From Within – 16.y

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Months Ago

She stopped at the door, peering through the glass pane, and exhaled slowly, trying to calm her nerves.

She was surrounded by people who were so good at this.  She had always been surrounded by people who were so good at this.  But whatever genes were supposed to be imparted, whatever lessons were meant to be instilled, she still had to gather her composure before entering a room with people in it.

One person, in this case.  The Warden’s Headquarters had some massive statues in the lobby, several stories tall, and this part of the second and third floors was essentially a series of catwalks forming half-circles around the statues, with a view of the lobby below.  At this hour, long after most employees had gone home, there were only a half dozen people visible on the catwalks above and the floors below.

It made her think of the hospitals, doing her rounds.

She pressed her hand against the door but didn’t push, stopping to look at the tattoos, the clone-grown fingertips Riley had made for her.  Bold black lines and spaces filled in with crimson.  Gold tracery, far more fine, subtle but omnipresent, extending from the sun further up her arm.  It was bolder than an ordinary tattoo might be, the gold close to actual gold.

A reminder.  It still hurt every time.  It still brought back memories of her lowest point.

Another breath.  She’d been struck by the thought, one night in the Birdcage, that if it wasn’t her biological father or the Dallons that she’d gotten this anxiety and quiet nature from, it had to be her biological mother.  It had been a relief, a piece falling into place, and in one fell swoop, the anxiety had seemed… easier?

She had brought it up with her father, not excited, but calm, a bit assured in a way she usually wasn’t.  And he had smiled.  Just a smile, no words, careful and arranged.  She’d known him well enough to know that it was because words would betray and a smile let her keep believing.  From that smile onward, she hadn’t kept believing.  She took the details she knew and the things he had told her already and picked apart the notion.  Her mother had been a cape groupie, with more of a sense of adventure than common sense.  Bold and brave enough to raise her for the five or so years before returning to face Marquis, show him the ropes, and get them used to each other.  Hardly someone who hesitated before walking into a room with one person in it.

This wasn’t quite like usual, she told herself.  The stakes were higher.

She pushed on the door, stepping out onto the pathway that looked out over the lobby.

The space always looked like it was the twilight of earliest morning or cusp of evening.  The dark statues were lit by soft floodlights and similar lights shone down from the ceiling, though the catwalks above blocked the direct glare.  The windows that did exist were partially shuttered, as a defensive precaution, and didn’t account for how big, imposing, and conservatively lit the space was.

One person was on the second floor, that she could see, leaning over the railing, nursing a cup of coffee.  Shorter than average, Asian, with a simple haircut, and clothing choices that were as conservative as could be, while still being very summer-appropriate.  Khaki skirt that extended to the knees with a pleat at each side, a white, short-sleeved blouse with a high collar and no adornments.  The fact she wore a watch suggested she was old fashioned.  Studs for earrings.

The woman -Jessica- straightened, leaving the coffee perched on the railing, workbag on the floor below it.

“Thank you for coming.  I’m Jessica Yamada, in case you didn’t read the email closely,” Jessica said.  “I should ask before we get underway, do you have a name you prefer going by?”

Amy shook her head unconsciously before realizing she was doing it.

People kept asking that.

What was she supposed to even say?

She had her guess as to why she’d been contacted, and if she went by that, then wasn’t ‘Amy’ the best name for the occasion?  “Amy.”

On impulse, starting the action and then feeling there was no option except to follow through, she put her hand out.

Jessica didn’t hesitate.

Jessica’s hand was cool to the touch.  With the skin contact, Amy became instantly aware of every cell in Jessica’s body, every process, every measure and composition of hormone, protein, and lipid chain.  Of bacteria cultures, of viruses trying to assail the greater structure and losing that battle.  She could feel the warmth of the body’s interior, the electricity of nerves firing, from the ones in the brain and what those suggested to the micro-firings that Jessica wasn’t even consciously aware of, that shifted her position by small fractions to keep her balance.

They shook hands.  Amy broke the contact.

“Sorry,” Amy said, looking away and down.  Two women in business wear were talking while looking at the contents of the same file folder, one holding it, the other pointing at a graphic.  Their upper arms touched.

Amy wasn’t looking directly at Jessica, but she didn’t miss that Jessica looked down at her hand, palm turning upward, before asking, “For what?”

“That was a very Marquis thing to do, offering the handshake, putting you on the spot,” Amy said.  “A part of me wanted to see if you were scared.  If you’d flinch before taking my hand, or if you wouldn’t shake it at all.”

“Should I have?” Jessica asked.

“No.  I didn’t do anything, either, if you’re worrying about that.”

Jessica shook her head, walking over to the railing to pick up her coffee.  She leaned against the railing, her back to it.

Amy remained where she was.  Leaning against the same railing seemed too casual, and she didn’t feel casual.  She didn’t have any pockets to slip her hands into, but she didn’t want to clasp her hands or anything.  She focused on adjusting her hair by her ear instead.  It only gave her a few seconds of not looking like she didn’t know how to be human, standing unnaturally in place.

“Can I ask how James and Riley are?” Jessica asked.

“They’re fine, I think.  Usual.  James might be a little bit depressed but I don’t really ever see him, they keep us separated.  Riley is… hard to interpret.  But you didn’t ask to meet me so you could talk about them.”

“I didn’t,” Jessica said.  “But I’m trying not to treat you like a patient, and I thought I might approach you as a colleague.  I am interested, and I thought I’d ask.”

“Okay,” Amy said.  Jessica had walked back a few steps to retrieve her coffee, and Amy wondered if the five or so feet of distance that separated them had been calculated.  It was the kind of chessmaster type move her father might have done.  Having an excuse to retreat.  Which-

“Um,” Amy said.  “My throat’s dry.  Do you mind?  I’ll be right back.”

“Not at all.  Do you need change?”

Amy shook her head.

Vending machine.

She took the time of feeding in the change from her jacket’s inner pocket and collecting her iced tea to sort out her head.  Not her thoughts, but to get to where she could have coherent thoughts in the first place.

She approached the railing, stopping short of leaning up against it.  A noise below gave her an excuse to move closer to the railing and look down.  The same women from earlier.  One of them had thrown something into one of the big stylized trash cans in the lobby.

“Colleagues,” Amy reminded herself by saying it out loud.

“If that’s alright?”

She had no idea if she was being manipulated.  She didn’t have the skillset to even begin figuring it out, or to know what to do if she’d been able to put her finger on it.

If she could re-listen to this conversation with her father, with Marquis, then he could no doubt tell her if the ‘colleague’ thing was a trap, something to get her to let her guard down, or to feign equality when they weren’t equal, when she was being tracked and closely watched by the same people who no doubt paid Jessica.

“It’s alright,” Amy said.  “How are you?  It’s late.  Was it a long day, or-?”

“It was a very long day.  Always is,” Jessica said.  “But I enjoy the work I do.”

“I was wondering if you’d stayed late just to talk to me.  I’m glad if you didn’t.”

“You work long hours too?”

“For a certain meaning of work.  Babysitting, checking work.  Some hospital work.  Some research stuff.  A few initiatives, like seeing if my power can engineer something to their specifications, that will curb the Machine Army’s approach.”

“How did that go?”

“I could.  But they didn’t trust it.  The thinkers reviewed the plan and thought it was a bad idea.  It’s possible the Machine Army incorporates it or adapts to it.  Or there’s something out there that would mutate or twist the pathogen.”

“That’s too bad,” Jessica said, sounding very casual about it.

“I never know what I’m going to do on one day or another.  I wake up, check my emails, figure out if I can sleep in.  Usually I can’t because Riley is a morning person and she wants to start the day.  I’ll have ten emails and five or six will be things people want to talk to me about, and I block out the day.  I get more by lunchtime and more by four.  By the time I’m done, it’s eight o’clock at night.”

“You could say no, if it’s too much.”

“It’s not,” Amy said.  “Like… it’s that, or I go home at five and most of the time I just stay home watching shows with episodes missing, or new shows that seem off because production values haven’t caught up, and new or old, I’ll watch something with a story and it’s just…”

Amy made a frustrated movement with her hands, clenching them.

Jessica looked at her.

“…Dull,” Amy said.  It wasn’t the word she wanted, but she couldn’t think of the word she wanted.

“Not my thing either,” Jessica said.  “It’s very hard for me to find television to watch.  I’d like crime procedurals, but they tend to get too close to home.  I find the dramas dull.”

“Dull’s the wrong word,” Amy said.  “…Numb?”

“Numb?” Jessica asked, propping chin on hand, elbow on railing.  Casual, removed from the professional.

“The emotional moments don’t land.  I’ve seen and lived more intense things than anything I could watch.”

“No other hobbies you could pick up, nobody to meet?  Just… say yes to all the emails?”

“I mean, I say no sometimes.  I’m dating, you know.  Kind of.”

“Are you?”

Amy nodded.  She rested her forearms on the railing and her fingers rubbed at the tension in her hands, like they were trying to follow the lines of the tattoos and wipe them off with enough pressure and repetition.  “That was a whole thing.  I was upfront, let them know I was seeing someone with powers.    They were worried about security, and grilled me about who she was.  I thought… I don’t have a mask, no costume.  Most people who know about cape stuff know who I am.  It wouldn’t be fair to her, because I see her when she’s in civilian clothes.”

“How did they take it?”

“Not well, I guess.  But I’ve stacked up a lot of brownie points, I’ve stuck to their rules, and the amnesty technically applies.  I’m betting they know who she is, but they couldn’t say no to me without admitting the amnesty doesn’t apply equally to everyone.  I pointed out that yes, I did go to the Birdcage, but I went voluntarily.  If I didn’t have any powers at all and I checked myself into the loony bin, wouldn’t I be able to check myself out?”

“Not usually,” Jessica said.

“That’s moronic,” Amy said, more bitterly than she intended.  “It was a temporary thing.”

“Going to the Birdcage could have been a permanent transition.”

Amy drank her iced tea, and the flavor and coldness of it shocked her.  She’d held it this long and hadn’t actually had any of it.  She watched the two women in the lobby leave.  They looked close.

“They shouldn’t have let me demand to go there,” she said, quiet.

“That was then.  Today is today.  How’s the dating going?” Jessica asked.  “If you don’t mind my asking?  I have to live vicariously.”

“Can we like…” Amy clenched her hands again.  “Stop pretending?”

“Pretending?” Jessica asked.

“Or dodging around the big elephant in the room?  Victoria.  I saw her for the first time in a while last night, and now you reach out?  I’ve been talking to Carol and she mentioned you were Victoria’s therapist.  I’d know even if it wasn’t her, so don’t get her in trouble.”

“That’s not what I’m here to do.  I don’t intend to get her into trouble.”

“But you are here because of Victoria.  She hasn’t even talked to me or looked me in the eye, but I got an invitation to the same barbecue she did, and she flipped out.  So… so much that I’m sure she turned around and went to the Wardens and told them how scary and dangerous I am, and made demands.  And maybe you all know it’s ridiculous, but you have to do your due diligence.”

“I can’t talk to you about her.  She’s a former patient and it would be breaching her boundaries.”

“If I sound angry,” Amy said, shrinking down a bit, arms folded over one another on the railing.  “I’m not angry at you.  Just… all of this.  And that’s probably dangerous to say, because you’ll have paper-pushers go over every word of this conversation with a fine toothed comb, highlighting every word that suggests I’m dangerous.  Angry’s gotta be a big one.”

“That’s not what I’m doing.  If there are any recording devices, they’re as big a surprise to me as they are to you.”

“Passing on a message then?” Amy asked, her voice hollow.  “Go away, stay away, I’m a terrible, horrible monster?  I couldn’t hear all of it, but I heard bits.  She treated Carol like a monster for just associating with me.”

“No messages,” Jessica said.  “I think she has made it clear she doesn’t want any contact or relationship, sisterly or otherwise.   That extends to sending or receiving messages through middlemen.”

“Right,” Amy said, her voice terse.

“I think she has gone to great effort to keep her distance from you, to avoid the same events, associated people, and places.  Drawing only from my own conclusions, I think that is incredibly hard on her.  The kindest thing you might be able to do is put in a similar degree of effort, to maintain that distance and separation of your respective lives.”

“You asked about my dating life earlier.  As a colleague?”

“I did.  But as a colleague, I’m hoping you’ll at least acknowledge what I just said.”

“I will, but… let me say stuff first.”

Jessica nodded, sipping her coffee.

“This woman I’m dating is… she’s beautiful, she’s smart, not- not educated, but she’s had to learn about a lot of things, and she picked it up fast.  She’s passionate and stylish, she’s interesting, and… it’s like those television dramas.”

“Numb, you said,” Jessica interjected.

“It’s enjoyable, it has its moments, don’t get me wrong.  But those moments pass, and… it feels like there’s a bit less of everything to everything.  We started it off as an experiment, I was upfront about things, and maybe we’ll taper it off, I don’t know.  I think we could remain friends.”

“I don’t think anyone could know the context of what happened and fault you for taking some time, finding your way back to a comfortable place.”

“I don’t want to take time,” Amy said, a little bit emotional now.  “I don’t want- I don’t want to work from nine until nine every day, and I don’t want to work from nine to five or nine until noon either, with half my day or my evening spent on dates.  I’m not really interested in the… dating part of it.  I want to skip forward.”

“Wanting to skip forward to the part where you’re situated and comfortable is very common, I think.  I’ve heard similar sentiments from people I know, especially introverts.”

“I want to skip forward to the point where I’ve known her for ten years.  Where we’ve been there for each other’s trigger events, where we went to high school, middle school, and most of elementary school together.  And I had that.  I almost had that.”

“I don’t think that’s possible, short of using time travel.  I don’t think you could one hundred percent rule that out, but I think even if you did travel back in time and rewrite history to contrive those scenarios with your new girlfriend in mind… I don’t think you’d have what you really want.”


“Can you broaden your hopes and expectations?”

“I tried.  I tried seeing this one girl in the Birdcage.  Ex-mechanic, smaller than me but strong, short black hair, funny, tender.  I didn’t really believe her story about what she did that got her into the Birdcage, but I didn’t really care.  I asked my dad if it was safe to try seeing her and he said yes and…”

Amy trailed off, aware she was rambling.

“…She was my first kiss,” Amy said.  “And it was pretty wow.”

Jessica’s expression changed, and Amy caught it.  She’d had to catch a lot of those little expressions to navigate the household of Carol and Mark.

“What?” she asked.

“I shouldn’t remark, but… I find that surprising.”

“You mean Victoria.”

“I shouldn’t have commented.  I apologize.”

Amy tensed, fists balling up, tattoos tight around her bones.  “I wasn’t me.  I was fresh off of having my fingers eaten, my home destroyed, my life overturned.  Bonesaw tried to break me.  She tried to break Mark.  I wasn’t me.  Victoria wasn’t Victoria.”

Jessica didn’t interject.

“What we did together doesn’t count,” Amy’s words were more a plea than a statement.  “Not when we weren’t ourselves.”

She really wanted Jessica to sympathize.  Needed it.

When the woman didn’t say anything, Amy went on, asserting her voice, trying to sound confident, “It was my first kiss, with Paroxysm, and a few first other things, but that numbness, knowing it wasn’t what I really wanted?  We broke it off about as amicably as you can, when you’re stuck in the same place.  I saw a girl after Gold Morning, too, but that was… not fun.  She was still mourning, I couldn’t help her through it.”

“Okay,” Jessica said.  “I don’t want to lose sight of my suggestion from earlier.  It doesn’t change that you and Victoria would be better off if you both tried to avoid each other.”

Amy could have hit something with the frustration she felt.  “I’m getting back to that.  Listen, I… I can’t be expected to spend the rest of my life alone.”

She felt so lonely, just saying that out loud, and she willed Jessica to see it.  Her chest hurt with it, like physical pain.

“I don’t think anyone is expecting that of you,” Jessica said, her voice quiet.

“I’m being punished, but I’m a victim too.”

“If that were so, I’d still stand by my recommendation of striving to maintain the distance.  You gain nothing by engaging with her.”

“My sister?  My- not being alone anymore?” Amy asked.  How did this woman not get this?

“You have your mother, your father, Marquis.  You’re on speaking terms with Crystal.  I know you have colleagues here.  You’re taking initial steps toward figuring out the kind of relationship you want, and that will take time, and it will be hard, but that’s only natural.  If you need help finding your way there, I have a colleague who would be willing to talk to you.  He opened up one patient slot, he specialized in working with traumatized emergency service workers.  Cops, paramedics, doctors, firefighters.”

Amy felt stung.  “I’m not nuts.  I’m not crazy.”

“You don’t have to be to talk to someone, and it sounds to me like you need to talk to someone.”

“I already am, I get mental fitness checkups with the Wardens, because I spend my time around Riley and people.”

“That’s different.  This would be time set aside for you to talk through those feelings of numbness, your frustration, your fears.  It wouldn’t cost you anything except a couple of hours out of every week, I got permission from the Wardens, they’ll cover it if I say it’s needed.”

“Great!” Amy exclaimed.  “Hey!  That’s fantastic, knowing the guys at the top are signing the papers saying I’m crazy and I need enough help they’ll pay money for it.  Everyone seems to think this, apparently.”

“They don’t have your name.  You talked about brownie points earlier.  I used mine.  That’s all this is.”

“I’m not crazy,” Amy said.  “Really.  I’m lonely.  I had a bad day years ago, I freaked out, and I wasn’t myself for a while.  Now nobody’s willing to forgive me, even people I don’t even know.  And the most fucked up thing about it- excuse me.  I shouldn’t swear here.”

“It’s not a church, Amy.  Some swearing is fine.  But if you’re finding yourself using swear words when you usually wouldn’t, it might be a good indicator we should pause the conversation and calm down.”

Amy drank more of her iced tea.  She pulled the bottle away from her mouth and indicated the statue in the center of the lobby, the motion forceful enough the bottle almost slopped over, despite being only a third full.  “Heroes, right?

“They are,” Jessica said.

You’re a hero,” Amy said.

“I don’t have powers.”

“You don’t need powers to be a hero.  You’re a hero, I think.  I don’t know if you’re a good therapist-” Amy stopped short of saying she suspected Jessica wasn’t a good therapist, given how little Amy felt she was being listened to, but it wouldn’t help anything if she voiced that out loud, “-But you’re a therapist.  You chose that career.  You put a lot of energy and time into helping people who need that help.  Doctors, nurses, I spent a lot of time around them as Panacea.  All heroes.”

“I like that,” Jessica said.

“You’d think heroes, powers or not, would be more forgiving.  You’d think people who have had trigger events would be more forgiving of other people’s traumatic events, where that other person isn’t thinking straight.”

“What happens in the past is the past,” Jessica told her.

“Bull-!” Amy started.  Her expression twisted.  Quieter, she finished, “-shit.”

“It’s what you do moving forward that matters.  Talking to my colleague and taking extra care with boundaries would be a good start.”

“You’re not listening,” Amy muttered.  She wasn’t good enough at playing games to hide the hurt on her face.  She’d wanted Jessica to listen.  “You came here with these things you wanted to recommend because you think it’ll help Victoria, and no interest in hearing out my side.”

“I am absolutely listening, Amy.  I do think you’re a good person.  A hero, even.”

Amy fell silent, staring down into the empty lobby.

“These things I brought up, they’re for your sake, not Victoria’s.  She benefits, sure, but that’s more because we all benefit when we’re all taking care of ourselves.  Victoria as a subject clearly makes you profoundly unhappy.  Distance or a severing of ties is good.”

Amy finished her iced tea, the speed at which she tossed the bottle back made it clink against her teeth.  She was conscious of the minute amounts of pathogens in it.  She could even run her hands down its length and get a sense of where the man who had fed the bottle into the machine had touched it, because he’d left bacteria behind with the faint oils of his hands.

Moving suddenly, Amy passed behind Jessica, giving the woman’s back a sidelong look.

Jessica leaned over the railing, and didn’t even flinch.

Another Marquis sort of move.  Another test.  Either Jessica was very good at bluffing, or she really did think Amy was heroic enough to not worry about the dangerous parahuman with a touch-based power passing within arm’s reach.

Amy dunked the bottle into the recycling bin.

“Thank you for the offer,” Amy said.  “But I’m not crazy, I don’t need your colleague.”

“Again, it’s not for the mentally ill alone.”

“The stuff that isn’t mental illness is the kind of thing they can’t help with.”

“What about coping mechanisms?”

“I’m coping,” Amy said, shrugging.  “I’m going to the mental fitness checkups.  That’s what they pay attention to, isn’t it?  Whether or not I’m coping?”

“It is.”

“I’m not happy, I’m lonely, but coping just means you’re dealing with some difficult stuff.  That’s the difficult, and I’m dealing, according to the people who do the checkups.  Yes?”

“I talked to them before talking to you.”

Great.  More rumors about me losing it.  “And?”

“And they sounded satisfied.”

“And you believe in them?  Your colleagues?  Because oh man, I’ve worked with Riley, I’ve heard about James Rinke, I’ve checked on a few of the others, and if you’re not confident that these guys checking on the guards and staff aren’t really good at what they do, then holy shit, we are fucked.”

“Okay,” Jessica said, hands raised.  “For what it’s worth, I do believe them.  And I believe you.  You say you’re coping well enough, alright.”

They were words Amy hadn’t heard enough.  ‘I believe you’.

“But wouldn’t it be nice to have an established relationship with someone who understands you, in case a day comes tomorrow where you aren’t coping?  I get the sense you regret the last period of time where that happened.  Therapists are very hard to come by in the present era.”

“Are you seeing someone?” Amy asked.

“Can’t we focus on you for the moment?”

“Don’t… dodge me,” Amy told her.  “You said we were colleagues.  As a colleague, are you seeing a therapist?”

“For what it’s worth, I really wish I was.  But like I said, therapists are hard to come by, and I have no time.  I’ve tried, and I’ve seen one or two for one-off events, to make sure I’m approaching them in the right ways.”

“Yeah,” Amy said.  “So maybe, uh, you use your therapist friend?  Keep him and that time slot available for when you have time?”

“Can’t.  We know each other too well.”

“Then give the spot to Victoria,” Amy said.  “Because she’s not coping.  Can- can we talk about her for a second?”

“No,” Jessica’s voice was soft.

“Can I- I’ll talk at you about her, for just a bit.  You don’t have to interject.  You don’t have to do anything.  Just let me say my piece, use it if you think it’s right.”

Not that you will, since you’re a shitty therapist who can’t even hear what I’m saying, Amy thought.

Jessica didn’t budge, didn’t say a word.

“Carol neglected me.  Mark, in his way, neglected me more.  I’ve been thinking about it, and I think that was the kindest thing they could have done for me.  I think that family isn’t healthy, I think they pressured Victoria and that pressure did a number on her.  And the sad, sick thing is, they pressured her to be exactly what she should have been.  Does that make sense?”

Jessica didn’t move or respond.

Amy turned, leaning over the railing, not looking at Jessica.  Easier than trying to talk without any cues to go by.  It was like talking into an answering machine, stumbling over words because the pauses and exchanges weren’t there.

“If she’d been meant to be a basketball player and they pressured her to be a hero, she could have found her way to basketball, I think.  But since they pressured her to be a heroine and she was born to be a heroine, I think, it’s all tangled up.  The lessons, warnings, the conditional love as much as they probably didn’t intend to make it conditional… the complicated feelings, the family, the relationships… I don’t think it’s bias that Gallant was so bad for her.  She didn’t love him.  She just felt like she had to be with him because expectations.  They didn’t let her hide her identity, not that it was really possible.  They made the decision when she was seven and she was brought on talk shows and put in front of cameras to talk about what it was like having superheroes for parents.  I had too much stage fright to do it.  We were local celebrities.”

Her hands rubbed at her tattoos again.  It felt like there was just tattoo, meat, and bone.  No skin.

“Our aunt Fleur- she wasn’t officially our aunt, there was never a wedding, but I really liked her.  She was kind of an outsider like me.  Her body wasn’t even cold when people were putting microphones in front of us.  We were kids.  Not even in middle school.  That fucks you up.”

Amy checked Jessica’s expression.  Nothing.

“Victoria did this thing at the community center and that tells me she still needs to be a hero.  But she’s angry.  If you saw her last night…” Amy said, trailing off.  “Carol says she’s not putting on her costume, she’s doing some thing volunteering with teenagers, helping out around the portals.  Teaching them about capes.  But that’s not enough.  She’s in stasis like that.  She won’t grow, she won’t heal… because she’s not herself.  What I said earlier, about me not being entirely me, and her not being her?  She’s still not herself.  And I admit I played a role in that.”

Fingers rubbed against tattoo.  It always felt like the gold ink should smear.

“She needs to be a hero in a way that doesn’t put that anger front and center.  That doesn’t involve Carol and Mark.  In a way that involves healing and supporting.  Not heroics for justice, not heroics for power.  Not revenge, not monster slaying.  Because that all feeds back into the anger.  I’m not a doctor, I’m not a therapist, but I know her.  I analyzed her enough over the years, believe me.”

Jessica’s empty cup tapped against the railing.  When Amy looked, the woman seemed to be lost in thought.

“Do you want me to take your cup?” she asked.

Jessica handed it over.  Amy deposited it into the recycling bin to her right.

Still no flinch.  That was reassuring.

Even Crystal had flinched at the barbeque last night, and Amy had taken baths with Crystal, once upon a time.

Still hurt.

“Sorry for taking up your time,” Amy said.

“Not at all.  I did invite you to talk.  I just can’t comment, as I said.”

Amy nodded, looking down at her hands.  She’d wanted to maintain a connection to Victoria.  Sun for the past on one arm, for Glory Girl.  The then-present at her hands, red.   And then the future on the other arm, the golden-haired girl.  The fall, the rise, a promise to herself.  A promise to herself, that she would make things right, and that things would be alright again.  Touching Glaistig Uaine had been a moment that had convinced her there was no way that she would remain in the Birdcage.  Not if things came to a head in her lifetime.  And they had.

“Mark Dallon, on one of his visits, made a remark to me that I made a note of.  It’s in a file in a cabinet somewhere on Earth Bet somewhere, no doubt half-buried and soaked in water,” Jessica said.

Amy glanced at the woman.

“He said he didn’t like therapy.  That it hadn’t done anything for him.”

Amy found herself nodding in acknowledgement before she caught herself.

“Carol, if I remember right, was made to attend therapy for a time but abandoned it once she was eighteen.”

“I see what you’re getting at.  She abandoned it because she had Victoria, just for context.”

“You talked about the influence they had on Victoria.  Didn’t they influence you?  Is it at all possible you picked up prejudices as a consequence of how you were raised?”

“Not when they were barely parents to me,” Amy replied, her voice harder.

Jessica nodded, her expression momentarily sad.

Because pity.  Amy wished that pity was for the right reasons.  She felt the urge to make her final appeal, a hail-mary attempt to convince this woman that Carol had described as so important to Victoria.  Because even if Jessica Yamada was a bad therapist, and Amy wasn’t sure now, she was important for other reasons.

“I’m not a bad person.”

“If this is another appeal to tell Victoria anything-”

“No,” Amy said.  “It’s not.  Me to you.”


“If I was a bad person, this would have all been… so much easier,” Amy explained.  “You know, it’s like conspiracy theories, where someone’s on the street corner, and they’re telling you the government’s after them, CIA, FBI, PRT, there are agendas there’s these convoluted reasons… and you just want to ask, ‘why are you so important they’d focus on you’?”

“I’m sure they would be able to give you reasons.  It’s not so simple as that, Amy.”

“Frustrating,” Amy said, softly.  “Sad.”

“It really is.  It’s a hard reality.  I’m not sure I follow your train of thought, though.”

“I’m saying… you know, there’s this really simple, easy way to decide this.”

“Decide what?”

“Whether I’m a bad person.”

“I told you earlier, I think you’re a hero, doing what you do, by your own standards.  I think you’re a good person at heart, you just need some guidance to be a great person.”

“You-” Amy couldn’t help but huff out a laugh.  “You just really sounded like Carol for a second there.  My hair stood on end.”

“Not my intention,” Jessica said, and the woman allowed herself a smile.

“Others don’t think I’m good.  I know I’ll sound crazy if I say there’s at least one person in my building who watches my comings and goings and keeps an eye on me, but really.”

“Really, I suspect you may be right.  I know they do the same for some others.”

Emboldened, Amy continued, “It makes me want to shake them, and poke a hole in their logic.  If I was a bad person, I wouldn’t have done what I did.  If I was a bad person, I’d have every last thing I wanted, and the world would be better off as a whole.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I’d have just used my power on Victoria.  Done.  Break down artificial barriers between two people who aren’t even blood related.  I’d use my power on Carol and Mark, and they’d love me.  Mark wouldn’t be depressed.  They’d accept the relationship.  No need for me to run away from home, we’re all strong against the Slaughterhouse Nine.  I’m free to develop my power and figure things out before Gold Morning.  I face the end of the world with Victoria at my side.”

“That may be romanticized.”

“Of course it is.  But it’s not wrong either.  The bullet points are the same.  It’s romanticized because I fantasize about it a lot.  How things would have gone.  How things could go.  There are weeks I work twelve hours every day and when I’m not working I dream of what could have been.  There’s more life and feeling in that than in anything else.  Than in B- In B, the woman I’m dating.”

“That doesn’t sound healthy.”

“Don’t suggest therapy at me again,” Amy warned.

“Okay.  But if you’ll allow it, I’ll talk to people-”

“No,” Amy said.

“Not about particulars, but about cutting back on your work hours.”

“No,” Amy said.  “Permission not granted.”

Jessica drew in a deep breath, then nodded.

This wasn’t what Amy had wanted.  How had it gone the opposite direction?

“The point is,” she said, insistent, annoyed.  “I could, very easily, but I haven’t.  You know how bad I was at my lowest point.  You should have a sense of how I’ve been doing since.  But I didn’t.  I fantasize about it, because of course I do, when I’d rather have Victoria back in her inhuman shape than not have her in my life at all.  I love her.  More than Carol.  More than Mark.  More than Crystal.  And I know she doesn’t have anyone else.  But I don’t do anything.  That’s what’s important.”

“What worries me,” Jessica ventured, picking her words carefully.

“You don’t need to worry.”

“Is the fact that you seem to be telling me that you have very little going for you in your day to day.”

“That’s not what I’m saying.”

“Please correct me if I’m wrong on any of these points: there’s no color in your love life, your days are rote and directionless, you have connections to family but you consider yourself alone.  And you want this connection to Victoria very, very much.”

“That’s what I said.”

“It seems like a recipe for problems.”

“No, listen, it’s cherry picked from what I said, but it’s absolutely missing the heart of what I’m trying to say!”

Amy moved her hand to tap on the railing to punctuate, a Carol sort of thing, actually.  She only realized as she did it.  She saw the flinch.

Minute, but Jessica Yamada pulled her hand back as Amy brought her hand forward.

It would have been so easy to reach forward, to touch that hand, to make that contact.  And Jessica Yamada would be on her side.

But I don’t, because I am not a bad personI spent far too long coming to terms with that, healing, recovering, and making up for what Carol convinced me of on a fundamental level.

The anger left Amy, and there was only a deep sadness left.

“I’ll go,” Amy said her voice sounding almost artificial, as she fought to keep it free of emotion.  “I am very sorry to have taken up so much of your time, Jessica.”

“Could I convince you-” Jessica started.

Amy shook her head.  She would have said something, but she wasn’t sure she could do it with the feeling in her upper chest.

“Then I wish you the best,” Jessica said.  “I’m at your disposal if you need me, any hour of the day.  If you’re not comfortable talking to me, I can give you any number of contacts.  They’re busy but I’ll ask them to make time.  You don’t have to call, but keep them on your phone.”

Amy nodded.  Fuck this.

“I wasn’t able to get a straight response out of you before.  Will you tell me that you’ll keep your distance from her?  Contrive to stay out of her way, much as she’s doing the same?”

The words hurt.

Amy nodded.  “Yes.  But if she calls, I’ll go to her.  And I reserve the right to say goodbye.”

“Goodbye?  Amy-”

“Listen.  Listen!  I’m not going to kill myself.  You can have the mental fitness people check.  But I might leave.  Go to another Earth.  I’ll see if they can find a replacement to check Riley’s work before I go, I won’t do it suddenly.  But I’ve been thinking it might be better if I go.  Nobody here seems to believe in me, but there are places where they could use my help.  It’ll be far from Victoria.”

“That would be an admirable direction to go.”

Amy’s expression twisted a bit as she shook her head.  She fixed her hair some, then turned to go.  Admirable directions and all.  She could have spat, she was so pissed.  She’d wanted-

She stopped, and she turned around.  The woman was walking toward the elevators.

“Jessica,” Amy said.

Jessica turned.

A pretty good distance separated them.  Her voice barely carried all of the way.

“Do you know why I wanted to convince you as badly as I did, that I’m a good person?”

Jessica, post-flinch, didn’t rebut that last part.  “I have only inklings.  My connection to Victoria, I imagine.”

“You’re me, Jessica.”

“I’m sorry?”  Jessica approached a few feet.

“Maybe it’s crass to say this-” ‘Crass’ would be a Marquis-ism, as the finger tap had been a Carol-ism.  “-But when I shook your hand, I got a sense of you.  I know how tired you are.  The hours you’re putting in.  I know you haven’t had a sexual partner in recent memory-”

Jessica stiffened, “That’s a line crossed, Amy.  An uncomfortable and inappropriate one.”

“I know the tension in your shoulders.  I know how your eyes are so fatigued you probably can’t read the print above the elevators.  I know that you have a sense of awareness of yourself, the hum of your own body, the nimbus of feelings you’re not aware of… I tend to think of it as the soul, even though it isn’t.  Yours is weary.”

“I consider this a violation,” Jessica said.

“And I consider this a warning,” Amy retorted.  “Your heart?  Not your actual heart, but your feelings?  The edges are blunted.  The goodness in you is still there.  But you’ve worked so hard you’ve hit the point you don’t always care.  If I’m guessing right, you’re probably at the point where you can do the day to day stuff, but when that late night phone call comes and they ask for extra effort or a needy patient needs you extra, you resent them a little.  Because you’ve given your all for weeks now, but maybe not once ever in your life has someone else given you their all.  Or it’s one person, one sister.”

Jessica was silent.

“You felt obligated to check on the scary healer and you don’t have the energy or focus to really hear what she’s saying.  You’re going to hit a point, couple of weeks, a month, where you come to resent the day to day work.  And around that same time, support structures fall through.  If they existed at all.  You’ll hit your lowest point, and either you’re alone or the one person you counted on is preoccupied.  Understandable, but it… it’ll still hurt.”

Jessica looked off to one side.

“I think you know I’m not wrong.  I think you recognize you’re so close to that point that shaking the boat by reaching out for help might upset it.  Um, as a colleague?”

Jessica met her eyes.

“Lighten the load.  Go easy on yourself.  It’s going to feel wrong, no matter what you decide to do, but I’m telling you right now, as someone who knows, the course you’re on right now is worse.  You’re not a bad person.  It’s because you’re a good person that you’ve brought yourself to this point.  You’re one small crisis or weak moment away from hurting a patient or someone you care about, standing where I stand now, wishing the person you’d just talked to had listened to you.”

Jessica folded her arms.  Amy remained where she was, facing the woman.

Lifting a hand from her elbow, Jessica rubbed at one eye.  Wiping at moisture that threatened to well out.

She seemed to realize what she was doing, and dropped her hand.  She nodded.

“Thank you,” Jessica said, her voice barely carrying.

“I will see you around, I suppose,” Amy said.  She turned to go, so the woman didn’t have to be the one to walk away.  Let her have her pride. 

Amy didn’t feel the least bit like a good person, as she made her way to the front door, stepping outside into early fall weather, in a dark city that smelled like new wood, heavy machinery, and dust from construction.


The girl was beautiful, blonde, more slight than Victoria had been at that age, but with some of the same traits.  Poised with back straight, even though her hands were trembling as they rested on top of Amy’s own.  In another reality, she could have been Victoria’s sister, more inclined to ballet than any competitive sport.  Amy could sense the girl’s toes, the damage her feet had taken, months ago, before the girl’s emergent power had spoiled things.  Ballet could be hard on the body.  Even months after abandoning the sport, Hunter’s muscle tone was strong, her heartbeat confident.  Her proprioception was top notch.

The second child that Carol no doubt would have loved to have, who could have been another natural superheroine in the right circumstance.

Mentally?  Internally?  An entirely different person.  If Amy had to guess, there might have been a common ancestor seven generations back.  But that was a reach.

Everything sorted, set in its place.  The corona was buried, disconnected by small stages, buried more.  Made small.  Amy was put in mind of welders working in deep pressure environments.  The right conditions could produce a vacuum that would suck a man through a baseball-sized hole.

There was no danger to Amy herself, probably, but it was delicate work in a hostile environment, and her work could easily be undone by the wrong conditions.

“Could you make me a boyfriend?” Dot asked.

“Shh, hush,” Marquis said.  His voice was soothing in a way that seemed to affect Hunter.

“Actually, father, would you keep talking to her?” Amy asked.

“To?” Marquis asked.

“Hunter.  Same tone.”

“As you wish.  Dot will be quiet, and we will figure out something fun to do this afternoon to thank her for being quiet, yes?  Mouth closed.  Nod.”

Amy glanced up.  Both Dot and Hunter nodded.

“And Hunter, my dear, is maintaining excellent sitting posture.  Did they beat you with a cane to train your posture?”

“No,” Hunter said, smiling, her eyes still closed.

Amy felt the Corona shift.  Portions of the brain that had been tranquil now flared to life.

“You’ll lose your vision or hearing for one second,” Amy said.  “Don’t panic, it will come back.”

“Understood,” Hunter reported.  Her hands wanted to shake more, Amy was aware, but were too flat against Amy’s own.  There was more flaring, more flickering.  The house of cards threatened to topple.

Amy deafened Hunter.

“No talk of violence, please.”

“Understood,” Marquis said.

“Your voice reminds her of a grandfather.  Talk of old things or tell stories.  Nice stories.”

“I will.  Happy to help,” Marquis said.

Off at the other end of the room, Mark sat with a phone resting on his knee, looking tense.  He had asked yesterday if she would heal his lingering mental issues.  Dysthymia and lingering effects of a concussion he’d had as a teen.

She’d said no, and he wasn’t happy about it.  He was less happy about Hunter, given the parallels to Victoria.

Which meant the stakes were higher.

Hard, to glance at Mark, to see Hunter in her peripheral vision, and imagine it was Victoria.  It made her heart leap, and that was dangerous given how cell-level precise some of this work was.

She gave Hunter her hearing back.

“My father was a physician, you know,” Marquis said.  “When he was practicing, they were only just introducing anesthesia for surgery.  One in ten died on the table-”

Amy gave her father a hard look.

“Raises the question,” Chris said, from behind Amy.  He’d seated himself at the end of the room furthest from Mark.  “Would you rather have no anesthesia or roll those dice?”

Amy deafened Hunter, made her close her eyes, and kept Hunter’s eyes closed, calmed her, and forced a lingering sensation of Amy’s hands against her own while Amy stood up and stepped away.  “If you’re not going to be helpful, you need to leave.  This matters.”

Chris was all shaggy hair, a vaguely yeti-shape.  All of his forms had long hair now.  Which boded ill, as far as she was concerned.  Either he knew she knew what he was doing, which suggested he was trying to intimidate her, or he didn’t, in which case he was being overly defensive.  Her power didn’t work past hair, fur, and body hair.

“It’s so interesting though,” Chris said, his voice low, too deep.  “He can’t raise a topic like that and not expect me to say something.”

“And you,” Amy turned on her father.  “Death?  Really?”

“The most interesting stories, unfortunately, have death and violence in them.  I gravitate toward them like your father gravitates toward the funnier, more human stories.”

“I should have known better,” Amy said.  “Would you take Dot, go find her something fun to eat?”

“Yay!” Dot exclaimed.

“My apologies, dear Amelia,” Marquis said, bending down to kiss the top of her head.  Then he left, closing the door.

Amy sat back down, setting her hands in place, and removed the phantom sensations, calm, the forced closure of the eyes, and the deafness.

“A bit scary,” Hunter breathed.

“Sorry.  We’re almost done.”

Mark approached, stopping by a table, which he leaned against.  “I remember, Amy, you hated to sit still for haircuts.”

“I was a terrible child.  I get it,” Amy muttered.

“No, you were a wonder of a child next to the unholy terror that was Victoria,” Mark told her.  “And you’re a fine woman now.  I wish it wasn’t such a hard journey to get from there to here, but I’m glad to be here with you in the present moment.”

The words seemed to calm Hunter more than they affected Amy.

“You’re trying to butter me up.”

“You can touch me if you want to tell if I’m sincere.”

“Can’t.  Focusing on Hunter.”

“After then.”

“No,” Amy said.  She was pacified, calmer.  “No need.”

She worked her way through Hunter’s brain.  There were triggers and flags everywhere.  Certain perceptions, certain emotions, attitudes.

Hunter’s power was involuntary.

“We’d give you candies to suck on so you couldn’t complain while sitting in the chair,” Mark said.  “And on one particular visit, the last one with the candy, as you’ll recall…”

Amy groaned.

“A new hairdresser came up, and she hugged you from behind, looked over your shoulder in the mirror, and she said something to the effect of, ‘what would you like us to do, cutie?’  She surprised the hell out of you-”

“That wasn’t surprise.”

“No?” Mark asked.  And she could hear the change of tone.  He rallied, “But you choked.”

“I did choke.”

“And you gagged,” Mark said, his tone warm.  “While you were trying to dislodge the candy.  I was thumping your back.  And then you threw up, onto the barber’s bib, and it wicked straight down onto your shoes.”

“I can’t believe the world ended and I’m still hearing about it.”

“You were inconsolable.”

Victoria was there, crying too

That part of the story was left unsaid.  The thought of Victoria and the young blonde girl’s presence in front of Amy almost derailed it all.  Regret, flashbacks to moments she’d been doing work not so dissimilar to this, errors-

She forced her head back into the right place.  Dismissed the thoughts.

The good humor and general calm Hunter felt as she visualized the scene served to let Amy button up her work, set everything firmly into place, make sure there were no loose ends, and then slowly pulled her hands away.

“I feel like a new person,” Hunter said, quiet.

“I want you to let that sit for a bit.  Keep your thoughts on pleasant things, let your mind wander.  If it helps, talk out loud so we can steer you or distract you.  If this lasts sixty seconds it’ll probably last a week.  If it lasts a week it’ll probably last a month.”

“Sure,” Hunter said.  “I used to be into ballet.  That’s where the posture Marquis was complimenting me on came from.”

“Yes,” Amy said.  “I noticed.  You’re still very fit.”

“My friends never knew.  Sam- the boy who brought me here, he had no idea.  I was ashamed, it was weird.  I was so proud when it was certain people, but if you’d told Sam then, I would have wanted to die.  My teacher knew and said something about me doing something for the talent show.  I gave her a look and she seemed to clue in, didn’t say anything else.”

“That’s nice of her,” Mark commented.  “Not all teachers would care.”

“She was sweet.  I saw her outside of class once… totally different person.  Hanging out with a bunch of guys.”

“Nothing wrong with that,” Amy said.

“No,” Hunter agreed.  “But I would have pictured her as someone who knit.  She wasn’t even that old.  The masks we wear, right?”

“I suppose so,” Amy said, just to keep the conversation going.

“I was thinking, powers and heroics and the stuff we do, if we ever got this thing of mine under control-”

“We will,” Amy interrupted.  “And when we do, you’ll go back to school?”

“Do I have to, though?” Hunter asked.  “I have powers.  My life’s pretty set, you know?”

“There’s lots of options.  Going back to ballet-” Amy started.

But Hunter was talking over her.  Amy’s heart sank.

“Hunter by day-” Hunter intoned, hand flicking her hair out of her face.  Her hands covered her face.  Amy jumped to her feet, and it was Mark who hauled her back over the back of the cloth-layered lounging couch Amy had been sitting on.

Hunter’s hand dropped, exposing one eye, too much of the whites showing,  “Mincemaid by night!”

The couch detonated, an explosive going off beneath- Amy hadn’t even seen Mark drop it.  It lifted up the couch, and Mark, still with an arm around Amy, caught it and oriented it in the air, using it for cover.

The scene looked like a window cracking.  Black lines speared up, down, from one another, all around Hunter.  Threads, hair-thin, spiderwebbing out to make contact with everything within thirty feet of Hunter, which included most of the furniture.  The couch was almost lifted up, and Mark hauled it down, using his back to keep it in position.

“You done?” Chris asked.

Amy looked.  Chris had been at the edge of the effect.  His arm and part of his upper body were mangled, shredded by the wires.

“I’m done,” Hunter said.

The wires began retracting.  Once all visible wires were gone, Mark grunted and shifted position, letting it fall to one side.

A webwork of bones blocked the way too.  It seemed Marquis hadn’t left the spot just beyond the door.

“Thank you,” Mark told her father.

“Of course,” Marquis said, eyes narrowing.  He smiled.

“The masks we wear,” Hunter said, eyes wide, both showing too much white, her smile macabre.  She laughed.  “In all the television shows and movies, they’ve got to have that episode with the guest starring hero, don’t they?  And there’s always the mystery, and there’s always an unmasking.”

“With the convenient stunt double,” Marquis said, sounding way calmer than Amy or Mark were.

“What happens when you don’t wear a mask?” Hunter asked.  She smiled, hands going to her face.  “Nobody here does.  A lot of heroes don’t.  Your old team-”

“Terrible secret identity discipline,” Chris said.  He was acting very cavalier about his mangled arm.

“What happens when the maskless get unmasked?” Hunter asked.  She made an amused sound.  Black lines stabbed out at diagonals, forming a diamond just in front of her face.  She stuck her face through them, and stray hairs were severed on contact.

“That,” Chris said, “Is what we’re focusing on, in our own way.  On that topic, Red Queen, if you’re not getting right back to work-”

He sounded so sarcastic when he called her that.

“I’m not,” Amy said.  I might not be able to do it.

“I’ve been keeping track of our tasks.”

“The refugees?  A problem?”

He waved a mangled limb in the air.  “No.  No problem.  Your hapless rescues are getting settled and fed without trouble…”

“Stop dragging it out,” Mark said, annoyed.

“Patience, my friend,” Marquis said, calm.  “Interruptions only delay things.”

Mark gave the man an annoyed look.  He had to be almost as dejected at this failure as Amy was.  She hated this.  Hated that Hunter was a link to Victoria, and she’d spoiled it, had ruined her.  That she couldn’t fix her.

Hunter just snickered to herself, amused at Mark’s annoyance.  “You gotta explain for me.  I’m dumb.”

“We’ve been focused on the people who are playing this game at the top level.  Focusing on the interdimensional aliens, at a time when not enough people are dwelling on the big revelation of where our power comes from.  Wardens, Dragon, Teacher, Mortari, a few others, all paying close attention, all getting our hands dirty trying to steer the unsteerable.”

“And?” Mark asked.

“Teacher’s out of the running.  His thralls all got their brains back.  According to a very talkative little kid who insists on sending me updates after we’ve parted ways, Breakthrough -that’s ah, my old team, The Red Queen’s sister- are now fully in.”

Amy’s heart sank and soared in equal measure.  She knew everyone was watching, and kept her voice level.  “We adapt.  We promised Shin we’d protect their world.”

“It’s about to need a lot of protecting,” Chris said, coming as close as he ever did to outright agreement or solidarity.  “Give me the okay to get my production line going.”

Amy made a face.  She felt Mark’s hand grip her shoulder.

It didn’t feel like the move a good person would make.  She’d seen the labs, dark and poised to be powered and set into motion.  Chris had unveiled them, and she’d told him no.  Not unless it was absolutely necessary.

At least five different groups were trying to save the world.  Victoria’s was now among them.  She and Chris, Lab Rat, were chasing down the bloody road of biology and transcending earth and humanity both, more as an emergency clause than anything else.  If she had any say in it at all, she wanted to at least preserve the good and healthy parts of humans and humanity, whether they used the emergency measure or not.

And that preservation necessitated that she have a handle on what ‘good’ and ‘healthy’ were.  Failing with Hunter made her less confident in that regard.

Saying yes elicited many of the same doubts.

“Yes,” she said it, quiet.  She felt the slight change in Mark’s grip as his faith faltered as well.  She indicated the door, where Marquis and Dot were standing.  “But I’m coming.  This is going to be messy.”

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156 thoughts on “From Within – 16.y”

  1. Interesting… this feels like there is a lot to unpack here. Chris is getting his full army, Amy is… terrifyingly unaware of the extent of her personal issues. Jessica’s breaking point was foreshadowed. Also, I can’t help but wonder if part of Mark’s depression is due to the knowledge about Neil.

  2. “Amy tensed, fists balling up, tattoos tight around her bones. “I wasn’t me. I was fresh off of having my fingers eaten, my home destroyed, my life overturned. Bonesaw tried to break me. She tried to break Mark. I wasn’t me. Victoria wasn’t Victoria.”

    “I’m being punished, but I’m a victim too.”

    “I’m not crazy,” Amy said. “Really. I’m lonely. I had a bad day years ago, I freaked out, and I wasn’t myself for a while. Now nobody’s willing to forgive me, even people I don’t even know. And the most fucked up thing about it- excuse me. I shouldn’t swear here.”

    Amy is so incredible messed up that she needs years of therapy and she’ll still be messed up after all these years. She never admit the bad things she did (pretending that she was someone else, not her), she never admit that while she’s not a bad person, she’s not a good person either, she never admit that she ran into Birdcage because she was too much of a coward to try to heal Victoria and she preferred the easier way of escaping from her responsibilities -jail, she still violate people’s bodies and minds (using her power on Jessica without her consent), she lies herself that she loves Victoria but all she have for Victoria is a crazy obsession and nothing else (people don’t hurt the ones they truly love), she messed poor Hunter pretty bad and worse, when she looks at this child, she sees nothing but the child version of Victoria- CREEPY and she’s generally a coward and pretty unpleasant. I’m not sure that I’d like to defend her anymore, this Interlude showed her true face and I don’t like what I see.

    The only good thing I can say about her right now: she’s helping refugees and try to do something against Machine Army. That’s all I can say. Sad. Amy was such a promising character…

  3. “I could have murdered 200 people, but I didn’t. As such, I’m a good person and you should let me murder 100 people.”

    We all need to appreciate Amy more. What a gem of a woman.

  4. Dear god, Amy is in even worse shape than I thought. That line about Dean not ruly lovingn Victoria too..

  5. Typo thread

    count,” Amy’s > count.” Amy’s
    middle school (hmm, Fleur was at the Boston games, which was four years before Damsel’s recruitment, which makes it roughly 2006-2007. That means that Victoria, who was born 1994, would be 12-13, and would have been in middle school.)
    had a Victoria (intentional?)
    agendas there’s > agendas, there’s
    Amy said her > Amy said, her
    Jessica stiffened, > Jessica stiffened.
    hew as > he was
    slowly pulled > slowly pull (or something like “and when she was done, she slowly pulled”)
    Hutner > Hunter
    said, “Is > said, “is (or said. “Is)
    “Yes,” she said it, quiet. (maybe “said, quiet” or “Yes. She said”)

    1. > They were worried about security, and grilled me about who she was.
      > That extends to sending or receiving messages through middlemen.
      > And then the future on the other arm, the golden-haired girl.

      There are too many speces between these sentencies.

      > I’d know even if it wasn’t her, so don’t get her in trouble

      Shouldn’t it be “I’d know even if it wasn’t for her, so don’t get her in trouble”?

      > “Heroes, right?

      Missing quotation mark.

      > last period of time where that happened.

      It should be “last time when that happened.” (Though I suspect that these particualar errors – both “period of time”, and “where” instead of “when” – could be intentional.)

      hapless rescues > hapless rescuees

      transcending earth > transcending Earth

  6. First comment!

    Amy being Amy is not a surprise to me. It’s looking more and more like she’s going to be the final villain, or one of them, and I’m excited to see where that goes.

    Teacher is either dead or very, very broken, to the point that he might as well be dead. Relieved, that man was a monster, and the less of those the better. It seems like we’re running out of major A-tier villains, Goddess is gone, now Teacher. Mama Mathers could make a comeback, apparently she has a ridiculously powerful subordinate in Chort now.

    This being my first comment, I have a few questions for the community at large, some:

    Are the Three Blasphemies still a thing?
    Why did we never hear about March in Worm if she was such a big part of Foil’s life?
    How many clones are left of the Slaughterhouse Nine-Thousand?
    Are the shards still planning to destroy the Earth(s) now that Kronos is a thing?
    Is Earth Cheit under the control of the Overseer now?
    How many times do you guys think Mama Mathers is gonna cheat death?
    Do you guys think Number Man is still alive, but in hiding?
    How many Crowley siblings are left?

    1. Hi!

      Welcome to the comments section. I hope you enjoy your time here.

      Here are my answers to some of your questions.
      > Are the Three Blasphemies still a thing?
      I don’t think they were ever mentioned in Ward, but nothing says they couldn’t survive Gold Morning.

      > Why did we never hear about March in Worm if she was such a big part of Foil’s life?
      Actually, while we only met her in Ward, March was mentioned in chapter 9.3 of Worm, though not by name:

      “Hey, Flechette,” Kid Win called across the room, “You’ve got a bunch of powers, right?”

      She turned in her seat, “Sure.”

      “Anyone else get powers at the same time you did?”

      “Not that I know of.”

      “Could someone nearby have gotten their powers, without you knowing? Way things played out? Did any capes show up around the same time as you?”

      Flechette frowned, “Yeah. A rather persistent villain.”

      > How many clones are left of the Slaughterhouse Nine-Thousand?
      From the top of my head I can name six – Damsel and the Number boys. If I remember correctly not all of the other ones were confirmed dead, though I would be hard-pressed to name which ones exactly weren’t. You may want to do some digging in Worm to figure it out. If you decide to do it, I think this Worm Wiki article (especially its References section) would be a good place to start such research:
      Worm Wiki is generally a great source of answers to many questions paraverse-related questions, including most of the ones you’ve asked.

      > Is Earth Cheit under the control of the Overseer now?
      While I think that Overseer could be somehow involved in administrating Earth Chiet now, the parahuman most likely to control it (assuming there still is such a person after what Victoria and co. did in the dreamspace – remember that in the current chapter Chris mentioned that “[Teacher’s] thralls all got their brains back.”) is probably Mamma Mathers, and through her – Teacher (assuming these two are still working together – once again it may no longer be the case, especially after Victoria messed with Teacher in the previous chapter).

      Your guess is probably as good as mine when it comes to the other questions.

  7. It’s interesting that Amy was indirectly responsible for Victoria joining Breakthrough. I wonder what Victoria would think if she found that out.

    Also, looks like Kenzie is leaking information to Lab Rat. I’m not surprised- though I wonder if she’s doing it with the blessing of the rest of Breakthrough.

    It’s good to see that whatever it was that Victoria did against Teacher in the shard space managed to take him out of the running.

    1. Considering the unleashing of every Teacher thrall, she might have damaged the alien biology/machinery that handled his power. Which would be completely insane in terms of power over every parahuman on every Earth – physical damage in that space could depower any of them, safer than Contessa’s double-tap, plus without being anywhere near them.
      Just have to use the right capes to connect your starting spot to theirs, 6-degrees-of-separation-style. Feels like Victoria’s railroaded to Tyranny. She’s going to have harder choices than simple exile now.

      1. I think that many capes will agree with losing their powers over exile. There are probably many parahumans who’ll be more than happy to get rid of powers/the connection with the conflict oriented alien manipulating their brains so I can see them preferring this “punishment” over exile. Besides, there are more and more anti-parahumans and I don’t see how living in that world as parahuman while subjected to so much hate is something desirable.

        1. Turning parahumans into normal humans is actually the most non-violent, merciful punishment. They’ll be accepted into the large community without being hated and they’ll probably live a better life than their super-violent, eternal conflictual life they’re living now.
          Well, I can see some villains not agreeing because their powers bring them easy money and power but exile is still so much more worse.

        2. Turning parahumans into normal humans is actually the most non-violent, merciful punishment. They’ll be accepted into the large community without being hated and they’ll probably live a better life than their super-violent, eternal conflictual life they’re living now.

          Well, I can see some villains not agreeing because their powers bring them easy money and power but exile is still so much more worse.

      2. > Considering the unleashing of every Teacher thrall, she might have damaged the alien biology/machinery that handled his power. Which would be completely insane in terms of power over every parahuman on every Earth – physical damage in that space could depower any of them, safer than Contessa’s double-tap, plus without being anywhere near them.

        I’m not entirely sure if the shard/dreamspace can be used to depower someone permanently, or at lest if it can be done easily. Remember that during the recent battle in the Cauldron complex Teacher’s side not only had a way to disable selected attacking heroes’ powers, but also that Teacher himself knew that Contessa’s power has been disabled when she took the Shin power-suppressing drug, and was forced to monitor that situation. This makes me think that it was Teacher (or someone/something who directly followed his commands on the other side of the dark portal) that disabled these powers by doing something in the shard/dreamspace. The thing is that whatever they were doing shut these powers down only temporarily.

        In other words if it is even theoretically possible to permanently disable someone’s powers by doing something in the shard/dreamspace, then either Teacher never figured out how to do it (which means that Victoria and co. will have to understand the shard/dreamspace better than him and his entire legion of thinkers and tinkers), or for some reason Teacher didn’t want to do it (why? could it be dangerous to do so? or could permanently disabling powers of even some selected capes conflict with his plans or beliefs somehow?), or Teacher didn’t have an access to means to do so (what could these means be? could Victoria and co. already have them, or be able to get access to them in the future?)

  8. “Hunter’s power was involuntary”

    I was busy wondering why Hunter ever had a problem with her power when it seemed fine… but if it’s involuntary, maybe triggered by emotions or such, it suddenly makes sense why she had issues and why Amy would have been messing with her brain.

  9. Amy felt stung. “I’m not nuts. I’m not crazy.”
    “I’m not crazy,” Amy said. “Really. I’m lonely. I had a bad day years ago, I freaked out, and I wasn’t myself for a while.”
    “Thank you for the offer,” Amy said. “But I’m not crazy, I don’t need your colleague.”
    Well, that sounds sorted out then, good to know she’s not crazy. I mean, she said it three times right there.

  10. Eh, I’m probably still finding Amy too sympathetic. Guess she tilts just on the wrong side of pathetic instead of malicious for me to actually hate her.

    Anyways, does anyone else think that if Amy just got hit with an amnesia ray, she’d be happier? She’s… A little to unable to move on from the past, but too easily set into bad things when she goes there.

    As for how what she’s doing is a huge threat… I always say this. Whichever one of the Dallon sisters you are currently worried about isn’t the sister you should be worried about. Because the correct answer is always both.

  11. She needs an amnesia ray strong enough to erase every memory of Victoria, at which point is she still even Amy?

    She should make contact with Orchard and just have them body clone Victoria for her to uh. Mess around with, I suppose.

  12. Have to say I agree with Dot – Hunter’s more interesting the way she is now.

    Also I imagine this is basically why Amy can’t fix Case 53s or anything like that – it might work for a moment or two, up until the shard reverts it from the other side.

  13. Boy oh boy, what a chapter. It’s funny how insightful Amy can be when it’s anyone other than herself. She pegged Jessica and Victoria exactly, and yet she doesn’t even slow down to think about anything Jessica says. It’s like her power extends to her own brain; she can understand and affect anyone else, but she’s a black box to her own powers (of insight).

  14. 1. I don’t think it’s bias that Gallant was so bad for her. She didn’t love him. She just felt like she had to be with him because expectations.

    Poor Amy. I’m afraid it is bias – her jealousy is still making her lie to herself about this one.

    2. > “She needs to be a hero in a way that doesn’t put that anger front and center. That doesn’t involve Carol and Mark. In a way that involves healing and supporting. Not heroics for justice, not heroics for power. Not revenge, not monster slaying. Because that all feeds back into the anger. I’m not a doctor, I’m not a therapist, but I know her. I analyzed her enough over the years, believe me.”

    So it looks like it wasn’t a mastermind like Dinah or Tattletale (or at least not directly), but Amy who gave Victoria the idea to introduce Victoria to the therapy group as a “coach”?

    3. > Than in B- In B, the woman I’m dating.

    So this is why Amy sided with Bianca against Teacher, and why she wasn’t afraid of being mastered, even when she protested when Goddess did the same to Breakthrough. These two were (or at least had been) dating.

    4. Well, it looks like Jessica didn’t take Amy’s advice to reduce her workload, and it lead to her failure to see the fake diary for what it was in time. No wonder that after it happened Yamada decided that she needed a long break from her work as a therapist…

  15. Isn’t it interesting that Amy seems to have not only started calling Marquis her father (and one time even “dad”), but also stopped calling Mark that way? She still had to specify in her internal monologue during her conversation with Jessica, that by “father”, she meant Marquis, but nothing like that happened in the scene with Hunter. Has she really completely stopped thinking about Mark as her parent?

  16. Short version tracking thoughts:

    It’s totally Amy.

    So far back. Wait, is it Yamada? No, it’s Amy. Oh, Yamada’s here.


    Oh honey no.


    Well yikes I don’t know.

    Oh my gosh, you could write a doctoral thesis on this chapter alone. Five people could write five of them.

    Oh wow this is heavy.

    Wait. There’s more?!? Okay, I’m out. I’ll read the rest later.

  17. Well, Amy is just as yikes as I’ve always thought. It…she’s fascinating, in that I can’t relate to her in any way, at all. Maybe it’s that my neuroses spin the precise opposite way, but I find it so bizarre that she’s not willing to accept responsibility for her actions. Accepting who you are is the only way to build a better self, and she clearly has some cognitive dissonance when it comes to the whole, y’know, being a rapist thing. She could really, really benefit from therapy, though obviously she’s got some heavy stigma against it.

    Also, was I reading the subtext right–was she asking Jessica for *permission* to reprise her previous actions and be with Victoria? For justification? Because if so, again, yikes. She is not at all considering that Vic still feels violated about what was done to her, it seems, and only cares about what she wants. Definitely not healthy.

  18. I’ve raised Wildbow’s works with students (and others) here in China before.

    Today I decided to raise the existence of with some of those same people.

    This chapter, man.

  19. Amy’s train of thought gives me a splitting headache. Yikes.

    And then she turns around and pulls a flawless examination on someone else, just based on a moment’s touch.

    And then the bit with Hunter, where we find out Amy’s power actually takes effort and concentration to use, for a person who never has any effort or concentration to spare.

    Only in Worm can the healer be a walking production line for disastrophes while still insisting she’s blameless. Yikes, indeed.

    1. Scion truly refined her shard into the ultimate conflict generator. Prevent unnecessary losses, create your own foes steeped from your deepest inner faults.
      Cauldron and Eidolon pulling the Endbringers out for playtime was completely unintended. I suspect Shaper was supposed to be the hidden source of monsters they initially planned.

  20. By paragraph two I was certain this was Amy Dallon / Amelia Lavere / Panacea / Red Queen. For some reason “the rounds” threw me off for a moment, probably because we’ve just had a Yamada revelation that felt like a revelation, among Amy revelations that didn’t feel much like new information at all.

    Then the tattoos resolve it, and we see they are still the reminder that strike to the core of her. This is endearing. She sought change as penance and committed to it. Good.

    Then the origins of her quiet anxiety comes up. I like it, I like what it says about the character, I like that *she* likes it. It is ruled out immediately. It’s slightly jarring, but the contradiction does make more sense than the fleeting answer.

    That’s intentional. What’s Wilbo doing here? This is the Amy interlude we’ve waited a million plus words for. It’s an expectation game; he’s playing with our expectations and conjecture. Tease a meaning, then yank it away.

    Is it twilight of earliest morning or cusp of evening? From the look of things, it could go either way. Subtle-not-subtle. That’s where we are, isn’t it?

    This is going to be a lot of posts.

  21. A thought on Amy:

    With her power, she is adept at getting fairly reliable information from people *directly*. Hence it kind of makes sense that she is god awful at getting information from people indirectly via people reading.

    Also, it feels like she keeps screwing up with hunter
    A) because hunter power doesn’t WANT to be switched off.
    B) because seeing hunter constanly reminds her of past mistakes with Victoria.

    Notably, it seems the distraction is NOT (as Victoria seemed to think) that she has an interest in hunter, or is distracted in any particularly squicky way.

    1. Why do I have this ugly feeling that even someone like Mr. Drowsing might be more successful than Amy if he tried to “fix” Hunter?

  22. Well, as we all know a crazy person would never repeatedly and emphatically insist they are not crazy while also ignoring the advice of a trained professional, so I think it’s safe to assume Amy’s fine.

    Also, Kenzie, dude, we all like Chris but why in the ever loving fuck are you sending him updates on the TOP SECRET MISSION TO THE SHARD DIMENSION?! I get staying in contact, or trying to, but too much info to the guy living on the planet where they brag about killing parahuman children. Can we get a tinker tech internet filter for her? Like, all messages to other dimensions must be approved by an adult?

    1. I kinda hope Dragon is keeping an eye of these.
      That could even be partially why Defiant was not exactly happy with them.

  23. Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts.

    Amy critiques fashion in her head when she meets people. Thinking back to Dot’s dress now. Don’t need to wonder where she picked up that.

    Yamada’s trademark analytical question slash show of respect meets Amy’s aggrieved defense and just bounces right off it. Amy doesn’t know who she is, and she’s allergic to defining it. Given the themes of this book, that’s a problem. Victoria is recovering and growing through identity; “Identity Matters” is a constant refrain; if Amy is upset at the mere thought of it…. She’s not headed in the right direction.

    Coming from Amy, the following line of thinking makes me uncomfortable: “On impulse, starting the action and then feeling there was no option except to follow through…” Probably a bit unfair, but it is what it is.

    Feeling provoked, she acts out what she thinks of as her father’s bad habit, then is immediately guilty; apologetic in word and body language. This happens three times, really, and it is not what later changes Yamada’s reaction. The powerful playing mind games, that she’s used to. Put a pin in this.

    Amy notices two women talking, and zeroes in on incidental skin-to-skin contact. I suppose she’s just hyper aware of that aspect of things.

    I wonder if Chris was right, way back when, in seeing her touching hand to hand and perceiving it as armed security, like a man resting a hand on a hilt. I guess keep an eye on those hands. Does she think about it, or just do it?

  24. According to a very talkative little kid who insists on sending me updates after we’ve parted ways

    *double facepalm*
    > using her power on Jessica without her consent

    Er, what. Her power is automatic upon touch, if she makes any contact with anyone’s skin, she can’t *not* use it.
    @Admiral Matt:
    > Then the tattoos resolve it, and we see they are still the reminder that strike to the core of her. This is endearing. She sought change as penance and committed to it. Good.

    She’d wanted to maintain a connection to Victoria. Sun for the past on one arm, for Glory Girl. The then-present at her hands, red. And then the future on the other arm, the golden-haired girl. The fall, the rise, a promise to herself. A promise to herself, that she would make things right, and that things would be alright again.

    Not sure if this is good. I’m reading it not as a commitment to change and penance (moreover, the rest of the chapter suggests the other way around to me – that she thinks she doesn’t need change, actively resists it and wants others to acknowledge her being fine as she is), but as Victoria being her promise to herself. And she keeps true to this promise, taking steps at every occasion to contact Victoria and “make things right” with her.
    (a literal reading could suggest an even worse interpretation. past -> then-present -> future. “the fall, the rise, a promise to herself”. does the ordering mean that she sees “then-present” as the rise, not the fall?! not sure if we should read into it this way though)

    1. Yes, I know her power is always on but if she didn’t want to violate Jessica’s intimacy, then she should have not touch her. Wear gloves or don’t make skin contact. Easy.

      1. Or she could simply not offer Jessica a handshake. Jessica could also simply avoid the problem herself by simply not accepting it, but apparently our favorite therapist has (as always) considered showing the parahuman she was talking to her trust to be more important.

        That said it wasn’t nice of Amy to actually use what she learned about Jessica through her power to gain a leverage in their conversation. Than again it wasn’t unexpected – Amy always had a bit of a mean streak, especially as far as terrifying people with her power is concerned. Just remember how she treated Skitter after Leviathan attack. I suspect that trying to establish dominance in a conversation this way is some sort of Amy’s unhealthy defense mechanism. Maybe it is her not fully conscious method of hiding just how insecure she feels around people?

  25. If Hunter’s current problem revolves mostly around her inability to control her power, I wonder if she shouldn’t ask the other Dallon sister for help. Of course whether she gets such help or not, she will likely show everyone what she meant be “unmasking the maskless” – this Chekov’s gun sounds too ominous and potentially painful not to fire at some point.

    Considering the talk about “transcending humanity and Earth”, I suspect that Chris’ “production line” isn’t just about something as simple and mundane as an army of cloned super soldiers. Imperative four shall not be denied!

    I wonder just how much what Kenzie told Chris in act 14 affected him. Perhaps he isn’t just receiving updates from her, but also sending her some, and is just too ashamed to admit it?

    1. In regards to what Chris might be doing with (according to Amy) Transcending Earth and Humanity… I can’t help but think back to Kid Cassandra’s %15 chance that the calamity occurs but people don’t get to die.

  26. @lulu:
    Jessica was aware of how Amy’s power works, and if she didn’t consent to the power being automatically used on her, she had an option to refuse skin contact. Amy doesn’t have to think and make decisions for everyone around her, when they have all the relevant information and can decide for themselves.
    That being said, Amy not wearing gloves (and thus having her strong and dangerous power ready to be used at any time) is appropriate for Shin environment, and not so much for Wardens headquarters. Though if the people around her are Bonesaw and Nilbog, and they obviously don’t care, she might be used to not wearing gloves and not thinking of other people seeing her touch as a potential danger by default.

    I think that “what happens when the maskless get unmasked” is the shard showing through. This is certainly a plot point which will be explored further, but Hunter doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with it (except that it seems to be happening with Hunter herself).

    1. Lol, Amy can’t even think and make decisions for HERSELF, much less for others. But you’re right with Jessica. She took an immense risk to let herself being exposed to such a mentally unstable young lady. Amy makes Jamie and Riley look like very sane people in comparison.

  27. A couple things about Amy’s tattoo:


    Sun for the past on one arm, for Glory Girl. The then-present at her hands, red. And then the future on the other arm, the golden-haired girl.

    If that golden-haired girl was supposed to be Victoria, then it would mean that Amy didn’t follow the advice Marquis gave her in his interlude in ar 16 of Worm:

    “If you decide to get it, I would advise a symbol rather than a face. He won’t get the description exactly right, and the image will distort your mental picture.”

    2. Since it was revealed in the current interlude that Amy’s new fingertips were made by Riley, it means that Amy must have had her tattoo completed only after she was released from Birdcage. Remember that only two of her fingers are not tattooed, but Siberian bit off segments of four of Amy’s fingers.

    1. Alternatively, she got Riley to graft pre-tattooed fingers on her; or got them tattooed right after the surgery. Plenty of possibilities.

    2. Just mentions a blonde hair girl.

      Maybe it’s stylized and accentuates some girl with blonde hair in the general shape and style of being Victoria but doesn’t outright show her. Enough that Amy can easily view it and view it as Victoria but not necessarily enough that someone who knows Victoria but doesn’t know Amy and Victoria’s connection could immediately see it as specifically Victoria.

  28. (Obligatory spoiler warning, although Infinite Crisis is more than a decade old now) Amy is reminding me a great deal of Superboy Prime. Both were locked away from the world and, after returning to it, began chasing after some past “perfection,” without any real consideration of what it would mean to the people living in the world they would “correct.” Amy’s desires are much more specific, but no less destructive within their scope. I feel like it’s only a matter of time before we see a mirror of Superboy’s mutilation of the Titans. “I’d rather have Victoria back in her inhuman shape than not have her in my life at all” is probably the most dangerous thing she’s ever said (incidentally, I think Jessica not calling her on that is the surest sign of her own burnout). The image of Superboy with his hands covered in blood, desperately claiming, “I didn’t mean to do that” fits Amy far too well.

    1. Re: most dangerous thing – note that this discussion was pretty early in the book. Now Amy knows what Wretchie looks like, and she may very much enjoy that Victoria’s own power is a very strong reminder of her existence.
      Well, that is, if she was crazy. But she isn’t. So that’s totes fine.

  29. Something deep down in the flavor of Amy’s denial here…. After this chapter I maybe have an idea how I, if I were written as a Wildbow character weighted with undeserved power, could screw up and make everything worse in the course of a gripping tragic episode.

  30. In chapter 14.10 Jack said this to Amu:

    The monster that dwells in Skitter’s heart is very similar one to yours. It’s a lonely thing, desperate for a place to belong, and the only thing it wants to be brutish to is her.

    In his interlude in arc 22 Lung put it even simpler:

    The two girls were opposite sides of the same coin.

    So here’s a question for everyone who sees Amy as a self-deluded monster, and Taylor – as a troubled, misunderstood hero. How much do you think your opinions are justified by actual differences between them, and their stories, and how much are they caused by the fact that we saw most of Worm from Taylor’s perspective, while we had much less insight into Amy and her thoughts? Would your opinions about them be more or less opposite if Amy, not Taylor, was the protagonist of a Parahumans book?

    1. Taylor was a MOUNTAIN OF MENTAL SANITY and SELF INTROSPECTION compared with Amy. You just can’t compare them. Its like you’re comparing Atlas with an ant.
      Taylor: always blamed herself even when it wasn’t her fault.
      Amy: always blames others, especially when it is her fault.
      Taylor (most of the time, with few exceptions): hurt people who deserve to be hurt.
      Amy (most of the time, with few exceptions): hurt people she pretends to love.
      Taylor admitted her mistakes and accepted people’s help.
      Amy refuses any help, believing that if “she’s not bad” then she’s perfectly fine.
      Taylor believed herself to not be (always) a good person and while she wasn’t always good she tried her hardest to play by the rules.
      Amy believes herself to “not be bad” and “crazy” but her actions show exactly the opposite.
      Taylor never raped anyone.
      Amy raped the girl she lies herself that she loves.
      I’d hate to read Parahumans 3 from Amy’s perspective. I’d rather read it from Love Lost or Hunter’s perspective.

      1. I’d like to criticise one point. Amy doesn’t pretend to love. It’s genuine, and tragic.
        Love can take many shapes, including the nasty ones. You could argue semantics, intention and consequences (but I won’t).
        For an additional point to your list, Taylor did terrible things for good; Amy did terrible things for love.

        1. I won’t call love. She’s obsessed with Victoria’s body but she doesn’t love her as a person. I can’t interpret what she feels for Victoria as love. When you love someone, you love them for body, mind and personality. Amy “loves” Victoria only for body. She’s like a psycho making obsession for someone but they’ll kill the object of their obsession if they refuse their “love”.
          This is my opinion: Amy only love Victoria’s body and this isn’t enough to love someone. You must love for their mind and personality too. Something that Amy fails to feel.

        2. I won’t call love. She’s obsessed with Victoria’s body but she doesn’t love her as a person. I can’t interpret what she feels for Victoria as love. When you love someone, you love them for body, mind and personality. Amy “loves” Victoria only for body. She’s like a psycho making obsession for someone but they’ll kill the object of their obsession if they refuse their “love”.
          This is my opinion: Amy only love Victoria’s body and this isn’t enough to love someone. You must love for their mind and personality too. Something that Amy fails to feel.

          1. Of course Amy loves Victoria! She triggered because she saw Victoria harmed! (A trigger very similar to Tattletale’s by the way…) The problem is that love and obsession aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. Amy knows she is obsessed, she knows what that obsession made her do. She promised herself to undo it, and to do her best to never do something like this again.

            The problem is, she tells herself that this will be enough. That her love for Victoria and her willpower will keep her obsession in check to the point that she will never harm anyone else again because of it, and that she doesn’t really need any outside help to do it. And this is obviously not the case – not only she keeps making mistakes as a doctor because of her obsession on not only Victoria, but also her work she throws herself into (in part probably to distract her thoughts from Victoria, in part because she always felt guilty when she wasn’t using her time to help someone, and in part because she probably seeks redemption through that work) destroys her just as much as her constant heartbreak. Chances are also that at some level Amy refuses psychotherapy not because she doesn’t believe that she needs it or that it will work, but because she doesn’t feel that she deserves to get this sort of outside help.

            To make things even more tragic Amy’s self-destructive tendencies also hurts everyone who can see it and cares about her well-being. And despite this miserable, punishing, self-destructive life Amy committed herself to she still couldn’t find enough strength of will to keep her promise to stay away from Victoria when she visited Shin. Something Amy will probably feel guilty for to the point that the memory of that meeting will further fuel her spiral of self-destruction.

            1. So to sum it up, I think that on intellectual level Amy understands her various failings better than she may appear to the outside observer, but instead of actually doing what she should do about it:
              1. easing up on her workload,
              2. asking for professional help,
              3. forgiving herself some things that she did – at least the ones that aren’t her fault,
              4. focus becoming a better person – one she could live with,

              she actually does the opposite:
              1. overworks herself to the point where she makes dangerous mistakes,
              2. refuses help from anyone but her closest relatives who aren’t really equipped to help her,
              3. keeps tormenting herself with her guilt, waiting for others to forgive her (maybe she even tells herself that she will forgive herself only after people like Victoria do), while at the same time alienating these same people by insisting that she is a victim (which she very much is, but she isn’t sending the message she should if she wants others to forgive her – she should instead focus on letting them know how much she regrets what she did; perhaps she does that because deep down she doesn’t feel that she deserves forgiveness?),
              4. stays more or less the same miserable, self-destructive person that she was, and passively waits for Victora – the person whom she hurt most, to forgive her and to allow her to come back to Victoria’s life.

              Truly Amy’s heart is “a lonely thing, desperate for a place to belong, and the only thing it wants to be brutish to is her.”

      2. > I’d hate to read Parahumans 3 from Amy’s perspective. I’d rather read it from Love Lost or Hunter’s perspective.

        Actually I don’t think that Amy is very likely to be the protagonist of the third volume of the series (assuming it ever happens of course). I think that Ward is a bit too much about her already for it to happen. My guess is that the most likely protagonist would be someone we know well enough to feel some emotional attachment to, is close enough to ex-Brockton Bay capes to have a good reason to interact a lot with some of the old favorite characters from there, but who didn’t have too much “screen time” yet – like Faultline (who also gets bonus points for being a mercenary – someone neither Taylor nor Victoria ever were, being somewhat involved with the “big players” thanks to her association with the Labyrinth and Scrub duo, and with Dinah, and for being one of the protagonists of Wildbow’s early, pre-Worm Parahumans stories).

        I obviously don’t think that Faultline-as-the-third-protagonist is in any way a safe bet. I just consider her slightly more likely than anyone else at the moment.

        1. I’m actually be very ok with a Faultline protagonist Part 3. Faultline is a very decent and honorable villain and the best villain boss so far. She loves her team of mercenaries like they’re her family, she’s so smart, badass but also warm and protective like a mother to them. I don’t like her only because of her connections with other characters, I like her as a person and human being too. She’s great.

          1. One of the greatest things about Ward is just how opposite the protagonists are. We’re getting a completely different perspective this time around. Hero instead of Villian, Cape knowledgeable instead of ignorant, Brute fighter instead of Master Co-ordinator, Open identity instead of secret and 2nd gen family cape instead of keeping it from family.

            If we see a third instalment to the series, or another protagonist I’d like to see a repeat of giving us someone different. A mercenary would be a good start, maybe with a bit more of a selfish or self-serving streak. About the only thing I’d keep the same is a female protagonist as Wildbow just seems to have a really good knack for them.

            I generally believe that strong Thinker and Tinker characters are a bit to difficult due to their power being so strongly in their mind. Maybe if its a smaller part of a larger power set like Tecton (although he was Tinker/Thinker). I’m thinking a Stranger, Trump, Changer or Shaker or some combination. Maybe make them a Cauldron cape or even Case 53.

            1. Actually I would say that in some ways Victoria and Taylor are more similar to each other than either of them would like to admit. They are both very inteligent and hard working. They put a lot of effort into learning what they could about capes and powers, and found some very smart ways to use this knowledge in practice.

              Even their triggers have something in common – the fact that the feeling of social isolation was a major part of them, or the fact that their powers had an emotion-altering component (though in Taylor’s case her power was affecting only her own emotions directly – by giving her a way o suppress them by “pushing them into the swarm”).

              Though perhaps the most important similarity between them is that they both are heroic, self-sacrificing and careless about their own safety to the point that the reader all too often has to wonder if the trouble they get themselves into this time will be their last… At the end of Worm Taylor almost got herself killed or driven completely insane to save the worlds, and judging from regularity with which Victoria collects various injuries in combat, and continues to fight despite them, I worry that at the end of Ward she may do something just as reckless.

  31. Unless I missed where it was stated otherwise, I’m not sure why people are assuming Amy wasn’t broken by her shard (no empathy) in the same way, and for similar conflict-creating-effect, as Bitch was (can’t read people).

  32. @Alfaryn: well, I used to be in the camp for defending Amy; now I won’t be there because of having read the recent WoG (I remember that you don’t like using WoG, so I won’t say what was it about, you’ll know if you have seen it already), but even without it – this chapter looks like Wildbow was tired of the ambiguity and heated discussions and is now resolving the ambiguity by presenting Amy as obviously unrepentant and insisting that anything bad she does should not count for various deluded reasons. Contrast Taylor, who arguably did anything bad (mostly) to people who deserved it, who had a consistent internal moral system and didn’t play hide-and-seek with it.

  33. Any seems to think that you can “get past” bad shit and return to an idealized way they were before (like before, but better). As opposed to understanding that “getting past” has to mean moving on to a new normal that will likely bear little resemblance to the before.

    Also, her attitude that “people should trust me, because I could have done WAAAY more horrendous shit, but I didn’t, do that proves my good intentions”…just wow, that is terrifying.
    It reminds me of Jessica’s thoughts when she met Eidolon…about someone casually holding a loaded pistol up to her head, with no intention of pulling the trigger. Only Amy keeps talking about how she COULD pull the trigger, and wanting applause for not doing it.

    You’re defined by your actions, not the actions you refrain from doing; I’m pretty sure “refraining from awful stuff” is kind of a baseline expectation for all humans. You don’t get a cookie for that.

  34. I fully disagree about the harsh, unrelenting criticism on Amy.
    She has been the world´s top doctor for a very long time. She has saved lives in the hundreds, maybe thousands, lacked any kind of space for herself for her entire life… and the ONE wrong thing she has done in her life is haunting her, forever.
    Yes, she has a hard time reconciling what she did and the full implications of her acts. Who wouldn´t, in those circumstances? Do you want to think of yourself as a horrifying rapist a subconscious impulse away from wretching entire humanity via a doom-plague?
    As a Doctor with the ultimate power at her fingertips, she has had to learn to mistrust and censor her emotions for her whole lifetime. How do you think she didn´t get bonkers before, with an inhuman degree of pressure and workload on her that even professional doctors cannot shoulder, from a very early age?
    The golden girl tattoo? How about a symbol and a reminder to APOLOGIZE and REPAIR all the damage caused to Victoria, instead of the supposed insane infatuation everyone jumps to interpret? But no, that is too sane of an interpretation; thanks to Victoria perception, Amy is an insane threat, even when proven otherwise.
    Yes, her current outlook on this situation is NOT healthy. FOR HER as much as everyone else.
    Yes, she needs that therapist. For HERSELF and HER OWN sake. Because she deserves it as a GOOD, decent person, deserving of empathy and respect; a hero and a doctor.
    NOT because of that ever-present suspicion about “Panacea the WMD”. NOT because people only interacts with her as the walking WMD or magic healing device instead of a person.
    Why is she staying with Marquis and Lab Rat? Because, things as they are, they are the ONLY people that deal with her as a PERSON. No favors, no expectations, no strings attached. They CARE in a way no one had before. And if they are a bad influence? Amy is still better off with them that with her family.

    To summarize, Amy is always dealt with as a Monster. So expect her to become one, because the fucking PRT establishment is pushing HARD to make that out of one of Mankind´s and Earth Gimel greatest benefactors, on the hearsay and report of Victoria, which is KNOWN, on her own admission, to be fully partial when dealing with her, and DOESN´T want that to happen.
    A beautiful parallel: Amy does good acts and saves lives by the dozens or hundreds of thousands, but has a hard time being honest with her wrongdoings. While Victoria is very upfront about her wrongdoings, but does a smidgen of all the positive influence Panacea has brought to the world.

    And you know what? I will choose Amy over Victoria any day, every day. Because fuck the Victoria-influenced lynch mob, and Chris is a bit fucking ambitious and is actually WORKING his ass off for mankind survival with DECENT, LOGICAL plans, instead of tumbling into revelations of cosmic import by pure happenstance like Victoria and people.

    1. I must say that I liked your comment a lot TAP_M113. Many arguments about Amy I either never saw, or have seen only rarely and a long time ago. And all of it weaved into a cohesive, more or less complete picture. Definitely a valuable, thought-provoking entry in this discussion.

      Thank you.

  35. this is, like, my favorite chapter yet? it was so well written, and its all of my favorite parts of the parahuman series, which is really complex and thoughtful characterization and interesting character interaction. for jessica and amys entire convo i was like ‘THIS IS THE BEST, NEVER STOP TALKING’.

    amy is so scary tho, haha. what a great character to show that dangerous people dont have to be evil. “I fantasize about it, because of course I do, when I’d rather have Victoria back in her inhuman shape than not have her in my life at all.” <– when she said this i was like 'what the FUCK'. ofc jessica flinched only a paragraph later after she casually said something so horrifying without even seeming to notice it.

    i also noticed that amy doesnt seem to think that people are listening to her unless theyre agreeing with her. jessica is very clearly a great therapist, even if shes close to burning out in this chapter, but amy wants someone whos on HER side instead of someone whos FAIR.

    amys take on victoria was interesting. a lot of it was completely on the money, considering that she knew victoria so well and for so long and thought about her so much, like how victoria needs to be a cape to do with healing and recovery. but she was so wrong about some other stuff, like how victoria only dated gallant bc she felt 'pressured' to do so, when we the readers can clearly see that her love for him was genuine.

    and the way she talked about victoria early on in the convo, assuming that shed gone straight to the wardens to rant about how dangerous amy is after the BBQ and that the wardens would clearly know that its ridiculous – amy, youre deliberately making your sister sound hysterical, assuming the worst possible scenario to make yourself out to be the victim, and it is NOT ridiculous to think of you as dangerous.

    amys such an interesting character! i love her, what a mess of a human being



    why doesnt she seem to get that ‘i was really traumatized at the time’ is not a valid excuse for seriously hurting someone innocent?

  37. Amy is such an unrepentant monster and Victoria is absolutely right regarding her. She’s crazy, she never showed regret over what she did to Victoria, as she admitted to Jessica that she’ll prefer to transform Victoria back into her sexual blob toy than to know her healthy and away from her, she never really apologized, but she wants forgiveness from Victoria despite not making a single step to show how much she regrets. Yes, I think she’s a bad person -not necessarily a villain like the Marquis and Chris, but she’s a bad person. A person who never admitted her fault in anything she did, never fixed her mistakes, never really tried to convince her sister to forgive her (because the person who RAPED and TORTURED Victoria wasn’t Amy) and who only tried to help Hunter because she reminds her of the object of her obsession, Victoria.
    The fact that she healed people is because her family forced her to play as doctor, she HATED doing it just as she said to Gallant and Jessica. She never liked to save lives but she had to do out of obligations toward her family. Amy doesn’t give a shit about other people. All she cares is: HER OWN PERSON.
    I like her as an interesting character, but I absolute hate her as a person and human being. Victoria better never forgive her unless she’ll fix every single bad thing she did towards Victoria (fixing her body and mind isn’t enough).

  38. Well, as much as we don’t like Amy, especially after her interlude, I have to admit that she did few good things. Indirectly. Victoria joined a team of new heroes, she grow a lot as a person, and in this way the lovely Breakthrough was created. We have to admit that we have reasons to cheer for such great heroes and people like Breakthrough thanks- indirectly- to Amy.

  39. For the record: this is amongst the 3 best chapters in Ward. Pure Solid Gold, keep that up, Wildbow!

    About the topic of Amy power usage on this chapter, which seems to be causing some waves.
    First, her perception power is AUTOMATIC on its use. So the second she shakes her hand, she has no choice to use it…and she gave a handshake because she NEEDED it. Amy, as a human being, needs comfort, intimacy and human contact like any normal human does and is entitled to. Amy gave that handshake because she needed it, and Jessica was a wonderful person to extend trust back.

    Second, Amy wishes to NORMALIZE the context about her power use. First, she FULLY acknowledges to which extent her power is dangerous, and how she is not the right person to handle it. But she also asks for the right to be dealt with as a person fully in control of her actions, like any hero in the PRT does. Many heroes can do MUCH worse than her via their powers, with much more severe consequences (see Valkyrie, Legend…) and have worse rap sheets (the shepherds are Ex-NAZIS, for christ sake!), but people trusts them to act as upstanding citizens, and they do it. Why shouldn´t that same trust and positive influence be extended to Amy, which has proven a much better track record? Old-fashioned PRT power-bigotry, that´s why.

    Third, Amy is NEVER adressed as an individual. Everything is for Victoria´s sake, get away from Victoria, Victoria said you were a walking WMD… When you compound that with the fact that the Dallon barbecue was Carol´s initiative, Amy behavior and boundary respect track record starts getting much better. Yes, she has pushed against those boundaries. Yes, she has got her fingers deservingly burned off. AND she has learned as a result of each and every interaction and increased the distance each time.
    If people did interact with her in a helathy way, concerned about AMY as a person, instead of a “family obligation”, “potential threat”, “threat to my patient”, etc… Everything would be better for everyone in this world.
    But nope, the only people able to extend this trust are bridcage inmates, which is influencing Amy for the worst. Do not be surprised if she turns into a villain or a monster, she has been steadily backed into a corner, dehumanized and objectified for years.
    A subtler variant of the Taylor treatment, actually. Wonder why those are so alike? Look no further.

  40. Yeah, grinvader, Amy just missed her call. I think she’d have been an excellent S9 member. Jack would have liked her more than he liked Bonesaw. Such a great asset.

  41. @TAP_M113: well, take it from someone who’s definitely not a part of a Victoria-influenced lynch mob (I also used to take Amy’s side, and I still rather dislike Victoria’s personality, though some of her actions win some points with me every now and then) – that wrong thing she did kinda deserves to be haunting her. The part when she turned Victoria into an amysexual is understandable under circumstances (and, most importantly, given her immediate realization how wrong it is, and readiness to fix it), the part when she indulged in using her as a sex toy, turning her into a monster in the process, is not. Not even under all the circumstances, starting from the troubled childhood and up to and including Jack’s influence. Forgetting how to fix her afterwards only makes it worse. That doesn’t mean she’s a monster – no, she’s just self-centered, as immature as a child, incredibly adept in “rationalizing” away unpleasant thoughts, and thoroughly fucked in the head. But it’s entirely understandable why she raises more suspitions than even ex-Nazis, if they weren’t complicit in serious crimes. Especially if she actively resists changing, expecting instead that others just forget the past and agree with her that it “doesn’t count”, giving excuses as lousy as “I wasn’t me, she wasn’t her”. If you think it’s just power-bigotry, look at Valkyrie – she’s treated with far more trust, because she is much more willing to change (and successful at that).
    What you say about objectification is also true, and it certainly contributed to her insanity, but insanity isn’t an excuse, nor is it a reason to disregard its consequences.

    > unless she’ll fix every single bad thing she did towards Victoria (fixing her body and mind isn’t enough)

    Err. Would you explain what did you mean by it? I don’t imagine how could it be possible even in theory, short of going several years back in time.

    1. I mean, Amy can apologize to Victoria for mind and bodily raping her, promise her (and keep her promise) that she’ll never try again to hurt her, stop having disgusting sexual fantasies about her, stop desiring her and MAYE then Victoria will finally forgive her. By admitting to herself and Victoria that everything she did to Victoria was downright WRONG and SICK, Amy will fix her bad things she did to Victoria. Now you get my point?
      You’re right about Valkyrie. She is an ex-mass murderer who CHANGED into a true and genuinely hero. She redeemed herself by turning into a savior of mankind. She always admitted her crimes and feel sorry for everything she did. When we’ll see Amy doing something like this?

  42. Darn, grinvader, that’s pretty much on spot.

    Awesome chapter by the way. There’s been quite a high quality streak these times. I teared up a little myself upon reading the “Thank you” from Jessica. Darn, I’m shivering upon thinking about it again while typing this post. Best character ever.

  43. I wonder if Amy’s was more unhinged than she would have been if Jessica had waited a few days to confront her or reached out behind the scenes. Amy hasn’t seen Victoria since GM, and she may have thought that the invitation to a family gathering meant that Victoria was open to renewed contact, only to have her run away in terror (although totally understandable from Victoria’s perspective). Back in Arc 1 Crystal mentions that their Uncle showed up and was pissed that Amy was simply near his wife and kids. Old wounds (however deserved and self inflicted) were reopened. Amy is incredibly powerful and it’s understandable that everyone treats her with caution. Yet Amy is not entirely wrong when she points out that she is judged by her worst moments when other people are given the benefit of the doubt.

    I think Amy was right about Jessica not being good at her job. The “colleague” approach was disingenuous bullshit. Carole misled her, she relied on that and now Yamada is comes in and does a psych eval she didn’t really agree to- hence all the “I’m not crazy.” Of course Amy would be defensive. A less stressed Jessica could have predicted that their meeting wouldn’t go well and/or not provide a complete assessment of Amy’s mental state in general. If your goal, as a therapist, is to actually get Amy help, telling her that yes she should fuck right off of Gimel is not great.

    Since the beginning of Ward, I’ve thought that Yamada’s handling of the therapy group didn’t make sense. After this interlude, it seems obvious Jessica was burning out and took some questionable shortcuts. Victoria was mindfucked and could barely communicate when she was in the asylum. Jessica hadn’t seen her in years. How did she come to the conclusion that having Victoria act as a stand-in therapist would be a good idea? Why place a respawned Lab Rat with Sveta, who knew that he was responsible for some of the patients in the asylum? Jessica didn’t have enough time to treat breakthrough individually, so she forms the group and then regrets it. Rather than owning up to her mistake, she reconnects with Victoria and punts the problem to her. She dances around telling Victoria about Chris’ identity due to “ethical concerns” but how much of that was just not wanting to deal with the fallout? Amy was right when she said that Jessica was going down a bad path, it will be interesting to see what led to her snapping and killing Bonesaw.

  44. Wow, one of the best chapters. Especially the first part. The conversation between Amy and Jessica was wonderfully charged and I was like, never stop talking, this is the best stuff. It never stops being tense, and the “colleague” part is sth I feel Yamada wanted to mean genuinely but Amy felt it was only a pretense and even wielded it like a weapon for her use or to fish for info a few times rather than a term of respect (I love verbal joustings) and I like the irony that for all that Amy is protesting she is not being listened to by Jessica, it seems she is the one refusing to do the listening, no matter how gently Yamada is trying to suggest she could use help. The dynamic was great on both sides, I liked Jessica’s low-key frustration near the end about Amy refusing to accept help/talking/therapy/less work hours from Wardens/anything and Amy’s kind-of-rude-but-actually-pretty-on-the-point warning to Jessica about burning out (and during it I was like, wow, this really reflects the early-Worm Panacea perfectly). Until then I never thought of them being foils for each other in that aspect but actually it makes perfect sense. I liked Amy’s scattered thoughts through, unstable characters are most interesting to me in general. I also quite liked Amy’s little speech on heroes and I liked that Jessica liked it. The interaction, Amy’s testing Jessica and finally flinching also made me think a little, what time is this that Yamada had to be on edge meeting a parahuman, considering that with all the ones she ever worked with, she was at least somewhat afraid for herself in their presence… Sveta and Victoria in the asylum with crushing tentacles and fear aura, Eidolon with the loaded gun metaphors and his casual “I looked up your past”, Glaistig Uaine threatening to kill her, even when coaching Ashley one on one… I’d almost say it’s possible that Taylor was the one patient we’ve seen her not to be especially wary of… but then I remembered that last time she saw Taylor before starting meetings with her, Taylor was murdering Tagg and Alexandria by having them stung/choking on bugs hahah. Poor woman… it must be terrifying being without powers yet working in such stressful situations where someone can always do you a LOT of harm, but she is very, very brave, as evidenced by handshake with Amy. Frankly I wouldn’t have even dared meet alone with Amy. Which made me appreciate Jessica’s gesture all the more, when I went to reread 1.7 and 1.8 and realised that this talk with Amy happens right after Victoria says she thinks Amy might do sth bad and asking Jessica to send someone Amy’s way. I expected Jessica would listen to Victoriabut I didn’t expect her to go to Amy herself, but I’m glad she did so we could get this chapter. It’s kind of sad that it didn’t work out. Amy’s detoriation is scary, though, in that exhilarating trainwreck way, some stuff she said/thought was scarier and the parts with Hunter were really creepy.

  45. A subtle but unnerving thing I noticed during the conversation between Amy and Jessica (paraphrased):

    J: but like remember when you raped Victoria
    A: that definitely wasn’t me, I’m not that person
    [soon after]
    A: can we talk about Victoria?
    J: no.
    A: then can I- you know what, I’m just gonna talk *to* you about it, don’t say or do anything, just let it happen
    J: [completely shuts down as Amy monologues at her]

    It’s super hard to buy that she’s not the same person, when minutes later she ignores an unequivocal “no” and mid-sentence decides her next request is now no longer a request, then plows ahead despite Jessica obviously refusing to engage.

  46. @Alf:

    If that golden-haired girl was supposed to be Victoria, then it would mean that Amy didn’t follow the advice Marquis gave her in his interlude in ar 16 of Worm:

    “If you decide to get it, I would advise a symbol rather than a face. He won’t get the description exactly right, and the image will distort your mental picture.”

    Not necessarily. It’s probably just a highly stylized figure, too divorced from reality to run afoul of the phenomenon Marquis brought up.




    Do you count your mother as your first kiss? The phrase “first kiss” doesn’t blindly refer to the absolute first kiss of any kind that a person experiences. It’s based on the emotional context around that kiss; some count, and some do not. The situation with Victoria was so far outside the norm that it’s totally fine for Amy to say that those kisses are disqualified.

    1. > Not necessarily. It’s probably just a highly stylized figure, too divorced from reality to run afoul of the phenomenon Marquis brought up.

      I also thought it was probably a stylized figure, when I read this interlude, but I would argue that as long as Amy mentally associated that figure with her sister, there still was some risk that it would affect Amy’s mental picture of Victoria.

      Of course the tattoo probably couldn’t have that much impact on the really important part of Amy’s mental image of Victoria as far as restoring Vicky’s body was concerned, because to successfully do it Amy probably didn’t really need to remember how Vicky looked, sounded and felt to human regular senses. What she needed to do instead was to rebuild her mental image of how Victoria should feel to whatever senses her power gave her – a mental image that probably fell apart during Victoria’s “wretching”, because in Carol’s interlude in Worm Amy said:

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

      The worst the tattoo could really do in my opinion is to make Amy realize that when she tried to recall how Victoria looked like to her regular, human sight, she got the picture distorted by the “golden-haired girl” from the tattoo instead. Of course this could also be disastrous – both because Amy would feel even more guilty to let herself forget Victoria like that (and Amy was already horribly suffering after all), and because forgetting how Vicky looked like could make Amy lose what little self-confidence she managed to regain after meeting Glaistig Uaine, and we know just how much Amy’s ability to use her power without accidents depends on that confidence.

  47. I understand Amy surprisingly well. She was the good child, the easy one that always lived up to her parents expectations and never caused problems because she was desperate for attention and connection and that was the only way she could get it. From an early age she had a motger that saw the echo of Marquis in her and not a daughter and a father who was inwardly focused and too busy wrestling his own demons to really be fully present.
    Victoria was the difficult child and the attention better and as a result of that and her social nature and emotion powers had friends and deep connections to others. Amy learned early that she was in it alone, and only really had colleagues. Her only real connection was to Victoria and V was using her for what she could do and was not really there as a supporting friend/sister. My impression is that Victoria was her only source of emotional release, and had unwittingly been emotionally focusing Amy onto her. Throughout the events of Worm she could never let herself relax either on an emotional level or really ever mentally take a break from work that needed doing.

    She hit her emotional wall and had a psychotic break because the S9 pushed her past her internal ability to cope and since she had no one to support her psychologically she totally collapsed, in much the same way that Riley became Bonesaw.

    Taylor and Amy came from the same place, a feeling of desolation and of being truly helpless and alone. Taylor found people, and always had some sort of ability to have people she connected with which is why she kept it together, I’d think that if Amy ever had an opportunity to let down and relax with someone who put her ahead of themself and actually connected with for a while she’d have not broken.

    I make no excuses for her actions durring her psychotic break. They were unacceptable — but understandable. As we have seen her sensing is near instant, but to actually do fine work and to truly healthings she needs focus. Her wretchifying Victoria came from that lack of focus. She was right to request to be sent to the Birdcage durring/ immediately after her break because in that mental state she could easily gone S class threat.

    Weirdly the Birdcage was the best thing that could happen to her. She found someone there who actually saw her as a person and actually took pains to care for her –Marquis. Honestly he likely stabilized her greatly, had he not done so I could easily see her becoming a true horror in there.

    My take on her is that she likely never truly has been in love, her only experience of something like love was an ongoing infatuatory relationship with her sister, at least in part due to ongoing passive emotional manipulation. It’s no wonder real relationships feel so grey she is comparing them to a relationship only made possible by super powers. It’s no wonder she won’t seek therapy as she really has no experience that makes her feel comfortable and safe reaching out for emotional support, especially to someone who is not bound to her by blood.

    Her wanting to be back in a relationship with Victoria is much like Kenzie wanting to be a family with her parents– a horribly wrong choice that can only hurt everyone involved, but also a desire to renew a connection that grew out of something that once may have been a good thing it which had soured long ago and could not be rebuilt.

    1. > She found someone there who actually saw her as a person and actually took pains to care for her –Marquis.

      Actually one of the things I’m worried about is that the people Amy tries to depend on for support at the moment aren’t the best suited for the task, because they are hardly her peers. None of them except Chris have powers that are even remotely as terrifying as hers, none of them are her age, none of them share her sexual orientation, etc. They have so little in common with her that Amy probably feels that they can’t really understand her, and she may even be right.

      It probably hurt Amy a lot that she lost contact with Ciara, Rinke and Riley, who not only have similarly terrifying powers (and in case of the latter two – powers that are outright similar, and terrifying for similar reasons), but also, probably even more importantly, can understand the mental breakdown Amy went through, since they lived in state of similar breakdowns for years.

      Another worrying thing is that Amy probably isn’t currently romantically involved in any way at the moment. I think it would help her a lot if she was in a relationship with someone who could not only understand her, but also distract her from pining after Victoria. Too bad none of Amy’s attempts in that regard worked out for Amy. I think that especially Bianca (assuming that she was, as I suspect, the “B” Amy dated after getting out of the ‘Cage) could be especially good fit for Amy, because she was another cape with terrifying powers and past. I think that in ideal world these two girls could really help get each other’s head straight. But for that to happen they would need to care more about each other – to the point where they were more important to each other than their past attachments were for each of them – Victoria in Amy’s case, Shin’s throne and her cluster in Bianca’s.

      By the way, just saving Bianca’s clustermates probably wouldn’t ruin anything. It was likely the right thing to do, considering that Teacher was about to enthrall at least one of them. It is the fact that Bianca decided to then use the power her cluster gave to enslave all these capes and try to reclaim her empire that was a truly disastrous decision.

      1. And of course mastering Breakthrough, especially over Amy’s protests, instead of simply convincing them to help through a normal negotiation, was also monumentally stupid move on Bianca’s part, and a big part of why she died. If Bianca didn’t do it, Amy and Chris would have no reason to turn against her.

        1. Ultimately even if Bianca and Amy dated, the former never loved the latter enough (if at all) to be saved. If they did, then perhaps Amy could successfully convince Bianca to resist the allure of the near-absolute, despotic power her cluster could give her?

          1. By the way, I think that Panacea, Cryptid, Foil, Imp and Vista should make sure that they never meet (or even can be forced to meet) in one place. It they did – it would probably be a way too good opportunity for the Megacluster to get their revenge for Goddess and March in a single, surprise attack.

          2. The Blue Empress and the Red Queen simply weren’t meant to rule together. Not while the Red Queen still pined for the Gold Heroine.

            Man… Colours

      2. My opinion on why Amy turned against Bianca is that Bianca enslaved Victoria, making her to be loyal to her and love her. Amy didn’t like that Victoria admired/loved (as a servant loves her master) and was loyal to Bianca instead of loving and be loyal to her (to Amy). She was jealous because Victoria was forced to give her affection to Bianca over Amy and so she decided to punish Bianca for taking the “love of her life” away from her.
        If Bianca enslaved Breakthrough except for Victoria, Amy wouldn’t have any single problem with Bianca and would have let her become the parahuman Hitler that she wanted to become. Amy doesn’t seem to have anything against any type of control as long as is not oriented toward Victoria.

        1. I don’t think this is exactly the case. It seems obvious that Bianca didn’t intend to keep Victoria enthralled, and Amy had every reason to believe that was the case. Not only because in chapter 9.3 Bianca outright promised Amy to release Breakthrough after the battle in the prison, but also (or even especially because of) this question Bianca asked Amy in chapter 9.8:

          “Did you get your closure?” Goddess asked.

          Considering that originally Amy and Bianca had probably agreed to go to Shin together (Amy mentioned a desire to leave Gimel to Jessica in the current interlude after all), if Goddess intended to keep Victoria as her pet, she wouldn’t ask this question.

          What in my opinion convinced Amy to turn on Bianca was not jealousy, but simply the fact that Bianca hurt Victoria by taking away her freedom. And Amy simply couldn’t forgive Bianca doing that. Not only to Victoria, but to any Amy’s family members. At least this is how I interpret what was said at the beginning of chapter 9.3.

          1. Of course the fact that Bianca apparently broke her promise not to master Breakthrough also must have played a role in Amy’s decision to turn on Goddess. After all, if Bianca couldn’t be trusted with something that important to Amy, how Amy trust that Bianca would ever keep her word about anything else ?

          2. Maybe you’re right, but Amy did THE SAME THING as Bianca. She took away Victoria freedom when she turned her into her sexual toy. Why she doesn’t like when other people are doing the same thing that she did? Or maybe because she dissociates from the person (the same Amy) who ruined Victoria’s body and mind, denying that was her? Maybe Amy didn’t lie when she said that she believes that Victoria’s rapist was the Dark Amy (lets call her other personality like this), not the actual Amy. Maybe she truly believe this in her twisted mind. She doesn’t consider herself to be guilty because- in her opinion- only Dark Amy was guilty, not her. Its possible for Amy to develop split personalities?

            Or maybe she never liked what Bianca did, seeing her as someone very evil and selfish and she didn’t want to see people suffering and dying because of her and decided that she should not be a bad person like Bianca (because Bianca was nothing but a bad person) and try to stop her?

            I hate Amy but I admit that she’s more complicated than I thought.

            She still did the same with Victoria as Bianca did with her but worse, I might add.

  48. > I had one chance at a perfect relationship with someone I knew really well but it got messed up by external forces but totally would have worked out otherwise and now I’ll never know true love through no fault of my own and it’s lonely and I constantly think about her and what I want to do to her but of course I wouldn’t because I’m a Good Person, so don’t I deserve better, like perhaps she could let me talk to her so maybe we can get past this and I can get the happy ending the universe owes me?

    Amy would make a great incel.

    Amy and Jessica’s in depth conversation was the *perfect* interlude right now, thanks Wildbow.
    And one thought at the forefront of my mind while reading this was “the We’ve Got Ward podcast is gonna have to do 3 and 3 chapters cos there’s no way they’re fitting in discussion of a 4th after this.” (Happily, it turns out they’re thinking the same.)

    1. This and convinced 90% of fandom to hate Amy to guts. There’s no ambiguity about her anymore. She’s just as reprehensible and crazy some wise people warned about.

  49. Imagine the best girl Ziz is not very happy with Chris/Amy little game. Next: Amy gets Simurghed. Consequences?
    I think this is something I fear to happen.

  50. > Amy gets Simurghed.

    And, in a surprising turn of events, nothing special happens! Turns out Amy was already acting as if she were simurghed, so the actual Simurgh doesn’t change anything even if she tries.

  51. You’re right, T.T.O. I’m afraid that Amy will do something very bad, she’ll sabotage Chris’s plan and he’ll never be successful to take the refugees in space. Besides, Ziz will NEVER allow this. We know what she did with Sphere last time.
    This plan is doomed to fail. The time until its failure is ticking.

    1. > I’m afraid that Amy will do something very bad, she’ll sabotage Chris’s plan and he’ll never be successful to take the refugees in space.

      Depending on circumstances sabotaging Chris’s plan may not be a bad idea. Remember that Chris’s plan is some sort of desperate measure that involves not only transcending Earth, but also humanity (which, considering Chris’s specialty, may mean turning all humans into some sort of monsters capable of surviving in space), and that Amy vetoed his plan unless it was absolutely necessary (which probably means – in the event that all humans on all Earths were doomed to die). Remember that Chris is operating under imperative four, and that the original Lab Rat always wanted to prove that he can one-up people like String Theory.

      Chris will almost certainly look for any excuse to execute his grand design regardless of whether it is a good idea or not. And almost certainly someone will have to stop him. At this moment Amy appears to the person in best position to do so if and when it becomes necessary. Of course Chris isn’t an idiot and must realize that, which in turn makes me worried about Amy’s safety, especially since it looks like he has already taken some steps to make it difficult for Amy to use her power on him.

      1. You know what? You’re right again. I’m sick and tired telling you that you’re right, so stop being right so many times, man? 🙂 Yes, Chris’ plan APPEARS to be good but maybe…maybe deep down is not so good. Let’s remember that Chris is Lab Rat clone (he said that he feels less human when he’s in human form so the inhumanity of Lab Rat is kicking inside of him everytime when he’s in his human form and he HATES it but he also feel like he’s losing control over himself), he’s mentally unstable, and the fact that he have no qualms using refugees as his guinea pigs doesn’t talk high about him.
        Why Ziz doesn’t do anything yet to stop him? Because she knows that his plan will fail anyway without her intervention.
        Why Kenzie keeps informing Chris about Breakthrough’s last actions? Do you rally think that she’s doing it by herself without her team knowing? What if her team knows about what she’s doing and they encourage her because they know that its something wrong about Chris’ plan and they want to keep it under their surveillance to have a chance to stop him before he’ll do something regrettable?
        At first, I liked his plan but now you made me see it in a new light.
        Do you think Chris will be the next supervillain, replacing Teacher?

        1. > Do you think Chris will be the next supervillain, replacing Teacher?

          Nah. Not only is there Dot to blindside him if he is stupid enough to attack the Red Queen (see my response to ninegardens’ comment bellow), but in longer term any villainous tendencies he may have are doomed to crumble under Kenzie’s awesomeness.

          1. 🙂 Yes, Kenzie defeated Saint, piece of cake for her to defeat Chris. Unless Kenzie will become the villain herself and then EVERYONE WILL BE SCREWED.

            1. Oh, Kenzie will not have to “defeat” Chris like she “defeated” Saint. She will just oversaturate Chris with her love and affection to the point where he won’t have a choice but to love the multiverse back. It is already happening. What do you think these “updates” she been sending him are really for?

            2. Magical Warrior of Love, Justice, Heart-Shaped Pupils, Rachel’s Puppies, and Chickens both Little and Large – Sailor Lookout!

            3. Should I remind you that this is a Wildbow’ story, not FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC AND SOLVE FIRST WOLD PROBLEMS kind of story?….Wait….hmmmm

            4. Tell this to whichever character came up with the name Super Magic Dream Parade, and that team members’ names, costumes and general image they try to project.

  52. @ Lulu and Alfaryn

    In a surprise plot twist, Breakthrough destroy the world, Chris succeeds at sending “Humanity” to space, and WanderBuckets next great tale is told 400 years later aboard a space station from the point of view of a semi-human space engineer.

    You heard it here first, folks. 😀

    In other news:
    Amy wanted to jump straight to the part of the relationship where she had unquestioning trust in her partner.
    Bianca had a power which made people trust(?) her, and align with her desires.
    Amy is…. kind of not good at dealing with her own feelings, and acts as a sponge for other peoples notions of “goodness”.
    …. This is a match made in… Hellven(?)

    Also, strange to note that Amy was dating Bianca BEFORE she had Dot to act as her murderous insurance policy.

    Honestly, in hindsight…. Bianca was a spoilt brat, and a tyrant… but given her powerset, the age she got it, and such things as cluster dynamics and Teacher hunting her and trying to control her… I can kind of see how things turned out that way.
    In some sense, she comes across as a relatively normal person, who got handed a particularly twisty power that was very very very easy to misuse, and almost inherently leads to atrophying trust and empathy, and undermined ones connection with everyday reality.
    … much like a certain Miss Lavere- not actually weapons grade evil, just sort of sad and weakwilled and wielding powers that she really really shouldn’t have, and increasingly detached from reality.

    1. Regarding Dot as a “murderous insurance policy”, I worry not only about Amy’s safety, but also Chris’. He may think that if he ever needs to take out Amy, he is going to have every advantage he needs. He is an excellent tinker and a good schemer (the two kinds of people who benefit a lot from having time to plan and prepare) who had the liberty to work on his plans for months. He has initiative – nobody will act against him before he does something really naughty, so he gets to choose the time and place of the initial confrontation. His role in the assassination attempt on Armstrong suggests that he may have support of not only some of the more radical political circles on Shin, but also some capes in Red Queen’s court. With his specialty he may in some ways understand Amy’s and Marquis’ powers (and their limitations) than even they do…

      In other words despite his paranoia he may become overconfident, not only forget that Amy has been holding back a lot and that her power may be used in plenty of “creative” ways that make her as flexible as many tinkers are, but also dismiss Dot as a potential threat. Dot is completely loyal to her queen, would kill people for far lesser crimes than endangering her monarch. On top of it the facts that technically has no power, that she is so small and good at sneaking around, and that everyone where she lives is probably so used to seeing her around that they probably hardly notice her anymore probably mean that… Dot may effectively act as if she had a low-level stranger rating – someone like Chris may simply not see a dangerous (potentially lethal) attack from her coming before it is too late.

      1. Whoops. Posted the above comment without explaining why I worry about Amy’s safety. Sorry if everyone was confused after reading it. The explanation is in the second comment in the thread right above this one.

  53. Okay, continuing. I was sure right to keep watching the hands. Amy is relatable enough in finding them awkward in self-conscious moments, but also they’re torture, murder, and mind control tools, soooo I’ll excuse her for being overly conscious of them.

    Yamada seems casual about touching the super Striker, and raises James and Riley straight off. Given that we know she’s about to be their therapist, I think she’s giving Amy total benefit of the doubt here, in addition to her total professionalism. Amy doesn’t read it that way, which is not news. We’ve seen that before.

    Amy has the worst of both worlds. She’s influenced by her father enough to look for manipulative traps in conversation, while a slow enough learner that she can’t recognize Yamada isn’t doing that. So she just stews in uncertainty until an emotion tells her how to react. She associates getting space via iced tea with Markwiss. Have to think about that one.

    That work schedule doesn’t sound super positive. In fact it kind of sounds like drifting into similar patterns that were bad for her when we first got to hear her talk to Gallant.

    I think it’s hilarious how little the characters pay attention to the Machine Army. It was a crisis and the word needed to spread when it developed the exponential threat that turns the landscape into killer robots had reached North Carolina. Back then there were tens of millions of people still stuck in Bet’s US and Canada. The Machine Army is now in Boston. Did tens of millions of people quietly get murdered off screen without any characters addressing it? How does that work?

    A frustrated hand gesture. Something she’s not saying here.

    “I’m dating, you know. Kind of.” Oh man. I was sooo relieved to hear this. I was totally ready for the Wilbo treatment where we’d discover Amy was being misjudged this whole time. Her interlude would rehabilitate.

    Then I realized we must already know Amy’s S.O. Then a couple big paragraphs later and I registered who it must be. Amy let her girlfriend get assassinated. Amy made it possible. This is worse than I had imagined. What kind of head space was she in, right then? Since? She went to Shin and had to talk up the killing as her legitimate right in being there….

  54. > Amy let her girlfriend get assassinated. Amy made it possible. This is worse than I had imagined. What kind of head space was she in, right then?

    To be fair, if your girlfriend is a criminal on her way to take over a world (again), setting her up to be assassinated indicates a better headspace than not doing it.

  55. I’ve been thinking a bit more about the fact that Victoria seemed to “get” the rules of the dreamscape suspiciously well – somehow figuring out how to avoid being attacked by Grasping Self, how to call the avatar of her own shard to fight alongside her, how to use the crystals in the area around Tattletale’s shard to get insights into the darkest secrets of her family and friends that were not unlike what that shard usually gives Tattletale herself, learning learning from Damsel how to use the crystals for healing, how to quickly travel over long distances in the dreamscape, somehow very quickly figuring out the context of crystal-visions beyond what she was explicitly shown, making a very reasonable speculations about which shard-avatars can be reliably used to cross the chasms been islands of crystal, and so on…

    Victoria managed to do it within what? Forty minutes? Compare it to how little Rain has managed to understand about the dream-room in all these months he visited it.

    I already wrote in the comments section of the previous chapter that all these insights may come to Vicky so easy because she is so well “in tune” with her shard. But how far do you think she can go from there? And how insane or “inhuman” she may become in the process? I seem to recall a certain parahuman who at one point had a problem with keeping what little remained of her humanity just long enough to finish her all-important task, while at the same time had intuitive understanding of powers of over five thousand capes. Can Victoria’s understanding of the dreamscape advance so far that she will end up in a similar situation?

    (And by the way, just how much of that “intuitive understanding of powers of over five thousand capes” can that unnamed parahuman I’ve mentioned above remember, and what could potential uses of these memories be?)

    1. (And what else that parahuman can remember? How may habitable Earths were out there during GM? How do these Earths looked like? How were they arranged in relationship to each other? How much damage each of these Earths suffered? How each cape looked like when she “recruited” them to her army – for example what costumes they wore, how did their faces look like if they were unmasked? Where all bombs ever produced by humans on all Earths were stored? Don’t you think that is a lot of potentially very useful, but also very dangerous knowledge for one person to have?)

      1. (Just how close a combination of a power that lets you see almost anything anywhere with a power that gives you nearly infinite multitasking ability can bring you to seeing everything everywhere? And how much of this experience can a person remember?)

        1. Apropos the ability to see everything everywhere. Can Dragon have a competition growing out there as far as this ability is concerned? If I remember correctly even back in Worm Dragon reached a point at which she could observe a hundred (or was it hundreds?) of places at once, though she could act in only one of them. However Kenzie scanned Chicken Little, and can already process eight accelerated pictures at once (though it makes her brain overheat slightly). If she can solve the cooling issue, could she process more? How much more? Can she reach or even surpass Dragon in this departament?

  56. “‘If I didn’t have any powers at all and I checked myself into the loony bin, wouldn’t I be able to check myself out?’

    ‘Not usually,’ Jessica said.

    ‘That’s moronic,’ Amy said, more bitterly than she intended. ‘It was a temporary thing.’

    ‘Going to the Birdcage could have been a permanent transition.’

    Amy drank her iced tea, and the flavor and coldness of it shocked her. She’d held it this long and hadn’t actually had any of it. She watched the two women in the lobby leave. They looked close.

    ‘They shouldn’t have let me demand to go there,’ she said, quiet.”

    The density here is so much. Amy’s disdain for mental health treatment. The simple, grounding, fact checks Jessica offers. Amy’s sharply hostile reaction to reality intruding on things she emotionally ‘knows to be true.’ The forgotten tea. The visceral shock of coldness. The preoccupation with a pair of women, their physical and emotional proximity.

    The responsibility placed on others for the choice Amy made.

    This chapter.

    1. That tea may be meaningful in more than one way. I would need to check it with Worm and Ward to be sure, but according to the wiki iced teas just happen to be Victoria’s favorite beverage. Perhaps Amy chose this particular drink (consciously or not) because it, just like so may things in this talk with Jessica reminded her of Victoria?

      1. Just how central to Amy’s thoughts Victoria is anyway? Amy’d tweaked Victoria’s brain so that Vicky spent two years constantly pining for Amy. Probably unable to ever really forget Amy. What if… Amy is in a similar situation?

        Remember that Amy has been over-exposed to Victoria’s aura that worked by basically making Vicky an absolute center of attention of anyone affected by it. Maybe Amy’s brain got so used to this feeling that it leans in that direction even when it is no longer affected by Vicky’s aura? Maybe the reason why she makes such mistakes with patients who look like Victoria is that as soon as something reminds Amy of Vicky, she starts thinking about Victoria to the point where she simply can no longer properly focus on what she is doing with her power anymore? Maybe Amy’s romantic relationships with other girls can’t work, because the very idea of being romantically involved with another girl makes Amy think about Victoria instead of whoever Amy is trying to date? Maybe this compulsion to make Victoria the center of her thoughts is what made Amy decide to have an elaborate tattoo to remind her of Vicky as soon as she realized that she wasn’t thinking about her sister all the time?

        1. In other words perhaps Amy can’t function normally when she thinks about Victoria, because doing so takes so much of her attention, but at the same time she can’t break out of the habit of doing so, because she feels uncomfortable every time she either doesn’t think about Victoria, or realizes that she hasn’t been doing it?

          1. Heck, perhaps thinking about Victoria is the only thing that gives Amy enough endorphins to feel good anymore. Maybe dating other girls didn’t work for Amy is because she actually tried to give these other girls an honest chance, and made herself focus on them, and not Victoria, as much as she could, but… everything that was supposed to make her feel good in these relationships simply couldn’t, because it did not involve Vicky?

  57. From Worm, arc 2, interlude 2:

    > “My adoptive family,” Amy mumbled into Victoria’s shoulder, “And stop trying to use your frigging power to make me all squee over how amazing you are. Doesn’t work. I’ve been exposed so long I’m immune.”

    What if this is false? What if prolonged exposure to Victoria’s emotion-aura power is what twisted Amy into the irrationally obsessed state she’s in?

  58. Ah, Alfaryn beat me by like 2 hours. I searched for “interlude” and “immune” to see if anyone else had quoted the Worm interlude already, but hadn’t read every comment.

      1. And to be perfectly clear I’m not suggesting that Mrmdubois’ comment said that the only thing Victoria’s aura influenced are Amy’s sexual (or romantic) preferences. It is just that it could be interpreted this way, and I’ve seen many people do just that. All I wanted to do in my responses to Admiral Matt’s comment above was to explore the idea that if Victoria’s aura permanently influenced Amy, it could to so on far more levels than just sexual and romantic. That it could define how Amy’s mind works on a far more fundamental level.

      2. One thing about Mrmdubois’ comment I mentioned above. Note that while Wildbow responded to it, strictly speaking he didn’t confirm nor deny that Mrmdubois was correct, or if so – to what extent. It is entirely possible that exposure to Victoria’s aura had little to no lasting effects on Amy’s personality.

        In other words as far as I can tell this whole idea, as widely known and accepted it appears to be in fandom, is technically still just a speculation.

  59. If nothing else, I’d love a canonical exploration of how “emotion powers” work in general. And also for the threaded Reply button to work in my browser.

    1. Well, at the moment the only browsers that I know the reply buttons work with are Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer, and old, pre-Quantum versions of Firefox and its forks that do not incorporate the overhaul of Gecko that Firefox Quantum introduced. I also wish it was not the case, as it would let me to reply to people’s comments from my mobile device, instead of forcing me to fire up my desktop (not to mention use a browser that isn’t my usual first choice on that computer) every time I want to post a response to someone’s comment.

      As for the canonical exploration of how “emotion powers” work, there is some information scattered in the books, especially in Ward, but yes – it isn’t exactly exhaustive. Probably intentional choice by the author to keep us guessing. After all lots of interesting discussions like this one wouldn’t happen if we knew all that is to know these powers.

  60. yeah, she’s worse then i thought-
    she isnt a monster, she’s a fucking coward, plain and simple- reminds me somewhat of a certain charicter in MGSV- no matter what, its never poor, perfect little Amy’s fault- she doesn’t make mistakes, you see, its always -other- people! *sighs*
    you cant run away forever, little Ames- eventually all your fuckups will come home to roost-and there isn’t a perfect, inescapable prison to run away from them to this time….
    and when you accidentally kill/brainscramble LabRat2.0,AND Maquis…..

    1. You’ll note Chris doesn’t trust her one bit. Always morphed with enough hair to negate stray touches, probably a boosted and introspecting immune system to flag any invisible vector, and I fully expect him to carry a couple violent serums to deal with her if she tries something more aggressive.

  61. “Carol neglected me. Mark, in his way, neglected me more. I’ve been thinking about it, and I think that was the kindest thing they could have done for me.”

    “Because you’ve given your all for weeks now, but maybe not once ever in your life has someone else given you their all. Or it’s one person, one sister.”

    “You’ll hit your lowest point, and either you’re alone or the one person you counted on is preoccupied. ”

    Interesting. So, when she violated Victoria, it cost her more than a sister and an object of affection/obsession: it cost her the closest thing to a parental figure she’d had in her life (or, at least, since Marquis was caged).

    Of course, that doesn’t excuse her actions, past or present: everyone who lives long enough (which is most people) has to learn how to deal with the loss of a parent. But, having been in that situation myself, cast adrift by the loss of someone who had always put you first (and I can only imagine it’s worse if the parent remains alive but has justifiably severed relations with you, and has zero interest in reconciling)… I can’t help but feel more sympathetic towards Amy than I did before.

    One would hope that Marquis could fill that parent-shaped hole in her heart, but I suspect that Amy refuses to let him, because that would mean acknowledging what Victoria truly is to her . And she can’t do /that/ without realizing just how disturbing her obsession is, and always has been.

    In short: yeah, Amy needs therapy. A lot of it.

  62. Re: Amy not associating with her past deeds…

    It was implied, I believe, that while in the birdcage Amy was one of the first few capes to grasp the concept of the shards as a whole.

    Is it possible that she recognizes and can differentiate between the actions her shard takes and action she takes. Or at least that she believes she can?

    Just a thought I had, maybe it’ll lead to something.

  63. Just a random thought… It’s quite likely that tomorrow’s chapter will be the beginning of a new arc. With some shiny and cheerful name, like ‘Undying’, for example. Or ‘World Ending’.

  64. Regarding Victoria’s aura, I assign it about as much weight as her good looks when it comes to Amy’s obsession. They were surely contributing factors, but Amy’s interlude in Worm made it clear that Victoria’s main selling point was giving a shit about her when nobody else did. People just like overstating the role the aura had because it lets them make excuses for Amy and/or put more blame on Victoria.

  65. I’ve just thought about one more reason why Amy might have refused psychotherapy, and I’m afraid that this one isn’t entirely irrational. Remember that not only Yamada, but likely also every therapist really qualified to treat a powerful parahuman like Amy she could arrange for Amy work for, or at least have ties to the Wardens now – the same people who kept Rinke and Riley imprisoned (even if in Riley’s case it is closer to house arrest, and that both of them probably agreed that they need to be confined somehow for everyone’s safety), and who constantly monitored almost every step of powerful capes with problematic history like Goddess, Valkyrie, Chris and Amy herself. Add to it that the only specialists in this field who regularly interacted with Amy after GM were doing it with explicit purpose of evaluating her mental health for the Wardens, and in my opinion it wouldn’t be surprising if we learned that Amy didn’t trust them to keep a doctor-patient confidentiality.

    Amy could even be right about it. I imagine that not every therapist would be as brave as Yamada was in the first chapter of the epilogue arc of Worm when she refused to tell Chevalier how her session with Ciara was going.

    (And by the way remember that Amy doesn’t know this about Yamada, or about any other examples of Jessica’s personal bravery and professional integrity we’ve seen in Worm and Ward – I imagine that Amy would respect and trust Yamada much more if she did…)

    1. Oh, and I forgot to add that al this monitoring and confinement of certain powerful capes, like the one I’ve mentioned above, is at least going against the spirit of the amnesty, if it is not outright illegal. The fact that the Wardens are doing it probably doesn’t inspire Amy’s trust, especially since, while she may not know te specifics of the Echidna incident, she probably knows enough to understand that Costa-Brown’s PRT was a deeply corrupt institution with ties to Cauldron. The fact that the Wardens treat the people who theoretically should be completely free because of amnesty like they do (that people like Legend remain in the top echelons of Wardens’ leadership) may make Amy suspect that they are just as corrupted.

  66. Amy is a fairly realistic view at the mindset of an abuser (and selfish people in general). She never truly empathizes with other people and views her past crimes as only being bad in the extent to which they inconvenience her.

    While it’s good to see most people in the comments finally realizing this stuff now that it’s been made explicit, the people sympathizing with Amy and blaming Victoria were always really messed up and displaying the same sort of abuser-mentality that Amy herself exhibits. Amy, as the person who raped and abused Victoria (and this shouldn’t be in question anymore – it’s obvious she basically took full advantage of Victoria during the several day period following the S9 stuff before the heroes came to get her and brainwashed her and erased the memories), lost any possibility of having any sort of relationship with Victoria, and it has always been deeply disturbing to see people in the comments acting like Victoria owes her forgiveness.

  67. Amy’s viewpoints on what therapy entails is ridiculously ignorant. Its justifiable given her family’s experience with therapy, but still very ignorant nonetheless. I half wanted Jessica to slap her silly and say “normal people are allowed to need therapy!” I think in their dialogue exchange, Jessica was too pressing on getting sessions with her. I understand that Jessica recognized the problem and wanted to address them, but pushing too strongly caused Amy to deny it altogether.

    Which is sad, because Jessica realized the problems before anyone else. I’m not sure what Amy needed to hear during her talk with Jessica, but things that could’ve been said:

    “Just because you don’t do bad, that’s not a trait of a good person. That’s just having a decent standard. You’re certainly good with all of the other good you do, but don’t sell yourself short of being good strictly based on the bad you haven’t done. That’s a recipe for struggle. Turn that ‘not do bad’ into a default, not something that needs to be clinged onto.”

    “Imagining a world that could’ve been different is universal, the problem is that it doesn’t get people anywhere and more often than not leads to regret than anything beneficial. You’ll need to try some coping mechanisms to get through that. If you don’t plan on taking my help, I’ll trust that you can research these things on your own.”

    “Wanting to skip to having a close-as-family relationship is common for many adults. And lacking it, feeling this void, is universal. The trick is to accept that the feeling of emptiness is always temporary, and forging new relationships is key to alleviating these thoughts. The trick is to put in the effort. Put in the effort to gruel through the difficulties in order to create healthy relationships.”

    “Neglect in itself is a relationship. After all, narcissistic parents and neglectful parents all impact the child’s growth, just in different ways. You seem to think a lot about Victoria, which is understandable since you’ve both grown up together. I won’t say you’ll never rekindle your relationship, but its not there right now. For now, have you ever thought about having parents that were against your own growth impacted yourself growing up?”

    “Given your predicament right now, feeling paranoid is to be expected. Not just for you, but for most capes. Coping mechanisms will help, which I assume you’ve already done.”

    Also, Amy should’ve healed Mark. When all parties are fully consenting, I don’t see how alleviating chronic depression, especially when it might stem from a head trauma, is any different from performing a medical surgery on a patient.

  68. @Lena27: this comment – https :// old.reddit. com/r/Parahumans/comments/ciscq1/question_about_amy/ev8wvfi/
    and this one – https :// old.reddit. com/r/Parahumans/comments/ciscq1/question_about_amy/ev8y062/
    There’s also a reply from Kyakan under the second one, which quotes a conversation between Amy and Jack which I have totally forgotten about, and which drives the same point home even more.

    P.S. Sorry about butchering the links, I posted a comment with normal links before and it’s going to be forever in moderation.

  69. So…

    • when she’s told what she doesn’t want to hear, she calls “Bull-!-shit”?

    • And then concludes that she has not been listened to?

    On a different note, I find it interesting to think that Amy ended up being the abyss for Dr. Yamada. If you gaze long enough…

    New “Best Chapter” as far as I’m concerned.

  70. The big thing that struck me, but that I haven’t seen anyone else mention, is that Amy’s really hung up on some kind of hereditary essentialism. That showed up way, way back in Worm when she found out that she was Marquis’s biological daughter and worried that she’d become a supervillain, but it’s coming back now. She can’t understand where her introversion and anxiety come from, if neither her biological nor adoptive parents were the source. (At least she’s aware that she could have picked up traits from her adoptive family.) When she understands it like that, sees that her “quiet nature” is just another thing she inherited, it’s one less thing to be anxious about, one more thing that’s “just natural”. When she puts together that, wait, it’s not…that goes away. It’s like she’s fine with whatever as long as it comes to her naturally, but anything “unnatural” is cause for concern. If her introversion isn’t something she got directly from a parent, it must be a sign that something’s wrong with her.

    I’m not sure if it’s more relevant to connect this to her black-and-white morality (which started as mostly “Villains aren’t good, so they’re evil” but has been leaning more on “I’m not evil, so I’m good, right?”), or her inability to accept responsibility for anything she’s done.
    In the first case: Something is either natural and acceptable, or it’s unnatural and wrong. A sign of damage, something to worry about.
    In the second case…well, if it’s natural, why fight it? A particularly dangerous sentiment in someone whose biological father is a supervillain, and held in at least the same regard as her superhero father…

    1. I suspect that there may be a connection between Amy’s beliefs in that regard and her power. Remember that just touching a person can tell Amy a lot about that person’s brain chemistry, existing neural connections, etc. from which she may piece together a lot about not only that person’s current mental state, but also their overall personality. Moreover she can change certain features of people’s personalities by using her power. For Amy it is probably very difficult to not think about people as some sort of biological machines whose entire behavior and personality is determined largely by their bio-chemistry based on their DNA inherited from their parents.

      An interesting question to ask here would be – what came first? Amy’s belief in hereditary essentialism that later shaped her power in a way that reinforces this belief, or the power that lead to her developing this belief in the first place?

      1. To pout it differently – does Amy believe that people are slaves of their biological nature, and underestimates the role of factors like nurture and free will because her power lets her understand and manipulate that nature so well? Or did she get a power that gives her that understanding and ability to control the nature because even before she triggered she believed so strongly in its importance?

  71. @Alfaryn: I think those two aspects are actually independent from each other. If anything, her power should make it obvious that not everything is governed by inherited traits. For example, Amy can block memories, and neither memories nor inability to remember something obviously can’t be inherited. Or healing Mark’s brain damage would make the importance of acquired traits even more apparent.

    1. I’m not saying that Amy doesn’t think that personal experiences or environmental factors don’t affect a person at all. If this was the case, she wouldn’t even consider if she could get her anxiety from the Dallons. All I’m saying that she probably considers factors like person’s brain chemistry as particularly important factors determining person’s behavior, and things like that are to a large extent determined by one’s genes. Of course on only by them – things like psychoactive substances can also play a role, but it seems that she doesn’t seem to think that one’s ability to choose, and to consciously shape their own character – their free will – is all that important. At least this is how I interpret her idea about how to “rehabilitate” criminals from chapter 14.6:

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

      If she believed that the most important factor that makes people criminals is that they chose to be criminals, would she think that removing addictions, tweaking impulses, etc. would make them less dangerous?

      1. In other words, while I’m not suggesting that Amy thinks that human behavior and personality is entirely defined by their genetics, I think that she seems to think a more important role, while at the same time she thinks that the role of free will is less important than most people think. And in my opinion her ability to draw conclusions about or even manipulate various aspects of human personalities with her biokinesis seems to be somehow connected with such beliefs.

        1. Plus maybe Amy clings to belief that factors independent from her – both genetics (“nature”), and environmental (“nurture”), are more important than free will – that they “make” person a criminal, because it lets her justify her own misdeeds to herself? Remember how in chapter 14.9 she told Victoria that she was a victim too?

          The Slaughterhouse Nine came after me. I lost my family. I lost you. What happened wounded both of us, and impacted the both of us in a massive way.

          Doesn’t it feel like she tried to shift a blame for what she did to Victoria from herself to what was done to her that night – to factors independent from her? At the same time in interlude 11.h of Worm she stressed importance of her rules to her, and of Marquis’ rules to him:

          Marquis was one of the organized killers. He had his rules, he had his code, and so did Amy. Amy wouldn’t use her power to affect people’s minds. Like father, like daughter.

          which seems to suggest that Amy believed that she could avoid temptation to abuse her power by using the same self-imposed restrictions that her biological father did. This would in turm mean that she believed that her inability to control her impulse to keep affecting people’s minds after she broke her rules once was something inherited from Marquis (“nature”), and at the same time seems to explain why she kept breaking her rules afterwards (Something like “Once my inherited method to keep myself in line failed, there is nothing more that can hold me back – my free will is not strong enough for that.”)

          1. To sum it up, perhaps Amy’s line of reasoning is something like this:
            “I can’t be blamed for what I did to my sister, because my free will lost an uneven fight with my biological nature (including its aspects inherited from my villainous father) and external factors (like Jack and Bonesaw). It had to lose, because free will is weaker from such factors beyond my control. And my power, which lets me completely change human behavior, personality and choices people affected by it make simply shows just how uneven that fight was.”

            And unfortunately such reasoning also happens to be a perfect excuse for Amy to keep breaking her own rules over and over again…

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