of that suggests you should drop everything inefficient. They’re using super magic plans supposed to solve any problem, so we’re talking about a supernaturally-effective planned economy. Approaching a socialist idealist’s fantasy, maybe.

            One would assume.

            Instead it seems to be overwhelmingly modeled on the old American economy, but broken. The cars, the fashion, the malls…. Blah.

        2. To that I’d say temperature isn’t the fundamental issue with food production, nor is a massive population necessarily a problem for a food exporter.

          It’s like how we push to produce more food because world hunger exists, when producing sufficient food has never been the cause of wold hunger in the first place. Locally it can happen, sure, but we’ve been producing plenty – that’s not the issue. Distribution causes world hunger, and the tendency to overproduce just impoverishes 3rd world farmers who then tend to be more vulnerable to subsequent famines.

          But I digress. Shin. Ice age climate, *if stable*, doesn’t mean less food production. It just means different food production in different places. This world has a lot more land mass (probably), much of it at nice tropical climes. Cooler Shin tropics mean many crops can grow where Aleph, Bet, and Gimel could not do so. Most of Canada by area, Alaska, Scandinavia, most of Russia by area, Patagonia, Tibet, the high Andes… very little of the food we rely on comes from those places; putting them under ice doesn’t necessarily lower production significantly.

          There may be as much or more potato/other root vegetable cropland even, depending on more factors than we can guess. If they lean heavily on production of high-yield items like potato or corn, mass exports are trivial with a few years preparation time. If they’re more vegetarian than us, that alone is a world of difference in calories-per-land-area. And if Scion hit cities more than cropland coming through – highly likely since he was deliberately being cruel to human beings – they’d have had excess capacity, knowledge of off-world markets, and two years to prepare as population spiked on Bet refugee worlds. It’s completely plausible that Shin could do that, if they were willing to take complicated economic risks at that scale.

          I have to run to lunch, but there are pretty plausible explanations for the Cheit and Gimel peculiarities as well.

        3. Short version for Cheit is that 12 billion doesn’t preclude food exports.

          States exporting food while famines rage at home is uncomfortably common, actually, but set that aside. Asking about the Earth’s maximum food production capacity will get you different answers from different places, but the general picture is clear. We’re not at the peak of the possible, nor are we close. We have 7.7 billion people wasting food left and right, and doubling the food isn’t an obstacle. Doubling the beef, or chocolate, or tuna might not work; but Earth can feed 12 billion with a surplus, absolutely. If they rely on potatoes, rice, and seaweed for most of their calories, they’re not even close to the limit.

          Short version for Gimel is that food grown is limited by infrastructure and biology more than anything.

          Until you’ve built the canals and roads and ports (on both ends) more farms doesn’t eliminate the food lines. Remember the pig heist, way back? Construction can be accelerated by dint of effort and concerted will; just brute force the problem. Good luck breeding your limited seed corn up to the quantities needed to cultivate the Gimel Midwest “by brute-force”. Two years is not that long to turn wilderness into a breadbasket feeding tens of millions. In fact, it’s literally never been done.

          Meanwhile, building or rebuilding a city over a few years *has* been done before.

          I have serious issues with the setting’s economy, but agriculture is way down the list of them.

          1. Except when you get to the fact that, not only is Gimel an entire planet to set up agriculture not simply a limited region like most nations, but all the dimensional portals and tech thrown about means they literally have several such worlds available and they all can’t be brushed aside as ‘climate issues.’

            To say nothing how feeding people can be accomplished by things like hunting and fishing just to provide protein in the short term.

            It simply all goes back to the beginning premise of this story. The Gimel City itself housing 50 million and being built in a mere two years was already far fetched on it’s face, but one could accept that as the way things are.

            That this was accomplished before the infrastructure to provide a basic need and all that production ground to a halt just to provide an excuse for this story’s plot is less and less easier to swallow.

          2. It kind of reads as if you can’t understand what I wrote. Possibly we’re just talking past each other. I didn’t brush off anything (on *Gimel*) aside as “climate issues,” for example.

            Second up, my argument was that, quote, “food grown is limited by infrastructure and biology more than anything.” It seems like that point slipped by, maybe?

            Having a whole planet to work with does very little to resolve the infrastructure issues. You can start growing sugar in the Caribbean, potatoes in the British Isles, and that will *eventually* save some effort if you’ve build ports in North America, point granted. But you want lots of calories fast, which means grain and root vegetables above all else, which means the Midwest, Great Plains, and Europe need a lot of development. It’s possible to imagine there’s some efficiency in shipping sterilized flour through portals while focusing on prioritizing housing over long-distance bulk transport on Gimel.

            But having a whole planet to work with does nothing to resolve the biology problem. If you don’t have enough potato plants, you can’t plant them all over Ireland. You can only use land for cattle or wheat as fast as you breed cattle and wheat. Having a whole Earth or access to five Earths doesn’t necessarily do a thing to speed up that process. Growing your own otherworldly crops is even worse than not, in the short term, because you put yourself at risk of blight and disease. It’s the loss of expected food that’s most deadly, after all. *Knowing* you’ll have less food is easier to plan around.

            Then “hunting,” lol! Hunt to feed a city, and accessible game won’t last the season. Presumably the American Plains Bison could make a dent in the setting’s beef needs, but the meat might as well be on the moon if you don’t have a rail network across the Mississippi.

            Fishing, which you also mention, is a good point. They ought to be eating fish constantly. Frankly, I’m not clear why they aren’t eating seal and whale half the time, if food is tight and the world was mostly without humans. Gimel New England should’ve been swarming with sea mammals 4 years ago. Perhaps we should assume the Betish immigrants already ate them all?

            I share a similar perspective on Gimel being built up so quickly, although to be more accurate, it was not built in 2 years. Things started in New England over 4 years before Ward, and presumably some coastal construction started early on – the East Coast, maybe over in Gimel Europe? Then 7 months after the first portal opened in Brockton Bay, Faultline cut a deal to open further portals to Gimel around North America.

            Still extremely little time. Which, for me, is why I want the setting to feel more like post-war Eastern Europe and less like a rushed rebuild of the United States that’s a bit shoddy. In Wilbo’s defense, whole city-sized districts do get built that fast in real-world China (it’s intense to witness), and there is a bit of that feel in how Gimel is written. Maybe I need to rethink things assuming it’s like the Chinese model.

          3. To provide some perspective on what Admiral Matt’s saying, let’s talk about potatoes. A pound of potatoes provides about 350 Calories, so if you want to live a while on nothing but potatoes and multivitamins, you’re going to need 6 lbs per day, or 2,200 lbs a year. Potato farms in New York average about 25,000 lbs of potato per acre, so an acre feeds 11 people. Potatoes, of course, grow from cuttings, not actual seeds, and planting an acre takes about 2000 lbs of potato eyes. So, 180 lbs of potato chunks per individual, or one ton of potato per acre. There were 50 million people in the city at the start of Ward (probably more like 70 million now, but let’s ignore that). So, feeding those 50 million requires 4.5 million acres of farmland (18,400 km², or approximately 1.5 Connecticuts) seeded with 4.5 million tons of potato eyes.

            That is a nontrivial amount of potato. Basically the entire output of Washington, or two-thirds of Idaho, or almost a quarter of the whole USA. If you try to purchase 4.5 million tons of seed potato from somebody, you will run into major supply issues.

            Of course, in practice you’re going to feed people with a variety of food sources, so you wouldn’t need nearly as much of any one item. But the overall point stands: a fuck-ton of seeds, cuttings, and starter livestock is needed. And it’ll be even more than you’d normally need, since all the newbie farmers will cause waste due to errors, and the decreased access to stuff like pesticide means more waste due to environmental factors.

          4. There is also another interesting implication of Pizzasgood’s calculations. Shin suggested that they may increase supplies even to a point where they send enough food to feed even 10 million people, and at the same time demanded that 5 to 10 of their people will arrive with each transport.

            Assuming for a second that the transports would contain only food (and we know that Shim promised to send other products and resources too), we see that you need to move an average of 30,000 short tons of cargo to Gimel each day. Let’s also assume (quite generously I think) that the cargo will arrive on trains with 100 food wagons each, each wagon carrying 100 short tons of food, and that each train counts as a “shipment” bringing in 5 Shin natives to Gimel. That means 3 trains and 15 people arriving on Gimel per day.

            Aside from a logistical problem of distributing such large shipments around the city after they arrive, or having 100 wagons long trains cross Gimel-Shin portals (how many of them are anyway) six times a day (remember that the trains need to return at some point, the situation means means that there would be almost 5500 people from Shin arriving on Gimel each year. And this is the low estimate. Realistically we are probably thinking about a few times as many. I would argue that this is a non-trivial amount of people, especially since they need to speak English – something even some of their government representatives can’t do. Where will Shin find such an army of people to send each year? Will they recruit them from all over the planet? And how will Gimel integrate them?

          5. > Still extremely little time. Which, for me, is why I want the setting to feel more like post-war Eastern Europe and less like a rushed rebuild of the United States that’s a bit shoddy. In Wilbo’s defense, whole city-sized districts do get built that fast in real-world China (it’s intense to witness), and there is a bit of that feel in how Gimel is written. Maybe I need to rethink things assuming it’s like the Chinese model.

            I would argue that Gimel would actually be in a far worse shape than Eastern Europe two an a half years after WWII if it was forced to depend only on its own efforts. In Eastern Europe it was relatively rare for a big city to lose more than 60% of its housing, industry, and infrastructure. Countryside was in general in even better shape. Gimel started with none of those things. They even had to clear forests just to make the space they needed available. On top of it Gimel had to somehow find a way to more or less keep up with a massive immigration. The only thing Gimel had going for it in terms of the work that needed to be done compared to Eastern Europe was lack of mines and duds slowing down reconstruction efforts, and making daily life generally somewhat dangerous (especially for children).

            On the other hand Gimel wasn’t left alone – it received a massive humanitarian aid from other worlsds, and probably had much more efficient economy than Eastern Europe at the time – both because of inherent advantage of free market economy over a centrally planned one, and because it had Number Man armed with Accord’s notes to perform necessary state interventions. In those ways Gimel is in my opinion closer to Western Europe, with its market economy and support it got from the US – especially through Marshall Plan. Foreign aid to destroyed regions of Eastern Europe was much more limited. I’m not sure however if those advantages the city had over Eastern Europe are enough to offset the sheer lack of pretty much any industry, infrastructure or housing at the beginning.

            As for the Chinese model, I really don’t see it happening on Gimel. Even assuming Gimel got enough resources and machinery from their neighbors, where would they get enough skilled construction workers to use it on scale required to build a city a few times bigger than anything that exists on our Earth in just two years? Just finding people with required qualification to teach such an army to use such equipment would probably be a big undertaking.

          6. A few more things I forgot to mention about Eastern Europe right after the war that were different from Gimel. Probably not as significant as the ones I mentioned above, but also not without their impact, so I thought that they should be included to give everyone a more complete picture:
            1. The Red Army didn’t demobilize to peace time numbers until the Soviets got their first nukes. That meant millions of people who needed to be fed, clothed, given shelter etc. and at the same time contributed relatively little to the economy (though they did some work, especially in the areas where unskilled labor was required, and there was a lot of demand for that).
            2. People were “repatriated” all over the place (especially into and out of Poland, because its borders shifted). That means an another army of people who had to not only be transported, but had their work (and basically entire lives) interrupted – a situation somewhat similar, though not exactly the same to that of a person moving from Bet to Gimel.
            3. There was still a lot of fighting going on between the communists, and various groups who opposed them, and often also each other – which often happened between nationalist partisan groups in areas with mixed ethnic composition of population. And there were a lot of those areas. The entire repatriation effort made in the previous point was made in no small part to deal with this problem.
            4. In Soviet-“liberated” countries the economy actually wasn’t all that centrally planned. It was more of a mixture of pre-war capitalism, and general wartime chaos. It was only after the communists consolidated their power (largely by doing things mentioned in points 1-3 – dealing with armed resistance, resetting population, and de-mobilizing the Red Army, plus introducing permanent communist governments – all of which took a few years to accomplish) that they started to impose their economical moded everywhere.

          7. Oh, and there was also a little problem Eastern Europe had to deal with after the war that Gimel didn’t – massive debts that both Soviet Union and many countries in Central Eastern Europe owed to the West. Sometimes for things that were critical to those countries (like American weapons and food for USSR), sometimes not so much… For example I remember hearing some time ago (though I would have to check to make sure) that Polish People’s Republic payed for weapons acquired by Polish government in exile through Lend-Lease Act and similar deals during the war, most of which were later used in the Atlantic, in air war over Western Europe, and on Italian and Western Fronts and never got anywhere near Polish territory.

          8. @ Alfaryn
            > inherent advantage of free market economy over a centrally planned one
            China disagree 😉

          9. As fascinating and informative as this logistics debate is, the notion that parahumans might have been able to shortcut some of these difficulties seems to have been ignored.

            Clearing forests? Pfft, Militia alone can level acres of forest just by firing daisy-cutter after daisy-cutter.

            Tinkers are a thing (yes, they are a bottleneck in their own right and yes, their tech is really cargo-cult magic but still, if you’re hit by a hammer and the hammer disappears, you’ve still been hit by a hammer.

            Golem’s metal mass production (in conjunction with some other metalshaper a la Cuff or Annex), even if the metal turns out to be structurally flawed because shards and Worms and authorial fucking fiat say so) can still be used as temporary scaffolding to get buildings.

            There are countless parahumans out there with abilities I can’t even envision, teleporters of various levels of capability, thinkers who can — however incidentally — sense groundwater or aquifers or good soil or or or or OR etcetera etcetera ad infinitum.

            To say nothing of power synergies.

            So no, while logistics matter, they don’t make things as they stand inherently implausible.

          10. @OverQuantum

            While I would agree that modern Chinese economy is far from meeting Western standards of “free market economy”, I can tell you that it is also very far from what was considered a model planned economy after the war (at least until reforms like perestroika took place). The entire idea Chinese communists had for staying in power after other communist governments fell all around the world seems to hinge on giving not giving enough political freedom to the people that they could simply elect a government run by a different party and keeping them content by giving them as much economic freedom as possible instead, with an added benefit of being able to use market liberalization to make more people significantly more wealthy in relatively short span of time – just another thing that tends to keep people happy.

            @RazorSmile

            I would argue that most capes simply can’t use their on a scale required to make a significant difference in economy of something as big as the city, not to mention that most of them are too drawn to their little conflicts to act as productive rogues for any significant length of time. Some thinkers are obviously an exception, and I actually mentioned two of them – Accord and Number Man. Tattletale’s power also probably greatly contributed to the fact that New Brockton seemed to be very successful shortly after Gold Morning. The problem is that most thinkers really aren’t that good or interested in at running economies, and there are limits to what a small number of even most genius leaders can do, especially since not thinker is unfailable – both because they are human, and because the powers themselves by design come with built-in weak points.

          11. Where will Shin find such an army of people to send each year? Will they recruit them from all over the planet? And how will Gimel integrate them?

            If I had to guess? They’d come from the military, and ask Gimel to “integrate them” into anti-parahuman militia or death squads.

          12. This is exactly the sort of thing I worry about. As regular settlers five, ten or twenty thousand people are not an issue to the city at all. They accept over million a month. As an organized military acting as fifth column for example, they would be a huge deal. Likely comparable to all unpowered standing military forces Gimel may have at the moment.

          13. @Alfaryn
            > after other communist governments fell all around the world
            USSR economy was pretty fine (withstand Nazi invasion, participate in Cold War, launch sputnik and Gagarin into space) before Khrushchev start to incorrectly inject elements of market economy while saying it is still socialistic and “class conflict is over”. It is treason of top political leadership (among other things) lead to collapse of USSR, not some “inherited flaws” of centrally planned economy.

          14. > USSR economy was pretty fine (withstand Nazi invasion, participate in Cold War, launch sputnik and Gagarin into space)

            However, aforementioned doings took all of its capability at the cost of everything else. Which, among other reasons, led to USSR’s eventual demise. And the “treason of top political leadership”, when said leadership agrees not to give up to an enemy invasion but to peacefully dismantle an union, and all the people who are supposedly betrayed by this decision don’t do jack shit to oppose it, doesn’t look like treason at all.

          15. @T.T.O.
            > aforementioned doings took all of its capability at the cost of everything else
            Nazi invasion – probably, but it was question of survival, Nazi planned to conquer all European part of USSR and eventually eliminate all native population (~like Indians in USA but a bit faster).
            Cold War and space program – not even close to “everything else”. USSR@1990 was 2nd economy with ~14% of world’s GDP. Military budget by top estimations was 20%.
            > peacefully dismantle an union, and all the people who are supposedly betrayed by this decision don’t do jack shit to oppose it
            Most people were brainwashed by massive propaganda of capitalism (like German people were brainwash by Nazi propaganda in 30s) and separatism including said propaganda from internal mass-media. This was the treason, dismantle of union was just final nail.

          16. > Most people were brainwashed by massive propaganda of capitalism

            Really? Did USSR’s top political leadership engage in propaganda of capitalism (if it was their treason)? I thought that the capitalists did that. And moreso, the most effect was from their most insidious propaganda – by merely existing and demonstrating an undeniably higher standard of living with own example. Even USSR proponents unwittingly illustrate that by accusing its opponents of “selling their country for sausages”. If country’s inhabitants are willing to sell it for sausages, it’s not a flattering characteristic for the country. Or maybe, depending on a point of view – for its inhabitants, who turned out to prefer boring and mundane things like sausages over lofty goals, such as world domination, for instance.

            Well, to think about it for a bit… USSR’s leadership just had to realize how insidious such kind of propaganda is, and that anything short of an impenetrable Iron Curtain would certainly fail to stop it. It’s entirely expected that lifting it resulted in devastating consequences. Yup, a treason indeed.

          17. @Alfaryn @Daniel Keys

            Your points on the Shinese immigrants are good. More and more I think this is Dinah’s gambit to subsume Gimel into a human-ruled governmental body.

          18. @ T.T.O.
            > undeniably higher standard of living with own example
            > country’s inhabitants are willing to sell it for sausages
            Propaganda did not said that most of this “sausages” will be of shitty quality, that education and medicine will be paid, that high salary will be for very limited number of people while credits will get you afraid to be fired, that a lot of factories will be closed because imported goods are cheaper, that >90% of small businesses goes bankrupt in 1-2 years, that all owned things like cars, land and houses will be covered by high taxes, that pension will be much lower, that crime rate will increase dramatically, school and kindergartens must be surrounded by fences with security at gates and even that will not stop school shooting and many other unpleasant inherent features of capitalism.
            There was no school shooting in USSR at all.

            > anything short of an impenetrable Iron Curtain would certainly fail to stop it
            No, it was political leadership who sell country for “sausages” in the first place. They had high privileges in USSR only while they worked and had position in party – not on pension or after being fired. After a while they and their children wanted to had it permanently. They lifted Iron Curtain and allow propaganda to flood in. And then intentionally added some internal issues like in food distribution.
            China got lucky their leadership turned out to be stronger.

          19. @OverQuantum:
            Okayyy, so to summarize it all…
            – USSR actually had a higher standard of living than the countries of the western bloc;
            – but its inhabitants believed it was the other way around, even if they were able to see the situation with their own eyes;
            – inhabitants of the western bloc also believed it was the other way around, hence not many people wanting to immigrate into USSR;
            – high-quality USSR “sausages” immediately lost the competition with imported ones when said competition became possible, because people were more willing to buy cheap and shitty ones despite being used to high quality before (or because western propaganda brainwashed them to the point of becoming masochists);
            – despite the excellence of USSR sausages, the only way to get people to believe that they are indeed better was to hide all other sausages behind the Iron Curtain;
            – political leadership, despite having all the power in their hands, for some reason could not give themselves privileges for life, and opted instead to execute an elaborate scheme which involved brainwashing the population into believing that the whole system which gave them power, was created and maintained by them is inferior and needs to be dismantled;
            – China’s leadership was stronger, so they just figured out that nothing stops them from giving themselves privileges indefinitely;
            – other methods of securing one’s own future (for example, starting a successful business), apart from having a position in the party and belonging to the political leadership, were inaccessible in USSR, and that’s a good thing;
            – war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength
            Oooh-kay.

          20. Actually T.T.O., a lot of OverQuantum said about former USSR republics is correct. Western model works fine once it is implemented, but in Western countries it is a result of decades, if not centuries of ongoing, uninterrupted socio-political process. Transitioning to that system in just a few years is a very difficult thing to do correctly.

            The fact that a lot of USSR economy either had problems with functioning correctly, because suddenly interconnected parts of it not only got new owners, but also got separated by national borders also didn’t help matters. Neither did the fact that because the system didn’t function correctly corruption (including political corruption) hindered any reform attempts. The fact that many people (including voters) in USSR were used to certain level of corruption, or that their education didn’t cover how a “Western-style democracy with market economy” should look like also didn’t help.

          21. @Alfaryn: well, what you’re saying now is correct, but it doesn’t have anything in common with what OverQuantum said. In particular, he didn’t say anything about the transitional period, he only had issues with “inherent features of capitalism” (and with many of these inherent features, a joke comes to mind: when ex-soviet states began to build capitalism, many of them built it exactly like it was painted in soviet propaganda). And while transitioning indeed could be difficult, that doesn’t mean that the absence of transition would be any better.

          22. Someone reallllly has a hang up about Communism, you guys. They’ll just keep banging the drum all day.

            On the original point – planned economies inherently fail – I’ll say only that Walmart and Amazon are much closer to the ideal of a planned economy than the chaotic mess of economic fiefdoms in actual 20th century Communist states. Walmart and Amazon are doing just fine.

            On the later points, the general collapse of standards of living with the introduction of capitalism is correct, but it’s somewhat hard to blame it on capitalism per se. The people who had access to the post-USSR states’ wealth expropriated it for themselves, and laundered it through Western banks. Public ownership of land, organizations, and other property was transferred to those with power in a similar manner. At the end of the day, a lot of ex-Communist party guys, many of them ex-KGB, took the country’s wealth for themselves.

            That’s who the “Russian oligarchs” people speak of are, with few exceptions. The guys buying up property in New York and Thailand buy the $100 million plot. Because most of what the USSR had of any value was taken by individuals and its monetary value moved overseas, of course the post-communist states were instantly rendered dirt poor.

            But again, is that “capitalism” exactly? It’s basically just kleptocracy. Just corruption taken to a new level. Capitalism came into the victimized states and began to function, but good or bad, the core damage wasn’t done by the presence of Pepsi products. The core damage was being done outside of and alongside of the introduction of capitalism.

            It did require capitalism elsewhere. They couldn’t have strip-mined their countr(y/ies) via Cuba or China at the time – the financial instruments weren’t available. For that they needed German, Swiss, American, and other banks and systems that allowed them to secure enormous wealth abroad. Maybe they could have privatized hugely complex state businesses and put that value in the hands of ex-intelligence officers, but they didn’t do so – they relied on American expertise for that.

            That’s the history.

            I’m not going to get into issues of propaganda with ideologues of any flavor. Waste of everyone’s time, that.

          23. @T.T.O.
            What I meant when I said that I agree with OverQuantum is not that capitalism is inherently flawed to a point that communism is a superior system. I doubt that even OverQuantum meant that. I also strongly disagree with an idea that Khrushchev was a worse leader of USSR than Stalin was. Stalinism was a system built largely on terror and exploitation of people to the point where millions of them died from starvation, cold, and overwork (not to mention those who were outright executed for being enemies of the state, reactionaries, foreign spies and under various other pretexts, which ultimately boiled down to “political reasons”). Khrushchev did many things wrong, but I think he can be forgiven a lot, even tanking USSR’s economic development for significantly reducing the amount of USSR’s population killed by their own state, and dialing down overall state terror.

            Where I agree with OverQuantum is that a large factor that lead to fall of USSR was that people were convinced, partially by foreign propaganda, that if they will bring down their empire, they will be able to quickly and successfully transition into a system which will give them a better overall quality of life, and that there will be no painful sacrifices involved. For many fromer USSR republics of that turned out to be true, in large part for reasons I mentioned, and people who live in those republics certainly have a reason to feel cheated, because while “capitalist propaganda” showed them (often idealized) picture of life in the West, it didn’t tell them that transition attempt may end up the way it did.

            Of course I also won’t deny that lot of their resentment is not entirely justified, and is a result of “anti-capitalist propaganda” done by their own governments to justify to the voters why they should no longer try to implement the “Western model” and instead focus on rebuilding the former empire – something that in my opinion benefits ultimately the oligarchs and corrupted politicians, not majority of people. The citizens of those countries aren’t exactly blameless too. In many cases they certainly could have vote smarter, and be better able to see through lies of politicians and propaganda coming from either side, but in their defense – it is not like their life and education in USSR prepared them for that. But this is a problem for a completely different discussion.

            @Admiral Matt

            I think that your Walmart and Amazon example shows that we define the concept of “centrally planned economy” differently. For me a centrally planned economy is one in which the state has full control over supply and distribution of all important goods and services.

            Walmart and Amazon may plan their internal processes and their overall strategy all they want, but it doesn’t change the fact that when they fail to provide provide people with something they need, or try to do it at unreasonable prices, some other businesses can, and most likely will satisfy the demand better. Similarly if Walmart or Amazon waste their resources by not functioning efficiency nothing prevents their investors from withdrawing their assets (for example by selling any stock or debt issued by those firms) and allocating those resources elsewhere.

            None of this is true for an economy entirely planned and run by the state. If the state fails to provide something people want, they simply won’t get it, because there will be no competitor to the state who could do it. Similarly if the state wastes resources – for example if it produces goods nobody wants to buy, it’s taxpayers won’t be able to say “we don’t want to give you our money anymore, and would rather look for a better investment”. If anything, they will have to pay more taxes, further financing inefficient economic system, potentially until it reaches the point of a complete collapse.

          24. @T.T.O.
            >- USSR actually had a higher standard of living than the countries of the western bloc;
            I would say there was more equality in USSR – difference between poorest and wealthiest was several times, not orders of magnitude. Some thing were better (access to medicine and education, general safety), some thing were worse (basic goods only, hard to get things like construction materials and so on).

            >- but its inhabitants believed it was the other way around, even if they were able to see the situation with their own eyes;
            There was capitalism propaganda from USA and Europe (about free market, own business, more food and so on), but no contragruments from USSR propaganda in later years (that education and medicine is paid in capitalism and so on, see above)

            > – high-quality USSR “sausages” immediately lost the competition with imported ones when said competition became possible, because people were more willing to buy cheap and shitty ones despite being used to high quality before
            To compete with imported food some local factories decreased quality, some goes bankrupt. People lost jobs and can’t afford high quality food any more. In USSR quality was set up by GOST standards (not 100% followed I admit), now most of them cancelled because were “obstacle for free market”.

            > – political leadership, despite having all the power in their hands, for some reason could not give themselves privileges for life
            They were not united in some “scheme”. There was factions; people who want to keep socialism; people who just want to live better and so to introduce elements of capitalism, there leadership lives better. Some factions start nationalizm, some raise Iron Curtain, some start internal propaganda. Result is known.

            > – other methods of securing one’s own future, apart from having a position in the party and belonging to the political leadership, were inaccessible in USSR
            Normal salary and pension were enough to live good life, better than a lot of people can get now. Privileges of USSR political leadership gives access to luxury life.

          25. @Alfaryn
            > capitalism is inherently flawed to a point that communism is a superior system
            I meant exactly that. Karl Marx is still not disproven. And China shows us this.

            > Stalinism was a system built largely on terror and exploitation of people to the point where millions of them died from starvation, cold, and overwork
            This is not true.
            USSR was among first countries to introduce 8-hour working day on whole area – in 1917. Doesn’t look like exploitation or overwork.
            One major incident of hunger was caused by Kulak’s attempts to undermine new Soviet power and other local factors, not by some order from Moscow.
            > not to mention those who were outright executed for being enemies of the state
            It was excess made by hunger-to-power leaders of NKVD. Top estimates of executed – ~660 000. And only some of them were innocents.
            It was stopped in 1938 by Beria, who was assigned to Head of NKVD by Stalin’s recommendation.

            Overwhelming majority of people are willingly fought for USSR in WW2, not capitulate or goes to other side. This shows that they think USSR was good enough to die for.

          26. @Alfaryn

            “I think that your Walmart and Amazon example shows that we define the concept of “centrally planned economy” differently. For me a centrally planned economy is one in which the state has full control over supply and distribution of all important goods and services.”

            Can we agree that it’s kind of funny to define a “centrally planned economy” as *not* meaning “an economy that is planned centrally”? I mean, that just inherently has an element of humor, right?

            The thing is, most communist states in practice at their peak had less actual control over supply and distribution than either of those companies. The theory never matched the reality; it almost never *approached* the reality.

            Walmart is the only practical source of essentials in dozens (if not hundreds) of communities worldwide. And instead of a mess of compromises and nominally-not-market deals by bosses (how communism usually “made things work”), Walmart is scientifically managing the flow of goods in a systematic and effective way.

            Amazon…. If you look at where it stands in the economy now, how indispensable it has made itself in certain sectors, and the projections that this is barely the tip of the iceberg compared to where it’ll be 10 or 15 years from now…. I think you’d be less cavalier about statehood as the be all and end all. It’ll soon dwarf most states. Large organizations are just large organizations, at the end of the day.

            “Walmart and Amazon may plan their internal processes and their overall strategy all they want, but it doesn’t change the fact that when they fail to provide provide people with something they need, or try to do it at unreasonable prices, some other businesses can, and most likely will satisfy the demand better. Similarly if Walmart or Amazon waste their resources by not functioning efficiency nothing prevents their investors from withdrawing their assets (for example by selling any stock or debt issued by those firms) and allocating those resources elsewhere.

            None of this is true for an economy entirely planned and run by the state. If the state fails to provide something people want, they simply won’t get it, because there will be no competitor to the state who could do it. Similarly if the state wastes resources – for example if it produces goods nobody wants to buy, it’s taxpayers won’t be able to say ‘we don’t want to give you our money anymore, and would rather look for a better investment’. If anything, they will have to pay more taxes, further financing inefficient economic system, potentially until it reaches the point of a complete collapse.”

            But is that really true? Walmarts are often surrounded by food deserts, and are notorious for systematically eliminating all competition in communities. Amazon is almost impossible to compete with, and again, Amazon’s growth is astronomical; it’s just getting started.

            Meanwhile, within the USSR, PRC, Poland, Cuba, North Korea… black markets providing essentials was routine. Black market food was essential for tens of millions in Stalin’s time. The state couldn’t provide effectively, so many people took their business elsewhere. The end of communism often entailed replacing “look the other way” with legalization.

            Back to the companies, no, the investors can’t really take their business elsewhere in a meaningful way. The two companies have occupied the territory of the global market, and they are charging rent while expanding explosively. They are so wealthy that their cash reserves, held for a rainy day, exceed the scale of some significant national economies. Barring mass destruction and global war, neo-communist regimes nationalizing them, or other craziness? They are too big to fail.

            It’s weird to argue on the topic of socialism, for that matter, that taxpayers can’t choose to back a different horse. That’s literally what they did, in much of the post-communist world. That was one of the most central aspects of those countries coming apart. No one in Talinn pays to develop Siberia.

            One could argue that politics can play an equivalent role even when borders don’t change, but meh. We can move on.

          27. @Admiral Matt
            Well, I would also start with a definition, but with a definition of “inherently fail”. Obviously, planned economies wouldn’t fail just because of planning being present, the reason for their failures would be bad planning – i.e. when people responsible for it couldn’t or wouldn’t plan efficiently to satisfy the population’s needs (or failed to execute an otherwise good plan, which also could be ascribed to a failure in planning its execution). I think state economies are more prone to such failures than corporations are. First of all, there’s an issue with feedback: Amazon’s management would be far more likely to feel the consequences of their bad decisions (financially, or even by having their contract terminated by upper management) than a country’s political leadership. Thus the incentives of said leadership would more likely shift to planning their own well-being, rather than satisfying the population’s needs. Then there is competition. Certainly, local producers can’t compete with Amazon on Amazon’s level, but they don’t need to. What’s important is that I, as a consumer, can buy wares either on Amazon or somewhere else, whatever would be good to me, or start my own local business of making sepulkas if Amazon offers them at inflated prices or doesn’t offer at all. This eliminates a need for Amazon to necessarily cover all the population’s needs in sepulkas (if it doesn’t, nothing bad will happen – others would satisfy this need as they see fit), along with putting a limit to overinflating prices (even if Amazon strives to eliminate competition, no one could really stop me from opening a local sepulcarium if I wanted to). You mentioned black market as a competition for the state, but the problem with it is that it’s illegal under the state’s laws, and the state is suppressing it with non-competitive methods. Which leads to introducing unnecessary legal risks and increasing prices for consumers. “Look the other way” principle doesn’t really mitigate this (along with this principle itself having other negative consequences), and if it’s replaced with a proper legislation, then we’re transitioning to a market economy.

            > Back to the companies, no, the investors can’t really take their business elsewhere in a meaningful way. The two companies have occupied the territory of the global market, and they are charging rent while expanding explosively. They are so wealthy that their cash reserves, held for a rainy day, exceed the scale of some significant national economies.

            That’s an argument why investors *wouldn’t want* to take their business elsewhere, under normal circumstances. But they *could*, if they wanted to. If all the Amazon’s management suddenly went crazy and began to drive the company into the ground, they would totally do it, and that’s the incentive for the management not to go crazy.

            > It’s weird to argue on the topic of socialism, for that matter, that taxpayers can’t choose to back a different horse. That’s literally what they did, in much of the post-communist world. That was one of the most central aspects of those countries coming apart.

            You’re right, in a fashion. But you have to agree that it’s quite an exceptional event, if we are speaking about countries – in contrast to companies. And “choosing to back a different country” usually happens in legally grey, if not outright black, areas. If becoming a citizen of any country all around the world would be as easy as buying things in another store, that argument would hold far more weight.

            @OverQuantum
            Literally every your point could be refuted, but meh… You clearly seem to be an inhabitant of a parallel reality (Earth Zayin, probably). Carry on.

        4. They have farms. They do not have enough farms. There are more people coming in every day, there’s been massive infrastructure disruptions, and it’s practically winter.

    2. Re. 1. Victoria remembered during this chapter that Vista told her that “the little things went underappreciated.” It was in a different context, but actually reminds about something that Vista has been doing ever since the end of Worm – working on “little things”, including using her power for precise, small scale changes. My guess is that she did some changes to the guns big enough that they would malfunction if the guards tried to shoot, but also small enough that wouldn’t be easy to spot.

      1. Though maybe I misinterpreted the situation. It probably depends on whether they were about to be escorted by all of the guards that kept an eye on them earlier in the greenhouse and the council room or not. In the former case it would make little sense to undo any changes until later.

  10. Nobody is going to object to Kenzie dismantling the air filter that is supposed to be keeping her safe from native diseases?

    1. If Victoria trusted Kenze to capture the signal to undo the effects of Cradle’s chopping tech without even coordinating it with her, or to insert cameras into people’s eyes, I’m sure they trust Kenzie not to mess up something like this. She has proven that she is a really good, reliable tinker. The only real problems with her tinkering seem to be that sometimes she tries too hard, and forgets to sleep. Probably not an issue in this situation.

    2. Most diseases have to incubate a while before they become problematic. If she gets sick, it might take her out of action for a few days or weeks, but it probably won’t hit her until the present ordeal is over.

      Though it’s not clear to me whether this air filter was intended to replace the shot the others got, or if it was intended to protect her from the shot’s side effect of overdriven allergies. If Kenzie got the shot and was using the filter to avoid allergens, that is a problem with a much more rapid onset.

      1. Remember that we don’t know how curable those diseases are, and what sorts of lasting or permanent complications they may have, or simply how lethal they are. What if the only way to save Kenzie if she caught something would be ask Panacea for help? Are the heroes really willing to take that risk? Should they allow anyone (especially a child) to do it?

        And yes, the allergies are also a factor, though probably not a big one. Chances are that Kenzie isn’t particularly allergic to anything on Shin. In some ways they are probably even lower than on Gimel. As a general rule you develope strong allergic reactions to new allergens only some time after coming into a contact with them, so the first contact itself is usually relatively safe. The allergies were brought up in chapter 14.4 because as a general rule anything that boosts immune systems also tends to make allergies worse (because allergic reactions are essentially symptoms of overreaction of an immune system), so if anyone has an increased risk of allergic reactions right now, it would be people who got their immunity-boosting shots before going to Shin, not Kenzie.

        1. Read my post again. I only brought up allergens for the possibility that Kenzie did take the immunity booster and then got the air filter because they worried she couldn’t handle the overblown allergic reactions the booster could cause.

          I think this makes a lot more sense than foregoing the booster and hoping the air filter protects her from infection, especially given that there was no mention of keeping her grubby little paws out of her eyes and mouth (and this is Kenzie; she has a specific thing about putting things in her eyes). Plus, if using only the filter was good enough that they were willing to let Kenzie through, then Tristan would have at least tried to do the same rather than face down that needle.

          1. Right, sorry for misunderstanding you. I think that it is very unlikely that Kenzie got both the short and the filter. Remember that such shot would increase reactions to all allergens, not just the ones that need to be breathed in to be a problem (and that they aren’t the only ones that can kill you), so the filter really wouldn’t be only a partial protection at best – it wouldn’t for example protect Kenzie against the sort of scenario that almost killed Triumph when Skitter and co. came to visit his daddy…

          2. Of course it’s not perfect, but it’s not a perfect protection from disease either. It boils down to a question of which is more dangerous, and the fact that most people are able to take the shot and then go without any protection against the enhanced allergies answers that question. The risk from disease is serious, whereas the risk from boosted allergies is a mere nuisance for adults and a minor danger for children.

          3. Well, perhaps you are right and my own near-death experiences with allergic attacks color my perception. One thing in favor of giving Kenzie the shot is that it would probably reduce chances of her carrying something communicable back to Gimel without having to put her in a quarantine.

            On the other hand Miss Militia did mention in chapter 14.4 that the doctors still debated effectiveness of that immunity booster shot, so maybe given a choice between taking a shot which may not even help against diseases, and not having to risk the consequences of a potentially lethal allergic attack, maybe it is better not to take it?

            Either way the advice those kids from Patrol Block got was probably the best. Proper vacation is almost always better than having to deal with hacks like that immunity boosting shot with all worries about its effectiveness or side effects. Hopefully Breakthrough (including the needle-fearing Tristan) will learn their lesson from this adventure, and get their vaccines once they come back.

  11. I’m still reeling from the fact that torture is on the table. They want to torture parahumans as a “sign of faith and goodwill”. This right after the chapter where we learn that they want to have a standing army on other earths to “keep on eye on parahumans”.

    And everybody has to suck up to this Earth because they managed to get out of Gold Morning almost better off than everyone else.

    1. I don’t think torture should be all that surprising. How many historical human civilizations can you name that didn’t do torture? They probably torture each other on a lot of Earths.

  12. Not sure if this is a misquote, but Teddy’s quote that Victory thought of was “talk softly and carry a big stick”, not ‘walk’ softly and carry a big stick, like what’s written here.

  13. Hopefully Kenzie’s comment about being “unwilling to change for the better”. I think it might. The fact that she let him know that Breakthrough knows about his connection to Lab Rat may actually help drive her point here – that it is not about who he, or his predecessor was, but that he is the only Breakthrough member who refuses to change. And considering just what the word “change” means for Chris, Kenzie probably couldn’t have explained it better to him.

    In fact that little argument was worded so well that I wonder how many sleepless nights Kenze spent looking for those exact words in case she met Chris again. It just shows that she obviously still cares about him. Will he pick up on that too?

    1. Of course Chris may as well misinterpret Kenzie’s words in a very bad way if he won’t understand that Kenzie doesn’t blame him for “being” Lab Rat. Let’s remember that despite having his memories, Lab Rat is also the person Cryptid hates most. That in a way Cryptid is every bit as much Lab Rat’s victim as all of those people Lab Rat put in the asylum back on Bet. He didn’t react so poorly when Amy called him Lab Rat during his interlude, but he knew that Amy not only knew real Lab Rat as a person, whilst Breakthrough members could know him only from his reputation and contact with his other victims (as far as I remember Chris knows that not only Victoria and Sveta, but also Kenzie were patients in the asylum).

      All of this means that when Kenzie called Cris Lab Rat it has hurt him not only because it meant that “the system” did not respect his wish to keep truth about his connection to Lab Rat a secret. Chris might have felt that he was unjustly accused of being the one monster he actually worked hard to distance himself from. He might have even interpreted Kenzie’s words about being unwilling to change as meaning that Kenzie actually thinks there is no difference between him and Lab Rat, instead of what she really meant – that he is just like Chris she knew from their therapy and their subsequent time as hero team.

      Amy clearly picked up on that. Her words about “the rest of the world [that] won’t let you change” were likely just as much about him as they were about her. They were not only Amy’s accusation directed at everyone who refused to look past her own mistakes, but also a show of understanding and solidarity with Chris. It is interesting how Amy was quick to become Chris’ defender and moral support. And if you think about it Amy was actually right to point out that the world is perhaps too quick to condemn her and Chris based on their past mistakes (and in case of Chris – his predecessor’s mistakes – something even less justified), and not willing enough to give them their chance to change for the better.

      Obviously Amy is only partially right, because Chris did refuse to take his second chance. Question is – how much she knows about it? There is perhaps an even bigger question, which has actually been asked in one form or another throughout Ward – was it fair for the society to treat people like Amy and Chris as potential fugitives, to monitor them so much, when everyone was supposed to benefit from the amnesty? Did the society (including the self-proclaimed heroes) not treat them just as unfairly as the anti-parahumans treat the capes in general?

      Finally I hope that Chris will be reasonable enough to actually listen to Breakthrough’s side of the story, and tell them his version to clear any misunderstandings. I imagine that those things will be very difficult for him to do. Most of all I hope that he will not hold the fact that information about him being Lab Rats clone against Yamada. She may seem like an obvious person for him to blame, but we know that she is innocent. If anyone is to be blamed it is Dragon for looking at Yamada’s confidential notes and sharing them with Victoria, and Victoria for telling everyone else, and even they did it because they thought it was for the best, though you have to admit that it was for the best for the members of Breakthrough who remained in Gimel, not necessarily for Chris, so it is not like they don’t have anything to apologize to him for.

    1. I think that it would be redundant – Kenzie’s communication with her own little team already covers the help from “Below” (a.k.a. “Under…”).

  14. “I was even less sure it would be good if she was forced to cooperate in our torture and humiliation. My torture and humiliation.”
    Understatement 100

    I love Kenzie’s rant. And how Victoria hasn’t forgotten or missed the red flags. Though doing nothing because Teacher isn’t practically better so far. But at least she is aware.

    Too bad that despite her main job now being brains, Amelia’s power won’t let her make herself one or get a clue.

  15. It sounds like a severe libertarianism or objectivism state. But I’m surprised it appears to be so universal across the planet. I mean, sure Goddess United the whole planet, but I figured a lot of that would regress in two years, particularly since Goddess couldn’t have ruled for more than a decade.

    1. Huh. My mind went to historical states, especially Ming China. A few empires I can think of left most crimes to be handled socially beyond the purview of the state, but were utterly ruthless when they did intervene. There are links between the transition to our modern handling of crime/courts and militarism (Prussia, revolutionary France, WWI-era in the English-speaking world, etc.). Perhaps the Shinese never did the equivalent.

  16. And he award for most put upon and yet staying diplomatic whilst understanding his daughters’ problems goes to the one, the only… Maarrrrk Dallon! (the poor sod)

  17. Amy sounds like she has severe depression. One of the issues is often (but not always) an inability to take responsibility for yourself to put it very bluntly and untactfully.

    The mind state is that you have no control over your self, let alone your world. That everything about you, not just around you, is influenced by others rather than yourself to any degree.

    Amy won’t take responsibility for her mistakes or seek to correct her ways because she doesn’t believe she has any real choice in the matter, or any power to do so. She doesn’t believe she has any power to change, only that everyone else has that power to change her.

    1. So she’s inherited Mark’s depression and Carol’s ability to almost always say the wrong thing. Are we sure Victoria isn’t the adopted one?

  18. Dinah’s guy was pitching Gary on a human-ruled-world taking over The City. According to Teacher, who was opposed to her, and allied to Cheit.

    It just occurred to me; Shin qualifies.

    1. Kenzie getting footage of Shin trying to or actually torturing children just for being parahumans is probably going to blow up in Gary Nieves’ face when he tries to pitch Shin as Gimel’s future rulers.

      1. This is actually a very good point. I wonder how many people will keep supporting Gary once they see that? There will obviously probably be some blinded enough by their hatered to keep seeing Kenzie as a monster, not a child, and as such see Shin’s actions as entirely justified, or simply refuse to believe that the footage wasn’t falsified (Kenzie has been accused of that after all), but hopefully most will accept the footage for what it truly is – a reminder that the parahumans don’t have a monopoly on being monsters.

        1. Of course if such footage was appropriately edited, and shown to an already strongly prejudged people (possibly with a carefully prepared commentary) it could actually make the audience even feel more justified in their hatred of parahumans, which is precisely why Miss Militia thought that Shin may “use the film of act and punishment for their political enrollments or even televising it for the public.”

      2. Points if Darlene stays linked to Lookout and links in Gary when the torture starts.

        Nah, using a power on Gary would likely only emphasize his point. But Citrine is a great one to contact for using the political advantages around this development.

  19. Man, Shin sure lucked out by getting Victoria instead of me. I would be actively executing my coup by this point, because fuck these guys. They want to arrest and torture a visiting child who did nothing wrong? They don’t need have a planet anymore. It can be my planet instead.

    “Hey Amy, tell you what. I’ll let you hug me through a hazmat suit if you help me conquer th- Wow that was fast. Huh. I was going to call dibs on Yosuck, but… um… what are you doing? NO! Don’t bring him back to life! I was joking, Jeezus. And what’s your problem, Militia? You’d rather have waited until they forced us to sic Valkyrie on them? We just saved millions of Shin lives. Shinian? Shinese? Shiny. That is their descriptor now. Make it so, Natalie. Hey Lookout, you got enough footage to make projections of these guys once we get you your gear, right? Great. …No, Amy, I know what I promised, but I’m not wearing a hazmat suit made out of recycled politicians. Just hold your horses and give me a moment to- No, not bone either Marquis. I’ll just- Oh hell no, Chris. Just, just fuck off. What the hell.”

    1. > Man, Shin sure lucked out by getting Victoria instead of me. I would be actively executing my coup by this point, because fuck these guys. They want to arrest and torture a visiting child who did nothing wrong? They don’t need have a planet anymore. It can be my planet instead.

      You mean that Gimel lucked out? If you were in Victoria’s position with all her powers and allies all your little coup would likely accomplish would be greatly increasing chances of Shin cutting off their humanitarian aid. Remember that the only cape on the planet who has even a remote chance to do something on a scale that could force Shin to surrender is Amy, and it would be very risky even for her because not only entire Shin, but most likely also most capes from Gimel would oppose her under the old good rules regarding S-class threats. Not to mention that she simply wouldn’t do it. Despite of what they say about her is not a monster after all, or at least not that sort of a monster.

      1. Who said anything about forcing people to surrender? Amy is how you defeat the room full of guards. Kenzie is how you assume control over the planet. Can’t oppose a takeover you don’t know has happened.

        You lack creativity and ambition. That’s why I’m now Supreme Slice of Shin and you’re just some guy in a comment thread. 🙂

        1. That is assuming that you can keep up the charade. Kenzie’s holotech may be perfect, but can you honestly say the same about your and your allies’ acting skills? I’m afraid that the final result would be largely the same as I described above, only the capes who would come to get you from Gimel would remember to work under master-stranger protocols.

          1. I definitely would not be able to keep up the charade. That’s why the plan is to promptly engineer an incident where they all “die” in a way that lays the blame squarely with Shin’s more rabid factions (e.g. a bungled terror attack, in which we can fake our own deaths as well). Keeps them distracted with infighting while we study and prepare for the next phase, and buys time to take a break for the upcoming Attack on Teacher. Food shipments will almost certainly be delayed in the meanwhile, but a week or two of shortage isn’t going to kill anyone. Absence makes the heartburn stronger.

    2. Insane world conquering by PG. …Brings back sort of fond memories and since I still read wdir, I’ll let him know he’s obsolete due to our new and improving model. when ive read the 26 ar backlog I have, that is….

    3. Honestly Amy is straight up one of if not the most powerful Parahuman alive right now. Every problem the story has had so far could be resolved if she got her head in the game. She could bioengineer a super virus to wipe out all of Shin & Teacher’s base. She could bioengineer a super plant that could survive harsh climates and grow quickly to feed billions.

      Less likely, she could rewire people to be less destructive furthering relations with Parahumans and Humans.

      She calls herself the Red Queen but she has essentially allowed herself to be bullied by ants. Her absurd powerset could lend herself to actually ruling a utopian society. But Iunno, Shard interference and stuff.

      1. > She calls herself the Red Queen but she has essentially allowed herself to be bullied by ants.

        Actually that is not exactly true. It was Glaistig Uaine who originally called Amy “Red Queen”, and the title was later picked up by other people like Nilbog, and likely at least some Birdcage inmates (I imagine that Marquis encouraged that – he likes his aristocratic titles, and understands that they can give person a reputation needed to survive in the Birdcage, or in a pool full of sharks also known as Shin politics). Amy accepted the name in the sense that she doesn’t protest when other people call her that way, but I don’t remember even one situation when she called herself like that, and in my opinion it would be very out of character for her to do so. She really doesn’t seem like a person who would like to rule, and I think she even resents having to play the role of a figurehead.

    4. > Hey Amy, tell you what. I’ll let you hug me through a hazmat suit if you help me conquer th- Wow that was fast.

      LOL!

      > No, Amy, I know what I promised, but I’m not wearing a hazmat suit made out of recycled politicians.

      LOL^2 🙂

  20. And if the Wardens need us they can get us. If not, then the scheduled attack on Teacher happens and we’re stuck on the sidelines because we’re losing this game of political chess.

    What do you think are the chances that the heroes will decide to attack the Cauldron base without Breakthrough, Vista and Golem, run straight into a freshly mastered Contessa with obvious results, and Victoria and co. will have to deal with the aftermath?

    1. And if Contessa would be un-mastered later, would she go visit Dr. Bonesaw, and put a bullet into her own Corona Pollentia right after ensuring that the good doctor has her tools handy?

  21. I imagine that they stopped seeing parahuman kids as children after having a vew too many bonesaw and grey boys murder their families.

  22. So… possibly not giving Kenzie enough respect, but also, is it just me or is Kenzie being hooked up to Chicken and Co and then magically finding the exact right words to DESTROY Chris feel like a Tattletale intervention?

    I’m not saying she wouldn’t stand up on her own, but finding the right words to banish Chris in such a way feels kind of TT style to me.

    Thoughts?

    1. Could be in theory, but since Kenzie said she actually had to “give Darlene and the others a message”, I doubt that Chicken Tenders can hear every Kenzie’s word. All they get probably is a video feed without sound from Kenzie’s eye cameras, and a body sense from Darlene. Probably not enough for Tattletale to find the exact words and send them to Kenzie in time (if Kenzie can even receive something that complicated from them right now).

      Moreover I think that Tattletale probably has better things to do at the moment than being with Chicken Tenders right now. She probably barely, if at all, leaves the bunker these days, and that would stretch her response time to whatever CTs get from Kenzie even further, making Kenzie’s little rant even less likely to be directed by Tt.

  23. Ward is turning out to be more and more frustrating for these kinds of chapters.

    The whole situation is utterly stupid. Putting aside the fact that Shin imprisoning and likely torturing what is essentially foreign diplomats in Breakthrough that they invited to simply answer questions and have done nothing to warrant it is in itself grounds for Gimel to pull out of talks and start preparing for war, the entite notion that Gimel and the Wardens are so incapable and in need of aide that is being used to justify these events pushes further and further at one’s suspicion of disbelief.

    Bet needs food and supplies from Shin, and that’s being used as the umbrella justification for these last few chapters? They had two years apparently to build a megalopolis city, and re-establish the Internet, and we’re to believe this was the priority BEFORE properly established food supplies?

    You can’t even claim bad climate, because the whole issue is that Gimel is the hub to many different Earths which makes for entire planets with varying seasons.

    It all seems to tie into what is probably the greatest overarching flaw of Ward – Wilbow’s constant need to come up with excuses for why things are worse than they should be by all rights, logic, common sense, past experience, and indication from Worm’s epilogue.

    And it seems to all merely be for the purpose of Victoria’s issues. That was rather indicated during the Goddess-prison event, where we’re suppose to believe Dragon, who had phenomenal success in such an occupation even before she became unrestricted, wasn’t called in on such a project before the concrete for buildings were poured, and they had to use strapped bombs instead?

    Please.

    The Wardens are all but useless in this story (in Worm they had bureaucracy as an excuse, but now you have to think it’s just pure incompetence) because we’re merely told there are other unseen and unheard of matters, Dragon is unrestricted and more impotent than ever before, and Gimel’s priorities are so askew they apparently put the Internet before making sure the most basic of needs can be met independent of other foreign regimes with clearly belligerent and hostile agendas.

    Seriously, where the hell is Taylor to sort this mess out?

    1. > It all seems to tie into what is probably the greatest overarching flaw of Ward – Wilbow’s constant need to come up with excuses for why things are worse than they should be by all rights, logic, common sense, past experience, and indication from Worm’s epilogue.

      …Except that things actually seem better than they should be. I mean, it’s only been two years, and yet they’ve got a fucking city, they’ve managed to get the recent refugees (who were pouring in at a rate of literal millions per week!) out of the tents and into housing for the winter, and most of the residents aren’t at risk of starving to death. And they’ve somehow done all this without going totalitarian and forcing everybody into barracks and labor camps. That’s pretty damned impressive.

      Regarding Dragon, what did you expect? She had the potential to be overwhelmingly powerful back in Worm due to the widespread use of computers and automation, along with ready access to parts and manufacturing. Now take a look around Gimel. They can barely keep the lights on. Internet is slow and spotty, mostly text-only. Very few things are automated. Computers are salvage or weird imports. No endless server farms and manufacturing centers to churn out and operate Dragon gear. She can play moderator on PHO, spy on some folks, and fly about with her ship, but there just isn’t enough infrastructure for her to start pumping out endless robots like in Worm. Do you want everybody focusing on building electronics factories so that Dragon can be awesome, or do you want them growing food?

      As for their basic internet, that’s actually one of the easier problems they’ve solved, and it’s a very worthwhile problem to solve. Knowledge is power. Most people in the modern world have very little knowledge of the particulars of woodcraft, farming, mechanics, first aide, etc. Distributing that information via books requires a lot of printing and shipping, and it scales up with the amount of info to distribute. Establishing a minimal internet with salvaged gear from Bet is much more efficient, especially as the amount of info to distribute grows.

      1. >…Except that things actually seem better than they should be. I mean, it’s only been two years, and yet they’ve got a fucking city, they’ve managed to get the recent refugees (who were pouring in at a rate of literal millions per week!) out of the tents and into housing for the winter, and most of the residents aren’t at risk of starving to death. And they’ve somehow done all this without going totalitarian and forcing everybody into barracks and labor camps. That’s pretty damned impressive.

        Except it’s not. Because we’re told that the population is more reliant on aide and handouts from foreign powers (the main ones seemingly either subversively hostile, or openly belligerent) and the fate of millions rests on a team of teenagers being tolerant to unjust imprisonment and potential torture.

        That’s not impressive at all.

        Worst is the very existence of the Mega City, where we’re lead to believe had enough infrastructure to build itself, but isn’t capable of meeting the most basic of needs for enough people. Even putting aside the issue of even possible, it leads to the rather blatant question why they would even bother doing such a thing to begin with?

        It’s the post-apocalypse. If they build even a two-story building made of brick with a working stove and indoor plumbing being the most advanced luxuries featured, that’s more time and resources spent than what would be necessary for basic survival, which is supposedly the goal.

        Devoting such to make a modernized city just because? *snort*

        >Regarding Dragon, what did you expect? She had the potential to be overwhelmingly powerful back in Worm due to the widespread use of computers and automation, along with ready access to parts and manufacturing. Now take a look around Gimel. They can barely keep the lights on. Internet is slow and spotty, mostly text-only. Very few things are automated. Computers are salvage or weird imports. No endless server farms and manufacturing centers to churn out and operate Dragon gear. She can play moderator on PHO, spy on some folks, and fly about with her ship, but there just isn’t enough infrastructure for her to start pumping out endless robots like in Worm. Do you want everybody focusing on building electronics factories so that Dragon can be awesome, or do you want them growing food?

        And yet, it doesn’t seem to hamper every other Tinker’s ability in this story. You got a 9 year old pulling off inventions when needed, and you’re suggesting less resources can be devoted to the most powerful Tinker of them all that is actually capable of aiding society?

        >As for their basic internet, that’s actually one of the easier problems they’ve solved, and it’s a very worthwhile problem to solve. Knowledge is power. Most people in the modern world have very little knowledge of the particulars of woodcraft, farming, mechanics, first aide, etc. Distributing that information via books requires a lot of printing and shipping, and it scales up with the amount of info to distribute. Establishing a minimal internet with salvaged gear from Bet is much more efficient, especially as the amount of info to distribute grows.

        Yeah, and that’s the whole problem – it presumes a clinging to modern standards in a post-apocalyptic world. In reality meeting the basic needs of survival would be the first, second, and last priorities to be addressed for the first few decades till society was actually on it’s feet enough to advanced.

        And if that meant people living in standards that were seen when people were living in the 16th century, that’s how things would actually play out.

        1. So, I was about to suggest that more likely than aid being sent is the possibility of places accepting refugees into their own Pre-existing rooves and cities….

          And then I remembered how things worked on earth.
          Never mind.

        2. You’re overestimating the amount of effort required to set up rudimentary communications networks and underestimating the amount of increased productivity they provide. It isn’t about clinging to frills. It’s just math. There are millions of people involved with food production. It’s not going to make a noticeable difference if a couple thousand people are reallocated to building a network. Literally unnoticeable. Say ten million are farming, and five thousand quit to join the network team. That’s 0.05%. If we assume everybody was getting a 2000 Calorie diet, that means they’re going to miss just one Calorie per day (one seventh of a potato chip) while these guys faff about for a year with salvaged wireless routers and coffee cans. Once they get it working, suddenly all those newbie farmers can look up tips and tricks from the more experienced ones and improve their yields, preservation techniques, etc. So for the cost of one potato chip per week, you’ve now boosted Gimel.US’s productivity by several percent. And that’s before factoring in that the same system can distribute first-aid information, veterinary advice, flood and wildfire warnings, hunting tips, and all sorts of handy things. Is it a convenient touch of modernity? Sure. But it’s also the rational thing to do.

          As for Kenzie vs. Dragon, Kenzie is tinkering with salvage and occasional imports, and that’s probably how Dragon’s keeping herself running as well. That works fine on the small scale, but it’s not practical on the large scale. The only ways Dragon could ramp up to the point of mass producing robots again would be to set up shop on a developed Earth or build a self replicating factory to set loose on a corner world. The former doesn’t seem to be on the table with both Cheit and Shin hostile toward Gimel, while the latter is something people would find concerning, to put it mildly, and could become a major problem if a supervillain managed to commandeer it. Dragon worries about these kinds of things, so it’s not surprising if she’s being more cautious than I would.

          1. I’ve got to agree with this one. The main reason why Internet went from having almost no presence outside military, universities, certain governmental bodies and very specific businesses at the end of the eighties to the point where not being able to get an Internet connection at home began to be viewed as a form of social exclusion of people living in rural areas where it was a problem around the end of the nineties is largely because the whole required telecommunications technologies have become so cheap over span of just a single decade. There is a reason why even in some third world countries it is not uncommon to see people owning cheap smartphones theese days.

            And connecting households to Internet in something as densely packed as the city is much cheaper than connecting something like rural areas of our US for example. Part of the reason why Japan has become such a pioneer when it comes to access to fast Internet is that such large percentage of their population is concentrated in large cities.

  24. Okay, so here’s a question:
    Do we expect Chris to be okay with Kenzie coming to harm?

    I mean, yes, he is a jackass. No, he isn’t NICE to her…. but in some sense, I would suspect she is one of the few people he respects, and when her house was attacked, he was THERE. I don’t actually think he has much care/respect for anyone else in breakthrough, but Kenzie is someone who he treats as a… rival? Sibling? Someone who legitimately has the right to exist in some sense.

    Maybe I’m being to optimistic?

    Thoughts?

  25. “Marquis had no reason to be fond of us but in a weird way I could trust him most”

    This is interesting. Is because Victoria knows that Marquis is tecnically the most stable person here?because of his honor code?I dont know, she doesnt thinks too high of him, but apparently she doesnt dislike him as much either, or at leasts thinks of him as someone you can trust, even knowing that he, quite obviously, sides with Amy.

    Also, if I were Amy I would be telling everyone to fuck off regardless if they are in the right or no, just because of the sheer annoyance of it. Everyone keeps jumping on the Amy hate bandwagon, and at this point in an excercise in futility to point out how many of them have done many horrible things and no one holds them against them.

    It wasnt on this chapter, but I couldnt point it out on then so I do now: Marquis managing to anger Brandish with a few words while remaining pretty composed himself is hilarious af. Annoying Brandish is as easy as trolling a kid and probably more satisfying.

    Also, I cant believe we have come so far on worm and then here on ward and we still dont know Marquis’s civilian name. Unless it has been told and I forgot.

  26. I’ve been thinking about all of those discussions we had regarding how unrealistic it seems for the city to be built within just two years, but I think there is one very important factor we have missed. A factor that may explain it all. In Teneral e.1 we saw that the city stretched into Bet’s New York which was being rebuilt six months after Gold Morning, not to mention that it was suggested that the city covered, or was planned to cover, multiple worlds.

    We see Gimel.US as a place of refuge for the people from Bet. This image was reinforced by:
    1. the tent city we saw in what eventually became New Brockton, and destruction of Brockton Bay during Gold Morning,
    2. the loss of Internet on Gimel in Glow-Worm,
    3. Megalopolis’ problems with basis like food, housing or electricity,
    4. ecological devastation of Bet’s American Eastern Coast, encroaching Machine Army, and crowds of refugees waiting to be let into the city.

    But we need to remember that two years have passed between point 1. and points 2. – 4., and that even now there are places on Bet mentioned in Valkyrie’s and Tattletale’s interludes where people seem to be in no rush to evacuate and instead prefer to try to adapt to changes on the planet and stay there.

    Perhaps not all time between the end of Worm, and the beginning of Ward was as bad as it seemed? Perhaps early on most people on Bet were convinced that it will be possible to stay and rebuild there, and saw Gimel and other newly connected worlds less places of refuge, and more like new lands to be colonized by pioneers seeking new opportunities there? Perhaps such optimistic outlook let them build the city the “right way” – without having to rush construction to keep people out of tents, with partially working agriculture, industry and infrastructure on Bet, which provided everything needed to support early stages of construction on Gimel? Perhaps the city grew so quickly not because it had to accept refugees, but because more adventurous people wanted to live at the crossroads of worlds, since they predicted that it was the best place to make their fortunes? Maybe early on Bet’s US wasn’t defunct, but a still working, if damaged, country?

    …Maybe only after Teneral e.1 things really turned for the worse? It became clear that between the Machine Army, other S-class threats (like Nilbog’s creatures), and the ecological disaster it will be impossible to stay on Bet. It became clear that for various reasons none of the colonies other than Gimel will really develop – either because of villain interface (likely already inspired and coordinated by Teacher if Teneral e.2 is any indication), because of unfavorable natural conditions, or because of the fact that other well developed and populated Earths simply didn’t want to accept refugees. It became clear that Bet needs to be mostly evacuated, and Gimel is the only viable world to settle in, and only at which point Gimel’s harsh climate really became a problem?

    What if early on the Megalopolis was built along what Admiral Matt called a “Chinese model” in one of his posts above, its growth fueled more by imports from Bet than humanitarian aid from places like Chiet or Shin? At the same time perhaps people of Bet even got some aid from Aleph before it was sealed? What if most of the city was built mostly thanks to modern businesses and industries from Bet and even Aleph trying to invest in a new world. Investments which may have been extremely popular thanks to both the fact that Gimel.US lies on the “crossroad of worlds”, and because they were encouraged to do so by PR campaign organized by such masterminds like Citrine, Tattletale and maybe even Teacher who knew from the very beginning that the city needs to grow as quickly as possible because things will soon become much worse (though perhaps even they were surprised by how soon it happened)? Maybe it was under such conditions that the core of the current city was built as a perfectly normal first word metropolis, and only everything that was added later on on its edges was rushed, because it suddenly become apparent to everyone that people need to flee from Bet, Aleph has been sealed because they didn’t want to accept refugees, and rapidly worsening situation on Bet caused its economy to crash, businesses to go bankrupt, and eventually even Bet’s US becoming defunct, at which point people were left with no resources other than they could produce on Gimel or get through humanitarian aid, no government other than the city’s, and increasing flow of immigrants for whom it was harder and harder to provide essentials like food or shelter?

    Could such development history explain why the city looks the way it does? Why it has good roads, skyscrapers, freestanding homes and various other things you really wouldn’t want to waste resources on in a place where people are freezing to death in tents, and more are still coming?

    One thing doesn’t seem to quite fit though – it was strongly implied that Teneral e.1 happened six months after GM. It would be winter then. We know that people were surprised by the first post-GM winter on Gimel, and many of them died because of it. This doesn’t seem to fit this optimistic picture of early development I painted above, or the optimistic tone of Legend’s speech in Teneral e.1? Did things look ok at that point and crashed only shortly after, and it happened so quickly that all those deaths in the city during first winter happened during later months of it?

    1. In Teneral e.1

      “I’ve never been one to couch my words. I’m direct, like my lasers,” Legend said. “It’s beautiful and it’s frankly terrifying. The Endbringers are, we’re praying, dormant. The major players are busy recovering and rebuilding, giving us six straight months of peace for the first time in twenty years. If you count non-parahuman conflict on a global scale, well, I don’t know how long it’s been. It’s been a hell of a while, if ever.”
      […]
      “The peace will end. It always ends. When things go bad, it’ll be worse because we’ve had the break, because it’s had time to stew, and because we’re still reeling from last time. But I know you, I’ve fought alongside a number of you. The badges you wear are signs of that.”

      “Six straight months of peace for the first time in twenty years” sound rather well, don’t they? Maybe there was not one apocalypse, but two? Maybe Legend jinxed it and both the economy and peace went straight to hell right after his speech, and that was the second apocalypse which is responsible for deaths from starvation and cold in the city from that point on?

      Or maybe Legend just knew it was about to happen, and made that speech to mentally prepare the assembled heroes for upcoming strife? It would even explain why someone like Valkyrie has been recruited by Wardens at that point, and why Legend himself appeared there – remember that at that Wardens were led by Chevalier, and people were surprised to see Legend at all. Perhaps the leadership of Wardens waited to the last possible moment to reveal and officially make as controversial figures as Valkyrie and Legend members of the organization?

      1. By the way is Legend perhaps still an active member of Cauldron? I could see him working with Citrine and Number Man for those six months between GM and Teneral e.1. I could also see him as their liaison of sorts in the Wardens now. Maybe even mayor’s phone was busy right after that last confrontation Breakthrough had with Gary, because she was calling Legend himself?

  27. Kenzie dismantling Chris was odd.
    A bit too “experienced-grown-up-talk”-like for an 11-year old. Or did she have her 12 birthday at some point in the story? Don’t remember. Anyway, a child doesn’t have to be dumb or out of touch, but I don’t think a child would have that kind of philosophical understanding of personalities or how to express it either.

    Also the whole thing with the Shin anti-parahuman leadership taking team Breakthrough hostage is odd. It’s as if Shin wanted to provoke and fight. Imprisoning and potential torture of innocents is a pretty good indicator for something being very fishy. I bet they don’t actually plan on helping the Wardens, if anything they just want to usurp control over Gimel, perhaps thinking of themselves as liberators.

    1. Kenzie is constantly noted as being hyper intelligent for her age, and super super aware of other people. That speech was 100% within character.

      1. Agreed. Especially since we saw her deeply disturbed when she learned about Chris being a Lab Rat clone, which means she might have put a lot of thought into the problem (and probably did, because she obviously still cares about him). By my count Kenzie had a bit over a month to come to her conclusions about Chris, and that speech is could simply be a result of that.

  28. You know what? I just thought something about a certain person we really like to criticize. Carol. Isn’t she in some ways, despite of all her flaws one of the most successful people among the capes? How many capes do we know who managed to rise their children, and leave a lasting mark on the world by doing their civilian job well (remember that she is a law-maker, the city has probably already implemented a lot of fruits of her work) not thanks to their powers, but despite the fact that they are capes hindering their efforts? And on top of it she regularly moonlights as a hero.

    You could argue that she made big mistakes in each of those areas. That she could have been a better mother, a better professional, and maybe even a better hero. But how many capes do you know that even seriously tried to do all three of those things, not to mention achieved even as much success in all three as she did?

    1. Also note that While Mark is a pretty supportive decent husband now, for large chunks of this time he was in the chronic depression, and thus not exactly in a fit state to do the whole “Supportive husband/parent” gig.

      Hence probably why Vicky rate Marquis higher than him on the trust scales.

  29. oh man chris deserved that burn so bad, GREAT JOB KENZIE. im PROUD of you. i feel like actually being mean and honest with someone, someone she was even once in love with, is a huge step up.

    also eyy, ashleys rolling in with her prison experience and also natural intimidation ability to keep the other prisoners from fucking with her crew. this feels like a situation where shes more in a leader position than she usually is.

    byron…. D: lets hope that tristan can change back to him for a few moments while hiding underneath a sheet or something so that some communication can be had

    the woman being sympathetic about thinking that kenzie was crying is the most likeable shin character so far. that may just be bc she doesnt realize that theyre parahumans tho.

    amy was like two seconds away from offering to heal victorias scars, and she feels like the world is refusing to let her change. SURE OKAY. learn how to READ A ROOM AMY. or like LEARN AT ALL. victoria keeps blatantly signaling at amy to stay away from her, with body language, distance, implication, and outright hissing it into her face, and amy KEEPS getting close to victoria after feeling hurt for a few minutes after every rebuffing like if she just keeps trying then victoria will let her hold her hand and use her power on her again and everything will be like it used to be, when in fact this blatant ignoring of what makes victoria feel safe and comfortable is whats making victoria completely distrust that amy has changed. and for extra infuriation points, their parents are off to the side heavily implying/outright stating that victorias overreacting, being mean, and should give amy another chance.

    also props to vista for being so explicitly on victorias side here, every time she speaks up its a balm.

    1. The thing about Amy is that she’s an idiot.

      Every time I think back through this, Amy looks the worse for it. Our protagonist’s mental state isn’t a great look right now, but yikes.

      They just specifically pulled you away from her for the most obvious reasons imaginable. You looked over, which you should clearly not have done, but accidents happen. You saw an injury.

      WHY WOULD YOU COMMENT ON THAT PERSON’S BODY?

      WHY DO THAT?

      COME ON.

  30. Here’s a little theory about big entities.

    What if Abaddon was not a lone hunter or a dumb thing that caused deaths of the other two Entities by accident? What if it was concerned about survival of his entire species, and, unlike the other Entities, was actually smart about it?

    Imagine something like this – Abaddon closes on the other Entities, and sterts listening in on their discussion. It quickly realizes that while those two managed to collect an impressive array of shards with wonderful abilities, they are at their core just as dumb as the animals they originally evolved from. Because of this the entire potential of the individual shards will ultimately likely go to waste unless the cores themselves are changed. How to change them? How about simply replacing them with something smarter, like some of those humans the two Entities are going to seem to be?

    Once Abaddon realized what needs to be done the rest was simple – it arranged things so that Eden and Warrior would die on Earth before they manage to kill humans. The second step would be to turn one or more of those humans into new core or cores.

    So when can we expect Abaddon’s interlude to either confirm or deny this theory?

    1. …And the humans designed to become shards could subvert Abaddon’s expectations by simply refusing to give in to the temptation of becoming new Entities with nearly infinite power and life expectancy. Why would they do it? For example not to wipe out the rest of humanity if reassembling the shards into a new Entity or Entities required it (like the original cycle did).

      1. Maybe this is why Teacher considered Taylor a threat? Perhaps he recognized that she could potentially turn into a new core, and agreed with Contessa that Taylor needed to be either controlled or de-powered to prevent it from happening. Now he is going after other capes who could potentially become the cores. Seems like Valkyrie could have been the second of Teacher’s intended targets.

        March complicated Teacher’s plans, because in her lunacy she doesn’t care about humanity’s survival, and instead wants Entities to be rebuilt, so she could experience eternal life as part of a shard network. This is why she released Kronos Titan – a candidate for a core number three.

        1. If this is Teacher’s agenda, then it is an obvious continuation of old Cauldron’s policy – old Cauldron made sure that all existing Entity cores on Earths died, Teacher’s Cauldron tries to make sure that no new cores will ever emerge.

          1. And interestingly I think that with such mission statement it wouldn’t be that difficult for Teacher to convince Taylor to willingly join his organization. After all she knows just how close she was to becoming an “alien administrator” or “the biggest bully ever”.

            I remember that at one point in arc 30 Taylor considered abandoning her own human body. I guess if that happened it could be not that her mind would die, but that it would become one with Queen Administrator – in essence trading one of her last ties to humanity while permanently enhancing QA to the point where they could truly, and permanently become a new Entry core. Since Taylor refused to take this path, it would make sense that she would also make sure that others wouldn’t follow it, that nobody else would become Scion-sized bully.

            The only question is what use Teacher’s Cauldron could have for Taylor, and if it would require restoring her powers in some fashion.

          2. Actually there is one more question – how many more morally questionable decisions would Taylor make to accomplish a goal of ensuring that there would never be any more Entity cores? Would she for example go so far that even her closest friends (like the Undersiders) would eventually oppose her?

          3. If Taylor escalated to the point where her actions would cause even the Undersiders to oppose her, and if she would have her power back (all of it, including the ability to master people!), then she could easily become Ward’s final boss, couldn’t she? The problem with this boss is that while there would no doubt be a legion of people who would want to just kill Taylor at this point, there also could be many others who would like to just prefer to convince her to stand down.

            And here is where Victoria could come in. Who would be a better person to convince Taylor to de-escalate?

          4. I can even give you a personal reason for Victoria to stop Taylor in this scenario – if Taylor’s goal would be to prevent anyone from becoming a core, then wouldn’t it make sense for her to eliminate not only potential cores, but also people who have a power to create them? Like a certain girl who unleashed Khepri…

            Then again, perhaps this scenario could work even without Taylor. If Teacher wants to stop people from becoming cores, then after failing to recruit Amy, he would likely go after her eventually for the same reason as Taylor from the previous paragraph would. In this situation Victoria would end up having to save Amy from Teacher.

            Either way seems like a good chance for the sisters to eventually reconcile in a way appropriately dramatic for the end of a Parahumans book, doesn’t it?

          5. Speaking of dramatic ways to reconcile. I think that by the end of Ward Victoria may find herself in a position where she would need to trust Amy completely. This would probably involve allowing Amy to use her power on Victoria. And not in just any way. Something like simple healing could be not enough. What if Victoria would have to trust Amy to damage her in a specific, potentially horrible way? What if for example Amy would have to give Victoria the same treatment she gave Taylor, when she ended up unleashing Khepri?

  31. I really, really hope we don’t miss the Teacher fight, we’ve missed way too much stuff already, it’s frustrating as a reader to be teased with action and stakes and never see them, especially when we know Wildbow excels in writing about high stakes action. I almost feel like Wildbow’s doing that whole “subversion of expectations”bit with how he’s handled the major conflicts so far, but all it does is take him away from his strengths as a writer. I’ve said it before but, it’s difficult to go from Gold Morning back to B/C list shenanigans.

    1. If we miss the raid on Cauldron, I expect that it will fail. In that case Victoria’s group may have to deal with Teacher who already managed to defeat theoretically strongest opposition that could be mobilized against them. I would argue that it could be more interesting to se Victoria dealing with Teacher when odds seem stacked up against her so much than seeing one more attack on that base.

      Perhaps Victoria will even end up having to go to the complex peacefully, or even to work there? Wouldn’t that be more interesting than a raid?

  32. Guys? I’ve just taken a look at Overseer’s interlude, and I’m probably just seeing things, because of what has been on my mind lately, but…

    “We all work together,” Miltona answered.
    […]
    “We’re all in this together,” Miltona answered.
    […]
    “Work together,” she said, quiet.

    Do I see a familiar pattern here? Add to this that I can find absolutely no physical description of Cell Managed Miltona, and the fact that she also said:

    “Type. Take thirty seconds, type, find your rhythm,”

    which sounds awfully like something Yamada teaches her patients to do (though this one probably doesn’t mean much, since this is a common technique), and I’m suddenly left with a feeling that “Miltona” could be someone we already know very well…

    1. Sorry guys, we can probably scratch the above idea. The last “Work together” was said by Overseer. Just two times from Miltona is hardly a pattern.

      1. By the way, another person in Overseer’s interlude – Donna Sledge – has been working on what looked mostly like a gibberish code with only some “coordinates” deciphered. At some point she marked one bit of this code as a “handshake”, and it turned out that that bit of code was repeated in multiple other places. Could it be possible that this “code” was Dragon’s communication (remember that Dragon sent Victoria a message using a function in Victoria’s phone that lets “authorities force phones to boot and bypass settings if there’s an Endbringer attack” in a chapter directly preceding that interlude), and Donna managed to spot a pattern in it which could later let Cauldron decipher communication protocols currently used by Dragon for such emergency communications?

        1. I think this could lead to mayor consequences in the future. What if Teacher will be able to use those functions later to send everyone in the city something like:

          “S-class threat alert. Turn on and watch nearest TV immediately for details.”

          And every TV in the city will show Madam Mathers or Valefor at that moment…

  33. I think I may have just found a timeline inconsistency between events of Worm’s epilogue (Teneral e.1 and e.5) and Overseer’s interlude in Ward.

    In Overseer’s interlude it is stated that “nine weeks after the world ended” Contessa “let her guard down” and was captured by Teacher’s men two days later. If I interpret this correctly, it would mean that Contessa become Teacher’s prisoner about two months after Gold Morning. Presumably she has been in her “willful paralysis” since then.

    In Teneral e.1 Legend mentioned during his speech that everyone had “six straight months of peace for the first time in twenty years.” Soon afterwards Valkyrie was publicly introduced as the newest member of Wardens.

    In Teneral e.5 Teacher mentioned Valkyrie in the same scene in which we saw a very much free, and not paralyzed Contessa.

    The way I see it there are two possibilities:

    1. Teneral e.5 happened no later than nine weeks from GM, which would place it before the scene from e.1 during which Valkyrie was introduced, which would also mean that Teacher knew about Ciara’s new cape name about four months before it was revealed to the public. This possibility seems like a bit of a stretch since mere two months after GM Megalopolis probably hardly existed yet, and in e.5 Teacher mentioned that he was “in the heart of a complex that houses the largest group of heroes from the largest city in the known worlds”, plus it seems a bit early for Teacher to know about Ciara’s new cape name anyway.

    2. Teneral e.5 happened after Teneral e.1, as their numbers would suggest, and Wildbow made a mistake by putting the moment of Contessa’s capture in Overseer’s interlude earlier than the moment when we saw her still free in Teneral e.5.

    Thoughts? Am I missing or misinterpreting something, or is there really a mistake somewhere in the text of either Ward or Worm?

    1. I’ve just thought about one more possible explanation – that person we saw at Teneral e.5 could be not Contessa, but Satyr’s clone playing her role to convince allies whose loyalty Teacher couldn’t be sure about (like Ingenue or Lung), and possibly also anyone who would spy on Teacher’s group that Contessa was still working with him.

      1. Maybe it wasn’t a continuity error, but a typo error.

        Maybe the author didn’t mean nine “weeks” after Gold Morning, but rather nine “months”.

        1. This possibility also crossed my mind. I just wasn’t sure if I had enough evidence to report the issue in the typo thread underneath Overseer’s interlude. Considering that a few days have passed since I started this thread, and we still don’t know for sure if it is an error or not, I think I’ll make a quick in that typo thread together with a link to this thread.

  34. “A compliment from you is like herpes from a hooker, Kenz.  It’s a given.”

    It made me laugh too hard. XD

    And then…

    “There’s nothing sadder than someone who’s unwilling to change for the better.”

    It rings quite true. At least from my understanding.

    Excellent chapter.

    And excellent socioeconomic exchanges pertaining cities’s foundation and infrastructure in the comments.

    It’s a pleasure to read both.

    I wish I had something else to contribute.

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