From Within – 16.z

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Now

I’ve surrounded myself with lunatics and the mentally ill.

Hunter, in her ‘powered’ state, had control over her power but less control over herself.  Her eyes were too wide, revealing the whites, and she had almost stepped outside without the proper clothing, before they’d brought her back and made her pick something better.  As much as regret chewed at Amy’s middle and false hopes stabbed and tugged at her heart, having Hunter close was reassuring.  She’d had to put measures into place to ensure that Hunter wouldn’t attack her if an attempt at healing her personality rebounded, and it meant Hunter was loyal, reliable in her own way.  The silhouette of Hunter, the shape of the face and color of her hair, it allowed Amy to have the periodic moment of feeling like she was still in the old days, Victoria just a few paces away.

Like Victoria but shorter, narrower, more of an elfin frame than an athlete’s.  Like Victoria, but a Victoria that could disappear in a wave of snowflakes if that snow around them blew any harder.  She was constantly moving, getting ahead of the group, turning to face them while walking backwards, turning forward and creating those black razor-lines, then hopping up onto them, to try walking them like one might walk a tightrope, until her attempts saw her fall behind, at which point she bounded forward again.

Like Victoria when Victoria had been ten and playing at being superheroes, but wearing a body like Victoria at thirteen or fourteen, if she’d never gotten into basketball or running.

Amy walked with her head down, only her eyes visible above her scarf, which she’d pulled up to protect her ears.  The positioning of the scarf was helped by the fact that Dot was curled up against her neck, upper body at one side, thighs against the other, and the little goblin had the scarf pulled around her like a blanket, adjusting every time the cold seeped in.  The walk hadn’t been long, but Dot was already asleep in the warmth, snoring softly.  The little goblin put out its tongue to lick unconsciously at Amy’s neck, and sensations of its being, physical makeup, and overall health leaped into her awareness.

The fact Dot was sleeping meant she had stopped gabbling.  The goblin’s voice was comforting in how there was an omnipresent voice, less comforting if Amy focused too much on the words.  Was it more concerning that if the words were said by a human, they’d sound monstrous, or that the words were said by a monster but sounded so human?

Amy touched her scarf, touching Dot’s head through it.  Dot curled up tighter against Amy in unconscious response.

Mark walked beside her, but he was off in his own world.  Tired, disheartened.

Because I’ve surrounded myself with villains, too.  He can’t come to terms with that.

Marquis was talking about weapons and danger with Chris.  They’d never gotten along in the Birdcage, and they didn’t get along now, but they could cooperate.  It wasn’t just that they were villainous, but that they were villainous with that insane edge around them.

Marquis wore a coat in Shin’s style, and Amy had to admit he wore it well.  She only knew what she knew about fashion because Victoria had rubbed off on her, but she had the sense her father had picked the coat well.  Long, bone white, and decorated at the seams.  He carried a cane though he didn’t need it, and wore no hat.

Chris, for his part, had transitioned to something between a shaggy junkyard dog and a chimpanzee, seven feet tall at the shoulder.  Long-limbed, long-faced, vaguely humanoid, muscle visible beneath the shaggy fur, with no clothes but for a sash around the lower body and that collar around his neck, with syringes poised to plunge home.  He loped more than he walked.

“I like Gosling,” Marquis said.  “Elegant little murderer.”

“I’ll be your elegant little murderer,” Hunter said, eager, skipping forward with snow flying.

“You could be if we wanted that, but I think it’s best for you to stay near Amelia.  I’m negotiating for my personal team, if we reach the point where we need to defend ourselves.”

Chris rumbled while he padded through the snow with shaggy, furred claws.  “It’s not negotiating if nobody wants what you’re picking.”

“Gosling?” Marquis sounded surprised.  “That’s a vehement reaction.”

“She’s weak.”

“Weak isn’t a concern.  Any parahuman has their strengths and those strengths can be nurtured, made to bloom.  My concern is having a team where every member can stand in close proximity and be natural among one another.”

“We’re the two kids who’re picking our teams for gym class and you’re taking the girl who lost a fight against, essentially, an unpowered person with an improvised weapon, not even a good improvised weapon, because you want the team that looks good if they’re asked to take a picture together?”

“Yes!” Marquis said.  “Not that I care about pictures.  Personality, style, expectations.  If I have a wide pool of people to choose from, I’ll pick people who can be in the same room without looking critically at the person next to them and wondering why they’re there.  People who, if I’m offering them something to drink, won’t put in twenty different orders for tea, beer, wine, soda pop, or whatever else.  People I give an order to, who won’t immediately start fighting over how to carry it out.  From my perspective you’re playing the losing game.”

“You’re deluded,” Chris growled.  “Drink preferences don’t have anything to do with how they’re going to kill the guy you’re pointing at.”

“Of course not, but I have a wide pool to choose from.  I’ve been paying attention and earmarking the ones I like for a little while now.  I’ll pick a core team where I believe they’ll be in alignment, then pick the ones I think could be swept up into that alignment, and then pick the ones who won’t cause too much fuss, in that order.”

“Assuming you get that many picks.”

“Assuming I do,” Marquis said, smiling.  “I still want Gosling.”

“You can have her.  Free pick, as I see it.  Johnny.”

“Which one?”

“There’s two?”

“One goes by Johnny in his civilian identity, and then you have Johnny Shambles, who is, I believe, in quarantine.”

“The second one.”

“As I see it, you’re playing the losing game, Lab Rat.  You did this in the Birdcage.  You picked people because they and their powers were resources.  You forgot they were people, too.  Who’s your next pick?  Go ahead.”

“Adze.”

“Exactly the opposite approach to my own.  If I had to pick the three people least likely to find a mutual rhythm, I wouldn’t pick Shambles, Adze, and you, but it would be close.”

“I don’t care, because I’m not looking for rhythm.  I’m looking for people I can send to go do something, with expectations they manage.  Who’s your pick?”

“Screwdriver,” Marquis replied.

“I like her,” Hunter chimed in.  She turned on the spot, walking backward, hands going to her face.  “No mask.  Not really.”

Chris fell silent, and it was a judgmental silence.

“There is a method to my madness,” Marquis said, sounding pleased with himself.

“This method, it involves preaching about team unity, then picking, in order, the murderer who was stabbed with a screwdriver, and the torturer who did the stabbing?”

“Yes.  I’ll let you take your pick,” Marquis said.  “We should keep it to five or six each, leave some behind to defend.”

Amy looked at Mark, her ‘dad’, though it had been a long time since he’d ever felt like a proper dad.  That he was here really helped, if only just for the being there.  He cast the occasional sidelong glance at the pair, but didn’t comment, his head down, hat pulled low against the cold flurry.  He wore his costume as a sub-layer, with pants, hooded sweatshirt, and coat pulled over it, so it was there but only barely.  He looked like a civilian.

“Do you want to join in?  Lead a squadron, Flashbang?” Marquis had a way of sounding taunting in the course of casual conversation, especially when it was with Carol or Mark.  Amy almost said something.

“No.  I’ll stay by Amy’s side,” Mark said.

“Perfect.  That simplifies things,” Marquis said.

They continued making their way through the snowstorm.  In the distance, Amy could see the throughway, the wide-laned, raised road that cut straight through the center of the capitol.  It was meant for heavy trucks and public transportation, but with the influx of refugees, it was being used to move everyone into Shin.  It was dark out, still the early hours of morning before sunrise, and some of those people had been on the road when it had last been daylight.  Shin didn’t use a lot of gasoline, and had only really started producing and refining it for Gimel at Goddess’s behest, as part of deals struck before Gold Morning.  Cauldron, Chris had said.

People milled around the stalled traffic on that raised throughway that took cars over three-story buildings and hills.  Those people were Shin service workers with shovels and brooms, weaving between cars to get snow off of the roadway.  With the platform being raised, lacking railings or dividers between the edge and the city below, it produced a constant plume of white.  A slash of the dull red of taillights captured by the thick snowfall, plumes of white turned dark gray by darkness.

“A slash of human misery and desperation,” Marquis said.  Amy jumped a bit, realizing he was beside her.  “White snow flowing down and out like pus from the wound.  All of it surrounded by warning, alarming red, like blood.”

“Poetic,” she said, “uncomfortable.”

“Always,” Marquis answered, smiling.  His long brown hair had collected enough wet snow to make a snowball.  Her own hair probably had too, she realized.  They had the same hair, especially now that he had gone into exhaustive depth about how she should manage her hair so it wouldn’t be a mass of dull brown frizz.

“It sounds so dark, the way you put it.”

“It is,” Marquis said.  He touched her hair, hand running down the back of her head.  “It’s dark before dawn.  Sometimes we need to take a scalpel to the wounds.  A transplant requires a bit of tough medicine, to prevent rejection, doesn’t it?”

“I don’t want to be the tough medicine,” Amy’s voice came out more unsure than she meant it to.

“If it comes down to it, my daughter,” Marquis murmured, his voice just for her.  “I’ll be the tough, you can be the medicine.”

Amy nodded, noncommittal, not wanting to say anything that might prolong the uncomfortable part of the conversation.

Mark was looking.  She looked at him, and felt Marquis’s hand pull away.  He walked over to Chris again.

Whichever one she talked to or favored in the moment, it felt like she was betraying the other, and yet she had no loyalty to either of them.  They had both let her down when it counted.  Neither had been there.  Now they were here but they weren’t-

Amy stopped herself.  The anger she felt stirred in her chest and she pressed her hand over her heart, as she fought to quell it.

There were a few others on the street, but it was ten to seven, and it was cold enough people were taking their time to get where they wanted to be.  Shin tended to be very informal when formality wasn’t stipulated, and that included roads without lanes or signage, that trusted people to fend for themselves and watch where they were going.  It meant the work week was often a flexible thing.  Obviously someone couldn’t not go to work at all, but arriving a few hours late, staying an extra few hours?  That was fine.

A girl, who couldn’t have been more than eleven, stepped back in alarm as Chris’s shaggy gray form emerged from the flurry of snow.  Instinctively, reactively, she bowed into a kind of curtsy.  The mother seemed paralyzed, caught between getting the child to straighten and not wanting to offend, and ended up bowing as well, head down, as the group passed.  The smaller children simply looked bewildered.

Until Hunter approached, energetic, and bowed too, hands extending forward as part of the bow.  Nervous, they took her hands, and Hunter straightened, lifting their hands and pulling them to a standing-straight position again.

If they’d been reassured by the gentleness of the action, it didn’t show.  It was easily possible the manic look in Hunter’s eyes unnerved them.

Hunter half-skipped, half danced away from the family.  Catching up with the rest of the group for the twelfth time.

Marquis caught her, with his own bit of flourish and reaching hand.  Hunter accepted, and Marquis drew the girl closer, one hand on her shoulder, steadying her, bending low to say something.

And for another instant, Amy could fuzz her eyes, look past Hunter but still see her, snow in blonde hair, snow in eyelashes, a smile on her face, no care in the world.

Just about everyone recharged in their own separate ways, Amy mused.

Hunter wasn’t one of those people.  In this state, she had no recharge or need to recharge, drawing energy from a bottomless well.  It made her hard to deal with, because they had to take shifts to keep an eye on her. Most often, it was Amy and someone else.  Amy and Marquis.  Amy and Mark.  Amy and Chris.  Each came with their own anxieties.  Marquis was the bad influence.  Chris the worse one.  Mark was too good an influence, which made Amy think he’d turn Hunter against her.  She hadn’t wanted to brainwash the girl, that wasn’t how she operated.  She’d kept it at the minimum possible level to keep Hunter in a place where she could help her, and that level was a place where Mark could say the wrong thing or stir doubts.  Too much time with Dot would make this new Hunter even more unhinged.  Too much time with Marquis would make the girl a villain.  Too much time with Chris would make her a monster.  Too much time with Mark would lead to a day Amy got the alert Hunter had run away or gone back home.

Easier to take care of it herself, to take as much time as she could supervising and trying to fix her damn power’s mess.  Amy would never say it out loud, but she was the closest thing to a sane person here, just about the closest thing to a good person when all of her good deeds were taken in aggregate.  The most human, in all her flaws.  And she was steadfast, she didn’t run, she stuck to her commitments.

Hunter needed her.

Dot slept, and she slept a lot, and she burned that energy in fits and bursts.  Amy envied that life, in a way.  She would have liked to be able to sleep easily.  To not spend nights battling her thoughts and doubts, fighting to find that one thing to cling to that would let her get through the night, so she could get through the next day.  Because if she couldn’t get through the next day, it implied mistakes, it implied the world had beaten her down enough, harangued and harassed her, to the point that she stumbled.  And a stumble meant more nights wrestling with her thoughts.  It meant more nights spent having to find that one thing she could say to herself that would let her rest easy.

Chris needed time alone.  Simple enough.  Amy could kind of understand that.  Maybe in another universe, that would be her.  Not now, not when anxiety swelled with every second spent on her own.  She had spent very little time alone over the years, going from being with her biological mother to Marquis to the Dallons, to being with Victoria much of the time.  The times she’d first been truly alone had been when Victoria had been starting to date Dean, the next logical step in Carol’s 1001-step plan to train Victoria to be a classic superheroine.

Having Dot around helped.  It meant she was rarely truly alone, even if her company was someone who could be sucking on a lollipop big enough to fill the entire interior of her mouth in one moment, and sitting in a corner crunching the bones and chewing on the gristle of some mouse she’d just killed in the next.

Marquis, for lack of a better way of getting it right in her head, luxuriated.  Tea, a nice drink at a nice establishment, an evening with a refined woman or spent refining one, or sitting and reading fine literature, which all seemed more exhausting than recharging to Amy.  Shin was a new place with new things for the foreign aesthete to explore.  Clothing was the most recent area of study, and he had a new article of clothing every time she saw him.  One in three times she saw him, he would have a gift for her.  The coat and scarf she wore now were his gifts to her.  He could give her those gifts and gently worded support and reassurance, but he couldn’t help her find a way to recharge.  They were similar in so many ways, but not in that.

Mark fought an uphill battle, with exercise, time alone and time with others seeming to carry him two steps forward, one step back.  He seemed better about it when he was with Carol, but he wasn’t always a better person with Carol.  She could kind of understand and empathize with that.  He didn’t give her any answers, but he gave her reassurance that at least someone else was struggling.

No.  Recharging wasn’t easy.  Different for everyone, hard to impossible for some.  Amy had it hard.

Like Mark, Amy had a few things that could help in small ways, but in isolation, it a two steps forward, one step back thing.  That might have sounded like it was still progress, but it wasn’t.  Not when the rest of the world dragged her down, when things went wrong, like they had with Hunter, like political shifts, Goddess getting more aggressive, and Teacher’s maneuvering.  Breakthrough coming for a visit.

So it became one step forward, two steps back, in the end.  Decline, pressure, misery, those fucking disappointed looks that people gave her, whether they were her own family, professionals, or the party leaders of Shin who had talked to Miss Militia.  A forced downward spiral that took away her focus at a critical moment, or made her slip in her word choice.  Not that she’d ever been ‘gifted with gab’, as Marquis put it.

Amy pressed her hand over her heart, looking at that image of Hunter, still enough in this moment she could be looked at from behind and mistaken for Victoria.

If all she had were glimpses and pretending, then that was what she would nourish herself with.  To recharge, to fight back against that losing battle where the world fought so hard against her.

Chris had had his laboratory moved to the capitol, to be closer to the portal in case something happened.  In response, a lot of the capitol had moved away.  It left some room for Gimel’s population to settle, but for the most part, buildings were being emptied and left empty.  Dark in the gloom of pre-sunrise.

Well, by the look of it, the sunrise was starting.

They had been given a few buildings, and one of those buildings was the dormitory, for lack of a better way of putting it.  It was an apartment, a building brutal in how its architecture had been carved out, like much of the rock had been left raw.  The opposite face was refined, decorated with the faint relief of one quarter of a stone face, a wide-open eye, brow, forehead, and part of a nose.

Adjacent, squat and low to the ground, was Chris’s lab. Atop it was a disproportionately large woman, kneeling with head bowed, hair hiding her face, hands clutched to her chest.

Amy hadn’t asked for it and hadn’t ever said anything about it, but for that statue alone, she was secretly glad that this was their starting point for what came next.

They filed into the lab, pausing in the lobby to shake off the worst of the snow.  The shaking stirred Dot awake.  Amy was brushing away the snow that had collected at the tops of her boots when Dot stretched, side of her body against the nape of Amy’s neck, entire body trembling with the force of the stretch.  She wormed her way out of the scarf.

“Nothing important’s happening,” Amy told the girl.  Her own heartbeat betrayed the lie.  She clarified, “Not just yet.”

The lobby was dark, with desks meant to be staffed by receptionists, were the building serving its original purpose.  They walked past them to the stairwells, which led up to the second floor, and down into the more expansive basement.

Chris tapped a button with a monstrous paw.  Lights flared dark orange, then changed to a softer glow.

The lab had people in pods.  Not many- ten.  All of the people were nearly identical.  Androgyne, with features, skin color, and proportions that looked like they had been pulled from the average of the world’s population.  The stock had been from a slave class created at Bianca’s instruction.  Easily trained, docile, and expendable.  They looked human, but Amy had investigated, and she had verified, they had less emotional intelligence and less self than even a dog.  Intelligence in other, necessary ways, yes.

All short haired, all fairly tan by default, all wearing what looked like white t-shirts and boxers, with a stripe of red down the center of each shirt, down the sides of each set of boxers.

As part of her negotiation with Chris, she had made the treatment of these creatures a major point.  For the most part, they were kept warm, happy, entertained, and safe.  If Chris wanted to experiment on one, he had to ask.

Which served a double purpose of ensuring Chris didn’t disappear into his labs altogether, never emerging again.  He had to maintain connections.

Chris loped over, opening four pods.  “Four to start?”

He was already in the midst of the lab, but Amy had stopped halfway down the stairwell, with an overview of it all.

“I don’t-” Amy started.  She stopped herself, glancing up at Marquis, who had just stepped through the threshold to the .  “Okay.  Four to start.”

Assertiveness.

Two boys, two girls.  One woke at the sound of Chris’s voice.  The rest woke when he opened the tinted glass pods.  Temperature controlled, with airflow.

Then he opened another.  Waking a girl.  He cast a glance up in Amy’s direction, challenging.  Like he was testing something, checking something.

“Why that one?” she asked.

“Just in case,” he said.  The four he’d already woken looked wary at how large he was, but when he pointed, they ducked their heads down and hurried

“You’re being cagey again, Lab Rat,” Marquis commented, from the top of the stairwell.

“I’m always cagey.”

“You’re always cagey when you’re the subject of a conversation, but you’re aggressive when someone else is.  If you’re being cagey, that means this is about you.”

“Mistakes happen.  If we need to do a quick replacement of one that goes to pieces, I’d rather have a fifth prepped and waiting.  If you think this is about me, it’s about me knowing I’m not perfect.”

“No,” Marquis said.  “That’s not it.”

“Well, if you’re not going to put your finger on what it is, can I get to work?”

Amy had wanted to come to look at the would-be patients.  The slave stock.  To make sure she was a part of this, and do what vain little she could to keep it on a good course.

“What can I do?” she asked.

Chris rumbled, “Nothing.  Right now, I have to turn on the generators.  Prep them, load up the programs.   I’ll be half an hour.”

“I’m worried about you doing things in secret.”

“Trust me,” Chris said.  “There’s nothing I can do in twenty minutes that’s even close to the scale we’re talking about.”

Amy glanced at Marquis, who smiled.  “I believe him.”

“I like how you check with your father,” Chris taunted. “You told me once it was you in charge.”

“A second opinion from a trusted party is smart.  I wouldn’t think less of her,” Marquis said.

“Do you know what’s smarter?” Chris asked.  “Trust nobody.”

“Perhaps.  But for now, I’ll check on our soldiers.  Let’s see if they woke up when called.  If this works, spies and telltale cameras will tell our opposition what we’re up to, and they may react.  Let’s ensure we’re ready if they come for us.”

“Don’t stir up anything with my picks.”

“I’ll tell them to get ready and stand by, nothing else,” Marquis said.  “If I say anything else, Flashbang can handle it.”

Again, it sounded taunting, aimed at Chris, aimed at Mark.

Mark, unresponsive, turned around and left, going the way he’d come.

Amy watched for a few minutes longer.

Doing what Riley had done, prior to Gold Morning.  Which had led into Valkyrie’s flock in the second attempt.

Just… with less of a mind to preserving the masks, as Hunter had termed them.

“Hunter and I are stepping outside,” Marquis said.  “We need to have a conversation.”

“Do I need to be a part of this conversation?”

“No,” he said.

Amy nodded, stiff.  That anxiety crept its way in, taking hold.  She had no legitimate reason to mistrust him, but…

“I’ll come.  Can I come?” Dot piped up.  “I want to hang with Hunter.”

“It shouldn’t be a problem,” Marquis said.

Dot leaped across to the highest stair she could reach, crossing about four or five stairs at once.  Once she landed, though, climbing was hard.  There was no railing, and each stair was almost as tall as Dot was.  She bounced up, stair by stair, until reaching Hunter’s foot, at which point she scrambled up Hunter’s side, into Hunter’s coat.

Marquis and Hunter left.  The last glimpse Amy had of Hunter was of her smiling, laughing, as Dot sprang up from her coat collar.

Leaving Amy alone, for the most part.

She watched as Chris did his thing, efficient in his movements despite his monstrous form.  Typing, adjusting chemicals and pumps, then typing more.

“The fifth one is for you,” Chris intoned.

Amy stiffened.  She looked at the one patient who was still sitting in her pod.  The others were drinking medication Chris had given them.  Preparation.  He’d walked her through a mock version of the process a week ago.

“You’ve thought about it,” Chris said.  “Marquis thought this was a selfish move for me.  It might be.  This is important and I don’t trust you to not get in the way when it counts.  You have selfish moves you want to make, too.  Make them.”

Amy felt her balance shift, like she might fall into or down the stairs, or over the railing-less edge onto the hard floor below.

She twisted, touching the wall for stability, and headed up the stairs.

“Amy,” he said.

She stopped, setting her jaw, not looking at Chris or the patients.  “How many more minutes?  Twenty?”

“There are very few people who know how this all fits together.  Who know what it might look like in twenty-four hours.  The world is going to end again.  Again, you know what’s coming.  This time you’re in a position to get in front of it.”

“I won’t get in the way,”she said.  Too quiet for an ordinary person to hear, but the shape he wore had good ears.

She felt so fucking alone.  Dot’s absence, Hunter’s presence, Marquis and Mark as two people each with maybe forty percent of a functional father in them.

“Breakthrough will be there.  You will run into Antares.  You won’t get in the way at this stage, but what happens then?”

Amy clutched at her chest with the one hand, fingernails digging into breast and collarbone, short as they were.

“If you think there’s some kind of disaster looming, I could call this off,” Amy said.  She looked down at Chris.  “You need me for the last step, don’t you?”

“That’s exactly what I’m talking about.  Thanks for bringing it to surface.  Hunter’s not wrong, about her talk of masks, and what happens when someone like you takes the mask off.”

He was going to say something else, but Amy fled.

Upstairs, into the lobby.  She had no warm little goblin to keep her scarf snug against her neck or around her ears, and as she stepped out into the cold, lonely snowstorm, she couldn’t get her scarf to a good position.

She saw the army.  Men and women with masks, wearing winter clothing.  The ones who’d stepped outside had done so to smoke.  They were awake after all, ready if they were needed.  No sign of Marquis or Hunter.

Dot would tell her what Marquis and Hunter had talked about.  Dot couldn’t keep secrets to save her life.  Not unless those secrets pertained to her Queen or her King.

Amy ventured toward the villains, but she wasn’t sure she trusted herself.  She didn’t trust them, and she’d placed biological imperatives in each of them, to quiet bloodlust and regulate emotion.  The last week had been her final push to get that done.

But Chris’s words chased her, bothered her more than they should have.

The idea that Breakthrough was out there and Breakthrough was involved was enough that she worried she might panic.  Deadlines, pressure, and a pressing need to be better, before she saw Victoria again.  Because Victoria would see anything, anything as an excuse.

And as that idea and deadline took hold, Chris’s words, she felt, were tugging her the opposite way.

It had been a little while since she’d felt this way during the daylight hours.  Pre-Birdcage, Gold Morning.  The family barbecue.  Visiting Antares in prison.  Like she felt in the small and lonely hours of night, alone with thoughts she didn’t like, desperately trying to penetrate that horrible, confused mess, to gather ideas around herself that made it make sense and made it something she could handle.

The alternative, when those moments came, was that she didn’t find the magic answer.  That her body or her power would do something on impulse.  That she’d force something when precision was needed, or instinct would take over, and she’d find herself behind an angry Victoria that wouldn’t even look at her.  And the prison-

She shook her head.

She could handle it.  Because there was no other choice.

I’m not crazy, she told herself.  Where was Hunter, where was Dot?

I’m a good person, she thought.  Where was Mark?

I can manage this.  Where was Marquis?

She found herself heading toward the villains, but that in itself was anxiety-inducing, especially when she didn’t feel like herself.

“Amy!” the voice was distant.

Her dad’s voice.

And she didn’t think of Mark as being her dad often.  Only when she needed the label, and only when she was in need, like a desperate child reaching out for a parent.

Mark was outside another building, talking to a gray-haired woman who was smoking a cigarette.  He was smoking too, Amy realized, and that kind of surprised her.

Just a block away, past snowfall too heavy to see anything distinct in, Amy could see the dull red haze of traffic.

“What’s this?” Amy asked.  She sounded nothing like a Red Queen, entirely like an Amy.

This is a woman from Gimel’s government,” Mark said.  “She’s managing the influx of refugees.  It was Elizabeth Bagley, I think?”

The woman nodded.  Amy still felt bewildered.  The woman held out a hand.  “Directions, gas, medication, keeping traffic clear-”

Amy took hold of the hand.  Elizabeth Bagley’s biology, top to bottom, even vague brain structure, cell life, the cultures in her gut, all flooded into Amy’s awareness.

“-But none of that would be possible without your help.”

“I didn’t really do much,” Amy said.  She felt like she hadn’t changed an iota from when she’d been Panacea.

How many others heard their superhero name, past or present, and cringed, thinking of how weak they had been?

“The medication was your doing, wasn’t it?  We’re handing out one pill to everyone waiting to come through.  They won’t get sick for a year, we’re told?”

“The monoculture,” Amy murmured.  “They won’t get sick for a year, maybe two years.  When they do, they should already have some antibodies against local pathogens.”

“It’s a lifesaver.  You’re a lifesaver,” the woman said.  She held Amy’s hand in both of hers.  “I know someone in the Wardens, I know most of what they do passes without comment or congratulations.  I didn’t want that to be the case here.”

Amy nodded.  The words meant so much more than the woman could have known.

Closing her eyes for a moment, she focused on that point of contact.  She cleared the woman of pre-cancerous lesions she could see in the brain and gut, stemming from a parasite that had come cross-portal in the wake of the portal attacks.  It was something authorities had already begun warning people to get checked for, before other distractions had mandated the evacuation.  A month or two of chemotherapy or radiation would have probably done the trick, but they would have been miserable, pain-filled months.  The brain cancer in particular could have caused permanent damage.

They exchanged a few more words, Mark asking about the process, the refugees, and the settlement.  Elizabeth was staying in one of the evacuated buildings close to the portal, to better manage those passing through.

“Thank you again,” Elizabeth Bagley told Amy.

Amy nodded.  “It’s the least I could do.”

“Then I look forward to seeing what you can do if this is what you consider ‘least’,” Elizabeth said, smiling.

Don’t say that, Amy thought, and the thought was strong enough that it overrode any attempt to put words in her own mouth, or to come up with a civil response.

And Elizabeth was already going, heading over to other staff managing refugees.

“I thought you needed that,” Mark said.  Quieter, he said, “It’s why I’m here.  Making sure you have those reminders.”

She wondered how much he was having to remind himself of why he was here.

But she didn’t voice that wondering.

Hunter had been talking about masks, and Amy was starting to see why it was important.  This… this did nothing to nourish that numbness deep inside her, the cold loneliness.  A goblin could warm the back of her neck, a father’s hand on one shoulder could support and have its own warmth, a dad’s hand on the other…

But the mask helped in other ways.  It let her be the healer again, the heroine, when she’d been so close to having nothing between the uncomfortable inner self and the uncompromising outside world.  To have a mask was to have a barrier.  Not thin kevlar and cloth, no hardened ceramics or steel, no decoration.  More like a witch doctor’s mask in the movies, inch-thick at the very least, more like a shield with eyeholes, or an animal skull she could wear while peering through the eyeholes.

Protection.  Defense.

Not just protecting the inside from the out, but the other way around too.

“I want to be a healer, for… just the next twenty minutes.  Take my mind off things.”

“It’s been a little while.  You lost your confidence.  You feel confident again?”

No.

“Yes.  And I need this.”

“I think we can arrange it,” Mark said.  “This way.”

Merciful distraction.  It took her mind off the deadline Chris had implied.  The imminent meeting she wasn’t ready for.

Only once in recent memory had it gone anywhere close to the way she wanted it to.  A fleeting moment, like the stars had aligned.

And when the only people willing to give her any benefit of a doubt were villains and lunatics, when even Victoria insisted on treating her like she’d done the worst thing imaginable, she was left with the simple question: if she was going to be treated like the worst person imaginable whatever she did, and she was strong enough that if she really cut loose, nobody would stand in her way…

What was really stopping her from forcing those moments?  From making it so life was just a continuous flow of those moments, one after another, the stars permanently aligned?

Except for the fact that she was a good person.

One Week Ago

“You misunderstood,” Amy said, her voice tense.

“My English is quite good, Red Queen,” the Doctor replied.  “Both you and the Lab Rat were clear in your expectations.  I faced a risk, being so close to someone this powerful and unpredictable, doing what I did.”

“She’s going to be so mad,” Amy said, quiet.  “You misunderstood.”

The doctor looked like he was getting incensed.  But he stopped short of yelling at her.

“Would you leave us alone?”

“So you do want this?” the doctor asked.  “At least don’t pretend you didn’t, or that-”

“Please,” Amy said, firmer.

The doctor went silent.

And then he left.

The door banged closed.

Amy turned to look at Victoria, who slept on the cot.  Unconscious.

Dot clambered up Amy’s neck, peering over her shoulder.

And Amy reached up, touching Dot’s face, finding Dot’s lips, where there wasn’t as much fur to reach past with her power.

Dot playfully bit Amy’s finger, and the contact with tongue was sufficient for Amy to tranquilize the goblin.

She set Dot aside, on the tray of medical instruments, gently, tugging the little goblin’s colorful dress into place, so it wouldn’t ride up or cut off circulation.

“I just wanted a moment with you where you weren’t being unreasonable or glaring.  Being accusatory, holding on to old grudges.  Carol still hates Marquis, you know?  You got the grudge thing from her.  And he never really hurt her.  Never attacked her.  He did what he needed to do in the moment, ran his gang like a business in a time period when violent criminals like the Teeth and Slaughterhouse Nine had kind of been the norm.  He gets a bit of credit for bringing a measure of civility to Brockton Bay.”

Victoria was utterly still in repose.  This moment was the eye of the storm, the stars aligning, all thanks to a doctor who hadn’t listened to her, or who had taken a suggestion from Lab Rat.  Preceded by Victoria barging into the prison, and sure to be followed by more rage, more grudges.  Maybe.

But for the moment?  She could force everything out of mind and she could exist in the now.  For the first time in four years she didn’t feel like half a person.

She hadn’t wanted this, after all.

But she’d needed it.

“From the way Carol detests him, you’d think he was worse than the Slaughterhouse Nine.  He wasn’t anything close to perfect, but he wasn’t as bad as them.  Daughter and daughter, we’re playing out the exact same storyline.  The insane thing is, if you took away artificial barriers, heroine and villain, they would get along, I think.  It would be an antagonistic friendship, I think that’s just who my father is, but…”

Amy sat on the edge of the bed.  She looked down at Victoria’s arm, which was limp, marred with so many individual scars, wounds.  The more injured hand was bandaged.

Each one of them a rebuke to Amy.  A lasting pain that could have been healed.  Amy held her hand out, tattooed, marked with strands of gold, like the hair draped over the pillow.

“…It’d be exactly the same for us.  We’d get along again, given a real chance.”

Amy touched Victoria’s arm.  A furrow of scar tissue.  Victoria’s image leaped into her mind, top to bottom.  The fatigue, the injuries, the muscles and the muscle memory.  She could tell Victoria had been in physio, that Victoria was taking medication before bed to make it easier to sleep.  Small, controlled amounts.

Amy removed the gouges in Victoria’s right arm.  The muscle damage.  The tears.  Scuffing at the knuckles where Victoria had thrown a few too many punches.  Knitting skin together with care and tenderness.

Bruising at the ribs.  Lung damage from inhaling smoke, a few weeks ago.

Amy touched the side of Victoria’s face.  Eye damage from too many bright lights or flares.  Victoria didn’t have Carol’s resistance to flashes.  The eye was a complex machine.  Amy fixed it.

Then the other arm.  A bullet wound in the bicep.  Healed over, but the muscle would never be as strong as it had once been.  And the most recent wound, the skinning of the back of Victoria’s hand.  The degloving of two fingers.  The skin wouldn’t heal.  Too much abuse, too recently.

Amy unwrapped the bandage as she regrew skin.  She pulled stitches free, and took the skin that was being pushed free by the new growth.  She paused, noting the missing fingernail, and picked through sheets for a few seconds, trying to find where it had fallen.

Didn’t matter.  If Amy couldn’t find it, Victoria wouldn’t either.

What mattered was that lying there, sedated, Victoria seemed to rest just a little bit easier.

Amy gave Victoria love again.  She reached for the brain and she took down walls with more care than she had the last time.

She stared down at Victoria’s face, burning it into memory.  She wanted to think it looked just a bit more at ease than it had been when the pain and the tension had been lifted, and the body wasn’t working so hard on the little things.  That the micro-adjustments in Victoria’s face were because a girl with love in her heart slept better than one without.

Leaning over, hesitating for one second, she bent down, and kissed Victoria on the lips.  Letting go of Victoria’s arm, she made the kiss the single point of contact, through which she kissed Victoria’s whole being.

She lay down on the cot, her face inches from Victoria’s, her hand at the side of Victoria’s face.

If she took too long, she knew, Victoria would wonder and suspect.

So she gave herself fifty-nine seconds like this.  Shy of a minute, because a minute felt like a milestone, and a milestone felt like an excuse to take more seconds, a second minute.

Her hand found Victoria’s arm, and as she sat up, pulled away, her fingers traced a line from elbow to fingertip.  And in the course of that journey, she restored Victoria’s internal barriers and grudges, she let the artificial healing dissolve, and the wounds return.  The wound at Victoria’s hand slurped up the stitches, which swam through skin like they might through water, finding their place.

“See?” Amy asked, her voice a whisper.  “I’m in control.”

A flicker of Hunter passed through her mind’s eye.  The manic look in the child’s eye.

She pushed it out of mind.  Too dangerous to dwell on.  Small mercies it hadn’t happened while she’d been going through the motions of proving to herself and to Victoria’s body that there wouldn’t be any repeat occurances, which was-

Her hand trembled slightly.  She rubbed it with the other, thumb hard as it massaged the hand, rubbing along the golden portions of the tattoos.

-not even a factor.  With this personal victory, this triumph, she had all the confidence in the world that the next time she saw Hunter, she would be able to mend what was broken.

“I’m in control.  So there’s no need to be afraid.”

Now

“Don’t be afraid.  Be calm,” Amy murmured.

She was working blind, in a way.  A monitor to the left showed one series of waves and numbers.  A monitor to the right showed another.  Strings of A, G, C, T.

One adjustment, and the screen to the left shifted, flaring red, or shifted, flaring green.

Step by step, getting the measures and recordings to match the ones on the right.

She did other work.  Altering the body, helping it on its way.  Altering the mind.  Bringing it up to speed.  This figure had been dumber than a dog, before, less personality, and now… very close to human.  A man, now.

“We’re close enough,” Chris said, so close behind her that she could feel his hot breath on her neck.  Her skin crawled.

“Personal space, Chris.”

He snorted, which was pronounced, because his form was anteater-like, with a pronounced snout.  Large ears, and narrow eyes.  Its torso, however, was cadaverous, ribs exposed, organs and other sacs floating in a clear blob that the ribcage and pelvis held.

He stepped away, and he picked up a syringe, which was attached to a hose.

“Do what you can to steer,” he said.  “But control is paramount.”

Amy looked back over her shoulder.  Mark wasn’t there.  He was looking after Hunter.  Marquis was there.  Which was fitting, considering this didn’t feel like something a good person would be pulling.

The sound of machines chugging to life drew her attention back to what she was doing.  Fluids were flowing in…

And she was suddenly working in a flowing river.  Form became mutable, less something solid she was changing, and more something fluid she was trying to hold on to.

Control was paramount, as Chris had said.  Control meant the brain, the blocks, the loyalty and obedience.

The figure grew.  Not so unusual for what Lab Rat usually did.

But this growth… it was an unmasking.  As Hunter had implied, these were people with nothing but the powers and the meat to hold those powers in this world.

Where Hunter had gone wrong was that Amy had been in charge of the girl, had altered the mind to alter the power, and let something in by accident.  Removing it was too hard, because what had opened could not be closed.

Now they did the same thing, but with form.  They did it intentionally.

“Who is it?” Amy belatedly asked, as the figure grew so tall she could touch only the leg.

“Chevalier.  Courtesy of one trip Breakthrough made to the Warden’s Headquarters.  I had my ‘gaming device’ with me.  Stole a scan of the big man.”

The man moved.  A giant, now.  And as he moved, she could feel how he existed in three places at once.  Overlapping, shifting qualities between forms.  She could feel through him how he touched the floor and sensed its qualities, reached out for the wall-

“Don’t!” she called out.  She pulled away, stepping back.

The giant obeyed.  Second by second, however, it continued to come apart.  She worried it would collapse into constituent parts, but it didn’t.  A storm of overlapping identities and bodies.  And one piercing eye, as it focused its gaze and looked down at her.

With every step she took backwards, the figure seemed to clarify.  She took a step forward, and saw it separate apart again.

Not wholly of this world’s rules.  Closer to Chevalier’s power than Chevalier himself.

One giant leap closer to having their hands in the meat and gristle of this alien biology.  When she looked at Chris, the man was smiling.  Her own heart pounded, and she didn’t not feel like smiling, herself.

It was a victory.  She laid her hand over her heart, fingers digging in.

We did it.

Did you want me to do this, Princess Shaper? she asked, knowing her power would never answer.  Was that why it was easier than fixing my sister’s body?

Of course there was silence.

“Three more,” Chris said.  “Then we break for lunch.  Seven more by the end of the day.”

Amy nodded, exhaling.

“Shin’s leadership will be happy.  Tools and weapons like these.”

Amy nodded.

“I’ll pass on the good news,” Marquis said.  “I’m sure they’re anxious.”

“Thank you, Marquis,” Chris said, sounding too formal, simultaneously almost jovial, even though the eye contact he made with Amy was level, cold.

The door closed above them.  Amy stared up at the shifting giant.

It had to be Endbringer strong.

They would have nine more by the day’s end.

“If you wanted to treat yourself, I wouldn’t begrudge you,” Chris said.

“I don’t-” Amy started.  “No idea what you mean.”

He lunged, moving closer, and she backed up.  She gave a thought to asking the shifting giant for help, and then thought twice of it.  If it was as strong as she suspected, it would destroy everything in the course of saving her.

She backed up until she hit a wall.  The bestial Chris planted a hairy paw to the right of her head, another paw to the left.

“Personal space,” she said, and the words were tense.  No words came out as Chris moved his prehensile nose to her shirt collar, pushing it aside.

Pushing past bra strap-

She jolted, hand lunging forward, to his mouth.  To lip-

The prehensile nose caught her arm, twisting her fingers back.  Too hairy to use her power through.  Her knees bent.

“Don’t be stupid,” he said.  “This is a friendly gesture from me.”

“Don’t touch her,” Amy hissed.  She was as ready to use her power to harm as she had ever been.

He pulled at her collar, moving it aside, then moved her bra strap, so it crossed the bridge of her shoulder.  There was nothing sexual to the action.

Just… exposing that little section of skin that Amy had picked up a week ago, pulsing softly as it breathed, resting at the space over her heart.  It hugged her skin, drinking the nutrients off of her skin, and eating the bacteria.

“If you haven’t corrupted the DNA, you could use it.  I’ve looked over Bonesaw’s work with the clones, I could try implanting memories.  You can have Victoria, with all the memories you want her to have, or none of the memories you don’t want to have.  Guilt free.”

“No,” Amy said.

“Why not?”

“Because this is enough.”

“Is it?” he pressed her, his monstrous face too close to hers.

It wasn’t.

“It’ll have to be,” she said.

“If you tell me no now, if you won’t turn our tidy little human-shaped package of human-derived cells over there into a Victoria that satisfies you, I don’t want you to go off the deep end when the other Victoria Dallon shows up.  Because she will.”

“I’ll manage.”

“I don’t think you will.”

“Being near me makes her miserable.  Being near her makes me miserable, because she’s so fucked up, she’s surrounded by all the wrong influences, and I can’t fix that without outright kidnapping her.”

“So kidnap her.”

“And have the Wardens after me?  The rest of Breakthrough?”

“You’re strong enough.”

“I’m- maybe.  But I’m not good enough, not from a skill standpoint.  I’m not a natural heroine.  But I think I am good.  I am capable of saying… it would make too many people too unhappy.”

“My opinion?” Chris asked, his voice a growl.  “You’re lying to yourself.  Same as when you said you could fix Hunter.  Same as when you said you could fix the politician with an ear taking up half his head.  Same as when you failed to fix Victoria, and embarrassed just about every biology-manipulator, doctor, and tinker in the western hemisphere.  You’re telling yourself one thing, living in the latest daydream, but the moment you turn around and face reality… you’re going to mess up.”

He was provoking her.  Baiting her.

“You set rules for yourself,” he hissed each word.  “But your rules exist for nothing… except to be broken.”

She stared him down, still angry.  This- This had been just for her.  The one time in her life that she’d allowed herself to be selfish.

“The politicians from Shin are going to want to see our handiwork,” she said.  “It would be best if you let me get decent.”

He let go, releasing her, and he walked away.  A needle plunged into his neck, prompting the start of a change to another form.  He’d wanted the prehensile nose, she imagined, to sniff out Victoria’s location.

“Fuck reality,” Amy said, to his back.  Chris stopped.

I have no mask, not for the moment.

She fixed her bra strap, being careful to put it where it helped support that small trace of Victoria she kept with her without pinching anything, then began buttoning up her top again.  “We’re making interdimensional weapons of war.  Let’s put this reality as far behind us as we can.”

Chris rumbled, a sound that could have been a chuckle or a rueful sound.

“Next subject,” he growled out the words.  “It’s someone you know.”

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121 thoughts on “From Within – 16.z”

  1. – “Too much time with Chris would make her a monster.” I don’t know who’s the REAL monster here: Chris, the clone of Lab Rat- a crazy serial killer- who doesn’t WANT to be like that monster and instead want to be a better person and is pretty SANE comparing with the original Lab (he makes experiments on clones NOT on real people. I don’t see anything evil here besides he’s helping Shin to survive. He protects their people against forces that might threaten their planet) OR Amy, a girl who can’t stop having erotic fantasies with the sister that she tortured and raped, who can’t stop stalking her while she unconscious and do things like this “Leaning over, hesitating for one second, she bent down, and kissed Victoria on the lips.” Or think something disgusting like this: “Being near me makes her miserable. Being near her makes me miserable, because she’s so fucked up, she’s surrounded by all the wrong influences, and I can’t fix that without outright kidnapping her.”

    Amy is the real monster here and her influence over Hunter might be what will destroy the poor girl in the future, not Marquis or Chris’ influence as she keeps believing in her sick, blind to the truth and reality mind.

    The more I read Amy interludes the most I like her character but I HATE her as person. My hate for her is fast reaching Cradle and Teacher’s proportions which is not a good sign.

    What a work of genius in creating such creepy and disturbing character which is Amy.

  2. Well Amy you’re now so far past the deep end you can’t even see the pool.
    But hey I suppose now Victoria is going to get the chance to literally punch her younger self in the face.
    Glory Girl vs Antares! Winner take all!

  3. You get an Endbringer, and you get an Endbringer, and you get an Endbringer… Everybody gets a typo thread instead:
    “through the threshold to the .”
    “ducked their heads down and hurried”
    Missing words/punctuation.

    1. > I’ll be half an hour.
      Too many spaces before this sentence. And shouldn’t it be something like “It’ll be half an hour.”, or “I’ll be ready in half an hour.”? Or is “I’ll be half an hour.” good enough for formal conversation?

      Judging from context all three instances of the word “capitol” in this chapter should be “capital” instead.

      > “I won’t get in the way,”she said.
      Missing space before “she”.

  4. I don’t know about other people but I WANT to read a book from Amy’s perspective. I’m a big fan of horror- the more horror is something the more I like- and nothing else is more horrifying than reading Amy’s internal monologue and watching her actions.

  5. Ok, so how likely is it that Amy pushed Victoria right into Wretchie’s arms, on a scale of ‘well, duh’ to ‘oh my gooooood’ ?
    Not sure if this will eventually help or destroy the world, so… thanks for messing with it, totally sane and good person who’s not crazy !

  6. Here’s a crazy possibility – could Victoria die at some point, and not only that, could her body be completely destroyed, and end up being “resurrected” as a clone thanks to that bit of her skin Amy kept? Or did Amy intentionally corrupt the DNA in that skin beyond her ability to repair to avoid the temptation?

    Also who do you think could be the person Amy knows, Chris has a scan on DNA sample of, and is powerful enough that their clone can be used as an “interdimentional weapon”?

    1. Apropos temptation, I’ve been defending Amy as much as I could, but that fifty nine seconds when Amy messed with Victoria’s unconscious body in the prison, only to put it back mostly the way it was and say “See? I’m in control”? That was in my opinion one of the greatest moments of her defeat. She may have been in control of her power then, but not her urges. Not for these fifty nine seconds when she indulged herself. To make it worse it was revealed that it was neither the first nor the last time she did it – after Gold Morning she didn’t undo Victoria’s artificial love for her, only hid it beyond the barriers. She also kept, and is still keeping a bit of Victoria’s flesh. All of it to indulge herself.

      No matter what she tells herself, Amy wasn’t a good person, but a weak one. Too weak to resist her temptation. And I’m afraid that her path to redemption (if at all possible) will be a long and painful one.

      1. Apropos redemption, I never thought that I would say that, especially about a character in a Parahumans story, but I have this irrational feeling that while prosecutor and a therapist should probably take interest in Amy’s case, what she really needs right now is a priest.

        1. The more I read about Amy, the less I believe that she’ll ever get redemption. She seems to drift far away from every hope of redemption, unfortunately.
          Not even a priest can save her lost soul.

      2. I get the impression that Amy is the one calling Victoria’s rejection of Amy as a lover “barriers”. I think they’re just mostly normal social/biological barriers people have towards family, genders opposite to their orientation and people they’re simply not attracted to… Together with whatever barriers Victoria has raised in addition from the trauma she’s suffered at Amy’s hands and… indulgences.

        That’s the real issue here. You can’t fault the mind or the heart for it’s desires but you can fault anyone for “taking off the mask” and giving into those impulses without a thought or care for those they’re hurting. That’s what Cradle had, absolutely no human empathy, but he learned to sort of fake and emulate it to fit in, because he’d learned that it could impact him personally when he didn’t, But he dropped it when it didn’t suit his purposes and he thought it couldn’t impact him. Good people have that empathy and don’t drop it when they think it won’t impact them. When Amy said she wouldn’t kidnap Victoria and brainwash her, she didn’t give any excuses about it simply not being right or cruel, she just gave excuses about how she couldn’t get away with it or pull it off.

        1. Re. the nature of Victoria’s barriers. Your interpretation would certainly fit what Mockument’s mockery of Victoria suggested in chapter 16.4 – that somewhere deep down Vicky is still very much in love with Amy, and is simply in denial about it or otherwise restricted by what in this interlude Amy called “internal barriers and grudges”. To make it even worse Victoria’s mockery suggested that on some level Victoria wants these “barriers” to be gone, because she would be happier this way.

          I guess one of the biggest fears Victoria may have at the moment, is that this interpretation could be true.

          1. And to make things even more terrifying – what if Victoria was in love with Amy even before that night when Bonesaw broke Amy? What if the only thing that Amy did to Victoria that night was remove her inhibitions that let Victoria realize and express that love the way Amy wanted to?

            And note that if this interpretation came from Amy, we could simply chalk it up as one of her delusions, but since it comes from Mockument’s creation, one has to wonder just how Mockument’s power works. Does it show what the “mocked” person fears about themselves regardless of whether it is true or not, or if what it shows is actually a twisted reflection of true nature of that person?

    2. powerful enough that their clone

      A clone of their shard, to be precise. This isn’t Chevalier right there, but a tweaked-to-obey Destroyer. Through power synergy and fucking tinkering, they’re reproducing whatever shard Eidolon used to create the original set of Endbringers. So, a large step better than Teacher who tinkered up a way to make the avatars obey him in shardspace.
      What could possibly go wrong ? I trust Chris is on top of his game (his tech never really failed in recent memory), Amy… not so much. Poor Hunter.

  7. Amy Shard wish had cluster trigger with Sister Shard. All cool shards doing it. Amy Shard pretend hard but is not same. Very bummer. 😐

  8. A couple more thoughts:

    Looks like “Shaper” (or “Princess Shaper”) is confirmed to be the name of Amy’s shard. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t it just Weaver’s (and fan’s) speculation so far that “shaper” mentioned by Glaistig Uaine in chapter 27.4 of Worm? I also wonder about the “princess” bit. Is this title something that Amy added herself? Or something that Valkyrie told her at some point? Also why a “princess”, not a queen? Could it indicate that Amy’s shard is indeed a bud, and Marquis is the host of its “Queen” or “King” parent?

    I wonder what is the logic behind making Endbringer-strong capes when there is an Earth ready to collapse if someone uses a bit too much power there? Does Amy think that the collapse is that inevitable and that close? Or does she think that she can control the clones so well that there is no chance for them to accelerate the disaster?

    Another possible meaning of “having no mask” (though maybe not the one, or at least not the only one that Hunter and Amy had in mind) could be having your nature exposed to everyone in the dreamscape through a combination of the shared “memory-dream”, the way you look after arrival in the dream-room (or whatever your point of arrival in the dream-space is), what the crystals there show about you to others and/or how the avatar of your shard looks like…

  9. One more thing – if it turns out that Amy and co. can’t control the clones as powerful as the Endbringers, how will they deal with them? What is their contingency plan, if they have any? Will they need to ask Lung for help? Would he help them? That guy may live for challenging fights, but he doesn’t like being told what to do…

      1. Assuming she can touch him if he breaks out of her control. Can we be sure that she will able to do it with any overpowered clone she is planning to make?

        1. I’m referring here at Lung. If she’ll brainwash him to have him under control then she can use him to stop the clones if they’ll ever break her control.

  10. Wait, so Amy is now not only a rapist, but a pedophile as well? Just when you think it can’t get worse, Wibbleboar figures out how to do it.

  11. [Queen Administrator has joined the server]

    Also, Jessica couldn’t get through to Amy, but fortunately for Breakthrough, they met just the person who can. If they survive the next few chapters, Victoria should ask if Mockument feels up for a tour of Shin.

    1. Funny that you mention QA. It was actually the shard I had in mind when I asked Amy’s contingency in case she can’t control her own creation. Remember that, while she does have some ranged options (like creating lethal pathogens – a trick she tried and failed to employ against Bonesaw and Jack Slash in Arcadia) Amy is ultimately a striker, and most uses of her power require her to touch the subject.

      Remember what happened to the last striker who tried to touch QA’s host? Also, how many times has Lung fought against that host? How many of these fights he actually won?

      As for Mockument, I guess it is just one more option we could add to the list of things that I mentioned in the paragraph about possible meanings of “having no mask”.

      1. By the way, if entering QA’s field of control without being mastered becomes necessary, how many people can do it? I can only think of:
        – the ones that aren’t human (like Dragon, Three Blasphemies, Endbringers and Scion),
        – the one who should be safe because of Manton limit (unfortunately this person is most likely on Aleph),
        – …and the one who could do it as long as she had her stranger power on (I prefer my five bucks to stay in my pocket, thank you very much).

      2. One more thing about Mockument – I wonder what the avatar of his agent looks like? Maybe it is a mirror? Similar to the one the (not necessarily Red) Queen from Snow White had, only a bit crooked? I can certainly imagine this agent play a similar role in Ward to the one the mirror played on that Grimm brothers’ tale…

        1. And if the avatar of Mockument’s agent is a crooked mirror, then perhaps we saw it already? Maybe it is the crystal surface of the dreamsacpe? 😉

    2. Mockument making a “mock” of Amy would be frightening… Those things get a degree of the target’s power. So all the parts that Amy hates and hides of her personality (but feels justified about) brought into a being who will just act as Amy with a degree of her power and no qualms about putting on a mask/show of being “good”

      1. Also, for Queen Administrator/Khepri/Taylor to be brought back in this fashion, I suspect either Chris would need a scan or they’d need some DNA from Taylor to clone her, trigger her (probably easy considering the records of everything the bullies did to her were posted from Shadow Stalker’s phone and can be used as seeds for the memories) then scan her and adjust another clone to the Queen Administrator. But yeah, main issue is that Amy would loose control while she’s forming her, same as when she formed Taylor into Khepri… Unless she’s familiar enough now to control the controller through her contact so that she’s effectively using the QA’s power to control herself once it takes hold… Man that feels like a headache of an endless loop.

        The other possibility is a scan of Chicken Little who had a bud from the Queen Administrator.

        1. > Amy would loose control while she’s forming her, same as when she formed Taylor into Khepri…

          Not necessarily. Remember how Taylor stopped Amy from tweaking her mind any further in chapter 30.1 of Worm. She did it by attacking Amy with her insects. Her ability to control people came online only a bit later. If Amy can figure out how to re-create that delay and ensure that the clone has a small, predictable range of people-control power (for example exactly the same 15.85 feet that Taylor ended up with), she can (at least in theory) give Khepri’s clone an ability to control people and run outside the clone’s range before she is mastered.

        2. > Also, for Queen Administrator/Khepri/Taylor to be brought back in this fashion, I suspect either Chris would need a scan or they’d need some DNA from Taylor to clone her

          I think that while cloning Taylor this way is unlikely precisely because Chris would have no way to scan her himself, and for original Lab Rat she was basically just another cape (even if one who meant something to some of the other Birdcage inmates – like Amy), it could be possible if for example the boxes of life-saving juice that Lab Rat distributed before the battle at the oil rig doubled as scanners and DNA sample collectors. The boxes would have to either send everything they recorded (including the DNA sequence) to a safe location (like some Lab Rat’s lab – either the one he set up during GM, or some that survived from pre-GM times), or… Amy would have to keep Taylor’s box as a memento until Lab Rat got his hands on it.

          There is also a possibility that Chris could use scans done by someone else, who understood Taylor’s significance better (Bonesaw comes to mind), but why would they share Khepri’s scans with him?

  12. “This- This had been just for her. The one time in her life that she’d allowed herself to be selfish.”

    …Amy’s catchphrase.

  13. Alfaryn, not sure this will actually reply to you but I believe that Shin probably doesn’t care that much about preserving the power threshold at the moment. Having Endbringer-strong weapons that obey their commands perfectly with a low chance of them trying to enslave their planet probably sounds great to them right about now.

    I do worry, though, that with Teacher’s work and their work combined they’re just making beings that function as the most minimal barrier between vessel and power, which means even a small crack or mishap could allow an agent to just take over and that would obviously be not great.

    1. Shin may not care about power threshold, but perhaps Amy still does? On one hand she, like most people still left on Gimel, is from Bet. On the other hand I can’t help but remember Amy’s slip of tongue in chapter 14.9, when she referred to Gimel as “you”, not “us”…

  14. “Amy would never say it out loud, but she was the closest thing to a sane person here…”

    The entirety of this and the previous chapter says otherwise. I mean holy wow.

  15. > Wait, so Amy is now not only a rapist, but a pedophile as well?

    Nope. Just because a child reminds you of a younger version of somebody you’ve got the hots for doesn’t mean you’re sexually attracted to children.

  16. Someone Amy Knows that Chris scanned… so no-one from Breakthrough if we’re presuming pre-Gm…

    Tattletale? Information feels like a damn good weapon. It’s hard to imagine Chris got a sample of Taylor from anywhere although I guess he got the bud in the form of Chicken Little.

    1. Oh crud… Chris saw Mamma Mathers, so he could have scanned her.

      Don’t think they’d pick Bianca… She was mostly powerful because she’d also gathered the others in her cluster.

  17. So… this is potentially a fucked up opinion, but I can’t help but wonder if Chris is right here.

    If Amy went and made herself a dolly, while kinda fucking creepy and vile, it probably WOULD be enough to get her to leave Vicky alone, and would work fine right up until…. wait, never mind, its a stupid plan.

    I can see why chris is trying to do actions that will “Stabilize” shaper princess. The ethics of his plan gets really corkscrewy (when talking about humans with no real feelings, and cloning, and consent and….), but I can’t say I fault him for looking for ways to stabilize thing.

    Also, I can’t help but wonder what Marquis is up to with Hunter.
    … I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if he was off giving the order to have Victoria killed, on the grounds that he thinks this is the only way for Amelia to have closure. … probably not, but one possibility, and whatever order he was giving, I suspect it was important.
    Also: why did he leave Amy alone with Chris, while knowing Chris was up to something. Weird.

    1. He knows Chris is up to something but he also knows Chris still needs Amy for the other creations to come, that she’s making the creations loyal to her and that Chris would have Marquis and Mark to deal with together with Shin who will likely be angry that he killed the Red Queen that they’ve been the most impressed with thanks to the cases of successful healing. Killing Amy is too much of an inconvenience to Chris. She’s an annoyance in her reluctance to let him just go and do what he wants but he was immensely patient with the therapy and Breakthrough and he’ll be patient with Amy.

      But as for Amy getting her Victoria @%^$ doll. Yeah, I doubt it’d be enough. She’d find all the little differences that clones have from the original to slowly and steadily hate and dislike it until she was simply left more frustrated and lonely. But I think you’re right that Chris is trying to do it to stabalise her somewhat, at least temporarily, until he gets everything he needs from her.

  18. More Typos

    medicine,” Amy’s voice came out > medicine.” Amy’s voice came out (or medicine,” Amy’s voice came out,)
    threshold to the . (missing word)
    and hurried (missing word or fullstop)
    ,”she (missing space)
    the voice was distant. > The voice was distant.
    occurances > occurrences
    he pressed her, > He pressed her, (or he pressed,)
    yourself,” he hissed each word. > yourself.” He hissed each word.

  19. @nineGardens
    Wait a sec, Marquis giving an order to get rid of Vicky makes no sense. Marquis has rules about killing women, hence that would never happen.

    I withdraw this hypothesis.

  20. Ah, irony. Last time we even got any close to this happening Bonesaw shoved a couple feet of metal down Blasto’s spine and taught him merry songs and dances.
    Alas, Riley seems unavailable at the moment. Ketchup stains are so hard to remove…

  21. > She paused, noting the missing fingernail, and picked through sheets for a few seconds, trying to find where it had fallen.

    I wonder if that missing fingernail was actually there, or if (as Victoria suspected) had never made it to the medical area? If this was the latter case, then I would say that it is actually a pretty big detail to miss or misremember for someone whose power is working at such microscopic level as Amy’s. I wonder what else she may have messed up then?

    Just one more way in which Amy doesn’t have as good control over her power as she would like to believe.

    1. I suspect Amy was worried that if she restored the fingernail and Vicky found the original fingernail elsewhere, that Vicky would figure out Amy had healed her. So when Amy couldn’t find the original fingernail she figured she was in the clear as Vicky wouldn’t find it and realise that Amy had grown her a new one.

      Amy didn’t count on Vicky already knowing the fingernail was completely missing and should not have been restored by the doctors.

      1. Sure, but since Amy decided to hide any traces of her tampering with Victoria’s body by undoing all changes, shouldn’t she have thought something like “This nail wasn’t here when I started, so wherever it is, you will have to regrow it on your own Vicky”? Makes me think that either Amy didn’t notice or by the time she got to undoing her changes forgot that the nail was already gone when she started (in which case Amy either isn’t as fully aware about the entirety of her patient’s condition as soon as she touches them as she thinks she is, or is so far out of control over her emotions that she can’t remember what her power tells her for just a minute – either possibility indicates that Amy is unable to fully reliably reverse the changes she does with her power), or simply wanted to heal Victoria so much, that as soon as she realized that there was a bit of healing she could do without Victoria knowing about it, Amy decided to do just that regardless of a (small in her opinion) risk that she could be wrong – which once again shows that Amy’s emotions clearly override her reason.

        1. Possibly, but I think it more likely that she figured Victoria wasn’t familiar enough with the injury and doctor’s work to know what was or wasn’t done. She knew the skin had suffered too much abuse so she figured she could take it for her creepy use, regrow new skin, make it appear like it had been expertly re-attached, restoring even the stitches but leaving it at a point the hand would heal fine but still leave Victoria thinking it was all the doctor’s work.

          Another part is that she likely couldn’t feel out if the fingernail was there originally, much like she can’t work through hair. Whatever the case, it’s more likely she was just making sure there wasn’t an extra fingernail in the bandages after she reapplied them for Victoria to find later and realise Amy had healed her.

          1. Let me put it his way – Amy must have known that Victoria was aware of all circumstances of her injury. Vicky was there when it happened after all, not to mention that on the way to the medical area she had a chance to have a good look at both her hand and the shin that was picked up afterwards. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Vicky could see that one of her fingernails was gone. It should be particularly easy for someone like Panacea, who over the course of her carrier as a healer must have seen plenty of people with missing body parts as they were brought to hospitals, and heard about even more from medical personel she was working with.

            If Amy didn’t realize that this scenario was possible, then I think it just proves that she wasn’t thinking straight for even a second after she saw Victoria injured – which brings me to my original point about her out-of-control emotions. Not that it is surprising – that day was the first time Amy saw Victoria in months, it was stressful for both of them, and on top of it Amy was distracted other stuff – from the fragile political situation to her “fifty-nine seconds”, followed by her attempt to “prove” herself that she can control her power, and suppressing her doubts – just look at that interrupted train of thought and what was happening to her hands near the end of the scene in the prison in this interlude:

            She pushed it out of mind. Too dangerous to dwell on. Small mercies it hadn’t happened while she’d been going through the motions of proving to herself and to Victoria’s body that there wouldn’t be any repeat occurances, which was-

            Her hand trembled slightly. She rubbed it with the other, thumb hard as it massaged the hand, rubbing along the golden portions of the tattoos.

            -not even a factor. With this personal victory, this triumph, she had all the confidence in the world that the next time she saw Hunter, she would be able to mend what was broken.

            Clearly signs of a strong stress if you ask me. Not a good situation to try to think up even obvious scenarios like the one that actually happened with Victoria’s nail if you ask me.

  22. Damn it Amy! Make an Endbringer strong Victoria already!

    Amy is technically correct that if you aggregate their deeds she’s the best person on Shin. On account of saving the world that time.
    She however is the least sane member of their little posse. Hunter is more sane. Actually what’s wrong with Hunter anyway? She seems okay.

    1. Well… She comes across as a little insane and overly happy… Flighty? It appears that her power wasn’t entirely under her control and was set off by her emotions and thoughts, so she was probably quite afraid and scared originally, worried about hurting people. Amy appears to have tried to adjust the power’s triggers and control but accidentally opened it up to take over more of her mind than it should have… Sort of like Ashley’s shard had a degree of mental control over her by making her agitated if she wasn’t ascending or seemingly dominating.

      But the real problem can be read in the parts where Amy acknowledges she’s tweaked Hunter to be loyal and obedient to her and keeps justifying it as necessary. Essentially Hunter is now trapped.

  23. Oh holy fork. This whole chapter is a giant cliffhanger, and also kind of meta-evidence that Teacher is indeed dealt with – Breakthrough defeated the boss of the previous level, and now the next level is being set up. You can deal with Teacher and his army of thralls – try Lab Rat and his army of shards then. Starting with Destroyer, no less.
    Seems that I was right about the meaning of “unmasking”, by the way. We have seen this worldview (with humans being masks for shards) in parahumans who were “unmasked” themselves to some degree – partly shard-piloted Hunter, Glaistig Uaine…and now also Chris. Makes perfect sense if he falls in the same category now, because I really don’t see how does his plan help with the impending end of the world. Following Imperative 4 – sure, waging war (with whom?) – obviously, but averting destruction of the world by shards – if anything, this would push it forward. Which would be totally fine for Chris, if his mask is slipping away.

    And as fow Amy…
    *Amy protests when the doctor knocks Victoria out*
    (me: good, a point for her. and she’s indeed kinda reasonable and well-meaning in this chapter…)
    *Amy heals Victoria*
    (me: well, consent and so on, but I can get that. still risky though, given her history. but still well-meaning)
    *Amy “gave Victoria love again”*
    (me: WTF?!?)
    *Amy proceeds to revert everything, including the healing, and says she’s in control*
    (me: *facepalm. then double facepalm. then triple facepalm, somehow*)
    She had two obvious and essentially OPPOSITE options to be good and well-meaning here, and she found a third one which is a fuck-up. Either she stays away from Victoria – respecting her will and consent, or she heals her – wishing her well and sparing her from pain and injuries. But she NEITHER respects her will NOR is concerned with her well-being, she just exposes her to a (quite plausible) risk of fucking up with her power again for no other reason than to toy with her mind and body, prove to herself that she’s “in control”, and erase all traces. Turns out Victoria was actually justified in being paranoid…

    1. Re: quite plausible – am I the only one who assumes she definitely lost control there ?
      We’ve got 2 entire arcs showcasing the impact it had on Antares as a whole.

  24. @grinvader: do you mean Victoria being able to work together with her shard? Don’t think it’s because of Amy. Or did you mean the impact being something else?

    1. Amy thought about Hunter because she increased Victoria’s connection to her shard just that tiny bit further than it used to be. Antares’ power control and emotions the last couple arcs have been consistently altered.
      Paraphrasing, every time Amy thinks “good thing I’m not crazy, else this might have gone bad”, things go bad because she doesn’t acknowledge another mistake. That’s essentially her denial-catchphrase.
      She’s in control of nothing, Shaper is driving most of her power uses now. Which means strife 101 – give yourself great enemies so you must raise even stronger armies to defeat them.

  25. > Damn it Amy! Make an Endbringer strong Victoria already!

    Why would she be Endbringer strong? That’s not something that inherently happens when you turn a drone into a clone. They intentionally caused that transformation with the Chevalier clone because they wanted a weapon. Since Amy is obsessed with Victoria, not Waste-chan, she has no incentive to repeat that process with her. If she were to cave and take Chris up on his offer, she’d simply turn the drone into Victoria without triggering a full shard-takeover.

    > Actually what’s wrong with Hunter anyway? She seems okay.

    Her shard is leaking into and overwriting her personality. Re-read the bit from 16.y where Amy was working on her and note the sudden personality shift when the work comes undone and Hunter’s powers activate. Also note that the stuff she says about unmasking is her shard talking, not her. Then look at this chapter, where Amy describes Hunter as behaving more like a ten-year-old when she’s clearly thirteen or fourteen, and where she comments on how she’s using mental changes to keep Hunter manageable at the cost of making her malleable. In other words Hunter would be even more unhinged if Amy weren’t using unsustainable quick-fixes to suppress her.

  26. This quote from another forum fits my feelings of recent revelations:

    Congratulations, Wildbow. You killed the Woobie Amy fandom. And it only took making the character a bloated mess of evil and pathetic, with an incredible one dimensional focus on denial, unfit of being foil to any second chance character by sheer ‘virtue’ of how insanely evil, iredeemable and just… unrelatable this thing is. A total waste in any character based challenges too, because the only answer is ‘Why didn’t you punch it to fine red paste already’, which makes any inner challenge or questioning meaningless, and yet that bundle is so evil yet pathetic that it should never be even a final violent antagonist, because despite how satisfying it seems to punch that thing to death, I wouldn’t feel it was any achievement worth the salt, at least for a final antagonist. But the Woobie Amy fandom is dead now, so Huzzah?

    So it is the reality we live that Amy is an unrepentant, evil, rapist monster, that deserves to be raped, deserves to know suffering, deserves to be tortured, and deserves to die.
    Very well.

  27. Sounds to me like the one who wrote this is the nasty one, vicious and incapable of empathy. It’s much scarier and uglier to hear a real person, not a fictional character, talking about wanting a girl to be raped and tortured. Pitchfork wielding lynch mob is not moral superiority.

  28. Just how much has Amy cut herself off from the hero community after GM? Sure, many of them would be extremely suspicious of her after because of the stigma of having been a Birdcage inmate, because of her terrifying power, or because of her role in unleashing Khepri, but shouldn’t she keep contact with surviving Brockton Bay Wards and Protectorate members? It seems obvious that she didn’t – the few words she exchanged with Vista during the diplomatic mission to Shin seem to suggest that they never really had a chance to socialize (at least not much) after GM. Similarly I doubt that Amy spent much time with Ciara after they were released from the ‘Cage – otherwise Amy would probably know enough about Yamada to trust her during their meeting in the previous interlude.

    Why this is important? In my opinion for several reasons.

    First is that even before the Birdcage Amy was a loner who didn’t socialize with kids outside her family whom she could call her peers (Wards would likely be great for that), or with any capes outside of her own family for that matter. This couldn’t be healthy, and I suspect that it was one of the major factors contributing to her emotional over reliance on Victoria, and her eventual obsession.

    Second is that after GM – possibly partly because of her stigma (which by the way could be something that she partially imagined), partly because of her paranoia when it comes to hero-led institutions like the Wardens (very similar to how Taylor felt about PRT, Protectorate and the Wards at the beginning of Worm), and partly because she overworked herself so much that she no longer had time for social life, Amy probably cut her ties to heroes outside her family even further. This is probably the reason why she ended up spending more and more time with the exactly wrong sort of people to correctly react when they saw her mental problems – people like Bianca, Marquis and other villains who decided not to reform after they got a chance to do so thanks to amnesty (which is by the way probably tied to the fact that Amy considers the amnesty a sham by the way – though I’m not sure to what extent Amy came to this conclusion because she interacted with villains who didn’t reform, and not the ones who decided to become heroes, and how much it was the other way around – she was more inclined to keep social ties with the villains, and not the heroes because of her opinion on the amnesty).

    Sure – staying in contact with her biological father, her still-villainous acquaintances from the Birdcage, or dating someone like Bianca didn’t have to necessarily degrade her morals or complicate her mental issues, but in my opinion only if their influence was balanced by some friends and other close acquaintances who are more sane, law-abiding, sensitive people with good moral integrity. They wouldn’t even necessary all need to be heroes (though some of them probably would – there are things Amy probably would be unable to discuss with non-capes). Instead the only (if there were any) “heroes” Amy probably kept more than sporadic contact with were her foster parents, who didn’t exactly help her get better, at least not before they ended up on Shin – and that was probably way too late. I imagine that if after GM Amy was closer with Crystal for example, she wouldn’t be nearly as bad as she is now.

    And how bad was this influence on Amy? Think about it this way – Amy said that she was the most sane person in her current group. Regardless of whether she was right about it or not, shouldn’t it be alarming that she used these particular people as her benchmark? Shouldn’t she aspire to measure up to people who aren’t in her own words “lunatics and mentally ill”? And by the way, could it be that she refused to cure Mark’s depression because she feared that without it he would be a clearly better person than she is?

    This is by the way not only Amy’s fault by the way. To some extent the entire society, and especially the so-called “hero” community also bear part of the blame. After all, Amy’s problems with forming social ties were known even before Gold Morning. Why has no “hero” (powered or not) who knew her before she ended up in the ‘Cage (and there were plenty of such people after all) realized what was going on, and reached out to her for over two years?!

    The third reason is that if Amy had some close heroic friends, she probably would end up getting a proper therapy before it was too late. Plenty of heroes used therapist services. They should have been able to convince Amy that doing so is nothing to be afraid or ashamed of, and maybe even introduce her to an actually good therapist (like Yamada for example) in a way that would convince Amy to use that therapist’s services.

    To sum it up – in my opinion a big part of Amy’s problems comes from the fact that after GM so-called “good” people either abandoned her, did not reached out to her in time, or actually made Amy actively distrust them by treating her like a potential threat to be monitored, and not a friend, or at least a girl with a painful past and mental problems who actually needed their trust, friendship and help. She was left mostly alone, lonely, and only sometimes in a company of criminals, mentally ill, monsters (in human bodies or not), and her toxic parents, who were unable or unwilling to help her, and if anything – they ended up pushing Amy further into her madness.

    1. And perhaps the most tragic thing is that the quite possibly the person who could help Amy the most simply by reaching out, offering her friendship, and introducing Amy to more people who could actually be good friends, who could become Amy’s savior is… Victoria. Perhaps she could even still become that person for Amy?

      The questions are – would it be fair to ask Victoria to do so? Would it be heroic for Victoria to do so? Will Victoria be heroic enough to make this sacrifice for her sister?

      1. One thing is sure – if Victoria is to forgive Amy, or at least give her a second chance, then in this interlude Wildbow just let us know just how much is there to forgive, especially for a person who in Glow-worm said that she doesn’t believe in “forgive & forget”. Like I said – if Victoria (knowing about everything Amy did to her, and I assume she will learn at some point) does it for Amy, and on to of it does her best to set aby on a path to both redemption and recovery, then it will be a truly heroic sacrifice on Victoria’s part.

        Perhaps the biggest one that Victoria is destined to make in Ward?

        1. The only thing I can see Victoria joining Amy and sacrificing herself for at this point is to put an end to Amy’s threat forever, by flying them both into a timestop bubble, a molten steel pool, a dimension warp or anything else guaranteeing permanent Amy disposal.
          Then we’ll get to see if Amy can create enough ‘love’ in Victoria on the spot to prevent Wretchie from finishing the job.
          Cathartic enough I suppose.

        2. Victoria would be incredible stupid to forgive the woman who RAPED and DESTROYED her life and give her a second chance. What Amy did is beyond any forgiveness. The only way Victoria can forgive Amy is…right before she’ll give Amy the killing blow, Victoria will tell her that she is forgiven. Still stupid but at least she’ll make Amy’s final wish comes true before dying. That will be very generous of her.

  29. Re – all the bloodthirsty comments: it seems that it already goes far above and beyond “rape is a special kind of evil”. I don’t think that, for example, Teacher would get the same amount of flak even if he overtly and unambiguously raped someone on-screen (and mindrape is already a constant and routine procedure for him, which he can’t do without). For that matter, I went and checked comments to Coil’s interlude: yup, just as expected – no mobs with pitchforks, just some moral philosophers. I’m at loss about what’s up with Amy specifically. Some protagonist-centered morality, maybe.

  30. Amy, I pinned my hopes and dreams on you, and you let me down. Aghhhhh, the density here is as deep as a dying star.

  31. (Reads Chapter; expects a bit of gray morality to save/redeem Amy, somehow… and Wildbow makes Amy really disturbing, AGAIN. Triple facepalm ensues, followed by a table flipping)

    Yeah, this is sad and horrifying. I am glad that Elizabeth Bagley gave her thanks on behalf of earth Gimel, Amy has kept fed half of their population, and has now managed to get refugees into Earth Shin.
    If you remember that Gimel government projections are that 50% of their population would starve to death without her help, the amount of people she is keeping alive numbers around 3.000 millions of people, assuming Earth Bet had a similar population to our modern earth.
    That is a LOT. So I really hope that Amy gets the therapy she URGENTLY NEEDS, and that the current interludes have really emptied the bag of horrors when it comes to her.

    So I am going to chalk Amy´s VERY disturbing emotional makeup in all questions regarding Victoria to the years of Victoria aura exposure, followed by Bonesaw second-triggering her when she had to heal Mark, followed by Jack Slash using the broadcast shard to make the “Princess Shaper” influence Amy in the worst ways possible. That´s 3-4 layers of Shard-influence spread upon a small toast.
    I think that all those compounding factors of Shard influence have probably rendered a quite amenable shard (“Princess Shaper”), whose imperatives for conflict were almost flawlessly neutered by Amy before those events, into a wild tiger to ride. If you think about it, Amy has controlled her conflict imperative better even than Tattletale, which is dealing with one of the most passive-agressive, cannier shards there is. Before the “Wretch” event, Amy had never been noted to cause conflicts in any way and strcictly kept to being a Healer, something unprecedented for shards.
    So my guess is that “Princess Shaper”, being a young bud and being thoroughly restricted by Amy, probably was a bit fed-up with her host unwillingness for conflict and resented the situation, but played along. And lo and behold, here comes Bonesaw´s induced trauma for a second trigger and “helpful advice” from Jacks´s “Broadcast” shard, and suddenly Amy´s power use is a wild thing, demanding experimentation and betraying Amy at the first slip of control it is given.
    You have Amy the person with starkly demanding morals, savior of billions, which risked life and limb in a trip to a xenophobic earth Shin to seal herself away from Victoria, and Amy the Hunter-kidnapper, Victoria-molester living in the same package. What a damn mess.

    So I am going to chalk the events on those interludes up to shard-fuckery and Amy being willing to go to illegal and crazy extents for some closure, and hope that the bag of horrors is FINALLY emptied and comes not again to the forefront.

    1. > If you remember that Gimel government projections are that 50% of their population would starve to death without her help, the amount of people she is keeping alive numbers around 3.000 millions of people, assuming Earth Bet had a similar population to our modern earth.

      Remember that billions of people from Bet died during Gold Morning. Also remember that there is no such thing as a global Gimel government. What you think about is probably the government of Gimel.US – a city-state which probably has somewhere between 50 million and 70 million people.

      That said 50% of even that number is still an awful lot of people.

      1. A side note about Bet’s population. In Legend’s interlude in arc 14 of Worm, which happened in 2011, about two years before Gold Morning, Number Man said:

        The best case scenario is that Earth’s population drops steeply over twenty years, until it settles to forty-eight point six percent of where it currently stands. Three billion, three hundred and ninety-one million, eight hundred and three thousand, five hundred and four. Give or take.

        Which would mean that at that time Bet’s population was around 6.979 million people. A few tens of millions less than our Earth on the same year.

    2. By the way TAP_M113, where did you see that projection that 50% of Gimel’s population would starve to death if they were cut off from off-world food supplies? I would appreciate the chapter number, and perhaps a relevant quote.

  32. @T.T.O. The difference between Amy and Coil is that nobody liked Coil, so there was no controversy. The people who hate Amy tend to find the existence of pro-Amy opinions very offensive, and that outrage increases their vitriol.

    1. The difference between Amy and Coil is that Coil wasn’t in denial and claiming to be a “Good” person. Coil was a selfish bastard who did everything for his own gain, including indulging in some good old torture. But he never tried to sell it off as acceptable or forgivable behaviour and whine constantly about how everyone is being so unfair about not seeing him as a good person.

    2. The difference between Amy and Coil is that Coil was never a rapist and he never believed himself to be a “good man” and blamed others for his failures. Coil was more honest with himself than Amy.

  33. I would also like to comment that, upt to date, there are A LOT of Checkhov guns lying around when it comes to the possibility of a CLUSTER event centered on Victoria.

    Breakthrough & Hearthbroken have been connected to the dream room, suggesting a 15-Shard cluster possibility. Given the composition of shards involved, the powers to be gained from it are absurdly OP: 2 good tinkers, 1 powerful master, lots of emotional manipulation, Tattletale shard as one of the most powerful thinkers in the world, with a generous helping of brute powers (Antares and Tress are noted to be feared and respected warmachines). That´s an OP cluster if I ever saw one, almost Kephri-level, or even beyond it.

    In the biological-matter cluster linking fronts, on the other hand, we have two fronts open.
    First, the fact that Tress body is made from matter donations from Victoria and an unspecified amount of other Breakthrough members. Long-term body-part sharing which is a recipe for a cluster, as Tattletale explained and Craddle demonstrated. Incidentally, Tress and Victoria powers BOTH have become drastically more cooperative and controllable, which hints at the possibility of breakthrough shards having secured a communications channel through this procedure and exchanging tips and information to help their hosts. Vic´s shard was shown to wish to help her host move the forcefield, but did lack the info or the ability to reach to other shards for advice. Suddenly, after Tress transformation, the “Wretch” becomes MUCH more useful and cooperative. Suspicious, that.

    Second, Amy´s insertion of a Victoria skin-patch in her physiology. It would follow the same rules as above, and the benefits of controlling “Princess-Shaper” powerset cannot be overestimated, particularly with Endbringer fight or Abaddon´s viral resurgence scenarios in mankind´s hands.
    In addition, the possibility of Victoria draining Amy´s power if she loses grip on her sanity opens an avenue of non-lethal restraint in that scenario. In addition, being shard-bonded does not make wonders for one´s mental health; Amy may realize MUCH more clearly how much and why she is that messed-up in the head once “Princess Shaper” is removed from the equation.

    So, no matter how powerful the threats arrayed against Victoria are, there are A LOT of power-up options open to her in the near future. I don´t doubt a second she will use them well to bludgeon the opposition to paste as ruthlesly as she can… 😉

    1. Re. the possibility of the Mall Cluster being permanently expanded by all visitors in the dream-room, I think that since Cradle, Love Lost, and Rain apparently got no new powers when Colt joined them, not much will change as far as anybody’s powers are concerned other than the fact that they will probably end up visiting the room every night.

      That is unless one of them second-triggers. At which point I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up with an arsenal of powers that rivals current Butcher’s.

      1. We don’t exactly know that there was no impact on their powers. They woke up and Defiant was there. We’ve been Amy-surfing since.
        But I heavily doubt it will happen. Not due to cluster mechanics, at least.

        1. We know that Love Lost, Cradle and Rain got no new powers after Colt joined the cluster. Makes me think that just the fact that someone joined Mail cluster late can’t give other members new powers. Possibly because the shards of the old members don’t go through the “rapid adjustment” process that would let them grant entirely new powers, because it is not their host that triggers then. Remember that while existing powers get adjusted all the time, most shards grant their parahumans entirely new powers only during trigger events.

          If one of these shards that belonged to the cluster early on was to go through a second trigger though… I think it would be possible for a shard whose host is undergoing that trigger to gain a little bit of what every shard present in the cluster at the moment of the second trigger has to offer.

    2. Re. Amy´s insertion of a Victoria skin-patch in her physiology. I think that something like what you described could happen down the line, but probably not in the current situation. Remember that Chris mentioned that they couldn’t make Victoria’s clone for Amy, because Amy corrupted that bit’s of skin DNA. Since the DNA is corrupted, it probably isn’t recognized by Victoria’s shard as a part of its host, so probably there is no Waste-Shaper link through one of them could leech the other’s power at the moment. Not to mention that for this link to even form Amy and Victoria would need to be members of the same cluster first (as far as we are aware there are no situations where power was “leeched” in this way outside of the cluster – not counting certain trump powers specifically designed to do so of course).

      In other words – it may be a Checkhov’s gun, but a fair number of extra conditions would need to be met before it could actually fire.

    3. I hope you’re right and Victoria can stop Amy if she’ll go full evil. A full evil Amy will be more dangerous than Cradle and March ever were so the only way to stop her will be to kill her or depower her (preferably depower but I won’t be surprised if Victoria will be forced to kill her sister to save the world AGAIN, right after she saved it from Teacher). I don’t think that Amy can ever be redeemed (she went too deep in her craziness and too far with her disturbing actions to hope for an redemption but at least she can be stopped by Victoria if she’ll start to go full Super-crazy Amy on the world. Or at least this is what I hope for).

  34. @fionag11
    Yes, I do agree with you. Bless Dot. The jovial, murderous muppet, survivor of countless power-inflicted atrocities, from which her power-shortened lifespan is not even the greatest, is a island of light and optimism in a despair-filled ocean.
    I like Dot very much. Yes, she may be feral and outlandish, but under all that orange-blue morality lies a hearth of gold. I hope her and her kin get justice made to them, and Mankind greets their fellow sophonts at their table as they deserve – power-victims which had every single reason to hate mankind to death… and decided to forgive it.
    If Dot had not met Amy and decided to smuggle a shard of machine-army gray goo into Earth Gimel, almost all industrialized Earths would be swimming in machine-army Von-Neumann deathbots right now (and, consequently on the path to extinction). No one looks at the little people, and Dot is a frighteningly competent soldier able to give any green beret a run for his money, even unarmed.

  35. @Pizzasgood: maybe. Though I hated Cradle and wanted for him to be put down already, but wasn’t offended by pro-Cradle opinions (few as they were), just very surprised by how could they possibly exist.

  36. me: “typo: “Who know what it might look like in twenty-four hours.” – should be ‘who knows’”
    ->nevermind, skipped over the sentence before that

  37. @charlesw81:
    > The difference between Amy and Coil is that Coil wasn’t in denial and claiming to be a “Good” person.

    That’s true – this difference exists. Do you think that if Amy would go full evil, making no excuses and brainwashing, raping and killing people left and right, that would get her less outrage and cries for blood from fandom than she gets now?

    1. I think it’s less about her going full evil in action and more about her ceasing to make excuses, attempt to justify her actions and just whine all the time about people not seeing things her way that would leave the fandom less outraged.

      Cradle was a bastard but he only ever tried to justify it as part of his act, he was true to himself… grasped himself. March was completely insane but again, she understood herself. She’d glimpsed the supposed shard afterlife and romanticised it into how she wanted to interact with her cluster mates. Heartbreaker raped, killed or destroyed lives at his whim and pleasure. Chris is a bastard but he’s come straight out and told Breakthrough they were a convenience, he not only acknowledges he’s a monster, he’s aiming for it.

      Amy. “I’m not a bad person” Sets Victoria to love her, “I’m not a bad person” Doesn’t undo it when she has the chance, “I’m not a bad person” indulges in more mental manipulation towards love, rape and physical manipulation to satisfy her sexual desires, “I’m not a bad person” Does it again when she gets tired again, “I’m not a bad person” leaves Victoria like that, “I’m not a bad person” forces an undesired meeting between her and Victoria with Empress, “I’m not a bad person” mentally and physically manipulates Victoria again and gives herself just under a minute of affectionate/sexual indulgence with Victoria, “I’m not a bad person” steals and keeps a patch of Victoria’s skin, “I’m not a bad person” dismisses kidnapping and brainwashing Victoria permanently because she couldn’t get away with it (not because it’s wrong).

      People will still look forward to her getting her just deserts if she goes full villain/monster, much like they looked forward to Teacher, Coil and Cradle getting smacked down. But the ever present excuses, whining and wilful ignorance is what truly infuriates the fandom.

  38. @T.T.O.

    Not the person you were asking, but…no, I don’t think it would get less outrage.

    For my own sake, I would say that Teacher is one of the creepiest characters I have ever read, just based on his… casual desire to “own” people- his assumption that that is a natural state. Eugenue is similarly creepy, but on a somewhat lower level (probably around the same level as Coil).
    For me Amy is currently…. probably one more layer down from that (please note, this is two layers down from “Creepiest thing I have ever read”), and probably…. in terms of messed up mind fuckery, around par with Cradle and March.
    IE: your world view is warped beyond reason, and that makes you dangerous…. Please stop.

    I think that all the healing and diplomacy and good the Amy is doing in the world does lead to a weird condrum in that…. ethically, the good she has done doesn’t really do anything to take away from the bad…. in some sense, because she is oblivious, because she is unaware, because she does Acknowledge her mistakes, it means that none of the good she does counts as any form of penance (Compare Rain, where I would argue that it kind of does, because the risks he takes on behalf of other people demonstrate character development and becoming the kind of person who will not repeat mistakes).

    On the other hand, from a practical, utilitarian, and… yeah, and ethical point of view… because Amy is a healer, smooshing her into a fine past is really really NOT an ethical thing to do. Justice be damned, too many people depend on her for their survival.
    (I also kind of disagree with killing her for its own sake, although if she was demonstrably a large scale threat, then someone could make the argument… but that’s not for justice, that’s just due to her broad impact… though if Victoria ended up doing it, I would not blame her.)

    Another weird thing to think about: What the hell is Chris’s plan here?
    No, seriously, stop and think about it.
    “My plan is to make pet endbringers.”
    “…. okay…. ummm…. How does that help anything? We aren’t in a war. We need to De-escalate. We are trying to minimize power usage. They don’t even help with your fucking spaceship Labrat. What the fuck good are endbringers going to do us?”
    “….”

    Is he trying to communicate with shards by dragging them into worldspace? Then why ten? Why make them big? Is that mandatory?
    Is he just trying to take over the world?
    Is he just a mad scientist?
    I’m pretty sure he ain’t. Chris might not have the best ethics, but he ain’t crazy, and he is trying to win, and I can’t help but think that he wants *humanity* (or something like it) to win. He isn’t trying to destroy the world. In some sense, I feel like he’s running on Cauldren ethics, and he’s a better scientist than most (all be it Anti-social).
    So what the fuck is Chris UP TO?

    1. As much as I don’t think he’s a bad person, I think that Chris is a crazy scientist who lost his grip on reality long time ago. His last actions made zero sense, his last decisions made zero sense, it’s like all he’s doing is to prove himself that he CAN and he’s better than any other biotinker. When she saw Blasto’s (another crazy asshole) pseudo Endbringer creation Bonesaw said that not even she is crazy enough to do what he was going to do. Chris created pseudo Endbringers warweapons. He’s more crazy than Bonesaw and never Bonesaw did something so fucked up like he’s doing now. Maybe he have good intentions, but he’s more insane than Bonesaw or…dare to say, Amy.

  39. I heard about Dunning-Kreuger theory a while back: the idea that most people overestimate their competence and skill, while the best and brightest underrate themselves. A while later, it occurred to me to wonder if this applied to moral judgments. If that were the case, the majority of people would go around thinking themselves good while not actually living up to society’s (or possibly even their own) standards, while the most morally upright would be constantly stewing in guilt. I don’t have much evidence either way about how it applies in real life, but Amy certainly seems to illustrate the concept here in the world of fiction.

    1. You may be onto something here. Compare Amy’s “I’m a good person” with Victoria’s:

      I knew what she was thinking. She wondered if it was selflessness, or if I was a surprisingly good person. I wasn’t.

      from chapter 1.8.

  40. > Remember that Chris mentioned that they couldn’t make Victoria’s clone for Amy, because Amy corrupted that bit’s of skin DNA.

    You misunderstood Chris’s statement. He said “If you haven’t corrupted the DNA, you could use it,” not “If you hadn’t corrupted the DNA, you could use it.” He was saying that they probably can make the clone, but he’s not certain because he doesn’t know whether the DNA is corrupted.

  41. In a wall of text above, I wrote that the reason why Amy did not cure Mark’s depression could be that she was afraid that if he was no longer mentally ill, she would see just how much worse person she is compared to him. While I still think it may be a possible explanation of her decision (or at least a factor in it), I think there may also be another reason. Here it is.

    What if during the conversation in the Shin prison Victoria actually managed to make a crack in Amy’s world of delusions? Amy is prone to self-doubt after all, and on top of it Victoria’s words probably mean more to her than anyone else’s. What if she didn’t heal Mark because after Victoria forced her to face the truth – that she makes quite a lot of mistakes as a healer, and that she can’t fix all of them, she started to fear that she may mess up while trying to heal Mark’s dysthymia? Amy may still mess with brains of people who without her intervention are clearly dangerous to themselves or to their surroundings, but Mark is neither of those, so maybe she thinks any possible benefits of healing him are outweighed by the risk of making a mistake with all its likely consequences?

    Of course she may do it out of concern for Mark, but she may also do it for selfish reasons – she recognizes that he is still important to her as not only her father, but also an important part of her support structure. A person who keeps her grounded. After all if she told Victoria the truth, she does recognize that she needs such structure. The problems with her are that she insists that the one she currently has is enough for her, and that at the same time she doesn’t follow advice of these people if it clashes with her twisted world-view – something she can easily justify by telling herself that these people are “lunatics and mentally ill” after all.

  42. Not satisfied with fucking Victoria and fucking *over* Victoria, Amy sets to also fuck reality as well. And possibly Hunter or a Vicky clone as well.

  43. Now that’s how to write a morally grey villain. Amy’s now on the same moral level as Accord and Citrine (and to outsiders, the Undersiders), working very hard and very effectively for the benefit of the masses, but still personally pretty repulsive.

    Its funny, Amy is so, so empathizable of a character at times; her conversation with Jessica Yamada really shows the side of her that makes you want others to take the effort to give her an chance and see things from her perspective. And yet, Tattletale’s analysis of her back during the Slaughterhouse Nine arc is still really valid, in so many ways Amy’s still the weak moral coward she was back then. Everyone tells her she has a problem with deluding herself, and yet she currently only has Flashbang as a kind-of moral guide. Unofficially, because articulating that need and desire is would mean admitting she has a problem, and that’s too intimidating.

    She still hasn’t really absorbed the lesson she should have when she sent Victoria to the hospital. It makes one want to yell at her. Victoria’s not angry with you because your ability to use your power was less-than-perfect, she’s angry because you never asked permission! That’s what people mean when they says she lacks control, she’s like Hunter that way.

  44. @lulu

    > The difference between Amy and Coil is that Coil was never a rapist and he never believed himself to be a “good man” and blamed others for his failures. Coil was more honest with himself than Amy.

    One could say what Coil did to Dinah – on purpose – is mind-rape and I wouldn’t object. He also actively killed people, while Amy saved and still saves millions of lives. She is dishonest with herself though, and you seem to dislike that a whole lot.

  45. I’m afraid that something bad will happen with Breakthrough when they’ll visit Shin for the second time. What if this is a trap and they’ll get a worse treatment than prison? Amy will have the occasion to kidnap Victoria- as Chris suggested- and use her for her sexual needs and Shin to eliminate Breakthrough so there will be no other major players with their exception in the future. I don’t like the idea that they visit Shin again.

  46. “I’ve surrounded myself with lunatics and the mentally ill.”
    …dear GOD, the sheer, manifest lack of self-awareness there >///<

  47. Remember that in early Worm Panacea kept herself from doing anything horrible by always following a strict set of self-imposed rules, and this system was more or less working – it made Amy miserable, but also ensured that she maintained certain ethical standards.

    Bonesaw and Jack forced Amy to break her rules including the most important one – to never make any exceptions from them for any reason – even to heal the major neurological damage her father was suffering from back then. This one rule remains broken. And as Chris pointed out – it means that all other Amy’s rules “exist for nothing… except to be broken.”

    It has been over four years after Bonesaw’s visit to Dallons’ home, and apparently Amy hasn’t managed to either rebuild her old “system”, or reinvent herself for something else to take over the role of her moral compass and source of restraint.

    So here’s a question – how guilty will Riley feel if she learns just how permanently she broke Amy?

    1. Maybe Riley already knows? Maybe she didn’t try to use that knife Victoria saw in chapter 16.12 against Jessica, but against herself?

  48. I’m sure that Ward would have been pretty cool and interesting with Amy as the main protagonist but after a while will become boring and annoying (Amy: I’m obsessed with my sister. I rape my sister because I love her. I’m a good person, look, I don’t rape and kill my sister, I only rape her. Its not my fault, its everyone else’s fault. I’m not evil, when I don’t rape, I heal some people, etc). That’s all Amy is in this moment, sadly. Victoria is more multidimensional, she have very strong morals (stronger than Amy will ever have) and is generally more pleasant than Amy.
    Wildbow choose right when he decided over such Victoria.

    1. A correction. Amy never admit that she’s nothing but a rapist. She strongly believe that someone else-like an evil twin- raped Victoria after she turned her into a monster. She believes that she’s in control even if she almost raped Vic- again- in prison. She’s in such a hypocritical denial that you almost want to feel sorry for her. Almost.
      Alec was honest with himself and others when he admitted that he was a rapist. Alec was a much more better person than Amy, at least from this point of view.
      Do you know that Wildbow wanted Rain to be the main character? Well, Rain is one of the best characters. I preferred him over Victoria.

  49. I’ve been thinking some more about TAP_M113’s idea of using the patch of Victoria’s skin to do some power-leeching, and my comment that it would probably require Victoria and Amy to somehow become members of the same cluster, and I think it may be a very bad idea, because of what the kiss/kill mechanic could do to the sisters.

    By the way – assuming for a second that the Mall cluster has 15 permanent members now, what other kiss/kills do you think may develop in it? One worrying possibility that comes to my mind is that the Chicken Tenders’ little love polygon may end up rather kiss/kill-y.

  50. >because of what the kiss/kill mechanic could do to the sisters.

    Amy and Victoria are already operating under kiss/kill — complete with skin-wearing shenanigans — even without being in a cluster. That’s why I made that joke earlier about Amy’s shard pretending very hard that it is in a cluster. It’s as delusional as its host.

    1. My point is that if their shards end up in the same cluster, they may decide to push them a little further in that direction, and make this situation even worse.

  51. Dare I say one possibility could be a person who interacted with LabRat prime on Gold Morning? The transformation device might have had to scan her biology before it could do it’s work, and maybe it transmitted the results of that scan somewhere that Chris would have access?

  52. @lulu:
    > The difference between Amy and Coil is that Coil was never a rapist

    Kinda missing the point here. Too lazy to comb through Coil’s chapters and search whether he was a rapist or not (he certainly felt like this to me), but I don’t think that would be beyond him anyway. And do you really want to make a point “he used others for his pleasure, making them miserable in the process, but that’s not so bad because he only stuck his knife in them, not his dick”?

    > Alec was honest with himself and others when he admitted that he was a rapist. Alec was a much more better person than Amy, at least from this point of view.

    That’s another interesting point. There are two rapists; one of them is in denial and makes pathetic excuses like “I wasn’t me”; the other one just acknowledges it and says “yeah, it was me, and not really feeling any worse because of that now, so what? that’s the way I am, now why won’t we just disregard that”. The second position is apparently a sign of a much better person:)

    @charlesw81:
    > I think it’s less about her going full evil in action and more about her ceasing to make excuses, attempt to justify her actions and just whine all the time about people not seeing things her way that would leave the fandom less outraged.

    Yeah, I got it, I just made an example which would bring her closer to all the antagonists, since they are not making excuses and just being as evil as they want, while not attracting pitchfork-wielding fans. I’d say that Amy refraining from excuses and facing reality, without going evil, would be a good start of her path to redemption even.
    Anyway, her being in a constant denial evokes some feelings in me – disgust and contempt, mainly – but such hate?.. That’s weird for me.

    @Tehbeefer:
    > Amy’s now on the same moral level as Accord and Citrine

    Hm. What’s wrong with Citrine? I don’t find anything repulsive about her.

    @Alfaryn:
    > it would probably require Victoria and Amy to somehow become members of the same cluster, and I think it may be a very bad idea, because of what the kiss/kill mechanic could do to the sisters.

    …which would, surprisingly, turn out to be nothing at all, just like with Amy getting simurghed:)

  53. Regarding Coil, I don’t recall anything about him being a rapist specifically. He did have a bit at the end of his interlude where he locked Mr. Pitter in a room with him in a reality he planned to discard later, with the intent of entertaining himself in some unstated way. Could have been for rape, but there’s lots of other horrible stuff he may have intended instead. Poetry recital comes to mind.

  54. @Pizzasgood

    «… Poetry recital comes to mind.»

    Alright, then…

    Mr. Piter was sitting on the chair, bounded, eyes wide.

    His boss lowered his zipper..,

    … and retrieved a sheet of paper.

    Mr. Pittr’s eyes widened.

    “I am a master of bifurcation,

    though my morals have no direction.

    The fanbase’s mad with the twisted woobie,

    ’cause she wants her sister to be her hubby-”.

    Coil stopped.

    Mr. Petter was sobbing.

    He retrieved a knife from his costume and stabbed the desk besides him, startling Mr. Potter.

    “Mffmm…” came the muffled sound.

    The snaky villain stepped forward and undid the gag.

    “What did you say?” he asked, smoothly.

    A fearfully quivering Mr. Patrick replied “L-lovely poetry”.

    #

    *sigh*

    With that out of the way…

    I’ll start by saying that I’m sorry for the coming italics’s abuse.

    Is Amy so bad because she lies to herself or because (as a consequence of that self-delusion) she has hurt Victoria?

    No. With Regent in mind, I’ll correct myself: she has hurt our Victoria.

    @ninegardens

    «IE: your world view is warped beyond reason, and that makes you dangerous…. Please stop.»

    This here.

    I understand dangerousness, but i don’t understand blame.

    I get that someone can be responsible for something, for being the cause of a given outcome. But not blamed for it.

    Are you still to blame if you can’t control yourself?

    Is it your fault if you don’t seek help because either you act on erroneous information or your information processing methods are warped, corrupted… part of the problem?

    @Robert Loughrey

    «What Amy needs is a bullet to the head. Or better yet 5 minutes in closet with the wretch.»

    Actually I theorize that what Amy may need is to have her memories turned off. And temporarily replaced with Victoria’s traumatic ones so she may have a chance to “experience” everything that happened to her sister.

    Then get her memories back and… Uh… see what happens?

    I really hope I didn’t come across as a…

    I don’t know.

  55. @Robert Loughrey

    If you are replying to my comment above about the “Poetry Torture” scene, no, it’s not canon.

    But in his Interlude, Coil did seem to lock Mr. Pitter up in his office and torture him for fun in a “path” of his bifurcation power that he dismissed.

  56. Citrine is super underused, being an organic wavelength warper, much like Scion was, or Hero with his Tinker waves. Then again, she’s competent, so not the kind of MC the author uses, since he prefers crazy and unstable teenagers.

    I see Amy is making cure pills and stuff, likely WB read some Amelia fanfictions to realize what that power can do.

    Then again, Amy makes proto-Endbringers now, like Echidna or Dauntless. It will all end well, and nobody will bother erasing Earth Shin from the universe for it. Especially not Chevalier himself.

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