Sundown – 17.6

Previous Chapter                                                                                       Next Chapter

Dauntless continued his assault, striking out repeatedly, with a spear of lightning that curved and arced around clusters of buildings.  There were a lot of buildings, so each attack had to be timed.  The Knight kept its heavy shield up, retreating, enduring strikes that sometimes sent him skidding back a hundred feet.  Sometimes he fell with the impacts, tearing up road and toppling heel over head.  Always getting his shield up and in the way before the next strike, always keeping the shield at an angle so he would be driven down and back and not purely back and away.  When intervening buildings provided cover, it ran, shield over its back.  Glass fell from nearby windows with every heavy footfall.  Like the world wept with its passing.

Fucking Amy.

Dauntless only advanced.  He didn’t walk, his body more a pillar between sky and ground than a body.  He flowed forward, scraped past the city, navigating a path that favored lakes and water, parks and open spaces.  Some buildings fell, but the damage to the city proper was minimal, all considering.  Had he been moving in a straight line, he would have caught the Knight already.

His weapon remained extended, a spear of light and lightning, with fat, bloblike sparks larger than cars dripping off of it as its energy reached capacity, then exceeded it, waiting for the next clear shot.

And the Simurgh stood on the back of his hand, now.  Back straight, wings spread, hair blowing in the wind, the golden light of the weapon itself suffusing her reflective silver skin.  Like she was an extension of the weapon.  The cameras they were using zoomed in on her, and the image began to distort.

Someone made the call to exclusively use the camera behind Dauntless, which viewed the scene from an angle where his body mostly blocked ninety percent of the Simurgh.  Only a few wing-tip feathers were visible past his arm.

Sensible call.

There were more people in the situation room that I didn’t know, now, and far less in the way of familiar faces.  Less capes, more civilians.  My family had departed, and so had Vista and Narwhal.  Only Cinereal remained.

I stood to the left of the door, my back to the wall, my hip resting against a protruding vent at the wall, where someone had left a coffee and a small pad of papers.  My new vantage point for watching things crumble.  Monitors showed the monsters and their respective journeys, with numbers in the corners going up as Teacher’s tech continued to track the threat and chance of things breaking.

My ‘new’ vantage point because I’d just moved a minute ago.  I’d been standing with my right elbow touching the doorframe before.  I’d moved because the monitor showing Nursery had included a new set of guests.  My sister.

And I really didn’t want to look at her.  Moving meant a jutting bit of ductwork blocked off most of that image.

That was reason one.

Reason two was that Darnall and Jessica stood to the right of the door.  A part of me had hoped that by moving, leaving a void to my right for someone else to stand in, Jessica might approach.

Instead, they talked in low voices, unintelligible, not that I tried to listen in.

I paid more attention to the flow of the room, the degree of agitation, and the tenor of conversations that I couldn’t make out.  I told myself I was being aware without being aware, existing in that state that was supposed to work with the shard space.  Just in case I had to go back.

My empty fingernail bed pressed against my upper arm.  It burned like it was on fire, if fire was sharp.

Pay attention to the beats that land, the moments of impact, the key elements in the flow of it all.

Tension, agitation, people writing things down, Cinereal leaning forward, taking over the comms.  What little I could make out of her voice was more familiar, casual.  It made me think more of me talking to a member of Breakthrough than me talking to Natalie.

My eyes went to the screens, just before they changed over.  All screens now displaying different angles of the same event.

Chevalier in his new armor, black, white and gold, bearing a sword that looked similar, grown large, the blade carving a furrow in the street behind him as he ran.

As he reached an intersection, where he had more room to navigate, he hefted the sword, treating it as feather-light despite its massive scale.  It batted through two traffic lights and grazed a memorial stone that lined the main street as it came forward, came down-

He vaulted, striking the ground, lifting himself up, until the cannon blade was directly below him.  Both hands on the handle, one foot on the trigger-guard, he scaled up the weapon, extending its length, carrying himself up.

It couldn’t quite grow long enough to get him to where he wanted to be, but the camera showed him reaching into the handle, with a shadow-flicker surrounding him up to the shoulders, just like the kind that surrounded the distant Knight.  He fell for a moment as he swung his blade overhead, cutting into a building.

That cut was his point of leverage to use the blade to carry himself to the roof of a ten-story building that hadn’t yet finished construction, blade extending, carrying him back and out, lurching slightly as he adjusted before landing on a partially finished rooftop, surrounded by yellow-painted girders and beams.  Two of the three screens I could see showed him.  The screen in the middle showed the Dauntless titan and its uninterrupted approach.

A shift of the image showed the speck that was Chevalier standing on the building, easier to identify by the framing of girders and beams around him than by his silhouette.  And the distant ‘titan’, Dauntless.

Chevalier adjusted his grip on the blade, raising it up and away from the building it had cut, bringing it overhead to where snow swirled around it, then letting it swing down, sweeping within a foot or two of the building’s face like a pendulum blade.

Getting a grip or deciding on a course of action before he moved the blade and extended it across the street and down.

Into a parking garage.  A diagonal bar across the titan’s path.

One screen to capture the two of them, with some distortion from the Simurgh’s presence in the picture, a slash of silver-white against a brassy gold and the hard, dark angles that formed the titan’s lower body.  Chevalier closer to the image, yet so much smaller.  His sword was large and comparatively ornate, a barrier across the four-lane road.

The entire situation room was holding its breath, as the Titan continued its advance.  The distortion got worse, with heavy artifacting across the middle of the image.

Come on.  Come on. 

The titan continued forward until it was so large in scale that it couldn’t fully be contained within the image without zooming out so far that Chevalier wouldn’t be visible.  The image remained zoomed in on Chevalier and the cannonblade.

He moved the cannonblade, lifting it, swinging it out to point at the titan.  At the Simurgh.

The Endbringer took off, flying skyward.

The Titan ceased moving.  After a long pause, it lowered its spear.

Chevalier reported in, saying something over the comms.  His voice was almost entirely static, and only the cadence of that static suggested it was speech.

Almost understandable, in the same way an abstract painting could be understandable if one fuzzed their vision enough.

Cinereal straightened.  Adjusting a few key pieces of her costume, hand touching her hair, she made her way to the door.

Which would make the people who were present and who I knew in any capacity just Jessica and Darnall.

Cinereal stopped as she saw me.

“What can I do?” I asked.

“Stay put.  Don’t contact your team for now,” she said.  “Be patient.  If what you did yesterday was dangerous, we don’t want to chase that danger.  If it was useful, it’s going to be more useful after things break down than before.”

I wanted to respond to that, to counter that those weren’t mutually exclusive.

But where Narwhal was the kind of militant, no-nonsense, all-business leader who I was pretty sure would bow to better arguments, I wasn’t positive Cinereal was anything like that.  Cinereal was allegedly unfair, unreasonable, in training, expectations, her lack of patience, and her propensity to hold grudges.

I kept my mouth shut, nodding instead.

She wasn’t necessarily wrong, even if I could help with both this current situation and the one that we might be dealing with later tonight.

“Pulling together a meeting with everyone in one place seems difficult,” Cinereal said.  “Eric!”

Death and rebirth were on my mind so much that I felt a sudden emotional twinge at the notion that it might be my kid cousin.  A bit of pain at the realization it wasn’t.

‘Eric’ was a suit, roughly my age, jacket already removed and sitting on one of the nearby chairs.  Good looking, in the way that the features that weren’t classically good looking added rather than distracted.  In his case, it was a pronounced roman nose that was maybe one half-size too big, with a flat bit across the bridge suggesting it had been broken once and never set right.  Tan skin, brown hair with blond highlights, a light purple dress shirt, black tie with a pin, black slacks, and nice black wingtips with a bit of scuffing at the toe, like he’d kicked something or nudged a dirty door open with his foot at one point.

She didn’t take her eyes off me as she said, “Eric, look after Ms. Dallon.  I have a brief set of pending questions I was going over that I’ll send to you.  Run them by her.  Get any final statements from her, if she has anything to add outside of the notes she gave Defiant.  Transcribe them.  Stay close enough that she can ask you if she wants something.  Send us your notes in the next ten or fifteen.”

I glanced at him.  In the process, I caught him sizing me up.  Bandaged hand, scarred hand with a wavy burn along the back, traveling across my chest for a half-second too long, back up to face.

No trace of embarrassment or shame.  It was so hard to put my finger on just why I held it against him when Byron had done something similar on our first meeting, but he’d glanced away.  I wasn’t sure there was a strict set of rules for judging that kind of thing, only gut feeling and instinct.

And my instincts were bad.  I frowned a bit.  He smiled to match the frown in intensity.

“I wanted to talk to Mark Dallon, if that’s okay,” I said.  And to Jessica, but…  “Semi-officially.  There are only two others I trust to give me a fair assessment of what’s going on over there.”

“Chris Elman is the other?”  Cinereal asked, eyebrows raising.

I could have laughed, but I was pretty sure that laughing in Cinereal’s face would earn me that grudge, and I wanted to be in her good graces if it meant working with the Wardens.  There were too many resources and too many people I respected tied into their group.  It was too important that we share information.

“Dot,” I told her.  “Amy’s goblin or imp.  If the conversation earlier had gone a bit differently, I would have brought her into it.”

“I have to go, or I’d ask, so Eric will have to be the one to ask you why.  We won’t be more than an hour, Antares.  We’ll exchange emails and messages while traveling.”

I looked.  Chevalier had retreated from his perch.  Dauntless remained where he was, surrounded by tall buildings, each and every one of them smaller than him.

“Good luck,” I told her.

“I don’t believe in luck,” Cinereal told me.  “We work hard to let opportunities happen.”

“Can’t argue that,” I answered, clenching my burned hand for a second, feeling how tight the skin was.

And she was gone.  Back into the fray.

Leaving me with Eric.

I looked back, and saw Jessica following Cinereal out.


She paused.

“I’m sorry to spring that on you, and I know it might not be my business… but it’s kind of my business?”

Didn’t make sense.  Cinereal was out in the hallway, Eric was here.  I was being studied, analyzed.  My career, such as it was, was in the balance.

But other things mattered more.

Jessica’s expression softened, in a way that didn’t really equate to being happy nor calm.  “You’re right.”

“Can we talk?”

“I’ve been asked to give access to some files, I need to find the right ones, to preserve confidentiality for the rest.  I’ll be no more than ten minutes.”


And that was that.

Armstrong was gone, Jessica and Darnall were gone, Cinereal was gone, and I literally knew nobody here in the situation room.

Except for Eric, who I’d been introduced to a minute ago.

“That sounded important,” Eric said.

It sounded like none of your business.  “It was, I think.”

“It’s going to be a minute before she sends me the questions I’m supposed to ask,” Eric said.  He smiled.  “I’m supposed to ask about Dot, your sister’s goblin.  Maybe that’s a starting point.”

Not reallyTalking about Amy is a really shitty start to any dialogue.

“She’s unfiltered,” I said.  Keep it business.  “Her views aren’t human views, neither is her perspective.”

“Really low-to-the-ground perspective, I have to imagine,” Eric said.  “She’s tiny.”

Was he cracking a joke?  It was hard to tell his regular smile from his joking smile.

He hadn’t won any benefits of a doubt from me.  I didn’t return the smile.

“Huh?  No.  Alien perspective,” I said.  “Where she’s coming from, where she’s going.  Amy does something wrong, Dot thinks that something is interesting.  Amy tries to defend that something, Dot admits it happened.  You get to see behind the curtain.”

“You spend a lot of time thinking about this, huh?” Eric asked.  He looked away, in the direction of the screen with the Nursery-thing and the monsters.

“I’ve had to.”

“The way you talked to your sister.  A lot of history?”

“The Wardens know that part,” I said.  Out of curiosity, I looked for and spotted the sticker I’d been looking at during harder conversation earlier.  “If they could talk to Dot alone and keep the conversation friendly, I think she’d admit to a lot of Amy’s crimes and wrongdoing, if only because she doesn’t think of them as crimes.  That’s basically it.”

“You immediately think of crimes and wrongdoing?”

I gave him a look.  Meeting his eyes again, I saw him studying me.  Looking at my neck, up to my face- but not in the sense that he was making eye contact.  Not for a half-second there.  He saw my eyes and locked eye contact again.  Unflinching, unblinking, unabashed.

Like a dominance thing.  Like he was trying to convey with gaze and eye contact that he wasn’t ashamed and he was proud to be looking at me or some shit.

Definitely no fucking benefit of a doubt, now.  This wasn’t the fucking venue or time.

“You just seem to be looking for the worst in her.”

“Weren’t you watching?” I asked.

“I was.  I listened.  I heard you.”

“And you’re okay with her approach?”

“I think she could be coming from a good place, and taking a bad route to get there.  She helped a lot of people with the handling of refugees, she honestly saved us by taking in the villains, because we had no place to put them.  She wouldn’t be the first parahuman I’ve seen who’s… got a different perspective, as you put it.”

Was he, like, testing me?  Was this a thing that Cinereal had signaled or told him before she talked to me, that it was his job to see how fragile or aggressive I was?

Or, worse, was he doing this because he believed that?

How was I supposed to even respond to that?  He’d heard it all and was giving her the benefit of a doubt?

“I have to admit,” I said, measuring out my words.  “I’ve thought to myself that I hope she can find some good, healthy people to be in her corner.  I want us all to get through this with a minimal loss of life, and I want her to find someone who sees her perspective and can walk her through things until she’s closer to… a healthy perspective.”

An amused look crossed his face.  “I’ve always prided myself on seeing things from other’s points of view.”

Okay, fuck this, fuck him.

“What’s your background, Eric?” I asked.  “You’re working under Cinereal?”

“Kind of.  Yeah.  I have been for a month.”

“Corporate before that?”

Again, that amused look.  “I’m curious why you think that.”

“Because a lot of the other options tend to take a firmer stance on things.”

“Not corporate.”  More amused.

“Not PRT,” I suggested.

“No.  Just a student.  I work here days, spend nights studying at Nilles.  I have to confess I only get a couple of hours a week where I’m not tied up, to go on dates, or do shopping that isn’t stopping in at the corner store.”

So you’re one of the people who took my spot at the University, I mused.

“If this evacuation is for keeps, you might not have a University to go back to.”

“Well,” he said.  “More time for going out, doing shopping, meeting friends for a match.”

He was clearly joking, but I couldn’t find the humor in it.

How many people here thought like him?  How many could brush off disaster or act like the giants, Simurgh, and Dauntless were happening to someone else?  Purely things on a screen?

Was that an artifact of them not having powers?  Were there other Erics in the room that never saw a battlefield as anything but something on paper or screens?

Safe in a bunker that might survive a second Gold Morning, he’d been faced with some of the worst of the worst, and he didn’t get it.  He thought about my boobs.  He boasted about considering Amy’s perspective in a show of self indulgence that was, given context, more vulgar than if he’d whipped out his dick and slow-wanked in front of me, while talking about his technique.

The world was going to end and he didn’t get it.  He seemed to assume things would be okay, there would be lacrosse or squash or some other preppy asshole sport, and I was thinking that as someone who liked preppy, clean-cut guys.

This was humanity?  I’d reached out to Jessica, I’d poured out emotions even knowing she wasn’t my therapist anymore, hoping she was a friend at the very least.  And nothing.

It couldn’t be all of humanity.  Gilpatrick, Natalie, Jester, Presley.

I’d told Ashley, once upon a time, that we built those relationships for our advantage, that they needed it, and through it we built something in the way of ongoing goodwill.  We, if nothing else, got a strategic advantage.

Except, floundering, I wanted to reach out for them, because I needed them.  I found them wanting.  I found them lacking.

And I felt so fucking lonely, in that moment.  I’d thought before about how isolated a cape was in the grand scheme of it all, each of us with our individual powers, but… this was more than that.

My family gone and outright alien to me.  My teammates and friends, past and present, gone or dead.

Like I could reach out and… there was nobody there.

“I hope you get your match with friends after all of this is said and done,” I told him.

“So do I,” he said, chuckling, like he wasn’t vaguely offputting enough to give me an existential crisis.

“Anyway,” I said, feeling very out of place.  “That’s Dot in a nutshell.  But we can’t talk to her without going through the Red Queen first.  Mark Dallon is a better bet for getting the down-low.  I think.”

“Sure.  Let’s see about arranging the call,” he said.  He looked around.  “Station three looks less busy.”

In the back corner of the room near where Jessica and Darnall had been standing.  The same terminal that had the sticker on it that I’d been fixating on.

A guy who looked to be in his thirties was at the computer, working his way through camera feeds, selecting tracts of data and deleting them.  He had a very square face and red cheeks, with black hair in a pronounced widows peak that could have been a receding hairline.  His suit jacket didn’t fit him.

“Any chance we could get the console, Larue?” Eric asked.

“Is it official?” Larue asked.  “I’m trying filtering algorithms with the digital noise we got.  I can’t use anything that has Ziz on it.  I’d really rather use this terminal than my laptop.”

“Semi-official.  We won’t be too long.”

“Sure,” Larue said, smiling.  “I’ll take the chance to take a break, go by the vending and coffee machines on the way back.”

“Thanks.  We might take longer than that trip does.”

“I’ll manage.  Want anything?”

Eric shook his head, taking the one chair as soon as Larue had vacated it.

“Antares?” Larue asked.

“No.  No thanks.”

“It’d be my treat.”

I shook my head, my arms folded as I watched what Eric did.  “Thanks though.”

“Thank you for what you do,” the guy said.  “That conversation earlier didn’t look easy.”

“Thanks,” I said, meaning it despite my discomfort.  Everyone had seen me snap, there.  “Thanks for what you do, too, you know.”

“Fifteen minutes of work on a thirty second video clip that they might not even glance at or revisit,” Larue said.  “Feels like busywork for the civilians, to make us feel like we’re helping, while you’re the ones in the thick of it.”

I shook my head.  “You’d have to be on the same team that got the cameras out there.”

“Yup.  I didn’t actually do the camera part, though.  Post-process.”

“It helps,” I said.  From this vantage point at the back right of the room, I could see the screen with Nursery, all the way up at the front, far left.  I could see the shape that was Amy, surrounded by shuddering giants who were in the process of sprouting tree-like masses of slick flesh from their groins, greater branches showing how soft they were on impact with the ground, each limb ending in an individual ‘fruit’, curled up into fetal positions, uncurling, standing, and swelling in size by the second.  Amy went to each, touching them.  A spot of orange at her shoulder- that’d be Dot.   I spotted Marquis.  “All the individual things.  Glimpses of the monsters before we have to face it for real.”

“That’s encouraging.”

I could fly out there right now.  Same portal I used to get to the fight with Damsel and Deathchester would put me close.  I could go to her and I could erase her from consideration.

And I’d get in trouble.  Possibly a long stay in an alternate reality.  I’d get some consideration for mental stresses, probably.  Darnall would testify on my behalf.

“All of us got into this business because it fascinated us,” Eric said, his attention on the text conversation with, I had to assume, Shin.  “Hearing the source of that inspiration encouraging us is pretty cool.”

I wasn’t encouraging or thanking you, Eric, I thought, my expression unchanging.  You haven’t earned it yet.

“Off to get coffee and a Gnarly Bar,” Larue said.

“Catch you after,” I said, smiling a bit.

Eric reached up and toward me.

I brushed his hand aside before it could make contact.  My arm and hand hadn’t moved in the course of the brushing aside.  I’d meant to do it and I hadn’t.

It had been a brief, natural expansion of my forcefield, a brief, natural movement of an arm that had no meat beneath the skin, no bone beneath the meat, and no and no rejiggered rat or feline DNA in blood, bone, meat, or skin.  Above all, it had been a gentle touch.

I wasn’t supposed to use my powers, and I’d just used my powers.

“Uh,” Eric said, his eyes going wide, the smile falling away, the good humor gone.

“Don’t do that,” I told him.  “What were you doing?”

“Trying to get your attention.”

None of that dominance now.  None of the steady eye contact.

“You had it.  Sudden movement in the corner of my vision?  You said you were good at seeing perspectives.  Please be aware of mine.”

“I- sorry,” he said.

Too defensive, I thought.  Calm down.

I gripped my arms.  My missing fingernail really fucking hurt.

“Was going to say, he’s with Amelia.  You could try calling, but…”

I looked at the screen again.

No sign of Flashbang.  Dad.  Probably dad.

I felt that pang of loneliness again.

Dead silent, unmoving, I watched the screens.

I wanted to be out there, helping.

But we were being penalized for going off on our own.  We’d ducked one set of arbitrary, rushed rulings for another set.

I tried to tell myself that it was the deal I’d struck with myself.  That I’d cooperate, listen.

Anything else got messy, and hurt the rest of the team.

“I could ask you some of Cinereal’s questions.”

I’m not sure I could take it, I thought.  I’m a bit on edge.

A little bit mega proud that I had that much control over my forcefield.  It helped with the feeling of loneliness.

“Sure,” I told him.

“It’s a brief list.  Question says she wanted to talk to every member of your team separately.  I take it to mean I’m supposed to ask you and just you.”

“Okay.  Shoot.”

“Tell me about Capricorn,” Eric said, leaning back.

“Vague question.”

“How was he, how is he?”

“This is confidential?”

“Good as,” Eric answered.

I hesitated.

But I felt like not answering at all would be damning.

“When I first met him, he was good.  Harder headed, stricter with himself and in a way, with his brother.  Unavoidable.  Natural hero, just thrust into a situation where someone was going to do something disagreeable.  They found a middle ground and given where they started, I think that’s incredible.  He’s a good leader, capable, powerful, pretty darn sensible, if aggressive, but even that aggressiveness has become something more… tempered, mature.  He bypassed Goddess in a way the rest of us couldn’t.  It’d be nice to have him out there.  I think you guys need him out there.”

“Concerns?  Critical weaknesses?”

In this moment, I could imagine Tristan feeling much like I was feeling right now.


“Sveta, then?”

I thought of Sveta, of the images, and the broken-up dream where she’d fallen from the decorative rock in front of the mall to the empty parking space below.

“Smart, caring, sensitive, with a nurturing side and a sense of justice you wouldn’t expect someone with the rest of her personality to have.  She knew valuable stuff about this base and the raid, she knows practical stuff about Cauldron and power interactions I haven’t run into.  If you need an expert on weird power-physiology interactions like…”

I gestured vaguely toward the Nursery screen with my bandaged fingers.

“…she’s the one you want.  She’s lived it.  She studied it, to better care for the other Case Fifty-Threes.”

“Concerns?  Weaknesses?”

“Some of those Case Fifty-Threes still hold a grudge.  She’s new to her body, but you guys know that.  She’s done pretty darn well, considering.”

“Precipice.  Rain Frazier.”

“Tough.  I’ve known capes who can take a hit.  Ones with powers.  Ones without.  I’ve known capes who have drive to an extent that they won’t let themselves go down.  With Precipice, no powers but he can take that hit, and he won’t topple, won’t fall.  He fucked up, coming from a bad situation, doing something bad.  He wants to make up for it enough he won’t stop or stop fighting for our side.  He’s had experience dealing with and circumventing Mathers.  If you’ve got a giant Mathers out there, talk to him.  He doesn’t believe in himself enough.”


“He doesn’t believe in himself enough,” I repeated. Are you even listening?

“Lookout.  Ms. K. Martin.”

“We don’t know enough.  She gets us information.  She cares.  She wants to do right by society, she wants to be a heroine.  She’s capable.  I have the instinct you guys want to bench her, because she’s a kid and she’s been a bit off-rails.  Don’t.  Or if you do, bench all of us.  If you bench just her then it’s going to destroy her a little.  She needs the group, and that includes needing her new team.  They’re good kids.”

“She stayed with you?”

“For a few nights.”

“Has she reached out in any way since you were told to avoid contact with one another?”

“Not that I’m aware.”

“What’s the worst case scenario when it comes to her?”

“That an eleven year old girl has her heart broken yet again.”

“I think they meant powerwise.”

“I don’t know.  Mental breakdown, leading to her forcing people to be close to her through blackmail and coercion.  Violations of privacy.”

“How likely do you see that eventuality?”

“Not very.  She’d have to feel like she has nobody.  I don’t think she’s anywhere near that.”

Eric nodded.  He didn’t type or record that I could see.  Didn’t take notes on paper.

I didn’t miss the fact Kenzie had way more questions than any of the others.  Suspicion about them wanting to bench her reaffirmed.


I thought of Tattletale in the trigger dream.  Scrambling to save her brother.

I knew that all of us tended to have hangups about our trigger visions.  It had been part of the reason I’d asked Dean about his.  I knew I would maybe forever have a pet peeve about being ignored, trampled.  Movers would feel restless, tinkers would deal with anxiety.  It was the way things went.

So I could extrapolate, think of that scene, and think of Tattletale and her every interaction with anyone she seemed to care about being an extension, in some small way, of that desperate and helpless struggle to save her already-deceased brother.  Too late, wrestling with the blanks and question marks in the aftermath.

“I wish she was a hero,” I said.

“Can you elaborate?” Eric asked.

Still no smile on his face.  Still no feigned friendliness.  The forcefield had batted his hand aside, and dashed those overly friendly pretenses and leers away.

“She’s exactly what we need, in terms of information, the ability to tie disparate things together, and penetrate to the heart of things.  She came last night because of her association with Kenzie’s group.  She came because she wanted to know what was going on.  And I’m on the same page as her there.  Just about everything else, I think we disagree.  I respect her, but I don’t like her or respect a lot of her actions.”

“Uh huh,” he said.  “And yourself?”



I wasn’t in a good place to do a self-evaluation.  I’d just sort of done one in front of Jessica, a little ways down the hall, and it had been a rambling mess, an outpouring of feelings.

And she hadn’t been receptive, so I’d said and done something stupid, hurting her and putting her on the spot.

“I want to help.  When we’re this desperate, I feel like that’s all that should matter.  Outside of that… I don’t think I can give you an objective self evaluation.”

“What about an un-objective one?” Eric asked.  He smiled for the first time since I’d brushed his hand away.

“I feel like there’s too few people who are looking at the big picture, and it’s an actually terrible thing that my sister is one of them, and she and I are on a similar page in this.  I’d like to think that everything I said about the rest of my team is true about me too.  The good parts.  To lesser degrees, obviously, but… even that sounds like I’m full of myself.”

Eric nodded.  He turned back to the computer, and I had hopes it would be my dad.  Because it’d be awfully nice to talk to my dad in this moment.

But he switched to another window, and began doing some typing.  Summarizing my notes.

Looking over his shoulder seemed to be making him self conscious, and I thought about enjoying that as some eye-for-an-eye bullshit, but I didn’t want to make a bad impression.  I stepped back and away, so the desk was to my right and I could only see the side edge of the monitor.

Three minutes passed, with a clack of keys, before the claustrophobic nature of the room began to get to me.  The procession line of naked people had already begun.  The Dauntless titan didn’t attack them.

“I’ll be outside,” I said.  “Unless there’s more questions.”

“No more questions,” he said.


I wanted fresh air.  I wanted to fly, to burn off energy, to breathe city air in my Earth.  Bet, ideally, in a universe where it hadn’t all been ruined by Endbringers and aliens.

I settled for the catwalk at the end of the hallway, the railing near where I’d talked to Darnall and Jessica.  A drop below.

I heard distant shouts and orders.  A team getting organized.

In the wake of those conversations and that back and forth, I felt like I’d come close to an epiphany, a realization or an answer.

I just wasn’t sure what the question was.

In a way, I felt more secure than ever.

In another way, I felt isolated.  The absence of others like a gaping wound, the stump of a missing limb.

In a way, I felt like doing something and making a concrete difference in the outcome of all of this was in arm’s reach.

In another… helpless.

If I could take the question and hold it firmly in my mind, then I felt like I could take the sum total of my feelings earlier and put them at the end, and algebra my way to a conclusion.  We know this, that takes priority.  Solve for X.

I wished I’d been able to talk to my dad.

A small, scared part of me worried I’d lost him forever.  Because just like Byron and Tristan, Amy and I seemed to be trapped in a world where it felt like only one of us got what we wanted.  Only one of us got a given parent.  Only one of us got the Victoria Dallon closest to their heart.

Fucking barf.

Time passed, maybe ten minutes, my thoughts in a whirl.  Moment to moment, I found myself regretting things I’d said, wishing I’d said other things, and being so frustrated I almost used my power to tear that railing out and crumple it into a ball.  I could imagine punting that ball of metal railing into the wall with enough force it would embed into the hard white surface.

I have newfound power and control and they’re not letting me use it.

I want to get out there.

The railing squeaked with added weight.  Battle damage from the raid on the base hadn’t been completely fixed.

“I talked to Amy Dallon, after I talked to you, the day following the attack on the community center.”

I didn’t respond, and I didn’t look.

“There are so many things I could say about that conversation.  But I don’t want to get distracted.  Suffice to say I told the Wardens I was worried.  I felt like you were possibly right, saying she was dangerous, and I communicated that.  They said they would keep a closer eye on her.  The disaster with the portals and the loss of the headquarters no doubt made that difficult to impossible.”

I nodded.

“More pertinent to this… conversation?  Confession?  Is that she told me she saw herself in me.  The exhaustion.  The weariness, the imminent breakdown.  She used her power on me-”

I whipped my head around, my eyes wide.

Jessica looked so weary, simultaneously alarmed at my alarm.

“Passively,” she said.  “There’s no sign she did anything.”

I looked down, away, my heart hammering.

“Thank you for caring, though,” she said.

I swallowed hard.

“It was… a penetrating comment at a time I was undeniably overworked, overstressed, and trying to shoulder too much of a workload.  It can happen, that the wrong comment at the worst time can devastate you.  I’m sure you know, having dealt with Tattletale, who apparently has that as her power.”

I bit my lip, staring down at the space below the railing, the team rushing down a hallway.

“After that conversation, I cut down on my work.  Delegated.  I reached out, I found colleagues who were willing to help.  I revisited an idea I’d had about having a guest speaker of sorts come in to talk to my therapy group.  I’d brought it up with Weld before.”

“That was because of Amy?” I asked, tensing.

“In small part.  I’m sorry.”

“What happened with Riley, Jessica?”

“How did you even hear about it?” she asked.

“When I visited the source of powers.  I saw the… construction of Tattletale’s power.  It let me see things if I asked.  I asked about Amy a few times.  Asked about you once.”

“Why me?”

“Because you’re not you?” I asked, turning to face her, wounded.  “Because something clearly happened, and you’re retiring?”

Jessica sighed.  “What did you see?”

“Your hands around her throat.  She hurt you in response.  What happened with Riley?”

“After the portal incident, we were isolated.  We were trapped in an alternate universe.  I’d cut back on my workload prior, started to find my way back to who I used to be, old hobbies, old interests.  I tried to hunt down people I knew, through the internet.  The portal took me out of that frame of mind, and put me into a hostile place with exceptionally dangerous people who were, as long as everything was well, being good.”

“And it was your job to ensure it all went well?” I asked.

Jessica nodded.  “I was second in command of our little group.  Leader when Van- when the self-elected leader wasn’t around or when he was sleeping. There were other, more distant camps, and he’d visit them.  The parahumans who had previously been prisoners or test subjects were in an isolated camp as well, about twenty minutes away from the main camp.  I was in charge of that one.  Making sure they were happy, keeping an eye out for danger.”

“Something happened?”

“We endured.  We kept a balance.  It wasn’t easy.  A lot of the foods we experimented with made us violently ill.  Fresh water was in short supply, we were cold, we got sick.  Riley seemed to have saved us, if anything, by analyzing the food and curing the sickest of us- people I deemed so at-risk that it was unlikely she could do too much.  Riley and Jamie Rinke were, to all appearances, angelic, all considered.  Some reining in needed, naturally, and it took everything I had to stay on top of it all, especially with my own bouts with illness, but it worked.  We’d made it out the other side.”

How does that get us from there to you strangling Bonesaw?

I didn’t butt in.

“The ‘other side’ was Valkyrie’s arrival.  We talked.  Everyone began to pack up, and she plotted the way back with Van.  As liaison, it was my job to collect Riley and Jamie.  Jamie was happy to go.  Riley wanted to pack up her lab… and was resistant to my offers to help.”

“Tinkers are touchy.  Little things like fingerprints can cause problems with specific tech.  I have to imagine it’s the same for her work.  Or was she up to something?”

“She was protective of her work in a curtained-off section of her lab.  She wouldn’t let me approach, and my first thought was that we had people in more distant camps who had struck out on their own.  Some parahumans, one couple, a jolly fellow who fancied himself a survivalist and who was taking an optimistic view of the situation.  He would stop in every day or two, and he hadn’t stopped in for two days.  We sent out people to get in touch with him after Valkyrie’s arrival, and they couldn’t find his camp.”

“Worrying,” I echoed the sentiment in her words.

“Terrifying.  Crushing.  Riley adopted her ‘Bonesaw’ persona, acting younger than she appeared- and with the surgeries she subjected herself to, she’ll never appear older than twelve.  Laughing off my questions, being furtive.”

Another superhero team was running down the hall, far below us.

Jessica didn’t elaborate, didn’t explain the whole business.

For a moment, I was terrified that was it.  I was left to draw the worst conclusion.

“She was my responsibility.  I can say what I might say about workload, stress, the inherent difficulties of that situation, but I could have and should have kept more of an eye on her.  The burden of guilt was on me more than it was on one very ill and traumatized young woman in a new and difficult situation.”

“That’s not being fair to yourself.”

“Maybe not,” Jessica said.  “But that was what I felt in that moment.  In working with people with criminal inclinations, part of my job is to protect society, and working with five people with powers, only two a real and present concern, I’d failed to protect a tiny, primitive microcosm of society.  I got angry.  Desperate.  I tried to make her show me.  And somewhere in the midst of it, she lashed out, I grabbed her, or the other way around.”

“Are you okay?”

“She dug her fingers into my arm,” Jessica touched her sleeve.  “And used contacts on her nails to manipulate my nerves, trying to make my arm turn against me.  Tensed muscles until they tore from bone.  I still don’t have the strength I did, I still have constant pain, and that may be a reminder of my lowest moment, furthest from the person I wanted to be.”

I had a half-dozen questions I wanted to ask, but there was no perfect order.

“Was it?  Had she done something?” I asked.

Jessica shook her head.  “Everyone accounted for.  Everyone checked over.  Nothing questionable.  If I had to guess, she was protective of her work because it was all she had to show for the prior timeframe and as you say, it was fragile.  I’ve gone over that conversation a thousand times in my head, since, and I think she might have misread my tone, or misread my impatience as my wanting her to leave it behind.”

“And Bonesaw?” I asked, quiet.  “Is she okay?”

“Riley is Riley, Victoria.  Physically?  Even with nearly every bit of her technology removed from her body, I don’t think there’s much someone could do to her with physical wounds that would last.”

I nodded.  I wasn’t sure how to feel about that.

“Mentally?  Emotionally?” Jessica asked.  “She asked to stay.  Valkyrie tried to convince her.  They struck a deal that Valkyrie would visit now and then.  She was ashamed she hurt me like she did.”


“I think she’s more experienced than most when it comes to enduring betrayals and being hurt by people close to her.  But that makes it more of a betrayal that I perpetrated, Victoria.  Not less.  More of a wrong.”

And in the doing, I thought, because there was no way in hell I’d say it out loud, you proved my sister right?  Tired, sick, desperate and scared, you perpetrated what you see as an unforgivable betrayal?

“I can’t support or help anyone until I relearn how to support and help myself,” she told me.  “I know you want and need me to be my old self, but I need to rediscover her, first.  For myself first, then for others.  If that’s even possible.”

Something about her tone at the end there made me look at her, study her.

“Did you trigger?” I asked.

She didn’t move a hair.

“Because I know your policies, and I can imagine you’d be the type to suppress it, do what retired capes are doing, pretending you don’t have powers, that a purely civilian life is possible, but-”

“Victoria,” she interrupted me.

I stopped.

She shook her head at me, before dropping her gaze to the crowds below us.

And hopes were dashed.  Jessica was out of reach.

“I’m sorry that happened, Jessica.”

“So am I.”

My screen glowed with the text message from the Wardens, in the second before I drew a circle, radiating out to another application, which showed a map of the Headquarters.  Once Cauldron’s, then Teacher’s, now the Wardens’.

I found the coordinates and the room.

I knocked.


Had a small crisis of confidence.

The door opened.

Black hair, thick and long, tied back.  One eye half-lidded, due to injury or birth defect.  He wore a gray marled long-sleeve t-shirt and sleep pants.  I liked the way he wore both of those things.

“Anelace,” I said.

He studied me, glancing past me to see if my team or anyone else was there.

“Problem?” he asked.

I shook my head.

“What’s going on?”

I looked off to the side, thumbs hooked in belt loops.  “You’ve… given me hints before.  That you’re interested.”

“Blatant ones.  Yeah.  Why?”

“I’m interested.  You and me, no strings attached, you let me lead.  We go our separate ways after, stay friendly.”

I told myself I wasn’t going to fidget, but my thumb plucked at my belt loop.

He stared into my eyes, brows creasing.  “For real?”

“Yeah.  And if you say no, I’d appreciate we just forgot I made this offer.”

I’d told myself I wasn’t going to say that either.  My thumb plucked at my belt loop again.

“If you’d rather sleep, I know you finished patrol a bit ago.”

And that.  Damn it.

“No,” he said, negating.  He looked at me.  “Yeah.  Yes.”

I started forward.  He put a hand out, flat to my stomach.

“Hold up.”

I remained where I was, frozen, tense, nervous.

“Boundaries?” he asked.  “Or better yet, why?”

I could have lied, or come up with reasons.

“I don’t want to be alone right now.  I want to be the opposite of alone.”

“Okay, then.  That’s why,” he said, and his voice was breathy.  My hair stood on end.  His hand was still flat against my stomach.  “Boundaries?  Rules?  How do we go about this?”

“No talking?” I ventured.  “That’s easier.  Talking leads to thinking and I don’t want to think for the next… thirty minutes.”

“That’s harder.  There’s stuff to figure out partway, there’s questions, do you want… vigorous?  Rough?  Gentle?  Also, holy shit, thirty minutes.”

“Gentle,” I said, barely a whisper.  “It’s okay if thirty minutes is a big ask.  Skin to skin contact.  Tender.  Anything that’s…”

“Not alone?” he asked.

I nodded.

My heart was hammering.  I was terrified.  A whole morass of dark thoughts lurked near the back of my brain, but that other drive won over.  At least in this context.

“I don’t have protection,” he said.

“I do.  Grabbed some on the way over.  For what it’s worth, it’s been… years. I’ve had checkups since then.”

“I’ve been checked up since,” he echoed me.

He stepped out of the doorway.  Inviting me into the dim room.  There wasn’t wall art, but he did have a plant, something like a bonsai, and rocks.  There were some books on the bookshelf, but almost none were sitting up the right way, and most were lying on their side like bricks or stacked up into towers, to make more use of the space.

He couldn’t have even been here that long.  Curious, that he’d bring a plant and rocks to a barracks-style dormitory room.

“My boundary,” He whispered.


“I have neighbors.”

“I figured,” I whispered.  “No noise above a whisper.”

He nodded.

My phone was warm in my pocket, the text one gesture away.  Message from the Wardens, verdict reached.  Capricorn, good to go.  Sveta, good to go.  Precipice, a-ok.  Lookout, cleared provided there was supervision.  She would have access to her tech.  No word on Tattletale, but that hardly mattered.

Antares: benched.  Stay nearby, await further instructions.

Anelace began to remove his long-sleeved shirt.  I stopped him.

Silent, his forearms still crossed, hands still at the bottom of his shirt, his abdomen partially exposed.

I pushed his hands away, stepping close enough our chests touched.  No doubt he could feel my heartbeat.

“I want to undress you,” I told him.

“No complaints.”

“Let me lead?  Every step of the way?” I asked again.  “Please?”

“Even for stuff like this?”

I nodded.

“Got it.”

I’d compared the situation room to a shoebox in the midst of a tomb of concrete.  This dorm room was a tenth the size, so small I could reach across it and touch two separate walls.  A bed, shelves, a cabinet.

Two of us, a bit of light, and what felt like a whole world of dark thoughts in the space beyond, like the situation room had had its concrete.

But he was warm.  I kissed him, and it felt both warm and sad.

It helped with that lonely feeling without really solving it.

I pulled off his shirt and I pulled off my sweater.  He stood there, breathing in deep, looking at me, and I breathed that in.  Being wanted.

I thought without thinking about anything, my brain a febrile buzz.

I couldn’t reach out.  Every resource or ally I had was tied up or gone.  I wasn’t supposed to contact my team, my parents weren’t supports, the Warden leadership had its concerns and even Jessica wasn’t available.  I had an appointment with Darnall for later but that did nothing at all for now.

It made me feel isolated, lost, and cold.

So I held onto another warm, willing body, kissing it, pressing it down onto a cot barely big enough for one person.

The approach we were taking as a collective felt wrong.  I’d tried to articulate what I wanted, what I thought we should do.  I’d tried to pursue that, going to where the powers came from.

I had suspicions, but no energy or wherewithal to pursue them.  I wanted to be out there, chasing that gut feeling that had been nettling me.  But I couldn’t.  To do so would be a betrayal on several levels.

It didn’t feel right, but I’d concede to the greater authority.

Base, animal instinct, much neglected, at least, felt kind of right.  It was hard to call it wrong, at least, when it was so far from morality or black and white thinking.

I tasted his skin, his sweat, and I smelled him.  He smelled like herbal tea.  I touched the expanse of him and I looked at him in the dim.  Between tasting him and smelling him, nuzzling him, my face wasn’t more than a half inch from him at any point.  His hair tickled me and mine no doubt tickled him.

I felt the chase of other thoughts, familiar and wrong, and sank deeper into mindless sensation to escape them.  Drank in the small male sounds.

We hadn’t even taken off our pants yet.  Not that the flannel he wore was a real barrier to me feeling him.

I was benched.  We’d submitted to higher authority because we’d told ourselves it got us more than it cost us.  And in the now, the rule was that Victoria Dallon didn’t leave until there were further discussions.

That was the law, so to speak.  Closest we had to one.

Follow the law, when that fails, do what feels right.  When that fails, reach out.

Above all else, avoid doing what I might regret tomorrow.

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this tomorrow, but I felt like I might regret it.  Opening doors, opening the way to being chased by thoughts I didn’t even dare come close to.  The awkwardness.  Feeling like I was betraying Dean.  Feeling like it might hurt my reputation.  A hundred other small reasons, and prime among them was the concern that I felt like if I wasn’t careful, I could shed tears.  I had no idea if they were happy ones or sad ones.

But that regret was for tomorrow.

He made a noise, just loud enough it might disturb the neighbors.  I silenced him by kissing him, taking his hands and putting them where I wanted them, before raising my pelvis so I’d have access to my belt.

This was what I needed now.

Previous Chapter                                                                                       Next Chapter

134 thoughts on “Sundown – 17.6”

  1. “I wish she was a hero,” I said.”

    -Awww, the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Stop denying that you don’t like her, Victoria, we all see and appreciate the platonic love between you and Lisa .

    -Just one night stand with Ethan? So, no canon ship yet. Well, Waste will NO complain. But I think that Amy will have a heart attack or go completely nuts if she’ll be able to see what Vic and Ethan are doing now. Humanity is lucky that she can’t see them.

    “She was ashamed she hurt me like she did.”

    -Glad that Riley didn’t regressed at being Bonesaw as I was afraid that she’ll do. Both she and Jessica bad for what they did to each other. At least, we know that Riley is alive, she’s still Riley (even if, sadly, she’ll be permanently trapped in a child body) and Jessica is ok, apart of her arm and her shame for attacking Riley. Finally, a mystery was solved. It feels so good.

    -Kronos is very protective towards his new daughter. He abandoned the fight when EnbriChevalier tried to attack her. I’m not sure how to feel about this. Kronos is a very good dad but, on the other hand, Simurgh is Simurg…

    Simurgh is basically Kronos’ only weakness and EndbriChevalier was smart enough to realize it. I’m sure that he couldn’t hurt her because of her precog abilities but still smart enough of him.

  2. He thought about my boobs. He boasted about considering Amy’s perspective in a show of self indulgence that was, given context, more vulgar than if he’d whipped out his dick and slow-wanked in front of me, while talking about how he voted for Ward.

  3. Sorry, I was wrong. The one attacking Kronos is the human Chevalier not the Endbringer one. My bad. Human Chevalier is so freaking badass, facing the two most powerful beings in existence like they’re nothing for him. Chevalier- the BEST HERO.

  4. What a cathartic chapter, deep with character and rich in substance. You go, big V. Claim that healing and comfort you need.

    Excellent chapter as always, WB!

  5. Well, that was a long time coming. Poor Victoria.


    In the wake of those conversations and that back and forth, I felt like I’d come close to an epiphany, a realization or an answer.

    Meaning of life, ain’t it? The answer could be something as simple as 42, but that isn’t worth squat when you don’t know what it’s supposed to be answering.

  6. >surrounded by shuddering giants who were in the process of sprouting tree-like masses of slick flesh from their groins, greater branches showing how soft they were on impact with the ground, each limb ending in an individual ‘fruit’, curled up into fetal positions, uncurling, standing, and swelling in size by the second.

    Wildbow sees how uncomfortable the mention of sphincters makes us, and decides to redouble on the body horror.

  7. So, Victoria is again violent and agressive towards Amy, continues to think of killing her and that she doesnt care for the consequences of that, makes a disturbing, masturbatory comparison because someone DARED to tell her that she is looking for only the worse in Amy and daring to consider Amy’s point of view. He isnt one of Victoria’s clique that worships her every word and dares to consider the other point of view on this therefore he is a disgusting human being that must be hated. I see you peeking your ugly head there Glory Girl

    Also I knew I was right in no believing Riley was dead without a body.

    1. Victoria has very consciously separated herself into different personalities – Warrior Monk, Glory Girl, Antares.. And she’s actively trying to integrate each healthy personality, and let the old shitty personality die.

      Victoria’s hatred of Amy, I think, is the only thing keeping the ‘Glory Girl’ personality alive. It is concerning seeing her thoughts become so horrendously dark simply because someone implied that they can see things from Amy’s side – not even that they agree with Amy, just that they could see her side.

      Lots of people argue about to what degree Victoria’s hatred of Amy is justified. At the end of the day, I think you’re right for noticing that however justified or non-justified the hate is, it’s holding our protagonist back.

  8. Both Amy and Victoria have SERIOUS mental problems. I can’t see how these girls can ever go back at being normal again. Too much disturbing craziness in their little heads and they get even more crazy as the story progresses.

  9. Typo thread.

    > I spotted Marquis.

    There are too many spaces before this sentence.

    > Cinereal was allegedly unfair, unreasonable, in training, expectations, her lack of patience, and her propensity to hold grudges.

    Problematic sentence – it feels as if Victoria forgot how the sentence started before she finished it. One can’t be “allegedly expectations”, “allegedly her lack of patience”, “allegedly her propensity to hold grudges”.

    offputting > off-putting (?)
    and no and no rejiggered rat > and no rejiggered rat

    1. “an eleven year old girl”
      “making him self conscious, and”
      “I was second in command of”

      @Alfaryn: the sentence works out as-is, but the comma abundance makes its structure mildly confusing.
      Paraphrased: “Cinereal was (allegedly) unfair and/or unreasonable in various ways – in training, as well as in expectations, in her lack of patience and in her propensity to hold grudges.”

  10. > Dauntless only advanced. He didn’t walk, his body more a pillar between sky and ground than a body. He flowed forward, scraped past the city, navigating a path that favored lakes and water, parks and open spaces.

    Ok, so we knew already that Withdrawal is working with a substance that almost broke the cycle once, and now it looks like when Dauntless second-triggered, his shard took a hint from Caryatid about how to look and move (not that surprising by the way, since she at the area then). I guess now we know where the name “Major Malfunctions” really is about, and I’m almost afraid what “malfunction” Finale’s power is, was, or will be related to…

  11. I like the parallel between what the Wardens are doing with the camera to protect themselves from the Simurgh, and Victoria doing almost exactly the same thing to protect herself from Amy.

  12. -Like I could reach out and… there was nobody there.

    This whole section reads like the way shards are right now, reaching out and finding nothing. Specifically, the dauntless interlude, his shard reaching out to anything and finding nothing. Isolate someone enough that their shard feels trapped, before suddenly they find themself with some extra power at their disposal. Not a good sign, but it’s more like another bad sign on a heap of bad signs. I dont think Victoria is on her way to another Khepri level threat, but I feel like she might end up like Teacher, trying to wear her shard in the real world. Ashes to ashes, Wretch to Wretch.

    The sequence with Anelace at the end is sort of heart breaking? I hope this doesnt make things worse for her in some way.

    As for Jessica’s situation, that does sound like the situation a trigger would happen, but god I hope she didn’t. The steps she’s taking to try and heal from that event are very understandable, at least. What would a power from a moment of self betrayal be? Master? Stranger?

    1. I find it particularly worrying that Victoria feels isolated right now – when Valkyrie thinks she is supposed to look for ways to anchor herself. It probably hasn’t come to this point quite yet, but if she remains isolated, feels betrayed or abandoned by all of her friends and family, then she won’t be able to use people as anchors, like Khepri did. Moreover it could make Victoria depend on her connection with her shard even more – just like she suspected (in chapter 17.1) Kenzie may want to do:

      I could imagine Kenzie wanting this. Someone who was there to talk to when she wanted someone.

      which is of course worrying, because at least a major part of the reasoning behind Ciara’s anchors seems to be that they prevent shards from overwhelming their hosts’ minds. And let us not forget that sense of isolation, abandonment by loved ones is a major part of Victoria’s trigger situation, so it may be difficult for her to fight it.

      There is one more thing that worries me that seems connected to Victoria’s sense of isolation.

      Look how difficult it is for Victoria to emphasize with unpowered people. How in chapter 17.2 she said that the refugees in the complex were the group she identified herself with the least. How easy it was for her to not only dislike someone like Erik, but also to use her own power to put him in his palce. How few examples came to her mind when she thought about unpowered people who in her opinion should be better than him.

      And Eryk isn’t the only unpowered person Victoria dislikes and “put them in their place” – in the previous chapter Victoria admitted she didn’t like Darnall, and while she never used her powers against him, I think we all remember how during their first session she seemed to resent the idea that he thought she was anything like his unpowered patients, and unloaded a real avalanche of terrifying facts on him until she judged him scared enough to change his mind.

      And yet… as disconnected from and unable to emphasize with these people she feels, she still wants to help them.

      Another thing is that Victoria seems to think that almost nobody (not just the unpowered people, but even most capes) gets the true nature of major threats (like Amy), or things that in Victoria’s opinion needs to do, to the point of being of thinking about these actions as inevitable (like her work with the shard-space).

      So let’s sum it up. Victoria wants to help people with whom she can’t connect and emphasize, whom she puts in their place using displays of her power or verbal assaults intended to terrify and manipulate them. And she believes that these people can’t understand the nature of the treats they are facing, and the steps that need to be taken to deal with these threats.

      Isn’t it a perfect mindset for a tyrant? One who considers herself benevolent?

      1. All that needs to happen right now is for Victoria to come to a point like “Screw you guys, I’m done sitting on this bench inside a big box full of smaller boxes, and waiting for you to open your eyes, realize how bad things are, and let me do something about it. I’m doing it whether you let me or not.”

        And apropos being stuck in a box. Everyone’s tempers seem short, everyone in the complex seems to be developing something akin to a cabin fever. But it is probably especially hard for people whose powers work best in open spaces, without walls and crowds of people surrounding them from all sides – flies like Victoria, Manton-limited shakers like Vista. Victoria in particular not only came up with this boxes analogy, but in this chapter alone thought at least thrice about flying out – to help deal with Kronos, to deal with Amy, and even to enjoy a peaceful flight above a Bet that was never destroyed.

        Which means that Victoria may hit her breaking point – like the one I described in the paragraph above – very soon, and that Wardens chose a really unfortunate place and time to tell her to sit tight, especially since she doesn’t even have her team to distract her. Anelace may help with that for half an hour, but I’m afraid that afterwards Darnall will have to do something about Victoria’s wound up nerves, and I’m not entirely sure if he is up to the task.

  13. This reminds me why Chev is a badass.

    Man, I always feel so uncomfortable whenever Amy pops in V’s head and she goes down that dark rabbit hole.

  14. Yeah that checks out.
    The Yamada story is sad.
    Regarding Eric, I was thinking ‘screw that guy, and not in a fun way’. Welp.
    I really like the evaluations Victoria gave. Good character stuff there.
    The thread of disconnection continues. 🙁

    > Only one of us got the Victoria Dallon closest to their heart.

    Oh Wildbow!

    >Fucking barf.

    x 1000 if she knew…

  15. @Naoru
    If you read it as “Victoria has been trying to tell/warn people about her abuser and people don’t believe it’s really that bad,” you may see differently.

    1. It helps some, but not really. Amy could dedicate her life to heal people until she died from exhaustion and Victoria would manage to find something bad about it. Of course, is not what she is doing, and Amy do is losing it bit by bit, but the fact remains that Victoria do always look for the worse and the worse only in Amy. And she surrounds herself with people who agree to everything she says, and dont call her out on anything, specially when it comes to Amy, like when Victoria told them she would deceive Amy and throw her to a prison world to die. Like Dumbledore said, facing your enemies is hard, but facing your friends is harder.

      It shows in this chapter when Victoria goes to such lenghts of spitefulness and a very grotesque sexual metaphore just because someone who didnt know her or her story, wanted to consider both points of view and pointed out something that is actually kind of true. In the same breath she used her power on him, and then said she didnt meant to, which is quite similar to Amy snapping under pressure and trauma and making Victoria fall in love with her the first time. They are not so different at the end, Victoria is just as self deluded as Amy is. And quite hypocritical, her Glory Girl actitude when she thought herself justified in brutally crippling E88 thugs is still there, is just against Amy this time.

      Victoria feels justified on manipulating or even killing or brutally maiming Amy, and she had no one around to challenge her on that. I bet she could kill her now and her friends would be there, clapping.

        1. Victoria’s friends support her because they’re victims of abuse too, not only because they care about her wellbeing. Rain was Fallen’s victim, Kenzie was the victim of her natural parents, Sveta was Cauldron’s victim, Ashley was a victim of her father. Victoria is a deeply TRAUMATIZED VICTIM who was raped and mentally tortured by Amy and of course she HATES her abuser and is impossible for her to ever forgive her. Her friends support her because they understand her reasons to hate her abuser since they’re abused as well.
          Amy’s friends support her as well in her monstrous actions: Chris not only that enjoy seeing her hurt Victoria but also advise her to kidnap Victoria and use her as sex slave and her father encourages her behavior. Amy is hypocritical more than Victoria: she doesn’t admit that she ever abused Victoria, she believes that if she loves Victoria then everything she’s doing to her is perfectly allowed, she sees herself nothing but a flawless good human being and so on….
          Amy is a monster worse (for Victoria) than any villain that Victoria ever confronted because she was someone that Victoria trusted and loved who abused and tortured her worse than anyone else ever did.
          Victoria is 100% RIGHT for thinking like this about her RAPIST and I’ll never judge her (from my POV) not even if she’ll dismember Amy at one given moment.
          Abusing your abuser is called making them pay for destroying your life. Or how Luis would say: Just.

          1. I’ll add that Victoria still have a lot of self-control and patience when it comes to Amy because she doesn’t fly straight through portal and kill her, like many abused people would have probably done so far. Because Victoria is aware that if she’ll kill Amy right now, Shin will declare was on Gimmel in the next moment for killing one of their weapons’ makers. I have to appreciate her for controlling herself for the sake of peace.
            I personally think that the Amy should not be killed by throw into the prison world. I mean there were people who did less evils than Amy (like that poor druggie guy) yet they’re now wasting away in the prison world. Too bad that nobody can actually do anything to Amy because of Shin’s supporting her. Maybe if Victoria will be able to manipulate Amy further so her ties with Shin will be weakened, that will be a solution…

          2. Abusing your abuser is called making them pay for destroying your life. Or how Luis would say: Just.

            Ehhhh no is not. This skewed perspective keeps being perpetuated by revenge gore porn movies, but abusing your abuser is ABUSE, and it will NEVER be justified.

            Im a victim of abuse myself. My dad abused me mentally and phisically all my childhood and teenager years. He hit me, hurted me, terrified me, ruined my self steem irreparably. At some point he begged forgiveness, I tried to do so for my own mental being, and he went back to being abusive.

            At some point while I still lived with him he actually started trying to be better and supportive and loving. I then procedeed to snap at him, berate him, scream at him, insulted and humiliated him until I realized I was becoming an abuser myself. There was nothing good or just about that. Think white bear of black mirror, by example. Someone being a horrible person doesnt gives everyone else a free card to be abusive and horrible as well.

            Victoria has the right to hate Amy, never want to see her again, never to forgive her. What Victoria has NO right to do?have any decision over Amy’s fate. Victims cant decide the punishment of their abusers as they are NOT CAPACITATED TO DO SO IN ANY JUST WAY thats why there are laws that decide people’s legal fate,be imprisonment or death penalty.

            VICTORIA IS SELF DELUDED as someone up there said, she cant empathize with unpowered people, has the mindset of a tyrant, thinks poorly of anyone wh dares to counter her worldview, she used her powers on an unpowered person to put them in their place, believes herself above the law which is why Defiant was so hard on her because she feels herself righteous and does whatever the fuck she wants without care for the consequences. That was why Defiant told her 3000 people had died. She didnt even thought about it.

            Is fitting that she started her hero career maiming nazis, because now the audience and all of her group made Amy into a a nazi villian of sorts, someone made to be hated, a caticature of a person that no one cares to humanize anymore. If Amy had used her powers on an unpowered person to scare them like Victoria just did you would put the scream to the heavens but is Victoria, anything she does is good.

            The true tragedy of ward is that NO ONE TELLS AMY AND VICTORIA THEY ARE SCREWING UP so they continue to be self deluded and believing themselves right. And most readers here think victoria is the flawless god that avrnges the poor and abused and amy is satan. Victoria is not perfect, Amy is not entirely bad and viceversa.


            1. Well, it’s your opinion and I respect it. But my opinion -while not being awful from my POV- remains the same: sometimes the law fails to make you justice. You can’t always count on it. Amy can’t be punished by the law for her crimes because she’s too powerful and untouchable. She’s getting more dangerous and unstable with her Endbriclones. But she should be punished somehow. If the law can’t touch her then Victoria will probably do it, on her own terms. If her terms means killing Amy then she have the right to do it. She’ll do what the law fails to do and she’ll probably get her peace of mind after Amy will completely disappear from everyone’s lives. Victoria HAVE THE RIGHT TO GET REVENGE ON HER ABUSER if everything else will fail, especially if Amy will become completely mentally unstable and dangerous for everyone. She’ll find her peace if she’ll stop her abuser from abusing more people and I’ll absolute agree with her.
              I agree with what you did to you father, you proved him that you’re not weak and defenseless and you’re no longer his victim, you showed him that you’re a strong person who can hurt him just like he hurt you. If you didn’t hurt him back, then he’d probably continue to hurt you after his period of acting nicely. But you hurt him back, you showed him that you’re strong and this demonstration of power probably scared him. Amy abuses Victoria because Victoria seems defenseless in her eyes and she feels like she can do what she wants with her. When Victoria threatened her with death in the last chapter, Amy listened her, finally. Why? Because Victoria was no long weak, but strong and dangerous. Want to destroy your abuser? You’re not destroying them showing them forgiveness or understanding, you’re destroying them showing them your strength and making them FEAR you.
              I noticed something: you said that you don’t like Victoria for being above the law even if she saved lives. Then you surely didn’t like Cauldron for acting above the law even if they saved the world. You didn’t like Taylor for the same reasons even if she saved the world. Well, sorry to disappoint you, but doing the wrong things for the right cause is how Worm/Ward operate. Victoria is not always right but she’s doing good in the end. If Victoria will decide that killing Amy will not only eliminate her abuser but also save the world from a fate worse than death will you still judge her for her decision? Have you ever judged Cauldron, Contessa or Taylor?

            2. Much earlier in the story, I recall Victoria’s standard is… some fraction, of the harm someone has done, is justifiable to be done back against that person. Anti-escalatory revenge.

              How great is the harm that Amy has done? To Victoria, to Hunter, to Earth Chiet? what is an acceptable fraction of that?

      1. Victoria’s friends support her because they’re victims of abuse too, not only because they care about her wellbeing. Rain was Fallen’s victim, Kenzie was the victim of her natural parents, Sveta was Cauldron’s victim, Ashley was a victim of her father. Victoria is a deeply TRAUMATIZED VICTIM who was raped and mentally tortured by Amy and of course she HATES her abuser and is impossible for her to ever forgive her. Her friends support her because they understand her reasons to hate her abuser since they’re abused as well.
        Amy’s friends support her as well in her monstrous actions: Chris not only that enjoy seeing her hurt Victoria but also advise her to kidnap Victoria and use her as sex slave and her father encourages her behavior. Amy is hypocritical more than Victoria: she doesn’t admit that she ever abused Victoria, she believes that if she loves Victoria then everything she’s doing to her is perfectly allowed, she sees herself nothing but a flawless good human being and so on….
        Amy is a monster worse (for Victoria) than any villain that Victoria ever confronted because she was someone that Victoria trusted and loved who abused and tortured her worse than anyone else ever did.
        Victoria is 100% RIGHT for thinking like this about her RAPIST and I’ll never judge her (from my POV) not even if she’ll dismember Amy at one given moment.
        Abusing your abuser is called making them pay for destroying your life. Or how Luis would say: Just.

    2. I still can’t believe that there are people blaming Victoria for thinking like this about Amy even now when they know what Amy did to Victoria and that Amy is a dangerous nuts. If they’ll put themselves, just a moment, in the victim’s skin, they’ll understand that Victoria is right for wanting to punish her abuser. I have a friend who was sexually abused by her stepdad since she was 12 and she tried to tell her natural mom and the rest of her family about the abuse she endured but nobody believed her. She still need therapy and I’m absolute angry seeing victim blaming and attempts to defend the abuser here, people not understanding Victoria’s mental issues because of the constant abuse she was exposed at (Amy abused her in Shin prison too), people defending Amy because she “healed some people in the past” and “she’s not someone like Teacher or Cradle” so she can do whatever the fuck she wants or people blaming Victoria for not being a good Christian and forgive her. I’m so angry to the point of crying and internally raging because I know that there are people who blame my friend for not trying to understand and forgive her abuser.

        1. Emma was exactly like Amy. Not a rapist, but an abuser (translating in her case as bully). Amy abused Victoria because of her obsession with her, Emma abused Taylor to make her strong as her. But Taylor proved to be stronger than Emma and Emma proved to be the weak link. Emma refused to admit the bullying, Amy refuses to admit the rape and continue to abuse Victoria. In the end, Taylor survived and Emma killed herself because she was too weak to try to survive. Victoria is a stronger person than Amy but she’s slowly losing herself too without her anchors. Yes, she proved to Amy that she’s smarter and more logical than her in the last chapter. Now, she proves that she can continue her sexual life without Amy’s intervention and mental manipulations. Stronger than Amy indeed.
          Yes, Emma and Amy had some pretty bad stuff in common. Appear to be strong but weak as heck. Delusional and hurtful towards people they love -Emma was Taylor’s best friend.

      1. That is a bold statement you are making. To assume that just because you have put yourself in, as you say, the victims skin, that you’ll understand that punishing your abuser is right, is incorrect and is simply how you feel towards the situation. You use your relation to your abused friend to support your argument but it fails to justify the action as right.

        To compare, my partner was sexually abused and experienced the same kind of dismissal from her mother as your friend when she tried to tell her, leaving pretty much only me in her corner. To be honest victim blaming also infuriates me and if I could set her abuser on fire, trust me I would, but that doesn’t then mean that my actions would be right, it would just be the closets thing to justice in my eyes.

        Victoria’s desire to harm Amy is natural, not right, and if she went ahead and killed Amy I wouldn’t even blame her, Amy corrupted her entire existence, it makes sense to want to want to remove the thing the makes living unbearable. I don’t believe forgiveness is in order, not at all, may all abusers burn in lowest levels of hell, I just can’t stand by and agree that an eye for an eye is right.

        Violence is never the answer, one must find and understand themselves to be at peace with themselves.

    3. Or you can read it as the complexity and nuance of the story being sacrificed in the name of valiating the Wildbow protagonist.

  16. I can’t help but remember the message from Dinah to Taylor to break ties.

    And here we have Victoria with a severe case of loneliness and isolation putting her more and more in tune with her shard.

  17. God that sex was uncomfortable.

    I really really wish Analace had said “If you don’t want to be alone, we can just chill togeather without fooling around.”
    … but that probably wouldn’t satisfy the “I don’t want to think right now.”

    I… ugghh… I just….
    The whole situation puts me on edge and is the OPPOSITE of sexy in so many different ways. None of the choices involved make sense to me. Its good writing, but I hate it.

      1. I mean I’m pretty sure that Anelace is not married to Victoria’s sibling, so ‘exactly like Carol having sex with Neil, and just as unhealthy’ might be somewhat of a stretch, tbh.|

        The main difference here is that the only people who could be hurt by Victoria’s actions here are all aware and consenting adults.

  18. More typos

    now displaying > now displayed
    unfair, unreasonable (maybe unfair and unreasonable)
    widows peak > widow’s peak
    and no and no > and no
    He whispered. > he whispered.

  19. Both as a reply to @ninegardens and as my own personal comment.

    As someone with her own… hangups, I am all for doing away with the glamour of “sexy” in exchange of having intents stated clearly. I’d go as far as to argue that relationships and sex in media and IRL would be far healthier with less glamour. At least and especially when things start out. I am deeply appreciative about how both characters acted. Communication is sexy!

    I can also see how this is uncomfortable. I imagine a big part of Vicky’s motivations are about gaining control and releasing steam. She’s not as much having sex because it’s fun and healthy, as it is fun and healthy because sex is a way for her to feel control over her body and sexuality. That’s a deeply personal feeling that we as readers are not necessarily meant to empathise with.

    It can look as though Anelace is being used. He wanted sex, and not necessarily all the emotional strings Vicky is attaching to it. But from what I recall, Anelace was pretty willing to accomodate Victoria, and arguably he had the opportunity to think things through and decide he was happy with Victoria’s offer.

    I can relate to some of Victoria’s issues, so I think the sex scene is sexy if not titillating? But it certainly isn’t meant to convey sexiness to the reader.

  20. Well, looks like Dr. Yamada isn’t as good as Fortuna when it comes to reminding Riley about being a good girl. I won’t blame her for that, those were hard times.
    I’m pretty grateful we ended up in the current situation and not the worst case where Jessica has to live with being a murderer. Relief, thick enough to put in a sammich.


  21. ninegardens
    Victoria feels so lonely and friendless that she wants someone to keep her company (in her own therms) even for a little while. She was deeply honest with Ethan, telling him what she really want from him (not an relationship, just sex so she’ll feel finally in control of her body, her sexuality and less lonely, after Amy destroyed her sense of control over her body) and he agreed with her. She doesn’t use him, she doesn’t lie him by saying him that she loves him and want to be his girlfriend, she’s very honest to him, he’s very ok with this arrangement and they’re both consenting adults who communicated before what they want from each other during their little “sexy” moment. I fail to see the problem here, yes, isn’t very sexy, but is not something horrible either. Ethan doesn’t abuse Victoria, Victoria doesn’t abuse Ethan, they both communicate and understand each other. Victoria is feeling less lonely and start to see her body more than Amy’s sex toy and this is good.

  22. I don’t understand why Victoria was the only one to be benched. I mean, all of them were responsible for going into shardland, its not like Victoria forced them to put people’s lives in danger by going there. All of them agreed and were equally responsible. The Wardens were pretty unfair towards her. Or maybe they fear that she’ll go and kill Amy and start a war between Gimmel and Shin and they have to keep her under intense supervision to prevent this from happening? Because this must be the only reason why they treat her like this.
    Still, I feel so bad for her. She can’t do absolute anything. Hope something bad will happen and their attitude towards her will have to change because they’ll need her.

    1. I see two other reasons she got benched:
      – she’s the most attuned to her shard
      – Amy could still have added some subtle manipulation somewhere
      They can’t vet her reliability right now, and will call on her only once the fan has spread the entire toilet bowl everywhere.

      1. I hope that shit will hit the fan faster because I’d hate to have to see Victoria strolling around Cauldron’s base without doing anything useful and sulking for the rest of this arc. This and I fail to see Breakthrough will solve any shit without the driving force of Victoria guiding them. In the same manner Sveta is the heart of the team, Victoria is the brains of the team.

        1. The “funny” thing is that Taylor was treated better by heroes than Victoria is treated now. Knowing that Taylor was a villain and she killed one of the greatest heroes- Alexandria- the heroes still took her in the missions with them and even allowed her to remove “non butterflies” interdiction because she was helpful with Behemoth. On the other hand, Victoria is treated worse despite being helpful in capturing/destroying so many villains. Hope this thing will change after few chapters.

      2. I’m not saying that Victoria shouldn’t be benched, but I think that, as I pointed out in the thread zochi started above, the way Wardens are doing it may be very wrong. Keeping a flier in small, underground boxes? Keeping a cape who desperately wants to help, or at least to punch something away from action? Telling a person with a strong connection with her shard, who just discovered a new way to control that power not to use it? Isolating a parahuman whose trigger involved sense of isolation and abandonment from her friends? Making a control freak feel like everything about her was decided without her?

        I won’t be surprised if by “benching” Victoria the Wardens will only make her explode in some way.

        1. Well, Wardens are kind of famous for not taking the best decisions. Poor Victoria, its like Wardens collectively try to mentally destroy her even if this is not their intention.
          Now I kind of WANT for Tyrant to happen and Victoria to wrench shit left and right. Would be such a fabulous moment. Let the chaos begin and Tyrant takes the reign :).

        1. Or at least not clear-headed. She’s close to this issue emotionally. If Darnall gave the Wardens his honest opinion, it probably would have had to have been something like “She’s under a tremendous amount of stress, she has not recovered from a serious psychological trauma afflicted on her by a key player in this situation, and I am not confident that she will make calm and rational decisions.”

          The stakes are high here, and not even heroes can make the right calls 100% of the time, especially when they’ve been through stuff like Victoria has been through. I understand entirely why she was benched, even though it bums me out.

  23. @lulu & Zim the Vixen

    Yes. I understand that nothing bad is happening, and no one is misusing each other. I never said that anything here was problematic, that wasn’t what I was trying to express. I understand that communication was used correctly, and that both people involved are acting in a responsible manner. I appreciate that WB is presenting sex in this way. I understand that it is not supposed to be sexy to the readers. All this is fine.

    None of that *changes* the fact that this scene put me on edge. None of that changes the fact that this particular scene made me uncomfortable. And explaining why it made me uncomfortable would requiring getting into things that I’m not going to comment on with strangers on a public forum.

    So… yeah, I’m pretty sure I understand what you two are saying, and I for the most part I agree with you… but I also think a lot of what you were saying were responding to concerns which weren’t the things that bothered me.

    1. Sorry, I thought that you’re disturbed because Victoria used Ethan to satisfy her sexual needs, which is untrue. Sorry for misunderstanding.

  24. @ninegardens
    That’s fair! It may have come out that way, but my intention wasn’t to invalidate your opinion or experiences. I’m sorry for that.

    I wanted to address what I felt would have been the most likely concerns with the sex scene, which you or others could have had, and use that as a jumping point to also share my own thoughts. I was aware at the moment of writing my post, that I can’t expect anyone’s feelings about the scene to fit neatly into my bullet points, so I tried to not make my post solely about you. In any case, I’m sorry if I came off as combative, dismissive, or made you feel as though you have to justify yourself.

    1. Remember that Victoria mentioned once that there is no known example of a second trigger that happened to a second generation cape. Moreover if, as many suspect, “folding” means second trigger in shard-speak, then in interlude 12.all Victoria’s shard itself confirmed that it is unable to do so.

      1. In the current situation, though, I don’t think anything can be ruled out, especially since Waste-chan doesn’t seem to be a normal bud. We know that it has at least found a way to address its “driving with pliers and a screwdriver” problems on forcefield control after the shardspace visit.

        My guess has been that it was the result of the temporary cluster-like connection between the participant’s shards allowing them to exchange information like a mini-hub, but I’m starting to wonder if the exchange gave Victoria’s shard access to the resources its been missing.

        1. Well, I don’t exclude that something akin to a second trigger may happen to Victoria at some point, but considering that her shard itself seems convinced that it can’t undergo a second trigger, I think that if anything trigger-like will happen, it will not be a “regular” second trigger in a regular high-stress situation, but something completely new, unusual and unexpected – like Khepri’s “ascension”. Probably not done by Amy though – it would be too predictable. Instead maybe something caused by Victoria’s future interaction with the dreamscape or her shard’s avatar there?

          1. And if Amy will be somehow involved in Victoria’s pseudo-second-trigger, I expect her to play a different role than she did with Khepri. Maybe Amy will provoke Victoria to do something that will result in a dramatic “power up”? Or maybe Amy will have to put Victoria back together somehow after Victoria’s “Khepri” moment (which I suspect may happen at the end of Ward) will be over?

            1. In fact I suspect that Hunter’s situation may be a foreshadowing of what may happen with Victoria’s mind-shard connection at some point, and the sort of problems Amy may face to fix it.

  25. @Zim the Vixen
    > Communication is sexy!
    Yes! I’m the most vanilla dude you could imagine, and even I think like this.

    V: “Hi, I’d like to use you to make me feel less alone.”
    A: “This is acceptable.”

    Hot damn! Even more LEWD than holding hands. Very literally adult content.

  26. @ Lulu and Zim,
    All good.
    All the points you brought up were valid, and the discussion of how WB has presented something pretty functional IS a useful one to be had. I was possibly a little defensive, but… as I said, on edge.

    In particular @Lulu
    You assumed things. In person to person conversation you might have asked what bothered me before assuming, but on the internet, with the long time delays in communication, Taking your best guess (and it was a reasonable one) can speed up conversation a who bunch. One of the side effects of communicate paragraph by paragraph instead of sentence by sentence. I get it, it makes sense.

  27. Imagine how pissed Narwal will be if she’ll find out about Victoria and Ethan’s little adventure. She was pretty angry because Missy and Byron did something innocent as kissing (I know, they were naked or half naked but they never did anything more than kissing), imagine what she’ll do if she’ll discover what Victoria did with Ethan behind her back. No sex at the workplace, this is Narwal’s motto and I kind of respect her for it.

  28. Victoria’s interprets every interaction with a normie in the worst possible light (unless its a fangirl like Presley) and then concludes capes can’t connect with non-capes because they haven’t suffered enough. She claims isolation from humanity despite seeing Natalie literally earlier in the day and ignores relationships like Erin/Rain, Chasity/Cassie, or Sveta/Armstrong. Vicky’s disdain for unpowered humans is concerning and is just one more reason that she needs to stay benched.

    1. I agree with you. She’s like an inverse Gary Nieves. Nieves’s hate for parahumans translate in Victoria’s intense dislike for normal humans. But still is frustrating to see the main character completely out of the action for probably a very long period of time. I’m going to miss the times when Victoria was kicking ass in fight. Ah, those golden times.

  29. Okay I’m calling it now. Someone please screen shot this for posterity, thanks.

    Wibbles you crafty boar, you’ve got so much foreshadowing and set up going on. Amy is absolutely going to FREAK when she finds out what Vicky is doingwith Ethan, and she will. In this whole arc so far the missing nail has been used to remind us of Amy’s willingness to approach and still use her powers on Vicky and Vicky’s own realizations of this fact. Add in their conversation and Vicky’s concern that she’s effectively given Amy implied consent to approach her further and, well… Amy definitely won’t pass up the chance to reach out, and not just figuratively. Toss in finally having a conversation with Jessica in which her contact with Amy before the portals emergancy happened and we’ve got another reminder to the audience that Amy can f*cking tell if you’ve recently had sex from a touch. Yeah. And that bit wasn’t mentioned to Vicky. She’s going to find out sooner or later though and it’s going to be too late by then because Amy already has her hands on her. I’m also willing to bet that the “Victoria Dallon closest to their hearts” line and reaction is not just an ironic stab at Vicky not knowing about Amy’s second pet Victoria-blob. It’s either shard shenanigans with her being in tune enough to be subconsciously clued into a second DNA match being out there.

    Now why is all of this important? Well why have we been learning about clone details, cluster-shard power interactions and dynamics, and how shards can’t tell the difference between individuals sharing identical DNA ala case 70’s from the previous arcs? It’s all going to come together when the shit hits the fan and Amy finally clues in.

    We have a Vicky that’s going through a bit of an identity crisis where she’s not sure who, or what, she is in versus who she’s expected to and wants to be. She feels like she’s put in the time and effort and infront of others that she wants to impress and show her value to she can’t quite get it right. She’s feeling isolated and can’t relate to those around her and doesn’t feel like they can relate to her unique experiences/uprbringing. Oh wait. Is this her trigger scenario I just described? Funny that while she’s also the most in sync with her shard and shit is about to get way worse and isolating and whoops, there’s a potential for a second Vicky should push come to shove for Amy.

    In the end I’m sure whatever WB comes up with will be far worse than what my own brainmeat can concoct. It will be terrible. And we will all delight in it.

    Personally? I’m hoping for Shard-VictoriaBlob master/breaker/who-the-f*ck-knows-maybe-case-70 second trigger.

    1. You’re right. It really looks like a setup for Amy to lose it somehow as soon as she touches Victoria.

      I wonder just how much Analace should dread this eventuality, especially since in interlude 16.y Amy was convinced that even Dean was bad for Vicky because

      She didn’t love him. She just felt like she had to be with him because expectations.

      and at least for now Ethan clearly means much less to Victoria than Dean did.

      1. To be fair Amy can read emotions by touching and she had opportunity to touch both Dean, Victoria and other couples to compare, so her guess isn’t necessarily off the mark, though it is biased as heck.

  30. @David, I think Narwhal was more pissed at Vista because she’s one of Narwhal’s people…Anelace is with Foresight, not part of the Wardens. So maybe less pissed?

    I absolutely adore the way Wildbow writes sex scenes (not that he writes many), describing it in a roundabout way where you know what’s going on but without ever being explicit about pretty much anything.

  31. Lookout, cleared provided there was supervision. She would have access to her tech.

    I guess it means that D&D may have some babysitting to do? If this is the case, then I’m sure that Defiant will be absolutely delighted to do so…

    1. Or maybe Kid Win will end up being Kenzie’s “babysitter”? If what Kid said in chapter 17.3 is true, she seems like the sort of child Armsmaster used to assign to this particular Ward in the past…

  32. Victoria said that she wished that Tattletale was a hero. I wonder if by this point Tattletale wishes she was a hero too, and doesn’t change her colors only because she doesn’t want to leave her teammates and friends like Taylor did? I imagine that she might consider doing so if every other Undersider and Heartboken either did the same, or at least just let her know they don’t mind (I can easily imagine Rachel doing the latter thing by saying her distinctive “Whatever.”).

    Maybe this is the reason why Tattletale not only doesn’t seem to particularly mind, but even supports the kids in their efforts to form their own hero teams?

    1. My opinion is that Lisa doesn’t change colors, because it will be an admission of things she had done were wrong. And she doesn’t want to admit them if she can help it.

      1. Or maybe she just thinks that her power and personality aren’t suited for a hero? After all it is not like she can just make herself seem more approachable by using mostly butterflies in public…

        1. Her power definitely suits to be a hero, I can easily imagine Insight leading Wards to capture Bug Girl and Undersiders at bank robbery. As for her personality, this is the universe where Armmaster, Assault and Clockblocker are heroes.

          1. > I can easily imagine Insight
            Have you read Memorials series – Cenotaph, Wake and Legacy? Because… won’t spoils more but this is exactly nick Lisa took there.

  33. Does anyone know why Twig isn’t in topwebfiction to vote anymore? Or in webfictionguide on lists of works by Wildbow? Im getting worried here.

  34. Alfaryn, what do you think that happened to Lisa? Do you think that she is under temporary indefinite imprisonment, was send to the interdimensional prison world because she’s a gang leader or she’s used by Wardens as their consultant because her power is too useful for them? Any other suggestion? I’m just curious to know your opinion.

    1. Honestly, I have no idea, though I doubt that the Wardens would be either so hostile or so stupid that they would just exile her to to another world and throw away the key. They know her well enough to realize that she wants to help, and that she can be very useful.

      Also note that Victoria got no information about any kinds other than Kenzie, which may or may not mean that wherever Tattletale is, she is with them. I even suspect that she may make ensuring that the Chicken Tenders are fine a condition of her cooperation with the Wardens.

      1. By the way, I wonder just how much of Victoria’s current predicament is Tattletale’s doing. I imagine that from Wardens’ point of view out of all people who went into the dreamscape with Breakthrough Tattletale may offer the best balance between insightful and objective assessment of Victoria.

  35. I think Antares is benched for all sorts of reasons, and if Antares were to ask RT’s shard I suspect she would see Warden’s leadership all comment that she’s not right (keep in mind Defiant only tested her with his ruse), Carol and Crystal all comment that she’s not herself, Darnal and Jessica all comment that she’s not fit or ready and finally… her own team’s answers to Cinereal’s questions indicate that everyone in Breakthrough is good to go… except Antares.

    Really, I can see why helping might seemingly help her mentally, but I think she’s fit to serve. I do, however, think that there’s negligence in not getting her some help in the form of Darnal, her family, friends like Vista or a combination of all and just messaging her while learning her to wonder.

    1. Remember that Darnall himself told Victoria to meet him today, and that her time with Anelace is limited to thirty minutes precisely because of this appointment. The only problems are – isn’t this appointment a bit too late, is Darnall, whom Victoria respects, but doesn’t like, and whom she avoided a bit too much in the past, able to help her well enough, and if it would it be better or worse if Wardens ensured that someone was constantly with Victoria, as if she was placed on something akin to a suicide watch?

  36. As for what will set off the cataclysm though.

    Damsel of Distress.

    She’s the next one to feel more like Antares in all of this about controlling things and has none of the oversight to bench her. I don’t know how she’ll do it but she has a good deal of the knowledge from either her own experience there, Swansong or what Breakthrough just taught her. I suspect she’ll work out something with a tinker or the powers on her Deathchester team, crack it open but fail to control it… or succeed…

    1. Maybe? Damsel’s power does seem like something that may be dangerous even to an Endbriclone, and according to Victoria Amy and MathersClone is in the same area where Deathchester pulled their last stunt…

  37. …and knowing what Swansong knew about Amy’s character and her relationship with Victoria, Damsel may think that Red Queen needs or deserves to face her own Mockument-made caricature…

      1. One more thing. Imagine the delightful chaos Damsel could sow if she was in a position to write the following letter:

        Dear rulers of Shin,

        I have your Red Queen in my protective custody. She is in perfect health (physical at least, we all know that her mental health is another matter entirely), and am willing to exchange her for that kingdom you offered a little over a week ago to my other more naïve not-quite-self.

        Damsel of Distress

  38. About what Riley might have been hiding from Jessica – maybe it is something to do with Taylor? For example a part of her brain? After all in the epilogue of Worm Taylor suspected that Bonesaw might have given her a neurosurgery after Contessa shot her in the head? Sure – Taylor also thought that Amy might have been the one who put her brain back together, but I doubt that it was the case – because of Taylor’s long recovery afterwards (remember that at that point Amy probably wasn’t using a slow approach she used to heal Carol), but even more so because of the two soft spots Taylor could feel in her head – Amy almost certainly wouldn’t leave traces like that.

    1. Not to mention that Amy would almost certainly just re-grow Taylor’s hand, while instead Taylor got an advanced prosthetic, which was later replaced with a less advanced model – suggesting that at least the original was tinkertech done by a tinker who was not able to maintain it. This could also suggest a tinker like Bonesaw.

      1. Of course other, possibly slightly less macabre mementos may be possible. For example something like Swansong’s original hand prosthetics, or even something not macabre, but still embarrassing – like some reminder of Eli (that guy from the grocery store Riley used to visit during her interlude in arc 25 of Worm).

        1. Or perhaps Riley could keep all of these things? Swansong’s old hands (or some other old tinkertech she probably isn’t supposed to keep – like her spiderbot or two), a letter from Eli, and Taylor’s Corona-Pollentia-in-a-jar?

          What else do you think Bonesaw could keep in her lab and would want to hide from Jessica so much that she would lash out to protect like she did?

            1. You mean Riley decided that her life shouldn’t revolve entirely around tinkering, studying powers and associating with parahumans as broken as her, and she picked up entomology as a hobby?

  39. Where have all the answers gone
    And where are all the facts?
    Where’s the smart-ass know-it-all
    To pry into the cracks?

    Isn’t there a black mask upon a smirking face?
    A lavender-clad villainess who could give my sleeve an ace

    I need a Tattle!
    I’m shelling out for Tattletale to advise me tonight
    She’s gonna have snark
    And she’s gonna be brash
    And she’s gonna be sharp as a knife

    I need a Tattle!
    I’m shelling out for Tattletale to shed us some light
    She’s gonna be sure
    And she’s gonna be smooth
    And she’s gonna be righter than right
    Righter than right

  40. @lulu
    From a top down perspective I can see why Victoria specifically would get benched, in that she appears to be the leader and driving force of Breakthroughs actions. While it’s clear to us thag everyone going into the shard realm like they did was an accident, it was a byproduct of something that Breakthrough as a whole was explicitly told not to mess with. Ergo, punish the leader and take away her team while she sits in time out, thinking about what she’s done.
    That’s a bad decision by almost any metric, but from what we know of the Wards as it stands, two of the largest Rule Jockeys are in the highest ranks, namely Narwhal and Defiant. Narwhal just subjected Victoria to a psychological battery because protocol said she needed it, not because narwhal personally thought it mattered.

    It does beg the question though, why wasnt Tristan similarly grounded? Does he get special exception because of his Case status? Tristan is clearly viewed by Defiant as someone equally in charge, but he still gets to go free. Curious.

  41. Any guesses by anyone on Jessica’s power?

    I’m sure it can probably be figured out by her description of events and feelings to one or more of the categories of Thinker, Tinker, Master, Blaster, Striker, Stranger, Changer, Trump or Brute. Although I do wonder if she triggered in the heat of those feelings and strangling Riley or later when she discovered Riley was innocent.

    It doesn’t seem to be an “always on” power, or at least nothing appears to be on like some Thinker power, but if she’s avoiding it I imagine she’s doing anything but using it.

  42. why Glory Girl gets benched
    1. she used her power when asked not to do so expressly. she did so in front of an unpowered warden staff who has been asked by one of the warden leaders to report her status.
    2. She used it to intimidate a unpowered person and was clear that it was voluntary and intended to put the unpowered person in his place.
    3. She Lost it at the discussion with the Shin group. Looking from outside it seems that she has not recovered 100% from the Shard space excursion.
    4. Possible Master Stranger effect due to alone time with Amelia Laveres Dallon while in Shin.

    Protagonist centered Morality is a trap in WB works.

    1. 5. She wants to kill Amy. Killing Amy will be like a declaration of war of Gimel, giving Shin the right to attack it (Shin respects Amy because she’s one of their biggest helpers/allies). They want to prevent an interdimensional war.

      1. 6. During the discussion became apperant that instead of being influenced by Amy, she is the one influencing Amy.

  43. The text is belaboring the fact that Amy’s shenanigans won’t be the final straw. So what will be?

    It is Wildbow writing, so it will follow the rules. Aristotle’s thing was that events in a tragedy should be unexpected but consequential, right? Like Zion. Surprising in advance, inevitable in hindsight.

    There aren’t many candidates for that. Victoria and Waste make one. Damsel of Distress is a long shot, but there’s some sense to it. Sleeper hasn’t been set up well enough. Dauntless and the Simurgh are too obvious. But if it were someone we know well from a background we know a lot about… Crystal?

    1. I’ve had one concern ever since Worm’s epilogue, and I still have it now…

      That concern is Valkyrie.
      The shards want to set up a new network. Valkyrie’s connection to her power is incredibly strong – maybe stronger than anyone’s – and has been for a very long time. She controls scores of other shards through her power. And it still isn’t clear what her sentiments towards shards and Scion are/were, exactly. She seemed like she was going to back Scion during GM at one point.

      She’s probably the most powerful parahuman alive. Right now, I feel like she fills that same role Scion filled. You know, that one parahuman that’s probably more powerful than any other who seems to be on our team, but who’s intentions aren’t entirely clear? I could see her creating and mothering a new entity, or shard network.

      I sure hope I’m wrong though. I’m actually a big fan of Ciara. We’ve seen some humanity in her since GM.

      1. I think that there is another reason to worry about Ciara – Jessica’s diagnosis in the epilogue of Worm. Despite her age Ciara is mentally an adolescent. She is a person who is still seeking her own identity. She is not yet fully formed, and will likely change in some fundamental way once she finds her answers.

        That doesn’t mean that she will necessarily change for the worse. Some of things she has been doing during her search are actually what good people do. For example, as we saw in her conversation with Crystal in interlude 9.i, Ciara is not afraid to question morality of her own decisions, and seriously considers other people’s input about it. But there are also some worrying things to – like Ciara’s insistence that she will never be able to consider herself human again.

  44. I think Victoria would be able to figure out Jessica’s new power. There’s enough there in the trigger event description. The event built up over a long period. It was ultimately triggered when

    In a hostile place with dangerous people who were good while they were happy, Jessica was second in command. She had to engage a remote camp of prior prisoners and test subjects and keep them happy too. Food issues were fixed by Bonesaw and Nilbog (two of the five powered people around). When Valkyrie rescued them, Riley, who’d become more “Bonesaw”, wanted to pack her lab alone, although there was no clear evidence of wrongdoing. Jessica felt responsible for Riley’s changes, tried to get Riley to show her what was in the lab. Brawl led to trigger.

    Jessica failed to keep Riley “happy” (unchanged) in a dangerous environment (shaker), reaching crisis point in a short time (thinker). So now she has the power to prevent anyone in the area from having an epiphany. The anti-Yamada!

    I also think Victoria was benched merely because Erik is a creep and didn’t get to cop a feel. Victoria using her powers would be his ammunition.

      1. …and actually, wouldn’t a simple brute power also be an anti-Yamada in its own way? Wouldn’t it seem the worst possible fit for someone who wants to appear as (and usually is) a sensitive, non-violent intellectual?

        1. Don’t forget trump – her life is entirely built around powers and the problems they cause, and this possible trigger is both directly related to the fallout of numerous powers, and one power specifically.

          Striker is also likely, since it involved a visceral one-on-one melee fight.

          Tinker is a longshot possibility; she’s been cleaning up the shard’s messes for her whole career, and this possible trigger is in direct proximity to one of the champion tinker shards of this cycle. Don’t think her personality suits it well, though, unless it was some sort of abstract tinkering.

          I really can’t make up my mind whether I think she actually triggered or not, though. Wobbuffet has me up a wall (in a good way) with that ambiguous head shake- “Please stop asking and let me have my denial a while longer”, “Yes I triggered, no I’m not trying to hide it, but now’s not the time”, “I don’t think I did, but it was bad enough that I’m not completely certain I didn’t”…

          1. I doubt that Jessica wouldn’t know if she triggered while trying to strangle Riley. Even Jessica couldn’t figure out what her powers are for some reason, her trigger event would knock Riley out, and that should be good enough confirmation for both of them.

            Of course her head shake could simply also mean something “I recognize what you are trying to do Victoria, and appreciate your concern, but I know I haven’t triggered. Now please drop the topic. The memory of day is painful enough even without other people reminding me about it.”

  45. Amy had an insight into Entity physiology and purpose critical enough that when she tried to get it to Dragon and rest of the Hero group, Simurgh itself blipped it out.
    Amy had insight so critical that it formed most of what Teacher attempted as a compromise of the awry entity life cycle situation.
    the Shard apocalypse is probably averted and Amy is working with Chris to make sure humans across all realities have a chance to get out of it without total subsummation.
    She is playing the role Cauldron did in Worm.

    This is also a reason why she could be benched in current scenario. her killing Amy can skew balance f probability enough and both Dinah Alcott and Contessa are keeping an eye on stuff. though with the Mama Mathers endbriclone both of them maybe out of picture.

    if Taylor had to work with Shadowstalker or Emma to prevent Scion she would have done it.
    Glory Girl wouldnt be able to work with Panacea.

    Hell of a endgame scenario.

    I blame Tattles!!

  46. @lulu

    I agree with Naoru here. Abusing abusers is NOT just (whatever Luis says). It’s not justice, it’s not a right. It’s only sefish revenge.

    If Victoria unilateraly decides to abuse her abuser, if she goes against societal consensus, she /becomes/ the out of control abuser. She becomes Amy (but with premeditation).

    Also, you often talk of murder like it’s a good thing. It worries me.

    1. Murder in a work of fiction is nothing worrying, it’s not like people die in real life if certain characters are dying. People talking about character x or y dying will be the least people who’ll kill someone in real life, trust me. Usually, the most dangerous people are people who encourage Amy’s behavior, saying that she’s not a rapist and blaming the victim, they’re people who’ll blame real victims and excuse their abusers.
      I’m not saying that Victoria should kill Amy right now. I’m saying that if Amy will become an uncontrollable evil like Teacher, for example, then Victoria should stop her even if this means killing her. If Victoria have to choose between letting Amy bring horror over the world or kill her abuser than I think that we both agree that the second option is the better one.
      I guess that you don’t like Shin mentality too much.

      1. Actually while I must say that I get why Victoria feels like she does, I must say that I find her fantasies about killing Amy just as worrying as Amy’s fantasies to master her family. I think there isn’t that much difference between “I won’t use my power to make my family think and feel the way I wish they did, because I’m a good person” and “I won’t kill my sister, because it wouldn’t be just, ans I’m a just person”. It is particularly worrying because Amy already has used her power to manipulate people’s minds, and Victoria has used her power to kill. The only real difference is that in Amy’s case such actions were premeditated, and in case of altering Victoria – done for entirely selfish reasons (not every single time Amy used her powers to mess with Victoria of course, but even the one time in Shin prison would be enough, and that time she “wretched” Victoria in Brockton Bay also counts, unless Amy really was driven completely insane by the circumstances and her shard’s influence then), while Victoria has yet to commit an outright premeditated murder.

    2. Everything that Amy did was WITH premeditation, she never did anything without premeditation (maybe only when she mind-raped her, that was without premeditation because she was traumatized by Bonesaw’s visit). But the abuse that followed it, was pretty premeditated on her part. She acts like a psychopath but I agree with you about Victoria. If she’ll kill Amy, without not solid reasons (like saving the world) she’ll be a psychopath just like Amy.

  47. Alfary, since you mentioned a possible Mockument-made caricature for Amy -I agree that she deserves one- do you have any idea how it’s going to look like and what it will say to her? My idea is a perfect copy of Amy but having two heads- one of Amy and another one of Victoria. The Victoria head is smaller and Amy’s head likes kissing it and probably doing other NSFW stuff with it then it turns to look at real Amy, laughing and taunting her that she’ll never get Victoria.
    Your idea?

    1. No idea how Amy’s mockery would look like. Not that I think it would be that important. I’m more interesting in what it would tell Amy, and what would Amy’s reaction be? Would she try to kill it, like Victoria killed hers? Somehow I don’t consider it all that likely. Would she try to deny everything she heard? Would she break down in tears? Would she take something that she would hear to heart? If so – what, and how would it change her?

      1. Or maybe Amy would just cover her ears and start screaming in an attempt to drown out her mockery’s words? Or try to fight back verbally? She can have a pretty foul mouth when she wants to, and she has been known to suggest that she may do some pretty horrible things with her power to people she considers villains. Unfortunately for her I simply don’t see too many in Deathchester, who are likely to yield to this sort of attack. If anything I think that they (especially Damsel and Sidepiece) will gladly argue back, and I’m afraid that they are way better at this than Amy.

  48. @Seed & lulu

    There is an interesting distinction to be made here.

    Whilst a reader encouraging Victoria to murder Amy likely does not equate to the desire to murder anyone in real life, it would seem to come from espousing any form of harm to those one views as deserving of it, such as abusers or rapists.

    It does not have to be murder to be worrying. In real life, I imagine it would be much more common for that to take the form of hurting people emotionally, or at least standing by as it happens to someone.

    Emotional violence is generally much more acceptable and commonplace than physical violence.

    Murder is generally not condoned by most societies, but bullying and jeering publicly at people who are considered pathetic seems to be widely accepted.

    Depending upon the values of the times, the concept of who “deserves” such treatment can apply to a wide range of people, be they addicts, vagrants, fallen women, witches, abusers, or rapists.

    However, it is debatable whether emotional violence towards those we dislike really makes society a more pleasant place, even if they have committed a deplorable crime such as rape.

    I would wonder whether espousing such a viewpoint towards fictional characters means one is more likely to already feel this way in real life.

    It is curious that in the present day we discuss the harmful effects of abuse, but so often espouse an attitude that anyone deserves harm. Most will tell you that the emotionally abusive husband who does not beat his wife with his fists but destroys her with his words is just as bad if not worse.

    There is a difference between finding a person’s actions abhorrent and reprehensible and expressing that opinion by actually hurting them.

    One can find a rapist abhorrent and at the same time not wish them dead.

    The irony of it is that even if we merely deride and jeer at someone we consider to be a reprehensible criminal, hurting someone would make them more likely to react with hostility and defensiveness and see themselves as a misunderstood victim. Not a productive result if the goal is to effect a positive change in their future behaviour such that they take responsibility for themselves.

    Whether or not we hate someone with all our hearts, deciding that the people we find reprehensible deserve to be harmed likely leads to our mistreatment of them in one form or another in real life, and one could argue that does not make society a more pleasant place in the end.

  49. Re: Victoria being benched, I’m not sure if it’s just Breakthrough’s past actions that play into the decision. Wardens probably bring powers into their vetting process, and her current headspace is firmly in the “we set some thinkers to see what happens if we field her, but they all started screaming, picked up a copy of Sports Illustrated: Mathers Edition, and put themselves into a coma to avoid thinking further about it, so we’re assuming it’s not a good idea” direction.

  50. So…..

    There’s a whole bunch of debate about “to what extent can Victoria abuse her abuser” etc etc and….
    I gotta say, I’m mainly going to side with Lulu on this.

    A few random points that come to mind:
    1) Nothing in the text is raising the question of “should Vicky Abuse her abuser?”. We are getting the question of “should Vicky kill her abuser” and “should vicky stay the hell away from her abuser” and “Should Victoria Manipulate her abuser”. To which the answers are “maybe (greater good??)” “yes (if possible)” and “No… but what other options do we have at the moment?”

    So… the answer is “No, Victoria SHOULDN’T abuse Amy… because that would be harmful to Victoria. … but dropping a bolder on Amy is a different question.”
    I think that by people bringing in the language “can you abuse your abuser” they’re obscuring the question. That isn’t the situation that is going on in the text.

    2) Society has a taboo against people taking unilateral action to punish abusers and seek personal justice, and the reason for this is that (a) it makes justice something that the powerful have more access to, and (b) certain crazy people have a skewed view of justice (cradle) and would use such a liscence to run around harming people for percieved slights.
    Thing is, Society can impose this taboo only to the extent that it agrees to pick up the slack and actually deal with people who are harmful. When it fails, through disbelieving a victim, then well… something has to give.
    (Note, that I’m not claiming that the Wardens ARE disbelieving Victoria here. Just talking about where this Taboo against vigilantee justice comes from).

    3) If you rape someone you invalidate your right to live. Doesn’t mean people should go around murdering you, but it does mean that being alive is no longer your RIGHT. Your life is no longer owed to you. You have to prove that the world is better off with you in it, and if its better off without you, well… then you shouldn’t be in it. Probably I would argue that *society* has the responsibility to not kill a rapist (due to levels of certainty in judgement), but the victim certainly has no such responsibility. If someone who Regent had raped had showed up half way through worm and shot him, I’d probably have shrugged my shoulders and said “fair enough”…. even when he had heartbreaker pushing him.

    …. in the particular instance of Amy…. “is the world better with her in it” gets weird, medical care for millions DOES count for something. And screwing the diplomaticly with Shin would be bad.
    But she isn’t owed mercy. The value of her life is purely dependent on how it effects other people.
    (Yeah, maybe people call me harsh for that, or a bit monsterous, oh well)

    1. > If you rape someone you invalidate your right to live.

      You are aware that plenty of people would disagree with you on that point, and say that the only way to justify killing someone is if it is the only way to protect someone else’s life? It is actually one the most important reasons why death penalty has been abolished in many countries around the world. Even Victoria herself feels that killing Amy wouldn’t be just.

      1. …or the other big reason – one that works for many people who think that there are crimes that deserve the capital punishment – that human justice system can make mistakes. That it is better to put such criminals behind the bars for life instead of killing them, rather than risk carrying out a death sentence on a person that later turns out to be either entirely innocent, or at least not guilty of something deserving death.

  51. Valkyrie is very close to the center of the text, isn’t she? And Eidolon has been mentioned twice this arc in the space of two chapters. It’s hard to see how them being responsible would suit the themes of Ward (something Wilbo always seems to center in his works), but we have reasons to keep an eye out.

    Man it’d be weird if it were dragon somehow.

    Thinking about Moose and Prancer… are they out of the story because they aren’t on-topic with the high stakes, or are we going to be running into them somewhere on the other side of the 2nd end of the world?

  52. It’s pretty telling that I’m reading Gantz right now and Victoria is still the least likeable protagonist I’m currently experiencing. At least Kurono stops being an irredeemable douchecanoe after a while.

    I have little patience for people that have an overinflated sense of their own importance and the fact that Victoria hasn’t grown out of it yet irks me.

    Maybe in a fresh series it wouldn’t keep bothering me so much but I can’t force myself to assume protagonist-centered morality and central importance in a series where the people who are ‘wronging’ her are people I know the thought process of and trust to keep their shit together way more than Victoria. If Narwhal and Cinereal tell her to calm her tits I’m gonna side with them instead of believing this narrative that Cinereal is a ‘mean girl’s who goes off on people for no reason and holds unreasonable grudges.

    That’s one of the big problems with V, she’s one of the least trustworthy people in her own series, yet we’re constantly seemingly meant to side with her over people like Defiant and Tattletale, people we know and trust far better.

    1. At least Victoria and Amy have something in common: they give themselves too much importance, they’re arrogant, they think so high about themselves and they both want to abuse the heck out of each other -Victoria dreams at killing Amy and Amy dreams at forever raping Victoria. Both have mental issues too and they’re both in danger to become something frightening: Victoria a Tyrant, Amy a monster. I personally don’t trust any of them but I hold onto hope that Victoria will grow up and become a better person than she’s currently. She have the potential unlike Amy who wasted every single ounce of potential

  53. Victoria’s kind of unreasonably mean here. She spent a whole paragraph analyzing Eric’s looks and clothes in just enough detail to point out flaws in his face, but he looks her up and down and his eyes linger for “half a second too long” on her chest because he’s a guy and she’s an attractive girl and suddenly he’s a skeevy pervert who stole her spot in school and has some ulterior evil motive.
    Now maybe he IS a skeevy pervert, but there’s no way you’d know it from a glance ( emphasis on glance. He wasn’t staring or anything. He just looked.) at your chest. Og but he had the audacity to not be shamed when she caught him looking. How dare he! And then he rightly points out that maybe Amy is trying to do good but going about it the wrong way. EEEEVIL!!! Now, maybe the stress is getting to her or maybe her share is taking over and influencing her thoughts. Pushing her away from non capes by making her not trust them or something. I don’t know. But I don’t think she would have acted like this at the beginning of this series. Or even just a few arcs ago.
    Somethings up with her.

    Oh AND she used her power on him. A (presumably) non Cape who wasn’t actually doing anything aggressive or violent. Remember the last person her forcefield came into contact with? How’s mum doing again? No way THAT doesn’t come back to bite her in the ass.

  54. @Alfaryn

    > You are aware that plenty of people would disagree with you on that point, and say that the only way to justify killing someone is if it is the only way to protect someone else’s life?

    Yes. I’m aware. And that disagreement is totally reasonable and justified.
    Personally, I guess my point of view as far as law and society goes is something to the effect of “The purpose of law is to deliver something that works. Giving the power of execution to the state is a bad idea given that it is falliable, potentially corrupt, and highly likely to be discriminatory in its application of that power.”

    We pick our laws, and the associated penalties to get the society we want. Giving the state the power to kill people doesn’t get us that society, therefore we withhold that power.
    Similarly, individual people (such as myself) are also falliable, biased, and potentially discriminatory, and shouldn’t have this power.

    So, I’m sort of in the area of “on a cosmic level, certain crimes invalidate your right to be treated as an entity with inherit value. In a practical sense, however our levels of certainty are not so high, so we make compromises, and sand off come of the sharp edges of things thing called `justice’. We do not trust ourselves to be right or righteous”.

    I realize I probably contradicted myself somewhere in that mess. Oh well.

    1. Actually, since we are discussing the topic of death penalty for rape, and I’ve already mentioned fallibility of justice systems, I wonder what Canary would have to say about it. After all she was sentenced for committing a very crime…

      1. Actually, while I don’t know the specifics of Bet’s US or Gimel.US legal systems, but I wouldn’t be surprised if their legal qualification of what Amy did to Victoria was exactly the same as what Canary was found guilty of (aggravated assault with a parahuman ability and sexual assault with a parahuman ability).

  55. @lulu

    Between the world and Amy, I’d save the world. However, just because a choice is «good» doesn’t make it «just» or «a right». Those stem from society, and Victoria’s never legalized revenge-murder. She is no judge either. And even if she was, she is too emotionaly compromised to judge here.

    About Shin mentality, I’d say it makes sense. Like most of WB characters, they are just the right blend of almost-rationality, cultural influences, subjective interests, psychological traits… in short, amazing multidimensional lifelike characterization.
    However, as you pointed, they are only characters. Ultimately I’m more interested in the moral heuristics of real people 😉

  56. Great chapter. And you get brownie points for this:

    »Glass fell from nearby windows with every heavy footfall. Like the world wept with its passing.«

    And from the Comment Section, @Alfaryn and @ninegardens’s exchanges and the clarity in their points. And @Pizzasgood’s poem.

    Re: The possible anti-Yamada’s epiphany denial zone.

    Oh, no! That’d be horrible





  57. @Ex-Lurker: Those are lyrics, not just a poem. Victoria’s comment about how she wished Tattletale was a hero got me thinking about “Holding Out for a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler, so I wrote a parody of the first chunk of the song.

Comments are closed.