From Within – 16.2

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“Listen up!”

Conversation throughout the dining area ceased.  There were six teams present across thirty tables, with maybe another twenty capes and ten non-capes using the edges of the hall as passages to get from point A to point B.  All stopped and turned to look.

Tristan, Kenzie, Rain and I looked as well.  Vista had left to go to work.

Naphtha was a Warden, but not one of the major ones, likely standing somewhere between Vista’s tier and the rookie tier.  He stood on a table, decked out head to toe in glossy black, with bold yellow decoration standing out as a kind of light armor.  His power made everything within fifteen feet of him, teammates excepted, slick with what looked like crude oil that periodically produced bubbles.  The effect looked like it was perfectly circular if looked down on from above.

“No obligation, but if you’re up for it, we could use the help.  I’m going to list off some current problems we need to address.  Put your hands up or let us know if you can contribute.  We have a villain group with an aggressive hold on an isolated population of non-English speakers preventing evacuation from a part of the city we’re considering high risk.  They had a protection racket going, a lot of power and control, and they don’t want to give it up.  Teams have tried to be as firm as they could without upsetting the locals but it’s time to break their hold and get this settled.”

“Where?” someone called out.

“West of downtown.  Three city blocks with two apartment buildings.”

“What kind of non-English speakers?”

“Does it matter?” Naphtha asked.

There was no answer from the guy who’d called out.  Vessel, from the Shepherds.  He was one of four who sat at the same table, three on one side, one on the other.  Scribe sat two seats away from Vessel, her elbows on the table and her hands covering her mouth.  Her costume still didn’t suit her.  She hadn’t joined the Fallen like a lot of the racist shitheads had after Gold Morning, which counted for a bit of something, but I felt like I needed to see more from her before I could stop thinking of her as Rune from Empire Eighty Eight.

And one of those things I needed to see was her speaking up instead of being silent when a question with that kind of undertone came from her corner.

“We doing any of this?” Tristan asked.

“Victoria’s sick,” Kenzie said, before I could answer.

“I could do something minor,” I said.  “But-”

“Someone just took that one,” Rain cut in, pointing.  A team had raised their hands.  Naphtha’s teammate was briefing them now.

“It’s not our skillset,” I finished the sentence I’d been saying.

“Yeah,” Tristan said.  “And I think we’re all running on empty right now.”

“Not me,” Kenzie said.  “I had the best breakfast, I’m all revved up and ready to go, if you guys want to do anything.”

I held my tongue.  Kenzie’s issue wasn’t that she didn’t have the energy.  Kenzie’s ’empty’ was another gauge entirely, and it related to her team and her process of grieving Ashley.  My concern was more that our collective energy levels and focus weren’t where they needed to be to handle a small crisis and keep an eye on Kenzie.

Naphtha called out, “Issue two!  We have a broken trigger at the top of a high rise apartment complex in one of our highest-risk areas.  There is no oxygen or gravity in the area, but we need to minimize the use of powers to avoid the risk of added damage!  We need changers without the need to breathe, anyone with tinker suits already built to host their own oxygen supplies, or anyone comfortable wearing a bulkier suit!”

“I’m going to go suggest Love Lost,” Rain said, standing.  “I know she has a mask like that, and she could handle the low gravity.”

“She’s in her cell right now, isn’t she?” Tristan asked.

“Yeah.  Went back to prison after we raided this complex,” Rain said, looking around at the white walls of the dining area.

“She’s still the person that butchered a lot of us and who would probably be okay with you dying,” Tristan said.  “I’m not sure how cool I am with us continually offering her hero work in exchange for lighter sentences or whatever.”

Kenzie rubbed at her fingers.

“Should I not?” Rain asked.

I spoke up, “The last mission we brought her on, she- cover your ears, Kenzie?”

She did, but while she did it, she said, “If you mean the part where she cut someone’s arms open, I saw that.”

I motioned for her to put her hands down.  “That, yeah.  It sort of had to happen, but it’s scary it happened that easily and that brutally.”

“Yeah,” Rain said.  He was still standing by his chair, hands resting on the table.  “I- yeah.  I guess I want to cut her some slack over Cradle’s influence, because I want that kind of slack myself.  But I’m not the only person she hurt, I guess.”

“I’m not saying don’t,” Tristan said.  “I’m just saying… what happens if we do this twenty more times and she’s whittled her sentence down to nothing by deals she made?  It doesn’t feel right that she’d be back on the streets anytime soon or go unpunished for what she did.”

“I’m on the same page,” I added.  I was trying to keep half an ear out, because Naphtha was already on issue three, and was saying something about another group of villains.  It sounded like a similar dynamic to issue one with villains messing with the evacuation, but more to do with random fuckheads stealing from people who were leaving the city with their most valuable things, complicated by more power use restrictions.  Another team was asking questions, and I felt like it would be weird to interrupt Rain and Tristan and interrupt the other team that seemed to have a more avid interest in the job.

Besides, I wasn’t in the mood to deal with random fuckheads.  Over the past five days I’d been prepared to jump in if there was a pressing issue, and that held true, but I was okay taking the backseat and focusing on my team.

Losing Ashley hurt.  Her absence at the table was felt.

“What if I told them she was a possibility, but stressed no special favors, or gave them a better picture?” Rain asked.

“That would be my instinct,” I said.  I looked at the others, and Tristan nodded.  Kenzie seemed distracted, but nodded when I sought out her eye contact.

“Cool,” Rain said.  He walked over to the table to wave down one of Naphtha’s teammates.

“Four!”  Naphtha called out.

Someone at a nearby table said something snarky I didn’t quite hear, about the number of crises that were popping up and how we should have it handled.  The annoying thing was, this was the events that they were having trouble finding manpower for.  There was a lot of other stuff going on that already had teams assigned.

“The Machine Army reached Boston in Bet.  We delayed them as best as we were able, did a final sweep, and found a crude interdimensional effect that was left over from an ongoing power.  We cleaned it up, but the Machine Army is reportedly building a housing for the traces of power effect and trying to build what might be an interdimensional portal.”

“What the fuck?” Vessel asked.  “How?  They can do that?”

“Using tech they collected elsewhere and ferried to the site.  We have capes on the scenes, plenty of firepower already, but given how tenacious the threat is, the higher-ups want some secondary firepower.  We want powers that can do damage.  You’d be replacement for any wounded, relief, and if we had to pull some of our capes back to the city or one of the evacuation areas, you might be one of the ones asked to stay.”

“I always wanted to get a look at one of those robots, see how they ticked,” Kenzie said.

“It means going to Boston, being hours away from everything else,” Tristan said.  “I hear it’s intense, relentless.”

“Kind of,” I said.  “Less about constant fighting unless someone really slacked off, more about worrying there could be an IED rigged to anything you touch, or a beartrap under any patch of dirt… except it’s not an IED, it’s a giant robot that tears you apart.”

“I could help, scan with my cameras,” Kenzie said.  “You could help… kind of?”

“They want unconditional firepower, Rain’s firepower comes with conditions,” I said.

“Tristan… no.  You could, Victoria.  Kind of?” Kenzie mused.  “I want to go, though!”

“I have to stay close to the hospital, so you’d be going without me,” Tristan said.

Kenzie slumped in her seat.

Naphtha was talking to someone, “-situations where we can’t let people use powers at their full strength.  If you want to help but your power is big, constantly on, or inherently reality-distorting, this is a big way to help.  If you’re anti-violence or you don’t want to be in a situation like we had when we fought Teacher where we had to take lives, dealing with the Machine Army is one way to contribute.  Nobody’s going to fault you if you’d rather contribute that way.”

No takers.

“That’s all,” Naphtha said.  “Thank you for your time.  Reach out to any Warden if you change your minds.”

He stepped down from the table.  The circular pool of oil moved with him, leaving things untouched.  He joined the conversation between Rain and the other Warden.

We finished off the plate of deep fried chicken and zucchini.  More of a brunch than a lunch, but I had the generally ravenous feeling that came with the decline of a spot of illness, and I didn’t mind the chance to fill up.

“Tristan,” I said, as I wiped my mouth and discreetly wiped my nose, before pulling the medical mask back on, “What’s the status with Barcode?”

“We’re fine.  They’re appraised, they believe it wasn’t intentional, their thinker vetted me.  I put them on some other stuff, a few weeks back.  Finding some people.  Paris was one, but then we ran into him before Barcode did.”

I looked across the table at him.  “What were they supposed to do with Paris when they found him?”

“Tell me,” he said.


“Then we’d see,” he said.  His expression was flat, betraying nothing.  He looked back in Rain’s direction.  “Moot point.”

“That’s not what moot point means.”

“What does it mean?” Kenzie asked.

“Up for debate.”

“Right.  We can debate it if you want,” Tristan answered, with a hint of the stubborn tone I’d learned to watch out for, like he was willing to fight over it.  He sighed.  “I asked them to find other people.  Goddess put us all in the worst mental states and circumstances, where we had zero reason to trust one another, only protocols and rules to go by, you know?”


“It reassured Byron, I think, that things were that bad and we could still cooperate.  Reassured me.  I’m not sure I trusted myself, before that, like I could’ve done something stupid again if things lined up wrong.  Ever since, I’ve been reaching out to people we knew back in the day, because I wanted to own up, and I was so goddamn sick of running into random people from our past and having everyone think they needed to worry about Byron.”

“They know about his current state?”

“Sleeping ninety percent of the time, might never get full use of his right arm again?  Most do.  I know he was in contact with a few online.  I had to keep my distance from all that, which meant he had room to reconnect and find his niche, I guess.”

“He’s grown up a lot in the past few weeks.”

Tristan nodded.  “The contracting we’ve been doing with Barcode has been using them as private investigators with a deeper knowledge of the cape scene for Byron’s sake.  Ninety percent of it was for Byron, five percent was me covering my ass and Breakthrough’s ass, making sure we wouldn’t be attacked by heroes with good intentions who wanted to save Byron from me or some shit.”

I thought of Moonsong attacking us in the old Warden’s headquarters and nodded.  Beside me, Kenzie turned and waved.  It was the ‘eyes in the back of her head’ thing, given the timing of it.  I followed her gaze and saw Sveta navigating her way between the tables and chairs of the dining area.  Behind her, I had a glimpse of Weld and Slician.

“What’s the other five percent?” Kenzie asked.

“Me looking up an old boyfriend,” Tristan said.  “I haven’t had the guts to make the call.  I’m ninety percent sure he hates me, and I rationalized away the fact I hadn’t called by telling myself I couldn’t even do anything with him if he was forgiving and single.  Except now I theoretically could.”

“Ahhhh,” I said.

“I think that’s great,” Kenzie leaned forward as she talked to Tristan.  “Love, making up for old mistakes.  I think you should go for it.  Life’s too lonely to not be with people.”

Sveta took her seat beside me, giving me a bit of a hug.  She handed me a manila envelope with some heft to it.  “Present.”

“I can deal with lonely,” Tristan told Kenzie.  “I tried to murder my brother and get away with it.  Right under this guy’s nose.  I lied to his face a thousand times.  I felt like utter shit doing it, but I’m not sure that matters.  And… I’ve had years to think about it, but I’m wondering if he suspected or knew.”

“He knew?” I asked.

“I think he got an inkling when I couldn’t… wouldn’t.  Not while Byron was in there.”

“Marriage?” Kenzie asked.

“No,” Tristan said, blinking.  “No, I just saw stars and lost track of my thoughts at the thought of marriage.  Don’t hit me with that sudden mental image at ten in the morning when I’ve only had one cup of coffee.”

“Oh,” Kenzie said.  “Boning.  That’s how Candy puts it.”

Christ.  I looked around to see if anyone had overheard.  How the fuck was I supposed to navigate this?

Tristan, meanwhile, had put his face into his hands.  I wasn’t sure if it was laughter, crying, cringing, or some combination of those.

“Heartbroken are giving you a mis-education, huh Kenz?” Sveta asked.

“Oh yeah,” Kenzie said.  “Tristan, Tristan, look at me.  Maybe he figured it out, maybe ten percent of him knew, and that’s why he’s so angry, because the whole of him is angry at that ten percent of him.  But if you call, sure, he might be angry, you might be upset, but at least you’d know.”

“That could be worse.”

“It could be!  But maybe, maybe he’d be willing to forgive you and things would be better.  You could do what you couldn’t and wouldn’t do before, which is probably a lot of things, considering you told Rain and Chris you and Byron uh… can’t and won’t, even alone and that’s a lot of not over years and years.”

Tristan stabbed a finger in her direction.  “We need to ban you from talking about certain things.  It’s uncomfortable.  Serious ban.  Really.”

“My point is, If you don’t call, then it’s the same as the worst case scenario.  Him angry, you miserable.”

Tristan sighed.  “I’m trying to think of a nice way to phrase this.  This is where I kind of miss having Chris around, because he’d just say it.”

Kenzie nodded, but I could see her shrink into herself a hair.

I put my hand at her back and gave it a little rub.

“Uh, the sentiment is very much appreciated.  I think you’re probably right, Kenz.”

“Cool,” Kenzie said, bouncing a little in her seat, before leaning forward to grab the paper basket that had held the deep fried zucchini and tipping crumbs into her palm.  “That’s not something Chris would say.”

“But… take this as gently and lightly as it can be taken, with a pinch of good humor?”

“Can do,” Kenzie said, before tossing the handful of crumbs into her mouth.  “I always do, I think.”

“It’s a huge step forward that you’re giving what sounds like good relationship advice,” Tristan said.

Yeah.  That was probably as diplomatically stated as it could be, considering.  Chris would’ve been meaner about it.  Maybe it would have been better to leave it unsaid, though.

“Thank you,” Kenzie said.  “I know I’m a fuckup when it comes to relationships.”

“Not how I’d put it,” Tristan said.

“I am, though.  I always was and now I’ve gone and fucked up my whole relationship with the new team, and they don’t want anything to do with me.  When I saw them because I had to it was super awkward and stiff and…” she huffed out a breath, smiling.  “Really, really sad, because of how awkward it was.  I get why you’re afraid, Tristan.  They say it’s better to have loved and lost and it really, really isn’t.”

“Isn’t it?” Sveta asked.

“Not when you put your everything into that love,” Kenzie said.  “Not when it happens over and over.  You can only lose everything so many times.”

I put my arm around her shoulders and hugged her closer.  I could feel the vibrations through her head as she crunched down on bits of deep fried food that were still in her mouth.  Given the force of the chew, the bits had probably deep-fried into chunks of pure carbon.

“I didn’t mean to rub a sore spot,” Tristan said.

“You didn’t.  I’m just sore in general.  So you need to go find your romance so I can live vicariously through you, okay?  Or try.  But make the call.”

“Okay,” Tristan said.  “Later.  I can’t do it from here.”

“Vicarious romance, Kenz?” Sveta asked.  “Is this a new interest?”

“No,” Kenzie said.  “No, not really.  I have some people I might like-like but I talked to Candy about it and Candy says I might be in love with the idea of being in love, which is different from infatuation, which is what Darlene has, which is different from love, which is what Parian and Foil have.  I was already going to move super slow so I wouldn’t do anything dumb and ruin it all, but now I can’t and won’t do anything because they hate me.”

“Hate isn’t the right word,” I said.  “You might be reading too much into this.  It might be worth taking your own advice, and just… confronting them?”

“The difference is I don’t need to call to know.  It’s like I picked up the phone and then I overheard something, and I got something more honest than if they said anything to my face.”

“A biased take.”

“Fine, it’s like I got to listen in through the phone and hear everything they ever said about me and it hurts as much as anything because I didn’t even get to see things start to fall apart before it happened.  With my parents, my foster dads, the Wards team, the summer camp, the other Wards team, the school group, the girl I’d talk to before and after class in Math, my old teams online, my music teacher, my parents the second time, Houndstooth, and even Ashley, there was warning.”

Hearing Ashley’s name come up as part of that was a gut punch.  I wanted to say something but the heaviness of that gut punch made it hard, and Kenzie was on a roll of sorts.

“I loved them with everything I had and at least I got to see where things were going and pull back maybe five or ten percent of that everything.  With Chris and with Chicken and Syndicate and Decadent, I didn’t get the warning.”

“They said a lot of those things when you weren’t there and then when you were there, they thoroughly enjoyed your company.  I don’t think it paints a good picture, Kenz.  We hear and register the bad more than we hear and register the good.”

“Chris said I don’t, though.  Chris said I could meet Hitler and get along with him because he loved dogs, and I’d chatter at him about dogs and wave at him through the window while he turned on the gas.  Chris said I don’t see the bad enough, so maybe it’s the opposite and I didn’t even pay enough attention.”

“Or it could be that you’re growing up, Kenzie,” Tristan said.  “You’re meeting people like the Heartbroken, your tastes are maturing, you’re getting a questionable education-”

“Standard education, I think,” Kenzie said.  “Just… very all at once.”

Maybe.  You’re dealing with loyalty inducing Goddesses and mind controllers, bad guys and crazy clusters, you’re dealing with a lot, and maybe you’re getting a better understanding of good and bad.”

“I think the you we first met might have gotten along with Hitler, Kenzie,” Sveta said.  “But the you of today is less innocent and wouldn’t.  The you of today called out Chris.  And that’s a little bit sad and a huge relief at the same time.”

Kenzie shrugged.

“What would Ashley say in this moment?” I asked.

The smile that touched Kenzie’s face for a moment could have been the fleeting happiness of her thinking of her friend, the smile falling away when she remembered.  Instead, it suggested the opposite, like I’d stuck her with something sharp, and the pain was fleeting.

Odd, because I could feel like it was the worst of both.

“She’d say… if they really said all of that, then they aren’t worth anything and they don’t deserve me,” Kenzie said.  “Maybe.”

“True,” Tristan commented.

“Except,” Kenzie said, making her voice a hush like she was telling us a secret, “They are worth something.  They’re cool and I miss them.  But I couldn’t tell Ashley that sort of thing.”

The issue with loving everyone you meet and seeing their best sides is that when there’s fault in the relationship she thinks it’s all hers.

“They can be cool and still make a mistake,” I said.  “And I think if you asked them, they’d say you’re cool but you made a mistake by reading what they said in private.”

Kenzie smiled, cringing a bit.

“The best way forward is to arrange a meeting.  We could arrange for you to talk to them, you clear the air, you apologize, they do the same.  Then everyone tries to do better.”

“I can’t fix all the problems they say they had with me.”

“That’s a cop-out,” Sveta said.  “You can’t fix all of them, no.  But you can fix some and work on others.  You pledge to do that as part of your apology.”

Kenzie sighed.

“Yeah?” Sveta pressed her.

“Yeah,” Kenzie admitted.

“I’ll call Tattletale later, then.  We’ll work something out.”

Kenzie sighed.

At the other table, the Shepherds were packing up.  Scribe was doing a lot of the talking, and the three others were listening.  She drew something on the head of her staff, then let go of it, letting it float down and flip over, until it was horizontal.  She stood on it, a witch with her broomstick, and used her telekinesis to manipulate it and help keep her balance.  The entire time, she was speaking in a voice that was more quiet and for her group only than anything we’d said at our table.  Not that we’d broadcast it, but…

Fuck, I was being unfair, wasn’t I?

“We should go check on Rain,” I said.  “I have a hard time believing he’s been talking about Love Lost for this long.  We done?  Do you want to grab something to go, Sveta?”

“No, I ate,” she said.

We packed up our trays and gathered the cutlery into one glass.  I gave Scribe a glance over my shoulder, and saw her staring.

She rolled her eyes, her expression just shy of being a sneer, pure disdain in every account.  That done, she floated away, still surfing on her magic stick.  Her trio walked behind her.

Maybe I wasn’t being unfair.  Fuck, I really didn’t like her.

“You were with Weld,” I noted.

“I wasn’t really,” Sveta said.  “He was there, but I was with Armstrong.  Filling him in on Ashley, asking questions.  Just, uh, Weld was there for part of it, and so was Slician.  As a friend, Weld said.”

“That sounds fucking miserable,” Tristan said.

“He’s still one of my favorite people, even if he’s being a complete butthead right now.  It was nice to talk about him.  He was nice about Ashley.  Do you mind, Kenz, that I’m talking about her?  I could understand if it was…”

“No.  It’s the opposite of minding it,” Kenzie said.  She was walking in the midst of us, and from my angle I couldn’t really see her face.

“He had some anecdotes from when it was just him and her talking.  Armstrong had some too.  I’ll share them later.”

“Please do,” Kenzie said.

“Armstrong was so proud of how well she was doing, it really affected him that she was gone, you know?  I can’t say I felt exactly the same, I never really felt… I don’t even know how to put it.  She wasn’t someone I clicked with, not in a general sense.  But I have a ton of memories of conversations like the one I mentioned to you a bit ago, Victoria, about Ashley wanting to be Case Fifty-Three.  Times our differences made the bridging of the gaps feel really meaningful.”

“That makes a ton of sense,” I said.  “I kind of feel the same way.  Probably about very different things.”

Sveta smiled.  “Very different things.”

Rain was talking to a cape with a helmet covering the upper half of his face, a scar across both lips at the lower half.  The armor the guy wore was partial, covering one shoulder and pectorals but not the other shoulder or belly.  It was all done in the chrome dome look, all smooth surfaces, with the rest of the costume being dense red mesh with metal threading through it.  He had something like six modified revolvers with barrels the size of toasters holstered along his spines, so the handles fanned out, and four more at his belt.

I didn’t count myself a fan of the look.  Maybe a small part of that was being being grumpy from being sick and grumpier with the general disheartened feeling over Swansong.

“Still talking about Love Lost?” Tristan asked.

“Nah.  Told Naphtha, he’s going to run it by Warden leadership.  I was recounting what happened with Nieves in our last run-in, and Hardboil.”

“This is Bullet Time, Bullet Time, meet Tristan, Victoria, Sveta, and Kenzie.”

“Public appearances scare the crap out of me,” said the cape who looked like he was tough enough to smash his face into a brick wall until the wall gave.  “My knees knock, I’m not even joking.  It came up because I mentioned Nieves arrived and asked what Precipice knew.”

“Nieves is here?” Sveta asked.

“He’s here,” Kenzie piped up, in a little announcement that made Bullet Time give her a curious look.  “He brought, uh, what’s her name?  She went by Kid Cassandra while doing contract work, the Heartbroken said Tattletale coined the name to annoy her.  Then she wanted to change it because she’s barely a kid anymore.”

“I don’t think she confirmed a name change,” Bullet Time said.

“Names are hard,” Kenzie said. “I’ve been through, like, five.”

“Guys,” I said.  “I kind of want to check in on that.  Do you mind?  Is this in a secret holding area or something, Kenz?”

“No.  Just an office,” Kenzie said.

“We’ll come,” Sveta said, her voice firm.

“Good talking to you, Precipice,” Bullet Time said.  “Show me your stuff later.  No tinkering, though.  I’ve learned my lesson after giving a tinker carte blanche to ramble at me.”

“Sure,” Rain said, smiling.

“You made a friend,” Tristan said, as soon as we were out of the dining hall.  “And you weren’t just talking business, were you?”

“We were talking about Nieves before,” Rain said.  “That led into talking about hobbies.  He machines his own guns, no tinkering, I do some metalwork, knifemaking, trapmaking, except I barely have time these days…”

“A chronic problem,” Tristan said.  He had less time than any of us, because he was giving his brother his time to speed up the healing process.

“Yeah,” Rain said.  “That led into talking about my workshop, and the view from my workshop, swimming in ice cold lakes-”

“Macho stuff,” Tristan teased.

“I- maybe.  We were sharing stories but it didn’t feel like one-upping one another.  It was nice.  He’s very different from me.  I was rural, he grew up in one of the areas that got designated H.O.S.V., like Brockton Bay almost was, after Leviathan.  Is that right?”

“Yeah, it’s right,” I said.  “Mayor went to testify about it, said not to, that things were recoverable.  If he’d said the opposite, maybe the city would have had all power and water shut off, to encourage evacuation.”

“He grew up in a place where they did that,” Rain said.  “Except his family was among the people who stayed.  He said he shot someone before he was Kenzie’s age.”

“I shot someone before I was my age,” Kenzie said.

“Flash gun doesn’t count.”

The conversation continued, and I wondered at how we were glossing over the reality.  As of right now, we were making small talk and letting Rain geek out over making a friend, when it wasn’t something he did a lot, and we were ignoring that the topic of H.O.S.V. was very close to what we were collectively doing in this moment.

Naphtha was striding down the hallway, coming in our direction.  He stopped us.  “Changers?”

“No changers in our team,” Tristan said.  “Why?”

Naphtha getting close enough meant I felt the oil touch my skin, as it touched everything in a certain radius of Naphtha.  He pulled it away from me as it touched me, but my skin crawled with the memory of the feel of it.

“Another crisis.  Similar to the others.  Going to announce it to the dining hall,” Naphtha explained.  “I don’t suppose any of you feel brave enough to go up against Sleeper?  Absolute invulnerability better than Alexandria’s, special brains, absolute annihilation powers?”

“Ha, no,” Tristan said, genuinely amused.  Then his face fell, “Wait, is he moving?”

“Yeah.  But not fast enough to matter right now.  It’s another thing demanding attention, focus, and manpower.”  He was already leaving.  “If you can, put in some hours helping to evacuate.  It helps if we show our faces, even if we do nothing else.”

“After,” Tristan called out, “Recovering from injuries and a death in the team.”

Naphtha was essentially out of earshot already, still moving quickly toward the dining area.  He gave us a thumbs up at Tristan’s comment, which felt jarring, but it was also one of very few ways to effectively communicate we were still on good terms.  Maybe I would have done a salute or something, I wasn’t sure.

Evacuating.  We’re conceding, I thought.  We’re facing this looming threat and we’re having to cut and run.  To take this city we devoted so much to and let it go.

And every step of the way, we were running into obstacles.  Gary had been a big one, we had petty criminals, monsters, broken triggers, and our hands were continually tied by other obligations, by this new fragility at the center of the city, where any intense power use could break things or catalyze disaster.

Villains had been told, and villains were apparently holding back enough that alarms weren’t going off and we weren’t being told it was all hands on deck.

But collectively?  We weren’t that good at that.  We made mistakes.  We had people with issues, or buttons to press, or agendas.  We had fucking Teacher, waiting in the wings, and he’d made his agenda perfectly clear.

I wanted three things.  I wanted this team to be okay, because even if Jessica had shifted focus and career away from this, I’d made my promise to look after them to myself in addition to my promise to her.  I was trying to do that now, because it was at least something I could do without draining myself, sustaining more wounds, or getting sicker.

Thing number two was answers.  I wanted to know more.  Which led me to open the manila folder Sveta had handed me earlier.  I had my hopes about what it was, and those hopes were exceeded.

Files on findings and research about portals and interdimensional fuckery were part of it.  We were heading to get to the rest of it.  Gary had some answers, at least when it came to anti-parahumans and what the people on the ground were doing.

Thing number three for me was taking those first two things, my team and those answers, and doing something about it.  The door that Kenzie could apparently open in Rain’s dreams was the definitive thing.  An idea communicated with a glance, that would make us zero friends if we attempted it.

But it would let us do something, when we were faced with a series of situations that felt hopeless.  Fucking Sleeper.  The Machine Army.

The city was so vast it took half a day to get from the west end to the east end.  Three quarters of a day to get from the southwest to the northeast, though the Dauntless Titan had kind of trashed the Northeast by appearing there, so it wasn’t a real consideration.

And yet, with so many things pressing in on us, the city felt small.  Claustrophobic.  This city-sized complex where we were bringing in some of the refugees and evacuees felt the same way, not helped by whole sections that were devastated or off limits.

Kenzie led us to the area where Gary was talking to the Warden leadership, a parahuman in his company.  Security stopped us.


We handed it over.  We let them check the records and systems.

“It’s like they’re old people pecking at the keyboard with their fingers, except more, because I’m way faster than them and they’re way slower,” Kenzie muttered.  “It’s adorable and really frustrating.”

“Be good,” Sveta admonished.  “If you say something they’ll hold us up for longer.”

“But if I get locked up I won’t have to watch them take forever to do what I can do in a literal eyeblink,” Kenzie whispered.

“Be good,” Sveta said.

We were saved when Golem stepped out into the hallway.  He saw us and approached.

“Precipice, hey.  Hi Breakthrough.  I’m sorry about Swansong.”

“Thanks,” Rain said.  “Appreciated.”

“You guys saw Contessa, right?  You met her?  Did you get an impression about her character, or anything weird.”

“My impression is that she’s awful and fuck her,” Sveta said.  “But I’m biased.”

“Understandable,” Golem said.

“My impression is that she’s awful and fuck her,” I added.  “I’m not as biased.  Why?”

“Something came up.  Can they come through?  I’ll vouch.”

“They can go through if you know them,” the security guy said.

Thank you,” Kenzie said.  “You’re my hero.”

Giving us a quizzical look, Golem led us down the hall.  We passed a meeting room with the blinds partially closed, and I could see the silhouettes of Dinah Alcott, AKA: Kid Cassandra, and of Gary Nieves, sitting across from Miss Militia.

We didn’t stop there, though.  We weren’t asked to watch.  At the end of the hall, there was a wider area that resembled a police bullpen or the cubicle zone of a computer startup – a lot of desks and computers.  Heroes were gathered, watching the interrogation on a monitor.  Some were huddled around computers.

Theo led us to one system, and brought up a recording of the interview.

Dinah Alcott was speaking, sounding annoyed or upset.  She wore a nice suit-dress with a wild pattern to it, and a similarly patterned cloth as a blindfold.  “You can’t trust her.  I’ve run the numbers, I can’t see past her but I can see everything around her, and I can at least see things that have yet to happen that are right behind her point of influence, understand?”

“Barely,” Miss Militia said.

“Not at all,” Gary said.  He was a big guy, one hand wrapped around one fist.  He looked entirely out of place, like a grown man with a fear of kids sitting in a kindergarten.

“Contessa is doing things that have nothing to do with saving lives or what you explained with what she did after being released.  She sent a Harbinger to kill the Number Man, and when she did, she set off events that messed up everything I was working on with Gary.”

“What were you working on?”

“Me.  We were in contact,” Gary said.  “I didn’t realize the extent of it.  I had a few eye-opening moments in a row and then she reached out, we talked.”

“I put him in charge of the movement and I showed him some fundamental truths,” Dinah said.  “I put in years of work to help with things, to keep things from boiling over, and it’s been destroyed because she did something and she’s still doing it.”

“It’s manipulation to a degree that’s… very uncomfortable to think about, and makes me second guess…” Gary said.  “But I like the attack on the Mayor even less.  I despise Jeanne Wynn, but that’s not the kind of change I wanted.”

“And he’s not in charge anymore,” Dinah said.  “It’s all about the violence now, fighting back, it’s going to blow up, and I can’t stop it if I spend five days asking myself questions – I checked, it’s really not an option.  This is the catalyst for the disaster you’re anticipating, and it’s her.  Infighting to distract your capes?  Her.  Just like you said she had you do to distract and scare off Teacher.”

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102 thoughts on “From Within – 16.2”

  1. Battle of the precogs commences. What is Contessa’s plan? The consensus on her dispatching the harbinger to kill Number Man was that she needed to distract Teacher for a few seconds at a critical moment, but Alcott disagrees. This leads to the question of whether or not she’s pulling a keikaku, and everything has been leading to this moment, or if she’s trying her best but getting hamstrung by Breakthrough choosing C instead of the objectively best option B.

    We finally have some specifics on Sleepers’ power. He’s OP, plz nerf.

    1. Dinah seems more and more like a manipulative little bitch. If only Taylor would have seen her now….:(

      I think Dinah killed Number Man and she’s blaming Contessa.

  2. -Kenzie sucks at giving love advises but at least she’s TRYING to help her friends and this is all that matters.

    -Sleeper and Machine Army? GIVE ME FUCKING INTERLUDES ABOUT THEM, PLEASE. Too much teasing about these next super-villains, I want information.

    -I believe Contessa over Dinah anytime. Dinah is compromised as Tattletale said and she probably doesn’t have good intention if she tries to manipulate everyone against parahumans and against Contessa- the same Contessa who saved a whole world and a City. There’s something very rotten about Dinah which is sad because she was such a great hero asset in Worm. Unless she’s manipulated by someone else or she not miss nice girl anymore.

    -You, Vic, as much as I love Kenzie…DON’T LET HER NEAR MACHINE ARMY NOT EVEN FOR 5 SECONDS.

    Many thanks, the world.

  3. This is an unpopular opinion, but I wouldn’t trust Dinah more than Contessa. Contessa has never seemed personal, while there is a trail of ruined, destroyed collaborators behind Dinah.

    Number Man got too comfortable with the Number Man role. He forgot that he was also the Harbinger. So the Harbinger reminded him. If they actually need a Number Man, I’m sure one or more of the clones can fill the gap.

    1. You mean that Number Boys thought that Number Man’s behavior was making things every bit as “irregular” as one of the Boy’s feelings about Sveta was, and the situation was made “regular” in a way Number four suggested?

      Seriously though – I think that Number Man’s death may be one of the bigger reasons not to trust Contessa. Number Man knew her very well, so if her behavior was somehow worrying, he would likely be one of the first people to point it out. The fact that Contessa is currently closely working with Citrine who would obviously treat her husband’s warnings very seriously, makes it even more suspicious.

  4. Typo thread.

    >“This is Bullet Time, Bullet Time, meet Tristan, Lookout, Victoria, Sveta, and Kenzie.”

    Lookout and Kenzie listed twice.

    1. A few things that I’m not sure are errors, but look weird enough to me that maybe they are:

      It was nice to talk about him.

      Did Sveta say she talked to Weld about Weld? Wouldn’t it sound more natural if she just said “It was nice to talk to him.”, or something around these lines?

      “Nah. Told Naphtha, he’s going to run it by Warden leadership. I was recounting what happened with Nieves in our last run-in, and Hardboil.”

      “This is Bullet Time, Bullet Time, meet Tristan, Lookout, Victoria, Sveta, and Kenzie.”

      Two problems with this one:
      – I think that a dot between the first and the second “Bullet Time” would work better than a comma,
      – the use of quotation marks and paragraph break suggests that these lines were said by two different people, but their contents seem like all of this should be said by Rain.

      1. Sorry about the messed up blockquotes. Here is the fixed version of the above raport.

        A few things that I’m not sure are errors, but look weird enough to me that maybe they are:

        It was nice to talk about him.

        Did Sveta say she talked to Weld about Weld? Wouldn’t it sound more natural if she just said “It was nice to talk to him.”, or something around these lines?

        “Nah. Told Naphtha, he’s going to run it by Warden leadership. I was recounting what happened with Nieves in our last run-in, and Hardboil.”

        “This is Bullet Time, Bullet Time, meet Tristan, Lookout, Victoria, Sveta, and Kenzie.”

        Two problems with this one:
        – I think that a dot between the first and the second “Bullet Time” would work better than a comma,
        – the use of quotation marks and paragraph break suggests that these lines were said by two different people, but their contents seem like all of this should be said by Rain.

      2. Bullet Time is referred to as having guns strapped to his “spines”, which I think is supposed to be “spine”?

    2. For the namelist issue, I’d also point out that Precipice ought to be using cape names for everyone (except maybe Victoria).

      1. Not necessarily. Remember that Sveta’s civilian identity has never really been a secret. Tristan and Kenzie may technically have ones, but between the fact that hero costumes seem to incorporate more and more elements of regular clothing, and that the rules of the game of cops and robbers generally seem to mean less these days.

        Add to it that Breakthrough operated without masks on several occasions (for example in Shin), the fact that even the law did little to protect their identities (for example everyone during his hearing Rain was addressed in front of multiple witnesses with his very distinctive first name), the fact that, unlike Skitter, Victoria has always been very sloppy when it comes to remembering to use only civilian names when in costume and only cape names out of the costume (a habit that at least some of her teammates seem to be picking up), and the fact that Bullet Time and Precipice seemed to immediately hit it off.

        If you put all of this together I don’t find it surprising that Rain gave a member of the Wardens first names of some of his teammates. He shouldn’t have in the sense that it wasn’t prudent for him to do, but I don’t find it surprising at all that he did.

        1. Also don’t forget that Teacher’s character assassination attempts lead certain heroes (like Dragon) to trust the hero community with much bigger secrets than something as trivial as their first names, and Rain might have just slipped because of this as well as all factors mentioned above.

          In other words I suspect that it is Rain’s, not Wildbow’s, mistake.

    1. I also worry that Contessa, knowingly or not, is Abaddon’s agent, but perhaps the disagreement between her and Dinah is that Contessa is “done with the objective best, with the ugliest path to getting there,” just like she told Teacher, while Dinah is actually still trying to achieve “objectively best” results. Of course it is entirely possible that Contessa’s change of heart which at the first glance seemed to be prompted by her talk with Taylor at the end of Worm is in reality at least in part a result of her shard’s influence on her mind, which brings us back to the “Abadon’s agent” theory.

      1. By the way, let’s not forget about Tattletale’s note about Dinah from Aiden’s interlude. While it is possible that Contessa is being manipulated – either by her own shard or even by some master power, it is also entirely possible that Dinah has been “compromised” somehow or had a “shift of motives” in some really bad direction.

        1. And here is another thought – what if both precogs are “compromised”? Alternatively what if neither of them are and they are honestly both trying to do the good thing, but there is some fundamental difference when it comes to what they consider “good”?

          1. Two more things:
            1. If both Contessa and Dinah are honestly trying to do a good thing, but they disagree what “good” is here, then it would fit that they currently seem to closely work with politicians who have different world views.
            2. Considering the theory (discussed in last chapter’s comments section) that creation of Breakthrough and some of their story to date (for example the fact that they ended up working closely with Undersiders) might be caused by Dinah’s manipulations on one hand, and that Contessa said that she gave the voters options with outcomes most satisfying to them on the other hand, I wonder if the precogs are currently engaged in some sort of battle over hearts and minds of members of Breakthrough, and possibly also other people who voted in the last arc. If this is the case, I wonder if these groups will end up splitting into two camps – one supporting Dinah, the other – Contessa – a bit like Sveta and Victoria feared deciding which of Contessa’s options to take through a vote would ultimately drive a wedge between the voters no matter which of the options was ultimately chosen?

          2. Heck, maybe the vote was just a step on a Path to drive Breaksiders and co. apart? It would fit, considering that there seems to be some evidence that Dinah wants these people to work together.

          1. Sure. But remember that many (possibly most) capes have been exposed to the Simurgh during GM. Contessa is one of the very few capes that we can be reasonably sure were not. Dinah on the other hand might have been, especially in chapter 30.6.

  5. I still like and trust Dinah more than Contessa. I’ll admit I don’t like that she’s working with a schmuck like Nieves, but most of our heroes have worked with schmucks at one time or another.

    And a Harbinger killed Number Man, whaaaa?

  6. Oh wow, battle of the precog thinkers. All convinced they, and they alone can be right.

    I guess that little knife twist TT did didn’t hurt Dinah enough to teach her the lesson it was suppossed to.

  7. Woah, wildbow dude, stop spinning all these plot threads at once on a Saturday night when I have to fight the alcohol and read it. I’ll have to reread it in the morning but one thing I did fixate on…


  8. What an excellent chapter! Thoroughly engaging.

    Finally some spec on Sleeper. Of course it’s that level of OP. Makes me wonder about the extra bits aside from the invulnerability.

    Also.. Loving the tension, here. Which to believe, and are the outcomes of these powers as benign as they act?

  9. Generally I liked this slice-of-life-y chapter. Isn’t it weird to call the chapter this way despite “Kid Cassandra”, Sleeper, a new broken trigger, Machine Army and H.O.S.V. mentioned in it, or the obligatory cliffhanger at the end? I feel there was not enough of such chapters in recent arcs. Here are some thoughts about specifics:

    1. Considering what sort of people seem to become members of Shepherds, I get that Vessel was most likely just being racist when he asked “What kind of non-English speakers?”, or at least why everyone would assume he was, but out of this context it wasn’t such a bad question. If you want to help a small community of non-English speakers, all of whom presumably speak another language, it would probably be a good idea to have someone who can speak that language on a team going to save them from the villains. By the way it is nice to see that migration to the city wasn’t too chaotic for people speaking minority languages to either stick together or find themselves and form such communities.

    2. Poor Kenzie. On one hand she is growing up, and actually giving surprisingly good life advice for someone her age, but on the other hand it is so obvious that all of this advice comes straight from her painful experiences.

    3. While it seemed pretty obvious that damage Sveta sustained in a fight with team Wasp wasn’t too serious (otherwise Victoria would have almost certainly mention it in the last chapter), it is good to see that our favorite C53 seems perfectly fine (at least physically).

    4. I’m beginning to think that neither of the Vera brothers are supposed to be the Breakthrough member who according to Contessa was supposed to endure “torment”. Byron seems to be out most of the time, Tristan’s situation is bad, but not nearly as bad as expected both by them and by some of the commentators. Perhaps Ashley is the one both “removed from the equation” and being tormented?

    5. “Kid Cassandra” is her official name right now? I’m not sure I completely trust her, but at the same time I must say I feel for her.

    6. This feeling when you see Victoria being grateful to the mayor of Brockton Bay for speaking against evacuating the city all those years ago, and knowing that unlike us she has no idea who, how and why convinced him to do it…


    “Precipice, hey. Hi Breakthrough. I’m sorry about Swansong.”

    Golem singled Precipice out? Looks like their similar life experiences lead them to become really close friends.

    1. A spot just opened, so Dinah can apply for ‘Number Woman’ now.
      Contessa most definitely intended that.

    2. “6. This feeling when you see Victoria being grateful to the mayor of Brockton Bay for speaking against evacuating the city all those years ago, and knowing that unlike us she has no idea who, how and why convinced him to do it…”
      Coil and Victoria has never met, didn’t they?

      1. Yes and no. Glory Girl might have met Mr. Thomas Calvert – an important PRT Consultant and a rich man who put a lot of his assets in Endbringer shelter construction, and disaster relief businesses – at some point, since I believe that both would be the sort of people who are likely to show up during social gatherings like the party Undersiders crashed in arc 6 of Worm. However I don’t think that she ever met his Coil persona. I also doubt that she’s ever learned they were the same person.

  10. I have to say, I can’t really trust either of the pre-cogs but between the two, I’d prefer the one who hadn’t been wrangling a bigoted group that would inevitably lead to violence. Maybe I’m still angry at Dinah for outing Skitter and causing the scene at the high school but the pre-cogs need to explain themselves. If they don’t, it just a toss up on who to trust, if anyone.

    1. But she was wrangling anti-parahumans to prevent them from turning to violence and riots. Which wasn’t inevitable, until Contessa went and had democratically elected city leaders murdered. Granted, I wasn’t that keen on Cauldron being elected on false premises. But it is possible, that thanks to Kid Cassandra, heroes weren’t dealing both with anti-parahuman revolt and the villain of the week (Fallen, Goddess, Teacher, etc).

  11. And, for the record, Kenzie is right. Capricorn’s solutions of never having any fun time is not a solution in any workable sense.

  12. Exactly what is so mysterious about Contessa’s actions right now? She already had an opportunity to go with the “objectively best outcome” by letting Teacher do his thing, and chose not to. And when talking about Plan C, she admitted there were going to be some casualties in the general population, just not as bad as there could be.

    Frankly, I think Contessa has earned more latitude to be taken at her word than Dinah, considering Dinah’s word is all she has as proof. And considering her argument here is basically – I helped with a movement to inflame prejudices, resentment, and distrust against the parahumans who are trying to keep things from falling a part, and now I’m shocked it’s taking a turn towards violence and destruction – I have to say she’s already proven to be too much of an idiot to be trusted.

    Even before getting to the whole ‘throwing her personal savior under the bus, for the greater good’ habit.

    1. The anti-parahuman movement was happening no matter what, that much was clear. From what we know, Dinah directed their attention against Breakthrough. This led to Breakthrough revealing some of the truth of Golden Morning, which was a good thing and needed to be done, and presented a pretty good defense of parahumans. Then she made Gary into a respectable leader of the movement. Now, for all you can say about him, he is somebody who cares about people and he is somebody who can be reasoned with. We can speculate, what would have happened if Dinah wasn’t involved – secrets about Golden Morning would have been kept longer, breeding paranoia, other parahumans may have handled PR much worse and somebody more fanatical may have taken charge (or somebody like Teacher may have co-opted the whole thing). It is of course speculation of what could have happened, but I think Dinah’s actions so far can be seen as generally positive.

  13. “My impression is that she’s awful and fuck her,” Sveta said. “But I’m biased.”

    “Understandable,” Golem said.

    “My impression is that she’s awful and fuck her,” I added. “I’m not as biased. Why?”

    Heh heh heh. Nice.

    I’m personally on Team Contessa though, I feel like we’ve gotten enough of a view of the inside of her head that she’s more likely to be acting in good faith. Dinah, though? She’s been a mystery this whole story. What, exactly, is she trying to do? Working with the anti-parahuman jackasses doesn’t make me think highly of her either.

  14. Sorry, still can’t reply to typo thread

    this was the events > these were the events
    of power effect > of the power effect
    on, “What’s > on, “what’s
    is, If > is, if
    she huffed > She huffed
    secret, “They > secret, “they
    being being > being
    Lookout, Victoria, Sveta, and Kenzie (lookout and kenzie?)
    , no tinkering, (consider using emdashes)
    , knifemaking, trapmaking, (consider using emdashes)
    face fell, > face fell.
    out, “Recovering > out. “Recovering

  15. So currently everyone seems to view four (really three) options on the Contessa-Dinah spectrum, for explaining the conflict here.
    A. Contessa is compromised. She manipulated the teacher war as Dinah said. Further, some of her statements-including that she can’t see through a few types of threats, *including teacher*, don’t fit with previous evidence. She’s shown no such weakness before-it’s entirely possible she was lying to people then. This is the primary fault plane we as viewers see, although killing the Number Man was a similar one.
    B. Dinah is compromised. TT has claimed she is compromised, and we have every reason to trust TT and suspect TT is capable of seeing through even class S shenanigans, given she can get usable information on the endbringers. Incidentally, did anyone catch a few chapters back that *two* endbringers survived? Regardless, this is also believable.
    C. Both are compromised. They are each acting through their own agendas, and manipulating everyone along the way, each one capable of combating the other as they both possess the PTV shard (Dinah, in fact, received a version of Zions, if I remember, which worked differently but was the same mold as the Abbandon/Eden one).
    D. Neither is compromised. This is a misunderstanding. Contessa isn’t going for the best option, Dinah is trying to, so they are combating despite not really being at odds.
    However, I’d like the volunteer E. Their *powers themselves* are failing them. If we look back, the shards have discrete wells to draw from. The most power intensive ones are running dry. And the PTV was so power intensive that Zion notably lost years of existence when he used it, and that the entities, despite it’s power, could not simply use it to “skip” their experiments.
    Hence, Dinah and Contessa’s powers, among the strongest, which have been used almost constantly since bonding to the host to do far reaching precognitive analysis against Zion/Endbringer scale threats constantly, have begun to run dry. And are simply giving *wrong information*, as the dying shards attempt to communicate with their hosts. Notably, Contessa had her change of heart to *stop using her power* and her actions in the last arc involved putting herself into a coma then disabling her own power. Maybe the PTV is choosing realities where it doesn’t burn out? Dinah, meanwhile, is going for a reality where parahumans are less prevalent-how likely is that because her shard can exist longer in circumstances where it does not have to run simulations against other simulations?

    (Additionally, E. Also preserves the dramatic tension necessary for a true story with precogs who aren’t main characters).

  16. Contessa mentioned that there were two broken triggers the authorities didn’t know about which happened to be her blind spots. Tattletale wrote that Dinah could be “compromised” somehow, and now Kid Cassandra seems to be just as unrestricted by wearing a blindfold as Paul Atreides from Frank Herbert’s Dune (or the Simurgh) by their blindness. Could it be that Dinah had a broken second trigger, and no longer needs her eyes to see?

    1. …after all, as far as I remember Dinah was never mentioned as one of Contessa’s blind spots (in fact Contessa was supposed to be unique among precogs in that her power was unaffected by interference of other precognitive parahuman powers, which implies that Dinah shouldn’t be her blind spot), but if Contessa’s power could “see” Dinah now wouldn’t Contessa prevent Dinah from coming to the complex and making her accusations?

  17. I am also on Team Contessa. She saved the world once. Held the world together long until they could defeat Scion. Stopped Teacher. Plus if Contessa was gonna go evil… what are you gonna do about it? Lose to Contessa?

    1. And now she rejected tactics that saved the world the previous time, in favor of something, that feels like protagonist centered morality – the best outcome, as selected by a small group of individuals, essentially based on their wants and wishes.

  18. Wow, the Shepherds are barely even trying to pretend to be not-racists now, huh? Like we’re talking present-day Republican levels of not even bothering to hide it.

  19. I’m somewhat disappointed that Sleeper isn’t a master/stranger.

    I think I’ll still like him though

    1. @tricorn
      > I’m somewhat disappointed that Sleeper isn’t a master/stranger.
      We do not know that! 🙂
      All we know is that Naphtha said about Sleeper. It is still fit theory that Sleeper’s power just to convince everyone he is too dangerous.

  20. “And he’s not in charge anymore,” Dinah said. “It’s all about the violence now, fighting back, it’s going to blow up, and I can’t stop it if I spend five days asking myself questions – I checked, it’s really not an option. This is the catalyst for the disaster you’re anticipating, and it’s her. Infighting to distract your capes? Her. Just like you said she had you do to distract and scare off Teacher.”

    -> Wait, when did Contessa tell them to in fight to distract and scare off teacher?
    I feel like the infighting was before they even attacked the compound.
    Something is confusing in this last sentence.

    Yup, Dinah Vs Contessa makes sense.
    My trust in Contessa: high. My trust in Dinah… also high (so sue me). My Trust in PtV: low.

    I don’t get the feeling that Contessa is evil… but I wouldn’t be surprised if PtV has its own agenda that it keeps Contessa in the dark about, and people have got too used to trusting in it (Abadon incoming etc etc).

    Despite all the shady shit that Dinah is involved in…. I suspect her power is actually better for the long view, and keeping track of details that aren’t the “Victory”… and if she set up the Anti-Parahuman sentiment to Simmer, and keep Nieves at the Head, and I can totally believe that this was a plan that COULD have made sense (Directing the movement AWAY from danger as needed, etc etc.)

    Not saying Dinah’s plans don’t come at a cost, or that she isn’t manipulative… just that I trust her to have reasonable goals in mind.
    I mean… if nothing else, remember: Dinah’s predictions beat Scion. Contessa’s helped, but didn’t win.

    1. Apropos the theory that Abaddon is coming. Note that the atmospheric tower-cannon Valkyrie disabled during her interlude might have been a way to send resources from human-occupied Earths to space as a part of Thinker/Warrior lift off sequence, but it could also be a failed attempt to build an anti-Entity weapon, that maybe could even manage to tickle a shard or two as they were coming from space to land on that particular Earth. Similar thing with Chris, and his strange idea to take a page from Sphere’s book and try to send people to the Moon despite the fact that such project seems to have nothing to do with his specialty. There is also the fact that the Endbringers seemingly sided with humanity after Eidolon’s death.

      I think that at least some shards may be making their hosts do something that is supposed to save, not destroy humanity from some sort of disaster (like the coming of the third Entity, or even destruction of remaining Earths when Warrior and Thinker shards try to continue the cycle). After all nothing says that the shards need to be inherently hostile to humans, especially after the deaths of their hubs. In fact maybe the shards see saving humans with their creativity as a course of action which gives them the best chance of surviving and/or not being subsumed by Abaddon (assuming of course they want to avoid this fate).

      Maybe the shards even think that a hub built around a human mind or collection of human minds may have a better chance of saving them from heat death of the universe than a hub built around a mind of an original space-worm. The humans were ingenious enough to find a way to kill Scion and Eden after all – a feat that they may view as nearly as impossible as surviving the end of the universe by the space-worm species.

  21. Oh god, it’s Battle of the Precogs, and Dinah knows she can’t stop whatever’s coming. Now this raises the question of which one’s telling the truth…

    On the one hand, Contessa has always been on the side of saving the world. From the beginning she has wanted to stop the Entities and save as many people as possible while doing it. She was so affected by her first experiment leading to a death that she handed off the rains to Doctor Mother.

    On the other hand, Contessa has given up on the “greater good,” opting to try and make Breakthrough happy despite that not being the best path. We know Dinah, we know that she’s always been about saving the world. Not stopping the Entities, just saving as many people as she possibly can while protecting a few key players like Skitter so they can go on to save even more people.

    On a third hand, probably controlled by Teacher because everything is, they’ve both been gone for a while and in potentially compromising positions. Maybe Teacher’s brainwashing went through and Contessa’s following his plan, making the heroes trust her. We don’t know exactly where Dinah was after Gold Morning, and it’s not like she hasn’t been kidnapped before. This could be the longest of cons by Teacher, and he’s just playing the heroes against themselves to distract them while he does some work in the background preparing for the universe to break.

    On a fourth hand, maybe Contessa and Dinah are getting some bad info from their shards as they prepare for a new hub to be formed. Both of those shards can almost perfectly simulate the future, they know that *someone* is going to take control soon be it Kenzie, Teacher, Dauntless, the Simurgh, or some unforeseen player, and they could have each chosen to quietly guide events in that direction. I don’t know how much I believe that as it’s not very shard like behavior, but the Warrior Hub’s dead and the rules have changed so who the fuck knows anymore. Waste is self aware and acting somewhat independently so maybe those two are as well.

    On a fifth hand, I may just be driving myself insane coming up with wild theories and I need to go to sleep and stop quietly chanting, “It’s a trap, believe no one,” to myself over and over again while rocking back and forth in a dark corner, who knows.

  22. My last comment seems to have been lost somehow after I tried to post it, so here is more or less what I wanted to say in it again. Sorry if it turns into a double post.

    Consider the following:
    – It has been only a few days since the battle for the complex, so maybe we are still in “short term” territory as far as Contessa’s power is concerned, and people may still die both in the complex and in the city.
    – Between Clockblocker possibly being a member of the flock, and Bonesaw being Valkyrie’s friend, I wouldn’t be absolutely sure about Ashley’s death.
    – what happened to Capricorn wasn’t as bad as both the Vera brothers themselves and some of the commentators predicted could happen,
    – Teacher, one of his students and Legend seem to have disappeared, but since Chevalier seemed confident that Legend will be fine, maybe they were prepared for a situation like this, and Teacher is currently imprisoned in some Warden-operated black site?
    – Contessa never explicitly said which option she picked.

    Are we absolutely sure that it was option C that ended up being executed?

    1. Clearly not.
      Also, Bonesaw wasn’t much of a friend to anyone. Riley‘s a good girl. She essentially iconifies the identity battle capes suffer from, so I feel that’s important to point out.

  23. Yeah, Impression I get is Garry didn’t know Dinah was a parahuman and that she manipulated him to be head of Anti-Parahumans because she saw them as less violent under his guidance, but now he’s been kicked out after presumably voicing dislike to the car bombing and the movement is turning to full violent war.

    I’m actually disappointed to know about Sleeper. The whole premise around him was as a completely unknown threat of cataclysmic magnitude for the readership to wonder and theorise about. Someone so powerful that even Khepri figured it too risky to control him against Scion.

    1. I think it is more likely that Gary didn’t know about Dinah’s role in the anti-parahuman movement, and possibly even that she existed before she met him after mayor’s car was bombed.

      As for Sleeper, it is not like we never knew anything about him. For example from arc 30 we can gather that Taylor thought that trying to control him wasn’t worth the trouble, and that he apparently likes to read books out loud on a lawn chair on a balcony so much that he didn’t see even the end of the world as a reason to do something different. It would fit the fact that he seems to be inactive most of the time.

  24. “Wow, the Shepherds are barely even trying to pretend to be not-racists now, huh? Like we’re talking present-day Republican levels of not even bothering to hide it.”

    Actually no. If this was an attempt by Wilbow to show some kind of bigotry within Hero groups, it was an utterly clumsy failure.

    For the simple fact that asking what kind of non-English speaking group (and who even phrases things like that?) is kind of tactically and logistically important if you’re, you know, trying to communicate with people. Especially if you’re attempting to evacuate people.

    So if you’re in a group that has Spanish speaking members, only to find out the ‘Non-English people’ are, say, French? Yeah, that’s kind of going to cause problems that could be avoided by knowing beforehand.

    Poor effort, Wilbow.

    1. I think the point here may be less about Shepherds’ bigotry, and more about the fact that Victoria is once again quick to jump to conclusions about people based very limited information – this time about the past of some members of Shepherds. Naphtha may know better, but may also be just as seems to be just as quick to judge. At least Victoria has matured enough to give Scribe the benefit of a doubt – something she probably wouldn’t do during her years as Glory Girl.

  25. @ Sol:

    >”So if you’re in a group that has Spanish speaking members, only to find out the ‘Non-English people’ are, say, French? Yeah, that’s kind of going to cause problems that could be avoided by knowing beforehand.
    >Poor effort, Wilbow.”

    Yeah, but phrasing matters.
    If someone asks “What languages do they speak?” then this is the directed straight at the actual issue. If someone says “What sort of non-english people”, this is a very different question. If your primary question is the language they speak, you could have ASKED about the language.

    Similarly, if you tell your Mum you’ve met a new person, and her answer is “What colour are they?” this is VERY different to “Where are they from?”.

    This sort of stuff is similar enough to something reasonable to give plausible deniability if anyone calls you on it, or heck even if YOU call yourself on it… but it doesn’t changed the fact that if you are actually interested in the languages because you want to speak it, then you could have asked about the language or even just said “Hey, a couple of us speak X- is that a language that will be useful?”

    1. Phrasing matters, sure, but we can’t expect that Vessel is some PR specialist who always considers the way his every word could be (mis)interpreted by his listeners before it leaves his mouth. It is entirely possible that he actually wanted to know about the language these civilians speak for the exact reasons Sol suggested. I imagine that if someone from a group without known ties to E88, or a similar organization asked that same question using the same exact words nobody in that room would think for a second the person who asked could be racist.

      1. One more point about phrasing. Vessel might have asked his question the way he did, because language may not be the only factor you would need to take into account when deciding who should go. For example I imagine that in our world you want to think twice before sending a Serb rescue a bunch of Croats (or vice versa), because while those two nations speak mutually intelligible dialects of the same language (or, depending who you ask, mutually intelligible languages), they don’t necessarily like each other, and if you want to be perfectly sure you won’t provoke a negative reaction from the Croatian rescuees, you may leave your Serb would-be-rescuer at home.

        1. Similarly I would think twice before sending Sveta to rescue a bunch of Russians, especially if it turned out that those Russians come from the area where Cauldron left her – it could be less-than-great idea to their old nightmare to save them.

  26. Do you think that after her time with Faultline’s Crew Dinah may simply be prejudged against Contessa, and that it may color her interpretation of what her power shows her about future results of Contessa’s actions?

  27. @ Alfaryn

    “I think the point here may be less about Shepherds’ bigotry, and more about the fact that Victoria is once again quick to jump to conclusions about people based very limited information – this time about the past of some members of Shepherds.”

    If that was the case, when asked ‘Does it matter?’ to what non-English people being described, the response should have been an immediate ‘Duh, it matter.’ If not by the Shepherds than at least in Victoria’s head.

    So yeah, I think this was a rather shallow attempt to showcase bigotry still being a thing even for hero groups, and it fails for a number of non-shallow reasons.


    “If the primary question is the language they speak, you could have ASKED about the language.”

    Not really. If you say it’s a group of Japanese, it’s a pretty good indicator that you don’t need someone who speaks Swahili. But like I said – Who even phrases it as ‘non-English group?’ It’s so generic and ambiguous, it practically begs for specifics just for the sake of clarification.

  28. > If that was the case, when asked ‘Does it matter?’ to what non-English people being described, the response should have been an immediate ‘Duh, it matter.’

    Vessel might have realized how his words could be interpreted (by a room with enough heroes to occupy spaces around thirty tables) right after Naphtha’s response. He must be aware what the reputation of his team is, and he must have realized that he just put a foot in his mouth. If Naphtha’s question didn’t give him a pause, the fact that no one in the room spoke up at this point to point out that yes – it is may actually matter what language the civilians speak from practical point of view probably did.

    I’m not saying that Vessel isn’t necessarily a bigot of course. He obviously could be. All I want to point out is that there may be another explanation of his behavior – he might have suddenly felt a social pressure, and decided to drop the topic, paradoxically confirming the suspicions of people who are prejudged against him due to his association witch former E88 capes.

    1. Whoops, now I’ve done it. Even while half of the commentators can’t use reply buttons, I somehow managed to forget to click one.

      In other words the above comment was supposed to be a response to Sol’s comment one thread up.

    2. One more possibility by the way is that Vessel is, or has been a bigot for half of his life, but honestly wanted to help this time, and the way he phrased his question reflected his habits born from bigotry despite the fact that all he really wanted to do in this situation was to ask about the language and cultural identity of the civilians just to find out if he or his team were well suited for the job, for example because they have some non-English speakers themselves, or even because he predicted that some groups of civilians could became hostile if they learned they were being rescued by people plenty of people may see as “former, or possibly not-so-former Nazis”.

      1. One more thing about the Shepherds and people like “former Nazis” – it may be possible that some people joined the this team not because they are racist or bigots, but because they have a reputation of being ones, possibly even before GM? Take Scribe and Victor for example – what if they no longer believe in Nazi ideology, or even never believed in it in the first place, and were forced to join E88? How many hero teams would take them in with such past? Remember how much flack Breakthrough got because of their members’ history. Victoria arguably had the best reputation of all of them, and even she couldn’t find a team that would accept her, at least on her own terms. Former E88 capes (and possibly other capes with just as bad reputation) may be facing even bigger difficulties in this departament, and the Shepherds may be the only team willing to accept them.

  29. > […] rescued by people plenty of people may see […]

    I realized this came out clumsy as hell. For clarity – I meant something like “[…] rescued by a team of capes plenty of people may see […]”

    1. And I forgot the reply button again…

      Sorry. I’ll try to slow down a bit to make sure tat it won’t happen yet another time.

    2. By the way, did you notice how Victoria immediately focused not only on the fact that Vessel’s words may indicate he is a bigot, but also how her focus then shifted to Scribe’s reaction, or lack of it, and remained there until Scribe realized that Victoria was staring at her and stared back? We saw Victoria do it multiple times by now. She’s always slow to cut people who say they want to turn over a new leaf any slack. In her own words from Glow-worm:

      I don’t believe in forgive & forget.

      It seems to be one of the defining features of her character, and I would say that at least in some situations it may be a rather big character flaw.

  30. A little confused on some minor things from the last few chapters. Hope others could help clarify things. Don’t know if any of these have been brought up before, but I didn’t see anything that addressed or explained them.

    1. When Naphtha is talking about Sleeper…

    “Another crisis. Similar to the others. Going to announce it to the dining hall,” Naphtha explained. “I don’t suppose any of you feel brave enough to go up against Sleeper? Absolute invulnerability better than Alexandria’s, special brains, absolute annihilation powers?”

    My confusion here is the last line where he is listing powers. Is Naphtha telling them what Sleepers powers are? If so why is it a question, and why is brains plural? Or is he still asking what powers Breakthrough has available? He started the conversation asking if they had any changers. Was that last line him asking if they had anyone with invulnerability, any special brain powers, or annihilation powers? It seems most people are assuming this is a list of Sleeper’s powers, but it just doesn’t read that way to me.

    2. In 15.7 Contessa says
    “Two members of Breakthrough are removed from the equation as a result. One endures some torment for… quite some time.”

    I see two ways of reading that, either 2 members are removed, and one of those 2 suffers, or 2 members are removed, and a 3rd member suffers.

    So far no one in particular seems to be suffering physically. Yes, Byron is hurt but there has been no mention of any suffering yet, he’s mostly been unconscious. But if it is 2 removed and a 3rd suffers than that 3rd member could be Lookout and her emotional suffering over Ashley.

    3. Dinah seems to be getting a lot of crap in the comments. Nobody trusts her because of her connection to the anti-parahumans and because until now we’ve not seen what she’s been up to, and she is potentially compromised. But consider this, maybe the reason we have seen and heard so little of her, and what we have seen and heard seems bad is because WB wants the readers to doubt her and be suspicious. We’ve seen more from Contessa who seems to be helping, between the two it makes sense most would assume Contessa is good and Dinah is bad.

    Dinah being involved with Gary and Anti-Parahumans looks bad, but what if she is controlling the situation to mitigate damages on both sides? Without her there could have been full scale riots long ago, think of how many times Breakthrough just happened to be in the area when Anti-Parahuman stuff was going on. The gun deal at the library, the interview at the bookstore. They were in the right place at the right time to mitigate damages, keep things balanced.

    Now supposedly Contessa has thrown a wrench in those plans. There are lots of possibilities on why. If PtV is an Abaddon shard like some believe, then maybe it is effecting her actions. Or it could be that Contessa has decided to no longer choose the objectively best option, instead choosing the option she can live with. Meanwhile Dinah is likely still going with the “best” option and now their two plans are conflicting even though they are both trying to do good. With what Dinah is saying at the end of the chapter though, it seem Contessa has gone bad. Just have to wait and see I guess.

  31. Mmmm. Everyone here seems really distrustful of Dinah. And, don’t get me wrong, she is suss. But I think a big part of why Contessa’s getting the fans’ support is that we got to see her perspective first, while Dinah has been a looming shadow for most of the story. But that’s narrative, that’s the story making you feel a certain way.

  32. Don’t know yet whom I trust more. I’d be in Contessa’s camp, if not for her switching to protagonist-centered morality, as kessler put it. I’d trust Dinah, if not for anti-parahumans (and remember that the shady guy who contacted Gary in his interlude was basically offering surrender to an invasion from other Earth) and Tattletale’s notes. So, both raise my suspicions now. Contessa raises them slighty less, but not that much.
    But still…
    > “My impression is that she’s awful and fuck her,” I added. “I’m not as biased. Why?”
    No, Vic, you are very much biased. And it seems that you’re making up for your recent lack of signaling friendship to Sveta. Way to go.

    Some info about Sleeper’s power, yay!! For now it sounds kind of boring, but surely there’s more to it. And his mode of operating doesn’t quite match the picture painted by Naphta’s description. Either way, he almost definitely will play some role, which is good. (not for the characters though…)

    And it seems that we have an Ukrainian cape here 🙂 (or alternatively, Belarussian/Serbian/Macedonian, as Wikipedia suggests)

  33. Scion had Contessa’s power, and it didn’t save him in the end. She’s killable. They just need to figure out her emotional vulnerabilities, to bait her into picking a bad win condition.

  34. Here’s a thing to consider – what if Contessa confirms a lot (maybe even everything) of what Dinah said about her, explains her reasons for doing what she did, and expresses worry that she may be doing the wrong thing? Remember that she admitted that what Teacher was doing was “objectively best”, but explained that she simply didn’t want to allow him to implement his plan unopposed, because of how ugly the path to get there was. Maybe Dinah is trying to do something similar to what Teacher was supposedly trying to do – something that according to some definition of “good” is the best thing to do, but simply not something that Contessa wants to pursue. Not something that matches her current definition of “good”, her “win condition”.

    During her conversation with Taylor Contessa said “I have no cause anymore, and I hope that means I don’t lose sight of the little things.” This seems to match the fact that she asked Breaksiders and co., who are for the most part relatively small players compared to people like Teacher or old Cauldron members to choose her win conditions for her. Teacher seems to be Contessa’s opposite – he is focused on the big picture, not the little things.

    Depending on what Dinah’s current priorities are, we could argue that her way may or may not be better than Contessa’s. Maybe Contessa focused too much on the little things, and lost sight of the big picture? Maybe even Contessa herself is worried that this may be the case? Remember that she said that since Cauldron started she made only five big decisions herself, and the results ranged from disastrous to only neutral with most falling into the former category, so she may be very unsure of her own judgment.

    On the other hand we don’t know what Dinah is currently focused on – Tattletale’s notes suggest that Dinah’s current motives may be completely different than the ones she had in Worm, when Dinah seemed to be torn between two extremes – coming back home (small scale), and saving the world (large scale), and was willing to sacrifice her own savior to achieve the second goal (which Taylor herself said on her mother’s grave she couldn’t blame Dinah for it – a sentiment not necessarily shared by the other Undersiders), so before we know more about what Dinah is trying to accomplish in Ward it will be impossible to judge if her way is better than Contessa’s.

    I expect that even after we learn more about Dinah’s current goals, it won’t be easy to decide. Maybe it will turn out that by the end of Ward some of us will say that Teachers “objective good” was actually better than what either of the precogs are trying to achieve?

  35. > She went by Kid Cassandra while doing contract work, the Heartbroken said Tattletale coined the name to annoy her.

    Did anyone notice that Kenzie is, or at least seems to be, not entirely accurate here? In the epilogue of Worm it was clear that Tattletale was surprised when Imp called Dinah a “kid Cassandra”. Of course it is entirely possible that Tattletale and/or the Heartboken liked Imp’s joke so much that they were the ones who turned “Kid Cassandra” into a proper name, but it still feels like at least some of the credit should go to Imp.

    Maybe Aisha was around, cloaked with her power, when Chicken Tenders were telling Kenzie about the name, and because of it they simply forgot to mention that the original idea came from Imp?

  36. A random thought – considering that the villains Amy brought to Shin operate there unmasked, with their civilian identities known not only to the authorities, but likely to the general public as well (not that they had much to hide, since I think that many, if not all, of them were likely unmasked the moment they were sentenced to Birdcage) could some of them end up as members of the New Wave eventually (assuming obviously that this team will ever exist in anything but name at some point)? After all losing their secret identities was the main reason which probably kept many capes from joining New Wave back on Bet, and Mark is there, and may see if some of these villains may be convinced to “go hero” and suggest them New Wave as an option. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve always felt that Mark could be the Dallon who is least prejudged against the villains.

    At least I hope that Mark manages to convince Marquis to this idea, or at least to become a hero. Both the public image of the New Wave capes, and their internal family dynamic could benefit greatly if it happened.

  37. More and more-
    i think Lisa and Taylor made a mistake.
    they should have left her there till she OD’d on “Candy”-
    im sorry but im having trouble seeing how Her approach was stabilizing the situation,precognition or not- she sent her pet normal-supremacist attack dog after a group of badly scarred people who were at least TRYING to help hold what was left of human civilization instead of any of the -actual- problems- and her last big plan/set of predictions utterly destroyed the life of one of her rescuers, and left one of the others (Lisa) isolated and scarred- the Girl’s an Albatross at best, playing Moral calculus of the lives of everyone around her Callously at worst

  38. > “Contessa is doing things that have nothing to do with saving lives or what you explained with what she did after being released. She sent a Harbinger to kill the Number Man, and when she did, she set off events that messed up everything I was working on with Gary.”
    A couple of notes about this:
    1. We saw from Teacher’s interlude that the attack on Number Man did, in fact, throw him off stride, so Dinah is wrong (or lying) when she says that this “has nothing to do with saving lives”.
    2. Similarly, Contessa messing up what Dinah was working with does not mean that Contessa is a bad actor and, in fact, means that any criticisms coming from Dinah are suspect.
    3. We still don’t have confirmation that the Number Man is actually dead. We just know that a Harbinger was sent to kill him and that it was reported to Teacher that either he or Citrine had been killed, but that information was suspect.

  39. A lot of people here in the ‘Dinah’ camp, and a lot of people here in the ‘Contessa’ camp.

    Anyone else wanna join me over here in the ‘We as readers don’t have enough information right now to be able to know which of these two thinkers is to be trusted’ camp? I’m personally happy to wait for more information from our WildishBambinow before I put on my ‘Team Dinah’ or ‘Team Contessa’ jersey.

    1. I think I already sort of said I do? There is a reason why I wrote in one of my comments above that “Maybe it will turn out that by the end of Ward some of us will say that Teachers ‘objective good’ was actually better than what either of the precogs are trying to achieve?”

      That said, my gut feeling is that both Dinah and Contessa are trying to do what they consider the good thing. It is just that their definitions of “good” are probably very different. It seems telling that they currently work with two of the most prominent city’s politicians, who seem to pretty much represent the opposite sides of city’s current political spectrum.

      1. I appreciate your agnosticism and diligent thinking, Alfaryn. Yours is a name I’m typically happy to see pop up in the comments. For example, I was happy to see your comments earlier when you pointed out that we can’t actually know Vessel’s motivation for asking “what kind of non-English speakers” were being talked about. Good to consider any reasonable possibility, and not assume you know what the answer is.

        Yeah, IMO I think that probably Dinah and Contessa are both trying to do good – whatever that ‘good’ means to them. Things are confusing with the two of them – or any precog really. Hard to guess at the motivations of someone who can see the future. For example, is Dinah pushing the anti-parahuman movement because she wants to cause conflict she can benefit from, or because she wants to push parahumans out of the city to protect against a “thin-ice” situation? We simply can’t know yet – not without a Dinah interlude. Some people seem to be reluctant to admit that we just can’t know right now.

        Or maybe I’m just grumpy, who knows 🙂

        1. I think we may see another paralel between our pair of precogs, and their politicians. Remember how Gary refused to discuss anything regarding the way Jeanne and her husband run the city when he realized that they were using Accord’s notes to guide them? I think that Dinah may be just as unwilling to confront Contessa, if for a bit different reasons – for example Dinah should be aware that Contessa may use her power to “win” any discussion between them (whatever this victory may involve). This means that instead of doing the reasonable thing – talking things through and reaching some sort of compromise about how things should be handled – the precogs may start making things worse by sabotaging each other or otherwise engaging in yet another counterproductive cape conflict.

  40. A possible scenario-slash-prediction about how things may go horribly wrong once the “ice breaks”:

    All power effects that seem to be sustained by shards (permanent portals, time-stop bubbles, time loops, force fields etc.) disappear at the same time everywhere. Many people will get stranded in worlds where there are not enough resources to survive the winter. Travel between worlds is reduced to temporary portals, like the ones made by Doormaker, or even completely impossible, at least until a new Scrub-Labyrinth portal network can be established (assuming it is even possible, and can be done somehow without unacceptably high risk of causing another event like that further down the line). On top of it Jack Slash (and quite possibly some other S-class threats) are released. And that doesn’t take into account that an event like this would likely be accompanied by the biggest broken trigger (or the biggest series of broken triggers) seen to date.

    How many deaths do you think it would cause?

    1. …and just how plausible do you think this scenario is? Can you think about some information we have about shards which suggests that the expected disaster can’t or is at least unlikely to happen the way I described above? Do you think it does or doesn’t make sense plot-wise for the disaster to happen this particular way? If so, why?

  41. Remember how after meeting Engel Victoria apparently started to recall some events protected by Amy’s memory blocks? After getting her hands on Victoria in Shin prison, Amy noted that those blocks were becoming undone. Curiously Victoria never mentioned recalling anything new since then. Could it be that Amy reinforced those blocks then? What do you think she is hiding from Victoria? Could it be something that is important not only to the relationship between the sisters, or to Victoria’s mental well-being, but also to the problems the city (or maybe the entire human-populated multiverse) is facing? Maybe this is why powers that be – like Tattletale, Contessa and Teacher, and quite possibly Dinah – all seem to be either interested in or wary of team Breakthrough so much?

    1. For example maybe when Amy was turning Victoria into an approximation of Eden, she didn’t affect just Victoria’s body, but also her mind? I imagine that if it happened, Victoria could see things capes usually see only in their trigger visions. And Vicky could potentially experience such visions for days, while Amy could get glimpses of those visions if Victoria was able to communicate with her somehow at the time. It could explain how Amy went from feeling “something” in Glaistig Uaine, to not only being sure those were not fairies or souls, but also creating very accurate theory about power-granting entities. It could also mean that if the memory blocks Amy placed on Victoria were removed, Vicky’s knowledge could become critical to solving current crisis. This in turn could explain apparent interest of the big players in them Breakthrough.

    2. Amy has never cured Victoria from being an Amysexual, either because she couldn’t or deep down didn’t want to. So memory blocks are used for suppression.

  42. @Alfaryn

    I second the possibility that The Ice Breaking ends up looking like/being related to a Massive Broken Trigger.

    But I think the final result will be something similar to the Kronos Titan: a big area (citywide?) that exists simultaneously in all the Parallel Earths.

    With or without a piece of Shard showing.

  43. 1. > The last mission we brought her on …
    > … she cut someone’s arms open, I saw that
    Was it described?

    1. Yes. Love Lost did it in chapter 15.4 to the “syringe-making breaker”:

      Claws impaled the woman by the shoulders. Love Lost brought her masked face close, then swiped her arms out to the sides. The claws didn’t break contact with the woman’s arms, as Love Lost raked her bone-deep from each shoulder to the respective hand.

  44. Oh thank the gods I’ve finally caught up and I can go work on other things now.

    Now I just have to avoid falling into the my anxiety trap of “I have a million things to do and I’m really stressed, so… I’ll go do something entirely different and indulge in escapism for a long time” with some other work of fiction. :-/

  45. So much going on! Ahhhh!

    Can’t wait for someone to ask Kenzy if she’s made progress on the dream room door. I’m sure she’s already done.

    Also, the Like button has been broken for the past few chapters. Please fix… I like all of these chapters.

  46. I’m on both Team Fortuna and Team Dinah, I still think we’re just seeing two plans butt up against each other. Contessa sees the how, not the why, while “Kid Cassandra” sees the why and not the how. (Oof, that name. Tattletale is merciless sometimes.) Or maybe “route” versus “impact” might be a better analogy. You’d *think* Contessa and Alcott consulting each other and working together would be a winning combination, but apparently not. I can only guess the Simurgh/Dauntless Titan might be playing a teeny-tiny role there. (‘course, I’m also Team Simurgh, foolish as that may be.)

  47. Yeah, Team Simurgh ensures that everything goes to an interdimensional hell in interesting ways:)) What else could we, as readers, wish for?

  48. Also, I took the line “What kind of non-English speakers?” as a subtle hint to Naphtha, underlining the bias in Naphtha’s own statement. They could at least care enough to identify them, right? On the other hand, maybe that statement was waaay more caustic than I originally read it as.

  49. Maybe Naphtha doesn’t actually know what language or languages they speak, just that it isn’t English. That ignorance could even be why he got defensive when questioned about it, though my money is that he was assuming bigotry motivated the question. He might not even have needed to assume, as he may have interacted with Vessel enough before this to know.

    As for Vessel, I’m guessing he is indeed a racist, or at least is concerned that the rest of his team’s racism would prevent them from tackling this problem. It’s true that his question — and even the phrasing — is perfectly acceptable. The issue is his failure to elaborate when challenged. It’s kind of a stretch to say that he’s brave enough to be a cape and to voice a question, but not quite brave enough to clarify his position. I could buy that he’s too tired, but I’d give that a 20% confidence vs. the 80% confidence I’m giving racism.

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