Breaking – 14.9

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There were no convenient little boxes with red crosses to mark first aid kits or similar signs to show us the way to the medical center, which left us in a weird kind of lurch.  We passed through the showers and into the building proper.  People talked to us in foreign tongue, and for the most part, there was a dissonant lack of concern in our welfare.  They looked at my mangled, partially flayed hand and didn’t show a shred of empathy, faint ‘human’ reaction to gore aside.

We’d collected towels and hand-towels from the shower area, and they hadn’t stopped us.  The towels weren’t so different from what we used on Gimel, but seemed to have divides where one end of the towel was used to effectively get the initial bit of moisture off, and the remainder absorbed or warmed.

Kenzie walked a little too confidently with a streak of blood on her face.  Ashley had her tilt her head back so her nose pointed skyward.

“Don’t,” I said.

“What?” Kenzie asked.

“Was talking to Ashley.  But you too.  Don’t tilt your head back.”

“It’s what they do in the movies.”

“It’s debatable whether it works, but if there is a benefit, it’s not as good as blood draining down the back of her throat is bad.  Too much blood in the stomach makes you puke.”

“Head down,” Kenzie said, holding her nose.  “Thank you.”

They watched us, guards and the staff in the hallways we were in let us enter, but they didn’t guide.  At most, with numbers, they herded and left us to guess. Making life as hard as they could.

I wasn’t going to bleed to death, but in the wrong circumstances, I did have to worry about infection or the long-term damage that happened if I didn’t immediately reattach skin.  If that was possible.

At least our navigation of this labyrinth had its own trail of breadcrumbs, a ball of thread.  It was Amy’s world, reflecting Amy in more ways than one, and so it was entirely natural that the path we walked through the facility was dotted with crimson droplets and dribblings.  Tristan had a clean towel wrapped around one arm, but there was blood leaking out near the elbow.  Rain nudged him to ensure he held it up, and helped secure the towels tightly around the arm, holding the wound closed.

“How are you holding up?” I asked Theo.  The hand-towel he had pressed to his stomach had a crimson-brown stain leeching into it, and more blood leeched into his top, a dark line amid a lighter blotting.  That shirt was going to be hell to pull away from the wound, once the blood clotted and connected skin to material.

The towel around my hand was too, for that matter.

“I should ask you,” he said.

“Tough,” I said.  “I asked first.”

“Surface level, I’m pretty sure.  It’s one more scar added to a hundred.”

“A hundred, huh?” I asked, trying to sound casual, because I felt anything but.  Every corridor was interlocking brick in different arrangements, combined with stone to contrast the brick’s red clay hues with dark gray.  I was starting to think making this place hard to navigate to trip up anyone trying to escape.

“Is there medical?” Sveta asked.  She wasn’t joining the conversation; she was asking a guard.  She got no answer.

“Courtesy of Jack and Hookwolf,” Theo said.  “I got good treatment, but when they asked, I decided I’d rather have something left behind than have brand spanking new skin.  It only really shows when I tan, but if I say it’s only a surface wound and someone asks me if I’m sure, I have plenty of evidence saying I know what it’s like to be cut up.”

“Ah,” I said, words failing me as pain surged, like my brain psychologically heard words like ‘cut up’ and ‘scar’ and fired more neurons and sparked up more nerves to tell me how fucked up my hand was.  “Cricket did something similar, I think.”

“Yeah,” Theo said.  “Right.  I actually kind of forgot about that.”

“Nice, Victoria,” Vista said.

Oh.  Right.  He’d probably known Cricket. It might have sounded like I was drawing connections or… didn’t matter.  Touchy ground.

“Sorry,” I told Theo.

“Nah.  You’re not wrong.”

“I don’t think of you as part of that crowd, so it’s hard to connect the thoughts, especially while we’re wandering around and not seeing any frigging medical center.”

“Yeah,” he said.

“Hi,” Sveta tried, addressing a guard.  “Medical?”

He pointed.

Okay.

“I did it too,” Vista said.  “Collected my scars.”

“Past tense?” Tristan asked.

“I got a new one from March, but I’m not working so hard to collect them.  If someone could magically erase them I might take them up on the offer, but it’s hard to find someone to trust.”

“Now who’s being rude?” Theo asked.  He elbowed Vista.

“Yeah,” Vista said.  “I meant it to sound more sympathetic.  Sorry.”

“Nah,” I said.  “You’re fine.”

Frick.  Fuck.  Motherfuck.

I worried about Theo.  I worried about Tristan.  Both had been slashed.

“I could make a cast,” Tristan said.  “Draw something out in red-orange dots and lines and encase your hand.  Keep it covered.”

“I’m not sure that’d help,” I said.  My voice was a bit raw from having puked, a bit of a burr, like that minute amount of acid had scarred my throat, when it hadn’t.  Only a bit of irritation.  “I’m more worried about you.”

“I’m a bit worried about me.  But I’m tough.  Let’s just get some medical attention.”

Medical attention made me instinctively think of Amy.

Would we turn a corner, and find ourselves face to face with another gang of hostile prisoners?

Would I turn a corner and find myself face to face with the bullheaded denizen of this labyrinth, that kept turning up?  Kept looming above me?

“Medical center?” Sveta asked some guards in red uniforms, all armed with cloth-wrapped guns.  She twisted around, asking people behind us.  “Medical?  Doctor?  Anything?”

The answer was foreign, cryptic.

The pain was blinding, a haze of red and darkness at the edge of my vision, narrowing my focus.  Even though the temperature was a degree or two below comfortable, I was sweating, which created a clammy layer between clothing and skin.  It made me very conscious of my body, and how uncomfortable skin was to wear.

It was many times more uncomfortable to have the skin missing, to have the back of your hand and most of two fingers ripped off, cleanly sliced off at first, then the last fingernail-studded inch torn.

Thinking about it made me sweat more.  I still had a dirty stretch of skin in my free hand.

“Medical?” Sveta asked.

“Back that way,” a guard said, indicating the way we’d come from.  “Your guest is in this room.  She won’t be allowed to stay for long.”

Fuck.  I’d wanted to talk more, to touch base.  What was this?

Fuck.

My head swam with the pain, memories of Amy with gore up to her elbows, my gore, me, and with implications and ideas.

I turned to go.

“Where are you going?” Sveta asked.  “Victoria.”

“This is probably a faster way,” I said, as I pushed the door open.

The room lacked furniture, though it had pillars in the corner with plants hanging from the tops.  Citrine stood next to her husband.  A burly guard stood in the center.  As we entered, one of the guards in our company slipped through and went to stand by the burly guard.

Blocking our direct view of Citrine.  They stood with their backs to one another.

Positioning mattered, even in a visitors area.

“I’m surprised you came,” Tristan said.  “Considering what happened to the last people who did.”

“We’re fine, but you clearly aren’t.  You were attacked?  Or punished?”

“Attacked,” Tristan said.

“Are they refusing medical care?” Citrine asked.

“No, but they aren’t exactly being clear or open about how to get it.”

Citrine looked at the guard that stood between our groups.  She said something in a foreign language, one word, it didn’t sound quite right based on what I’d already heard, but it wasn’t hesitant or shaky either.

“When they will ever wish,” the guard said.

“I take that to mean you can go get assistance when you wish.  Unless you’re afraid to do so?  We could try to pull you out.  It might be costly.”

“It might be good to get Lookout out of here,” I said.

“No,” Kenzie said.  “Nuh uh.  It would suck more being not here than being here.  Prison riots aside.”

“I’m sure you could debate for some time, but I don’t like that bleeding, so I’ll bring you up to speed,” Citrine said.  “Briefly put, we’re pulling strings.  We expect to have you out soon.”

“I’m covering the financial side,” her husband said.  He looked like an accountant, wearing a peacoat, scarf, a light blue dress shirt, black slacks, and thick-framed glasses, his hair short and pressed down from the hat he’d had on.  “Jeanne is covering everything else.  We do have ways to apply pressure.”

Citrine looked us over, as best as she could with the guards standing in the way.  “It’s good you bled, but you need medical care.”

Weird, to have her so concerned.

“I wondered if the bleeding was in our favor,” I said.  I glanced at Vista.  She’d hurt herself at my recommendation.  Her one hand was pressed down over the back of the other hand that she’d sliced.

“How badly was the opposition hurt?”

“One woman was hurt by her own weapon.  A prisoner hurt a guard by accident in the fracas.”

“Good.  As close to ideal as we could hope for,” Citrine said.

“Us not being attacked would be ideal,” Vista answered.

“True,” Citrine admitted.

“Are you safe to go?  The less injured could stay,” Kurt said.

“Safety in numbers might be best,” I said.  “But we’d have four people in each group, at least.”

Citrine looked at my hand, then looked at Tristan, her eye falling on the bloody towel he’d wrapped around his arm.  She said something in Spanish.

Tristan responded.

“No,” the guard said.  He put his hand out.  “Not that, change to the Goddess tongue.”

“I was asking if his family knew he was here,” Citrine said.  “He said they don’t.  I’ll tell them.”

“Thank you,” Tristan murmured.  The guards were focused on Citrine.  While they told her something, Tristan leaned his head over and murmured to me, “She was asking if it was guards that attacked us.  I said some did.”

I nodded, turned to Sveta, and passed on the message.

“We have to strike a balance,” Citrine said.  “They will keep their deal, but they won’t necessarily be kind in the meantime.  We’ll do what we can to pressure them to leave you alone.  I could elaborate, but I’m worried every second counts with that bleeding.”

“You should go,” Sveta said.  “Take some of us with you if you need.

“I’ll go.  We’ll go,” I said.  “You fill in my teammates, they’ll fill us in.  Golem, Capricorn, me?  Vista?”

“I’m fine.  Shallow.  Bring me a bandage or something after, or I’ll grab something.”

“Sveta?” I asked.

“I’ll come.  More to keep an eye out than because I need it,” she said.  She turned her arm around, and I could see that ‘straps’ of tissue were pressed against the underside of the wound, fluids oozing out and clotting to blur the boundaries.  There was still a ‘zipper’ edge around the boundary of the wound.

“Miss Militia said she wanted you out, she said the Wardens need your help.  It won’t be more than twelve hours.”

Roughly midnight, then.

“Thank you,” Tristan said.

“Guard?  If you’d have someone escort them to medical?  Promptly?” Citrine asked.  She added a two-word statement in their language, stiff.

One of the two guards at the center of the room turned and headed to the door, he motioned for us to follow.

“You trust them?” Ashley asked.

Citrine answered, “I trust them to deal with us, yes.  They are taking the stance that parahumans are something set aside, so as a group of parahuman envoys you…”

The door closed behind Tristan, Sveta, Theo and I as we stepped out into the hall.

Back into the labyrinth, this time with a guide.  My hand gripped the towel that wrapped around my other hand, the loose skin I’d collected pressed between palm and fabric.

They led us down the hall, and there was purpose to where they went.  Whenever we came across guards, those guards stepped off to the side of the hall and stared us down as we passed.

The individual medical rooms were well set up, shelves lined with bottles and with tools that sat in red and pink solutions, possibly to sterilize them.  We passed one room with a child and their mother seated.  The child had the skin that made me think of bleached hair, while the mom had a bit of it.

Unfamiliar medicine, administered by people who hated us.

Get me in one piece and I’ll have doctors I trust handle this after, I thought.

Sveta remained in the hallway as Tristan, Golem and I entered our individual rooms.  There were no doctors within, but there were people in the hallway, and one rang a dull bell three times, apparently to summon three doctors.

Right away, the doctor swabbed my blood, putting it in a dish with some liquid.  My leftover skin went in another dish.  Then it was the process of having the towel peeled away.

There were no words exchanged, no explanations, not that I would have known what he said if he’d addressed me.  Just quiet, clinical practice.

He reached for another tool -a syringe- and I stopped him.

“What is that?” I asked.

He answered in another language.  He motioned to bring it toward my hand.  I stopped him again.

“I need to know what it is.”

Again, he answered in the other language.

“Uh, guard?” I asked, raising my voice.

It was Sveta who brought the guard to the doorway.

“What’s he saying?” I asked.

“Quiets the hand,” the guard explained.  “Quiets you.”

“Quiet as in-” I put my hand at an angle, closed my eyes and moved my head over.

“Yes.”

“No,” I said.  “I’ll stay awake.  I have to stay awake.”

“The patients here do not decide.  Outside?  Yes.  Inside?  No.  You don’t choose.”

“This isn’t my choice.  It’s government.  Gimel, Shin made agreements,” I said.  “You were told to fix me.  You can do it without knocking me out.”

He exchanged words with the doctor.  The doctor looked annoyed.

The exchange continued for what felt like a minute.  Every movement of air on the back of my hand made me want to throw up, not because of pain, but because of how visceral it was, where it took me in a horror sense.

My skin was-

I had a very mixed relationship with my skin.

“Someone who was treating me didn’t listen when I told them to stop, once, and I got-”

The guard motioned for me to stop, or to back down, or shut up.  I wasn’t sure which, but the hand was swiped my way, firm.

“-fucked up.”

The doctor twisted around on his seat, facing me.  He looked pissed.  With an exaggerated show, he set the syringe down.  He picked up a small glass bowl and filled with colored granules that looked like tinted sugar.  He said a single word in his language.

“This,” the guard translated.  “Is this acceptable?”

“I have no idea what it is.”

There was another brief exchange.

“It cleans the hand.  Some quiet.”

“For just the hand?” I asked.

“Yes, the hand,” the guard said.

I didn’t trust it, and I didn’t trust them, but I was already worried, and I had no idea how clean that clean towel had been.

“Yes.”

The guard translated.  He didn’t wait to see or do anything before walking down the hall toward Tristan and Theo.  Sveta remained where she was, her attention divided between me and the guard.

He sprinkled the mixture over my hand.  It felt cold, but that was the anaesthetic element of it.  My hand tingled, cold, the pain stopped, and then the anaesthetic claimed my hand in entirety, followed by a swift loss of my arm, and it reaching my chest to grip my heart in some combination of horror and numbness that I couldn’t tell apart.  From there, it swept over my entire body.  It reached my throat, my head- and it decimated my consciousness.

With what remained of my awareness, I looked at Sveta, and saw her looking down the hall at the guard, rather than looking at me.

Then the next wave came, and I was out and gone, the doctor catching me as I slumped over.

Amy smiled, her arms folded.  She only wore a simple short sleeved top, crimson fabric, and with her arms exposed her fucking tattoos were plainly visible.  She looked as at ease as I’d seen her in recent memory.

A doctor said something in a foreign tongue.  Amy stumbled through her response.  Fucking Citrine had been better at speaking the language, and Citrine hadn’t lived here for any length of time.

Emotion choked me.  Everything I’d felt in the last two years at once.  Every swear word I’d uttered multiplied by every jawbone and sternum, every rib I’d shattered, the lives I’d taken and the damage I’d done.  I trembled with it and I couldn’t find an outlet.  I would have puked again, I would have screamed at her, and I couldn’t.

Only paralysis.

Then fear.  Every flicker in my peripheral vision, every doubt that had crossed my mind, all gathered together.  Except… she was here, a half smile on her face as she said something to the doctor, who looked annoyed.

I felt like there was a deal we made with ourselves growing up.  That we were kids and we were scared of the dark and the unknown, and we braved the world and each fear we faced down was a promise to ourselves.  Fourteen year old Vicky enacting an unspoken agreement with little waist-high Vicky, saying ‘We’re going to approach that boy, and it’s exciting and it’s scary but I’ll handle it if it gets messy’.

That I’d step into that first fight with an adult man almost twice my size, and I’d manage.  A pledge from myself to a more vulnerable myself, that we were strong enough.

A silent promise to myself when I fought a person with powers.  Scared every time, but earning that trust and the ability to make bigger and better promises along the way.

Here, that vulnerable, small, childish part of me that was ready to be scared of everything was in the driver’s seat.

The bigger, adult me was paralyzed, thrust away.  Because in that storm of bound-up feelings that were hitting me full force, there was another kind of non-feeling process.  I’d disconnected, pulled away, detached so many times.  Gone to another place, dove into academic thought, dove into memories, lost myself in violence, even.

As I felt anger like I’d kept all of the anger of the last few years in reserve, and a quiet terror that seemed to encapsulate every fear I’d ever had, I felt the safety of the disconnect, observing everything from arm’s length, even myself.

I tried to speak and only a small sound came out.

Immediately, that ease I saw in her disappeared.  Amy turned my way, then hurried to my bedside.

I reached for powers and found paralysis instead.  They were there, but-

I thought of the Gimel refugees.  Of the need for supplies.

Between paralysis and the stray thought, reaching for my powers and finding them was slower than Amy was in reaching out to touch me.

The touch lasted all of two seconds.  Then, belated, she pulled her hand away, and my consciousness went in the other direction, more of an immediate blackout than any time I’d fallen asleep or been knocked unconscious.

Forced.

I roused, and my body felt leaden.  I used my flight, instinctively, like I was getting out of bed in the morning, and I pushed myself to a sitting-up position.

The feeling of having betrayed myself was the first thing to set in.  I’d betrayed every aspect of myself, from that vulnerable side of myself to the scholar to the warrior monk and the wretch.

I’d let my guard down.

Now…

I dared to look.

A square room with a cot and a closed door.  I lay on the cot.  Amy sat in a chair in the corner opposite where I lay.  A guard stood near her.

I brought my knees to my chest, and I hugged them, as if I could put myself further away from her.  My hand was bandaged.  I felt tightness around the injured parts.  I couldn’t tell through bandage, but it felt like the skin was there and swollen.

I wondered if I’d have to hurt her.  I’d have to be careful of my injured hand.

“You don’t need to be afraid,” she told me.

I didn’t answer.

“Don’t give me the silent treatment.  Please.”

That just made me want to do it more.  Petty.  Refuge in hate, in fighting mindlessly because the alternative was surrender.

I thought of Sveta’s absence.  She’d been watching over things.

“My team.  Are they okay?”

“They’re fine.  They’re back in the prison population.”

“Do they know you’re in here?”

“No.”

I squeezed my legs harder.

“They were angry, when you passed out,” she said.  “There was almost an incident.  Marquis- he’s here because I am.  He talked them down.  Your group had a huddle.  They talked about it.  They agreed it made the most sense to let it be, given cost, benefit, and what Citrine said about Shin.”

“Leaving me here,” I said.

“They didn’t like it but given what’s at stake…”

“Supplies for Gimel,” I said, feeling hollow.  The hollowness scared me.

“Materials from Shin have been about thirty percent of what Gimel received to date.  Cheit’s fifty, if I remember right.  Ten percent from Nun and other associated corner worlds.  Something like six percent from Gimel itself, three percent from Bet, reclaim and scavenging.  You guys wanted to put as much as you could into rebuilding.  Shelters and businesses first, Gimel having its own supply and manufacturing chains came second.  The numbers for supplied food versus what Gimel produces on its own are different, but I think last winter they were sort of close to what I just said.”

“It’s ‘you’, huh?” I asked.  Still hollow, harrowed, emotionally wrung out from nothing except being in this room, in this position.  Under her power.  “Gimel is ‘you’ and Shin is ‘us’?”

“You know what I mean.”

I looked down at my cot.  There were a shallow set of railings running along the edges to keep the mattress within bounds.  I wondered if I could grab those, fly, leverage strength, and use the cot as a weapon to kill Amy and the guard in one shot.

If I had to.

That made me feel better.

“Let’s talk,” Amy said.

That made me feel worse.

“Is that an order?” I asked.  “A directive?  Not a request, obviously, not an option?”

“If I say it’s an option you’ll say no,” she said.

“You’ve lost every right to dictate terms, Amelia.”

“Call me Amy.”

“You don’t get to choose what I call you,” I told her, my voice low.  “If that guard wasn’t here and if I wasn’t worried it would cause an incident, I’d have other names for you.”

“I don’t get to choose, I don’t get to dictate,” she said.  “You know… there’s never once been a time in my life where I got a real say in anything?  I was a kid and Marquis decided I’d live with the Dallon family, and then Carol and Mark got to decide when my bedtime was, when and what I ate, and what I did for homework.  When I had friends they were your friends or it was just you and I never really got a vote.”

“That’s being a kid.”

“It happened even later.  I didn’t choose my costume, it was Carol showing me some sketches and saying A, B, or C.”

“Sketches done with your input.”

“And it was other stuff, it was the times I got forced to go out heroing, and it was school and it was career path and-”

“And that justifies it?”

“And I’m not going to dwell on it, but…” she floundered.

“But what?”

“But maybe it would be nice of you to realize I’ve kind of been under someone else’s thumb or in someone else’s shadow or following someone else’s directions every step of the way.  And when I did finally do things out of my own free will I was unpracticed and traumatized and-”

“And that excuses it?”

“No!  Ye- no.  But it would be nice if it could be taken into account,” she said, her voice dropping in volume.  “It would be nice if for this, right here, instead of you getting angry and saying we won’t talk, maybe you meet me halfway.  I don’t want to domineer the conversation, I don’t want to force you to have it, I want you to want to have it.  An actual, even, fair conversation.”

“While a guard who could shoot me stands at your side-”

“He’s not-”

“-and you have me cornered, and you’ve-

I choked on the words I was going to say.

“I don’t have you cornered.”

“You’ve used your power on me, and I have no idea what you did to me while I was defenseless.”

The tear that sprung from one of my eyes caught me off guard.  It seemed to do the same for her.

“Th-”

“Again,” I said, more to myself.

It still shut her up.

She said something in the other language, stiff.  The guard gave me and her a wary look, then hauled the door open.  It slammed on shutting.

“Guard’s gone,” she said.  “He doesn’t speak English, by the way.  That’s why it was him, specifically.”

“Doesn’t make me feel better.”

“I can’t help you feeling cornered-”

“You can leave.  Leave me alone.  That’s all I’ve asked for.”

“About the third thing,” she said, stubbornly plowing ahead.  “What I did.  I can explain.”

“And I’m supposed to trust you?” I asked.  My voice went out on ‘trust’, so I mouthed it more than said it.

“I’m hoping that after we talk you can.  At least a little,” she said.  “I only used my power the once.  They hadn’t warned me you’d be paralyzed, my first thought was that it was a stroke, um-”

“You used your power on me, you cunt.”

The word seemed to catch her off guard, but not as much as I’d hoped.

“I checked you.  I got a read of your system.  Um.  That includes the neural connections-”

I let go of my legs, burying face in my knees, that were pulled up to my chest, and covered my head.

“It includes emotions.  Um.  If it’s any reassurance-”

“Fuck you and your reassurance,” I said.

“I get it now,” she said.  “How you’re disgusted by me, how you feel betrayed, the hate, the pain.  Crystal clear now.  I felt it, realized what it was and that it was all real, and I pulled my hand away like it was a hot stove.  I did use my power, but it was like pulling my hand off a hot stove.  Pushing you away, into unconsciousness, while I pulled back.”

My skin crawled.

She sounded mournful, subdued.  Her hands clutched one another in her lap.  The imp Dot had climbed out of her hair and had a lock of Amy’s hair in her teeth.  Her tail swished as she glared at me.

“Amelia,” I said.  I properly lifted my head.

“I guess you’re going to call me that.  Okay.  What?”

“Those feelings are mine.  You’re not supposed to read me like a fucking book and ‘get it’.  You’re supposed to read my fucking lips and hear the fucking words I’m saying and believe me.”

“Okay.”

“Then fuck off and die somewhere.”

“I do get it,” she said, instead of following the instructions.  “The anger.  I definitely felt that.  The hate.”

“I’ve been working on that,” I said.

She nodded, shoulders relaxing a hair.  “I’m glad.  For your sake I mean.”

“Cultivating it, channeling it.  Stoking that fire a bit whenever there’s a good excuse.”

I saw her face fall, and it hadn’t been ‘up’ in any way.  Just… not guarded.

I went on, “The anger, it hurts others, you know.  It drove me to maim or thrash Nazis and people who’d try to coerce fifteen year olds into prostitution.  Scum of the earth.  But there’s too much risk.  Too much collateral damage.”

“You don’t have me to clean up the mess.”

I shrugged.  “Hurts too many people for me to have anger as an outlet nowadays.  I find myself saving it up and then shattering Valefor’s jaw or something.  Fear, though?  Fear… it just kills me inside.  Sucks up all my energy.  Eats me alive.  And I’ve been scared every day since what you did.  Really fucking scared.”

Emotions were leaking into the words, when I wanted to lay it all out.

She nodded.

“Self loathing, hating my own skin?  Not feeling like I’m me?  It eats at my identity.”

“This is why I want to talk.  So we can address these things, work on fixing them.”

“You can’tYou can’t,” I said.  I put a different emphasis on the second repetition.  “You don’t get to.  This is what I hate about you.  This is- this is the point I was getting to.  Hate.  Anger hurts others, fear eats away at you, self-loathing fucks with your sense of identity.  But hate?  Hate’s focused.  If I have to have shitty feelings in the aftermath of what you did to me, I prefer hate because it has one target, one casualty at most.  You.”

“It bleeds into other things.”

“Maybe.  Cross that bridge when we get to it.  For now?  Hating you keeps me sane.  And I fucking hate that you’re arrogant enough to think you can fix me or fix my feelings, or fix this situation.  Walk away.”

For a second, I thought she might summon the strength to push herself to a standing position and then leave the room.

Muscles that had momentarily tensed in her tattooed arms relaxed.

“I want to talk,” she said.

“I want you to die.  I guess neither of us are getting what we want.”

“I want one hour of your time.  Here.  Talking.  Fair, even conversation.”

“There’s that arrogance of yours,” I told her.  “I can’t believe I thought any of this would be good for you, Red Queen.”

“One hour,” she said, firm.  “You can leave Shin with your team.  If you hear me out and if you’re fair, I’ll do whatever you want.”

“Whatever I want?”

“Anything that helps.”

“What about you going to Gimel, talking to therapists, counselors?  Anyone and anything that helps you get your shit together.  You stay away from mom, you stay away from dad, you stay away from Chris, my team, and me most of all.  If I want to talk to you again, I make the first move.”

“I’d be willing.  I haven’t had much luck with therapists, but I’d try.”

“What about-” I started.

I shouldn’t show my hand.

I couldn’t hold my tongue.

“What if I said you had a few days to try to fix Hunter, while Breakthrough and I handle some other shit, and then I had people take you to the Wardens for them to make a bigger decision?”

“A decision about?”

“About whether they give you some more of that counseling and a few more shots at fixing Hunter, and if you can’t, or maybe even if you could and they decided you were a danger, we’d get rid of you.”

“Get rid.”

“Chuck you into an alternate Earth with no other human beings.  Where you can’t hurt another Hunter.”

“I can help Hunter.”

“You’re positive?”

“I’m- reasonably sure.”

“Then it’s a reasonable chance things are fine and we don’t end up chucking you into an alternate reality where you can’t hurt anyone.  Of course, it’s the Wardens deciding what to do, not me.  You say you read my emotions, so you know how much I hate your guts.  I know how much I hate your guts.  I’d just be telling them what I think and giving them a suggested starting point, but they make the final call.”

“You’d be telling them to exile me?”

“Probably.  If you can’t fix Hunter?  Almost definitely.”

“That’s-”

“What?  What is it, Amy?”

“It feels like the hate and that kind of idea you’re talking about is coming from the side of you that scared me, when we patrolled together.  When you hurt an ABB child abductor so badly you had to call me to fix him.”

“Well…” I started.  I floundered for a response.  “Fucking obviously?”

“What?”

“I mean, it’s obvious that that kind of side of me is going to be bigger and more pronounced in comparison.  You took all the parts of me you liked and mashed it all together into a big pile of lovey-dovey ‘Vicky’ you could cuddle with, kiss, use-”

She shook her head, violent.

“Don’t shake your head at me.  Yes.  You used me to soothe yourself.  You said you loved me but well before you made me into the w- into that mess that had to go to the hospital, you made me into something that wasn’t Victoria, for your own selfish wants.”

“When I read your emotions and tracked them to their roots, I saw that the memory blocks I originally put into place to protect you were down.  Brain routing around.”

“You took all of me that you liked and you multiplied it and you mashed it all together like some kid mixing their paints together into a single blob.  What the fuck do you expect is going to be left intact and strong, except the ugly parts you didn’t want to touch?”

She shook her head.

“I’ve been rebuilding me.  I’ve been trying to find the good and admirable parts of Victoria for a long while now.  But that other side of me is there and I’ve spent a while trying to ignore it.  The barbaric side.”

“I’ve been trying to find myself too.”

“Fuck you.  I don’t care what you’re doing.  You- fuck you for even saying that in the same breath as what I’m talking about.”

“You are a victim, Victoria.  I’m not denying that.  What happened was horrible and unconscionable and it eats me up inside.  But I’m a victim too.  The Slaughterhouse Nine came after me.  I lost my family.  I lost you.  What happened wounded both of us, and impacted the both of us in a massive way.”

Dot had her teeth set on my ex-sister’s ear, while following the conversation.  A small part of me hoped the little creature would sit back at the fucking gall of what Amy had said and then use its box cutter to slit her throat.

Just a ‘fuck this, not hitching a ride with -this-‘ kind of thing.

Dim hopes.  Dot continued to nibble on Amy’s ear until Amy made her move, pulling her down to her lap, where she absently stroked the doll-sized creature.

I had to play along.  I didn’t want to lie, and I wasn’t even sure I could, but… she seemed genuinely shaken by what she’d taken in when she touched me, reading my emotions.  There was a crack.

And it sucked, but a cracked Amy was the only Amy I could hope to budge in the slightest.  Push too hard and she’d fold into herself and go back to being stubborn.

If I didn’t push at all, she’d steamroll over me.

“Sure,” I said.  “You’re a victim too.  Slaughterhouse Nine and shit.  Carol was a shit mom.  You were lonely.  I could have handled things better.”

“You were fine,” she said, eyes on the floor.  “You were the one good thing.”

“I was angry and hurt from losing Dean and Dad being brain damaged, I hated the idea you had secrets from me, as Tattletale said, and I wasn’t there for you.  Maybe if I had been, then Bonesaw wouldn’t have been able to come after you as easily as she did.”

“You’re fine.  You were the one good thing.  Your feelings made sense.”

“Amy.  You’re a victim too.  Fine.  But what you did you did to me.  What happened to you happened to you.  Blame the Slaughterhouse Nine or see them like a natural disaster… there’s no cause.  You don’t have the right or the position to complain about being a victim when you were the one who hurt me.  Who used me.”

“You keep saying I have no right, I can’t, I’m not allowed-”

“Because when you do something criminal you lose rights.  You lose privileges.”

Amy shook her head, like she didn’t realize she was doing it.  The palm of her hand rested on Dot’s front, while fingers absently scritched at Dot’s chin and neck.  Tiny hands and feet gripped the outer edges of Amy’s hand, tail swishing.

“One hour, you can take me to your therapists, put me in front of your tribunal, let the Wardens decide what to do with me.  Okay.  It might even be a relief, to be sent away.”

Probably not.  But I wasn’t going to test her cooperation.

I would test one other aspect.

“Fifteen minutes,” I told her.

“What?”

“Not an hour.  You don’t deserve an hour of my time.”

“Half an hour?”

I had planned to suggest half an hour, as a fair compromise, but that she’d asked left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.

“Fifteen minutes.  Say what you’ve got to say.”

“I want there to be back and forth.  I don’t want you to tune out.”

“Okay.  Go.”

She nodded, very exaggerated, too fast.  Her hands were visibly shaking, even as she pet Dot.

“Then,” she told me.  “Then um, I’ll start with something I know will get your attention.  Appeal to the side of you that loves cape stuff.  Or loved.  I don’t know if you’ve changed.”

I remained silent.

She swallowed hard.  “Back at the Birdcage, I came into contact with Glaistig Uaine.  She’s Valkyrie now.  I got a glimpse of how powers are organized.  I figured out Gold Morning before it happened.”

“Okay.  Were you able to get it to anyone?”

“No.  Not really, but I tried.  I did fill them in once I was out.  But that map, that set of connections, it’s still kind of there.  The central hub is dead and all shards are acting like Cauldron shards used to, not developing right, not aggregating data in the same ways, not updating or adapting to their hosts like they should be.  A lot of just outright dumb now.”

“The broken triggers.”

“Yes.  And Dauntless.  The Kronos titan.”

“A broken second trigger multiplied by a portal and time effect, or something.”

“Kind of.  Um.  But when I work on the right people I see the landscape that’s laid out, the old roads where connections used to be.  I think we’re going to see more.”

“More broken triggers?” I asked.

“More Dauntlesses.  A lot more, and soon.  The city’s the worst spot… it’s like all those portals?  Them being there make it easier for the big, messy results to happen.  Like tearing paper with a row of holes in it.  The holes guide the tear.”

“How certain are you?”

“One hundred percent.  Ninety nine percent.  Weird stuff can always happen.”

I nodded to myself.

“Victoria, the city’s like a lake covered in ice, with countless cracks spread across it.  Powerful capes are staying away from it because they make it worse.  They’re too heavy for the ice.”

“They haven’t said anything.”

“If we abandoned the city and set up elsewhere, those cracks would still spread.  The end result is the same, except it’s a bit delayed and a lot of people die because they abandoned the infrastructure, supply chains, resources, and support the city offers.”

“They’re trying to find answers.”

“They’re trying to find answers to the problem, they’re trying to mitigate the damage by spreading out the stress points, manage how much power is in the city at one time, and do productive hero work while they’re maintaining those balances and figuring out those things.  Just… elsewhere.  That’s what the Wardens are really about.  Like park wardens, maintaining a park by managing who can go in, managing resources…”

“Got it,” I said.  I nodded.  “Got it.”

“Part of the reason I wanted to bring Gimel’s prisoners to Shin instead of letting them run around the city was to do the same thing.  Manage the stress.”

“And if you’re to be believed, they didn’t tell us because they didn’t want us to panic.  Because… Dauntless-like events and broken triggers are going to get more common?”

“They are, but that’s not the ‘because’, Vicky,” Amy said, hunching her shoulders together, leaning forward.  Dot clambered up her arm to her shoulder.  “The ‘because’ is that Scion’s species’ life cycle didn’t stop just because he did.  Even if you don’t fertilize an egg, the chicken is still going to lay it.  All of the passengers are going to fumble together for connections, gather and translate power, and they’re going to… try to spread themselves to other places of interest.”

“Just like that.”  My voice was quiet.  I hugged my knees.  “If you’re to be believed.”

“I am.  Teacher believes it too, but he has bigger plans.  He thinks he can control the damage and control what happens when it all comes together.  He actually has something in common with one of your teammates, because when I look at the landscape-”

“Amy,” I cut her off.

She shut up.

“Can we put the fifteen minutes on hold?  Can you give me a second?”

“Yes.  And yes,” she said.  “I could, um, get you some water.”

I thought of all the things she could do to a glass of water.

“Do they have bottled water here?  Any sealed drinks?”

“Not really.  I mean, yes, they have capped drinks elsewhere, but not in the prison.”

“Then no.  No drink.  Just give me a few minutes.”

“Okay,” she said.  “I could use a break too, actually.”

A few seconds later, she was gone, the door shutting.  Me in my cell.

My hands were shaking, and it wasn’t Amy’s hypothesis.

I took a deep breath, trying to center myself.

I figured out a way to undo and then start unwrapping the bandage on my hand.  Loop by loop.  Their method of bandaging wasn’t any different from ours on Gimel and Bet.

The skin had been connected by tight, tiny threading.  It was swollen, but when I touched it I felt sensation, like I might feel when my foot was slightly asleep.

Fingers, much the same, but I couldn’t really bend them to test their mobility, with the swelling being what it was.

Fingernails… five fingernails attached, two tender to the touch, feeling that same kind of wobbly as a child’s tooth might be, when it started to show signs the kid might lose it.

I’d lost two fingernails when attacked in the prison plaza.  When I’d picked up the skin, only one fingernail had still been attached.

The sweet and good hearted people of Shin had found a stray fingernail and brought it in for reattachment?

Not likely.

Had it fallen on me, landing on my clothes without my notice?

No- the wire had raked along my hand and toward the woman, away from me.  The nail would have been flung toward her, not toward me or onto my clothing.

Had I somehow missed that another fingernail had been attached to the loose patch of skin I’d picked up off the ground?  Had they found it and attached it as normal.

I wasn’t sure.  Possible.  Maybe it was the most likely possibility.

Or the final possibility.  That Amy had lied to me, more than once, in the course of our conversation.  It would be cause for simultaneous gut-wrenching horror and relief; it would suggest she’d used her power on me and hadn’t told me the full truth, but it would also gave some reason to doubt her interpretation of what was coming.

In that, at least, I really wanted her to be lying to my face.

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250 thoughts on “Breaking – 14.9”

  1. I have mixed feelings for Amy right now. I want to literally STRANGLE this BITCH for touching Victoria again without her permission and messing with her again, lying her and violating her most intimate emotions (by reading them without permission).

    I also want to hug her right after I read this: “You are a victim, Victoria. I’m not denying that. What happened was horrible and unconscionable and it eats me up inside. But I’m a victim too. The Slaughterhouse Nine came after me. I lost my family. I lost you. What happened wounded both of us, and impacted the both of us in a massive way.” Because, she WAS a victim and she’s a very broken person who need a lot of therapy and help rather than exile.

    But she also doesn’t give a shit about her sister’s wishes so…I feel a lot of sorry for her but fuck her and her constantly violation of Victoria’s body and mind.

    The upside: Victoria’s hand is ok now :).

    1. Skin regrafts are a huge pain to heal. Take that ‘ok’ with a grain of salt… in your good hand.

        1. With the nail thing, I’m easily picturing Victoria destroying her own hand just to spite Amy’s (alleged) misplaced goodwill, then asking for a tinker replacement from her friends. I was only half-joking last chapter, and this one actually gives her a reason to do it.
          That’ll give Victoria a whole bunch of Ashley-cred as a bonus, and she values her teammate infinitely more than her adoptive sister right now.

    2. I’d say that we are suppossed to feel that kind of mixed emotion where Amy is concerned. Hell I’m also feeling it about Victoria. Because “It’s Complicated” perfectly encompassses the mess of the two sisters. Neither one is truely, fully the good one, neither one is truly, fully the bad one. And I suspect both are a bit… Biased? Delulsional? Unwilling to face the truth? Where each other is involved. Victoria can never see that Amy isn’t just the monster who violated her. Amy can’t see that there’s no fixing this. Compounding matters, Amy is actually under even more pressure than we realized, as she’s one of the few people who’s known just how FUCKED the situation is the whole time.

      They are like binary planets in an unstable orbit, destined to tear each other apart as they approach. Fuck I hate tragedies.

      1. I kind of want them to make peace but Amy SHOULD STOP once for all from touching Vic without consent, even if she only wanted to heal her and understand her feelings better and Victoria SHOULD STOP seeing Amy as literal devil (there are people much worse than Amy) . If they’ll correct their bad parts and try to understand each other without powers involved or harsh words or lack of complete honesty then everything will look a little promising.

        I will not ask for Victoria to forgive Amy, I’ll just ask for both of them to try to reconcile because the world have already too many problems and more good (or not so bad people) people should be united against them.

        1. The Sisters would both be much happier and Healthier if they could let each other go. Victoria letting her hatred and trauma for Amy over what Amy did to her, Amy just letting Victoria go. Too bad that’s not going to happen.

          1. The thing about ward in comparison to Worm is that is more hopeful. Has a more positive feel to it. Wildboe had once again crafted a complex narrative and the sisters are mirrors of each other, albeit shattered. I could almost see the story ending with Amy having a realisation and taking a lethal hit for Victoriaa right at the end, just isthe nick of time.

            Possible ending ( yeah right, ill be miles out as usual).

            -Amy lay dying and I motioned for one of the only other healers we knew but Amy shop her head.

            “No, I refuse. Finally going to have peace Vicky. We both will I hope” She smiled sadly and I knew that right here at the last minute, she’d regained sanity. I saw her eyes dim and in that moment made a decision I never thought I’d make again. I knelt down and scooped her up,holding on to her and whispered, “Goodbye Ames,… I forgive you.”
            Then my hero of a sister smiled up at me with genuine platonic affection before closing her eyes for the last time.

          2. Yup. They just need to let go. Amy doesn’t need to tell Victoria what’s wrong with the city. Tell Numberman, tell Lookout, tell Citrine. Just let Victoria’s hand rot off. There are plenty of other people to help if she wants to be altruistic.

        2. Eh. I can’t blame Amy for this one. She was concerned that Victoria was dying. I know some suicide fetishist will inevitably pop up and rant about how that’s Victoria’s choice to make, but it isn’t. The right to save lives trumps the right to die, especially when the one choosing death is not of sound mind. Since Victoria is not of sound mind in Amy’s presence, she simply doesn’t get to object to Amy saving her.

          1. If she were concerned about Victoria dying she should’ve stopped after her power made it clear that she wasn’t. She shouldn’t have fucking healed Victoria’s hand without permission and had the gall to lie about it to her face.

          2. Yes. To clarify, I was only referring to the known instance of touching when Amy thought Victoria was having a stroke (assuming she was truthful about that). I was not meaning to say anything about the okayness or lack thereof of the hypothetical scenarios everybody is blithely treating as known fact. Those, of course, have zero bearing on whether the stroke-check was acceptable and they very probably should not have been performed. If they even were. Victoria certainly doesn’t seem convinced, and she hasn’t even considered the possibility that Shin superscience might have cracked the inconceivably difficult task of inventing a prosthetic fingernail.

          3. Re. Kyakan: I don’t think Amy knowingly/intentionally healed Victoria’s hand because if she did why wouldn’t she just fix her entire hand instead of growing back 1 fingernail. It makes much more sense that her power reflectively went to heal Victoria on it’s own but couldn’t finish before Amy let go of Victoria.

          4. “The right to save lives trumps the right to die”

            It really doesn’t. DNRs exist for a reason.

          5. > DNRs exist for a reason.

            But Victoria didn’t express such a will. And before anyone says about her saying that she’d rather die from Crawler’s acid back then – there is a reason why DNRs have to be expressed formally. Otherwise, there’s plenty of people saying informally that they’d rather die than have to pass a difficult exam/go to a dentist/do whatever. And Victoria’s “wish” to rather die belongs to the same category, as evidenced by her not trying to kill herself while being wretched. It would be really easy for her if she wanted to: just fly a couple of kilometers straight up, deactivate flight, wait a few seconds.

          6. Naw. People have the right to refuse treatment, and Vicky has made it pretty clear she’d rather die than be treated by Amy.

          7. Err, no she didn’t. Please re-read my previous comment. There is a reason why refusals to be resuscitated have to be formal, and this reason is not people being annoying bureaucrats who just have to get in the way of everything.

          8. DNRs are very much the exception that proves the rule. As T.T.O. says, they require jumping through a bunch of hoops to set up — that would not be the case if right-to-death was the greater right. This is especially true when the preference for death is coming from somebody who is not in their right mind. Or do you think that depressed people shouldn’t be prevented from committing suicide? That anorexic people should be allowed to starve themselves to death? That brainwashed cultists should be allowed to drink the Kool-Aid? Victoria is mentally ill. When it comes to the matter of whether to save her or coddle her phobias, her phobias can go fuck themselves.

          9. Quite Possibly A Cat,
            We have two different problems here:
            1) You don’t work on your relatives. I’m not dead certain that’s a fucking rule, but it really ought to be.
            2) You don’t get to refuse treatment from a particular person. Vicky AIN’T giving no DNR. She’s saying “Amy No.” Does she have better reason than the person who says “no black doctors?” Yeah, but. You don’t get to refuse treatment from a particular person, particularly if you’re unconscious.

      2. The fuck are you on about? Amy is absolutely 100% in the wrong, there is nothing “complicated” about rape. Get the fuck out of here with this victim blaming nonsense.

        1. Here we go again, rape rape rape rape rape. Maybe if it gets repeated enough, it will start making sense? Oh right, it doesn’t have to make sense, it’s supposed to just throw people into rightful rage.

          1. For clarification, are you arguing that what Amy did to Victoria in Worm was not at least as bad (and in the same vein) as rape, or is your issue purely about how people inflate rape into an action of infinite evil?

          2. Both, actually. What Amy did was definitely bad, but not in the same vein as rape (I have seen some interpretations which bring her actions into the same vein, but as for now, the evidence for them is lacking). Whether it’s “better” than rape, or “worse”, or “just as bad”, is quite meaningless to compare, it’s different. So a reason to insist on calling it rape would be to elicit similar emotional response, which, as you have noted, for many people is likely to be “inflating to an action of infinite evil”.

          3. Sometimes reality is inconvenient. The fact of the matter is that rape is the closest and most relatable real-world scenario to what happened, so people will use it to describe the situation, and rightly so. It’s especially apt for Victoria’s trauma. Take a rape victim, tack on some extra Wretch-related baggage, and presto.

            It’s not too far off from Amy’s actions, either. We don’t know how much conventional molestation happened, but the thing you have to understand is that rape isn’t really about sex. It’s about dehumanization. It’s having your will and privacy utterly disregarded, your bodily autonomy being trampled, being betrayed by your own involuntary reactions, and being treated as nothing more than an object that exists solely to give pleasure to somebody else. That bundle of yuck is what makes it so horrific to experience, and Amy’s treatment of Victoria in between escaping Jack and being found by Carol hits the exact same notes, except louder.

            If it were an accident, then it would make sense to object to this comparison. Rape is very hard to do by accident, and it’s very hard to construct a realistic scenario where raping somebody is the correct course of action. Equating an action to rape therefor implies that it was intentional and inherently wrong. If Amy had turned Victoria into the Wretch by accident, then describing her as a rapist would be unfair.

            Unfortunately, Amy turned Victoria into the Wretch on purpose. She admitted it in Carol’s interlude. The alterations made to Victoria were done — according to Amy herself — to soothe Amy’s fear and loneliness. The only accidents were the initial mindrape and the failure to restore Victoria at the end of it all.

            So really the only flaw in comparing Amy’s actions to rape is that it doesn’t cover the way Victoria was left physically crippled. That’s actually an inadequacy in Amy’s favor, though….

            Point is, there’s no use avoiding the word “rape” when describing Amy’s and Victoria’s history. It may or may not be a literal description of what happened, but the parallels are very obvious; any sort of accurate portrayal of events will lead to people making the connection. If they’re the sort inclined to hysterics when the topic of rape comes up, then they’ll engage in hysterics whether you beat around the bush or not. It can’t be avoided.

          4. > Unfortunately, Amy turned Victoria into the Wretch on purpose. She admitted it in Carol’s interlude.

            That’s what I think is lacking evidence for now. I read that passage as Amy wanting to give Victoria a parting gift of some Bonesaw-style enhancements, and her mention of fear and loneliness as an explanation why she was fucked enough in the head to consider doing it and to do it in that fashion. But your interpretation is also possible.

            And as for being relatable – do we really need to pick a real-world analogy for that? I never experienced what Amy did, but I never experienced rape either. And even if anyone commenting here did (I surely hope not), they still didn’t experience anything like Amy’s actions to be able to tell whether it would feel the same (and it might be very different, for example, because of feelings initially created by Amy’s power in Victoria). But we don’t really have to, just like tearing people to living pieces doesn’t have to be possible IRL for us to imagine how horrible it would be.

          5. > Unfortunately, Amy turned Victoria into the Wretch on purpose. She admitted it in Carol’s interlude.

            That can be your reading. It is *not* the only reading. It is not even the default reading.

            Amy’s blathering at the time reads precisely like a person who spiraled out during a panic attack. There is very little reason to assume she sought out those changes with any agency.

            More like she “admitted” the stream-of-consciousness lies she was telling herself in her head as she lost control of the situation.

            The conventional reading that seems to roughly line up with WoG is that Amy freaked out on multiple levels and lost coherent direction of her actions after Victoria had already grown a healing vat around herself that was herself. Then the shard guided her hand as she descended into her episode, or break, or whatever.

            If the text was going to tell us that Amy specifically chose to make the Wretch, the text would be clear about it. This author doesn’t mess with ambiguities when discussing clear moral issues. This author wouldn’t play around making explicit rapists sympathetic.

            This author generates arguments in grey areas. If Amy did it on purpose the text would tell us that in the black and white Victoria goes to so readily. The text has not done so.

            ….Yet.

            [Already prepared to recant if proved wrong on this point.]

          6. > That’s what I think is lacking evidence for now. I read that passage as Amy wanting to give Victoria a parting gift of some Bonesaw-style enhancements, and her mention of fear and loneliness as an explanation why she was fucked enough in the head to consider doing it and to do it in that fashion. But your interpretation is also possible.

            Either way, she clearly admitted that she was doing it on purpose. She intentionally made a bunch of changes to Vicky — whether as altruistic augments or fetishistic indulgence — and then flubbed the process of undoing them (catastrophically flubbed, in the case of altruistic augments). The specific shape of the Wretch may not have been intentional, but the unnecessary changes that it precipitated out of were.

            @Admiral Matt: So basically your position is that I’m ignoring the default reading of the text by not straight up ignoring select portions of the text? Sorry, but you seem to have confused the terms default reading and cherry picking. 🙂

          7. @Pizzasgood

            If you’re right, you have the one true interpretation for one of the most divisive questions in Wilbo’s works, cool. Back it up with the relevant sections and let’s dig in. I said it before, and I will again: If I’m clearly wrong I’ll cheerfully eat crow.

            If we’re solely stating our opinions based on memory, hopefully we can not get all worked up over other people doing the same?

            I ought to have time enough tomorrow to pour over Carol’s discovery, so I will quote and comment if you don’t. No pressure intended.

            If the readership is *this* divided after the author specified Amy willfully chose the mutilation of her sister, that would be surprising, because usually the author inserts more grey into his works. Was Saint wrong? Was Byron or Tristan at fault for their falling out? Was Cauldron right? Was Taylor justified doing [insert preference]? And on and on.

            But I’m prepared to be proven wrong.

          8. > Either way, she clearly admitted that she was doing it on purpose. She intentionally made a bunch of changes to Vicky — whether as altruistic augments or fetishistic indulgence — and then flubbed the process of undoing them

            But that really changes the context, doesn’t it? If it was altruism and not fetishistic indulgence for Amy’s own benefit, then the comparison to rape is out already, your description of what rape is about doesn’t apply. I would even say that if Amy didn’t fuck it up, and Vicky ended up healthy, sane, and with augmentations bringing her to the durability levels of Alexandria or Aegis, she wouldn’t be traumatized (except for initial Amy’s fuckup with emotions) and wouldn’t mind those augmentations being present. Though, obviously, Amy should have asked first, even if it were the case. But as was stated, she was pretty thoroughly fucked in the head, + worrying for Vicky nearly dying, and so it all went wrong.

          9. Alright. A refresher on Amy’s explanation to Carol and Aunt Sarah:

            Amy shivered. “I… she wouldn’t let me help her, she was so angry, so I calmed her down with my power. She’d been hurt badly, so I wrapped her up. A cocoon, so she could heal.”

            […]

            “I… I had to wait a while before I could let her out, so I could be sure she had healed completely. I-“

            […]

            “I didn’t want her to fight. And I didn’t want her to follow, or to hate me because I used my power on her again.”

            […]

            “So I thought I’d put her in a trance, and make it so she’d forget everything that happened. Everything that I did, and the things that the Slaughterhouse Nine said, and everything that I said to try to make them go away. Empty promises and-“

            […]

            “She was lying there, and I wanted to say goodbye. I- I-“

            […]

            “I wanted to see her smile again. To have someone hug me before I left forever. So you wouldn’t have to worry about me anymore. I- I told myself I’d leave after. Victoria wouldn’t remember. It would be a way for me to get closure. Then I’d go and spend the rest of my life healing people. Sacrifice my life. I don’t know. As payment.”

            […]

            Amy kept talking, her voice strangely monotone after her earlier emotion, as if she were a recording. Maybe she was, after a fashion, all of the excuses and arguments she’d planned spilling from her mouth. “I wanted her to be happy. I could adjust. Tweak, expand, change things to serve more than one purpose. I had the extra material from the cocoon. When I was done, I started undoing everything, all the mental and physical changes. I got so tired, and so scared, so lonely, so I thought we’d take another break, before I was completely finished. I changed more things. More stuff I had to fix. And days passed. I-“

            […]

            “I lost track. I forgot how to change her back.”

            So basically, Amy took some reasonable steps in healing Victoria. But then at the end of it all, she saw Victoria lying there helplessly, and Amy’s wants got uppity. She wanted Victoria to smile at her and hug her before leaving. She had the power to make that happen, and to make Victoria forget it happened. And as long as she was already adjusting Victoria’s brain to make her “happy” during this little charade, why not go whole hog and tweak other things? Amy could live out some of her wildest fantasies and get “closure.” But she made so many changes that it took a while to revert them all, and she got “lonely” again. Like a kid cleaning her room, she took a break and allowed herself to be distracted by playing with the toys she was supposed to be putting away. The mess grew instead of shrinking. Shard halped. And after some days of this, she forgot how to fix it. Oops.

            That’s my current interpretation of events. It involves a little bit of reading between the lines, but given the context of Amy’s strong sexual attraction to Victoria and a presumably naked Wretchified Victoria lying passively on a mattress, it’s a natural inference to make. There aren’t any crazy leaps required, and the indirectness makes sense given that Amy’s audience consisted of her mom and her aunt. The situation was mortifying enough already.

            T.T.O.’s interpretation is more pleasant, but it doesn’t fit as well. If Amy were giving Victoria legit upgrades as a parting gift, why suddenly change gears and try undoing them? Note the order of events: She let Victoria heal, then she looked at Victoria lying there and decided she wanted her to smile and hug her. She made changes using the leftover material from the cocoon. Then, without explanation, she started undoing “everything.” I’m fine with not taking “everything” literally; people are linguistic slobs, myself included. But what other physical changes could she have been undoing at that point, if not the supposed augments? Victoria was already healed since Amy had been willing to recycle the cocoon, so it wasn’t the acid damage being undone. Amy had already cannibalized the cocoon to make the augments, so it wasn’t the cocoon being undone. That only leaves the augments themselves. So, we need to make a leap and assume that she either got cold feet or had a sudden realization that Victoria wouldn’t appreciate the alterations after all, and then ignore the fact that she didn’t see fit to mention this in her explanation. But then there’s the part where she made more changes that added to her list of things to undo. And why would her fear and loneliness motivate making those further augments? This doesn’t make sense. We have to reinterpret that section to instead be saying something like, “I changed more things in the process of fixing stuff.” Okay, not a huge thing on its own, but added to the rest… And how did all this lead to the Wretch? There’s no mention of fumbling. No mention of her power slipping out of control and causing extra legs to splurt out of nowhere when she was trying to simply remove a backup-heart or un-reinforce some bones. Seems like the kind of thing you’d mention when trying to justify yourself in a situation like this. Add all this up, and the interpretation just feels forced.

            Then there’s Admiral Matt’s interpretation. I held this one myself for a bit, after the details had faded. It’s a very pleasant interpretation, relatively speaking. Amy healed Victoria just fine, but then when trying to remove her from the cocoon, her power spazzed out as above and kept making random additions. However, this depends on just ignoring Amy’s explanation wholesale. If what happened was a total accident, then why didn’t Amy just say that? Something like, “I kept trying to put her back to normal, but I was freaked out and couldn’t focus and stuff kept growing out of her, and every time I fixed one limb, two new limbs or a torso would sprout out, and I’ve never been great at Whack-A-Mole, and….” That would make way more sense than the creeptacular spiel she actually gave about how she could “tweak, expand, change things to serve more than one purpose.” That’s not something you just randomly say in a panic to hide the fact that you flubbed a surgery due to shaky hands. The only reasonable route I see to make sense of this is if we channel our inner Alf, note the sudden shift to monotone, and assume that section was Amy’s shard speaking through her and explaining its side of the story for some reason. Then if we interpret the paragraph before that as saying that she intended to get Victoria to hug her by making her forget all the stuff that happened, rather than saying that she’d make Victoria hug her and then make her forget doing it, we can almost convince ourselves that this isn’t just stretching to make Amy seem less horrible.

            And to be clear, I’m not in the “Amy is an irredeemable monster” camp. She was a teenager who made a stupid mistake in the midst of a mental breakdown. This is understandable and forgivable, even though the mistake ruined somebody’s life.

          10. One way to interpret the part said be Amy in monotone is that when she was doing everything described there she was no longer in control of her actions – she was possessed by her shard then. It would explain both why she forgot how to change Victoria back (Amy couldn’t do it, because it wasn’t really Amy, but her shard, who made those changes), and how she managed to undo the process after she was released from the Birdcage, because Amy learned about existance of shards there, and her power let her understand them better than most parahumans could. Remember that, ever since she touched Ciara, Amy can actually feel shards of people she touches, connections between them etc. Maybe this ability also helped her make her own shard undo what it did to Victoria?

          11. Think of it like this – when Amy was about to turn cocooned Victoria back to normal, she fell into trance during which her shard assumed control and turned Victoria into the wretch. When Amy snapped out of it, she couldn’t remember how to turn Victoria back because she was entranced at the time. Later in the Birdcage Amy realized that she was essentially mastered by an alien mind connected to her head, and that restoring Victoria to normal required making that mind do the work. She obviously succeeded.

            If this theory is correct, Amy did not intentionally turn Victoria into the wretch – that would be Amy’s shard. On the other hand Amy is probably unwilling to mention this fact to defend herself, because she really has no good way to prove it to Victoria, and because she is probably afraid that revealing that she was controlled by her shard then would probably make people fear her more then now, when they believe that everything was caused by a “normal” mental breakdown. Why? Because there are specialists who can help human minds heal, but so far no therapist has said they can do something similar with passengers.

            By the way, I suspect that this is the big thing that Yamada realized she has been doing wrong – it simply never occurred to her that whenever she is working with a cape, she actually has two inseparable “patients” – a human host, and a passenger.

          12. @Pizzasgood:

            > If Amy were giving Victoria legit upgrades as a parting gift, why suddenly change gears and try undoing them?

            Because they didn’t go as planned. She tried to operate with shaking hands, fucked up, tried to repair her mistakes with hands shaking even more than before, changed more things, and so on.

            > Amy took some reasonable steps in healing Victoria. But then at the end of it all, she saw Victoria lying there helplessly

            A fully healed person, especially a person healed by magical means with no need for a recovery period, would not just lie helplessly. From that I take it wasn’t the end yet.

            > And as long as she was already adjusting Victoria’s brain to make her “happy” during this little charade, why not go whole hog and tweak other things? Amy could live out some of her wildest fantasies and get “closure.”

            However fucked in the head Amy was, I still very much doubt that her wildest fantasies involved Victoria being a multi-limbed and multi-headed monster. And besides, the line about “tweak, expand, change things to serve more than one purpose” doesn’t make sense in this context. Like, to create a hand with multiple purposes – taking things and hugging Amy? It makes much more sense if the changes were supposed to be augmentations. Yes, maybe Amy could have worded it better while explaining what she did, but I couldn’t expect a person under stress explaining what they did under an even greater stress to express their thoughts as clearly and unambiguously as if they were writing a program.

            @Alfaryn
            Right, that also makes sense. Even if if was not 100% Amy’s shard acting, it definitely played some part in it. I don’t remember where exactly, but someone (in-story) noted a semblance between Wretch-Victoria and Eden, so at the very least the shard helpfully provided its approximation of how it views humans.

          13. > A fully healed person, especially a person healed by magical means with no need for a recovery period, would not just lie helplessly. From that I take it wasn’t the end yet.

            Sure, except you forgot about the part where Amy put Victoria into a trance first.

            > However fucked in the head Amy was, I still very much doubt that her wildest fantasies involved Victoria being a multi-limbed and multi-headed monster.

            You think a horny teenager with a crush on her sister, the ability to totally reshape bodies, and an alien parasite influencing her subconscious didn’t have some weird-ass fantasies? Really?

            > And besides, the line about “tweak, expand, change things to serve more than one purpose” doesn’t make sense in this context.

            If the line makes sense in the context of augmenting a body for better combat performance, why wouldn’t it make sense in the context of augmenting a body for better sexual performance? And that’s before factoring in weird-ass fantasies.

            > Because they didn’t go as planned. She tried to operate with shaking hands, fucked up, tried to repair her mistakes with hands shaking even more than before, changed more things, and so on.

            Except that this doesn’t fit the tone of her explanation. One moment she’s talking about adding these supposed augments, and the next she’s saying “When I was done, I started undoing everything.” She acts too much like that’s the obvious next step of the plan, not a change of intent. You can call it the fumbled explanation of a person under stress, and I’d like to believe that was actually the case, but it feels like stretching.

          14. One more point regarding my theory that Amy could have been controlled by her shard when she turned Victoria from cocoon to the wretch, and the fact that Amy apparently never mentioned it to Victoria – it may be possible that Amy still doesn’t fully realize just how badly her shard messed with her mind then. Note that even remembering that time put Amy in trance-like state.

            The problem with this idea is that it doesn’t mesh well with the fact that Amy not only got a good insight into how shards work when she was in Birdcage, and she is intelligent enough to understand that all of it applies to her own shard too, from which it should be easy for her to figure out that her shard might have done something to her mind when she was left alone with Victoria (not to mention that Riley could explain it to her, if she didn’t make the connection herself). Moreover the fact that Amy managed to heal Victoria at the end of Worm, while she seemed to be unable to even figure out how to try before she went to the Birdcage also seems to suggest that in the ‘cage Amy managed to understand very well just how much control over her actions her shard had when she created the wretch.

          15. On the other hand maybe Amy doesn’t realize that she was under her shard’s control when she created the wretch, because she still is as far as memories of that event are concerned? What if someone asked her to tell what happened then today? Would she enter that trance-like state again? Would she realize that she did? Would she be able to accept if someone told her that it keeps happening to her? If she was in trance, would she just speak in monotone, or be likely to do what she did to Victoria again (assuming that she had Victoria or someone similar to Victoria in her reach)? Is this what happened to Hunter? Did Carol say that Amy is not well because she saw the trance happen not only all those years ago in Brockton Bay, but also recently?

          16. > You think a horny teenager with a crush on her sister, the ability to totally reshape bodies, and an alien parasite influencing her subconscious didn’t have some weird-ass fantasies? Really?

            Well, (nearly) everyone was a horny teenager sometime, but not everyone had sexual fantasies about multi-headed monsters. For the vast majority of the population this would be a turn-off, so I would think of it as a default assumption. An alien parasite could influence something, but we didn’t see them changing sexual preferences of their hosts yet.

            > If the line makes sense in the context of augmenting a body for better combat performance, why wouldn’t it make sense in the context of augmenting a body for better sexual performance? And that’s before factoring in weird-ass fantasies.

            But VIctoria didn’t get anything useful for better sexual performance (and that’s even after factoring in weird ass-fantasies). Conversely, she was rendered unable to have sex, and also to do much of anything at all for that matter. What I had in mind was not so much combat performance, but rather survivability – and Victoria really did have that improved, from her many redundant organs at the very least. And it also makes much more sense in that situation – if your loved one is dying before your eyes, you’re much more likely to think about them surviving and ideally not being in such danger anymore than about pleasures of having sex with them, even if the immediate danger had just been removed already. Doubly so, if until this point you have spent nearly every your waking moment saving lives.

            > One moment she’s talking about adding these supposed augments, and the next she’s saying “When I was done, I started undoing everything.”

            This wording is strange, but well… I think it being a fumbled explanation (together with being at least partly controlled by her shard and probably being unable to tell exactly where Amy ends and shard begins, and thus who of them did what) fits together with everything else more that other interpretations.

          17. > But VIctoria didn’t get anything useful for better sexual performance (and that’s even after factoring in weird ass-fantasies).

            Um. Do you really need explanation of the usefulness of extra hands, limbs, and heads during activities like cuddling and sex?

            > Conversely, she was rendered unable to have sex, and also to do much of anything at all for that matter.

            If I’ve given the impression that I think the end-state Carol found Victoria in was Amy’s precise intent, then I apologize for explaining myself poorly. I’m arguing that Amy turned Victoria into a one-woman cuddle-pile, and afterwards made things even worse when she fumbled at putting Victoria back to normal. What Carol found was the broken version.

          18. > I’m arguing that Amy turned Victoria into a one-woman cuddle-pile, and afterwards made things even worse when she fumbled at putting Victoria back to normal. What Carol found was the broken version.

            If we consider the end result to be a broken version, then we can’t infer from it that the correct version was just less of the same. And my other points still stand, in particular the one about the semblance to Eden hinting at the shard supplying its vision.

          19. > If we consider the end result to be a broken version, then we can’t infer from it that the correct version was just less of the same.

            Are you trying to say that broken things don’t usually resemble their non-broken forms, or are you just making the obvious point that broken things don’t always resemble their non-broken forms? Something else entirely? I really don’t understand what this statement was supposed to accomplish.

            > And my other points still stand, in particular the one about the semblance to Eden hinting at the shard supplying its vision.

            Of course there’s resemblance and shard influence. I said that already. This isn’t a point in favor of either interpretation since it works equally well with both.

          20. > Are you trying to say that broken things don’t usually resemble their non-broken forms, or are you just making the obvious point that broken things don’t always resemble their non-broken forms? Something else entirely? I really don’t understand what this statement was supposed to accomplish.

            Specifically in the case being discussed, when “breaking”/”fixing”/”making errors” is a complex process which can be expected to involve any kind of imaginable changes, I wouldn’t take the resemblance between broken and non-broken forms as the default.

            > Of course there’s resemblance and shard influence. I said that already. This isn’t a point in favor of either interpretation since it works equally well with both.

            So in my interpretation, the shape of the Wretch is explained by shard influence, and in yours, it’s explained by shard influence AND Amy’s weird and uncommon fetish (which has no other evidence of being present). Occam’s Razor favors my interpretation.

          21. Not an accurate summation. I suggested that she had a few wild fantasies, not a full fledged fetish, and I was making the point that her shard could easily have influenced those fantasies in the first place. But that’s fine, I get it. You quite reasonably think that the thoughts of incestuous lesbian superhuman fleshcrafters with meddling aliens in their brains can be accurately approximated by an adorably sheltered perception of normal people. But this is not an issue! My interpretation works just as well whether the Wretch was the culmination of years of shard influenced fantasies and dreams, or just a series of spur of the moment whims formed in the midst of a mental breakdown with no thought at all on Amy’s part as to how it would come together as a whole.

          22. @Pizzasgood

            Hi. So I failed to respond before the next chapter came out, and my interpretation of Amy as a character is completely in flux as a result of .9 and .10.

            The red suns, if nothing else. Oh no.

            I *think* when the dust settles I’ll still argue that *based on Worm* my interpretation stands. That the text of Carol’s interlude is intentionally leaving a variety of readings open to readers.

            But it doesn’t make sense to defend that point too hard when the other equally valid text is making such dramatic revelations about what Amy has done and who she is.

            I hope the waffling is forgivable, or at least understandable.

          23. > My interpretation works just as well whether the Wretch was the culmination of years of shard influenced fantasies and dreams, or just a series of spur of the moment whims formed in the midst of a mental breakdown with no thought at all on Amy’s part as to how it would come together as a whole.

            That’s not enough to ward off Occam with his razor 🙂 You are still explaining one effect with two separate causes, while one of them would be sufficient.

          24. My aunt made a dessert.

            Hypothesis A: She made the dessert entirely herself starting with nothing but a meadow and a handful of seeds.

            Hypothesis B: She made the dessert by assembling ingredients grown, picked processed, packaged, and shipped by many featherless bipeds, who were enticed into those actions by the offer of an abstraction of time and energy exchangeable for murder simulators, mating documentation, toxins, stores of chemical energy, and varied other substances.

            I yawn in the general direction of your razor movements.

          25. If existence of human civilization is not a given default in a world where your aunt lives, and the dessert made by her is in fact the only evidence we have yet seen, then Hypothesis A would be indeed simpler. Otherwise, it’s the other way around – the existence of civilization is a given, and Hypothesis A needs your aunt to possess all skills necessary to produce dessert from scratch and to prefer this way of making it over the more simple way which relies on a pre-existent civilization.
            And in any imaginable world, either of Hypotheses A or B is, by definition, simpler than Hypothesis A+B, which would be a more precise analogy for your explanation.

          26. Why do you keep claiming that “manipulating Amy into creating the bulk of the Wretch herself” is a superset of “bypassing Amy and directly creating the Wretch”? I realize that ultimately it’s the shard doing all the actual powers-stuff, but the host’s will is very much a factor. We’ve seen many cases of capes asserting control over their powers and either shutting them down or forcing them to behave. It takes work for the shard to override the host’s will, so equating a willed action to an unwilled action is clearly wrong.

            I’m arguing that my aunt made dessert with society’s help. You’re arguing that she made dessert not only without society’s help, but also despite society’s desperate attempts to force her to make breakfast instead.

          27. Well, probably it takes work for the shard to override host’s will (not for sure though, we didn’t see it confirmed from the shards’ POV. for all we know, they might easily assume control of their parahumans at any moment, they just prefer not to, because it would be contrary to their goals). But we have seen other examples of it happening, and we didn’t see shards subtly influencing their hosts any more than nudging them to be more prone to conflict. And even this nudging is mostly just informed, I didn’t get an impression that capes are indeed portrayed to be more aggressive than unpowered people (or just people IRL, for that matter).

        2. This is a lot more complicated than just putting some (ill fitting) labels on things.
          Amy, for example, was always under the influence of Vics aura. Which might explain her affection and feelings for her.
          WBs stories were never black and white and treating them as such is and indication of “missing the point”

          The fact is Vic is alive. Without Amy she would not be.

          Also never forget this is a POV narration of Vic. And WB is very good at making it emotional coloured and NOT impartial.

          1. Agreed. I like that.

            Though I keep reading Taylor-level bias into Victoria and then having to backtrack because Victoria isn’t the same character and handles her rationalization very differently. More subtle where she does it, sometimes, but also more openly irrational in other cases.

            It’s great that the same aspect of a semi-reliable protagonist can be written so differently.

          2. I still find it so strange that this rape comparison is so readily thrown around here.
            If you want to compare it to something compare it to a paramedic coming to a car accident with a wounded lying there. The paramedic administers some drugs for pain, then uses a tourniquet and in the end the victim survives but with permanent damage. Maybe because the paramedic administered some drugs wrong.
            Is that rape?
            Even if the victim cries “let me die! let me die!”

            In the end Amy did it to save Vics life. And she did.

            She just did “The wrong things for the right reason” which is the fitting tag line of Worm!

          3. One thing to remember is that most likely nobody (including Amy and obviously Victoria) in the paraverse has ever realized that Victoria’s aura could have such long-lasting impact on Amy.

            A large part of misunderstanding between the sisters may be coming from the fact that they are missing this critical piece of information. Victoria said that Amy doesn’t get to use the excuse of being a victim, because she is not Victoria’s victim. The problem with this reasoning is that the influence of Victoria’s aura means that Amy actually is a victim of Victoria’s careless and ignorance to some extent.

          4. Now someone just needs to mention the topic of Amy’s love and/or Victoria’s aura around Tattletale, so that Lisa will be able to explain that the whole tragedy began even before the bank job, and that it began from Victoria’s actions. Remember how back in chapter 3.1 Victoria asked Tattletale “Do you regret your part in what happened with my sister?” What if Tattletale with have to make Victoria ask herself the same question?

        3. >R-RAPE
          Yea last time I checked rape reverses the effects of deadly injuries. What a brainless reading of the text, you do a disservice to all rape victims (including yourself of you are one) with this comparison.

          1. Molesting a patient during a life saving surgery is still molestation, still a crime, still morally wromg, and still antithetical to everything doctors and medical personnel are supposed to strive for.

            I’d point out how you did a disservice to all such victims with your bland reading of the text, but that would seem ham handed, tactless, spiteful, and unfair.
            Instead, or rather, in addition I’ll just ask you to tone down your rhetoric when talking about rape victims since you don’t have insight into every single valid response.
            Thank you.

      3. Nah, Amy is absolutely the bad one. Victoria did very little wrong. Like, her list of “crimes” pretty much amounts to:
        – Beat up some literal Nazis “too much”
        – Was a bit self-centered as a teenager

        Amy, on the other hand, basically committed a crime equivalent to rape against Victoria. In reality many people who commit terrible crimes have had various tragedies in their lives. That doesn’t make them stop being crimes, and it *certainly* doesn’t mean their victims should forgive them.

        Amy is basically a more realistic take on the mindset of people who commit actual crimes like rape, murder, etc. She might warrant some sympathy if she actually followed Victoria’s wishes, but as is it is literally like a rapist repeatedly trying to convince their victim that they had a hard time too. Even if it’s true, and even if they did experience tragedies during their life, their victim still has *zero* obligation to forgive them, much less speak to them again.

        It baffles my mind that so many people in these comments don’t understand this. Victoria spent months/years (forget the exact amount of time) experiencing something hellish and traumatic because of Amy. If Amy understood that and was a decent person, she would realize that there’s nothing she can ever do to somehow “make up” for that. But unfortunately she is not a very good person.

    1. Worm used to update on midnight Tuesdays, and every so often we’d have interludes on Thursdays. Then Wildbow slowed up, which is probably better for his health. Don’t want him to work himself to death like a Manga artist.

      1. Seconding the being okay with late chapters. I can be patient for a few hours on release days if it means we get consistently good-quality material like this.

  2. Okay, so Amy is the biggest cunt in the story so far, but, unfortunately for Victoria, she’s a useful cunt.

    Based on what I am reading, Amy most likely has been knocking out Victoria and erasing her memories of every talk they had and then retrying again and again.

    Every single time is a fuck-up and an abuse of her powers. But what she’s saying about more Kronos Titans is fucked up.

    Dinah Alcott would definitely know about the more broken triggers and her solution might be a good one: Cull the parahumans.

    By using the anti-parahuman faction, she can attempt to kill a lot of parahumans to minimize the strain. Using a tone-down version of Path to Victory, this might actually be the best realistic plan. Which makes her more dangerous than Teacher at this point because only a few people really knowing she’s active.

    1. Holy shit I did not worry ENOUGH apparently, because Amy save-scumming this conversation with her powers sound simultaneously icky, Amy and Wildbow enough to be true.

      Why do you do this to me?

      1. To prepare you when Wildbow does this to us in the next chapter: an Amy Interlude.

        1. Hmmn the save scumming never occurred to me, I’d assumed she was talking about stuff from the initial fuck up, and two years as the Amy loving blob. Also is even Amy so stupid to let that slip? But I find it more pathetic than “Oh no this is unforgivable Amy is the Worst!” Probably because for me the moral event horizon for Amy would be Vicky waking up and thinking “Seeing Amy like this, I couldn’t hate her anymore. Maybe I should give forgiving her a try.”

          1. “is even Amy so stupid to let that slip?”
            After the 4th loop, it’s pretty hard to stick to the script…
            Also, I don’t think Amy wants the easy way out. She voluntarily went to the Birdcage, and she kept trying to talk to Victoria for months despite being violently physically or verbally rejected every single time.
            She may be welcoming this as punishment for what she did, and a lack of communication ends up feeling worse in her point of view. Of course, Victoria feels the complete opposite.

            Their relationship is complicated to say the least.

          2. That.. Would make a lot of sense. Especially with the extra marks in the break. Ugh.. I kinda hope not. There is still a little part of me that hopes Amy isn’t beyond redemption.. But that’s a sure signal, for me, that Antares is right and Amy needs to Go Away.

          3. I never thought of that, but the comment section was very convincing. What could be the significance of colour of the marks in the break? Would red point to instances where Victoria attacked Amy/tried to flee?

      2. “Save-scumming” may not wort that well for Amy in the long run. Note that she confirmed that Victoria’s memory blocks were getting undone. Could it be that Engel’s power affected Victoria exactly as I suspected, and as soon as Victoria returns to Gimel, she will get herself a hefty dose of Engel’s power just to make sure that Amy didn’t mess with her memories again?

        I also wonder just how long Victoria’s been imprisoned at this point. If memory manipulation has been involved, it could be that Victoria has been having those conversations with Amy for many days, weeks, or even months and just not remember them. It could also explain why Amy seemed to both be so cold, and to have a perfect response to everything Victoria said – if the sisters had this conversation multiple times already, Amy could simply no longer react as emotionally, and at the same time would know what to expect from Victoria and how to react to it.

        (Though maybe I’m wrong about this one – between her bedside manner we saw in Worm when she healed Skitter after Leviathan’s attack, and the fact that she spent years in the Birdcage, I suspect that Amy could be quite good at hiding her more emotionally vulnerable side when she wants to. Question is – could she hide it from Victoria?)

        Also note that Amy is not the only one who is cheating here. Victoria outright admitted to herself that she lied to Amy about her feelings, and I must say that the explanations she gave Amy in that regard did feel a bit like “Victoria’s” diary – not reflecting Victoria’s true feelings, but close enough to possibly fool an outside observer like Amy.

        Finally I find Amy ‘us’/’them’ slip up about Gimel and Shin interesting. Could it indicate that Amy has actually far more control over situation in Shin than she appeared to in the previous chapters? What if Amy actually rules the planet, or least is able to deal with Shin governments like equal? Maybe this whole thing with Shin governments not trusting parahumans in general was actually an act made to convince Shin diplomats that leaving Victoria on Shin was necessary, so that Amy could do what she wanted with Victoria and nobody on Gimel would suspect a thing? Could it be the reason why Carol suggested “escape”? Could it be that Carol first and foremost wanted her daughter to leave Shin before Amy got her hands on Victoria, because she knew what Amy was planning to do?

        Finally, if the Wardens are intentionally keeping the most powerful capes out of the city, why did they send Visita there as soon as fighting in Africa was over?

        1. Also, if Amy told the truth about not using her power to heal Victoria’s hand, that the shape of that hand seems to indicate that indeed a lot of time has passed since Victoria was wounded, further making it likely that Victoria and Amy indeed had this conversation multiple times already.

          Finally – if the conversation happened multiple times already, and Victoria was indeed trying to cheat by not telling Amy her true feelings, I suspect that Amy knows, as it seems unlikely that Victoria managed to come up with precisely the same lies every single time.

          1. One more thing – if this whole situation was set up by the Red Queen, could it be that Wardens knew, and allowed it? Remember that they supposedly had someone watching over Amy. Perhaps Wardens and Amy agreed to do it to Victoria together? Maybe this is why Breakthrough were given their mission to deal with the anti-parahuman rally at the beginning of this arc in the first place – just to fabricate a pretext to send Victoria to Shin? Sounds like a dickish thing for Wardens to do, but at the same time practically everyone who understands Victoria must know that she needed to have a confrontation with Amy to get over her inner demons. Maybe even someone like Tattletale suggested this move to the Wardens?

            Maybe Wardens agreed to do it, because they need someone they can trust to be emotionally stable to coordinate other hero teams in the city during their absence? Considering the hero network Breakthrough has managed to organize Victoria is a natural person to do it, but she can’t be trusted with something as important as this if she can’t get over her problems with Amy, can she?

          2. By the way if Wardens and Amy set this trap on Victoria, it could explain Solarstare’s words about Victoria being a “fucky sort of monster” in a way that doesn’t even require Solarstare to be a precog – it could be that it were the Wardens and Amy who wanted to “fuck” with Victoria, and Solarstare knew it simple because she is one of the Wardens.

          3. It seems likely to me that Amy used her power on the detached bit of flesh before the doctors put it back on.

            This would allow her to see “I didn’t use my powers on you.” as the truth, while still having dome something to ‘help’ her sister, which she desperately wants.

            It also doesn’t require Amy to have any nefarious motivations, while at the same time allowing her to be ‘accidentally’ deceptive, and to ‘accidentally’ add to Victoria’s body horror. Where, if that is the case, did the extra mass for the missing parts come from? Dot, maybe?

          4. You know what Michael Silverbane? Your explanation sounds quite plausible to me, and it could mean that not that much time has passed since Victoria has been knocked out. Probably still much more than 12 hours Citrine promised, but not necessarily a month or two…

        2. Vista is powerful, and she’s powerful over a large area, but she’s actually *less* powerful in the city than out, so they might think it cancels out. And also, she’s not one of the most powerful capes, though she’s probably powerful enough, with a specific power that makes her more powerful as far as this thing goes than she would otherwise be.

          And, most importantly of all, they need to keep some of their top tier capes in the City for the sake of appearances, with maybe strict restrictions and such to make sure there’s not too many all at once. Plus, the moment she came back to the City, she went to Shin. That’s not keeping her in the city.

          1. Remember that according to “semi-canonical image by Wildbow” Vista was supposedly the most powerful shaker among the Eastern Coast Wards. See here if you don’t believe me: https://worm.fandom.com/wiki/File:Vistaisvista.png

            Also while Vista may be Mantoned in the city, remember what she did to Brockton Bay during confrontation with March. If Amy is right, deploying Vista there, and having go nuts with her power like she did seems like an extremely bad idea. On the other hand perhaps the Wardens fully understand just how bad the situation is because Kronos titan was created during a battle during which Vista not only “folded Brockton Bay into a box”, but even added Killington into the mix.

            As for keeping powerful capes in the city for the sake of appearances, I don’t see how Vista could be a person to do it. Most people in the city probably see her as a minor and a rank and file member the Wardens first, and a powerful cape second. It has been noted multiple times that Vista keeps getting underestimated by most people. If you want to convince people that the Wardens have a strong presence in the city, you should send one of their adult leaders with an established decades-long reputation there, not someone like Vista.

          2. One more thing – if we realized that Amy could have been removing Victoria’s memories, then it is likely that Victoria will realize it too if she hasn’t already. I wonder if the realization will make Victoria angry enough to make a breakout attempt on her own, and how many lines will she be willing to cross to escape? We haven’t seen her fully utilize all three of her powers at once for a while now. Is this the moment she will do it?

          3. By the way – if Amy is indeed trying to get the results she wants from Victoria by repeatedly manipulating her memories, doesn’t the situation look a bit like that time when Alexandria tried to break Taylor? Let’s hope the results will not be as tragic…

          4. Yep, but that’s the East Coast Wards. So only those Wards in Brockton, Boston, New York, and so on down to Texas and Florida. She’s not the outright most powerful Shaker in the Wards, nor the most powerful Shaker in the protectorate. She’s a very powerful cape, probably top-tier. And who’s to say the Wardens are rotating the powerful into the city to keep the non-parahumans happy? Vista’s a big name in the cape community, and the heroes probably know Vista by sight- or at least by power use. Breakthrough didn’t know any of this, remember- possibly the Warden high command is keeping it from as many people as possible. Vista might not know all these details.

            It’s also possible that they aren’t rotating them for ‘appearances’, but rather to ensure they’ve always got a heavy-hitter available in the City. Vista’d count for that, I think.

          5. One more thing regarding Victoria’s possible escape attempt – if Victoria’s memories have been repeatedly deleted, and as much time has passed between the fight in the prison and the last scene as shape of Victoria’s hand seems to indicate, it may be possible that Victoria is nowhere near the prison or the portal. Victoria could break out of the building only to realize that she was kept in whatever residence the Red Queen has on that landmass in the middle of Atlantic.

          6. By the way if Amy is working on Victoria with Wardens’ premission, it is entirely possible that some or even none none of the Shin diplomats (the ones who came with Victoria and/or Citrine with Number Man) actually left the planet. Amy might have been lying about that too.

        3. This whole theory is dumb if Amy has been save scumming this whole time than Victoria and other people would realize the time disparity during or afterwards makeing Amy’s save scumming pointless also if she was why would she want the guard in the room. And I don’t think Amy knowingly/intentionally healed Victoria’s hand because if she did why wouldn’t she just fix her entire hand instead of growing back 1 fingernail. It makes much more sense that her power reflectively went to heal Victoria on it’s own but couldn’t finish before Amy let go of Victoria It’s very possible that Amy herself doesn’t even know about the fingernail.

          1. I think that Amy may no longer care about the time disparity, or even if Victoria realizes it, as long as she gets what she wants from Victoria before Victoria notices how much time has passed.

            As for the fingernail, I doubt that Amy used her power to regrow it. If this was the case Victoria’s entire hand wood be in pristine condition already. I think that Amy has been messing only with Victoria’s brain this time, and simply enough time has passed for the fingernail to grow back on its own.

          2. Remember that in Carol’s own words Amy is not “well”. What if she even managed to delude herself to the point where she thinks that once she reaches some sort of understanding with Victoria, it won’t even matter if Victoria learns that her memories were blocked? Perhaps Amy even believes that once they reconcile she will be even able to remove all memory blocks, and Victoria won’t hate her anymore for creating those blocks in the first place?

          3. Fingernails take a long time to regrow, on the order of three to six months. Would her hand still have stitches if it had been that long? And that level of swelling? I doubt that much time has passed.

            I think this is most likely either her original nail, a prosthetic, or a donation.

          4. Remember that those two fingernails Victoria has in place of the ones she has lost are soft and wobbly, they haven’t fully re-grown yet. Also remember that Shin is apparently full of pathogens people from Shin are not immune against. Even with proper vaccination I suspect that Victoria may risk a long-lasting infection with a wound as bad as the one she suffered. Between those two facts I could believe that something like two months (plus or minus a couple of weeks) have passed if no powers accelerated the healing process.

          5. I take it you’ve never lost a nail? Naturally regrown nails are neither soft nor wobbly (though Victoria didn’t actually describe them as soft; “tender” always means “sore” in the context of an injury). They grow from near the back of the last digit and slowly creep toward the fingertip at a rate of about a tenth millimeter per day, and they’re hard and firmly attached from the very beginning. If Victoria’s nail were only partially regrown, it would have been obvious because it would have only covered part of her finger. She’d have said something and followed a different line of thought.

            A wobbly nail is usually due to either the nail being ripped up off the nail bed, or the nail bed itself becoming unhealthy (the stereotypical example would be due to striking a thumb with a hammer, but I imagine having the nail bed removed from the finger and then reattached would also do it, and of course an infection could cause it as well).

          6. Funny thing, I’m actually not sure if I have ever lost an entire nail. I seem to remember it happening once to me when I was very young, but it is entirely possible that I just had a nightmare about it. I do remember having a soft, tender partly grown back nail, but once again – it could simply be a half forgotten dream of a small child, not something that happened in reality.

          7. > Perhaps Amy even believes that once they reconcile she will be even able to remove all memory blocks, and Victoria won’t hate her anymore for creating those blocks in the first place?

            Maybe it is the opposite? Maybe Amy accepted the fact that no reconciliation will be possible at this point and is simply trying to convince Victoria that she is an asset the heroes can’t afford to lose? Once Victoria is convinced that this is the case, it shouldn’t matter much if she learns about any new memory blocks, at least as far as her plans to do something drastic to Amy (like exiling her) are concerned.

            Question is – would Amy be satisfied by merely being safe from Victoria? Somehow I find it difficult to believe.

          8. > it shouldn’t matter much if she learns about any new memory blocks, at least as far as her plans to do something drastic to Amy (like exiling her) are concerned.

            I think it would matter a lot. It would make Vicky want to do something drastic even more (do you think her hatred for Amy has an upper limit? hah!), and she would certainly use these blocks as an argument for Wardens to go through with the exile. Or maybe Vicky wouldn’t even be content with exile anymore and would try to kill her, realizing that Wardens wouldn’t be likely to think that the situation warrants a kill order.
            And as for Amy being an asset the heroes can’t afford to lose, it was kinda obvious from the very beginning, given her power.

          9. If Amy manages to convince Victoria that she is an indispensable asset, she will be safe no matter how much Victoria hates her. Maybe Amy is ready to accept that nothing short of brainwashing will make Victoria not hate her, and she will decide be honest and show Victoria entire truth she’s been hiding behind the memory blocks no matter how much more it would make Victoria hate her?

            Remember that Amy is in a position of power where Victoria can’t do anything to her as long as the sisters aren’t physically close to each other, and even then Victoria’s hand are tied both by the fact that if something happened to Amy Gimel would lose its primary source of supplies, and by the fact that despite her hatered Victoria would probably never murder her sister (or at least Amy probably doesn’t believe that Victoria would do it).

          10. If Amy wanted to be extra safe, she could have Victoria knocked out again (preferably by someone who is monitoring wht is going in the cell while sitting outside of Victoria’s aura range and can just press a button to dose Victoria with a drug like the one she was given by that doctor in this chapter). After that Amy could remove all memory blocks and leave before Victoria wakes up.

            I imagine that if Amy has indeed been blocking Victoria’s memories of this conversation and starting over, it could be because Victoria eventually turned violent and had to be sedated each time Amy tried to talk to her.

          11. Victoria already knows that Amy is (and always was) an indispensable asset, but she’s irrational enough to disregard that. And with enough hate, I wouldn’t even rule out a premeditated murder, when she doesn’t kill Amy in a fit of rage but plans it so that it won’t hurt supplies for Gimel (or maybe plots something to make Shin’s government execute her). She is clearly going in that direction with her plans for exile, even if she didn’t go that far yet.

          12. One thing to remember is that Victoria’s hatered for Amy is actually not as certain to last as Victoria wants Amy to think. I remember that Victoria reacted with hatred back in Brockton Bay when Amy messed with her brain, but after years in hospital? I think that chapter 14.6 may be the first time in Ward when Victoria admitted she honestly hated Amy. When Amy touched Victoria in this chapter, she has seen that hatred, but Victoria lied to her suggesting that she hated Amy much longer than she actually has:

            I had to play along. I didn’t want to lie, and I wasn’t even sure I could, but… she seemed genuinely shaken by what she’d taken in when she touched me, reading my emotions. There was a crack.

            And it sucked, but a cracked Amy was the only Amy I could hope to budge in the slightest. Push too hard and she’d fold into herself and go back to being stubborn.

            If I didn’t push at all, she’d steamroll over me.

            Similar thing with anger – Victoria hasn’t been constantly angry at Amy (or anyone else for that matter) for years, like she suggested. She definitely hasn’t been “cultivating it, channeling it” like she said. If anything, her Warrior Monk persona was all about getting herself rid of her anger. But Amy doesn’t know it, because she really didn’t have much chance to interact with Victoria since her days as Glory Girl.

            The only truly persistent feeling that Amy recognized in her sister is fear.

            I believe that Victoria is intentionally trying to present herself as more dangerous and less likely to ever forgive Amy than she really is to gain a psychological advantage. Victoria is very unlikely to outright murder Amy simply because she hasn’t hated her long enough to actually get to a point where she would plan a cold-blooded murder, and is probably not angry enough for a crime of passion.

            In other words if Victoria would have to choose between having to fight Amy and flee from her, she would probably flee, but if Amy knew it, Victoria would lose all psychological leverage she has on her. Suggesting to Amy that there is no chance to ever reconcile is also an element of psychological warfare – one meant to weaken Amy’s resolve by crushing her hope.

            What Victoria is trying to do to Amy is actually quite unfair, and is reducing their chances to reconcile simply by signaling to Amy that there is no reason for her to ever try to reach out to Victoria in the future, but short-term it may be an effective negotiation tactic – one that levels the field, or possibly even gives Victoria an advantage by exploiting Amy’s own fears and insecurities. It is also, like I said in another comment, a lie comparable to “Victoria’s” fake diary – the diary described false motivations for Victoria’s actions, what Victoria is telling Amy right now is a false history behind things she felt at the exact moment when Amy “put her to sleep” with her touch.

            Of course the question is – will Amy believe Victoria’s bluff, and how will she react to it? I believe she may try to “cut ties” by removing all memory blocks as a “parting gift” of sorts, let Victoria go to Shin, and try to avoid all contact in the future as much as possible.

          13. Maybe comparing what Victoria is doing to Amy to the fake diary is not quite accurate. Maybe it would be better to say that it is like that comedy the heroes are playing outside of the bunker to deceive Teacher. It also carries similar risks – Victoria may mostly try to fake her anger (something she has been trying to free herself from) and hatred (something she may forget as soon as she is in a less hostile environment) to downplay her fear, and to break Amy psychologically, but there is always a risk that those emotions will become more real with time if Victoria takes her act too far.

            I doubt however that Victoria will be ready to kill Amy anytime soon (at least unless feels cornered and sees absolutely no other way to defend herself from her sister).

        4. > What if Amy actually rules the planet, or least is able to deal with Shin governments like equal? Maybe this whole thing with Shin governments not trusting parahumans in general was actually an act made to convince Shin diplomats that leaving Victoria on Shin was necessary, so that Amy could do what she wanted with Victoria and nobody on Gimel would suspect a thing? Could it be the reason why Carol suggested “escape”?

          In this case Carol should not have signaled Victoria by writing in English on the glass where Amy could see it. Carol should have said something after “She’s not well”. And Carol should not have signaled “Escape” in Morse but rather “Run!”.

          1. It could be that Carol and Mark also wanted to escape, and need help to do it, but simply considered (or should have considered) Victoria’s escape a higher priority. In other words the best result would be that Victoria, Carol, and Mark would leave Shin together, but even if Victoria managed to run first, and then try to organize a rescue expedition for her parents it could also lead to a good enough resolution.

    2. I agree on every point, except on Amy erasing Victoria’s short term memories to talk to her. Possible perhaps, but I think it’s not managable due to Shin being hostile towards Amy. They probably don’t want her to stick around in the prison for long, assuming she might try to break them out or something.

      We already knew the thing about Broken Triggers, March and the Harbingers had hinted at it.
      Dinah’s role is still a mystery.
      I doubt that she really plans on getting rid of capes (in which case she would probably cooperate with Shin), because it seems out of character for her. She didn’t strike me as the kind of person who’d support killing that many people.

    3. > Based on what I am reading, Amy most likely has been knocking out Victoria and erasing her memories of every talk they had and then retrying again and again.

      Hmm. That’s an interesting reading, I can’t say there is much (if even any) evidence in favor of it, but there isn’t evidence against it either. I guess we’ll see later if it was the case. If true, it would turn my opinion about Amy nearly 180 degrees around.

      > Dinah Alcott would definitely know about the more broken triggers and her solution might be a good one: Cull the parahumans.

      …oh my forking god, not this craziness again.

      1. No evidence? WB using the exact same page break as when Imp was doing her own save scumming in arc 11, five times in a row, should be hints enough. But then Amy is also navigating the converasation as if she knows exactly what Victoria will say, jumping right to 15 min.,not being shocked at the exile plan, going straight to the overall cape problem, and acting very selg assured. Beyond actually telling us directly,or could hardly be more clear what Amy is doing.

        1. …just saying hello to the commenting system. I tried to post a reply several times here, and my comment consistently gets eaten.

          1. Let’s try again here…

            Yeah, I went overboard with the “if even any” part, there is some evidence. It’s weak, because everything what you said could be interpreted differently; the strongest part is 5 breaks, but I initially read it as Victoria’s immense shock from Amy touching her. What happens afterwards…
            > Amy is also navigating the converasation as if she knows exactly what Victoria will say
            > acting very selg assured
            Didn’t read it like that. In my view, Amy was just as insecure and desperate as she always was.
            > jumping right to 15 min.,not being shocked at the exile plan
            See previous point. Not very surprising, given that Vicky’s hatred for her is well-known already (and Amy had just *felt* it in its entirety through her power).
            > going straight to the overall cape problem
            Well, after feeling what Vicky feels, Amy finally lost (most of) her hope to reconcile with her, and now just tries to communicate some stuff of critical importance.
            Also, I don’t see how this conversation would benefit Amy, if she was save-scumming and settled for this iteration as the last one. That’s a weak evidence against it, in my view. For now, I’m fine with having weak evidence pointing both ways, I don’t think we have to come to a definite conclusion right away.

      2. >> Dinah Alcott would definitely know about the more broken triggers and her solution might be a good one: Cull the parahumans.

        >…oh my forking god, not this craziness again.

        Maybe it is nothing so extreme. Chances are that Dinah could try to use the anti-parahumans not to kill capes, but to simply convince or force as many of them as possible to leave the city.

        1. Chances are that Dinah doesn’t have anything at all to do with anti-parahumans, as all the evidence we have seen up to this point consistently (and unsurprisingly) points to Teacher.

          1. The way I remember it, Dinah doesn’t micromanage whoever she gives orders to (presumably anti-parahumans), so she may be perfectly happy if someone like Teacher does it for her. With her precognition it is entirely possible that Teacher helps her achieve her goals without even knowing what they are. For reference – this is what Teacher had to say about Dinah in Scapegoat’s interlude:

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

            Things may have changed since then, and it is even entirely possible that Teacher managed to capture and master Dinah, but I suspect that even if this happened it would ultimately only serve to bring the future that Dinah, not Teacher, wanted. She might have been used by Coil once, because she didn’t know what questions she needs to ask to avoid something like this, just like Contessa could if she didn’t stop using her power (assuming obviously that Contessa’s capture wasn’t simply a step on one of her Paths).

          2. It’s worth taking into account that we don’t know anything at all about Dinah’s actions yet. The only reason why we keep having this discussion over and over are Teacher’s words which you have quoted. There’s literally zero evidence whatsoever, besides them. And taking Teacher’s words into account here would be kind of like meeting Jack Slash going out of a dark alley with a bloody knife in his hands and saying “go look over there, some ten-year-old kid had just murdered someone”. Yup, totally makes sense.

            And regarding Dinah possibly circumventing Teacher’s mastering: it would be possible with her power, but not very likely. Her power is less suited to such applications than Contessa’s. Contessa: “Path: avoid getting mastered”, and here you go. Dinah: “Chances I get mastered if I enact plan A? Okay, bad. Plan B? Still bad. … Plan XYZ?.. Okay, fuck that, try looking what happens in a future when I don’t get mastered. Errr…what’s that…Kronos dropped Simurgh on Teacher’s head?! Shit, I’m out of action for the next month.”

          3. I don’t think that Teacher had a reason to lie in that situation. As for Dinah using her power to avoid capture – sure, it may be less suited for that purpose than Contessa’s, but remember that Contessa said even back in chapter 30.7 that she wanted to use her power less, while I suspect that Dinah would probably be traumatized enough by what Coil did to her to never stop asking questions that would ensure that something like this won’t happen to her again.

            In other words I believe that any deficiencies Dinah’s power would have in this area when compared to Contessa’s could be offset by Dinah’s personal history which would lead her to never let her guard down the way Contessa apparently did.

          4. Yup, and I don’t think Jack had a reason to lie in the situation I described, did he?

            As for never stopping to ask questions to avoid capture – her power has pretty heavy limitations against that. She could try, but she would unable to use her power for anything else, while not even guaranteeing the desired result because the process of searching for it would be infinite guesswork similar to what I described. Although it might help her avoid capture in an indirect way – by rendering her useless to any potential captor.

    4. I doubt that. If Amy wanted to influence Vic like that she would have manipulated her mind while she was unconscious. She is well able to manipulate feelings and block off memories. So Vic loving Amy with all her heart “would have been doable”.
      Objectively, the fact that Amy didnt do that should put Vic somewhat at ease.

      Not taking a glass of water from Amy shows how irrational Vic is when it comes to her sister.

      What puzzles me a lot more is that BT really accepted Vic to be taken away all alone. even if Kenz has a bug on her. Because Shin really wants to harm them and are a clear danger. Not an imagined one like Amy.

  3. Or the final possibility. That Amy had lied to me, more than once, in the course of our conversation. It would be cause for simultaneous gut-wrenching horror and relief; it would suggest she’d used her power on me and hadn’t told me the full truth, but it would also gave some reason to doubt her interpretation of what was coming.

    In that, at least, I really wanted her to be voting for Ward.

    http://topwebfiction.com/vote.php?for=ward

  4. And therein comes the fridge horror.

    If Amy did this, then lied about it. What else did she do to Victoria while she was out?

    Also also, *why* did an alleged local anaesthetic knock Victoria out in the first place?

    (Oh, and backfilling on why Valkyrie wants to avoid the City, goodie)

    Amy, you might want to consider earning some goodwill by honest means before playing the “I’m a victim too”, because if we use that as a basis to exonerate school shooters and rapists and serial killers, the world is going to become a much messier place.

    1. Probably because they weren’t local anaesthetics but fast-acting barbiturates.
      This entire prison segment is basically a rehearsed act from Shin, and Amy probably anticipated (or, if you see her as more selfish and evil, pushed for) this ‘they need to bleed’ brawl. She also knew they wouldn’t fully use powers due to the whole trade deal and terrible consequences, so there would likely be a need for medical assistance.
      Just make sure to get Victoria knocked out, extradite her team back to Gimel, and Amy’s got her wish of talking to her. As long as she wants, in looping chunks of half- to quarter-hours, depending how she negotiates each time she wakes back up.

    2. Ok, I usually don’t comment much down here, but this I have to say: comparing Amy to a serial killer or rapist is absolutely insane. Considering what we know about powers, the fact that she used her own in an aggressive/selfish way three times in 5 (I’m assuming 5, may be more) years, two of which were accidents.

      She spent years healing people, and the first time she hurts someone with her powers she volunteered herself for the harshest punishment on Earth Bet. The first time she slipped up, and you can’t even say that it was completely her fault, she decided to throw herself into a prison that she knew she would die in and that she was saved from only because the world was ending.

      Everyone in these comments is just ignoring what little of Amy we had from Worm and that we’re seeing Amy through the eyes of someone who literally JUST told us wants to see her dead.

      Yes. Amy is a victim. 100%, and if you think she’s not you’re simply wrong. Not saying that Victoria is wrong in being angry, or that Amy is doing the right thing in trying to reconciliate, but you can’t seriously be telling me that you see Amy on the same level as you would see Hookwolf.

      1. What is wrong with you people?

        Please, tell me how this is any different from a surgeon raping someone. After all, they save so many people, so is it really so bad if they traumatize one or two? This wasn’t a “slip of the knife.” The other “mistake” happened to another blond girl as a way of showing that this was only a “mistake” in the sense of “Amy giving into her impulses/desires.” You can pretty clearly draw an analogy to rape; the only difference is that Amy can commit her crime more easily.

        The only way this could have possibly been partially “excused” is if Amy realized the magnitude of her mistake and actually never spoke to or touched Victoria again. But she not only didn’t, but even explicitly thinks that Victoria owes her conversation. What happened to Victoria was absolutely on the level of a crime like rape, and you guys are acting like it’s irrational for a victim to not allow their rapist to touch them. If you hurt someone else to the degree Amy hurt Victoria (and nothing Victoria did is even remotely comparable – her crimes amount to being a somewhat self-centered teen and hurting literal Nazis too much), they owe you nothing. It doesn’t matter how bad you feel or what other bad experiences you have had. You can argue that society owes Amy mental healthcare, and I would agree, but Victoria as a person will never owe her anything.

        I’ve said this before in comments sections to these chapters, but it is genuinely distressing to see comments like this.

    3. > Amy, you might want to consider earning some goodwill by honest means before playing the “I’m a victim too”

      It’s not like she didn’t. First by willingly going to prison (from which she couldn’t expect to ever get out), then by continuing to heal people and by helping with the Goddess situation. It’s just that Amy’s any attempt to earn goodwill, by any means, is worth a precious zero (if not a negative value) in Vicky’s eyes.

      1. I find it funny how wholeheartedly readers take up Vics POV.

        Even after Vic admits to herself how biased she is when it comes to Amy.

        As things look here Amy even tried to heal her hand in a way that wont freak out Vic. Not to get credits or goodwill but just so she can spare Vic some pain.

      2. Worse, I think it doesn’t feel like it matters to her if she earns goodwill with others if Vicky still hates her.

  5. Why is there something about this chapter that reminds me of the transistion of Taylor to Khepri? The way I’m not sure about what to take of the viewpoint character’s input at face value? Damn. The city’s not the only thin ice threatening to break.

    1. Well, at least Taylor asked Amy to do it, being only partially aware of the potential consequences and bitterly regretting some of them once all was said and done.
      I doubt Victoria would choose that path. Or ask her out of all the Trump parahumans.

  6. Terrible revelations typo thread:

    ““Take some of us with you if you need.”
    Missing closing quotes.

    1. navigate to (missing word. maybe “navigate was intentional, to”
      -this-‘ > -this-‘ (backwards apostrophe)
      attached it as normal. (should be question mark)

    2. > You said you loved me but well before you made me into the w- into that mess that had to go to the hospital, […]

      I’m not sure if lowercase ‘w-‘ is a typo here. Victoria obviously didn’t want to mention the name ‘Wretch’ next to Amy, but I also seem to recall that Victoria might have distinguished between ‘wretch’ meaning her body during those two years before GM, and ‘Wretch’ meaning her forcefield (and possibly sometimes herself or her power in general) after Amy put her body back together.

  7. I was really hoping for Amy to point out how Glory Girl accidentaly brainwashed her with steady aura use all the way through puberty.

    Vicky has some dissonance to face.

    1. Would she even be aware of this ? Not many parahumans have the ability to introspect that much, especially after being exposed for years. Hard to tell real from power shenanigans at that point.
      Even being insta-whammied by Goddess didn’t really leave any of the affected clearly aware of it either, just a feeling that whoa, she’s important and I should really do what she wants.
      Anyway, there’s a good chance Amy will not bring this up at all. Maybe Tattletale could power it out given the opportunity… but it hardly matters enough in her eyes.

    2. Nah. If that comes out, I want it to be somebody who isn’t Amy. Somebody who has no reason to lie. Because then it’s gonna have more impact. And it will be undeniable. Like…
      “You hate your sister for violating your mind, your emotions? But Victoria, don’t you realize you altered her first? Your aura… Always on at low levels. That constant exposure, and with Amelia at such a malliable stage in her life, and so needing that one person she could trust…”
      “Even if that’s true, I never used my power intentionally like she did.”
      “No? Please Victoria. You nudged her all the time, to guilt her, to get her to clean up your messes, to get her to go along with something because you’d felt it would be good for her. We both know this to be true.”

      1. I want Scapegoat to be the one to do it. He’d probably even know if he ever got a chance to work on Amy.

      1. Thought it was more of a “Sure Why Not” from Wildbow at one point.

        Besides It’s still a good twist.

        1. I do recall that being heavily discussed around the end of Worm, but truthfully I recall this being plot points in fanfics.

          1. Fanfics are most definitly not Canon though. Or a lot of characters are a lot nicer, and a few a lot less nice than they actually are.

        2. That’s not a confirmation.

          Not really. The emotional manipulation between the two aren’t even on the same level. It’s just Amy sympathy garnishing fanfic at best.

        3. No, the “Sure, why not?” was in regards to the idea that Pact and Twig take place in alternate Earths within the Wormverse.

        4. It wasn’t a “sure why not”. Someone posted the theory and Wildbow replied to say he’d wondered if anyone would pay attention to that. That makes it pretty clear that it was his intention for it to be taken that way. It’s about as close to a yes as you can get without him actually saying yes.

      2. Heavily implied in the text and something that Wildbow specifically stated that he was wondering if people would pay attention to it. It’s safe to consider it canon.

        1. Well assuming he hasn’t simply changed his mind. It seems like there are some things he kinda got tired of being pestered about. Sleeper for example.

          Come to think of it did we ever find out the Three Blasphemies deal? One of the more agravating things in Parahumans is a lot of stuff that seems major gets brought up, but never really gets explored. It helps build the world, but I do hate unsolved mysteries.

          1. > Come to think of it did we ever find out the Three Blasphemies deal?

            Only that they are not human, have powers and can resurrect if at least one of them is alive.
            And regarding Sleeper – well, such a reaction on the part of the audience could be seen from a mile away. I think Wildbow did it exactly because of that 🙂 And given how detailed is his world, especially the major plot points like Entities, mechanics of getting powers and so on, I think we’ll find out about Sleeper eventually.

    3. I thought that was only ever nudges, encouraging Amy along certain paths, but not outright warping her sexuality. In other words, Amy was always going to be a lesbian, or at least bisexual, but the aura focused all the usual crushes and attractions that are part of growing up onto Vicky.

    4. Nah. Her aura has never been confirmed to have the lasting emotional effects that Amy did to Victoria. It’s not comparable. Wildbow even mentioned that the original person who commented on Vic’s aura long-term effecting Amy was stretching.

      1. No. Wildbow’s comment about stretching was in response to someone who was suggesting Vicky is some kind of general threat to people because of her emotion power. Because of course, she isn’t. Her effect on Amy *was* brought up in that post, but only in the context of whether or not a therapist would notice it.

      2. That was in response to someone saying that Victoria could be a danger to everyone around her by unknowingly brainwashing them.

    5. Really depends on how big of an effect it had. If it was enough to make Amy fall in love with Victoria… well yeah then Victoria faces a majority of the blame.

      OTOH, if it never has ANY sort of lasting effect then we can still blame Amy for most of it.

      Tattletale of course, always gets her chunk of blame.

      1. What? No. Of course she shouldn’t be blamed. Last I checked, being in love with someone is not an excuse for raping them (which is the best real-world analogy for what Amy did to Victoria – I feel like most people commenting on this are not even remotely comprehending the magnitude of what Amy did here – she physically mutilated and brainwashed Victoria, resulting in months of deep mental/emotional trauma), and there’s also no way for Victoria to have known that her aura would have this effect (or to have reasonably prevented it, for that matter).

    6. “I was really hoping for Amy to point out how Glory Girl accidentaly brainwashed her with steady aura use all the way through puberty.

      Victoria triggered when they were both 14. I’m convinced that Amy had romantic feelings for Victoria before then. Her aura may have made those feeling more intense.

      However, even if it Vic’s aura is entirely responsible for turning a sisterly love into a sexual one, it still in no way excuses what Amy did to Victoria. Amy loves and admires Vic so much she needs to turn her into a overpoweringly love-obsessed monstrosity? No.

      I’ve deleted what used to be an extended rant about Amy’s running away from consequences as I think it softens my main point: The strongest aura arguments in no way excuse Amy for what she did to Victoria.

  8. I don’t think it’s been dwelt upon much in the story or WOG, but I’m pretty sure Victoria does make a reference to it sometime earlier in this story, though it was more a passing consideration IIRC.

  9. If I’m being honest, in Worm I originally thought Glory Girl and Panacea were somewhat interesting, but blandly 2D in the Supers genre way.. Violent supergirl and traumatized trauma worker. This is so very much more interesting than that original vision, and I’m so happy to have gotten to saver the reading of this chapter like a fine wine. Such good writing, and a lovely reveal of a bigger picture, wrapped in one of the most emotionally tense scenes to date. Bravo!

  10. This chapter- The tension between Amy and Victoria, the mixture of information gathering and verbal sniping, the world-scale stakes outside of small-scale stakes, even- Might be my favorite “fight scene” out of everything in Worm and Ward. Wildbow’s really been nailing a lot of things in this story over the course of the past few arcs, but with this one I’m bemoaning the fact that there are days of the week between tuesday and saturday.

    Bravo.

  11. This chapter hurt my soul. I just wish they could learn to get along and work together and save the worlds — but there are no shortcuts, they have to grind through this pain first.

    Tragedies suck, man.

  12. I’ve been thinking with the current reactions toward Amy if anyone is reconsidering their views on Alec? He did rape a lot of people as Hijack and when he escaped his father preceded to live a hedonist lifestyle while stealing things. Say what you will about Amy she wants tried to be good person, Alex didn’t, so what do you guys think about him?

    And before you say he had a hard childhood, and he did, so did Amy and she was a wooble after Worm for a reason, so consider the fact that Alex abused raped and drugged a lot more people than Amy but because they weren’t on screen were they not as bad or because he was Taylor’s snarky funny cool friend does that make it ok?

    1. I’m pretty sure that Alec would be a tremendous piece of shit if he kept trying to reestablish contact with one of his victims and speak to/touch them.

      Otherwise, individual people can choose whether they want to forgive him, and he has to accept their judgement (note: this doesn’t extent to them committing crimes against him or anything). I’d rather that society/the government has an obligation to him (like all citizens) to provide mental health care, but on an interpersonal level it depends on the person.

      Part of what makes Amy so bad is that she refuses to realize that there’s no point where Victoria will owe her forgivesness. The actions she took were so bad that Victoria will never be able to feel comfortable around her – she has literal PTSD because of what Amy did. But because Amy is very self-centered she refuses to accept conclusions that she doesn’t want. Victoria commented on this a few chapters back; she noticed how Amy’s mind would obviously run up against the reality of the situation (there’s no way to fix what she did) and then she’d instinctively reject it and start shaking her head.

  13. So cute people trust Amy so much. Who really thinks Breakthrough would let Antares be alone in a prison like this, unconcious on top of that? Nah my money is on more body horror, Antares is with Breakthrough out in the prison. Amy’s power can do amazing things with a single fingernail left behind. Or blood, or skin from a hand… why not build a new body?

    1. Did they allow Victoria to stay in prison alone? How do we know Amy didn’t lie about it?

    2. Ooh, interesting. Reminds me of ‘the Prestige’, what with the impossibility to tell your own self apart from a copy. Hell, there might be 5 or 6 Victorias at that point.
      Khepri got to save the world by herself, will Antares do it as an army ?

    3. > why not build a new body?
      …That would explain five(!) symbols ⊙ before Victoria wakes up…

  14. Looks like all that research into capes Shin has done managed to bring some interesting results. Note that that drug they paralyzed Victoria with also managed to knock out her powers.

  15. No, Wildbow remarked ‘I wondered if anyone would pay attention to that’ when someone speculated about it. So he definitely had it in mind when writing Worm.

  16. Here is a radical way Victoria could turn tables on Amy. Amy clearly feels that she is in control of the situation. To make Amy tell her the truth, Victoria may need to shock her first. One way Victoria could do it could be to use her aura to make that guard unable to resist, punch a hole through the door using the Wretch, grab the guard and use him as a hostage.

    Considering Amy’s power Victoria could even mortally wound the guard and tell Amy “You have until this guy dies to tell me what is really going on here and what you’ve done to my head. If I’m satisfied with your answers I’ll leave and let you heal him, if he dies before I’m satisfied – you are next.”

    I’m obviously not saying that Victoria will do something like that. It would probably be a bit too extreme even for Taylor to do something like this in such situation, but I bet that if Victoria did something that, she would get honest answers from Amy very quickly.

    1. …and if the honest answer is really what Amy said here, she would be hard-pressed to come up with a lie which would sound nefarious enough for Vicky to believe it, but not enough for her to want to kill Amy on the spot.

  17. What Amy said about the broken triggers (more or less) confirms what we already know from previous characters. The Harbingers hinted at it at the start of the Earth N battle vs Cradle.
    Now about the situation – Citrine is already there. That was fast. Surprisingly, she didn’t get murdered on the way. Odd situation to have Victoria separated from her team right now. We don’t get to see what Citrine is doing.
    It is still very strange to me, how “okay” the characters are with the stituation, as if they were in there for a justified reason, when Shin only took them hostage to get leverage on Gimel and Amy, or perhaps to lure Citrine out. I think it is very likely that war with Shin is unavoidable at this point. Perhaps the Shin leaders think it’s best to get rid of capes in general – an easy solution to a complicated problem.

    1. > Perhaps the Shin leaders think it’s best to get rid of capes in general – an easy solution to a complicated problem.

      I don’t think so. Given how much they supposedly know about powers, they should realize that it’s not a solution to the problem, easy or otherwise. The shards would just connect to new people once their hosts died. If anything, killing capes would make things worse because it would mean more triggers and thus more odds of broken triggers.

      1. > If anything, killing capes would make things worse because it would mean more triggers and thus more odds of broken triggers.

        And simultaneously, less people who realize wtf is going on, let alone are able to do anything about it.

        1. Pretty much the only good outcome I can see is if a new “Hub” or entity is formed that can regulate Shards and triggers, but isn’t a horrible space monster that sucks it’s host dry in it’s quest to avoid dying with the universe. A kinder, gentler eldritch abomination.

          1. I can see a potentially even better possibility (at least better for humans) – something (maybe a temporary hub, maybe some other form of communication) that would reprogram or otherwise convince the shards to abandon their life cycle. It is not existance of shards that seems to be the big problem right now, but the fact that they are trying to reconnect into an entity.

  18. Jeezus Chris was a horribly fucked up situation Victoria got into. Who knows what happened to Tristan, Theo and Sveta after she went unconscious. Plus the multiple time skips might indicate Amy save scumming. Breaking up was probably a mistake, even though they had to get medical assistance.

    What the hell is Vic even gonna do with this new information? How is she gonna escape Amy?

  19. I’m just glad these two sisters got to have thier happy reunion with all that’s going on!

    ~Teian.

  20. “I worried about Theo. I worried about Tristan. Both had been slashed.”

    Ooooh!
    Oh wait, she means injured. Darn.

  21. “I am. Teacher believes it too, but he has bigger plans. He thinks he can control the damage and control what happens when it all comes together. He actually has something in common with one of your teammates, because when I look at the landscape-”

    Ok, which of Victoria’s teammates has “something in common” with Teacher, and what is it exactly? My gut feeling is that Amy’s comment has something to do with Rain, and his cluster’s ability to pull new people into it (plus whatever “stress” the fifth space is accumulating). Or maybe it is about Kenze and her tendency to connect to everyone through all available means? Does anyone suspect any other member of Breakthrough for some reason?

    Also, if Victoria’s shard will get its name, will it turn Victoria into another Kronos-sized problem?

    1. Or maybe Amy was talking about Ashley, and her ambition? Remember that considering that Bonesaw was the one who made first two sets of Ashley’s tinker-hands, Amy could know Ashley better than any Breakthrough member except Victoria and perhaps Chris. Maybe she saw something in Ashley Victoria hasn’t recognized yet?

      1. If Ashley is the problem, then perhaps it explains why she was singled out during the meeting with Shin representatives, and why Chris insisted that she should take the deal which would make her stay outside Gimel.

        1. …not to mention that Ashley would end up in a place where Amy’s group could keep an eye on her.

          The funny thing with “Ashley theory” is that it is Amy and Chris may be working based on assumptions that are no longer correct – Ashley probably no longer has an ambition to build an empire based on powers, but Amy’s group may have left too soon to realize it. Damsel on the other hand…

          1. And before you point out that, unlike Teacher, Damsel seems to have no means to control the mess that the shards are apparently about to create remember how Ashley original ised to operate – for her it was never about control, but about using the opportunities chaos provided. Damsel might have seen an opportunity for chaos in Kronos titan, and who knows, maybe she even wants to create more “opportunities” like that?

          2. Regarding the fact that Amy knows Ashley better than any Breakthrough member other than Victoria and possibly Chris – remember that those three were probably the only Breakthrough members that Amy has ever touched.

            Unlike with Victoria and Chris, we may have never been explicitly shown the moment when Amy used her power on Ashley, but we know that Riley replaced Ashley’s hands under Wardens supervision, that Amy was checking Riley’s work then, and that doing it involved touching the patient.

    2. Besides Rain’s contagious cluster, another commonality is the training application Victoria found for his variant of the emotion power, which parallels Teacher’s ability to tweak a cape’s powers to function better.

      But obviously Amy is referring to Natalie. She’s on the right track but hasn’t quite realized that the similarity is because Natalie is actually Teacher’s secret identity.

      1. The Natalie whose interlude we saw was the body-double who fills in when the real Natalie has pressing business elsewhere. She gives her a thinker power that lets her pretend she’s not pretending, just in case anyone tries getting clever with their novelty cameras and takes a peek at her inner monologue.

    3. > Ok, which of Victoria’s teammates has “something in common” with Teacher, and what is it exactly?

      I would guess it’s Chris, and what they have in common is their big plans and self-confidence in their ability to control whatever damage happens during implementing them.

  22. Typo thread.

    Just two ongoing problems this time:

    The sidebar is still missing a link to chapter 11.9.

    > “Yes. And Dauntless. The Kronos titan.”

    Word ‘titan’ has been inconsistently capitalized when used to describe what Dauntless has become ever since interlude 12.none.

  23. I really wanted Valkyrie to tell us she’s just a major introvert, and the real threat was the friends she made along the way.

  24. Here’s a thought about Teacher and Scapegoat – could it be that Scapegoat’s power repairs the “numbness” effect of Teacher’s power, the apparent lack of initiative and damage to personality of his students, but does nothing to remove the loyalty to Teacher imposed by his power?

    1. I’m pretty sure Scapegoat (at least as long as he’s boosted by Teacher) can choose which negative conditions he takes away from someone. So he could remove the numbness while keeping the loyalty, or keep the numbness while removing the loyalty, or remove both.
      We saw with Valefor that Scapegoat was able to give him the loyalty effect that Teacher had put on Scapegoat.
      Honestly, the Teacher/Scapegoat combo seems quite OP, I’m looking forward to them doing something crazy with it.

  25. So… up until now Amy has been stupid and misguided but whatevs.

    Showing up at a family dinner? Okay.
    Showing up with Goddess? Sure. That barely had anything to do with Victoria, that was just Amy’s weird ass poltical alliance, and the fact she tried to touch Victoria then makes SENSE given the Master effect she was under (probably should have touched a different team mate first, oh well).

    Showing up on Shin entrance? Sure, she had no choice there anyway.

    Here? What the fuck?
    The idea that Breakthrough would agree to this seems unlikely.
    The idea that MARQUIS would go along with this seems… honestly slightly out of character.

    The idea that the purpose of this is to warn Vicky about the thin ice threat is stupid: get Dad to do that.
    This whole situation is fucked up, and unlike previous encounters where Amy was in some way “expected” to be present, this is one entirely of her own making, and really really fucked up.

    I’m glad that she expressed her views, and the harsh situation she was in (that’s legit)… but in some sense….
    those situations I feel are enough to earn some measure of forgiveness from the universe. Maybe from her parents. Certainly from us readers.
    Those situations don’t mean much when it comes to asking for Victoria’s forgiveness.
    Amy is not owned a chance to speak to Victoria. She has the right to request one, from a distance, but not a right to force one.

    This is very stupid.
    … and kind of annoying, because when Amy is making mistakes she is an interesting and complex character. This puts her more in “probably just the villain” territory, which is less interesting.

    1. > Those situations don’t mean much when it comes to asking for Victoria’s forgiveness.

      Anything and everything doesn’t mean much for Victoria’s forgiveness. She is actually proud of refusing to let her thoughts about Amy be anything but “fuck off and die”, let alone any kind of forgiveness. She has done *one* fair thing in this chapter (honestly describing her plans for Amy), and that’s only because she cherished her hate so much she can’t keep it in even when she wants to.

    2. The fact that Amy gets more problematic and less reasonable every time we see her is probably as clear a sign that she’s in an escalating emotional crisis as anything.

  26. so….. amy deffo lied about healing victoria, and deliberately only partially healed her to avoid victoria being able to use that as ammo against her bc *amy isnt operating in good faith*

    poor victoria, this is the WORST arc for her. shes continually being made to feel powerless and victimized, having her worst nightmare continually shoved into her face and asking for more of her time and emotional labor. i want her to be reunited with breakthrough so sveta can give her an octopus hug so hard that shes partially consumed into her chest cavity

    citrine is gonna bust them out soon!! go citrine!!! PLEASE

  27. > I only used my power the once.
    > I checked you. I got a read of your system.
    > I did use my power, but it was like pulling my hand off a hot stove. Pushing you away, into unconsciousness, while I pulled back.
    > five fingernails attached, two tender to the touch

    Could Amy involuntarily heal Victoria’s hand with fingernails during checking or pushing her into unconsciousness? Considering fuck-up with Hunter and “She’s not well”.

    Could Victoria got self-healing addition to her powers?

  28. Assuming that Amy did not lie when she told Victoria that her team left her on Shin, I wonder if they decided to do that because they managed to hide one of Kenzie’s cameras somewhere on her body or in her clothing, and have monitored what Amy has been doing to Victoria since then? I know that in chapter 14.7 Kenzie mentioned that her eye cameras had enough battery power for just a few hours, but she also mentioned that she could turn her oxygen pack into a battery pack.

    1. Amy did not tell Victoria that her team left her on Shin. She told her that they left her in the medical facility.

      “My team. Are they okay?”

      “They’re fine. They’re back in the prison population.”

      1. My bad. looks like I misremembered something I read just hours earlier again… Looks like I really need to double check every relevant detail before commenting, doesn’t it?

  29. Considering what Amy said about “ice covering a lake”, we probably should start figuring out which capes staying permanently in the city may be powerful enough to be a problem. Note that prison was apparently built off-world to prevent powers of some dangerous villains to affect the city, but it was probably not the only thing done to keep strong powers away. Bunker probably serves the same purpose for the more powerful Wardens (they really should give Kenzie some big reward or pay rise for making it possible). Teacher also probably helped things by pulling plenty of powerful capes from Gimel to his complex. The situation likely explains why Nilbog and Bonesaw have not returned to Gimel, and maybe also why we haven’t seen a confrontation that Dinah, Labyrinth or Scrub are in the city yet – they may actually not be there simply because they are too powerful.

    The whole thing also puts Cradle’s words about a mutually assured destruction in a new light – maybe he meant that if the big players escalate, if they bring too many powerful capes to the city at once, a mere presence of those capes (or perhaps use of powers by those capes in a fight) could cause a potentially catastrophic interaction with the portals.

    Love Lost’s words about the city being already lost and actions of villains who try to make as many people as possible move out (for example by offering them new homes in corner worlds, or making moving to places like Earth N an economically attractive idea) also seem to make sense – the city probably needs to be evacuated, and everyone who knows it tries to do it without causing panic, which would probably do even more harm than it usually would (by causing broken triggers to happen for example)?

    So who do we feel is left in the city with power strong enough that we feel they may cause this metaphorical “ice” to “break”?

    1. The “thin ice” situation also makes me think that Victoria is ideally suited to operate in the city. Think of it this way – capes with strong powers and/or use of strong powers within the city is dangerous, but at the same time the city still needs capes to solve some of its internal problems. This means that the smart thing to do is to entrust internal security of the city to a cape who has weak powers, is unwilling to use them much, can compensate by having mundane skills, knowledge and ability to organize and lead similarly weak capes as an effective force, and prefers to solve problems without escalating things to a point where someone with strong powers would be tempted to unleash their full potential.

      Amy could also be trying to help matters by trying to help capes like Hunter control their powers better, or making emotionally unstable villains less likely to use their powers irresponsibly.

      Note by the way that ever since Kronos titan was unleashed we had no reports of any big cape fights or other use of strong powers in the city (or anywhere where Victoria could see it happen by the way). Maybe this is no coincidence? Maybe March’s plan worked in city’s favor by making powerful capes afraid to use their powers much anywhere near the city or Kronos? Could it be that even Simurgh contributed by discouraging capes from using their strongest powers in an attempt to somehow “fix” the Kronos situation?

      1. Oh, and bringing Amy to the city, especially for any extended length of time may also be a very bad ida. Remember that she has one of the “Queen” shards, and on top of it is able to unleash something like Khepri. Looks like Amy could be a perfect person to “break the ice on this lake”, if she is not very careful.

        The way I see it the bunker needs have a direct door to Shin, or those meetings with Gimel therapists on a ground controlled by Wardens that Victoria suggested to Amy could lead to a disaster while Amy is traveling between portal to Shin and one of the Wardens offices in the city.

        1. Maybe this is also why Amy said ‘you’, not ‘us’ when referring to Gimel? Did she accept the fact that she will never be able to move back to the city without risking that she will cause a disaster in there?

  30. This was horrifying!

    What was particularly visceral for me was that, if Amy is to be believed, she read Vicky’s emotions and then *still decided to be in the room when she woke up*. I cannot fathom the thought process behind it. She gained a full understanding of Vicky’s hatred and pain, and then chose the course of action that would hurt her the most; she had to know Vicky would already be feeling violated again, and then she’s trapped in a room with the perpetrator, who’s immediately asking for a “fair conversation”. It’s like if, after their first meeting, Bonesaw had locked Amy in a basement and said, “sorry about almost killing your dad and forcing you to break your moral code, but like can we just have a civil chat?” While robo-spiders held a few million civilians hostage.

    The multiple section breaks make me strongly suspect save-scumming: page format has already played a role in the story, so it’s most likely significant, and Amy almost definitely has the ability. I’m not sure what else it could signify, beyond lots of time passing– and between the state of her wound, Citrine’s 12-hour estimate, and Vicky (and supposedly the rest of her team) still being imprisoned, it seems likely it’s the same day, unless things have gone catastrophically badly.
    There are also small details that fit conveniently, like Amy asking for an hour of her time– a convenient reset interval– repeatedly, as if practiced. With some time spent receiving medical care and then 4x ~1-hour resets plus the current iteration, it’s plausibly still within the 12-hour window.

    I’m suspicious Amy lied about the extent of her power use and healed Vicky’s hand enough to avoid permanent injury, leaving just enough damage, along with evidence of muggle medicine, to avoid suspicion. She could have regrown the missing fingernail and made it loose like the reattached one, not expecting Vicky– after bleeding profusely, being in intense pain, then getting knocked out by drugs– to remember if she brought both nails with her. It also seemed suspicious that her skin was successfully reattached and even regaining sensation after being torn off, dropped on the floor, and carried around for a while (though I don’t really know how plausible that is with modern IRL medicine, let alone fictional alternate-Earth medicine).

    1. “I cannot fathom the thought process behind it. She gained a full understanding of Vicky’s hatred and pain, and then chose the course of action that would hurt her the most”

      Someone on the Doof Discord put it best, IMO. Amy doesn’t consider Victoria’s hatred as feelings to be respected. They’re problems that need to be overcome so that Victoria can forgive her and they can have a loving relationship again.

      The intensity of those feelings just make matters harder, but Amy is clearly obsessed with Victoria. The whole meeting in this chapter was giving me abusive girlfriend vibes. Victoria is isolated from any friends or family that could give her support. “I understand I messed up. I had to use my power on you because I thought you were having a stroke (It’s your fault I hit you).” “I want to have a talk with you and you’ve got to do it to save the supplies to Gimel” = “If you shut me out, I’ll take it out on the kids.” She also resorts to the “I’ll get help line” and it’s probably as much of a lie as it is for most abusive spouses/SOs.

  31. Every time I decide to do long term speculations, the next update has Wildbow reading my mind and preempting me with a revelation that throws it all off. I need to stop holding back, I guess.

    I wonder if he’s good enough that my subconscious is picking up on breadcrumbs he’s laid (i.e. it’s no coincidence), or if it’s just luck.

    I *was* going to list major plot items that hadn’t paid off yet. The Machine Army, Ellisburg-in-Exile, toxic-waste-eating mutants, the Doom of The City, the post-樣板 post-CUI* worlds, the Three Blasphemies, the Sleeper, the “greatest threat,” the Goddess-cluster portal effect, Contessa’s shard BEING ALIVE, the origin story and demise of Shadow Stalker, Entity Three, the secret in Teacher’s attic, Scapegoat’s pseudo-Master power, et cetera.

    But of course it turns out the most salient points are all the same thing. My poor squandered speculations. Meanwhile, half of those items are from Worm, anyway.

    For the record, I’d been expecting a series of Goddess-style clusters since we found out her super-cluster resulted from portal proximity. Or a revelation of why the Megalopolis hadn’t had any such clusters.

    I also think we’ll see more survivors from Zion’s massacre at Cauldron (and possibly we already have seen them). If Sveta, Weld, Egg, and the Custodian/Overseer all made it out despite the entity, by implication some portion of Cauldron’s army (Plans B and D) did as well. Stands to reason.

    *Pondering what CUI would be in Chinese. Best guess is 中华聯合帝國 / Zhōnghuá Liánhé Dìguó. Theoretically it could be 中國 / Zhōngguó instead, but that’s probably too limited. Likewise 聯合體 / Liánhétǐ makes sense as a word, but probably is too awkward for a national name.

    1. > the Doom of The City

      I think Amelia Lavere already revealed it? Isn’t it that Valkyrie et al are avoiding The City because too much power usage in The City will start to tear Earth apart at those perforations, as the Cycle tries to continue?

      1. Oh yeah, totally.

        The impending doom of the city is also the greatest threat which was also suggested to us in May/March’s interlude (via the origins of the Goddess cluster around a portal) and arguably alluded to in Dauntless’ interlude. All aspects of the same thing.

        The annoying bit is I might have looked mildly smart if I had been a little quicker on my feet. &P

  32. “Materials from Shin have been about thirty percent of what Gimel received to date. Cheit’s fifty, if I remember right. Ten percent from Nun and other associated corner worlds. Something like six percent from Gimel itself, three percent from Bet, reclaim and scavenging. You guys wanted to put as much as you could into rebuilding. Shelters and businesses first, Gimel having its own supply and manufacturing chains came second. The numbers for supplied food versus what Gimel produces on its own are different, but I think last winter they were sort of close to what I just said.”

    So basically not only food, but almost everything in the city has been imported? Just how is it possible logistically, especially since we haven’t seen a constant string of trucks or trains going through the portals whenever the heroes were near them, how much the Fallen disrupted supply lines when they “exploded” some of the portals, and how many tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Shin natives would arrive on Gimel within a year if the city accepted taking just “five to fifteen” of them with each transport? Did someone manage to make a way for big cargo ships to travel between worlds somewhere close to the city and its counterparts to n different Earths?

    1. …and where is the industry and infrastructure on Earth Nun/N needed to produce or move ten percent of the resources the city imported since its founding? Why every time we see N everything there is so small and has this frontier feel to it? Where are the motorways and multi-track railroads leading from the portals deeper into Earth N? Where are the cities out there big enough to house workers needed to produce those materials and move them to Gimel? I know that we haven’t seen all Gimel-N portals, but we supposedly saw bases of some of the villains who rule the place. Why wouldn’t they build those bases in some of the biggest, best connected population centers N has?

      1. It is also interesting that Amy didn’t mention Earth Aleph as one of Gimel’s suppliers. Either they decided not to help Bet, or Aleph was sealed very soon after Gold Morning. Maybe there were never any Labyrinth/Scrub portals to Aleph created during GM in the first place, but only temporary Doormaker’s doors used by Khepri to snatch capes like the Travelers during GM, and then by Valkyrie to put them back where they belonged (likely with a few “extras” like a two members of Hebert family)?

      2. Nun is used for farming, hunting and gathering. It supplies food to Gimel, and possibly lumber and stone if there’s a handy supply near the portal. Nobody’s building more infrastructure than they need right now, and Nun, like Gimel, was uninhabited three years ago. Nun also lacks the portal network to worlds like Shin, Bet, and Cheit that Gimel has, so it’s less important for trade. Honestly, though, if *I* were making decisions about the city, I’d probably build it on Nun and keep Gimel as a trading hub.

        We’ve seen only frontiers on Nun, because it is frontiers. Its largest population centres are trading communities at the portals, or possibly particularly fertile areas of farmland. The villains’ bases we saw were all within a day’s travel of the portals; given that Nun relies on labour and electricity from Gimel, those are the best-connected population centres and the ones where it’s easiest to get imported luxuries. Like computers, cars, tobacco and possibly even alcohol.

        1. I agree that you could probably manage without much infrastructure in Nun away from the portals, but even if Nun produced only food and simple raw materials like wood, all of this would need to be moved to the city somehow, and the sheer volume that you would need to deliver should mean massive traffic going through Gimel-Nun portals (simply because they are natural choke points everything needs to go through), and any villain who wanted to control Nun, would need to control this traffic.

          So why have we seen neither such traffic nor even roads or railroads capable of handling such traffic around those Gimel-Nun portals where supposed warlords controlling large parts of Nun like Lord of Loss (and Marquis), not to mention pretenders to power Bluestocking, built their bases?

          1. One more thing – how can it even be practical to get more resources from corner worlds like Nun than from Gimel itself? I know that existence of the city means that you may need to deliver supplies from a longer distance (it would be problematic to do more than very limited farming in the city, and mining for certain resources there may also be impossible or dangerous to everything build above), but surely those problems can’t be worse than dealing with choke points in form of portals?

          2. …not to mention that as bad as the city is, it is still probably much more politically stable and better organized than corner worlds. It should be more productive than them!

            Unless… Corner worlds increase their productivity by using something like slave labor. Is this the reason? Is the city built by slaves working in mines, farms and lumber yards in corner worlds run by villains? Does Megalopolis tolerate villains in corner worlds because they need products of slave labor, and keeping it in places like Nun is just a way to keep most Gimel.US citizens unaware of this fact?

          3. Or Nun has a slightly better climate for subsistence farming, and is home to particularly useful hardwood trees. And the portal we’ve seen might not be the major Gimel/Nun portal, possibly because it’s got the wrong microclimate for farming or the trees. Or maybe it is a major portal, but we didn’t see any of that because our heroes were more interested in the villains’ residential area than the local industries and agricultural infrastructure.

          4. Between the amount of traffic needed to deliver such amount of resources and the fact that the Fallen managed to “explode” large percentage of portals, I would expect every portal to corner worlds to be extensively used. Villains like Lord of Loss should also probably locate their bases close to the main portals to control the traffic through them better – remember that it is probably controlling that traffic coming through limited number of portals to Gimel, and not controlling production which is likely dispersed over large area that can any warlord real power on corner worlds. The only potential reason I can see for a powerful villain not to locate their base close to a main portal would be if that portal was in the ocean. If this was the case, I would still expect them to stay away from secondary portals, and build their bases close to any ports on Nun coast.

            Also I’m not sure if agriculture is all that important on Nun. Remember that Amy’s numbers were about materials, and that Gimel’s situation was better when it comes to food production. I suspect that Nun exports mostly products of its mines, queries, and possibly lumber yards if Gimel was in such rush to make space for its buildings that they actually destroyed trees from forests they removed to build the city instead of processing them into wood or cellulose usable by industry. Or maybe they used those trees as fuel, and Amy didn’t count fuel as “materials”?

      3. > …and where is the industry and infrastructure on Earth Nun/N needed to produce or move ten percent of the resources the city imported since its founding?
        “Ten percent from Nun *AND* other associated corner worlds.”
        It means only that Nun is somewhat major of this “other worlds”, but not necessary even provide half of this “ten percent”. It could mean 2% from Nun, 1.5% from Earth Q and so on with 10% as a sum.

        But I agree that just feeding 50 millions in a city is a huge logistic problem. There should be a lot of trains, trucks and so on, which is not seen.

          1. Yes, but somehow it never seems to be bad around the portals. If other words supply most resources like food or building materials used by Gimel, I would expect that traffic would be worst there.

          2. How many relevant portals have we even seen that we could make that assessment with? I don’t think we’ve seen Cheit’s portal at all, and we only saw the pedestrian section of Shin’s. So that mostly just leaves the one or two portals to Earth N that Breakthrough visited — not an impressive sample size! And what is Gimel even importing from Nun? My guess is that it’s mostly oil, which would be most efficiently moved through a pipe, meaning no effect on traffic.

            Note that we aren’t seeing the portals a year or two ago while massive construction pushes were still happening and huge amounts of wood and stone were needed everywhere. We saw the portals to Nun recently, when the core of the City was almost done being built up. Importing stone and wood from Nun makes plenty of sense when building things near the portals. It stops making sense when the construction efforts are further afield. Gimel and Nun are both virgin worlds with the same huge supplies of untapped resources, so why bother dealing with the portal-induced bottlenecks and subsequent travel time when you can collect the same resources from a closer location on Gimel itself?

            So by this point, they probably aren’t importing many construction materials from Earth N anymore, or if they are, it’s from portals closer to where active construction is going on rather than the ones Breakthrough visited.

            What else does Nun have to offer? Food, water, and oil. All that construction and transport Gimel has been doing requires fuel. Fuel could be imported from Cheit and Shin, but these are both developed worlds. They’ll have the refineries and everything already set up, but they’ll also have burned through all the easy oil already, making what’s left expensive. If they haven’t already converted over to more sustainable economies, they’re also going to be very reluctant to part with a dwindling resource. Gimel and Nun, on the other hand, have untapped reserves. And if the two worlds didn’t diverge too far back, there’s good odds those reserves will be in the same place. Once you locate one, it makes sense to set up extraction at the corresponding points in each similar corner world before you resume prospecting. More bang for your buck that way. The oil can then be either refined and burned locally once the manufacturing for it is set up, or else piped to Cheit or Shin in exchange for getting some percentage of it back as fuel, perhaps along with food and manufactured goods.

          3. Regarding oil – how much oil has ever been there in New England area? How much of it could be theoretically extracted in a single year? How does it compare to demand for oil something as big as the city may have? Remember how long oil takes to form – Nun seems to have a biosphere similar enough to ours to expect that most if not all oil deposits there are practically the same as on our world before we started minig it. As for transporting oil with pipelines from places like Texas or Alaska, it may be a cheap solution to maintain once it is constructed, but actually building pipelines that long in a virgin world would probably take a lot of time and resources. I’m not sure if the city could complete such investment in just a little over two years. Finally a pipeline big enough to matter for the city would probably be very visible close to the portal it is going through. Remember that portals most likely are completely above ground level (or at least they originally were), so any big pipes going through them could also not be buried in direct vicinity of those portals, and as far as I can remember we haven’t seen anything like it around the portal stations.

            As for the number of portals in the city (leading not only to N, but to all worlds connected to Gimel), I actually expect it to be fairly limited. Maybe a few dozens at most, certainly not hundreds. Remember that the heroes and Patrol Block managed to deploy to large percentage of them quickly enough to prevent their destruction by the Fallen. If there have been hundreds of portals there would probably be either not only not enough hero teams to cover them all, or it would be impossible to organize enough of them in time to cover all portal stations that were saved. Not to mention that with such large number of heroes in the city Victoria’s hero net would probably also have something like a hundred teams working with it, and this doesn’t appear to be the case. I would be surprised to learn that there is much more than twenty Gimel-Nun portals in the city, and once again – it wouldn’t make sense for people like Lord of Loss to set up their bases of operations next to portals that aren’t used as parts of mayor supply lines.

        1. Since out of all corner worlds Amy mentioned only Nun by name, I would suspect that either Nun produces far more than any other corner world (like 4% or more), or supplies from many other corner worlds arrive in the city through Nun.

      4. OK, some calculations.
        I found only military norm for food, which sum to ~2.5 kg per person per day. Not all eat as military, but some eat more and some food will be lost.
        2% of 50M is 1M people.
        2.5 kg for 1M people means 2500 tons. If truck carries 36 tons (do not take food volume into account) it means 70 trucks every day from Nun only.
        One truck in ~20 minutes, if nighttime included.
        To feed 10% we need one truck in ~4 minutes.
        30% food from Shin means ~1000 trucks per day, one trucks in ~1.5 minutes. Plus same amount backwards.
        I think it is manageable even for single portal but definitively will be visible.
        Dried foods should weight less.

        And 2500 tons per day is a bit too much for hunting and gathering… Should be farming.

        1. As much as I appreciate more input, we’ve already discussed similar logistical problems with supplying Gimel with food in chapter 14.7. Here I wanted to focus more on numbers Amy gave in this chapter. They are not about food, but about materials (likely mostly construction materials). Think about it for a second- if what Amy said is correct, about 94% of materials used to build everything in the city came from other Earts. This is what needed to be imported in last two years on top of food.

          Does it still look manageable to you, especially without causing a permanent traffic congestion around the portals? Add to it the fact that a lot of supply lines were probably cut and had to be reorganized after the Fallen and their allies “exploded” some portals, and I think you will see why I have a problem with situations when Victoria visits various portal stations and sees little to no traffic there.

  33. > Powerful capes are staying away from it because they make it worse. They’re too heavy for the ice

    Interesting… broken trigger we saw in 2.3 happens after a lot of capes surrounded construction site.

    1. Those capes may have been a factor, but I suspect that it is more important how powerful those capes were, not how many of them came. Most of those capes were probably relatively weak. I suspect that the real mistake was bringing Vista (and possibly other such “heavy weights” if they were there) to deal with the protest.

  34. Here is a thought about people like S9000 clones and their relationship with their “originals” – the originals could be called at the same time parents and grandparents of the clones.

    The originals basically genetic parents of the clones, but they also gave the clones something that is normally not normally passed down to younger generations – imperfect imprints of their minds together with bulk of their memories. I call the originals grandparents here, because the imprint is passed indirectly through shards who are clones’ parents in this sense.

  35. Something that nobody else seems to have noticed – it’s entirely possible that Lab Rat was the one responsible for fixing Victoria’s hand rather than Amy. It’s also possible that the effect that Amy was talking about has already begun, and when Amy touched Victoria, Victoria’s power took a chunk of Amy’s power for itself, and used it to give her regeneration.

    1. I think this can be a very interesting idea if you extrapolate on it. In my opinion if Victoria’s shard could make a connection with Amy’s, it would in the first place request resources necessary to give it a better control over Victoria’s forcefield and maybe make some other adjustments to Victoria’s existing powers. But once this is done? Perhaps the hidden strength of Victoria’s shard is that it is willing and able to accept more “waste” from other shards as long as the connection is made and the other shards are willing to spare something, possibly leading to giving Victoria entirely new powers? It would make Victoria’s shard an interesting counterpart to Valkyrie’s, Eidolon’s and Khepri’s – they took over other shards entirely, and by force, Victoria’s shard would only take those bits and pieces it is freely given.

      1. …And the funny thing is that Victoria’s shard could probably convince other shards to give it their “waste”, the functionality their hosts do not need. Remember that Victoria has already proven multiple times that she can not only find creative uses for her “broken” forcefield, but also find new and completely unexpected ways to use supposedly “crappy” powers of other people – like Rain’s emotion power.

        Remember that the most important thing that shards want from humans is creativity. If Victoria’s shard can communicate to other shards that Victoria is exceptionally creative when it comes to using powers, those shards may start throwing plenty of their “waste” in Victoria’s direction just to see if she can find someone use for it.

        So the most important ability Victoria’s shard may need right now is not some regeneration, but an ability to make connections with other shards. If this happens, I expect that Victoria could become a grab-bag with dozens, if not hundreds of weak, broken, or seemingly useless powers, and a “shard-given task” to find some going uses for as many of those new powers as possible.

        In other words her shard could turn from something like trash can with some shards’ waste at the bottom to a full-sized trash dump… and Victoria’s mind would need to be a recycling center tasked with figuring out how to make something useful from this mountain of waste.

  36. So, thinking about it, we have instances of people who weren’t using their shards to their shard’s liking and having said shard actively seeking the host’s death in order to move one, (Leet), people actively fighting to dominate their shard and tell it to behave, (Tattletale) and people unknowingly so much in synch with their shard that they are truly terrifying, such as Skitter, Lung, Jack Slash and had she had more time, March may have joined then.

    And lastly, there are those who have somehow negotiated with their shard such as Dauntless and I think now, Valkyrie and end up with incredible potential. …And we herad from Vicky;s shard how much things would change if Vicky became grounded in what she wanted from herself…

  37. I find it absolutely interesting that a good chunk of the comments at the time of this writing is about the pointless love spats between the incestuous lesbian sisters, and not about the most important reveal so far:

    The Cycle didn’t stop.

  38. Aside from Amy’s initial screw up, can we just take a second to think about the fact that she has yet to really apologize or acknowledge that she took *everything* away from Victoria for 2 years, including her mind? I can’t find one – if I missed it, please, point me to it. (Granted, we never saw the post-gold-morning talk)

    She admits that Victoria is a victim, then immediately jumps into her own status as a victim. I would probably make peace with the fact that Amy is just a really screwed up girl who was pushed to the limit and made a huge fuck up… if that statement went something more like “Vicky, I took everything away from you. Nothing I do will ever change that.”

    Plus, we now see trickery (why, exactly, does she have to have Victoria alone, in this room, without her team, where no one knows they’re together), denial and deceit ( “only three or four” *twelve*) , and blaming of her sister ( “it would have been better if one of us had died”) when it is fully within her power to leave Vicky alone

  39. I remember a passage many, many chapters back when Victoria was thinking about something and almost thinks of the word “Panacea”. But she gets to catch herself mid-thought and replaces it with another one.

    This was a very personal chapter.

    There is a literal Great Threat as described, but this is Victoria’s Story in a much more personal way than Taylor’s story was in Worm.

    I consider myself a reflexive, thinking person, but if I didn’t read the comments.., I hypothesize that my understanding of The Sisters’s relationship would be very superficial.

    So I’m just going to say that I really liked the segment from “Amy smiled” to “Forced”. The way you conveyed TERROR. Using the word “Forced” to end it was extremely fitting.

    Then came the “⊙ ⊙ ⊙ ⊙ ⊙” and all of what they can imply.

    At the moment of writing and posting this comment I went over the chapter again and found the first, second and fifth “⊙” coloured RED of all colours… But, sadly, they weren’t links to Amy’s personal diary.

    And finally came The. Extremely. Awaited. TALK.

    If it was terror before, now you conveyed HORROR. Second Apocalypse aside…

    As @Alan Gloria said, the fact that The Cycle’s reveal got overshadowed by Victoria and Amy’s Confrontation shows just how overwhelmingly personal Ward is as a story.

    1. > At the moment of writing and posting this comment I went over the chapter again and found the first, second and fifth “⊙” coloured RED of all colours…

      Could those red circles have something to do with “crimson” mentioned (foreshadowed?) by Victoria in chapter 10.13 (“Things had changed. From a city of gold to a city of crimson.”) and by March in interlude 12.z (“When this was done, all would be crimson.”)? By the way in both 10.13 and 12.z the word “crimson” appears more than once, and in instances I haven’t quoted above it clearly refers to color of blood.

      1. By the way word “crimson” appears in this chapter multiple times too. I’m almost certain that it is not a coincidence. There must be some hidden meaning behind its use.

        1. Out of curiosity I searched Ward for word “crimson”, and it appears to not only regularly pop up, but its distribution throughout the text seems to be interesting. If I’m not mistaken there are 12 chapters or interludes where the word appears only once, 5 in which it appears three times, and only 1 in which it appears twice. Here is the exact list:

          14.9 – 3 times
          13.z – 1 time
          13.10 – 1 time
          12.f – 1 time
          12.z – 2 times
          11.8 – 1 time
          11.7 – 1 time
          10.13 – 3 times
          9.z – 3 times
          9.11 – 1 time
          9.9 – 1 time
          9.4 – 1 time
          8.y – 1 time
          7.x – 3 times
          7.5 – 3 times
          6.5 – 1 time
          4.7 – 1 time
          3.6 – 1 time

          Is this all random, or can some sort of pattern be found here? If there is a pattern, does it apply only to some chapters (for example only those in which the word appears 3 times, or more than once)? Is there something else that those particular chapters have in common?

      2. I think Wildbow marks correct guesses in comments or on reddit to some puzzles for this chapter or arc. So puzzles #1, #2 and #5 are solved, two to go.
        I could also add that 2019-06-17 ~21:10 UTC there was no colors yet.

        1. Out of curiosity, I read a little bit of the speculation about the Sun symbols on reddit. One very simple explanation popped out to me – the symbols could simply represent fingers of Amy’s hand. From chapter 14.6 of Worm we know that Amy left two fingers that were supposed to be some sort of replacements of the one she had lost during her fight with Slaughterhouse Nine untattooed, which would fit the number of white and red circles.

          Interestingly the number of Amy’s fingers without tattoos doesn’t seem to match the damage Amy suffered during the fight with Slaughterhouse Nine. In chapter 14.2 of Worm Taylor noted that segments of Amy’s pinky, ring and middle fingers were missing. Shortly after she saw Siberian bite off Amy’s index finger, or at least a part of it. So why only two of Amy’s fingers were left untattooed?

          And by the way – how and when Amy’s fingers were replaced exactly? It is not like she could do it with her own power, couldn’t she?

          1. Here is an interesting bit from chapter 14.3 of Worm describing how Taylor gave first aid to Amy shortly after rescuing her from Siberian:

            I got the small kit from my utility compartment and approached her. She kept still while I got out the disinfectant, bandages and tape and covered the fingers Siberian had shortened by one segment.

            Doesn’t it seem like Siberian was very methodical and bit off exactly one segment of each of four fingers other than a thumb of Amy’s left hand before Amy was rescued? (We know it was the left one from the first paragraph of chapter 14.2 of Worm by the way.) So once again – why only two of Amy’s fingers are not covered with tattoos?

            Maybe Victoria is wrong and there is no connection between the fact that Amy lost parts of her fingers during the fight against the Nine, and the fact that two of her fingers are not covered with tattoos?

          2. > the symbols could simply represent fingers of Amy’s hand

            Yup, this was actually confirmed by Wildbow. I have to admit, I’d never guess it by myself. Maybe partly because I didn’t remember which fingers were untattooed, and imagined one index finger on each hand being white; and also because five symbols, being drawn out as they are, look much more sinister to me than if they all were on one line.

      3. Also side notes
        1) htmlcsscolor says that color #B30000 (or 0xB30000) is approx “Free Speech Red”. While exact “Free Speech Red” is #C00000.
        2) encycolorpedia.com says “This color is used in the Toraya Confectionery logo.”

    2. Interpretation.

      Red is Victoria’s worst nightmare realized. Red is Amy altering Victoria’s mind.

      1. “You’re awake! Talk to me. No, stop, why won’t you let me have a real conversation? Screw it, I’m rebooting.” *touches her sister* RED

      2. “You don’t need to be angry. Talk to me. Great, great. Wait, no, are you just lying nonstop? Are you hiding…. Why are you treating me this way?!? I just want to talk!!!” *touches her sister* RED

      3. *struggles to calm down*

      4. *plans*

      5. *touches her sister* RED

      “You don’t need to be afraid….”

      1. The Chair-zard of Menlo Park soeculated that we may see Amy’s interlude. If it happened at some point (maybe even at the end of this arc?), perhaps it would contain what happened between those sun symbols seen from Amy’s perspective?

        1. And if we won’t see Amy’s interlude then perhaps Victoria will regain memories of what happened between those Sun symbols in not too distant future (possibly due to something like high exposure to Engel’s power)?

          1. There is also a possibility that Kenze managed to simply catch all of it with a hidden camera.

          2. The possibility of regaining the memories is interesting — perhaps Amy intends Victoria to regain the memories, and she made that comment about Victoria routing around memory blocks on purpose to hint to her that she’s got some hidden messages waiting behind the blocks (which for now protect the messages from thinker prying).

          3. That is indeed an interesting possibility, though maybe it is not so much about going around thinker prying, as about ensuring that no master may easily make Victoria reveal whatever Amy told her.

            Another possibility is that Amy has actually a particular person in mind, who will know exactly how to work around Victoria’s memory blocks or some conditions which will cause Victoria to remember, and Amy wants Victoria to remember only after Vicky meets that person or meets those conditions.

          4. In particular Amy may know that Engel can weaken memory blocks placed by her, and mentioned that Victoria’s blocks were crumbling to ensure that Victoria will seek help from that particular C53.

      2. I can see two small problems with your interpretation Admiral Matt. The first is that Five Sun symbols can hold only four scenes between them. If the red Suns signify Amy’s touch, then the first one of them refers to the moment when Amy touched Victoria at the end of the scene directly above the first red sun. I won’t explain the second one here, because it would be a minor spoiler for chapter 14.10. All I will say is that it is also relatively minor, but would still require a small modification of your scenario.

        1. Fair point. Though as they’re being used in an unusual way, I don’t think we can count on exactly that.

          I do think it’s being telegraphed very clearly that Amy DID something. If the author’s messing with the fundamental format of the story, it implies Amy did something extremely important to the story.

          Victoria lost time. Meanwhile Amy is lying and concealing and bending the truth a lot.

          Put it all together. Knocking Victoria out, healing a fingernail, waking her up (we could argue those are the 3 red power uses); are those story significant? Probably not.

          If this is big enough to play with formatting, something critical and dramatic probably is in there. Possibly 3 such somethings.

  40. This is just the worst. For both Dallon sisters. One problem that I frequently saw brought up in regard to their communication is that Amy doesn’t truly understand Victoria’s feelings. Now she was forced to, but I don’t know if it is truly going to improve their relationship. It was good that she immediately withdrew rather than force another violation on Victoria, but it could have just worsened this situation.

    I remember discussing a few updates ago a possibility that Victoria fears Amy rather than hates her, and now it’s confirmed. Transforming terror into hate and anger is a coping mechanism I’m familiar with, and it was truly heartbreaking to hear Victoria admit it. More than just admit it, she recognizes that she can no longer use anger, despite the solace it gives her.

    I still didn’t expect Victoria to just be straight with Amy. It’s quite a measure of honesty and self-awareness. Of course, it doesn’t last. Victoria is forced to employ deception to continue. Was there a way for her to communicate without trickery? Possibly. But I cannot argue that she should risk her sanity to search for it.

    The mention of the Kronos titan brought to mind something. I don’t remember if the name was ever discussed or Alfarynized in the comment section, and a cursory search yielded no results. In Greek mythology, Kronos or Cronus was frequently conflated with Chronos, the concept of time. I don’t know the full meaning behind it yet, especially since the Dauntless titan seems to be more spatial than temporary in nature, but I will keep it in mind for later. Is it simply because it originated from a time bubble?

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