Breaking – 14.10

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I jumped as the door opened.  I hated myself for doing it.

“You don’t need to flinch just from seeing me,” Amy’s voice was loud in ways that had nothing to do with volume, filling the otherwise silent room.

“I thought you said you read my feelings and you understood.”

My own voice sounded so loud, to the point where I wasn’t sure if I sounded angry, argumentative.

She didn’t respond, her eyes moving this way, that, before settling on her chair, which she dragged a noisy foot and turned a bit before seating herself.  Fixating on the chair seemed to let her not fixate on my statement.

My heartbeat was even louder than the chair, than her voice, mine- or it felt that way.  Every sound was a vibration in the air, and my heartbeat was a vibration in me.  By the metrics of what constituted loud, the thuds were loud enough to make thinking hard, to make breathing difficult.

There were no sounds in the hallway, no voices elsewhere, no hum of ventilation or creak of architecture.  Just stone walls.

My bandaged hand did its best to grip my good hand, because any alternative was to have my hands shake, and I didn’t want to show weakness.  Weakness was my second-to-last resort, and it was ranked as such because it was volatile.  Every time I’d been weak in front of her, she’d used her power on me.  If I counted when we’d been Goddess-compelled as a time of weakness, she’d tried.  And every time she’d had reasons but she’d still done it, and she’d done it without my okay.

Even the day she’d triggered, now that I thought about it.  Almost a year into me having my powers, a gang called the Chorus had attacked a mall in Brockton Bay.  I’d gotten hurt, Amy had triggered, and she’d healed me.  The gang didn’t endure our retaliation or Coil’s expansion of activities as he’d claimed more of downtown.  It had seemed like such a rare, clear-cut case of a trigger event providing an answer to the problem at hand, no fuss, no muss.

Fucking haFuck.

No, weakness was a resort only because I knew the only way to truly get through to her was to bludgeon her, to go all out.  I couldn’t smack her without consequences, shouting her down risked bringing people to us and threatening the trade deal, which seemed so far away now.  My tools for breaking through were like my harsh comments earlier, driven by loathing, cutting remarks, blunt observations, challenges.  Insults.

But they had to be timed.  Each time, there was a risk she’d find her footing, throw up walls, map out a route around the thought… and that tool wouldn’t cut as sharply or penetrate as deep the next time around.

And when I’d exhausted nearly every other option available to me, maybe, just maybe, I’d let her see more of how scared of her I was.  How hopeless I felt this situation was.

Leaving me my last resort.

“You’re right.”

I looked at her.  Train of thought interrupted.  I couldn’t help but resent her for it.  The latest in years of her butting into my head, whether she knew she was doing it or not.

“My thoughts were somewhere else.  What are you talking about?”

“About the emotions.  I read them, I should know why you’d flinch.  You’re right,” she said.

I didn’t fill the silence.  Dot crawled out of Amy’s hair, down her arm, and onto her hand.  Amy moved that hand into her lap, partially covering Dot with her other hand, two untattooed fingers behind Dot’s ear.

Scratch, scratch.

“Fair,” Amy added, almost like it was an afterthought.

“Do you think I’ve been unfair?” I asked.  I had to measure out each word because keeping my voice stable felt like walking a tightrope, with a scary sort of chaos lying below.

Amy didn’t immediately respond.

I wished there was a window.  I wished there were sounds elsewhere to focus on.

“I think there’s no right way to answer that question,” Amy said.

“Okay,” I said.  My hand clenched the other.  “Do you think you’ve been fair, here?”

“I’ve tried.”

“Keeping me prisoner, cornering me?”

“We’re not- let’s not be combative.  Please.  We were being civil.”

“Okay,” I said.  One more measured out tightrope walk of a word.

Amy sat up straighter, looked more at ease.

I felt the pressure of the room and her presence press in.

I spoke, more measured words, easier because they were more aggressive.  A tightrope was easier to walk if you moved more quickly, forward.  “I get the impression you think we’re making headway whenever I make a concession.  Just to be clear, I’m being calculating or hiding barbs in my words.”

“And you think that’s being civil?”

I had to think for a second before responding, because this was so fucking hard.  “Yes.  You get the choice of me being honest and upset or me being polite and… biting, I guess.  Biting and deceptive.  It really is your choice.”

“Vicky-” she said, like she was almost exasperated.

“You said you understood my feelings.  That means you understand these are the only options.”

She looked annoyed.  I knew why, too.

In a very subtle way, she’d cornered herself.  I meant that in every sense- not that she’d put herself in a corner against me.  She’d cornered herself against herself.  In saying she’d grasped my feelings and she understood them, in the fervor she’d had when she told me that, she’d found another thing to cling to.

She dodged, she evaded, she circled around.  Not in real fights -she was crap in a real fight-, but in a broader sense.  When confronted with something bad, she grasped, she reached.

She’d faced my real emotions, supposedly, and she’d reached and she’d settled on the idea she’d figured me out.  That she had a way forward.

She needed this little revelation.  Her way of dealing with those tangible emotions had been to turn it around, to say ‘that’s the answer’.

“If those are the choices, then be civil, polite.  Keep talking to me,” she said.  “With enough communication, we can get past anything.  We as in humanity, I mean.”

I could hear our mother in that ‘communication’ line.

Fuck me, I wished there was actual ventilation in this room.  The thought crossed my mind that my ex-sister could create airborne pathogens, complex ones, and that thought didn’t leave once it found its mental real estate.

No window, closed door, nothing to look at-

My eye fell on Amy’s little minion.

“What about you, Dot?” I asked.

Amy’s little pet twisted around, flipping over to get her feet under her.  Crouching on Amy’s leg with both hands and feet, like a frog poised to leap, she stared across the room at me.

“Huh?” her voice was quiet but high pitched.

“What do you think about all of this?  How do you feel about it?”

“About my Queen?”

“Or this world, or me.  Or how we’re all standing on cracked ice.”

“Cracked ice makes sense.  I’ve seen too many family die.”

“Your family?” I asked.

“Yes.  Starvation, hunted by people like you.  Killed by machines.  Killed by pollution.  Age.  It all feels fragile.  Every death feels sudden and unfair, like ice.”

“I don’t disagree with you there,” I said.

“Dot lived on Bet until a little over a month ago,” Amy said.

“You?” Dot asked.  She pointed at me, extending a tiny, doll-size hand.  “I’m angry.”

“Angry?  Okay.  Why?”

“Because I want us to be done.  I want my Queen to build kingdom, gather power and earn trust of this world.  Then she can make journeys.  Go through your world.  Into mine.  She can save more of my people.”

“I’m a distraction?”

The little tail swished.  “Yes.”

“Is it okay if you come closer?  It’s hard for me to see you.”

Dot craned around to look at Amy.

I saw the hesitation on Amy’s face.  Worry.  Thinking I’d take Dot as a hostage?  I had the impression Dot wasn’t something Shin knew about as a whole, and taking her hostage would leave Amy without much recourse.

“I trust her,” Amy said.

Dot bounced down the length of Amy’s leg, across the floor, and up the frame of the bed, before perching on the foot of the bed, on the little raised bar of metal that kept the mattress in bounds.

Red hair had been combed all to one side of her head, her bat-like ears long enough they poked out of her hair and away from her head, each tipped with tufts of wispy red hair, both ears aimed my way.  She had fur like a golden lab, but puppy-fuzz short, freckled with red spots that were so round they seemed artificial.  She had a mouth with a shape and pronounced teeth that made me think of a tiny bear trap when the lips were pulled away, while being as expressive and wide as a cartoon character’s when closed.

She wore a pinafore-style dress, like overalls at the body but a dress at the bottom, and the dress portion was constituted of five or six layers and colors of wavy, ruffled cloth, to the extent it looked like a flower in bloom with two skinny legs and a thin tail sticking out from the folds.  The dress itself was black, but the ruffles and the decoration on the straps ranged from white to yellow, pink, and red.  Spiral-striped socks and elbow-length gloves had a similar color scheme.  A long, prehensile tail had a tuft of the red hair at the end, like a paintbrush, and a long ribbon where the tuft started.  She seemed to like to swish it around and let the ribbon trail in the air.

“I like the outfit,” I said.  I wasn’t lying either.  There were very few people who could pull it off, but she wasn’t people, and she could pull it off.

“Thank you,” Dot said.  Clawed hands and feet gripped the bar she perched on, her tail swishing more energetically.  “My Queen made it.”

Made it made it?

Uncomfortable.

“You said she wanted to earn Shin’s trust, so she’d have more freedom.”

“Yes.”

“I think, uh, if she wants to do that, she needs to win my trust, and the trust of people I work with.”

“Then trust her.  She knows everything, she’s strong, she’s almost as beautiful as my fallen King.”

“Thanks,” Amy said.  “That’s, uh, a ringing endorsement, comparing me to Nilbog.”

Nilbog.  Ah.

That was a heavy topic and the reality was that I didn’t know enough about him.  I’d known about the Old Man, Case Twelve, but in a way I knew only about as much about Nilbog.  They hadn’t broadcasted information about him.

“If everything broken,” Dot said, dark eyes gleaming as she widened them, leaning forward on her perch until I thought she’d fall to the mattress, “Let people fix it.”

“Amy?  Your Red Queen?”

Fuck, it made my skin crawl to give her a title.  Like it gave her more power, when the broken Amy that had twisted me up and spat me out had been so broken and low.

Yes.  She has so much power.  Could do anything she want if she use it, but she won’t.  She still trying to be something she isn’t, gentle and human.  She needs to be Queen instead.”

“It’s not that easy,” Amy said.

“You can claim a Kingdom.  You have power,” Dot told her.  “You’re halfway there.”

“We’ve had this discussion a lot,” Amy told me.

That doesn’t reassure me, I thought.  A little voice in Amy’s ear, saying queen, kingdom, queen, kingdom.  For weeks now?

I didn’t want to be here.  I was pressed so hard against the corner of the room that my back would hurt tomorrow.  My arms wrapped around my legs, and that was tight enough I’d feel it tomorrow.

And it was so fucking quiet, a room like a sensory deprivation chamber, which magnified the things in the space.  Me and my emotions, her.

Dot was safer.

“Dot,” I said, getting the little one’s attention.  “Were you there when she worked on Hunter?”

“Yes.  I remember Hunter.  I like the name.  It sounds like blood and biting, but the Hunter I met bites the air.”

“Yeah,” I said.  “But it went wrong, didn’t it?”

“My Queen says so.  But Hunter was gloomy and bleh before.  She’s exciting now.  She laughed more after.”

Maybe Dot was a key, or a way I could distill a message clear enough for Amy to get, without running into walls.

“But she’s your queen.  She’s not happy with it, is she?”

“No,” Dot said, almost absently.  She crawled along the bar at the foot of the bed, slinking along, crawling under and squeezing through the narrow gap between bar and mattress, looping over, then squeezing through again, in a spiraling path from one corner of the bed to the other.  Each time she got far enough through the gap, the dress she wore went from being compressed to poofing out dramatically.  “She’s unhappy, so it no good, probably.”

“I’m not happy with it either.  You’re the Red Queen’s subject, aren’t you?”

“What are you doing, Vicky?” Amy asked.

“Aren’t you?” I asked Dot, ignoring Amy.

“Yes.”

“You’re hers to look after?”

“Yes,” Dot said.  She reached the corner of the bed, gripped the bar with clawed hands, and walked up the wall until she was doing a handstand.  Moving hand over hand, she began to move down the bar, legs extended above her.  The poofy layered nature of her dress meant it didn’t flop down.

“Hunter was someone I tried to look after.  Someone asked me to help her, and I made sure she got that help.”

“Your subject,” Dot said.

“Not quite but close.  And the Red Queen used my name without my permission to get close to Hunter.  And then she broke her.”

Dot went from handstand to sitting with one leg on either side of the bar in a single, sudden motion that made the bar sing, and would have had me seeing stars in her position.

The goblin looked at me, then at Amy, and then at me again.

“I can handle it,” Amy said.

“She can handle it,” Dot echoed.

“But she betrayed trust,” I said.  “Is that how a Queen is supposed to act?”

“Are you trying to turn her against me?” Amy asked.

“I’m asking,” I said.  This was easier when I could focus on Dot, without Amy chiming in.

“It’s not so bad,” Dot said.

“But… can I try an analogy?” I asked.  I could do this if I could treat it like picking apart a puzzle.  Treat it like I was figuring Ashley out and finding a common ground, with her natural imperiousness and skewed perspective.  Treat it like I was trying to figure Kenzie out, before I’d figured out the smile or the family situation.  “Hunter was my charge, someone I helped, and Amy took her and broke her.  What if I took you and broke you?  How would Amy feel?”

“Broke me how?  Made me interesting?”  Dot was very still.

“I’m not going to hurt you.  But in this story we’re telling… how would she feel if I killed you?”

“Pissed,” Amy answered for Dot.  “Not many people have my back or keep me company.  I’d mourn her.  Seriously, do not hurt her.”

“How would she feel, Dot, if I fucking told you I knew the Red Queen and you could trust me, and then I killed you?  Or I… broke you in other ways, made you uninteresting?”

“Took my colors?”

“Took your colors, took your…”

I didn’t want to budge from where I was, but I lifted a foot.  My boot had been removed and I just had the athletic sock on.  I extended my leg across the bed and tapped Dot in the chest.

“My heart,” Dot said.

“Your you.”

Dot’s ears weren’t as high as they had been at the start of the exchange, and stuck out to the sides more than they stuck up, now.  A clawed hand gripped my big toe.

“I’ll fix her,” Amy said.

“I trust her,” Dot spoke up.  “She’ll protect me from anything like that.  She’ll fix what’s broken.”

“You trust her but nobody else does, and if nobody else does, she can’t help your… family, was it?”

“Family, yes.”

“Most importantly, Dot,” I said, withdrawing the foot I’d extended Dot’s way, hugging my legs tighter.  “She can’t do what she does if she doesn’t trust herself.  That’s when she makes mistakes, she loses trust in herself, and she makes more mistakes, and so on.  It’s what happened when she broke me.  When she doesn’t trust herself she stops fixing things and starts breaking things more.

“Vicky,” Amy said.

“Do you deny it?”  Again, in the quiet room, I sounded angrier than I’d intended.

It made me afraid to move, because my movements might be the same.  I could see myself using my power without wanting to, and I considered my control over my power to be one of the few things I was confident in.

“It’s things other than trust or trust in myself,” Amy said.  “Pushing in, twisting things around.”

“She said what she did to you,” Dot said, interrupting.  She wasn’t moving as much as she had been.  “You sounded beautiful and noble.”

That being said to me, somehow, seemed to slap Amy across the face more than my calling her a cunt, earlier.

It kind of slapped me across the face too, for that matter.

“You’re not helping, Dot,” Amy said.

“Not trying to help.  Am saying,” Dot said.  “I think you thought it beautiful and noble too or you wouldn’t have done it.”

“It was a mistake,” Amy said.

“I’m sorry you look boring and ugly now,” Dot told me, her ears turning my way a fraction of a second before her head did.  “Nothing interesting about you.  You not so beautiful as she is.”

“But she did it without asking.  I wasn’t her subject.  Hunter wasn’t her subject.  She made mistakes with… how many others?”

“Three or four,” Amy said.

“Ten, twelve,” Dot said.  “I wasn’t there for all.  I saw some and decided to stay and watch.  I hope every time for more beautiful-interesting things.”

Not ten or twelve,” Amy said.  Her voice was tight.  “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Coloring outside the lines,” I said.

“Yes!” Dot said, her eyes widening.  “I love those words.  I love color.”

“Do you remember what she did?” I asked.  Dot was… she was like a miniature force of nature in this confined space we occupied.  The more exuberant she got, the worse it was for both Amy and I.

But it was putting pressure on Amy, uncovering more truths.  Her buttons were obvious, apparent, and easy to push.

“Girl with a bad back, twisted up.  The day after Hunter,” Dot said.  “Back straightened until it broke.  Snap, crack, couldn’t walk.  She screamed.”

“That was one,” Amy said.  “I fixed it.”

“The old man.  Aged backward,” Dot said.

“Just stop, okay?” Amy cut in.  “This isn’t helping anything.”

“Was it interesting?” I asked.

Dot’s head turned my way, eyes wide.  She looked interested at the sheer mention of the word interesting, ears up.  Then the ears dropped to the sides and she shook her head.  “Not really.”

Dot,” Amy said.

“Why not really?” I pressed.

“Because it was ordinary.  He old and kind of interesting looking, then he young and not so interesting looking.  But he shouts and swears and says not his face, not his face.”

“He wanted to be young again,” Amy said.  “He was offering a lot, politically and for what we could give to Gimel.  We struck a private deal.  I de-aged him, made him thirty again, but he didn’t recognize his face in the mirror as the one he used to have.  He was upset and didn’t follow through on his end of the deal.  Said I made him ugly.”

“Very plain,” Dot added.

“Was that your mistake or his?” I asked.  I waited about one second, as Amy paused, trying to find the words, and butted into her thoughts with, “Don’t lie.”

“My mistake.  I don’t see it as a ‘coloring outside the lines’ thing.  It was a question of how much I pursue the art and how much I pursue the science, and I fell too far on the side of art.”

“You were working with Bonesaw for a bit.  Dad said she was big on the ‘art’.  When she showed up at the house, she talked a lot.”

“Don’t.  Don’t compare me to her.”

“I guess you got some practice in art before making Dot’s dress.  It really is pretty.”

“Yes!” Dot said.

Stop!” Amy raised her voice.

My heart pounded at the volume of the word, at the situation.  Every instinct was kicking in, to the extent I could have lashed out if I wasn’t already huddled up into a tight space.

I didn’t take my eyes off of Amy as I asked, “Dot, what were the interesting results from her power?”

“This is being confrontational again, Vicky.”

“The ear one,” Dot said.

Amy visibly winced.

“Fixing an ear, a wiggly hole going through head.  Canal.  She colored outside the lines, little ripply-rigid flesh around the ear and more holes twisting through.  There was blood bubbling out.”

“Getting into that art, huh?” I asked.

“You were being civil before,” Amy said.

Dot went on, “It was beautiful.  Wasn’t until I said something that she stopped, half the head was holes reaching through, ripples and ridges around.”

“I zoned out.  I hadn’t slept, I was tired,” Amy said.

“She called the Snark for help.  Asked him to fix the ears.  He wouldn’t.  But he sat with and talked her through.  He sat with for the next few too.”

“Marquis?” I asked.

“Chris,” Amy answered.

“Oh, Snark, of course.”

“That was fun.  That was a good day,” Dot said.

“Were there others?” I asked Dot.

Stop,” Amy raised her voice getting to her feet.  I flinched involuntarily at the movement, my head turning partially away.  She spoke again, quieter, “Just stop.  Please.”

Where I’d shrunk back a bit, Dot scampered to the corner of the bed and leaped for Amy’s hand, grabbing onto the sleeve before scampering up to Amy’s shoulder.

“Our fifteen minutes are probably nearly up,” I said.

“What?” Amy asked, momentarily flabbergasted, on top of her general upset.  “You were counting?”

“I did say I’d be underhanded,” I told her.  “There’s no way I’m going to spend more time in your company than I’m obligated to.”

“What the fuck, Vicky?” she asked, stepping closer.

She stopped when I pulled back.

She turned away, and I could relax a fraction, no longer drawn so far into the corner that I was forced to hold my breath.

“I had a long list of things I wanted to bring up,” Amy said.  “I haven’t been idle.  I’ve been trying to help Gimel.  I’ve been trying to heal people who nobody else could help, or use my healing to do more good.  I’ve figured some things out and gathered resources.  Capes, even.”

“Assuming I can trust you, which we really haven’t established.”

“You can trust me, Vicky.”

“Can I?  Based on what?”

“Based on the fact that I’ve had good intentions every step of the way.  I’ve always been on your side.”

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

“Fuck off, Vicky,” she said.  “Fuck.  I have enough good info and resources that you and I could sit down for an hour and you wouldn’t want to imprison me or anything.  You’d want to keep talking.  If you’d give me a chance.”

“I think my stomach would be all ulcers and I’d be incapable of sleeping after.  Or did you forget that you got a taste of what I feel right now?  Or is that something you only conveniently bring up?”

“I fucking remember, Vicky,” she said, angry now.  She paced, not facing me at any point, but still testing my tolerances, setting that panicky feeling into motion.  Like being in a cage with a tiger.  “It gets easier each time.”

“It gets harder.”

“No.  I can show you that this is doable, you can set the terms of the conversation-”

“Drugged, locked in a room I didn’t ask to come to, cornered?”

“No,” she said, still angry.  Angrier.

“Then I’m free to go?  If I open that door-”

“It’s a prison, Vicky.”

“But you have the power to let us go, you said that earlier.”

“Stop!” she shouted, wheeling on me.

She wasn’t at the far end of the room now.  She was in the center.  I was on the bed in the corner, all tension.

But that was the crack.

Cracks, though, were unpredictable.  They traced across weak points and forked and terminated early.  It was hard to predict the route they’d take.

So I waited, tense, not breathing.

“Teacher’s exploiting the system,” she said, her voice almost emotionless.  “He’s going to pick a fight sooner or later, and it’s going to be devastating.  He manufactured a crack, he’s going to intentionally create more.  Each one gives him more access to the system and more control over the levers and knobs that decide everything else.  He can force-create a Dauntless and the ones he makes will listen to him.”

I was silent.

“Teacher was one of the only other people in the Birdcage who kind of ‘got it’, who engaged with me when I talked about that stuff.”

She paused.

“I shouldn’t have said as much as I did to Teacher,” Amy said.

“You gave him ideas?” I asked.

“I don’t know.  He has no interest in ruling the world, and I think he’d view it as a distraction or detriment.”

“Detriment?”

“Because powers don’t like stable.  As you well know, look at me.”

The attempt at self depreciating humor fell flat, came across as mournful, self-pitying.

“I make mistakes, and my power makes it easy to make mistakes.  All it takes is an impulse, or a drifting thought.”

“When you’re tired, when you’re upset.  When-”

I couldn’t bring myself to say it.  When you’re lonely.

“I’m always tired, I’m always upset.  I’m always everything.  The first time I felt like I was able to actually take a deep breath was when I went to the Birdcage.  Away.”

I remained silent.  Letting her talk.

“Stability is tricky and hard to maintain.  It takes effort.  Teacher could control everything but he’d be fighting against everyone else and even against himself and his power,” Amy said.  “What he wants is bigger than that.  And he’s getting there.  Even with the tools he has, he’s too dangerous to fight.  Because I can touch someone with powers and look at those powers… I was doing that with Hunter, trying to figure out how to rebuild her personality…”

She stopped there, almost like her train of thought was gone, or she’d lost herself in memories.

I waited.

“I look at that broken, fragile landscape and I see Teacher’s hand in too many places.  With too many connections, too many networks, and a massive hole in another world that he’s elaborating on.”

“Okay,” I said.

“Does that count for anything?  I could provide more details, but… does it matter?”

“What do you mean ‘count’?” I asked.  “Is someone keeping score?”

“I’ve healed so many people, I’ve done so much, devoted months of my life to fixing things.  I threw myself into things around Gold Morning.  I played a big role, for better or for worse.  I’ve always been on your side.  And none of it matters.”

“It matters,” I said.  “But it’s not like there’s a big scorecard where you reach fifty thousand points and you win the forgiveness of one unconscionable act.  You don’t reach a certain point total and win the girl of your dreams automatically.  It matters, but it’s fifty thousand things that matter on an individual basis.”

“I’m not saying I want to win you, Vicky.  I’m just saying…”

“You want it to count.  To count enough.

She shook her head.  “You’re not getting it.”

“If you heal thousands of people and you mutilate twelve or so, you’re a healer who mutilates people.  You don’t give me an hour’s worth of abstract interpretations of the big picture and buy fifteen minutes of me being happy to spend more time with you.”

“That’s not what I’m asking for.”

“Bonesaw and Swansong will always be ex-Slaughterhouse Nine.  Precipice will always be ex-Fallen.  Chris will… I don’t even know what he’s trying to be or not be.”

“He wants to escape his humanity.  Leave weaknesses behind.  He likes you and that makes him dangerous because he wants to kill what he likes.”

I nodded.

Good to know.

“I sent him away,” Amy told me.  “Made him leave so he wouldn’t retaliate.”

“I don’t think he can escape his humanity like he wants, and even if he does find some magic potion that transforms him permanently into something entirely inhuman, if he enlists your help-”

“I won’t help him do that.”

“He will always have been human.  And me?  I will always be the girl who was turned into a monster by my sister.  To others in the know and to myself.”

“No,” Amy said.  She shook her head.  “I- Only if you hold onto it.  I offered to let you forget it all.”

“Doesn’t work that way.  If you don’t remember it then you’re more beholden to it.”

“What?” Amy asked.  “Vicky, you’re a smart person.  You got good grades, but that might be the dumbest thing I’ve heard you say, and I remember being kids and you telling me that birds can’t go into space because they need gravity to swallow and therefore they can’t swallow while they’re up there.”

“On space shuttles, you dumbass.  And you need to remember and dwell in the ugly shit because if you don’t, you just end up right back in it.  How do you change if you don’t tackle it head-on?”

“By getting through it and then putting it firmly behind you.”

“Except you tried that, apparently, and then you went and you destroyed Hunter.”

“I didn’t destroy her, I made a mistake.  I think I can fix it.  Fuck.  I should have known better than to expect you to be fair, Vicky.”

The more agitated she got, the more my body ratcheted up the physical signs of tension.  I tried to remain still, told myself flight was an option.  I had a headache from where my neck and jaw were tense, and with that painful buzz in the back of my head, I tried to visualize it as a tactile reminder of the people behind me.  Of refugees who needed that food.

Stupid, like a dumb mnemonic, but it helped me to process.

Every time I’d spoken, I was left feeling like I was risking pushing too far, or not pushing far enough.  If I didn’t push enough, she lost momentum.  If I pushed too far, she threw up walls.

And I didn’t really know her enough to know where those boundaries were now.

Here, I had zero idea.  For the first time, I couldn’t even recognize enough of her to say.

“You know what the shitty thing is, Vicky?  I told myself I wouldn’t say this.  I was doing okay.  At the Birdcage, after, figuring myself out, finding a balance, coming to terms with how much I hated myself… I’m rambling.”

The fingernails of my good hand dug into my leg.  The fingernails of my injured hand touched my leg, two of them wobbly, barely attached.  A reminder.

“I earned my stripes saving the world, I got offered work and money helping manage things behind the scenes, watching Bonesaw.  I healed heroes now and then.  I managed, I was doing okay.  I repaired bridges with Carol, and I had an actual mom for the first time ever.  Mark was cool, all considered.  I was fine.”

“I didn’t do anything to stop that.”

“You- you kind of did.  You appeared at the edges and fringes.  You re-entered my life and it all went to pieces.  Again and again.”

“All my fault.”

“No.  But you didn’t make it easier, for yourself or for me.”

“By existing?  By having a life?  Normally, Amy, when someone does what you do, it’d be you who abides by a restraining order, who stays a certain distance away, or who gets locked up in a cell.”

“That’s not what I’m saying,” she told me.  “It would have been best if one of us hadn’t made it through Gold Morning, that’s all.”

I maintained eye contact with her for long seconds, staring her down.  She was the one to look away first.

“I don’t resent you, I’m on your side,” she said, looking at the door.  “If you need anything, just ask.  I’ll be here.”

“I thought you said that if I had an honest conversation with you, that you’d do what I asked.”

She shook her head.

“Do what I ask,” I told her.  “I endured this room, this exercise of yours.  I played nice.  I measured out my fucking words, I told you, straight up, what I needed and wanted, instead of being really underhanded and throwing you through a portal to another world and throwing away the key, no warning, no appeals.  I told you that I think you need help.  That you need to talk to the Wardens and talk to a therapist.”

“I tried.”

“I doubt you really tried,” I said, anger putting bite into my words.  “Right now, you’re spiraling.  You don’t stop until someone makes you stop.  You hurt Hunter-”

“You never even met her!”

“She still fucking counts.  Those twelve people that Dot mentioned-”

“Who I fixed!”

“They count.  You’re going to keep hurting people until someone makes you stop.  That’s either with the help of a professional, more imprisonment-”

“Exile.”

“-or a bullet to your head.”

The look she gave me was as wounded as if I had actually shot her.

She walked to the door, opened it, and stood there, door partially open, hand on the handle, talking while her back was to me.

“While you were unconscious I was talking to people, catching up on the deals Citrine struck,” Amy said.  “You’re getting out soon.  Supplies should be okay, I don’t know about the escalated supply I was pushing for, because they don’t trust me.”

“Makes sense,” I said.

“They say the doctor drugging you was a miscommunication, but you and I know that isn’t true.  It was about power.  They said the prison guard attack wasn’t planned and Marquis, Chris and I believe them.  Parahumans don’t count and can’t count in their perspective.  Kind of like how I’m not supposed to exist or count in your reality.”

Citrine had been saying something like that when I left the room with the others.  Well, without the self-pitying bullshit.

“They wanted to make you squirm, but once they heard about you being hurt, they were pretty satisfied with the fact you bled for them and kept your cool.  I guess when you do things they count for something.”

She hauled the door the rest of the way open, and stepped out into the hallway, looking this way and that.

“Dot-” I started.

The critter leaped to the doorframe.  I supposed there were no guards outside.  I’d prepared to say something shorter, more perfunctory, but I found myself mentally stumbling.  My realization I could say something more profound tripped over the dizzying relief that Amy was finally fucking off, that the pressure of the room had been relieved, and the adrenaline of being so close to an angry, unhinged Amy.

“Look after her.  Keep her on track.  If she makes what she and I call mistakes, it hurts everyone’s trust in her, and she can’t help your family.  It needs to start with helping Hunter.  Nobody’s going to let that go.”

Dot’s ears moved up, down, up, and her tail swished, before she leaped away.

Yeah.

My feet were numb from now hard I’d clenched my legs to my chest, my arm hurt, my hand throbbed, while my head pounded.

My boots were on the floor, and I pulled them on.  I eased my way to the ground, looked over the cot and surrounding area, and then stepped out into the hallway.

Was this a win?  A loss?  Had I changed anything?

The guards were posted at the end of the hall.  They waited as I walked on a foot that was still partially asleep, sore and spooked.

They reached for my arm and I flinched.  They took it anyway, then guided me, strongarming me down one hallway, then the next.

Through the maze, deeper into the complex, I was sure, yet it felt like I was on my way out.  Away from the bullheaded monster.  Into light and a place I could breathe again.

My hand was shaking and I couldn’t make it stop.  I was glad for the bandage on the other.

We passed into the showers, which smelled like showers in any gym, physio center, or PRT Wards building I’d been in, except for maybe the scent of a different flavor of soap.

They locked the door behind them, leaving me to find my way myself, my arm feeling bruised where I’d been manhandled.

I found my team in the same hallway they’d been in before.

“She’s back,” Rain said, for the benefit of others without the angle or line of sight to see.

“Sveta?” Kenzie asked.

“Victoria,” Rain said, while everyone got to their feet.

“Hey,” Vista said.  She hurried to my side, hands steadying me.  “You’re as white as a sheet.  The surgery-”

I shook my head.  I counted heads.  Tristan, Rain, Kenzie, Ashley, Vista.  “Where are Sveta and Theo?”

“She got dragged off when you passed out,” Tristan said.  “Marquis said they gave you a drug that knocked you out-”

“Against my will and express permission,” I said, my voice tight.

“That would explain why Sveta flipped.  We were wondering if it was her new body having a weird stress response or if something else happened.  She fought guards to try to get to you,” Tristan said.  “She almost used her power.  We told her to calm down, that we couldn’t afford to risk everything.  She listened.”

“Where is she?” I asked.  “I need her.”

Tristan’s voice was calm, resassuring, “In a special cell.  We’ve been visiting but they only let one person visit and only for a short while.  Theo’s with her now.  The idea is they’re supposed to sit in those cells, then they get dragged off during the next round of punishments, but that punishment doesn’t count against their sentence.”

“What?” I asked, alarmed.

“It’s okay,” Vista said.  “Citrine’s getting us out.  We leave before any punishments happen.”

“We don’t leave without her.”

“I know.  We know,” Tristan said.

My emotions felt so messy.  As bound-up and constrained as they’d been in the room they felt like a tangled mess of wires inside of me now, impossible to untangle, choking.

“Why do you need her?” Tristan asked.  “What happened?”

In my mind, I’d thought of my friend because I could trust her, but I did trust the team, if only a slight fraction less.

“Master-stranger protocols,” I said.

Our time with Goddess had hammered in that particular lesson.  Everyone got it.

“What happened?” Ashley asked.

“Amy,” Vista guessed.  I flinched, looking away.

“Fuck,” Tristan said, with some emphasis and at least two syllables.  “Marquis said she left, he’s never been anything but straight with us, we were focused on Sveta because she was in more immediate danger and you were just getting surgery, we looked in once or twice-”

I shook my head.

“What did she do?” Vista asked.

“I don’t know.  But she did use her power on me.  Tell me how long I was gone?”

“Not that long.  When we last checked in, you were still getting stitched up forty minutes ago.  She wasn’t there then.”

My thoughts were a messy, tangled-wire storm of calculations, dropping one number as I tried to pick up another and arrange events into some kind of sequence.

So hard to gauge time.

I wouldn’t have been out for long.  Accounting for the time before our ‘fifteen minutes’ of conversation, the break when she’d left the room, the time to come back…

I couldn’t imagine she’d had time to do anything big.  There was only a gap, a big question mark on my brain and my body.

“I want to see Sveta, make sure she’s okay.”

“Can’t.  Not until ten minutes after Theo gets back,” Vista said.

“We won’t even be here that long,” Tristan said.  “Then we’ve got to figure out what we’re doing.”

“Doing?” I asked.

“About the raid on Teacher.”

The word was an alarm bell in my head.  I shot him an alarmed look.  He’d said it outright, in a place Teacher could overhear.

“Don’t,” Ashley said, but she didn’t say it like it was a condemnation or a warning.  “Victoria doesn’t need that right now.”

“I really need it.  Information, distractions,” I said.  When I swallowed I found my throat dry.  “Please.”

Tristan answered, “The attack was mounted, while our thinkers thought he was distracted.  Citrine said they’re gathering troops and allies for a second phase assault, because not enough of the first group are reporting back.  We’d be going as late arrivals, stragglers.”

Against an enemy Amy had called unbeatable.

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276 thoughts on “Breaking – 14.10”

  1. Well at least Vicky approves Dot’s fashion sense…
    Also holy shit Dot seems like a really bad influence here. You know who else judged things by how interesting they are? Jack Slash.

    1. Dot is a goblin made by a madman who liked his fairyland. She is not human. Even humans from other cultures can have seriously fucked up viewpoints, as Shin’s prison system is showing us. But she’s certainly interesting.

      1. I think it is more a question of culture Dot grew up in than her physical nature. Nilbog’s “garden” was full of creatures which were considered “interesting” because they were so different from each other. Being radically physically (and likely also mentally) different from others was actually considered a good thing there.

        Even if Dot was born after Nilbog was captured, she did grow up in a society forged in that “garden”, and it would probably be difficult for her to abandon those cultural values, especially since she is also so different from everyone else, so if she thought being so unique was a bad thing, it would probably crush her self-estimate. In a way Dot is a cultural opposite of C53s like Sveta – Sveta wanted to have as “normal” body as possible, for Dot getting such body would probably be a nightmare.

        1. Another easy to understand aspect of Dot’s personality which comes from her cultural background is her tendency to consider powerful bio-kinetics like Nilbog and Amy her “monarchs”, her absolute devotion to people like that, her insistence that they play the role of faerie tale kings and queens, and that they create more “monsters” from any biomass available.

          Remember that in Nilbog’s garden it was the most natural thing in the world (at least from his creations’ perspective), and that things were better for them then – they lived in a world they understood, they felt they had a purpose – even in death, when their bodies could be re-used to make more create more creatures like them. Once Nilbog was gone they were left alone without guidance, without a way to keep their numbers up (their birth rates were quite obviously much lower than death rates), unable to continue living in their little world behind the walls surrounding Ellisburg, but also having to fight for survival in a hostile, outside world they didn’t understand.

          Dot probably considers her time in Ellisburg like some sort of golden age of both her kind, and her own life, and she will probably do whatever she can to bring those times back. Maybe if Rinke was allowed to build a new garden and play a role of a confident, slightly mad king there (even if he was actually perfectly sane and aware that all of it was was an act), his creations would be happy to live in such place, and wouldn’t want to leave it even if there were no walls around?

          1. …and if Nilbog wouldn’t be allowed to do it, or refused to do it, because he feared what returning to such place and role would do to his sanity, then maybe his creations would be content to have a “Red Queen” as a substitute – at least as long as she made a garden for them, and played a role of a benevolent monarch Nilbog’s creations saw in their king? This is one problem Dot has with Amy after all – Amy may have a power to do what Goblin King did, but doesn’t want to use it in a way he did (she actually wants to do the opposite – make people more “boring” in Dots eyes), and generally doesn’t want to play a role of a queen. At least she reacts to the title…

          2. Finally the exact title “Red Queen”, as well as the role that in Dot’s opinion comes with the title, is actually probably very important to Dot – after all as far as I remember it was Nilbog who called her that way first in Dot’s presence, and who also told her to use her power to take what she wants, to “make her own kingdom”. Dot probably doesn’t even realize that the title originally came from Ciara, wasn’t even used to describe Amy, but her shard, and had nothing to do with Nilbog or his kingdom.

            All of this means that to Dot Amy is practically a heiress designated by her king. No other bio-kinetic or bio-tinker will do, at least without Red Queen’s or Goblin King’s (if Dot even still considers Rinke her king) approval.

          3. I think that this bit from Dot’s interlude makes it clear that she was born in Ellisburg, likely even before Taylor triggered:

            Too new a building, too maintained. This was nothing like the kingdom or the ruins she had known during her five years of existence.

    1. What is most obvious is that Amy doesn’t really see other people. Or at least she doesn’t internalize their emotional states based on physical cues.
      Maybe her growing up healing so many people in terrible conditions at a young age dulled her empathy.

  2. There is something that I’m really concerned about.

    It’s how Victoria is not hiding anything about her plans. She told her that she was going to be underhanded. She told her that she is going to plan on exiling her. All together, she’s being too open given the situation.

    Hell, Amy wanted the truth and she got the truth, probably by forced-power.

    1. Perhaps Amy tweaked Victoria’s brain a little to make Victoria more likely to spill her secrets? Victoria may have been right to mention those master-stranger protocols, and to say she needs Sveta – after all Sveta is perhaps the person most likely to notice such subtle changes in Victoria’s behavior and personality.

      1. I guess if this is the case, then Sveta will have to repurpose that sign she originally was supposed to use to make Victoria back off if she was too aggressive towards Amy. This time the sign will mean “Stop talking, you are revealing too much sensitive information to wrong people.”

    2. Well it’s the truth as Vicky sees it. I think I finally understand what’s been bugging me about Vicky’s narration. It’s because she’s so automatically hostile towards Amy, and her mind always goes towards the worse interpretation of Amy. I know that kind of hate. I’ve done it often enough myself. But that’s not a good thing if you want to be rational. I understand the good reasons Victoria has to hate Amy. But honestly, I don’t think it matters what Amy does, even if she did everything absolutly right, Vicky’s mind would still go those same places. Because she hates Amy. She can’t not hate Amy. She can handle it maybe a bit better if she’s in a different reality from Amy. But in the same room? Well I’ll give Victoria credit for not trying to murdurize her sister.

      1. But Amy doesn’t do anything right. Try to imagine yourself in a hypothetical scenario where someone thinks you’re way worse than you are. In this hypothetical scenario, they’re fucking terrified of you to the point that they’re trying to crawl through the wall behind them even though they could easily kill you if they needed.

        In this hypothetical, do you A) try to be accommodating and ask what you can do to keep them from hyperventilating in a corner, even if that means leaving the room? Or B) do the exact thing that they’re terrified you’ll do to them at every opportunity, all the while claiming it’s just a misunderstanding?

        Amy has no sense of empathy, she thinks that shitty things are fine to do as long as there’s no consequences. “It’s fine if I use my power on you without consent, against your will, as long as I don’t do anything overtly awful.”

      2. I guess thats what Amy finally realized: Vic hates her with all her being. And she will hate her no matter what she does. She can cure 1000 people from deadly diseases and Vic will still blame her for the one or two she couldnt help or she messed up in the process.

        All in all this encounter here was a bit.. anticlimactic. Nothing changed nothing resolved. Still feeling like Amy is the truly tragic character in the story.

        1. In order to get forgiveness for bad deeds, you kind of have to…stop doing them first. Until you do that, there’s no reason to believe your repentance is genuine.

          1. That is, of course, true.

            However it is a bit more complicated with a power like Amys.
            Example: Someone with a terminal brain tumor comes to her for help. What is she supposed to do? Say: “Sorry, I promised I wont work on brains anymore. Have a nice die.” Or say “I have to break a promise I made and I might mess it up anyway but chances are I can cure you”.

            Honestly if I was that guy Id hope she chooses number two.
            “Its complicated” is most true in this case.

          2. You say “I would like to help you, but honestly, I have seriously fucked people up in the past, and I don’t feel comfortable doing it”. Not just for no reason, but for well and truly good reasons.

            And are all of these cases that Amy is working on “Amy or death, no other options”? Because I don’t really get that feel, but hey, maybe I’m wrong.
            If somebody says “seriously, I’m willing to take the risk, because I have zero other options”, then sure, and I’m not going to hold that against her. As long as her patients are making informed choices, emphasis on informed (which at this point, they’re clearly not, as Amy is not even admitting her mistakes to herself, much less to her patients).

        2. If Amy actually truly realized that Victoria utterly hates her, and still did what she did in this chapter, then she’s an utterly monstrous person without a shred of empathy left in her and probably needs to fucking die.

          1. I disagree, Amy is madly in love with Vic, because of vic, and desperate to repair bridges between the only person. She ever really wanted in her life.

    3. Oooh yeah, that seems possible. Might also be why Amy is getting so frustrated here, given that everything Vicky says is bound to be true as she sees it.

      1. Amy comprehends Victoria’s feelings but she doesn’t understand them. Also, forgiveness is an act of compassion so how can Amy truly expect Victoria, who hates her, to forgive her? How did Amy get so warped? It almost makes one wonder if Carol’s apparent belief that evil is genetic is true in this case.

  3. Tristan answered, “The vote was mounted, while our thinkers thought A Practical Guide to Evil’s voters were distracted. Citrine said they’re gathering troops and allies for a second phase voting phase, because not enough of the first group are reporting votes. We’d be going as late arrivals, stragglers.”

    Against an enemy Amy had called unbeatable, and not as good as Ward.

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

    1. Frankly, I’m enjoying PG2E a fair bit more than Ward. Victoria is just not a protagonist I find at all likeable or relateable.

    2. PGtE is amazing so good for them and I vote for them at every opportunity. Ward has…issues but I’m already invested so I’m just seeing it through.

    3. I hope it doesn’t come across as rude or cheating, but given that you can only vote once every 7 days…

      When is it actually better to vote, Saturdays or Tuesdays?

      I mean… I’m not even sure what difference could it make.

      1. You can vote as often as you can, it just expires 7 days after you last did, and voting before it expired renews it. It’s better to vote twice a week, that way your vote never expires.

        That said, PGTE is better than Ward. I enjoy Ward and I like Victoria as a protagonist very much, but PGTE is just higher quality writing.

  4. Its kinda hilarious how similar the terrible two here are. They both feel violated by the others existence. They both have defective support structures. And both of them are utterly incapable of putting their own emotions aside of 15mins so they can talk about the potential end of the world.

    1. Yes, it’s kinda something that occassionally pops up in stories for me. The “Goddamn I don’t care about your fucking love lifes/awful parents/rent issues/whatever, the shit is going down, get to work!” issue.

    2. Victoria was actively having a panic attack the entire time she was in Amy’s presence, and held it together enough to actually talk just through forcing herself to think about the refugees.

      Nothing Amy did or said here is anything other than horrible and wrong.

  5. I was so scared for a moment when Victoria threatened to hurt/kill Dot…I was like: No, Vic, leave Dot alone, she’s too cute and innocent, do whatever you want to Amy, but don’t touch Dot.

    I was going to hate Vic if she’d have hurt Dot.

    But not even Vic have the heart to truly hurt Dot even if Dot’s Queen is driving her mad :).

    “Master-stranger protocols,” I said.

    Our time with Goddess had hammered in that particular lesson. Everyone got it.

    “What happened?” Ashley asked.

    “Amy,” Vista guessed. I flinched, looking away.”

    Is Amy Teacher’s pupil? She said that he’s not interested in ruling the world but everything he’s doing now show the contrary of her affirmations+ he likes to control people and he admitted this in Worm; Amy talks about him with admiration, respect and fear, like he’s not everyone’ enemy, but a savior. She knows too much about him. What if he started to control her since Birdcage?

    The prison attack was planned, Amy, stop lying. The guardians told prisoners about the parahumans and the whole fight was recorded on cameras. Planned, because they tried to force parahumans to lose their cool and hurt/kill their attackers and guardians. Amy, you’re such a liar.

    1. Master Stranger protocol probably refers to how Amy can act as a Master. Victoria was worried about breathing the same air as her. And to be fair, I wouldn’t say it’s impossible for Amy to make microbes that say, act like a relaxent, or induce suggestibility.

      And Amy may not be a lair. She might simply be stupid enough to believe what Shin told her.

    2. Amy being Teachered and heavily influenced by Ingenue (woman of your dreams) is my favourite conspiracy theory.

      The prison break wasnt about Goddess, but about getting Scapegoat within 150 feet of Amy after Marquis’ refusal to allow Teacher to make his pitch to Amy directly

      1. Yes, its a good theory. The way she speaks about Teacher and his shady purposes, I can feel admiration mixed up with fear for him. Maybe she sincerely believe in his “good intentions” or she’s mastered by him and what she said about him what he asked her to say.

    3. We can know that she’s not his pupil by the simple fact that her power is hard to control. That would obviously be the thing he could give her.

  6. Teacher’s current state of nigh-invincibility is what happens when you have the Wardens, an unbound Dragon, and even the Undersiders going after him in Worm epilogue after he’s once again getting up to shit in their faces, and suddenly giving him all the time in the world.

    Guess they just forgot about him the day after Worm.

    1. … Is that suppose to be a Game of Thrones refference?

      But hey it’s entirely possible they didn’t forget about him, he’s just too tough and scary and they can’t risk going after him cause they don’t know enough about how to counter his power and stuff.

      1. Also, he was hiding in Cauldron’s old base. They might have known where it is, but they don’t know how to get to it. Especially if he’s got an army of tinkers building devices to block his world off from others trying to get in.

    2. They didn’t forget, and the change didn’t happen that day:

      “We might have to revisit the truce we made,” Jeanne said. “We thought the Undersiders knocked him down enough pegs that he wouldn’t recoup fast. It seems he’s more resourceful than that.”

  7. I’m torn. Dot seems like she has Amy’s ear, in more ways than one, but she finds Amy’s mistakes entertaining… But she also is a semi-objective observer, given she didn’t embellish or hide what Amy did.

    Also, yay, we found the edge of Amy’s desire to cozy up to Victoria.

    The spat about the pigeons had them acting like sisters for a second again.

    So it wasn’t save-scumming, but the way Victoria truth-serumed and mind-vomited every appreciably underhanded thing at Amy, it seems that either her frayed nerves gave way or there was powered foul play after all.

    Maybe a smudge of paint outside the lines that neither noticed yet? I’m hoping Sveta is okay to help with that.

    1. I still think the amount of ⊙ has some significance, and that we skipped over 4 ‘chunks’, however long these were.

      1. I, too, am sure something happened there. WB never puts stuff like that in for no reason at all.
        Of course the question is: What.

        If Amy actually did something it was strangely unhelpful for her in the conversation. No Memory Blocks no emotional reatuneing. Maybe she really just fixed up her wounds.

      2. By the way… This seemed to be around the time when Wardens attacked Teacher. And especially after Amy’s description in this chapter, I could fully expect some far-reaching fuckery resulting from that.

  8. I’ve noticed a prevalent grammar mistake as I’ve caught up on the Worm/Ward story. Now I’m finally here, I hope it doesn’t come across as too late or too pedantic. I assume you want to know.

    Object pronoun “you and me” vs. subject pronoun “you and I”: subject+verb
    +direct object+indirect object.

    In sentences where the the compound pronoun can be substituted for the pronoun “us”, the compound pronoun should always be “you and me”, as those pronouns are objects. Also after a preposition, use “you and me” because there are no subjects of prepositions, only objects. So grammatically, it is always to/for/between/because of “you and me”. (They are acted upon/receive the action).

    Whenever you can substitute “we”, you should use “you and I.” Those pronouns are subjects (they act/are acting).

    This grammatical mistake is called “hypercorrectness”, a deliberate fudge to avoid being wrong in the very few instances where subject pronouns are allowed in a predicate (for example in a comparison—he is bigger than I—or the predicate l—it was I who called). Rather than learning when those few occasions actually are, and using subject case, people picked up the bad habit of always using subject case, which is even more incorrect. Bad TV dialogue hammered in the mistake, and hypercorrectness has become one of the top twenty grammar mistakes made in entry level college writing courses. It’s a very common error, but it’s also worth fixing.

    1. I can’t address other instances, but both cases of “you and I” that occur in this chapter are correctly used. “You and me” doesn’t appear at all in this chapter (as far as the search function is concerned, anyway)

      Even beyond this particular anecdote, it should also be taken into consideration that when these phrases are used, they are almost always in dialogue. This means that the language used needn’t be grammatically correct, as the goal is mimic common speech patterns, and as you pointed out, people tend to make this particular mistake when speaking.

    2. When it’s in speech or POV-thoughts, I personally find it more lifelike to have characters do common mistakes, unless sticking to perfect grammar is one of their defining traits.
      However, I’m not noticing any wrong use in this very chapter (unless a ninja fixed them since your post).

  9. Typo thread.

    > Not in real fights -she was crap in a real fight-, but in a broader sense.

    I’m not sure if a comma is necessary after a dash used the way it was done in this sentence.

    1. he chair > the chair
      fight-, > fight-
      “Let people > “let people
      voice getting > voice, getting
      now hard > how hard

  10. Speculation : teacher wants to either create and control the new hub or transcend his humanity and BE the new hub

    “He manufactured a crack, he’s going to intentionally create more. Each one gives him more access to the system and more control over the levers and knobs that decide everything else.”

      1. Hmm. We don’t know who this son is. Saint thought he knew, but Tattletale thought he was wrong. Maybe there is no son. But maybe, just maybe, this son is named Veder. Greg Veder.

        Now we just need to figure out how to let him pilot an Endbringer.

  11. Oh no, the poor Wardens. Even cunningly keeping Breakthrough in prison so that the raid could take place offscreen wasn’t enough to save them from the Worf Effect.

    I know Teacher is supposed to be thus big threat, but honestly the Wardens getting stomped on isn’t much good for establishing this because every big villain stomps on the Wardens.

      1. Going up against a teachered Contessa and our unfriendly neighbourhood Overseer is going to saturate the creepiness sensors way past 12 again…

        1. I’m gonna come out and say it. With the Wardens, I’m pretty sure a convience store robber with a knife would stymie them. I mean there’d be some sort of explination, like the knife is possessed by a greater demon and it’s an outside context problem, but the point is I just don’t expect them to be winning.

          1. I suspect they deliberately don’t fight properly to keep that metaphorical ice from breaking. Not sure if it really makes sense because we still don’t see the whole picture… At least it justifies the apparent weakness, contrasting to what we saw them do in Worm.

          2. Don’t forget that even not counting Contessa, the heroes may not know about a lot of aces Teacher may be hiding from them, including the ones that we know, or at least have reasons to suspect about. They may not know what he keeps at the top of the complex (and if it can be weaponized), they may not know about some of his powerful allies other than Contessa, they may not know what Teacher may accomplish by manipulating connections between shards, they may not know that most of Teacher’s students are no longer behaving almost like mindless drones, and so on…

            With intelligence potentially that bad I expect that no advantage of surprise, firepower or numbers the attackers may enjoy (assuming that they do, which is also not certain) may be enough to save them from being beaten by Teacher’s forces.

            Even if the heroes manage to seize the complex, it may not result in Teacher’s defeat. What if Teacher is prepared to kiil or capture some of invading capes (that later possibility may be worse considering his numerous options of mastering people), and then simply evacuate the complex and establish his base of operations elsewhere (for example on Chiet)? The only thing the heroes may get out of it is an empty complex with some abandoned equipment (like those large machines used to create Teacher’s portals) and Eden’s body buried deep beneath it. They may even be unable to capture whatever Teacher has at the top of the complex, because we simply don’t know if it is easily portable or not.

    1. “Citrine said they’re gathering troops and allies for a second phase assault, because not enough of the first group are reporting back.”

      Although note that they aren’t reporting that they’re losing: they’re reporting that they’re disappearing. For all we know, the first wave curbstomped Teacher in the first five minutes but then ran into whatever the hell that thing in his attic was …

        1. I don’t know why, but your comment reminded me of Ranma 1/2, and now I can’t get the image of Wardens suffering death by coconuts, Aloha shirts, barber’s sheers and horrendous Hawaiian pidgin out of my head.

      1. > Although note that they aren’t reporting that they’re losing: they’re reporting that they’re disappearing.

        It could be an issue with communications technology the Wardens are using. Remember that one of Teacher’s students we saw in Overseer’s interlude seemed to have managed to make some breakthrough into cracking some communications protocol shortly after Dragon uses her backdoor into Victoria’s cellphone to send Victoria a message despite the fact that the phone was supposed to be off. What if the heroes invading Cauldron used the same protocol to stay in touch with each other and their base, and Teacher’s students managed to use their insight into the protocol to shut at least some of that communication network down?

  12. Okay, as much as I dislike Victoria during the latest chapters, have to be fair: points to her for being honest, acting reasonable and trying to achieve some meaningful results. Really hope it wasn’t a result of drugs or powers, as people are suspecting.
    And now onwards and upwards, straight into a shitstorm!

      1. Her being unfair and irrational beyond all reasonable limits. Yes, given her history with Amy, some of that can be expected, but Vicky really needs to tune it down, not even for Amy but for her own benefit, and for others who are surrounding her. Right now she’s her own worst enemy, with all this fear, hate and paranoia. Her hate even bleeds into her opinion of others already, resulting in completely unfair judgements about Precipice and Swansong.
        She already thinks that Amy could create airborne pathogens, and is afraid to be in the same room with her because of that, for f-sake. The obvious next step is to realize that said pathogens could be made durable enough to travel through the portals between worlds, and designed to activate only in the presence of Vicky’s DNA, so being in another world is not much safer than being in the same room with Amy; and even if Vicky just kills her right now (by the way, what if there is a backup Amy somewhere? there is even a certain someone who could give her this idea…), Amy could already have done it at any point in the past. And who knows what these pathogens could do?! Booooooooo!! No hope, no salvation, only a big question mark on Vicky’s brain and body, and paranoia forever after! That is, unless Vicky decides to stop cherishing her hate and actually think a little.

        1. Thinking hurts and is scary. The narration outright told us that Vicky settled on hate as a coping mechanism to avoid having to think about it.

          Have you ever been in a situation where everything seems better than actively thinking about that one thing you don’t want to think about?

        2. I think being unfair and irrational is allowed when you’re forced to be in close proximity to your rapist. The fact that shes managed to hold back from straight up attacking Amy is a feat unto itself.

          1. Well, you certainly may consider anything you want to be a feat for her, up to and including speaking in actual words instead of screaming incoherently and banging her head against the wall. But that doesn’t negate my points about her continuously harming herself with such attitude (and, to a somewhat lesser degree, increasing probability that she will eventually harm something or someone else). And a comparison to rape has so little sense and is discussed at such lengths elsewhere already that I won’t go into that here.

        3. Did you miss in the last chapter where it was basically straight up confirmed that Amy actually did straight up rape Victoria?

          1. No, it wasn’t straight-up confirmed, you’re reading a confirmation of your point of view between the lines. By the way, did you miss a lengthy discussion about this in comments to the last chapter?

          2. @T.T.O. I doubt that WB is every going to have his text outright say anyone was raped. It seems to go against the esthetic of his writing, at least in the the Parahuman stories and parts of Pact that I’ve gotten through.

            To respond to your statement of “No, it wasn’t straight-up confirmed, you’re reading a confirmation of your point of view between the lines.” Victoria came as close to straight out saying “you raped me” as the story conventions we seem to be operating under will allow. Amy did kinda automatically shake her head at that. I view that as a denial of the emotional consequences rather than of the act itself. However, let’s say she denied it.

            Victoria is being upfront and not even holding back on the exile option in this conversation. She is direct about her feelings, conclusions, desires, and plans.

            Amy has been sketchy about everything since Vic arrived. She’s upset about things that she won’t articulate, she’s been explicitly revealed to have been lying about how badly she’s messing up, and she’s almost certainly lied to Vic about what she did when she used her power. She’s also obviously lying about caring about Vic’s emotional well-being. She saw how intensely Vic fears and hates her. She has to know how horrible it is for her to have cornered Victoria like that. She just doesn’t care, because it gets her the Vicky Time that she wants.

            So even if her little head shake was an explicit denial of the act, I still believe Victoria (the victim) over Amy (the assailant). So yes, Amy is a rapist in my eyes. Not a metaphoric She Did Something Akin To Rape rapist. She’s a I Literally Raped My Own Sister rapist.

          3. > I doubt that WB is every going to have his text outright say anyone was raped

            Well, I think I remember something along these lines being said pretty unambiguously when he described what was going on in the Vasil family, but I don’t remember the exact wording. But anyway, I agree that it would also be entirely in his character to leave something like that being ambiguous, in which case we’re left with indirect clues. Now how I’m interpreting these clues in this case: Victoria was feeling violated and was expressing it, and Amy was desperately trying to make up for that somehow, to reach out and to be useful. Yes, she’s lying about how badly she’s messing up – I think she’s lying about it to herself as well, she tries to escape the need to acknowledge how bad it is. The same pattern shows in how she’s dealing with Victoria’s feelings. She cares about Victoria’s feelings – in the sense that she’s shaken and upset by them, and desperately wants her to feel better – but I like how someone here has put it: she sees them as a problem to overcome. She views their conversation not as Vicky Time for her to enjoy (she doesn’t enjoy it), but as a chance to try to overcome this problem.
            Also, Vicky had been thinking about her trauma a lot, so we know how she thinks about it. To me, it doesn’t look like rape at all. The emphasis always was on Amy taking Vicky’s free will and body from her – which is what definitely and unambiguously happened, and the most recent Vicky’s words, while ambiguous, fit this interpretation as well.

          4. @T.T.O “The emphasis always was on Amy taking Vicky’s free will and body from her – which is what definitely and unambiguously happened, and the most recent Vicky’s words, while ambiguous, fit this interpretation as well.”

            So while you don’t think that Amy raped Victoria by the mundane definitions of rape and sexual assault that we have in the un-super world (hard disagree, but putting that aside), you do agree that she violated Vic’s mind and body in ways so horrible that rape is a very good fill-in word for the violation? I’ve got that correct? She then left her in this state that many would consider a Fate Worse Than Death for two years. And everyone thought that this was what she’d deal with for the rest of her life.

            “She cares about Victoria’s feelings – in the sense that she’s shaken and upset by them, and desperately wants her to feel better – but I like how someone here has put it: she sees them as a problem to overcome. She views their conversation not as Vicky Time for her to enjoy (she doesn’t enjoy it), but as a chance to try to overcome this problem.”

            I’ve quoted that ‘problems to overcome’ thing myself. I think it originates from Megafire. However, Amy seeing Vic’s feelings as obstacles (more accurate imo) is a sign that she doesn’t really acknowledge their real effect of Victoria. They’re just something to get through so matters can Go Back To The Way Things Were. If she really cared about Vic’s feelings, she’d never literally corner her in a prison cell, say she wants to make her feel more at ease, and then continuously refuse to do the one thing she’s continuously told will make things better (leave). She won’t do that because it stands in the way of the forgiveness she thinks she’s due and Vic’s actual feelings don’t mean squat compared to that. She even says that Victoria should be able to get used to the overpowering fear and revulsion she feels in Amy’s presence. She just has to get used to it. Implied is that after weeks or months of this torture, Vic will be able to numb herself to the horror miraculously without breaking in some fashion.

            Also, I used the “torture” with deliberation. Intentionally inflicting the degree of emotional distress that she’s evoking by cornering Victoria in that cell is emotional torture. She can’t even say she’s ignorant of the trauma she’s inflicting, because she admits she read it off Vic when she assaulted her with her power. Amy is torturing Victoria in an attempt to make herself feel better.

          5. > you do agree that she violated Vic’s mind and body in ways so horrible that rape is a very good fill-in word for the violation?

            No. “Rape” is not a shorthand for “an unimaginably horrible thing”, it’s a concept with a fairly well-defined meaning (and, for many people, with a lot of emotional response which hampers reasoning). It does not apply here, however horrible the violation was. I’m not trying to downplay the horror of what happened to Vicky, but calling it “rape” adds nothing to the discussion, except for triggering excessive emotional reactions of some commenters.

            > However, Amy seeing Vic’s feelings as obstacles (more accurate imo) is a sign that she doesn’t really acknowledge their real effect of Victoria.

            Maybe not the effect itself but its consequences, and her chances to change anything by doing what she’s trying to do. But yes, not acknowledging painful things is a stable trend for Amy.

            > Amy is torturing Victoria in an attempt to make herself feel better.

            Well, in another comment branch on this page I’m arguing that first and foremost Victoria is torturing herself and is her own worst enemy right now. But Amy’s misguided reconciliation efforts and tendency to flat-out refuse to acknowledge what situation she is in are harming herself and others (and no, right now Victoria takes one of the last places among those others) just as well.

          6. “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.”

            This doesn’t quite read to me as a clear confirmation of rape. If Victoria’s rebuttal had just reiterated “You used me” rather than saying “You used me to soothe yourself,” then sure. That extra bit of elaboration, however, makes it ambiguous as to whether “use” was meant as a euphemism or as emphasis on Amy’s motives. I feel like the latter is a bit more likely, but it could really go either way.

            However, given that this happened after Victoria agreed to be fair and Amy didn’t voice an objection to the allegations, it’s safe to interpret this as confirmation of, at minimum, sexual assault.

          7. @David Hunt

            You got it:

            ‘@T.T.O. I doubt that WB is every going to have his text outright say anyone was raped. It seems to go against the esthetic of his writing, at least in the the Parahuman stories and parts of Pact that I’ve gotten through.

            To respond to your statement of “No, it wasn’t straight-up confirmed, you’re reading a confirmation of your point of view between the lines.” Victoria came as close to straight out saying “you raped me” as the story conventions we seem to be operating under will allow.’

            This writer won’t write a character saying “I was raped” when the same ideas can be clearly communicated by other means. Even for characters that *obviously* were raped. *Especially* for those characters. That’s the bottom line.

            There was zero need to explicitly state that Blake was sexually assaulted and held against his will in so many words. So the text conveyed that idea in gut-wrenching clarity without ever turning to those words. Same author, same rules.

            @Pizzasgood

            I don’t know how else this author would write a rape victim telling her abuser that they raped her. Wildbow views it as better writing to make powerful ideas viscerally clear without just saying the word that triggers lots of obvious responses people have. *If* that’s the intended message, I don’t think he will be more explicit within the work unless a large portion of the fandom is clearly misconstruing his meaning.

            More likely he’ll say it in a comment section if that’s what he meant to say, but people are continuing with the denial.

            @T.T.O.

            I do recommend returning to the Vasil family bits. The Fallen interludes too. They’re a good model. Pact is better, though, with a Wildbow protagonist who was clearly raped, but whose rape was never called by that name or shown “on camera”.

            Wildbow actively avoids the absolute most explicit words for sexual abuse as a general rule. He’s extraordinarily careful with words.

            “Use,” for example.

            I was completely on the no-literal-sex-took-place bandwagon till this week, but…. *This* writer wanting to tell us *that* horrible truth, this is exactly how it’d be done. A carefully dropped “use” to which the purported attacker violently reacts without explicitly denying. We see Amy lying, bending the truth, ignoring things she doesn’t like throughout these chapters. Why not deny the worst implication?

          8. @Admiral Matt: well, first, I’d say that shaking head is a denial. And then: “you used – (Amy interrupts, shaking her head) – no, don’t deny, you used me to soothe yourself” fits the nonsexual interpretation much better than the one with the rape. “To soothe oneself” is not how I would imagine any kind of sex being described. But it’s exactly how I would describe a person who is hurt, scared and lonely, spending time with their loved one to escape those feelings. By saying that Amy used her for those purposes, Victoria means that Amy was staying with her not for Victoria’s but for her own benefit, disregarding what Victoria herself might want (and I tend to agree with her here), and Amy was denying it.

          9. > I do recommend returning to the Vasil family bits. The Fallen interludes too. They’re a good model.

            It has been a long time since I read Worm, so I don’t remember which chapters these bits were in. And regarding the Fallen – I’d say that “making someone a slut” is an explicit and unambiguous description of rape, unlike what we are seeing here.
            (by the way, I’m sure I’m not the only one here who didn’t read Pact yet, so please avoid spoilers)

          10. The quibbling over body language denial versus spoken denial is beside the point.

            Amy reacted differently to different stimuli; all accusations were not treated equally. Minimizing the quantity of errors is one thing, moving goalposts another, ignoring unwanted statements still a third, and sudden jerking rejection without a word spoken is distinct from all three. I argue these different reactions were nonrandom. The writer intended us to read specific things about the characters and plot into Amy’s specific responses.

            Why that *specific form* of rejecting Victoria’s position in that case? Why not simply ignore it, as she does elsewhere? I argue it was because something physical happened along the lines of sexual assault. What is your theory for what we’re learning about Amy’s mental state in that reaction?

            We may have different reads on that aspect, and that’s obviously fair.

            But if all Amy did was spend time her to escape the feelings, what about the memory blocks? Blocking the Nine…. okay. Blocking the Wretching.

            She blocked the “see her smile again” part along with it. She blocked the “hug me before I left forever” bit. Whatever happened then, Amy felt it was on par with turning her sister into a sprawling blob. Just as important to forget. What was Amy ashamed of, on that level?

            The mind goes to the unforgivable quite naturally.

            Language can be used flexibly in spoken English. Words can mean a lot of things. But *this* author doesn’t strive to recreate the breadth and depth of variety of the language. *This* author expends enormous effort communicating subtlety and subtext through word choice. If an important word doesn’t convey the intended meaning or meanings to the large body of readers, that word tends to disappear in edits: “Expiry dates, sir.”

            Amy’s actions are established explicitly and consistently as metaphors for abuse and violation. The author and audience are on the same page there. How would such an author expect an audience primed in this way to interpret “use”?

            If this take is wrong, it’s because the writer wants much of the audience to have the misconception at this point in the story.

          11. > Why that *specific form* of rejecting Victoria’s position in that case? Why not simply ignore it, as she does elsewhere? I argue it was because something physical happened along the lines of sexual assault. What is your theory for what we’re learning about Amy’s mental state in that reaction?

            Amy would like to believe that her staying with Victoria was purely or mostly altruistic, and would like Victoria to believe it too. It’s important for her to see herself as someone wanting to do good, even if the results turned out to be horrific. So Victoria’s words are doubly hurtful for her: her self-image is challenged, and also Victoria denying her even this shred of good in her motivations isn’t helping with the hopes for reconciliation.

            > But if all Amy did was spend time her to escape the feelings, what about the memory blocks? Blocking the Nine…. okay. Blocking the Wretching.
            She blocked the “see her smile again” part along with it. She blocked the “hug me before I left forever” bit. Whatever happened then, Amy felt it was on par with turning her sister into a sprawling blob. Just as important to forget. What was Amy ashamed of, on that level?

            I interpreted this as just a blanket block over the whole event, not necessarily every part of it was just as bad as every other part.

            > Amy’s actions are established explicitly and consistently as metaphors for abuse and violation. The author and audience are on the same page there. How would such an author expect an audience primed in this way to interpret “use”?

            I don’t get an impression that WB feels the need to make any statements with his works or tries to make analogies for real-world situations. Amy’s actions are not a metaphor for anything – they are plot points, just events which happened in a fantasy world. I’m failing to imagine any real-world event which would exactly mirror all the details of feelings and motivations of the participants, so I assume that attempts to bring any real-world intuitions into this situation without correcting them to reflect its specifics are going to be at least partly wrong. I’m getting an impression that some commenters take on this situation like “IRL, all fantasy details removed, this description would hint at rape” – while the presence of fantasy details actually changes the situation significantly, making other interpretations more probable.

  13. “a massive hole in another world that he’s elaborating on.”

    Is Teacher working with the hole that was left when Scion died? The hole that connects to the remnants of his true body?

    1. Could be, and it is actually a quite scary possibility, together with the one that he could dig to get access to Eden. Imagine that – Cauldron with access to not one, but two remnants of Entity hubs together with all powers they may still contain.

      A’propos holes and another worlds – didn’t that person who survived the broken trigger during construction workers protest (and presumably triggered first) mention seeing some hole or well of power? Didn’t Colt see something similar during her trigger? On top od it Love Lost mentioned that Snag spoke to her from an alien world. Is there a connection between all of those and what Amy said about Teacher?

      All of it makes me think that Amy might have thought about Rain when she mentioned that one of Victoria’s teammates had something in common with Teacher (though Ashley, and maybe also Kenzie are also still on my list of suspects).

      1. Yeah well I was thinking… If you want to put together a new entity to control the other shards, which ones would you want to start with? You’d want something for networking and controlling them, and Teacher doesn’t seem interested in being a big glowing thing. So the next shard I went to? Queen Administrator. But Taylor is hopefully out of his reach, and Scion nearly destroyed QA he crippled it so hard. But what happened to Eden’s equivelent?

          1. Not to mention contents of his dreams – something even Taylor supposedly didn’t get from her shard, or at least wasn’t allowed to remember…

      2. A more likely teammate might be Capricorn? Where does the silent twin go? Through a wormhole? Into another universe? Maybe Kenzie will figure it out, if only by accident…

        1. Actually every single one of Victoria’s teammates is not completely beyond suspicion. Even Sveta. There are still some unexplained and worrying facts about her – for example why was Cauldron’s attempt to block her memories not fully successful? There may also be some more reasons beyond the ones we already saw for C53s’ hostility towards Sveta.

  14. “If you heal thousands of people and you mutilate twelve or so, you’re a healer who mutilates people.”

    Victoria, starting from her introduction in Worm, has mutilated plenty of people if I recall. I don’t know if she’s saved thousands, but has certainly saved one or two.
    Is Victoria just a (self-proclaimed) hero who mutilates people?

    But she only took her best available course of action, right?
    Apparently the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so I’m not sure that counts for much, Vicky.

    How unconscionable is turning your own mother into mashed potatoes, anyway? I mean, you neglect to let anyone know you’re an invisible danger at less than five feet, so it seems to be gross negligence at least.

    Not sure how well Victoria would do in her own defense hearing.

    1. I think I agree with you.

      I was going to post a comment saying that if a hero did 9 good things and 1 extremely evil thing, they would be labeled a villain.

      But if a villain did 9 bad things and 1 extremely good thing, they would not be labeled a hero.

      Because it’s a matter of limits.

    2. That’s consistent to the character though. She really would condemn herself. She does condemn herself. She looked at Rain Throw-the-Book-at-Me Frazier and she took an extraordinary amount of time to admit that any actual redemption could take place.

      I struggle to find hypocrisy in it.

      I’d go so far as to say that we’ve known she was this harsh with herself since before we realized she was Victoria Dallon, all the way back in Glow Worm.

  15. Okay then, learned what I needed…Amy is apparently incapable of being honest about her fuckups, even when she really needs to be, even to herself, possibly.

    That’s the tipping point, for me. Making mistakes can be accepted, if you acknowledge them, do your best to apologize/fix them, and do everything you can not to repeat them.
    Amy can’t do that. She is refusing to do that. And that makes it impossible to trust her or deal with her, or perhaps even let her be a part of society.

    Ironically, she’s right; she was at her best in the Birdcage, a rigidly controlled mini-society where she was watched every minute and couldn’t hurt anyone. She needs something like that again, like, NOW.

    1. To be fair by talking to Dot Victoria probably managed to at least force Amy to confront her mistakes in a way she never did it before. I think that there is a chance that it will lead to a mental breakthrough Amy needs to “became more honest with herself” when to comes to those mistakes and their meaning in not too distant future.

      The seed of Amy’s doubt has clearly been planted in this chapter. We’ll just have to wait and see what grows out of it.

        1. Like I said for now it is probably just a seed of doubt at the back of Amy’s mind. What I’m afraid of is that Amy will need to do something horrible to Victoria again for the seed to grow from intellectual understanding to actual acceptance of what Victoria told her.

          1. …After all since when have capes managed to solve any of their big problems just by talking to each other? We know that to do it they need some sort of dramatic event (likely a conflict) to happen, and despite how tense this confrontation between Amy and Victoria was in this chapter I don’t think it was dramatic enough.

    2. Actually Victoria is, ironically, gaslighting her. If we held doctors to the standard Amy is being held to we’d have to disband medicine as a scientific field.

        1. Victoria is repeatedly telling Amy, “Since you fucked up a single digit amount of times (and rectified all but 1 of those mistakes) all the good you did is worthless and you should no longer be allowed to heal people or participate in society”. This is obviously bullshit in light of how medicine actually is in terms of success rate. This is a narrative that Victoria has presented to Amy since being healed, thus has the repeated element of gaslighting.

          1. Canonically Amy mindwhammied Victoria into loving her and turned her into a monster before escaping responsibility by heading to the birdcage. That’s a lot worse than what you’re accusing Vic of, plus it’s not gaslighting. It’s Victoria expressing her trauma to Amy, which she obviously doesn’t get, because she’s making the same mistakes.

          2. In response to a comment of yours below.

            Did you read the last chapter? Victoria all but straight up says that Amy legitimately raped her.

            Before she got wretched but after she got cocooned from Crawler, Amy ‘cuddled, kissed, and used’ her. What do you suppose used mean in that context? Victoria was not capable of giving consent. That is rape.

          3. @Metea
            So Amy is fully culpable despite having been mindwhammied by Victoria’s Aura for years and despite undergoing the traumatic experience of Slaughterhouse 9 initiation at the time, but Victoria can act however she likes because she’s “expressing her trauma”? Also sending yourself to the Birdcage is “escaping responsibility” despite effectively being the exact punishment that Victoria wants to lay down on Amy post trauma? What a joke. The situation is incredibly complicated and fucked up but of course since we get Vicky’s perspective it’s AMY EVIL VICTORIA GOOD to most of the fanbase.

            @Ethical
            As I also replied somewhere else that comment is in reference to an event that did not happen in the way that Victoria thinks it did. Victoria interpreted Amy’s tearful embrace as a sexual one because of the way her mind had been altered, we see the actual event from Taylor’s perspective and it is not sexual. If Victoria is not referring to that then she’s talking about Amy mindwhammying her in the abstract which is obviously unbelievably fucked, but not rape.

          4. But that’s not what she’s saying.

            She’s saying that all the good Amy has done doesn’t absolve her of what she did IN VICTORIA’S EYES. Vicky knows fully well that it’s entirely subjective. She’s saying that no number of good deeds done to other people will do anything to change HER opinion. She’s saying that she’s scarred and those unrelated healings don’t do anything to change that.

            Victoria knows at an intellectual level that Amy is capable of doing good for the world. She also knows that Amy could do a lot of harm if she doesn’t get help. The mistakes weren’t just on the level of the inherent risk of brain surgery. They were the result of Amy’s state of mind, and Amy is refusing to put any effort into doing something about that — putting not only herself but anyone she might operate on in UNNECESSARY risk (as opposed to necessary, unavoidable risk).

            Notice what Victoria keeps hammering on: “get help.” She’s not trying to crush Amy and make her stay away from everyone. She’s trying to prevent a powerful parahuman from spiraling out of control.

          5. > Also sending yourself to the Birdcage is “escaping responsibility” despite effectively being the exact punishment that Victoria wants to lay down on Amy post trauma?

            Sending herself to the Birdcage was escaping responsibility because it was running away from the problem instead of fixing the problem. Yes, she ran away to a place of punishment, but no amount of punishment would mitigate the harm she’d done. After Carol found her, the responsible thing for Amy to do would have been to get some rest, maybe talk to a shrink, and then try again to fix Victoria once she wasn’t in the middle of a mental breakdown. If she felt like she needed to be removed from society for society’s own good, then fine, but she should have done that after cleaning up her mess.

            Victoria is pushing to have Amy exiled, but only after giving her the chance to fix Hunter. Important distinction.

            Not that I agree with exiling her, though Victoria does seem right in thinking that Amy’s on a downward spiral. Amy’s aware that she makes mistakes and seems to be making token attempts to reduce her workload and add some oversight, but it doesn’t appear to be enough, and she’s doing a horrible job of owning her mistakes. An intervention is needed, but not full on exile. She just needs better support staff — people with enough spine to make her back down and rest when she’s overdoing it, and to keep her the fuck away from Victoria, regardless of what either sister says on the matter. Moving off Shin may also be necessary, as the Shinies are liable to bully her to the breaking point otherwise.

          6. > After Carol found her, the responsible thing for Amy to do would have been to get some rest, maybe talk to a shrink, and then try again to fix Victoria once she wasn’t in the middle of a mental breakdown.

            Ideally, yes. But then – Amy didn’t expect herself to be able to fix Victoria, because she already tried that and failed. She would have better chances once she wasn’t in the middle of a mental breakdown, but she didn’t realize it because she was still in the middle of said breakdown. If someone convinced her and got help for her, it might have gone differently.

          7. > keep her the fuck away from Victoria, regardless of what either sister says on the matter

            That’s interesting. Do you think that even if Victoria ever changes her opinion on this matter, her say should be disregarded as well?

          8. I was being brief, not spelling out a full fledged legal document covering every possibility. If they actually somehow get over it and want to make up, then great, they can interact freely again, but otherwise they shouldn’t be interacting outside of carefully controlled situations with experienced moderators capable of shutting everything down immediately if they go out of line.

            Meetups like what happened this arc, despite being mutually consensual, are not good for them.

      1. Thats something I found strange, too.
        If we had a heart surgeon with a 90% success rate he would be a celebrity. Amy has a higher success rate with way more complicated procedures and she is a villain. Strange.

          1. He’s far worse – he’s a MURDERER! People had died under his knife! How could this be forgiven?!

          2. Amy is no rapist. Assault, Battery, maybe.
            And it was stated a ton of times that sticking an ill fitting label to what happened between those two does not do justice to anything. It is way more complicated.
            And to make it simpler: “Rape” is pretty well defined. And what Amy did is not it.

            And honestly, if someone could do medical wonders like Amy can they would probably get away with everything they want in our world.

          3. Where’s your ire for Victoria’s mindraping of Amy, Ethical? Canonically Victoria changed Amy’s opinion and feelings towards her via repeated exposure to the emotion aura.

        1. In response to your comment below, Amy absolutely is a rapist. It was all but confirmed in the last chapter: “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-”

          Amy had Victoria in a vulnerable position, and cuddled, kissed, and ‘used’ her, without Victorias consent. That sure sounds like rape to me.

          1. Thats how Vic experienced it. I am very reluctant to take anything Vic says in regard to Amy for a fact.

        2. ‘Thats how Victoria experienced it’ Yeah no fucking shit. And what she experienced is rape. Or are you trying to argue that Amy using her power to force Victoria to enjoy have sex with Amy isnt rape?

          1. What I am arguing is that Vics facts are very clouded and one sided when it comes to Amy.
            It could be seen just as much as mental breakdown or simple accidents on Amys part. She lost control of her powers or simply never was good enough to control her powers to such a degree. It was like wishful thinking on her part that her powers made reality.

            Wasnt the point of this question anyway. Its about how someone with the powers Amy has would be treated. Because her rate of success is far beyond any medical practitioner since Jesus.

          2. When did that happen? The scene Victoria is referring to is the scene where Amy is draped over Victoria’s cronenberg body weeping over her mistake. From Taylor’s (generally objective, astute and sensitive) perspective this did not appear sexual, it appearedto ve remorseful whoch is backed up by the fact that she walked herself into the Birdcage. Victoria remembers it as sexual because she was mindwhammied to be in love with Amy at the time. Amy never physically assaulted Victoria.

      2. How is this accurate? Actually I think you’re being hyperbolic. If doctors had the ability to mess with people’s minds and psyche like Amy can, I’d bet personal stories like Victoria’s and the 11 others would cause doctors to be heavily scrutinized, if not have their licenses taken away.

  16. Dot’s adorable and I love her. Even if she is a creepy little gremlin who likes the taste of blood and has a mouth like a bear trap.

  17. This chapter had me feeling uneasy the whole way through, the talk about Amy using her power as art more than science is really disturbing because it paints a better picture of her power.

    Powers aren’t made for science, they’re made for ‘art’ it’s how they express, because that’s how you get more interesting uses out of them.

    I’ve always thought of Amy’s power as very clinical and precise, but it’s really more like she’s been using a massive paintbrush to write in cursive, and the more her shard takes root, the more she starts to paint instead of write. Disturbing because you can’t reverse how connected you are to your shard, she may be too far gone.

  18. So Teacher doesn’t actually want to rule the world. What the heck is his motivation then? Has he been co-opted by his shard somehow and is just trying to rebuild the network?

    1. RQ’s testimony this chapter is just about the first time I’ve been able to take Teacher seriously. His depths have been hidden. I’m reluctant to raise this possibility because people take this stuff seriously, but if the space whales are “the bad guys” (they are, really!) then it’s possible that Teacher is “the good guy”. We excused a lot of antisocial behavior on Khepri’s part, because the ends justified the means. Humanity survived in multiple universes, rather than the whales completing their spawning exercises. Scion and Eden are feeling out of sorts, but their constituent parts still want that climax.

      Unlike a lot of Birdcage mooks who spent all of their time mooking (and bodybuilding!), Teacher kept his eyes and ears open and never stopped learning what the world, however small, was prepared to teach him. If he had those conversations with RQ, then he damn sure had them with GU, LR, Ingenue, and whomever else had a deeper window into how this stuff works than the average Brute. He has probably found occasion to interact with lots of other more perceptive capes since then. We know about SG and Contessa at least. We know he talked to Lung after Lung saw the apotheosis of Khepri up close. He has all sorts of ideas that WB hasn’t even gotten around to hanging on the mantle yet.

      Wardens have the idea that they can just stay out of Portal City and that will help somehow. Teacher might have better ideas, in the sense that they are more likely to end the space-whale circle of life even if they’re also more likely to kill and/or inconvenience many more capes. TT knows she can’t trust her agent, and maybe lots of capes sort of have that feeling, but ISTM Teacher is the sort of cape who could do something with that distrust.

        1. If that doesn’t end in the Earth multiverse being destroyed anyway, with Teacher at the head of an ex-human hivemind thing then it still is equivalent to ending it. A humanity living under Teacher as Shin did under Goddess is better than no humanity at all.

          1. It ending with the Earths being destroyed and Teacher going interstellar exactly what I’m talking about.

            He’s taking SMI²LE to the extreme.

          2. I’ma disagree with you on that one. Just because Teacher has a fix (a terrible one) doesn’t mean we should just accept it because “it’s better than nothing”. Try for the good fix, or go down fighting.

            (I accept that this viewpoint is not shared by everyone, and that’s cool)

      1. Of course Teacher is a good guy. We know from his interlude/epilogue that he is one of the only people to discover the existence of Cauldron without having been in direct contact with them (he only had to kill a prime minister and vice president to figure it out – but Taylor would definitely approve of that) before they PtV’d him into the Birdcage.
        We also know he is exceptionally self aware of his faults and how basically his hidden shard power is making everyone he doesn’t brainwash dislike him. He knows he can’t work with other major players as an ally, they’d never trust or like him no matter what- so he has to pursue his own goals in opposition to them, even if those goals align.

        Anyhow, it’s totally appropriate that Teacher would form Cauldron 2 from the same base. Cauldron 2: we are still bastards and we are still trying to save the world.

      2. The problems I see are:

        1. Teacher seems to remove humanity from his thralls if they don’t follow instructions to the letter. He may just keep doing this with no upper limit on the number of thralls. That isn’t automatically any better than total victory by the space-whales.

        2. It’s always the Simurgh. We have every reason to believe she’s artificial – more so than the neuron-inspired and bioputer-using Dragon. If she weren’t still trying to achieve her old goal then I don’t think she’d be so active. Now, Teacher could pose a threat to her if his Thinkers created a blind spot for her future-sight and he gave her no reason to analyze him with her past-sight. But we know that last part is false. The Simurgh came to see Lung during his mission from Teacher. Since Teacher’s not dead, he’s most likely doing what she wants. Fortuna could obviously change that equation, but the problem is the Simurgh likely knows that. Her goal (if taken to the logical extreme) is one of the few outcomes that are definitely worse than space-whale victory.

        3. Stopping the circle of life makes no difference if the other space-whales kill us anyway. If science can duplicate or exceed their powers before humanity meets them again, then where are the people from alternate Earths that have mastered portals?

  19. Holy shit, Dot is alien. I wonder how much of that is… whatever species she’s templated after (if applicable), and how much is the shard itself talking through her?

    1. What shard? Dot was created with a power, and is still alive due to Amy’s power removing the effects of ageing, but her life depends entirely upon normal biology. In fact, Dot might not have been created with a power- her mother or grandmother was one of Nilbog’s creations; Dot herself was born naturally.

      1. Well, obviously Nilbog’s shard was involved with the goblins creation. And I don’t think its a big stretch to say Nilbog is an example of shard/human smooshing, given his ridiculous power level and the fact he’s so insane his name comes from Troll 2. (We don’t talk about this enough) Nilbog has a very shardy outlook on life- he’s an artist and experimenter, who by shard standards embraced his power in the way amy never has. So dot probably has a lot of shard influence in her make up and upbringing (can I call it that?) even if it’s indirect.

        Which brings up an interesting interpretation of Amy. The line between human and shard seems to be volatile, and I wonder if Amys shard is gaining more and more influence as time goes by- after all, knowing what we now know about shards, Amy was actively fighting it when she was just a healer, even if she wasnt aware. Shards want to experiment, and amys shard has so much range and is so powerful that not using it to its fullest must be incredibly difficult. We havnt seen a single example of a parahuman who dosnt use their power, to the point I wonder if its literally possible. So while Amy is clearly making bad descions, I wonder how much of her actions are hers, and how much is it her loosing control on a repressed shard. Maybe amy going the nilbog root is actually the safest- going into an empty world and letting loose with her power. Unfortunately, that would be the creation of a class s threat, and this would come back to bite.

        1. Maybe doing something so extreme as exiling Amy just so she can cut loose isn’t necessary, at least not yet. Maybe for now it would be sufficient if she made one Atlas-like creature a week, or for example worked on some super-GMO to solve Gimel’s food problems? Or maybe it would be sufficient if she took some remote piece of land and created something resembling Nilbog’s kingdom for his creations to live in?

          1. At a guess, any plan that attempts to remove the consequences of using a power is probably going to fail by default.

          2. Nilbog’s an outlier in his ability to just go off and do his own thing away from everybody else. Most shards need to butt heads with other shards to be happy.

            If you set up a weekly contest where Marquis and Capricorn build an obstacle course and then Amy, Rinke, Chris, and Riley compete to see whose creations are better at navigating it, you might be able to get somewhere.

          3. Are you sure that it is not possible to find some compromise between the needs of a shard and a human? I would say that it depends mostly on personality of both, but some compromises should be possible even if it seems at first that human is mostly lost to the shard. People like Ciara, Riley and Jamie Rinke come to mind.

            I’m not saying that there will never be any risks of something going wrong involved, but maybe all that is needed is for Amy to find creative uses for her power without necessarily being destructive. After all creativity is probably more important to shards than conflict.

            Look at the people who have managed to act as rogues for relatively long time – aside from Amy, who didn’t do anything very creative, and has always been struggling to keep her power under control (by imposing strict rules on herself for example) the two other ones who come to my mind are Parian and Canary, who are artists incorporating their power in their art. Of course ultimately neither of them managed to stay rogue (Canary because of a mistake likely to some degree caused by her shard, Parian because her family got pulled into conflict between other capes), but I feel like neither of them never had to fight against their shards as much as Amy had, and still has.

            If Amy took this “artistic” road, maybe she wouldn’t be able to avoid doing something drastic forever, but maybe she could do it for a longer time, with less stress, and oce she finally had to do something big, the results wouldn’t be as catastrophic as they otherwise might be?

            Many other capes are in a similar situation in my opinion – for example Tattletale would probably be a much happier woman if she did things that are less routine (like constantly watching for S-class threats, ruling Brockton Bay, and trying to maintain peace both in the city and among Undersiders and the Heartboken), more varied, and better for both skills/powers and personalities of both her and her shard. Once again – the key is probably to understand needs and personalities of both the shard and the host, and find some compromise, likely involving constantly looking for new, creative ways to use powers.

          4. The above comment was supposed to be a response to Aname’s, I didn’t see Pizzasgood’s comment before posting it.

            As for the idea of competition, I could see it working, but remember that things like gladiatorial cape fights only work for so long. I think that the key element missing from them is change and creativity – it probably wouldn’t work for long if you repeated the same competition over and over again each week, but if you managed to keep inventing new ways to compete, new competitors, and combined it with other creative ways to use powers, you could probably keep shards happy for a relatively long time.

          5. And by the way – depending on how exactly Amy “made” Dot’s clothes, making them could be a good example of creative way to use her power I was talking about.

  20. I think this chapter really drove home the problems with Amy.

    Many people have questioned why Victoria continues to hate and work against Amy. They see Amy as a victim and someone who SHOULD be pitied somewhat or deserving of more sympathy. To be fair, she’s those things as well but despite all her good charity work, good will and efforts we finally see why Victoria can stomach Rain but not Amy.

    Rain doesn’t put his past behind him. He keeps his mistakes in mind, every minute of every day to learn and grow from them. The very essence of his emotion power.

    Amy is all about putting it behind her and not growing or learning from it. As Kenzie put it, nothing more pathetic than someone unwilling to change. Amy will repeat the mistakes of the past and just add to what she puts behind her.

    1. You rise some good points here, but I think that you may be a little too one-sided. Amy’s response to Kenzie’s words about not being allowed to change was also quite valid in my opinion. Maybe Amy had not accepted how much she needs to change (though I think that Victoria probably drove this point home during conversation in this chapter in a way that should make Amy reconsider), but at the same time it is not like Victoria made it easy for Amy to change. And remember just how much Victoria’s opinion means to Amy – it is far more important than Carol’s, Mark’s or Marquis’ for example.

      In other words I don’t say that Amy shouldn’t be blamed for not changing enough, but in my opinion Victoria should have been trying to find a way to help Amy, and I think that until now she did more to hinder and harm her – for obvious, and understandable reasons, but still… The sisters will probably need each other’s help to heal more than they probably suspect, and that have to involve accepting that neither of them is perfect, and trying to find some compromise.

      I just hope that the conversation they had will be a first step in that direction.

      1. And by the way it is not only Victoria who didn’t want to give Amy a fair chance to change. The Wardens have also probably given Amy too little support, while at the same time tried to put a bit too serious restrictions on her.

      2. While I can understand that Victoria likely has the most influence over her sister to encourage change, Victoria is one of her victims. Her greatest one really.

        Imagine a brother who gets drunk and rapes his sister that he’s close to and has an infatuation for.

        He can make excuses that it was only because he was drunk. Maybe he even has a drinking problem and there has since been occasions he’s sexually assaulted women while drunk. But hey, the world won’t let him change because everywhere he goes there are people offering him a drink and women who really do want him sexually, even when he’s drunk.

        The sister might be the best able to help him change. But she doesn’t want anything to do with him and all he wants is a chance to talk civilly and explain, like Amy wants to talk to Victoria.

      3. It’s really not V’s job to make it easy for A to change.

        She left her alone, gave her her chance, asked the best professional she knew to find help for Amy. On the list of other things she could have done for her sister, not one of them was fair or reasonable to ask of Victoria.

        Who exactly has held Amy back from change? The Wardens forgave all until she took control of an army and invaded a planet. Carol came completely to her corner. Mark was there. Marquis was there. For a time, the whole world minus one person was taking it for granted that she’d changed.

        But Amy demanded more.

    2. Its a lot simpler than that: Vic can stomach Rain because Rains actions hurt other people. Amys actions hurt HER.
      If you ask Love Lost she will probably find Amy quite okay but wish Rain dead.
      Simple as that. Its only human.

      1. All too human, I’d say.
        It’s even worse than that: Love Lost might be able to change her opinion of Rain, once she got the insight in their dream room, but I don’t see anything like that in Victoria.

        1. Well, dont forget her child is dead (in part) because of Rain. I dont see any mother ever forgiving that. Even if they are forced to interact daily in the Dreamroom.

          As for Vic: she did realize she is not fair when it comes to Amy. That is a huge step I would say. Amy DID wrong her that is undisputed. But AFAIK nobody ever died because of Amy. Lots of people died because of Rain.

          1. I wouldn’t expect LL to be able to change her mind about Rain, because of what you said – but despite that, she has actually shown signs of being able to do that on the night when Cradle was draining her.
            And regarding Vicky realizing her unfairness – that’s a step forward, I agree.

      2. You’re correct but even LL showed that she’s more considerate of Rain as a person now she’s seen the full dream sequence. It’s still a case that Rain is following all the rules Victoria is trying to drill into Amy. He’s trying to move away from the Fallen that he was but he isn’t trying to run from it. He’s doing good as best he can but it’s still a path to personal growth and change as opposed to continuing with the same path, making more compromises on rules and mistakes that get excused for having good intentions behind them. He isn’t keeping some sort of score on his good deeds with an expectation that it’ll wipe his slate clean in others eyes. He does good because that’s what he wants his new/grown character to be.

        If you start to excuse Amy’s actions, she’ll latch onto it and accept her actions as excusable. If you try the same with Rain he’ll argue against you like he did with the Heartbroken when Vic told him to stop trying to make them hate him.

        1. Good point. Yes, they see blame very differently.
          The main difference is, I guess, Amy still wants to “make it right” somehow.
          Rain accepted that what he did he can never undo. He cant make it right by the dead.
          Amy still is compelled to “make it right” for Vic. She all but admits it: Vic is pretty much the benchmark of her life.

    3. How precisely do you think Amy should change?

      Because I feel like the text is hinting that she cannot be happy or in tune with her shard as a doctor – – her power is not meant to heal and she gets no pleasure out of doing things that “don’t count”.
      And no one has ever been shown appreciating her lifesaving, magical, extremely rare, altruisticaly applied healing ability in this series. Even Bonesaw has people who appreciate her work on prosthetics in the text.

      The best thing for Amy’s mental health, the thing that will let her stop making “mistakes” is to become the Red Queen of Art, and to paint her vision across the world(s) in a way that people cannot help but appreciate.
      That’s where therapy would take her I think. It would be explicitly immoral for a therapist not to place the emotional needs of their client to not heal others ahead of society’s desperate need for their unique talents. (although they might be obligated to warn others that Amy is a threat) Amy desperately needs to change for herself, but society just won’t let her as she has said.
      Do you still want Amy to change if it takes her gifts away from everyone else and means people injured like Carol die or never recover?
      (without Amy, Victoria would have 2 brain dead parents or at least one dead parent. Funny how that mirrors the situation Amy was in when found by the Dallons).

      Also what exactly do you think Amy’s mistakes were? Not having enough empathy for Vicky? Molesting or violating Vicky? Or something that has anything to do with her other patients, which seems almost unrelated to me.

  21. Anyone else thinking the person on Vic’s team who is like Teacher in power is Sveta?

    Just thinking about the many tentacles that all reach out. Could be something similar to connections.

    …Actually when Sveta got her new body with part of Victoria’s DNA as a template/reference, there was discussion about her getting access to Victoria’s powers/shards… but what if it works in reverse as well? The coordination skills in Sveta’s body feels like something Victoria’s shard “spoke” about seeking to better control the Wretch

    1. I really just think it’s Kenzie. She’s the one with all the power-based (or trauma-based) motivations to be close to other people, which for some reason always ends up being parahumans, and she’s the one finding relief in a power to be connected. I 100% think there’s no way Hookup’s power isn’t allowing their shards to network, and outside of that Kenzie is ‘networking’ just shy of 24/7 (except when she fails to not sleep), and using her power to do so.

  22. Did anyone else notice that Amy has apparently been getting worse and worse at strictly following her own rules recently, and at the same time has been lying to Carol about it?

    A few chapters ago Carol said that Amy has been refusing to de-age people for ethical reasons, but in this chapter Dot said that Amy tried to do it with at least one person on Shin, and if we count the fact that during Gold Morning Amy turned Victoria’s body exactly into form she remembered if from two years earlier, we can say that technically we already have two confirmed cases of de-aging by Amy’s power… Looks like that unyielding resolve to always follow self-imposed rules Bonesaw broke in Amy is still very much broken, and it doesn’t apply only to the rule about working with brains.

    1. > unyielding resolve to always follow self-imposed rules

      Which, by the way, always striked me as kind of dumb. And might very well contribute to Amy’s fuckups when her resolve was broken. If she had reasonable safety considerations from the very beginning (not just “booooo, I don’t do brains”), I’m pretty sure it would be much healthier both for her and for her patients.

      1. It may seem dumb, but it has been an important mechanism Amy used to stop herself from going too far. Looks like this mechanism is completely broken right now, and I’m afraid that Amy still needs to find something to replace it.

        1. It has been an important mechanism Amy used to prevent herself from getting to know her power and be confident with it, which contributed to her being insecure and error-prone, and also not knowing the actual limits of what is reasonable and safe – so when she steps over her arbitrarily placed limits, there’s no further limits for her beyond that, and her success becomes a matter of whether her shard decides to offer its creative vision or not.

          1. Actually while Amy was stressed, prone to anxiety, and to be rude or even to intentionally scare her patients I don’t remember a single case when she made an actual error using her power until she met Bonesaw, and broke her rules about not killing with her power, not messing with brains, not creating new life, not “altering” her patients, and generally not being “creative”. Looks like the damage extends to all rules now, including not de-aging patients and apparently not lying to her mother about it.

            Let’s face it – looks like Amy went from an extreme of always strictly sticking to multiple rules all the way to the opposite extreme of always being ready to bend whatever rules she has left, and hasn’t come back from there yet.

          2. Yes, partly because bending unreasonable rules is easy (precisely because they are unreasonable), and she had no reasonable rules to begin with. And partly because she’s more stressed and traumatized now than she was back then, but that’s another matter of her getting good therapy.

          3. With Amy going so far into moral relativism, what absolute truths does she still believe in? Her love for Victoria? One more reason to think that Vicky may be the key to shifting Amy’s mentality in a healthier direction…

          4. And no, I don’t think that a professional therapy will be enough. In particular I can’t imagine a therapy helping much unless Victoria made Amy accept just how much she needs it first.

          5. After all for any psychotherapy to be successful, the patient needs to first admit that they have a problem that needs fixing, and it may not be easy to convince a cape about it. It took Khepri and the way she exposed Scion’s weaknesses to convince Ciara. Will it take Victoria to convince Amy? Has she managed to do it in this chapter? If not, then I think Victoria has at least managed to prepare a good ground to do it in the future.

      2. What “reasonable safety precautions” do you suggest someone take when they experiment with their power to bioengineer human plagues, besides resolving to NOT FUCKING DO THAT?
        (you simply cannot test transmission effectiveness in a lab setting or in non-human animals, there are too many differences.
        Further, just for cultural reference, self replicating threats, like plagues, autonomous life, infectious laughter via memes; you know, the bread and butter of Amy’s power, all get you labeled as S class threat and get you kill on sight orders or a rapid trip to the Birdcage in pre-GM bet.

        So, with all that considered, I think Amy had some pretty good reasons to have a ironclad rules about not doing anything unethical and possibly irreversible, like experimental personality modifications. And it’s a shame that Riley broke that iron will she had, she’s clearly suffering more now for not being able to be the paragon of self control she wants to be.

        1. Can’t you imagine any legitimate uses for bioengineered plagues? Here you go: for example, a complex virus which activates only in bodies of current S9 members and is harmless for everyone else. Or a symbiote which propagates like a virus, granting immunity from some disease. Although what I was initially speaking about was her rule about brains. That just doesn’t make sense, repairing brain damage is in no way unethical. I’d say even experimental personality changes are totally ethical if the patient explicitly asked for them. Autonomous life is also totally fine, if said life doesn’t try to kill everything else on sight (by the way, engineering lifeforms is what humans tried to do throughout all the history, using whatever means available to them). Granted, it would make Amy a much more likely target for villains, as they would get a much better idea of what she’s truly capable of, but the enormous benefits (potentially for all humanity, and definitely for Amy herself) would outweigh the costs.

          1. I can imagine plenty of useful engineered plagues. I can’t imagine *reasonable* safeguards for Amy’s creation of any. She doesn’t create through a rigorous process that has built in limits. She can accidentally make things that murderize (or worse) people without realizing it. The PRT and Wardens would be entirely justified putting a kill-on-sight on her if she started experimenting with any such plagues in the wild. Which would be necessary for testing transmission I think.

            I don’t think what Amy does is “repairing brain damage” I think what she does is wholesale modification of biology, according to the template she designs. She does not repair brain damage so much as grow new parts of a brain back in a way she controls. She writes fanfiction of what someone’s personality should be, then they have to live it. It can be beneficial if she’s a good enough author, but it’s not the same thing as “repairing damage”.

            She chose to only heal people because she didn’t want the power to remake the entire biosphere to be whatever her shard-assisted imagination wanted on a whim. It was a pretty good rule, because she definitely doesn’t have the judgment to be a good steward of that kind of power, as almost no one would.

            Worm: your powers are limited by your imagination in applying them, and Amy *intentionally* tried not to imagine what she could do if she could work with brains or plagues, or autonomous life. That is one of the things that made her a (frustrating, sympathetic) hero instead of a (heroic, terrifying) villian.

            I agree that humans have tried to modify other life at every chance they had. They’ve also tried to modify ecosystems and that mostly has gone terribly wrong because they didn’t understand the consequences or how to do it in a way with appropriate safeguards.
            (I’m not making an argument for there to be no scientific experimentation with ecosystems or organisms, I’m making the argument that Amy and Amy’s shard cannot be trusted to do either well, no matter the safeguards).

          2. Remember that we already know about one example of a “plague” engineered by Amy which proved beneficial for the public – those parasites she created to counter Bonesaw’s plague in chapter 14.10 of Worm.

            Interestingly earlier in the same chapter Amy admitted that she had been turning every microbe that touched her skin into an airborne plague that was supposed to kill Jack (and presumably also Bonesaw) within minutes at most. That plague would likely be lethal to all humans exposed to it and not protected by Panacea’s power (Skitter should have also died from it, because Amy didn’t know about her presence in the area), and was only countered by Bonesaw’s “smoke”.

            Another interesting thing to consider is how Victoria knows about Amy’s ability to create such complex pathogens. Did Amy display an ability to do it before that night? Did Victoria learn about it after Amy let her form new memories three days later (also – when, from whom, and was it about what Amy did in chapter 14.10, or something she threatened to do later, like “I will release a disease that will kill everyone on the planet unless you take me to the Birdcage.”). Or maybe it is something that Victoria realized only thanks to the fact that Engel caused those old memory blocks Amy put on Victoria to deteriorate (in which case there is still a question if Victoria remembered events of chapter 14.10, or just something that was said after Carol found her daughters during her interlude in arc 15 of Worm, but before the point from which Victoria’s memories can be trusted to be not hidden or falsified by Amy.

          3. By the way it is also possible that Amy ended up in Birdcage not because she threatened to release a plague which could cause an extinction-level event, but because after she saw what she did to Victoria, she didn’t trust herself not to lose control over her power again, and release such plague without meaning to do it, in which case demanding to be put in Birdcage wouldn’t be a way for Amy to punish herself, or run away from responsibility for what she did to Victoria, or anything else similarly emotional, but a perfectly rational choice.

          4. In fact perhaps Amy chose to go to Shin of all places because from Gimel’s point of view Shin is already a biohazard (and vice versa), so there may be mechanisms in place to reduce the risk of cross-world biological contamination – mechanisms that might potentially save Gimel’s population if Amy ended up releasing some really dangerous pathogen on Shin.

          5. > I can imagine plenty of useful engineered plagues. I can’t imagine *reasonable* safeguards for Amy’s creation of any. She doesn’t create through a rigorous process that has built in limits.

            Nuclear fission doesn’t have built-in safety limits, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to design a rigorous process which safely puts it to use. And Amy could have much easier time with using her power safely, because she had much more control over it from the very beginning than humans had over nuclear fission when they started experimenting with it. She deliberately refrained from even thinking of practicing her power in certain areas, and entirely unsurprisingly fucked up when she finally went into that area – because, instead of a carefully designed and practiced process, she had only her fear and a taboo, implicitly leading her to thinking that any breach of this taboo is no better than any other.

            > The PRT and Wardens would be entirely justified putting a kill-on-sight on her if she started experimenting with any such plagues in the wild.

            Well, of course no one experiments with designing plagues in the wild, except Bonesaw. And neither it is needed (except for an emergency countermeasure for Bonesaw, as Alfaryn reminded).

            > I don’t think what Amy does is “repairing brain damage” I think what she does is wholesale modification of biology, according to the template she designs. She does not repair brain damage so much as grow new parts of a brain back in a way she controls. She writes fanfiction of what someone’s personality should be, then they have to live it. It can be beneficial if she’s a good enough author, but it’s not the same thing as “repairing damage”.

            There are not many options anyway, if one has brain damage. Also, it could cause personality changes IRL, so Amy’s power might not differ in this regard.
            And by the way, when Amy touches someone, she already can change anything at all, including brains. So “not doing brains” doesn’t even make sense as a safety measure against the power going out of control, because Amy already is “doing” everything at once every time she touches someone. If her power goes out of control, it can overwrite anything in the brain just as well as anywhere else.

          6. It would also explain why on Shin Amy chose to live on Alleghenian Ridge – a landmass that doesn’t have a counterpart on Gimel, and as such likely no portals to Gimel. This way she gets an extra layer of safety – there is a good chance that if she creates some super-pathogen there people on other landmasses on Shin will have enough time to realize what is going on and establish a quarantine before the pathogen leaves the planet. In best case scenario maybe even before it leaves the Ridge.

          7. Sorry, the above comment was supposed to be a continuation of thought from my chain of comments above, not a response to T.T.O.’s comment that ended up splitting that chain.

          8. @Bubblemancer, T.T.O.

            Regarding how Amy’s ability to “repair brain damage” really works, you may want to re-read interlude 11.h from Worm, especially the section beginning with words

            Now she had to focus on his brain.

            and ending with

            Everything he’d lost, she returned to him.

          9. This bit seems particularly relevant:

            Everything biological was shaped in some way by what it had grown from and what had come before. Rebuilding the damaged parts was a matter of tracing everything backwards. Some of the brain was impossible to restore to what it had once been, in the most damaged areas or places where it was the newest growths that were gone, but she could check everything in the surrounding area, use process of elimination and context to figure out what the damaged areas had tied to.

            The way I see it Amy can resore some but not all of “the damaged parts of brain exactly to their previous form, but in case of the most damaged areas or places where it was the newest growths that were gone” she needs to do some educated guesses to make everything work correctly.

          10. @T.T.O.
            > Nuclear fission doesn’t have built-in safety limits, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to design a rigorous process which safely puts it to use.

            Nuclear fission does not have it’s own consciousness with conflict-driven imperative which will deliberately resist any rigorous safely process.

          11. > Nuclear fission does not have it’s own consciousness with conflict-driven imperative which will deliberately resist any rigorous safely process.

            Good point. Still, it’s possible to design a process for taming wild animals, or for negotiating with humans (who may be hostile or malevolent). You would need different methods for that, and the result wouldn’t be 100% guaranteed, but few things are 100% guaranteed in our world. And let’s remember that the conflict drive is only a means to an end for shards, not the ultimate goal. Powers want to be used creatively, so they have a very good incentive not to sabotage their users – in order to be used at all. Sabotaging users seems to be used only as a last resort, if some parahuman is exceedingly hopeless by shards’ standards. And Amy could use her power infinitely more creatively than she’s doing now, while staying firmly on the light side at the same time, but she’s trying hard to meet and exceed standards of hopelessness instead.

    2. It’s almost like simply saying you want to change, without any actual underlying need for change, doesn’t magically make a person able to change. New Year’s resolutions, gym membership subscriptions (aka Fat Taxes), etc.

      Amy’s only observable reason for not wanting to break her rules is that it gives her more work to undo when trying to re-assert those rules. That’s a terrifying place to be, because it’s just a hop and a skip away from realizing there is no underlying reason behind her rules.

      Her reasoning is closer to faith than actual logic. If she loses her “faith,” she loses her reasons. Problem being, her non-logic is literally the only thing holding one of the most blatantly unlimited parahumans this side of Valkyrie in check.

      1. Yeah, Amy probably needs a big shock for her desire to change to become serious enough to actually change. Can Victoria deliver this shock? Can she manage to do it just by talking to Amy, or has Amy to break Vicky again to finally seriously do something about her problems?

        1. I doubt it. Contrary to how fiction usually likes to portray character development, you can’t just fix people by saying the right words at the right time (unless you’re Contessa, but she cheats so hard it doesn’t count). There’s no silver bullet sentence Victoria could utter that’ll ‘shock’ Amy enough to make her stop looping and realize her system broke ages ago. It’d take a consistent pattern of failure and a degree of self-awareness before the average person realized something peculiar was going on, and they’d have to consciously accept that they were the one constant in all those cases.

          I could just be projecting, though.

    3. I don’t think Amy remembered what Vicky looked like. I think her shard tapped into Vicky’s shard, and used what Vicky’s shard remembered of how Vicky looked. We know that kind of thing deteriorates over time, but in a cape who’s been crippled and hasn’t been doing anything cape-y for a while, and since Vicky was still alive, her shard could have tapped into Vicky’s own memories of how she looked before she was wretch’d.

  23. I noticed that in last couple of chapters the confusing layout of prison corridors made Victoria think of Amy as “bullheaded monster”. Just how much should Cretan should be afraid of Victoria right now? And how much should Amy be worried that she has just apparently ended up in the same mental box in Victoria’s mind that contains a person who not only assisted Cradle with chopping people to pieces, but also created a labyrinth in which Victoria almost managed to accidentally kill her own mother?

    1. Nope. Cretan doesn’t have to worry at all, Victoria could just as well think of him as of a cute cuddly kitty, compared to a bullheaded monster which is Amy. Yes, he assisted with chopping people to pieces, but so what? He didn’t hurt Victoria, hence it all is irrelevant in her personal labyrinth inside her head.

      1. What a load of shit lol. Victoria literally ripped Cretans partners arm almost clean out of its socket. You dont think she would have done the same to him?

        1. In that situation, on a battlefield – certainly yes. But she didn’t give Cretan a second thought after it ended, and I totally can imagine her willing to have a normal conversation with him at some point later, if she ever needs to (not a friendly one, I was obviously exaggerating with “a cute cuddly kitty”, but still normal).

  24. I think the thing that gets me in all this is the hypocrisy on Victoria’s part. Amy is a colossal fuckup, but it seems a large part is that her power requires her to constantly reign it in and focus or it starts getting ‘creative’. Any Doctor can make mistakes, and bad ones at that, and they don’t actually have tools that are actively trying to mess up their patients, and for stuff as radical as Amy can do I bet they have a far worse success rate. If Amy can fuck up but also actually fix her mistakes, that’s a lot better.
    Victoria has mostly had powers that work how she wants. The Wretch, however, seems like a close analogue; a power that has amazing capability but needs to be babysat to not actively mess up. She hides it until it nearly kills her own mother. She’s wracked with guilt but she can’t fix it, and it’s not like that’s a surprise to her; she knew full well that the wretch hurting someone isn’t something she could fix. And who cleans up her mistake? Amy. From what I remember in her Glory Girl days she relied on Amy to clean up her mistakes from being a little ‘rough’ with villains too.

    Victoria kind of got a pass. She’s tried to better herself and gotten a lot of understanding and support. Amy has tried to redeem herself from her one big fuckup, apparently done well at it given her continued success rate, and has Victoria turning people against her and repeatedly talking about killing her, all whilst plotting to throw her into a prison with no possibility of escape as the lightest option.

    tl;dr Victoria does her best to actively sabotage any chance of Amy being rehabilitated, assuming she needs to be.

    1. If Amy can fuck up but also actually fix her mistakes, that’s a lot better.

      “If” being the operative term, here.

      Amy’s problem is that she’s consistently taking on way the hell more responsibility than a human being can reasonably handle, even when knowing she has an unreliable power that either needs a superhuman level of focus to use reliably (which it naturally didn’t give her), or likes to randomly fugue her almost as if she were a tinker.

      She can be blameless and still be wrong, in this case. Her personal hangups push her to operate at a level she knows she can’t sustain, making tragic mistakes an inevitability instead of a risk.

      1. If what Dot said is true, Amy CAN fix most if her fuck ups. Amy made a lot of mistakes on Shin, then fixed them. Hunter and Victoria are the only times she didn’t fix her mistakes… and she did eventually fix Victoria, and she’s working on Hunter. Out of thousands of people shes worked on. Two mistakes. Compared to ANY real doctor thats an insane accuracy rate.

        1. Fix, I think, is the wrong word in Victoria’s case. You can’t call a traumatized person fixed.

          Hunter’s description makes it sound like she went through a personality rewrite, and that ain’t something you fix just by fudging a few details until you yourself can’t tell the difference anymore.

          Being a parahuman doesn’t make Amy not a human. This is true, and a really good point. The problem is, she’s a parahuman trying to be a superhuman, and she isn’t super in all the necessary areas to pull it off. It’s sounding like she’d need something approaching Skitter’s super compartmentalizi- I mean, multitasking, or she risks getting lost in the details if she overworked herself that day.

          … now that I think about it, that sounds an awful lot like it’s intentionally playing off Amy’s own problems. Let’s hold on to this, and this, and this, then- oh shit, where’d everything else go? I can fix this, I just need to grab this and this- oh shit, there goes that and those. But if I take this and- damn it, ear canals don’t bend that way!

    2. If a responsible doctor’s tools were actively working against him and causing him to fuck people up, he should STOP USING THEM. Not treat it as “oh well, cost of doing business”.

      1. Well, the same kind of moral dilemma is present in any kind of medicine. Even the most responsible doctors aren’t guaranteed not to make errors, sometimes these errors will cost their patients lives. That’s tragic, both for the doctors and for the relatives of those patients, but that doesn’t mean they should stop practitioning.
        Or to put it this way: suppose you have a magical scalpel, and you know in advance that it will either save a patient’s life, even in most hopeless cases (probability=99.9%), or kill them (probability=0.1%). Do you think it would be immoral or irresponsible to operate with it? Yes, in those 0.1% cases it will work against you. If you use it, 1 patient out of 1000 dies. If you don’t, the death rate will be much higher.

        Another matter is that in Amy’s case, it’s theoretically possible to further improve her success rate by having her undergo therapy and fixing her psychological issues. Of course, by all means she should try that.

        1. Actually, I do think it’d be irresponsible to use the magical scalpel. Being a doctor is a matter of learning and applied skill, not just hope and prayer. The correct approach is to identify the problem, design a procedure that is minimally invasive and makes the fewest necessary changes to address the problem, then carry out that procedure with exacting detail and efficiency. You then communicate your success (or failure, as appropriate) where other doctors can access it, which allows them to review the process, use their own knowledge point out how it can be improved or what mistakes you made, and ultimately apply that knowledge in their own practice. Pound for pound, this saves innumerably more lives than a magical implement that arbitrarily kills one person out of every thousand without informing you how to avoid that one death or how to guarantee those nine hundred and ninety nine lives.

          Unless the scalpel’s successes are actually valid, and can be reproduced if imitated exactly. In that case, by all means go ahead and use the sorcerous thing, so long as you remember to document it like a proper student of medical science, and eventually obviate the failure rate outright. But powers explicitly don’t work that way, so the argument is… questionably valid, in that case.

          Anyways, if the doctor does not know how to correctly save a life without literal magic (or superpowers), they are either the wrong doctor for the job, or they’re insufficiently trained, or they aren’t a doctor and shouldn’t be in an operating room. Giving a magical scalpel to a random person on the street doesn’t make them a doctor, and it most certainly does not qualify them to act as one. I’d go so far as to argue that whoever told Amy she was qualified to act as a doctor is ultimately the person at fault, here, especially since Amy appears to be clinging to that idea as a way to validate herself.

          1. You certainly have a good point about studying, replicating and perfecting the process. Of course it should be done. But even if we don’t consider it: a quick google search suggests that cardiac surgery has a success rate up to 98%, so the magical scalpel would perform at least 20 times better than our best doctors. That’s already a gain in saved lives. And if we give it to a random person on the street (while all the actual doctors continue working as they did before), then all lives saved by him would be a net gain, otherwise they would just die. Would it really be irresponsible? Of course that random person wouldn’t become a doctor, but our goal is not to make him a doctor but to save more lives.

            And by the way, I didn’t think of it initially when I wrote the post above – but before long, we may actually have such “magical scalpels” IRL, in the form of AI performing surgery. Would you rather be operated by a human doctor with a success rate of 98%, or by AI (let’s say without any human supervision at all, not even a random person from the street) with a success rate of 99.9%? I, for one, would certainly pick AI.

          2. This comment section really isn’t suited to long dialogues. Bit of a bother.

            At first glance, the ‘magic scalpel’ is a question of whether you’d let one person die to save a thousand lives (or 999 lives, but who’s counting). The first thought that comes to mind is “this is explicitly an improvement over current methods,” with the most obvious answer being “of course, it saves more lives.”

            The implication, though, is that the magic scalpel is “magic.” It’s valuable because whatever process it uses is “magic,” meaning it can’t be reverse-engineered, it can’t be replicated in a lab even if imitated exactly, and it could very well blatantly violate several laws of physics. Or, in other words, it’s tinkertech or a power. Because its use does not involve real knowledge whatsoever, and is wholly independent of the wielder’s actual medical skill, an argument could be made that using it stunts further medical advancement by a small degree. In every case where the true cause can’t be found or an effective solution couldn’t be developed, there’s always that question of “why don’t we use the magic scalpel?” In doing so, you pass up on the chance to learn from the procedure (whether success or failure).

            Because of this, there’s an additional, hidden cost attached to using the scalpel: the doctor using it might be saving more lives than would otherwise be possible on their own, but their success doesn’t allow other doctors to save further lives. The report simply reads “could not identify cause / create solution, used magic scalpel.” Now the next person with the same problem who isn’t lucky enough to be that doctor’s patient isn’t any more likely to survive than they would have otherwise.

            So, the magic scalpel is actually a horrible trap. It promises more lives saved right now, but arguably kills substantially more over time.

            An AI is, at least, actual science. It ain’t magic, it’s simply the logical end result of this very process I’m describing. A process which requires actually going through it to reach that end. Ultimately better for the species in the future, even if it sucks for the individual here and now.

          3. Well, here the lines about “sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” and “sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from technology” come to mind… But all in all, I agree 🙂

      2. Do you remember the part where Amy says a worse tragedy than not wanting to change is having the world force you not to change?

        People like Vicky keep sending horribly hurt people like Carol to Amy with the expectation that she will work miracles, because her power can do that nearly as easily as it can create horrible monsters in those people’s eyes.

        Should Amy take a break and focus on Art instead of Science? Yes, it’s the only thing that will help her stay sane. Will the world let her?

  25. Here’s a funny ida about how Wildbow could subvert our expectations. What if Amy did something to Victoria’s brain, just like Victoria suspects, but that something is actually beneficial? Could it be possible for example that Amy is able to tweak someone’s brain to make them immune to a wide variety of master effects, and, knowing that her sister is likely to go against Teacher soon, did precisely that to Vicky?

    1. It could even be an immunity to broad spectrum of mind-altering powers in general, in which case Imp may be in for an interesting surprise. Potentially a good surprise, because as we know Imp’s power is on by default, and she is in constant risk of being wounded so badly that she would lose consciousness and bleed out to death simply because nobody would be able to give her necessary medical aid. It is even not that unlikely scenario to happen very soon in my opinion, because I think Imp is likely to be in the first wave of attackers storming Teacher’s complex.

    2. That is an interesting thought.
      Of course if she did she would have lied to Vic afterward. And if she would be willing to do that I wonder why she didnt fix Vics phobias towards her? That would have been beneficial to both of them.

      1. She probably wouldn’t use her power to ‘fix’ Victoria’s phobias, because it would be an outright artificial manipulation of Victoria’s feelings – the first thing Amy did to Victoria on that night when Bonesaw invaded her home, and at the same time something Victoria has made quite clear she doesn’t want Amy to do. Remember that Amy clearly doesn’t want to depend on powers to “have” Victoria – she even refused Chris’ offer to do it for her.

      2. I guess there is an even simpler beneficial thing Amy could do to Victoria. Remember that Amy warned Vicky that she may be unable to safety give or accept human transplants? What if Amy took some time to ensure that Victoria no longer had this problem?

  26. woah that was a really cool convo between amy and victoria. it felt almost productive for a few moments there while victoria was talking about having to face what youve done head on to be able to change, almost like a psuedo therapist session. except amy is too bullheaded ofc and ignored her advice anyways. amys like… a coward. she doesnt want to dwell in uncomfortable situations, feeling, memories, so she sprints away from them and tries not to think about them and so she repeats history while insisting that she is in fact not repeating history. this is a great showing of how someone doesnt have to be evil to be a bad person or an abuser. they can be just a coward, or selfish, or stubborn, or stupid or insensitive or not introspective enough or too self pitiying with way too much power to go with it. no abusers are pure evil, no abusers think that theyre abusers. v fun.

    i liked all of dots HONESTY. it was great and very much needed. you know amy maybe you should take how uncomfortable the truth makes you as a SIGN. and its not even just the victoria stuff, its the RECENT stuff that makes you scream stop.

    i love that sveta FOUGHT GUARDS to try and get to victoria. shes such a stand up friend, i love her.

    and oooh TEACHER RAID ARC HELL YEAH HELL YEAH. it sounds like its already shaping up to be a real clusterfuck 😀

    1. It was interesting to read, yes. But it was futile from the beginning. Both of them are WAY to entrenched in their view of things.
      What might help them is to have a mediator in this conversation. Someone both of them trust who can point out dead-ends and such. Someone like Yamada.
      Like you pointed out, even Dot did help as a go-between. But sadly Dot is no therapist 🙂

      1. Dot could be a example of a bigger foreshadowing mediator conversation between Victoria and Amelia in the future. I agree with your point, both of them are stuck in a specific line of thinking they refuse to let go.

    2. > i love that sveta FOUGHT GUARDS to try and get to victoria. shes such a stand up friend, i love her.

      Although she could have botched up negotiations with Shin by it, so Gimel’s people wouldn’t get supplies, and BT (including Victoria, of course) wouldn’t get their release, staying in prison and getting punished instead. All of that not to prevent any actual damage done to Vicky (there was none), but just to show what a good friend she is, because that’s what good friends do. Even Victoria was more reasonable while talking to Amy, and that’s telling something. But all that doesn’t matter – hooray for standing up for friends, way to go!

      1. Except the team literally elaborated on Sveta not using her powers to fight the guards, and it could have been a verbal fight, not anything physical. And Sveta’s not dumb or selfish, she’s levelheaded enough to not risk the supplies. Also this is Shin we’re talking about, they’d end cooperation for some illogical, small reason anyway. Friendship over fuckery always, dude.

  27. Is it possible Dot is right?

    Amy can understand Teacher’s mindset – don’t try to make things better in ways that your shard’s nature will undermine – but doesn’t apply the same principle to herself? Doesn’t it apply *more* to herself?

    Her shard seems to be one of those most in conflict with the human it’s attached to. It triggered to give Amy the tools for both what she needed (to heal Victoria) and what she wanted (to change Victoria). It’s intent was always to experiment and test edge cases, to find new experiences. Then Amy proceeded to ignore her shard’s desires for years, and, well. Bad decision in hindsight.

    Amy would probably be best off if she reached an equitable accommodation with her shard. Seems to be a central theme of Worm and Ward.

    She’s so resistant to the “kingdom” talk, but maybe that’s exactly what would sate her partner sufficiently to earn its cooperation in other areas.

  28. Doesn’t it seem strange how quickly Marquis, Amy and Miss Militia managed to learn at least one Shin language?

    Miss Militia is probably the best of those three people – good enough to provide almost simultaneous translation of what Shin politicians had to say a couple chapters ago, but I’m actually less surprised with her skill. Remember that she might have been Gimel’s regular diplomat dedicated to contacts with Shin ever since Gold Morning. It would explain why we haven’t heard about her whereabouts between Teneral e.4 in Worm and the current arc. Moreover I think that she might have become a diplomat in part because people might have realized that she is able to learn languages relatively quickly way back when she first arrived in States. And it actually makes perfect sense that she could learn languages quicker than most people – not only because she might happen to be talented in that area, but also (or maybe especially) because she never sleeps, which means that she can spend much more time learning new things than most people do in the same number of days.

    Amy and Marquis are a bit more puzzling. They obviously don’t know the language nearly as well as Miss Militia does, but still can manage to understand and communicate some basics without resorting to some major hand weaving or ending up using English as a crutch half of the time. Remember that they arrived on Shin merely weeks ago. To me it looks that either Shin has some very good language teachers who worked with Amy and Marquis for many hours each day, or Amy and Marquis managed to find some power-based way to learn quicker than I would expect them to, or… they planned to go to Shin for a long time before the prison battle, and prepared for it by learning the language beforehand.

    It may even be possible that Marquis and Amy chose to go to Shin because there was someone from Shin in Lord of Loss’ “court” who introduced Marquis to basics of Shin culture, politics and at least one language. That same person (or people) might have also brought Goddess to Marquis’ attention, which later resulted in Amy-Bianca alliance.

    1. It might be possible that Chris cooked up some sort of language-serum that’d facilitate Amy and Marquis’s ability to learn the language rapidly. Heck, he might even be able to rig up something to download it directly into their heads, given that Lab Rat managed to build something similar to use on him.

    2. Miss Milita is already bilingual, not being a native english speaker. Once you learn one new language fluently, it becomes exponentially quicker to learn new languages. Add her lack of sleep, and excellent memory implied to be a shard side effect, and that she probably prepped to be a diplomat and is generally a hyper focussed person, I can buy that of all characters she picked up a new language.

        1. Aside from the fact that Miss Militia is multilingual and that she doesn’t sleep, one more thing that could probably explain a lot is if we knew how closely whatever Shin language or languages Miss Militia, Amy and Marquis learned or are learning respectively are related to English, Kurdish or even Turkish (which we know Hannah knew some basics if even before she triggered – see her interlude in arc 7 of Worm for confirmation).

          We know that history of Shin diverged early enough for Europeans to colonize America earlier than they did on Bet, and that even at that point the geography of Shin was different enough (possibly due to an ice age) for an extra landmass to appear in the middle of Atlantic before that happened, but we also know that Shin suffered some near-extinction events in its recorded history that could possibly cause the Ice Age to come very quickly, and that Victoria recognized elements of what could be European medieval architecture in buildings on Shin. If you take all of this into account, I wouldn’t be surprised if the divergence between Shin and Bet happened some 600-1000 years before.

          In this case the languages of Shin could be similar enough to Bet’s to make learning them easier for someone who knows a Bet language which shares a recent common ancestor with whatever Shin language they are trying to learn. For example if Shin language in question was their version of Turkish or Kurdish (or any other Turkic or Iranian language closely related to those), Miss Militia would probably find it much easier to learn this language than any other cape that we know. On the other hand if the Shin language in question was closely related to English, Miss Militia, Marquis and Amy could find it not that difficult to learn.

  29. Applaud Victoria for being self-aware and conscious of her hate against her ex-sister, imploring her to enter therapy and I thought it was a nice twist that she told her about the plans she had in mind for her, especially considering it’s been elaborated multiple times that Vic would let the proper authorities handle it.

    New revelations over Amy lying, the amount of victims, Dot’s perspective and the Wardens raid against Teacher is really wonderful to learn, plus terrifying. Maybe things will be revealed over the course of the raid.

  30. Ward is a masterpiece. This conversation makes me wonder if Wildbow set himself a writing challenge to construct a dialogue scene more intense than any action sequence that he’s written. There are so many layers and so much emotion in every exchange. I love it. Brilliant work, dude.

  31. Did anyone else notice how during last chapter Victoria insisted on calling Amy “Amelia” at the beginning of their talk, but not long after that seemed to forget about it, and switched back to “Amy”? Did Victoria, after making her point and turning her focus to other things than just taunting Amy with the name her biological father and Shin officials prefer, just naturally return to her old habits without realizing it, or was some subtle master effect involved?

    1. My guess is that no powers were involved, since in her internal monologue Victoria almost always calls her sister Amy, and uses other names only when something specifically reminds her about them. In other words using “Amelia” was simply a tactic to throw off Amy at the very beginning of their conversation by a show of hostility, and use of name Victoria knows Amy hates to hear from her (Victoria had a chance to pretty much confirm it during her first meeting with Goddess). Once Vicky was done with that verbal attack, she quickly forgot about it and defaulted to “Amy” until other factors (first tensing of Amy’s arms in the previous chapter, later Dot’s involvement in the conversation in this chapter) reminder Victoria to torment Amy by calling her “Red Queen”.

      I must say that it is nice to see such small details apparently used by author so deliberately. At the same time it drew my attention to a fact that in my opinion is important – deep down Victoria still thinks about her sister as Amy, unless something reminds her not to do it. This in turn makes me think that somewhere deep down Victoria is willing to rebuild her old relationship with her sister as long as she ends up in a position where she will be able to justify such course of action to herself. There is still sisterly love buried beneath all that hurt, terror, self-loathing, anger and hate.

      On that note I wonder how long Victoria will stick to calling Amy her “ex-sister” in her mind.

      1. And I think that that sisterly love is peeking out from beneath all of those emotions not only when Victoria forgets night to call her sister “Amy”, but also when Victoria is shocked by certain situations connected to Amy. For example remember how in chapter 9.15 Victoria reacted to Amy’s announcement that she was going to leave to Shin. To me Victoria’s reaction looked and sounded almost like she stopped herself from saying something like “Please don’t go Amy! Who am I going to Kiss/Kill/Hate/Be Angry At/Love when you are gone?”

        1. …Also Fear/Push Away/Scare/Plenty Of Other Complicated Feelings And Their Expressions, but definitely always leading to Love. Of course if I was more cynical I would say that it was just Stockholm syndrome speaking…

          1. I believe that there is one more thing that needs to be remembered to understand the relationship between Amy and Victoria – remember how Victoria described her and Amy’s triggers. Amy triggered because she saw Victoria hurt. At the same time as far as I remember Victoria triggered when she felt abandoned by people important to her at the moment when she got hurt and felt defeated while trying to look well in front of those people. She had an entire list of people she felt ignored by during that basketball game. Carol, Mark, Dean… but somehow when Victoria remembered that moment in chapter 9.11 she put it like this:

            When I’d played basketball, ‘giving 110%’ was the refrain, over and over again. With my mom, it had been to ‘give my all’. Even Amy-

            Doesn’t it sound like feeling ignored by Amy hurt Victoria more than being ignored by her mother?

            Let’s face it – the sisters had a very strong bond for most of their lives. They were some of the most important people to each other for over a decade before Amy ended up hurting Victoria. They always had each other’s backs – no matter if they needed to deal with some villains who ended up trying to rob a bank Amy ended up being in at the time, if Victoria broke some E88 thug too much, and needed someone to heal him, if Carol was too harsh to Amy, if Victoria needed to be healed herself, or if they simply needed emotional support.

            On one hand this bond is another reason why every time when Amy hurt Victoria (like during that fatal time when Amy broke Victoria’s mind and body), didn’t help Victoria when she needed help (like when Gallant died), or even didn’t pay enough attention to Victoria (like during Victoria’s trigger), Victoria felt so strongly betrayed by Amy. On the other hand this is also why if nothing that will separate them forever happens (like death of one of them for example) they will probably end up reconciling. Amy will obviously never stop hoping and looking for a way to do it, but Victoria will also never “be done” with Amy, like Taylor realized she was “done” with Emma when they met in Arcadia High. If Victoria could do it, it would’ve probably happened already, but instead her thoughts keep coming back to Amy, and I believe they will keep doing so for the rest of Victoria’s life, which means that Victoria will keep processing her trauma at least until she reaches the point when she will be ready to forgive and reconcile.

          2. And remembering circumstances of Amy’s trigger right now is probably also an indication of Victoria’s progress on her path to rebuild her relationship with Amy. I read it as Victoria’s mind reminding her “Seeing me hurt was the worst experience in Amy’s life up until the moment she triggered. So horrible that she triggered because of it.” I don’t know about you, but to me it seems like Victoria is starting to see and accept just how much Amy is hurt by what she did to her all those years ago when Slaughterhouse Nine came to Brockton Bay, and by the rift between them that formed as a result.

      2. ‘Did anyone else notice how during last chapter Victoria insisted on calling Amy “Amelia” at the beginning of their talk, but not long after that seemed to forget about it, and switched back to “Amy”? Did Victoria, after making her point and turning her focus to other things than just taunting Amy with the name her biological father and Shin officials prefer, just naturally return to her old habits without realizing it, or was some subtle master effect involved?’

        I think it was distancing, and Victoria isn’t in a place to be coherent or consistent. That said, I’m fairly certain that Amy mastered Victoria, subtly, I just don’t think the name is a direct effect of the mindscrew.

        ‘I must say that it is nice to see such small details apparently used by author so deliberately. At the same time it drew my attention to a fact that in my opinion is important – deep down Victoria still thinks about her sister as Amy, unless something reminds her not to do it. This in turn makes me think that somewhere deep down Victoria is willing to rebuild her old relationship with her sister as long as she ends up in a position where she will be able to justify such course of action to herself. There is still sisterly love buried beneath all that hurt, terror, self-loathing, anger and hate.’

        I don’t think we can use the word “still.” Amy went into her sister’s mind again, Victoria lost time, the text broadcasts that something *happened* with the structural use of multiple line breaks, and Victoria is showing behavior in the conversation that is both odd and to Amy’s advantage (e.g. the inability to hold back her exile plan). The sisters revealed to us that *after* Amy gave Victoria the choice of keeping memories, and Victoria chose to remember, Amy *still* kept the worst memories blocked, having locked her sister out when Carol showed up. We can no longer rely on changes or variations in Victoria’s view of Amy as any form of progress. Every case of “moving forward” or “repairing the relationship” now must be viewed *by we the readers* through the lens of Master-Stranger protocols.

        ‘On that note I wonder how long Victoria will stick to calling Amy her “ex-sister” in her mind.’

        Until Amy touches her again.

        1. If we indeed suspect that Amy put more memory blocks and generally altered Victoria’s mind, them perhaps Victoria needs to be exposed to Engel’s close presence for a few hours? Remember that it apparently took much less exposure (probably just a few minutes at “close range”, and a little more at a distance) to weaken old memory blocks Amy created in Victoria’s mind back in Brockton Bay.

          1. I’m terrified of Missy or Theo hanging out with Victoria at the gym, 3 or 4 arcs from now, and she notices their scars are gone, and they say something like “Oh, yeah, I finally had the opportunity to remove them. It’s great.”

  32. I’ve been reading 14.9 and 14.10 over and over. Reminding myself how Wilbo behaves as a writer. Registering the points where the book is broadcasting cues that Amy speculation is no longer strictly necessary; Amy is shedding her ambiguity. It’s not that she abused and manipulated someone; Amy is an abuser and manipulator. She’s monstrous, folks. Victoria was right.

    I am not the first, but here we go:

    I suspect Amy is the big bad of Ward.

    1. I somehow doubt that Amy is “big bad”, at least not unless she is mastered. My worry is that what Amy’s shard did to her when she broke Victoria’s body probably counts as “mastering”. Plus there is the fact that she knows Teacher, and may have had contact with some of the other capes he collected.

      Another way I imagine Amy could be effectively mastered (without technically losing her free will) would be if she ended up being in a similar situation to the one Taylor was in Worm after hearing from Dinah that she needs to do certain things to save humanity.

      And finally there is always the Simurgh.

      On a possibly related note there is also the fact that for some reason Goddess did not master Amy despite their disagreements, and we know just how quickly Goddess reacted to all signs of opposition from the capes by using this particular ability. And we know about exactly one certain way to prevent being mastered by Goddess – the drug that Teacher’s men had access to. Was it even ever confirmed that it was developed by Teacher’s students?

      1. Whether Amy had something to do with the creation of the anti-Goddess drug, I suspect that she took it before confronting Goddess, which in turn makes me think that she probably cooperated with Teacher in some way at some point between Teneral e.5 and the moment she made her deal with Goddess.

      2. You “somehow doubt” it, which… fair enough, but then you give not a single reason for that doubt.

        One of the original concept writing attempts of Guts and Glory – the original Amy and Victoria story – had Amy turning an S-class threat some time after blobbing her sister. The core character concept from its inception exists as someone entirely capable of going in that direction.

        If you have insight into the text that rules that out, please do share it, but it is definitely not an outcome that can be brushed aside without consideration.

        There was a period in Worm in which the Wretch itself was in exactly the same narrative blank spot. The S-class Red Queen, it seems to me, has never been ruled out. It certainly hasn’t been averted by any character growth since Worm ended.

        1. The reason I doubt it is that I can’t imagine Amy doing something outright malicious out of her free will. It doesn’t seem to fit her character. Remember that she even refused to take Chris’ offer to “give” her Victoria, and she still seems to try to help people as well as she can (just like she did in Worm, only with less self-imposed restrictions). This means that if she is doing something so bad that she would count as the main antagonist of Ward, she is probably forced or otherwise coerced to do something bad, or is actually doing something good and her goals or methods may conflict with Victoria’s because of Victoria’s ignorance.

          Those arguments are obviously not a 100% proof of Amy’s innocence, but I think they are strong enough to give Amy benefit of a doubt.

          At least for now.

          1. the problem is, she’s in a potential failure spiral,her power seems to be slipping out of her control, and she’s more intrested in denying/hiding the issues/finding a way to magically get back into the previous family dynamic then with solving them- given the Lab Rat Clone’s (whatever name he’s going by- we know “Chris” was a false one- if i seem hostile/cynical, keep in mind that literally EVERYTHING we/ the team knew about him was a cynical lie to hide his identity) powerset/mentality, she’s got potentially -the- worst ally/confident for someone TRYING to stay on the rails since his power is innately pushing him towards experimenting/tugging her away from “just” healing-
            the thing im wondering is if the incident where she scrambled someone’s personality (after getting in physical contact with them under false pretences) ACTUALLY was a botched attempt at healing, or fiddling around inside someones head for practice with “Chris” egging her on, where she messed up badly enough to not be able to hide it?

            i mean, she’s been repeatedly lying about how well her work’s going untill FORCED to admit there’s been more then a single issues, may or may not have been fiddling with victoria “offscreen”,may or may not be willingly working with the idiot who knocked out dragon tomake a petty power grab in the face of a LITERAL apocalypse, had her drugged specifically so she could get locked in a room with her without her running/blowing a hole in the wall to get away- her behaviour isnt exactly screaming “trustworthy” right now, and given her extroardinarially persistant delusion that the rift between the two IS fixable, with her very presence sending her sister to the verge of a Panic attack….

          2. You know what? Let me try to put some possible clues in one place:
            – In chapter 10.13 and interlude 12.z there were ominous mentions of everything/the city becoming crimson.
            – In chapter 1.8 we saw an equally ominous worry Victoria expressed about Amy (that Amy may one day do something much worse than she did to Victoria, and that it could affect many more people).
            – Amy is called Red Queen, which means that “crimson” may refer to her.
            – Crimson may also refer to the color of blood, suggesting that someone (or possibly a lot of people) could end up being physically harmed.
            – Amy sided with Goddess against Teacher, and still seems to oppose him (which suggests that she might have also refused his offer mentioned in Teneral e.5). This means that Teacher may also work against her. Maybe even try to do something to force her to do whatever she refused to do when she declined his offer?
            – Amy insists that she only wants to help people, and I think that it fits everything we know about her character ever since early Worm.
            – Amy doesn’t have a perfect control over her power, and has been known to have “accidents” with it when she is under extreme stress, or is tired (and from Worm we know that if the Youth Guard didn’t place some restrictions on her, she would probably work much more than would be healthy for her, so when she says she was “tired”, I think it means that she was really exhausted).
            – In Carol’s interlude Amy talked about turning Victoria from cocoon into wretch in a tone, and using words that suggest that her passenger took control over her when it happened.
            – Teacher seems to be able to manipulate connections between shards, including being able to cause events similar to unleashing Kronos titan at will, and Amy predicts that more events like this will happen.

            The way I see it there is one scenario that can connect all those clues – Amy will become a bloody S-class threat, but not because of malice or because she will lose control over her power because of her own mistake or mental breakdown; it will happen because Teacher will mess with Amy’s power in a way that will cause it to go haywire just like Dauntless’ power did.

          3. Of course there is no guarantee that all of those “clues” point at the same thing, or that I interpret them all of them correctly. Some of them may even not be clues about upcoming events at all, but for example mere indications of how distorted Victoria’s perception of Amy is, but is it so difficult to believe that Teacher, or even someone else who can, or will become able to, cause broken triggers could turn someone as powerful as Amy into another Kronos?

          4. By the way, I mentioned that other people could gain an ability to cause Dauntless-scale broken triggers because of three things:
            – March has obviously already proven that she can do it,
            – in the epilogue of Worm Teacher was compared to an annoying guy who holds elevator door, but whom you may not want to take out, because by doing so he prevents even worse people in the elevator from coming out and doing much worse things to you than the guy holding the door ever would,
            – Teacher has something at the top of the Cauldron complex that in his opinion everyone would want if they knew he had it. Perhaps it is whatever Teacher uses to manipulate connections between shards, and can use to cause other broken triggers to happen? What if “the guys in the elevator” manage to get that thing in Teacher’s attic and, unlike him, do decide that it is a good idea to use it to create more “Kronoses”, and Amy will just happen to become one of them (possibly even the only one)?

    2. > I suspect Amy is the big bad of Ward.

      Well, despite disagreeing with the main message of your comment – if she actually gets exiled, I wouldn’t be surprised if that would eventually be the case…

  33. CRIMSON MYSTERY

    Those of you who like to look for possible hints and puzzles hidden in the text may want to know that Ex-Lurker noticed that something strange has happened to three of those five sun symbols we saw one after the other in the previous chapter. They turned red for some reason. Here is a link to Ex-Lurker’s comment about the red sun symbols: https://www.parahumans.net/2019/06/15/breaking-14-9/#comment-95416

    Ex-Lurker’s also reminded me about how word “crimson” was used in Ward. Sometimes in rather disturbing, if not ominous, way in my opinion. I think there may be connection between those two things. More of my thoughts about it are right bellow the Ex-Lurker’s comment I’ve mentioned.

        1. Oh, but if it was Victoria’s shard who noticed the red dots first… *goes on to crazy theories about Amy jailbreaking Vic to be the next Khepri*

          1. (by the way, considering that Vic’s shard is a newborn one, who wasn’t sent away by Zion and crippled in the process, is there anything to jailbreak there?)

          2. Actually, Ex-Lurker’s first comment on this site appears to be under interlude 12.all (a.k.a. Shards’ interlude). Coincidence?

      1. :)))
        Thanks a lot, btw. Usually I don’t return to chapters I already have read, and the dots were all white yet when I read 14.9.

  34. ‘“Fuck off, Vicky,” she said. “Fuck. I have enough good info and resources that you and I could sit down for an hour and you wouldn’t want to imprison me or anything. You’d want to keep talking. If you’d give me a chance.”

    …..

    “I thought you said that if I had an honest conversation with you, that you’d do what I asked.”

    She shook her head.’

    ^
    That’s it. That’s it right there.

    Amy insists if Victoria just listens, she’ll want to keep talking. When she is coerced into hearing Amy out, she does so with conditions.

    After Amy gets her opportunity, what does she immediately do? She complains that Victoria didn’t give her the full hour, and insists if only she’d had ~40 more minutes, she’d have won Victoria over. And then? Then she makes it clear she won’t live up to her end of the bargain. She will not get help or subject herself to an impartial judgement.

    Amy isn’t going to stop, you guys.

    1. Why would she?
      She is legitimately better informed than most other parties as to the biggest threats around, their goals, and how shards actually work and can be changed.
      She has a straightforward path to Cauldron logic of “anything is an acceptable casualty in the fight for continued existence”. Vicky doesn’t seem like a large player in that fight, even if she has an outsized impact.
      No one would blame Amy for choosing the fate of the mulitverse over Vic’s feelings, and in fact they may be pushing her to do just that. Recall that Amy feels like she’s being forced by the world not to change.

      How can the parahumans unilaterally disarm themselves of one of their biggest threats (S-class Amy) when they are in a struggle for existence?

      1. the problem is almost everything Cauldron did was pointless-

        the vast majority of their experiments/unethical actions had a net zero effect on how Zion’s little temper tantrum went down-
        even with Fortuna’s Path to Victory, they were wildly and randomly flailing around, and from what i remember, arguably made EVERYTHING worse- they literally might as well have not tried- it was a natural trigger who started GOld morning, and a Natural trigger unaffiliated/ opposed to their operations who ended it- at best, i think Countessa spent the entire time asking her shard the -wrong- questions outside the tactical level untill it was too late

        1. > the problem is almost everything Cauldron did was pointless
          > even with Fortuna’s Path to Victory, they were wildly and randomly flailing around

          Yup. And that was entirely expected, considering that PtV doesn’t work on Entities. “Randomly flailing around” – or, more precisely, create as many capes as possible, ideally very powerful and/or breaking some rules, and when the time comes, see what sticks – was their only option. But humans would still lose GM without them. Clairvoyant, Doormaker, Canary and Oliver (the most useless cape in the multiverse, outside of that specific situation) – all of them are Cauldron capes, and Taylor’s plan would fail without any one of them (maybe even without Oliver). And if Taylor didn’t see Eden’s remains in the Cauldron facility, she wouldn’t have an idea what to do at all.

  35. Just noticed something about PRTCJ – that organization Laserdream belongs to. It may be just a coincidence, but this acronym seems to have been in use for quite a while. It appears in Alexandria’s interlude in Worm:

    January 18th, 1993

    “I, Alexandria, do solemnly affirm that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the director appointed over me, according to the regulations of the PRTCJ.”
    […]
    “Ladies and Gentlemen,” the Vice President spoke into the microphone, “Let me introduce the founding members of the Protectorate of the United States of America!”

    Does it help anyone figure out just what the acronym could stand for and how it may be related to PRT, Protectorate, Wards and Wardens, other parahuman-related organizations and regulations forming legal framework under which those organizations operated on Bet (and possibly still do to some extent on Gimel)?

    1. Not a coincidence. From Shade 4.2:

      “I’m still not sold on the PRT issue,” Tristan said. “They’re gone. They aren’t coming back.”

      “The remnants of them are. Organizations using their files and methods. A military-esque group following the rules and regulations of the PRT’s code of justice. There are headaches involved.”

      Based on this, I would assume that “the PRTCJ” once referred to “the Parahuman Response Team Code of Justice” in the days before Gold Morning. The PRTCJ of Ward are referencing that, but it’s a weird thing to name an organization, so I suspect they’ve attached different words to the letters this time.

      Likely possibilities include:

      Prompt Response Team in Capes and Jumpsuits
      Phatly Rad Tactical Cape Jockies
      People’s Republic of Teacher Cape Junta

  36. Just realised something. I don’t think Amy properly internalised a moral code when she was under the Dallons’ care. I believe her concept of good is whatever avoids disapproval of the people who have power over her and her concept of bad is whatever attracts disapproval of people who have power over her. Now that she is one of those powerful people, her consequence-based morality has no anchor; whose disapproval can sway her now? Judging by this chapter, certainly not Vicky.

  37. It has just struck me that in 1.7, Carol treated Victoria pretty much the same as Amy is doing here. The same wilful obtuseness, the inability to understand Vicki’s distress. Amy is Carol’s true daughter in a sense.

  38. Here’s a theory about Dinah.

    During chapter 30.6 of Worm Dinah already knew that if Taylor took Scrub and Labyrinth it would lead to the “thin ice” situation the city is in right now, and she tried to discourage Taylor from doing so – first by trying to tell her about this new prophecy, and after realizing that Taylor can’t understand English anymore by internationally letting Taylor master her in hopes that Taylor will be able to learn about the prophecy through their telepathic link.

    It could even work if Taylor bothered to use Dinah’s power. Remember that Taylor had access to information provided by thinker powers of the capes she controlled despite not being able to understand human speech anymore. For example in chapter 30.5, long after she lost her ability to understand English, she used Number Man to coordinate a salvo of blaster capes, and after Scion dodged it commented:

    The Number Man had told me the attacks would hit.

    Perhaps it is even this new prophecy, and not the one about Gold Morning, that prompted Tattletale to try to convince Dinah that Taylor was dead?

    1. Of course it may just mean that Dinah has found herself a new chosen savior a.k.a. pawn of a prophecy. I suspect that even Victoria could unknowingly be one. And whoever is that chosen one is may face a rather ugly fate. Considering that powers seem to promote conflict and strife, I suspect that any Dinah may inadvertently destroy lives of everyone who becomes as important to her long term plans and prophecies as Taylor was in Worm.

      1. Though “inadvertently” may not be the best word here. Dinah’s second written message for Taylor (“I’m sorry.”) seems to suggest that she knew perfectly well just how badly she will ruin Taylor’s life by putting her on the path to stop the apocalypse. Dinah knew, but simply couldn’t or for some reason didn’t want to find a way that would be less harmful to Taylor. Maybe because Taylor basically told her that she would be willing to sacrifice herself for the greater good?

        1. Or maybe because the only way for Taylor to suffer less and the humanity to still have a good chance of survival would be for Dinah to suffer more? Maybe Dinah could protect both Taylor and the world, but only if she never returned home?

          Could it be that Dinah had to make similar decision again? Maybe even Tattletale’s note “Dinah Alcott: compromised? Shift of motives?” means that Dinah intentionally sacrificed herself by letting herself be “compromised” somehow instead of sacrificing someone else? Maybe after Tattletale convinced Dinah that Taylor is dead the precog felt so guilty that she decided to never sacrifice anyone but herself if she can help it, and this is her “shift of motives”?

          1. And if Dinah actually decided to sacrifice herself it would have the following implications:
            – on a practical level if Dinah died or her power was otherwise eliminated from the equation, it could mean that Parahumans 3 could be a story in which the events are not driven by a prophecy, or at least the reader wouldn’t expect them to be,
            – poor Tattletale would probably end up blaming herself for causing Dinah’s self-sacrifice,
            – Dinah would finally be a hero, which would fit with something about Taylor that was very visible in Worm but also seems to hold true in Ward – that those who knew Taylor and survived long enough, often ended up being inspired by her to become better people. Arguably even Colin, Ciara and Fortuna did. You could even say Taylor became not only the savior of everyone’s lives, but also a savior of those people’s souls.

          2. Colin’s unarguably a better person because of Taylor. Dragon helped, sure, but Taylor put him on the path even if Dragon showed him how to tread it.

            Valkyrie’s harder to read, but I think Taylor showed her a way to be better even if it took Jessica Yamada to convince her to try to be better for herself.

            And not everyone wants to be better as a result of Taylor; Shadow Stalker’s gone back to being a small-time vigilante who can hurt people without getting in too much trouble. Even if she gets arrested for it, I don’t think she’d be exiled. She’s too small-time, not big enough or brutal enough to attract much attention.

          3. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if Shadow Stalker popped up very soon.

            Remember that she broke away from Taylor’s group during their incursion of Cauldron complex, and supposedly spent some time alone there. Assuming that she wasn’t idle for that whole time and did some exploring, she might have made contact with someone Cauldron members Taylor didn’t find in the complex (like Teacher or Contessa), and made some serious of deal with them. She might have also run into Weld and/or Satyr with similar result. She could also make all sorts of other discoveries (some interesting documents, unguarded Cauldron vials, some Cauldron prisoners with particularly broken powers).

            Later Shadow Stalker popped up when Imp and the Heartboken messed with Nero, who was running what basically was a remote outpost of Teacher’s empire. To me it looks like she was either fighting her own guerilla war against Teacher (either completely alone or as an agent of someone she met in the Cauldron complex), which could have lead to her death, but could just as likely result in her capture by Teacher. Or she could still be doing the same thing.

            Alternatively Shadow Stalker could have been on Nero’s side. Possibly as Teacher’s field agent. It would fit the fact that she appeared to stalk not Nero, but Imp’s group.

            Unless Sophia was just hiding from the law (why would she do it after amnesty?), became a completely independent vigilante operating on whatever corner world Nero had his base, and met Imp by accident while preparing to attack Nero herself (doesn’t seem very likely to me – that meeting would be a little too much of a coincidence in my opinion), or just joined Nero’s or Little Midas’ group without having any connection to Teacher herself (doesn’t seem to fit her character – if she wanted to work with people who were essentially slavers, she would join one of Brockton Bay gangs a long time ago) I think she was working either with, or against Teacher. Either possibility means that she may have a good reason to come out of hiding as soon as Teacher’s complex is attacked.

            But yes, as far as we know at the moment the only one among the trio of Taylor’s bullies who seems to have become a better person since then may be Madison. That is assuming that it was really her in Glow-worm and that she was honest with Victoria.

            Contessa is another interesting case. During her last interaction with Taylor she behaved like she really wanted to become a better person. Sparing Taylor’s life, retiring (or at least going into semi-retirement) and no longer depending so much on her power anymore that it would be impossible to capture her (assuming that her imprisonment wasn’t just another step on one of her paths) seem to indicate that she was really going in that direction.

            On the other hand you can never be sure with a powerful precog and a Cauldron founder like Contessa. Remember that during her last conversation with Taylor she didn’t tell Taylor that she no longer has a mission, only that “There’s less of a mission, now.”

          4. I think Shadow Stalker’s still a lone wolf, operating the way she’s always wanted to- alone, free, and without any expectations. She might have joined some lone-wolf club, but I doubt she’s working for Teacher. Or working against him; she’s just somebody who enjoys violence and has sided with the heroes to justify that enjoyment to herself. She was paroled into the Wards, remember- she didn’t join willingly. She might be dead, she might be alive; she turned up in the end interlude and hasn’t been seen since. That might be what she wants, she’s not a big player- she’s a small fish, as these things go.

          5. @Earl of Purple

            If Shadow Stalker still insists to be a lone wolf, and is still as brutal as ever, then perhaps she is somewhere in Little Midas’ sphere of influence after all? Not as a subordinate, but as a “loose cannon” and maybe an occasional mercenary – similar to Dustwind and Nubby. In chapter 13.8 Tattletale mentioned that Little Midas works with criminal mercenaries. Similarly in Overseer’s interlude it was noted that “Little Midas sided with the more aggressive villains”, otherwise described as “Wild Cards”.

            I doubt that Shadow Stalker would do something she would consider outright villainous (though many other people would probably strongly disagree with her exact interpretation of the term), but even lone wolfs need to eat, so maybe she wouldn’t mind doing certain jobs for someone like Little Midas from time to time? Maybe it could somehow explain her presence in Nero’s little empire, especially since in arc 13 Nero appeared to behave like one of Little Midas’ men?

            A small digression. Doesn’t the way Nero described his power in Teneral e.2 sound very similar to what Little Midas’ power can do? LM supposedly can summon copies of objects he touches seemingly from nowhere. Nero said this about his power in Teneral e.2 – “My power, I can make things. Tools, raw materials, weapons.” A little later Nero admitted to Imp that “[Teacher] He unlocked my power, too. Used to be I could only make a few things.”. Do Little Midas and Nero really happen to have such similar powers, or are they deceiving people somehow, and only one of them has this power, and the other one either has a completely different power, or doesn’t even have any power at all?

            Back to Shadow Stalker. You described her as a “lone wolf”, who could have joined some lone-wolf club. There is a hero team named Lone Wolf Pack lead by Aleph Wolf. I think the first time we saw Aleph Wolf and any mention of his team in chapter 11.4 where they were Victoria described them like this:

            The Lone Wolf pack was a band of heroes that were taking an especially wild west approach, patrolling the periphery of the city and the surrounding worlds. They answered problems where problems came up, they teamed up when absolutely essential, which was mainly if there was a bounty to share, but they were otherwise independent.

            Aleph Wolf was exemplifying the ‘stick to the basics’ mentality, as well as the group’s ‘heroic mercenary’ streak.

            Based on this description alone, doesn’t it sound like a perfect team for “lone wolf Shadow Stalker”?

  39. “I make mistakes, and my power makes it easy to make mistakes.  All it takes is an impulse, or a drifting thought.”

    […]

    “I’m always tired, I’m always upset.  I’m always everything.  The first time I felt like I was able to actually take a deep breath was when I went to the Birdcage.  Away.”

    At risk of being redundant, I just wanted to remark that, if she is to be believed/trusted, this two paragraphs describe Amy and the lengths she had to go to so she could just “take a deep breath”.

    We readers may bring a lot of preconceived ideas for who Amy is.

    This is not the Amy from “Amelia”. Or from that other story where she could create human avatars out of a vat of glucose and bacteria.

    This is the _real_ Amy.

    1. Those quotes you chose once again remind me how similar Amy is to Sveta. Almost like they were twin sisters already and didn’t even know it. Mark probably didn’t even realize how right he was when in chapter 10.1 he said that Sveta is “close enough” to being a member of Dallon family.

        1. Well, I don’t know about the sound of their voices, but in my opinion those Amy’s words you quoted (except that thing about going to Birdcage) sounded almost exactly like something Sveta could say just a short while ago, before Mr. Bough modified her body.

          1. sounded almost exactly > read almost exactly

            Like I said, I don’t know about the sound of their voices. Just noticed that until recently Sveta and Amy could use almost the same words to describe how they feel both about and because of their powers.

          2. > (except that thing about going to Birdcage)

            Actually I wonder if getting her own room in the parahuman asylum might have made Sveta feel a lot like Amy felt when she ended up in the Birdcage.

          3. > Actually I wonder if getting her own room in the parahuman asylum might have made Sveta feel a lot like Amy felt when she ended up in the Birdcage.

            Well, I remember that after breaking up with Weld, Sveta told Victoria that she wanted to go to her room and…

            ““… if I can’t use Rain for more control then I want to go to my place, my room, and lock the door, and just… lose all control. Alone.””

            … so, yes. Very likely.

          4. Of course despite all of those striking similarities between Sveta and Amy, there are also certain obvious differences between their situations. One of them that scares me is that due to nature of her power Sveta could be given a better control over it by altering her body, but Amy doesn’t have such luck. Amy’s problem is entirely in her mind. And that could mean that if she was to seek power-based solution to her control problems, it is not Mr. Bough but someone like Mr. Drowsing who could provide it…

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