Sundown – 17.7

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I didn’t need the shower, in the sense of getting clean, but I needed it for the static drum of water against my head, the way it was easier to think-not-think in that contained, warm space.

Except I probably needed the shower to get clean.  Not in a grossed-out, crawling-out-of-my-skin way, not at all, but in a gonna-be-talking-to-capes-I-respect, don’t-want-to-smell way.  I needed to play field goalie in my own head, fending off intrusive thoughts without turning so much attention to those thoughts I left my flanks undefended.  Thinking-not-thinking was bad for that.

Maybe I was trying too hard to pull it all together into a neat package that answered why I was presently the way I was.  Put in simpler terms, I could sum up my thoughts as: I might probably have been happier if I’d skipped the shower, I couldn’t skip the shower without being crazy with self consciousness, and I felt fucking weird taking my second shower in a matter of hours.


My hands pressed against the wall, my posture like I was pushing against that wall and preparing to push it down, water running down my head and back, face aimed at the swirl of water disappearing down a black void, no doubt to be recycled, because you didn’t have a complex this big, take the trouble to pump water into it, and use that water once.

I’d taken the bandaging off, and my fingernail bed was a glaring red with raw, torn skin at the edges.  My left hand.

My right hand had a swirl texture to it, where it had been burned to different degrees.  The skin was thicker.

Parts of my body ached in a bruised sort of way, but it wasn’t a bad ache.  Credit for that.  My heart and body core and my lower belly didn’t feel so cold as they might have, earlier.  Human contact did nourish.  We needed it as a species, and I was a member of the species.  I would have been lying if I said I didn’t feel nourished.

Which wasn’t to say I was hunky dory.  Ha ha.  Fuck.

The thoughts that danced at the edges of my awareness without being fully realized were pressing in to the point that I could imagine I was sharing this shower stall with two other people.  Trying to ignore both of them despite the stall’s confines.

Pay too much attention to the Dean that stood in the corner behind me and to my right, and I’d have to confront real thoughts about why I felt like he’d be disappointed, why I felt more than a bit disappointed in myself.  I’d have to confront that self-disappointment, at least, process my expectations, think about whether there was a possibility I could have had any relationship or intimacy at all that wouldn’t have come to this conclusion.

Pay too much attention to her, behind me and to my left, and my skin crawled, everything took on a darker, uglier shade, and I was reminded of how I’d made concessions to her, for the sake of everyone and everything.  The longer I dwelt on that, the worse it felt.

I focused on the hands that were planted on the wall.  The missing fingernail, the burn, the gouge in my forearm, the gouge in my right arm.  The still-healing bruise at my ribs.

My injuries.  Mine.  Untouched by her.

I knew it wasn’t good to go down that road, to dwell on that, but it was something.  Every last one of those injuries had been incurred because I’d acted for the sake of others.  That too was mine.  What ended up being forty-five minutes with Anelace was mine too.

I hated her, I hated her so fucking much.  I hated that she inserted herself into my life and I had to carve out this territory in my own brain, my family, my relationships, team, and a fling.

I wanted her to get it, and I wasn’t sure she could.  Going down that line of thought was… deeply unpleasant, but thinking about ways that were strictly counter to what she wanted, they at least kept thoughts from encroaching.

How would she act if I spat in her face?  Would that stay with her?  Would it play any part in her seemingly unending ability to twist her thoughts around and think there was chance of reconciliation?

What if I just picked up a telephone pole and demolished her legs?  Arms too?  Spine?  Let her spend years in a hospital room, thinking back over all the decisions she’d made to date?

Would she get it then?

What if I used Tattletale?  Leaned on a power for some biting, penetrating comments, found the thread of Amy’s argument and pulled on it until it unraveled?

Or Mockument?  What would Amy do if I had Damsel’s teammate pull out a monstrous caricature of her?  If I forced her to face it?

It would be easier than doing it myself, and I was pretty sure I could do it myself, if it came down to it.  Break her psychologically, as much as taking a telephone pole to her spine would break her physiologically.

Given how dependent it would be on finding the right opportunity, and how difficult it would be to get Tattletale to Amy or enlist Mockument’s help, it probably came down to the telephone pole or breaking her down with words.

It would be unkind, it would be barbaric, it would be ugly.  There would be ramifications, both in terms of the oversight from other capes, and in terms of what Amy was likely to do.  Because someone brought to zero would expend everything they had in a final, desperate attempt to save themselves or restore equilibrium.

I knew because she had brought me to zero.  I had experienced moments like that in the hospital.

Fuck me, this whole endeavor had opened doors.  Best to stay away from Amy for a bit, because I didn’t want to actually do those things.  It wouldn’t help, not in the long run.

Or was it the short term, with a collective gain in the long run?  This thing with the giants was so monumentally stupid.


I turned off the water, then took my hands away from the wall.

Toweling off, I squeezed the water out of my hair, dried it, and began to get dressed, simultaneously braiding my hair.

Still there?  I asked the void, my arms flat at my side, my hair still in the process of being braided.  Good.

Might need you.

Sorry it’s been such a long road to get here.

You’re just a fragment of a fucked up, omnicidal alien who happens to have a symbiotic or parasitic relationship to me.  You probably expected a different existence.  So did I.  We’re in this mess together.

I smiled.

I so didn’t want to go out there, face Amy even through a screen, or deal with the Wardens.

But there was a chance I could help people.  A chance I could help my team.

A chance we could help my team.

I pulled on the plush black sweater with the hood, wet a paper towel to wash off a bit of dust from when it had hit the floor, and looked at myself in the mirror.

The braid’s a little messy, I thought.  A few strands of hair escaped here and there.  I fixed what I could, but I was resigned to looking imperfect, a bit below par.  Fuck, it wasn’t like every other hero around here wasn’t already stretched thin and feeling worn out.

I ran into Anelace outside the showers.  He’d rinsed off too, and he had a towel around his shoulders, a Gold Morning armband around his bicep, a knife in his hand, chin raised as he used the knife’s edge to shave.  I was worried the surprise of seeing me would make him jump and slit his throat.

“Say what you will about Teacher,” he said, chin askew, still whisking away stubble without the benefit of more than touch, “Shitty guy, but he installs good showers.”

“He really does,” I said.  I looked down the hall.  The only other people nearby were well out of earshot.  “You okay?  We good?”

“I’m good,” he said, smiling, “I was going to take the ‘no strings’ to an extreme and interpret it as I shouldn’t bring it up until you do.  Nice memory, nothing more.”

“That’s fair,” I said.

“Felt like not saying anything at all might be interpreted as rude, though.  Thanks for bringing it up.  Gives me a chance to say I’d do it again, on the same terms.”

“Dangerous game, that,” I said.

“Won’t deny that.”

“I’d say the same, but…”

He pressed both hands over his heart.  “If the follow up to that isn’t ‘no strings attached’, my ego is going to take a beating.”

“No strings attached,” I said.  “I’m just not ready for anything.  Your ego is fine for the time being.”

He smiled, wiping his knife with a paper towel that had been jutting out of his pocket, capturing the tiny hairs.  “Is this the point we make small talk, talk business and cape stuff, or-”

“-Or I bail.  Check on my team.  My lunatic sister.”

“Good luck,” he said.  “We’re trial-running Ratcatcher again.  Because, y’know, everything with the city isn’t stressful enough, we gotta give second chances to depraved, hilarious ex-villains with a thing for rodents.  Have to pile on enough stuff that we’re all on the brink of second triggering, y’know?  That’s the big secret plan.”

“Right, right.  I’ll leave you to it.  Good luck with your rat girl.  Seemed like she had a good heart.”

“She does.  I still don’t think it’s going to work out, but Teacher scuttled her first chance, and it won’t feel right until we give her another.”

“Why now?” I asked.

“Because there might not be a chance later, and I don’t want to leave things with regrets.”

I nodded.

He gave me a salute, knife up to his forehead, then away.  I raised a hand in farewell.  We went our separate ways.

Yeah, it felt like the shadows and dark thoughts that dogged me were nipping at my heels now, clinging to my back, rather than lurking around the next corner.  A weight.  A constant set of thoughts.  Some had to do with Amy, some had to do with me.

Dropping something heavy on her from above.  Telephone pole to the spine.  Tearing her a new one.

All of that felt fresh, new, and constant, like an oven ring with the flame on the lowest temperature.  Saying the intensity was ‘low’ didn’t mean I wanted to hold my hand to the ring.

Anelace had been the right choice.  Was he more than a little weird, asking me out on a gore-streaked battlefield?  Yeah.  But I could kind of get that, though, when we’d seen enough ugliness that we distanced ourselves from it or became inured to it.  He was also someone who cared to help out at a physio center, he respected boundaries when a pervier asshole could have taken advantage of the interest of the six or seven interested physiotherapists at the center who’d been keeping their eyes on him.  Become the center of a tangle of drama.  He hadn’t.

As bad as it sounded, I wasn’t interested in more.  Not with him.  No dating, no relationship.  That was a plus.  He was accessible and available.  Another plus.

I was going to regret the shit out of this, a week from now, when the dark thoughts were still nipping at my heels because they were way harder to put in the box, and the memories of being close to someone had faded and gone cold again.

Already, as he walked away, I felt a bit lonely again.

I headed back toward the situation room, shoulders hunched forwards, hands in my pockets.

Keep me company, I thought.  We need to work on you braiding my hair.  What impacts that?  Is it you drawing on stored memories of me?  Reaching for a crystal where you’ve got some motor memory garbage?  Is it drawn from my time in the asylum, or is it my current manual dexterity, with something interfering?

Shit.  Half my files I could look stuff up in were packed up.  Agent-parahuman relationships, the things that impacted it.  Off the top of my head… there was stuff like Vista had talked about.  Meditation.  Practice.  Testing limits.  Getting closer to the mindset of the trigger.  Facing more high-conflict situations.  A few incidental reports about dreams, but those were so ambiguous that it could have been capes pulling ideas out of their ass, or extrapolating from nothing.

Not that I didn’t believe there was something to dreams.

A lot of fucky, not-quite-right power stuff surrounded dreams.  Like powers didn’t quite know how to handle them, making the rules a little less firm.

Anelace wanted to handle Ratcatcher before everything goes even more to shit than it currently is, and here I am, with a spark of inspiration and motivation to dig into something, with no opportunity to do so.

The fucking world is going to end again, and I’ll die wishing for the chance to read my notes.

Hands, no powers, I reminded myself, as I got to the situation room door.

Too many unfamiliar faces.  I did see Larue and Eric, sitting at the same table as Armstrong, who was back.

I took a seat at the table, two chairs down from Armstrong, so I wouldn’t be bothering him.

One half-screen for the Nursery giantess, wreathed by a pile of her creations, the men giving birth to the flesh trees from anus and urethra, the women mostly doing so with the more conventional route.  Fluids pooled and drooled around the mass, with the flesh trees bowing as their ‘fruits’ grew by the second, getting heavier.  From baby to adult in a matter of minutes.

The other half of the split screen showed further down the procession line.  Naked, slender figures shambling across the cold landscape, almost in single file, except for the ones who seemed to get along well enough to move in groups.

One screen showed the Machine Army.  The Nursery-borne giants used raw strength, digging with fingers and stolen material, including the wreckage of robots, to till the earth and overturn its contents, to stomp at rocks and fallen trees and pulverize them.  Complete and utter ruin in a widening half-circle around the camp.

One screen for Dauntless, who once again had the Simurgh perched on him, resting on the top edge of the shield he carried.

“Cleared your head?” Eric asked, looking over the top of his laptop.

“Yeah.  Kind of.”

“Next time you disappear, do us both a favor and let me know where you are?”

“Does it matter?  I’m benched.  Your job was to report on me.  You’ve done your job.”

“My job was to watch over you.”

Fuck, I shouldn’t have come back.

Where the hell was I supposed to go if I didn’t come back?

I didn’t want to dignify his statement with an answer, and Armstrong was watching us instead of working, so I asked Armstrong, “Any word on Sveta?”

“We have her on camera.  I wouldn’t have paired her with Weld, but she wanted to help.  They’re trying to get access to Lab Rat’s lab so they can assess what’s going on.”

“Access covertly, or access-”

He turned his own laptop to an angle where I could see it.  He hit the key to rotate through the windows, and the one he came to a rest at was a video feed.

“Bureaucratically,” I concluded, seeing the scene.  I recognized it as Kenzie’s eye cam.

She was near the Nursery creation.  So was Weld.  So was Slician.

But the heroes were doing their own thing, holding the line, standing guard at a perimeter that had formed around the… mess of Nursery and her breeders.

Sveta was, I could see as she looked around, in the company of Engel and Egg.  Her fleeting glance in Engel’s direction made the computer buzz and the screen flare with colors that extended beyond the frame of the live video footage.  I felt the emotional punch of it, and I was not ready for it.

I scooted back from the table with enough force that I almost fell backward, and I would have flown a bit rather than fall.

“You okay?” Eric asked.  I wanted to throw something at him.

“She does that,” Armstrong said.  “You get used to it.”

“Here,” Larue told me.  He spun his laptop around one hundred and eighty degrees and scooted it over my way.  “Take it.”

“The laptop?”

“It’s only a video feed, so I don’t think I’m getting in trouble for giving you acccess.  You can control who and what you watch.  Lookout gave us the visuals for your team and her kid teammates.”

“What about you?”

“I’ll grab another.  It’s fine,” he said.

“Thanks,” I said.  “What if I want to communicate with them?”

“Do it through us,” Eric said.

“Really?” I asked.

“It makes some sense,” Armstrong said.  “I wasn’t part of the review, but giving you the ability to exchange messages with them isn’t much different from putting you in command of the team again.”

I made a so-so gesture.  “Kind of in command.”

“I know Tristan fancies himself a leader, so I know what you mean.  Even so.  If they’re concerned, don’t feed those concerns.  This will blow over.”

I frowned.

“Okay,” I said.

“Headphones?” Eric asked.

“I have earbuds,” I told him, fishing in my pocket.  “Thanks though.”

I plugged in the one bud.  Navigating to the right window.

First, I wanted to check everyone was okay.

Kenzie was with her friends, sitting in the center of the back seat, her attention at least partially on a laptop that was placed across her lap.  Her legs were crossed, feet up on the seat, hands stabilizing the machine.  Her eye darted around, and the camera showed part of her interface, as she highlighted seemingly random words that floated against a backdrop, refocused her vision to look through that assembly of words to the words behind, picked a few characters, then unfocused to pull back two or three more word-clouds to pick out more stuff.  The words she chose appeared on the laptop.

“We should finish packing up your headquarters while we’re there,” Tattletale said.

“Can we hold off?” Kenzie asked.

“Are you willing to lose everything you haven’t packed?”

“No,” Darlene said, to Kenzie’s right.

She hit enter with the thumb of the hand that held the laptop’s edge.  A box appeared on the screen.  Distorted video and audio, loud.

Snuff, driving, cussed.  “Turn it down!”

“Sorry!  We were listening to music and dancing before we left.”  Kenzie held down the volume button for a few seconds, until it was quiet enough that Snuff and Tattletale didn’t look upset anymore.

“Such a carefree existence,” Tattletale said.

“Not carefree at all,” Darlene said.  “Right?”

“Right.  We’re doing important work,” Kenzie added.

“You are,” Chicken Little added.  “Not that I’m complaining.”

“It’s your job to protect us when trouble comes calling,” Kenzie said.  She looked to the side, where Candy was slumped down, headphones on, sleeping or trying to sleep.  Darlene just past her, by the car door.

“It is absolutely not his job to do that,” Tattletale cut in.  “His job, all of your jobs are to run.  Get out of trouble, if you find yourselves in any.  Understand?”

“Yes,” three of the kids said in chorus.

Kenzie looked to the other side, where Chicken Little sat with his head resting against the window, a small bird in his hands, his eyes on the world beyond.  He was smiling.

“I liked the music,” he said.

“It’s one of my favorites,” Darlene said.

Kenzie typed on the keyboard now, putting down lines of code while periodically using a keyboard shortcut to switch between windows.  Views of the people I’d intended to check in on.  The rest of Breakthrough.


I looked up and left, to a camera in the back corner of the situation room.  I resisted the urge to wave.

When I looked across the table, Eric was frowning.

I looked back to the feed.  Kenzie was looking down, where a huge-as-shit bird was taking up the entire floor space between the two front seats and the bench seat at the back.  Thus the way that Kenzie was sitting.

But she wasn’t looking at that.  She was looking at her knee, which was pressed against Chicken Little’s leg.

Kenzie began humming.

“No.  No humming,” Tattletale said, her voice overlapping momentarily with Snuff’s grunt of protest.

“But I’m happy,” Kenzie said.

“And I’m thinker headache-y.  No humming.  Please.”

“Yes ma’am,” Kenzie said, before falling silent.

I switched.  I’d seen a picture-in-a-picture glimpse of what was on her laptop, enough to know they weren’t embroiled in fights, but I looked for actual video feeds of my team now.

The next three video feeds were Chicken Little, a view of the inside of what I presumed were Candy’s eyelids, and Darlene’s view.

Rain was with Golem and Cuff, chatting.  They were near where Amy was, but the view was so distant Engel didn’t register, which was a relief.

“-trying to set me up with her,” Golem explained

“Ugh,” Cuff made a sound.

“How did it go?” Rain asked.

“Terrible?  I mean… what did I have going for me?  Fat kid, bad grades, hated everything.  No interests.  Certainly not sports, like my dad wanted.  And she’s… what?  Athletic, uh, I’m not going to lie and say she was attractive, because… god, it sounds shitty to say it, but-”

“You don’t have to qualify,” Cuff said.  “The racist girl is kind of rat-faced.”

“Reminder: I’m using a camera.  I’m micced.  We’re probably being watched and listened to by an intern or someone.”

“She was still out of my league,” Golem said.  At the same time, words appeared across the camera.

“She was not,” Cuff said.  “No.  Even discounting the racist stuff…”

“Sure.  But as far as I was concerned, then?  Zero self esteem?”


“Victoria’s watching,” Rain added.  “Hi.  Hope things are going okay over there.  Sorry to interrupt, Golem.”

“It’s fine,” Golem said.  He was Byron-like in how soft spoken he was, which was amusing considering he had the kind of height, frame, and physique that would let anyone dominate a room, and the armor only augmented that.  “She wasn’t interested, either.  I didn’t blame her.”

“Where I grew up, interest didn’t factor in unless you were a good soldier, and then you got some choice,” Rain said.

“She was a good soldier for the Empire.”

“Sure,” Rain said.  “Wouldn’t have guaranteed she was safe, though.  It’d make sense to pair up a promising soldier with the son of the group’s leader.  Scribe would-”

“Rune.  She was Rune then.”

“Rune would have been convinced to go along, got a lot of perks.  Keeps her close, and gets you involved.”

“Sounds like you’re an expert.  You could run a cult yourself if you had a mind to,” Cuff said.

“Ha.  As if.  People have to like you for that to happen.  You learn stuff if you live it.”

I changed the channel, so to speak.  Over to Capricorn.

To Tristan.

He wasn’t far away either, suggesting most of the team was on the task of Amy.  No doubt because we’d dealt with her and Shin before.  Nothing seemed to be going beyond the gates, but there were enough other heroes around that I imagined they’d be forming the investigative body.  If it came to that.  Or they’d attack the morass of Nursery stuff, if it turned hostile.

I could see how Golem’s thing about his dad trying to pair him up with Rune had started.  Tristan was with some of the Shepherds.  Moonsong was close by but she was busy with another conversation.  Rune, Scribe, was closer.

“Hey, Capricorn,” Scribe called out.

“You’re still on video, Scribe.  Do you want to say something else that’s going to make you look bad in front of your superiors?”

Tristan sounded so tired.

“Heard you didn’t reconcile with Reconciliation.”

Tristan looked over at her.

Scribe touched her heart, before stating a slightly overdramatic, shaking-her-head-while-speaking, “I’m really sorry.  That’s a shame.  I know you were close, once.”

“He’s a good guy,” Tristan said.  “Deserves everything good.”

“He is,” another Shepherd said.  Not one of Scribe’s flock.  “I hear good things.  I wish he’d stuck with us.”

One of Scribe’s retinue leaned over to his female friend, hand cupped over mouth, whispering something.  The friend laughed, and started to pass it on to Scribe.

Tristan got to his feet, and in that same second, the guy cape who’d just whispered the ‘joke’ to his friend took an abrupt step away from the wall, toward Tristan.  There was a swagger to his body language, like he expected a fight.

“What are you doing?” Tristan asked.

“What are you doing?” the guy responded, emphasizing the ‘you’.

Tristan stared at him.  The guy stared back.

The other Shepherd that had said something kind about Reconciliation stood off to the side, actively not looking at the potential altercation.

“Hey, Pictor?” Tristan asked.  “Do me a favor?”

The friendlier Shepherd looked over.  “I don’t want to get in the middle of anything.”

I felt such a profound disappointment in the guy.  I could almost hear it in Tristan’s voice, too.  “Wave me over when the guys inside the station come back with the response from Cryptid?  Can you do that?”


The aggressive guy-Shepherd stared at Tristan, silent, as Tristan turned to go.

Tristan shook his head, walking away.

The group laughed behind him.

Tristan put the station entrance behind him, making some movement that saw his arm pass in front of his face, before his armor squeaked, straining.

Sorry about Reconciliation, I thought.  He’d been so hopeful.  Byron had planned to chime in.

Shitty luck.

I could relate to the loneliness that seemed to surround him now.  No teammates in immediate reach, possibly because the group had been told to keep their distance from one another until further evaluation or checks.  No Reconciliation.  I had no idea how he got on with his parents, but I remembered it being bad, last I’d heard.

I wanted to talk to him, to encourage him.  Even if Vista had been there… I knew she was Byron’s, but she was friendly with Tristan, and he needed a friend.

He stood outside the station, gaze out on the cityscape and horizon.

Turning, he sighted Rain, and began trudging off in Rain’s direction.

Guess you’re not being separated that forcefully, I thought.

Good that you have each other.

I clicked, to change the channel, Tristan still in the back of my mind.

Which took me back to Sveta.

To Engel, still.  Even filtered through a screen, the image left me with a feeling running up and down my arms that made me feel like I was smelling a hothouse’s worth of exotic flowers.  A caress at the face, a taste at the back of the mouth, like Anelace’s sweat had tasted.

I shivered.

“That’s really distracting.”  It took me a second to recognize the voice coming over the earbud.  Amy.

“Sorry,” Engel said.  The sound didn’t quite match her lip movements.  Kenzie cameras, but not Kenzie sound.

“Is it a problem?” Sveta asked.  “You said you were in control.”

“It’s not a question of control,” Amy retorted, sounding exceptionally annoyed.

Go, SvetaKeep her off balance.

“Why did you tell me to be quiet when you were working before, then?” a small voice, high.  Dot.  “You said it would slow you down.”

“It’s fine,” Amy said, terse.  Sveta looked at her, and I winced.  Amy was touching a kneeling giant, a tall and slender woman slick with the juices of its recent birth from the ‘tree’.  A flap of what looked like loose skin was draped over her shoulder, but it wasn’t skin.  Something from the amniotic sac that had encased her.

The woman stood.  Amy stepped back while the woman joined the procession line and a male giant knelt beside her.

“If it’s fine, can I talk then?”

“I- sure.  I guess.”  Amy had trapped herself in a corner.

“Great!  Oh gosh!  You!  You’re so pretty and amazing!  I can taste offal and candy by looking at you!”

“Thank you, I think!” Engel exclaimed.  “I love your colors!”

Dot leaped over to Engel’s arms, clutching onto cloth, and then practically melted into Engel’s arms.  Her leg kicked and her ears twitched as Engel scratched her belly through her clothes.

“Yoo!” Dot cried out.  She got enough control over her leg to point it at Sveta.  Her tone became accusatory, “You!”

“Me,” Sveta said.  She sounded so unimpressed.  A lot of these people weren’t her favorites.

“I have to say-!”  Dot was adrift in a sea of what had to be wonderful sensations, and sounded almost drunk with it.  She came out with a reluctant, “Nice coat.”

Almost an aside.  Like she’d been planning to say something, but she’d had to make the concession to the very cool coat I’d shopped for with Sveta.

“Thank you,” Sveta said.

“But!” Dot exclaimed again, “Your arms!  When I saw your arms before they were boring!”

“They’re still a bit boring.”

“But you were so pretty before!  You were so unique, and then you had colorful arms!  I’ve seen pictures!  On her computer!”  Dot indicated Amy.

“Did you now?” Sveta asked, dry.  “Researching the opposition?”

“Making sure I knew who Shin was dealing with, in case they asked,” Amy said, not looking over at Sveta.

“Which isn’t important!” Dot exclaimed.  “What’s important is you were colorful and now you’re boring!”

“I’m extra exciting, but it’s only for the people who deserve it,” Sveta said.  She altered her hand, but she wasn’t looking at it, so the camera didn’t catch more than a bit of it.”

“But what about the colors?”

“I’m going to add colors.  Right from the beginning, I’ve been deciding.  See?  I have sample pictures on my phone of things I like.”

Dot was reluctant to leave Engel’s arms, but she did eventually rouse.  Engel made it a difficult process, nuzzling Dot with her face, which Dot seemed to love.  But then she lifted Dot up to her shoulder.

The little goblin leaped over to Sveta’s shoulder, then peered over, her leaf-shaped ear blocking a significant portion of the camera and Sveta’s view.  Sveta pulled it down and away, hand resting on Dot’s head.  She flipped through a gallery of really cool images.  It wasn’t her usual art style, which surprised me.  A little darker, a little less nature-themed.

“Everyone should do it,” Dot was whispering, but her mouth was closer to the microphone, so it was distorted in volume.  “Fill in the canvas.”

“I kind of agree,” Sveta whispered back.

“My Queen did it.”

“Hm… that’s for her sake.  I’d be doing this for mine.  But I want colors and art good enough to to keep forever.  One day, after everything settles down.”

“Uh huh,” Dot mumbled.  Her head flicked left-right-left-right as Sveta dialed through the gallery of pictures, her whole head moving to track the images as they flew by.

“Speaking of,” Sveta said, her voice louder.  “How’s your Queen doing?  Victoria asked you to keep an eye on her, right?”

I tensed at the mention of my name, at seeing Amy’s head turn ninety degrees.

“Uh huh.  She’s okay.  I like the giants.  They’re something special.”

“She’s taken about ten times longer to work on this giant than she took on the last one, and she took twice as long as normal for that one,” Sveta remarked.

“You’re distracting me,” Amy said.

“I thought you said your control and concentration were good now,” Sveta said.

“They are.”

“But you’re slower?”

“What does it take to get you out of my hair?” Amy asked.

“Again, we want to see the Lab.  We want to vet the giants in progress.”

“Lab Rat doesn’t trust you.”

“We don’t trust you!” Sveta exclaimed.

“We don’t even know what your powers do.  Would you submit to me touching you to-”

Fuck you, Amy.

“Ha!” Sveta barked.  “No.  Hell no.”


“Then what?” Amy asked.  “Because no, we’re not going to bring a bunch of unknown powers into a sensitive area, especially considering Shin’s perspective on foreign powers.”

“We could demonstrate the powers,” Engel offered.  “You’ve seen most of mine.  You know Sveta’s.”

Sveta was holding up her phone to her shoulder.  A tiny hand pawed through images, caressing the occasional one.

“And his?” Amy asked.  “Theirs?”

“I really hope you know Weld’s, because he was around when you were still in Brockton Bay.”

“I wasn’t exactly hanging out with the Wards.”

“Slician slides.  More effective movement in tighter spaces.  Egg… hatches.”

“Don’t hatch right now,” Engel said, abruptly.

Sveta’s head turned, the phone moving in Dot’s direction, apparently to hold Dot down.

Egg had cracked, head, most of his torso, and one arm demolished into fragments shell, leaking thick yellow yolk.  The thing that bulged out of the encasement looked like something between a combination of a morass of worms with hook-legs and a featherless bird, soaked in yolk.  The actual configuration was impossible to make up, as it was all curled up into itself.

The giants stirred, restless.  Dripping with afterbirth, turning their gaze toward Egg.

Slowly, with lurches and throbs, the pink-black, yolk-slick mass receded.  The eggshell exterior closed around it.

Amy didn’t relax until Egg’s head had fully reformed.  He did up some clasps that kept the plastic wrapping around his body, and touched the brushing of canary-yellow hair at the top of his head, fixing it.

“Is that you?” Amy asked.

“Nah.  She’s herself.  So are her sisters.”

“We brought him because we thought Chris would be interested,” Sveta said.  “He was nice enough to cooperate.”

“For cloning?”  Amy indicated the giants.

“Hell no,” Sveta said.  “He’d like it.  It’s the kind of thing that always piqued his interest.  It’s incentive to talk, and we really want to talk to him.”


I blinked.  The black word had appeared on the video feed.

“He doesn’t want to talk to you,” Amy said.

Around the table, Larue, Eric, Armstrong, and others who were looking in hadn’t remarked or reacted.

Nobody else seemed to have spotted it.


I flicked through the images, trying to look nonchalant.

I rotated through once, then stopped on the carful of kids.

YEP.  IT’S ME.  K.

I changed from the view of Kenzie, over to Rain and Tristan.

I nodded at the screen.


Again, I nodded a bit.

“What’s up?” Eric asked.

“Golem and Precipice make a nice pairing.”


He didn’t ask more questions, didn’t elaborate.


Discreet, I mentally corrected her.

A bunch of Shin capes, capes from the prison and ones I presumed were originally Shin, had emerged from the building.  Rain and Tristan backed off.  Amy stopped working.  Sveta, Engel, Egg, Weld, and Slician walked off to one side, to get a better view.

My hand had found a natural resting place over the keyboard well before this point.  Pressing the keys down as softly as I could wasn’t difficult.


I didn’t hit enter, because it would have taken another movement of my hand.

It didn’t matter.


Immediately, she began sending messages to the others.  New patch, anti-Mathers measure.  Don’t freak out.  The text appeared in their field of view, with the eye cameras they wore.  They barely seemed to notice, their attention on the capes.  I typed as quietly and unobtrusively as I could, got frustrated, and opened a notepad document.  I began taking notes.  Rune, other stuff, and in the midst of it typed:

This Amy stuff is taking up too much focus
This might not be the biggest danger

And deleted it.

Kenzie’s reply appeared a few seconds later.


I watched the screen, tense, trying to think.  I paged through to Kenzie’s video footage, overshot, and ended up on Chicken Little’s.  Good enough.

“Tattletale?” Kenzie asked.  I wondered if she’d waited for me to get to the right footage, so I could follow along.

“Your voice isn’t exactly dulcet, Lookout.  Thinker headache, remember?  Before you make it worse, consider that Tattletale-with-headache is going to be crabby.  Tattletale-with-no-headache buys you treats.”

“Can I give you an eye camera when we’re at the workshop?”

“I think jamming something that looks like a bunch of forks welded together into my eye is the sort of thing that makes headaches worse.”

“It’s painless,” Kenzie said.  “And it’s important.”

There was a pause.

I could imagine that great titanic agent working with crystals, drawing connections, pulling up data.



It’d be a direct, private line between me and Tattletale, then.

Good start.

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91 thoughts on “Sundown – 17.7”

  1. Typo thread:

    >Given how dependent it would be on finding the right opportunity, and how difficult it would be to get Tattletale to Amy or enlist Mockument’s help, it probably came down to the telephone pole or

    1. Golem explained > Golem explained.
      more than a bit of it.” > more than a bit of it.
      Around the table, Larue, Eric, Armstrong, > Around the table Larue, Eric, Armstrong, (?)

  2. Also,

    >“No. No humming,” Tattletale said, her voice overlapping momentarily with Snag’s grunt of protest.

    Going to assume WB meant “Snuff”, here

  3. Well, I see Vicky is being extra careful to stick to the “no communication” rule. I’m sure this will have no negative long term effects or consequences whatsoever [/s]

    That being said, communication with Tattletale is always a good thing in my book.

    Also, poor Tristan. I see he’s going to Rain for tips on living with suffering (or just company, but come on, if anybody can tell you how to keep going through the pain, it’s our boy Rain)

    1. > Well, I see Vicky is being extra careful to stick to the “no communication” rule. I’m sure this will have no negative long term effects or consequences whatsoever [/s]

      Actually it probably depends mostly on how carefully the kids’ microphones and eye cameras are monitored, and by whom. If it is done mostly by Dragon, then I suspect that she could allow Victoria and Tattletale to work together and quietly monitor their communication, and intervene (for example alert other Wardens) only if they do something really concerning in her opinion.

      1. Yeah, feels hard to believe that they wouldn’t have some tinker watching her tech VERY carefully.

        But Its certainly going against Vicky’s first rule of following the law and the suggestion of some hours passing means it’s probably only lunch time. Kenzie even comments that she’d be arranging this on the Down Low, so it’s not like they don’t understand what they’re doing is against the Ward’s arrangements.

        However I’m trying to remember if Victoria was barred from talking with TT. feels like a technical argument she might make later.

        1. > However I’m trying to remember if Victoria was barred from talking with TT. feels like a technical argument she might make later.

          Arguing technicalities like that would not help Victoria in any way. Wardens have no legal obligation to help her in any way as long as she follows the letter of their orders. Their cooperation is based on mutual trust. Communicating with Tattletale would be seen by Wardens as a breach of that trust, because even if Victoria wasn’t explicitly ordered not to do it, it is obviously implied, and Victoria is just as obviously more than enough intelligent to understand it. If Victoria tried to dodge responsibility for it by citing the exact wording of Wardens’ instructions back at them she would only appear to be even less trustworthy.

          In other words such clumsy “manipulation” would work pretty much as well for Victoria as if it would work for Tattletale to say “You can’t exile your sister to an uninhabited world Victoria. You promised me that you wouldn’t do it to any of the Undersiders. Amy joined our team on the night she run away from home, and technically was never kicked out.”

          1. …”And no Vicky you can’t argue that by volunteering to go to Birdcage Amy mad a legally binding unilateral decision to leave the team. Not even our leaders get the right to do it. Why else do you think we would still call her Skitter? In fact even dying doesn’t let you off the hook as I have no doubt Grue will soon prove to you.”

            1. “Once an Undersider – always an Undersider!!!”

              “You make it sound like some form of slavery, Tattletale. Or a religious cult.”

              “And why do you think they call us villains?”

  4. “Or Mockument? What would Amy do if I had Damsel’s teammate pull out a monstrous caricature of her? If I forced her to face it?”
    Mockument? Wildbow really like to use fan speculations in his next chapters. An artist paying a lot of attention to his fans. Exactly when I told myself that I can’t love him more.
    “You’re just a fragment of a fucked up, omnicidal alien who happens to have a symbiotic or parasitic relationship to me. You probably expected a different existence. So did I. We’re in this mess together.”
    -Victoria<3Waste= ONE TRUE PAIRING.
    -Sveta is very smart for not letting the Red Queen of Stupidity touch her. Imagine what Amy would have done to an already complicated body like Svetas.
    -FUCK Shepherds. Nazis will always be nazis at their hearts even when they change sides. The wolf changes his hair but never his temperament . Perfect quote to describe these racists, homophobes assholes. Paris would have been a great addition to their team if he was a hero.
    -Kenzie breaking the law under the nose of her supervisors. Will be messy, yes, but FUCK THE POLICE.
    Tattletale and Victoria breaking the law like it's nothing for them. Again, messy, but I like anything that is going to be messy so…FUCK THE POLICE. Break it, people.

    1. > -Sveta is very smart for not letting the Red Queen of Stupidity touch her. Imagine what Amy would have done to an already complicated body like Svetas.

      I see it also as Sveta’s way to show solidarity with Victoria, and at the same time to apply pressure on Amy. Vista (intentionally or not) did the same thing in chapter 14.6:

      “Suddenly I’m really glad I didn’t ask her to look after my battle scars,” Vista said.

      “That’s not-” Amy started. Her expression changed. Wounded. “I thought we got along, Vista.”

      “A long time ago,” Vista said.

      From Amy’s perspective it is one thing when just Victoria lets her know that she doesn’t trust her. Amy has every reason to believe that Victoria’s mistrust isn’t rational after all. It is something entirely different when all Vicky’s friends also do it. Amy will probably also try to justify their behavior as irrational, or at least biased (and she wouldn’t be entirely wrong), but even for someone as deluded as Amy appears to be it is likely far more difficult to believe that Victoria and all her close associates (some of whom Amy knows and respects) are wrong than that only Vicky is.

      This is by the way why I think it was important whether Tristan would ask Amy to heal Byron – this form of pressure that Vicky’s friends seem to apply on Amy works best if they present a united front.

      1. Not that I’m certain that pressuring Amy like that is a good idea. The above comment was strictly about its effectiveness.

      2. Victoria is LUCKY to have a friend like Sveta. Some people call her the best girl or team mom, I’ll call her the best friend.

    2. “-FUCK Shepherds. Nazis will always be nazis at their hearts even when they change sides. The wolf changes his hair but never his temperament . Perfect quote to describe these racists, homophobes assholes. Paris would have been a great addition to their team if he was a hero.”

      Don’t forget that Rain was right in on that mindset, despite the mind fuckery of the Mathers. It was only his trigger event that made him start to question the prejudice taught to him and begin to build his own, independent opinions.

      To be fair on the Shepherds as well, they’re a whole bunch of Christian minded (generally) capes. Maybe the less prejudice inclined are more into the whole second chance deal and brought the more prejudice cape groups in for their shared faith. It’s probably a better deal that such capes are part of a hero group that will actively curb their behaviours than allowing them to form their own team or turn to villainy.

      1. Actually I wonder how many Shepherds are Nazis, racists, bigots etc., and how many of them just don’t oppose people like that for various reasons (misguided loyalty to the team, fear, convenience of not having to deal with a problem that doesn’t affect them directly etc.). I had the same problem with judging some E88 capes. Remember that E88 was rather aggressive when it came to recruiting parahumans, and I suspect that many of their capes never believed their official ideology (not that Keiser himself did…), and simply chose to join rather than risk having to fight that gang.

        Not that such conformism can be easily justified. It is actually this sort of behavior that usually lets extremists like the Nazis size political power, especially in democratic societies. But it would be interesting to know how many people in E88 (especially their capes) belonged there simply because they didn’t have the sort of courage that Rain managed to find to not only leave, but outright oppose the Fallen. And the conformist Shepherds are in some ways even worse than the conformist E88 members – they have much less to lose by actively opposing their prejudiced teammates.

        1. Hookwolf, Purity, Crusader, Othala, Victor, Night and Fog were very loyal to their ideology, if I remember correctly. Purity attacked only Asian groups even when she wasn’t with Kaiser. Hookwolf was a ferocious believer in white supremacy, Night and Fog were brainwashed weirdos.

      2. From what we have seen in this chapter, some of Shepherds still bullies and homophobes (especially Scribe) and maybe in other circumstances (not in mission and not being supervised) they would have attacked Tristan, trying to hurt him. The rest of them probably are passive but I doubt that they’ll jump in Tristan defense if they have to choose between their team and defending him.
        Not all Christians are narrow minded. Haven are Christians yet one of their member is Tristan’s former boyfriend. I highly doubt that Shepherds would allow to a gay to become their member.

  5. Victoria’s story is interesting because she’s even more of a subject of hostile surveillance than Taylor. Her mom warped her brain to constantly manage impressions she gives people which lead to her trigger, there’s that creepy part where Crystal notices she unconsciously poses like a heroic model despite obvious trauma, Kenzie is omniscient and probably can read V’s thoughts when she corrected her spelling, now there’s this little conspiracy to work without official oversight.

  6. Stick it to the man, Vicky. Who are they to tell you who you can and can’t talk to? You know best. Frankly, you should be the one in charge. Then no one will be able to stop you from dropping rocks on Amy.
    -Waste, probably

  7. More typos:

    touch, “Shitty > touch. “Shitty
    a small voice, high. > A small voice, high.
    Dot exclaimed again, “Your > Dot exclaimed again. “Your
    than a bit of it.” (remove quotation mark)
    to to keep > to keep
    New patch, anti-Mathers measure. Don’t freak out. (maybe make this a separate line?)

  8. Did anyone else notice how the teamups were kinda shitty?

    Sveta landed with the C53s despite beung on bad terms with them, and with Weld and the girl he told her not to worry about (like that would end well).

    Tristan got the homophobes.

    Tattletale’s migraine got Kenzie prattling. (Speaking of, it feels weird that Victoria gets to sot down right next to the dude that is watching her team and has her team keyed up on camera and that Kenzie apparently gave this much access to her came— oh, wait, her tech was seized. Did Dragon put this feed together?

    Great, then Kenzie got Dragon playing Saint on her? Yeah, the theme continues!

    (At least Victoria and Anelace both enjoyed those 45 minutes, apparently)

    1. Actually only Tristan’s company seemed really bad for him. And it wasn’t the “jokers” who were the most disappointing in my opinion, but the ones who looked the other way once the insulting started. Some (usually not that high) percentage of narrowminded bigots and bullies can be found in almost every population, but it is passivity of people around them – especially their friends and associates – that enables and encourages their harmful behavior.

      Sveta wanted to rebuild her relations with C53s, and she got a good opportunity to do it. It doesn’t hurt that out of all of them only Egg seemed to really hate her. Engel for example seemed to be disappointed with Sveta more than anything else, and despite the way he looks Scraping isn’t a C53, and seemed to be content to remain mostly neutral and let the C53s resolve their differences themselves.

      Rain seems fine with Golem and Cuff.

      Kenzie’s behavior may aggravate Tattletale’s headache, but also seems to engage her motherly instincts, so I doubt that she would seriously consider kicking Kenzie out of her life (or her car) in foreseeable future. After all Tattletale’s trigger-related fixation is about saving people from making horrible mistakes, so it makes perfect sense for her to care about children who are actually at least somewhat problematic.

      As for Dragon, I’m not sure if she is monitoring Kenzie’s communication, but even if she does, I doubt that the situation is anything like the one with Dragon and Saint. After all Kenzie probably expects it to happen, and wouldn’t mind having another sympathetic mother figure constantly watching over her. (And can Dragon’s oversight of Kenzie be anything but sympathetic?) Not to mention that as far as we know Dragon doesn’t have a super-secret kill switch for Kenzie she plans to use as soon as the little tinker does something questionable.

      1. Kenzie was also supposed to be under supervision so is that supposed to be Tattletale?

        Seems strange but I could completely imagine Tattletale talking her way out of any consequences by pointing out that she was just there for oversight of the kids and avoided being involved for the most part. So Wardens are grumbling somewhat that they have to let her go when someone remembers that she gets thinker headaches and decides her recompense for what little part she played is to supervise Kenzie and have fun with those thinker headaches she brings on.

        1. I suspect that Kenzie may be under double supervision – by a tinker who vets everything she does with her tech, and by a physically present adult who can be trusted to handle other aspects (and whom Kenzie herself can trust). Tattletale and Dragon seem to be a good combo for that, especially since the arrangement lets Dragon easily keep an eye on Tattletale and the other kids at the same time. This way a single Warden can handle oversight of five people who visited the dreamscape last night without having to split her attention between multiple places at once. Which is something that Dragon can obviously do if she needs to, but why force her to devote her resources to do it if she doesn’t have to? It is not like Wardens can’t use more of Dragon’s attention to better help with other matters.

  9. Ah, yeah, I don’t ship Tattletale/Victoria but I do think they could be amazing friends together. I think Vicky could fill the Skitter-sized hole in Lisa’s heart.

  10. Cool. Good start.

    > He pressed both hands over his heart.

    > Scribe touched her heart,

    There’s a lot of that going around.

    Oh and the return of EGG!

    > “Nah. She’s herself. So are her sisters.”
    um. well. good to know.

  11. I wonder if it will become relevant at one point that Nursery’s clone lets Amy circumvent one of the biggest limitations of her power, which she shares with Nilbog, but not with someone like Cryptid or Nursery – inability to quickly create biomass out of seemingly nowhere.

    1. The likely problem is, as Victoria pointed out, the created materials would be either defective or ultimately degrade despite best efforts. Hence why they’re using them to poison the well of the machines. If Amy created something from them it would presumably break down quickly.

      1. I wouldn’t be so sure. Remember that once Taylor lost most of her body during the battle at oil rig and was saved by Lab Rat’s device she was healed by Panacea. We don’t know where the biomass for that came from, but I suspect that it might have been still the same mass that grew thanks to Lab Rats cocktail, just reshaped with Amy’s power. There is also the fact that according to what Victoria said in chapter 11.6 at least one victims of Nursery’s power needed a surgery to “stop the cycle. Get everything out of [their] system[s].” so it seems that at least after they find human hosts Nursery’s “fetuses” can be not only last long enough for a surgery to be both possible and necessary, but can even continue reproducing further – just like Nursery’s Endbriclone seems to produce two generations of offspring.

        And even if biomass produced by Nursery is unstable or temporary even after being reshaped by Amy, there are still many really big things she could do with such amounts of it.

  12. @Noelemahc It’s also worth noting that Tristan got not only the homophobes, but the homophobic racists while he’s Latino. Sure, stick the gay Latino Case 70 in with the group of people whose ranks include former E88 members…

  13. Darn it, Kenzie is just the best. So is Tattletale. Vickytale is the best pairing ever.

    Also, glad to see Vicky at least saying thanks to annoying Eric guy. She’s not that contempting of civilians, at least.

  14. >What ended up being forty-five minutes with Anelace was mine too.

    And to think he baulked at 30 minutes!

    Might not be the healthiest way to handle it, but it might help short term at least, and they both seem to be realistic about where it’s going/what it is.

  15. I wonder if Engel will do something to Victoria’s memory blocks again, and if so – what Vicky will do about it. Assuming that Victoria wants to know what Amy is hiding from her behind the block, one thing she could do is try to give herself much more exposure to Engel’s power, but maybe there are also other things she could try? For example looking for these events in the shard-space. They are bound to be recorded somewhere out there after all, or… asking witnesses to fill her in. After all Victoria has access to, and is on friendly terms with most of the people who saw a lot of what Amy did to her at the beginning and the end of the time she can’t remember, and she should already either know both the identities of most if not all of them, and questions she should ask, or be able to figure them out with just a few nudges to her memory courtesy to Engel’s power, and maybe a vision or two in the shard space.

    The big questions are – does Victoria really want to know, and would she be better off knowing or not?

    1. I think Victoria would be better off knowing. She’s expressed how there have been big scary questions about and how she’s much better having a good many of the answers after her confinement with Amy, even if it was uncomfortable at the time, to say the least.

      Not sure if Engel will help with that but I suddenly recall that her other power is to see into dark places, so likely another reason for specifically sending her to Cryptid’s lab (Did we ever work out why Engel seeing people hiding brooms in Teacher’s facility was important? *shrug*).

      What I really love about Engel’s presence is that Amy’s getting a taste of what it was like for Victoria to be altered into expressing feelings for someone she didn’t want to.

  16. Okay, so does anyone else think it might be a bad idea for Sveta to jab at and undermine the unstable biotinker doing delicate and catastrophic work?

    Like, I get Victoria getting some satisfaction out of Sveta taking her side, but this just felt…. mean without being usefully defensive?
    As in mean in a way that will only make things worse, because you know what, we do actually want Amy to not fuck this up, so why not actually make that easier for her as opposed to as hard as possible.
    Also, why the hell did they send Weld and Sveta to talk to Chris?
    Sveta seems like the person Chris liked the least.

    Based on Kenzie’s seating chart, pretty sure Rain would have been the best choice.

    1. > Also, why the hell did they send Weld and Sveta to talk to Chris?

      Maybe Weld – because Chris’ syringes wont affect him, and Sveta – because you want to have a hero who knows Chris well assigned to this task – someone like his old teammate – and despite their recent breakup Sveta is probably still the Breakthrough member who should work best with Weld.

      1. Yeah, Weld is a seriously capable brute who could cover the others from the Mother of Mothers if push came to shove but also because he’s metal and likely immune to any touch from Amy. Further, he’s Wards leadership. The others make some sense as interests for Chris but Rain and Kenzie are people that Chris got on with and might have been better choices in that respect.

        Not sure one way or the other if Sveta’s niggling of Amy is the right or wrong move. It’s slowing her down I guess and maybe makes it more likely that she gives into their demands to get them out of her hair and avoid proving them right.

        …Actually, I suddenly picked up that pretty much everyone they sent to Amy are Case 53s


        1. > Further, he’s Wards leadership.

          You sure about that? The way I remember it Weld is still relatively low in Wards’ hierarchy.

          As for the C53s, remember that despite his appearance Scraping isn’t one. My guess that it is not about C53s, but about people with unusual biology – something that Sveta apparently thought Cryptid may find interesting. And I think she may be right about that. The choice of monstrous capes also probably has little to do with Amy (aside from the fact that Weld should be as immune to her power as to Chris’). Otherwise why would Engel tell Egg not to “hatch” when Amy was around, and Chris wasn’t?

          By the way – why did Engel tell Egg not to “hatch” so abruptly, and why did she not chastise him once he did? Could it be that Egg does not fully control his power and tends to do it involuntarily when he is reminded about his ability to do it?

  17. ninegarden, yeah, they should have send Kenzie instead of Sveta. Kenzie is the one that Chris liked the most and he would have probably welcomed her in his lab. Bad team organization, just like when they paired Tristan- a gay man with a bunch of former nazis who still think like nazis.

    1. Kenzie? No, no, no! Sending Kenzie to Chris’ laboratory right now is a BAD idea. Way too risky. Not only the situation is volatile, but the area is crawling with both Nursery clone’s “offspring” and former Birdcage inmates. Remember that Kenzie was removed from Breakthrough precisely because they were exposing her to too much risk. As much as whatever sympathy Chris may have for Kenzie, it is much safer if they interact only remotely, if at all.

      Not to mention that in chapter 14.10 Amy said that Chris “wants to kill what he likes.” If this is true, then Chris himself may be dangerous to Kenzie precisely because he likes her.

      1. The who else? Rain? Chris kind of like Rain too so he will be just as “safe” as Kenzie. What is your suggestion since the strategy with Sveta doesn’t seem to work?

        1. First – we still don’t really know if Sveta’s strategy doesn’t work. Perhaps the Shin capes who emerged from the building near the end of the chapter did so, because the display of Egg’s power caught Cryptid’s interest, and he sent them to escort Sveta and her companions (or at least Egg and his chicken) inside?

          Second – if Victoria and Tattletale are right and Amy isn’t the problem, then perhaps neither is Chris? If that’s the case, then maybe the best thing the Gimel heroes could do is to actually leave Cryptid alone? At least for now?

  18. @lulu + Alfaryn

    I vote Rain. He has a decent offensive output in terms of “Break critical experiment if needed” and “Self defence”, He’s chill. Chris has already saved his life once at some non-negligible personal cost (Fallen raid).
    Kenzie doesn’t have the focus, diplomacy etc for this mission, and is a kid… and valuable enough as an asset to not get risked on something like this. Also Chris has stated that she is scary, and will treat her accordingly security wise.
    Also, I don’t think the Wardens *CAN* decide where Kenzie goes at the moment: she is under Lisa’s supervision, and Tats ain’t sending any of her kids into danger. She’s probably still pissed at Vicky for almost getting the kids killed and just being irresponsible with K’s safety for the past six months*.

    Rain is less self righteous than Sveta, and more able to empaphize with the “Oh, you made bad life choices, yeah, I’ve made them too… hey, you wanna talk about not making more bad choices”, which seems valuable when dealing with Amy. Kenzie doesn’t have that, and is only really effective here because Chris likes her slightly more.
    My second choice would be Byron, but I’m not sure if he is ready for action just yet.

    Also, I don’t exactly trust accuracy of Amy’s “Chris Kills what he likes” or rather…. there are different flavours of like, I think “Admiration” might trigger aggression more than “Pet the puppy.”

    *Irresponsible by tats reckoning that is. I make no comments on Victoria’s responsibility levels personally.

    1. > I vote Rain. He has a decent offensive output in terms of “Break critical experiment if needed” and “Self defence”

      Remember what Rain said in chapter 17.1. He got no tokens tonight and as a result all his powers are almost gone. His blades could be an exception (since he would have to try to summon them to make sure, and couldn’t do so around Defiant), but I doubt that they are any better than during the part of arc 12 that happened after Cradle got Rain’s tokens (and they were pretty weak back then).

  19. I’ve said it before. I love Ward, and I think it’s amazing. But what I really really want is a 1 arc long buddy cop / Rush Hour / Lethal Weapon style Madcap comedy with Victoria and Tattletale as Ace Detectives alternate universe. But I suppose I can settle for a direct eyeline between the two here.

    1. You already know that will totally be an increasingly popular sleeper hit holoseries’ plot in wb’s next works, don’t you ?

  20. Do you remember how Jessica reacted after Victoria used her aura in chapter 13.3? How she seemed afraid to leave the room when it meant passing ten feet from Victoria? Could it be that Jessica was afraid either of Victoria or that she would lose control and lash out because Vicky’s aura reminded her of the altercation with Bonesaw?

    Alternative, crazier explanation could be that Jessica has powers, and they did something obvious to people in radius wider than ten feet from her unless she suppressed them, and she had a problem doing it after being blasted with Victoria’s aura. In this case Jessica would stall to avoid letting Victoria know she was a cape.

  21. “Hey, ‘Lace. Sorry we didn’t… y’know. That you didn’t get what you were looking for.”

    “Beautiful, what I was ‘looking for’ was being with you. Whatever specific physical acts had the possibility of happening within the context of that liminal space, the part that was important to me was the ‘with you’. So I got what I was looking for. I hope I gave you some of what you were looking for too. I had fun. If you wanted more, I’d be delighted to be there for it. If you don’t, well, ‘no strings attached’ and I’ll still be happy to have had this moment with *you*.”

    What/who is “D/L”?

    2. > Have to pile on enough stuff that we’re all on the brink of second triggering, y’know? That’s the big secret plan.
    Nice plan 🙂

  23. OverQuantum, D/L is ‘down-low’, ie without anyone knowing about it.

    Alfaryn, I doubt that Egg’s minions count as birds- they’re power-generated constructs with a bird-theme, just like Brood’s were power-generated constructs with a bug theme, and Skitter couldn’t control those. Also interesting to see that he’s a master; I’d figured his shell made him a brittle-but-regenerative brute.

    Where’s Scraping in this? I don’t think I saw his name. I saw Slician’s, though.

    Pity that Reconciliation wasn’t able to live up to his name and get back with Tristan. Might have shut Scribe up.

    1. > Where’s Scraping in this? I don’t think I saw his name. I saw Slician’s, though.

      Whoops, you are right. He is not there. I don’t know why I thought otherwise. Possibly because I read the chapter as soon as it was published, which was past midnight CEST, and well past the time I should have gone to sleep with my current schedule.

      Sorry for my mistake everyone.

      1. (Not that I expect not to lose any more sleep over Ward in the future. It is totally worth it, and I’ve always had problems with keeping any sort of regular sleeping schedule anyway.)

    2. About whether CL’s power may work on Egg’s birds or not – remember that it is generally difficult to predict if powers will work in such edge cases. For example Atlas and relay bugs were technically both power constructs, yet Taylor’s power could work on them without problems (of course it helped that even during their first meeting in the bank Panacea had managed to somehow figure out how Taylor’s power communicated with insects well enough to mess with that communication). Moreover Taylor could somehow detect (though not control) heartworms, which are not even arthropods.

      In other words in edge cases powers seem stick to their theme, not some technical details. Interactions between powers can be even less predictable – for example Victoria’s forcefield was supposed to be able to take pretty much any single hit (even from Scion), and then shatter completely, and yet Cradle managed to cut it without shattering it – looks like the “cutting” theme of his power won that time against “all or nothing” theme of Victoria’s protective forcefield. Since Egg’s “offspring” seems to be bird-themed we probably won’t know if Aiden can detect or control them until he tries.

      1. Another thing is that the shards seem to consider their hosts’ needs. For example Panacea’s power protects her from infections by hostile microorganisms, but I find it somewhat unlikely that it kills all microorganisms in her body, since there are a lot of bacteria humans have a symbiotic relationship with, and simply couldn’t survive too long without. Sure – Princess Shaper might have simply taken over all functions of such microorganisms and simply constantly “shape” Amy’s body to allow it to function without them, but wouldn’t it be simpler (and more energy-efficient) to simply kill such microorganisms selectively to keep with the theme “my host never gets sick”?

        Also remember that the shards shape their powers in response to their own and their host’s wants and needs. Perhaps Taylor’s ability to detect heartworms came from the following reasoning by QA “My host has been good for my purposes so far, and wants to become friends with that Rachel-host. Letting her detect heartworms may help her accomplish that, and wouldn’t be too far outside Bug Controller theme, so why not let her do it at least this one time?” On the other hand with Breed’s creatures QA might have decided that giving Taylor the ability to control them would mean losing a perfect opportunity for a fight. Plus both Breed’s and Jack’s shards might have vetoed the idea, and if Waste is to be believed shards’ ability to adjust their powers is greatly dependent on cooperation of other shards in the network.

        Similarly CL’s shard may decide whether it will allow him to control Egg’s creatures based on the answer to the following questions:
        – Has he been a good host worth the investment of resources to make whatever adjustments I would need to make to let hi do it?
        – Would such adjustments fit the theme of his power?
        – Can I make the adjustments without access to the network?
        – Does he really want/need it to happen?
        – Would letting him do it lead to conflicts more or less interesting from my perspective and the perspective of my purpose in the shards collective?

  24. Engel is waifu. Engel will always be waifu in my heart. I would marry her, make her happy and live in pure, unadulterated bliss, I dont care what you think.

    Ok, now to less pleasant stuff.
    “Okay, so does anyone else think it might be a bad idea for Sveta to jab at and undermine the unstable biotinker doing delicate and catastrophic work?”

    Well, yes, it is a bad idea and thats why because Sveta is stupid. now, before you get your collective panties in a bunch, allow me to explain myself. Sveta acts like a teen. She is a stereotypical teen, no matter how old she actually is, and that means she cares more for acts of random pettyness rather than any kind of strategy or awareness of the situation. It happened before, when Tattletale was helping Victoria to prove the Teacher attack on her with the fake diary and Sveta was just there, being petty and annoying at Tattletale and bitching like no one´s business. Funny thing is that Amy is the only one who is as petty to Tattle tattle, but I disgress.

    now Sveta cares more for supporting Victoria by doing a “mean girl” act to Amy in a moment where we kind of want her to succeed and achieving nothing because is not a sound strategy just…random bitching.

    -Victoria<3Waste= ONE TRUE PAIRING.
    It is nice that Victoria is bonding with her shard and all, and it may be pretty useful as the world is about to end like Taylor did, but this is not Venom, this is not a cute romance with a simbyote, being too much with an entity that looks for conflict is not a good thing and even if its a good, cooperative agent like Queen Administrator was, it will eventually lead to lost of self and the humanity in you. Just at how Hunter is faring, how wrecked and inhumane Taylor was at the end and how the more young someone trigger, the more fucked up they tend to be as the shard takes more of you. This is not a good thing for Victoria. And is not cutesy.

    Of course her agent seems to be special in this regard so I may be wrong and hope to be, but so far, Im wary.

    -Sveta is very smart for not letting the Red Queen of Stupidity touch her. Imagine what Amy would have done to an already complicated body like Svetas.
    Smarteness and wiseness of Amy aside, she do needed to check on her power for security and is not a guarantee she would fuck Sveta up, Amy can touch her without changing her. Of course, Sveta cant trust her, but still it isnt a given that Amy will fuck her up for the sake of fucking her up.

    -Kenzie breaking the law under the nose of her supervisors. Will be messy, yes, but FUCK THE POLICE.
    There are two types of people, the ones who think the wardens are just being meaaaaan, the are benching poooor Victoriaaaaa, fuck theeeem is fuuuuun, fight the man, ad cheer at the perceived wrongness of a hero who fights the horrible authority, and those who think that mabe there are reasons there are rules, the wardens have reasons to put those rules on breakthrough and mabe they should respect it.

    I believe is an age thing. I used to think like that and now I try to value the people at charge and their decisions. Especially in this case.

  25. Things are really heating up, and all of the key powers and abilities have been revealed. The synergies are now obvious. Humanity is not yet ready for this, but we’ll have to cope, for it’s merely a matter of time before Breakthrough Tatts and ‘Do opens its doors and admits its first customer.

  26. @ N

    Mostly agree on the “being a teenager” stuff… although I probably wouldn’t go so far as “She’s a teenager and all teenagers are petty” which you kinda seem to imply.

    > It happened before, when Tattletale was helping Victoria to prove the Teacher attack on her with the fake diary and Sveta was just there, being petty and annoying at Tattletale and bitching like no one´s business.

    To be fair, that was directly after her break up with Weld, and there’s a strong theory that Tat’s was deliberately setting Sveta up to be mean to her because Sveta needed the stress relief.
    Still kind of fucked up that being nasty to TT counts as stress relief, but people reacting to Lisa when she is deliberately trying to get a reaction is kinda normal.

  27. I’ve been thinking about the changes to Victoria’s power after last night, and aside from the fact that she seems to be able to manifest forcefield hands without creating full-sized Wretch, I believe that some of the other changes may have come from a connection between everyone who was in the dream-room with her.

    The “remote hands” seem like something that Victoria’s shard might have learned from Grasping Self and Sveta’s shard, while the ability to have her hair braided while she was using her real hands to dress herself seems like it might also came from these shards, but it might have also been a product of QA-bud’s ability to multitask.

    I also wonder if Victoria’s newly found intuition-adjacent insights may be only in part a result of a strong connection with her agent, and in part something that her shard picked up from Tattletale’s.

    Looks like Waste wasn’t wasting her time learning all she could from shards she ended up connected to for a while.

    And by the way Victoria’s shard is likely very happy that it could help Victoria with something as important to Vicky as clothes (the sweater in Crystal’s place) Victoria’s looks (the braid), and keeping the perceived creeps out of Victoria’s personal space (Eric).

    1. I have a question. Since she’s so helpful to Victoria and she already said that she liked her host, do you think that it is possible for Waste to…be in love with Victoria? Love like how humans interpret it. Can you see Waste being capable to understand and learn the human concept of love and apply to herself, starting to love Victoria not like a host but…like a girlfriend? Sounds ridiculous for an alien without human emotions but we know that shards can learn a lot from their hosts, including from their behavior (Broadcast learned from Jack how to be a psycho rather than viceversa according to WoG).
      Can you see Waste having romantic (or close to) feelings for Victoria?

      1. Considering that Waste’s personality is presumably to a large extent an imperfect copy of Victoria’s, I think that the answer to the question if Waste could be in love with Vicky depends largely on whether Victoria has narcistic inclinations. More seriously though, I suspect that if Victoria’s shard has feelings for Vicky that could be could be called “love”, they are more along the sisterly kind of love – something we know Victoria is definitely capable of. Even if she might not want to admit it anymore.

      2. > Can you see Waste having romantic (or close to) feelings for Victoria?
        Romantic – not really. Shards are not choosing host (as far as we know), while Waste was probably created specifically for Victoria, 2nd gen cape.
        More likely he will have storge ( familial love ), as he could consider Victoria as mother or sister.

  28. Naoru
    I want Tyrant Victoria to happen even if I know that maybe won’t be good for Victoria. But from my point of view as a reader, will be excellent to see Victoria becoming the tyrant she’s mean to be in all her glory. I loved Khepri (I felt sorry for Taylor as a human but I liked to see Khepri being absolute badass and kicking the ass out of Scion) and I like to see Victoria receiving a similar treatment, just to watch how badass she can become and how many ass she can wrench before realizing how fucked she’s. Call me selfish but I like seeing my favorite characters suffering for the sake of entertaining (I cry for them, I suffer with them but I also enjoy their messy lives).
    I agree that Wardens’ rules are kind of ok (not perfect neither 100% fair but ok) but I love more to see Breakthrough breaking the rules just to see how much mess they can create. I’m more for absolute mess, action, horror, drama, than seeing characters endlessly talking and complaining about being trapped under so many rules. If Breakthrough+ Tattletale will create a mess then I’m more than ok seeing their mess in all its awesomeness.
    I’m a reader who love action and horror, be mind or body horror, so let the absolute mess become a thing in the further chapters.

  29. Indeed. The revelations of shardspace have only driven home even further the dangers of an enhanced connection with your shard – at some point, both user and shard harmonize their goals so much that the shard convinces the human to its way of thinking, and hollows it out until only conflict imperatives with a layer of inhuman cunning and human socialization skills remain.

    Shards are terrifying and quite disturbing, and the only reason mankind has survived so far and retains SOME agency is that the current cycle was sniped by a predatory entity with a fully operational path to victory that it used to abort the entity lifecyle at a critical juncture.
    Let´s not forget that entitities think that its is safe to distribute TRASCENDENT AI TINKERTECH (Dragon) as pet pokemon, and expect no harm to come to them. Yes, the likes of a Machine Army with Tinkertech, a Skynet behavior, and endgame scenarios such as orbital dominance, Casaba Howitzers, Matrioshka brains, Grey goo nanotech or self-replicating Terminators with interdimensional backups as basic troops.

    Yes, defeating all of those really scary concepts, which were first theorized by military scientists as ways to win galactic-scale wars of domination (check the OrionCraft and all theoretical space warfare studies from the USA government from 1955 onwards, it is as fun as it is frightening), are the bread and butter of entities, to the extent they consider them TAME enough to let the earthlings play with them on this cycle. One of the few things that humanity has had for it on this cycle is that the Shards are not very self-aware, have limited focus and interests, and have trouble communicating with each other and perceiving reality, or actually organizing and controlling humans besides their triggered user.

    Now, Victoria comes back from shardspace network with an unprecedented connection with her shard, compromised emotional makeup, emotion bleedthrough from her SHARD ostensibly manifesting in her actions, acts on “gut instinct” that matches conflict imperatives, and with a shard that has a quickly expanding refinement of her abilities in record time…and does NOT act as her usual self.

    As far as we (and the Wardens) know, Victoria could be exactly in the same situation as Teacher was – he thinks she is in control and getting help and cooperation from her shard, but actually it is the shard calling the shots and getting the help of the human for its world domination plans.
    The fact that Victoria is intentionally sabotaging a VERY mild “Master-Stranger” containment protocol is a dick move at best, a sure recipe for humanity extinction at worst.

    Let´s also remember the second blunder, people: The Machine Army has multiple interdimensional backups of its consciousness, blueprints and industrial capabilities PER BASIC TROOPER. Those units have show the ability to adapt, design new technologies and blueprints with their current tech evel, and are VERY good at tinkertech scans, as evidenced by their narrow failure to colonize other earths after only a cursory analysis of Boston´s interdimensional gate remains.
    Now, Shin decides that stopping such a threat before it becomes the unstoppable Grey Goo scenario it almost became is a priority, so they fund the people that can make a difference – the most powerful known FleshCrafter and one of the world´s top 5 biotinkers. They manage to harness endbringer-levels of power into operable, and MODERATELY safe endbriclone drones.
    Fine, reckless, but completely commensurate to the gravity to the threat the Machine Army poses – they will outstrip the entire human multiverse industrial output in short order unless their threat is ended or contained NOW.

    Of course, Earth Gimel decides to sabotage the war effort, and instead of having warned people of the dangers posed by the Machine Army and other extreme Shard manifestations into a coordinated NATO equivalent, they not only keep every single Earth in the dark, but are SABOTAGING Shin´s war effort and risking the endbriclones running amok by torpedoing Amy.

    Gimel has high-level thinkers to guide deployment, yet what have we seen? They put Engel and Sveta as intentional distractions next to Amy, which is known to have psychiatric issues that will NOT fail to be exacerbated by such an opposition. Besides, they send only capes, NOT human diplomats, to an Earth that despises them, and in the one area & situation -diplomacy- where cape conflict imperatives make regular humans statistically more effective at this job.

    There is a reason by which leadership, management, psychotherapy, much of data intel and diplomacy were and are carried out by regular humans – these are areas wehere they outperform capes, and they don´t tend to alienate their peers when they liaise with foreign governments.
    The fact that PRT scheme was wormed out by cape interference, courtesy of Cauldron, does NOT excuse that the current system is a cape oligocracy that, regardless of its ability to react more quickly to the pressures of the Post-Gold-Morning situation, is FAR less adept at diplomacy and government that its predeccesors.
    Where they cannot outmaneouver their opponents by brute shard-powered thinker insight, such as this Earth Shin situation, they tend to make stupid mistakes and go full conflict imperative on their partners. Regardless of the good sides of current Gimel government system, they REALLY need to change, or mankind will get extinct in the foreseeable future.

    1. I’m certain that Gary Nieves and his anti-parahuman friends would love absolutely everything about the above comment. Not that I’m saying that you are necessarily wrong TAP_M113. At least not entirely.

      1. You forgot Shin.
        Maybe Gimel are afraid that Shin will invade them after the Machine Army will be destroyed and this is the reason why they don’t trust them and keep them under surveillance?
        This is similar with US keeping nuclear powers wannabe like Iran and N Korea under surveillance because they know that they can’t trust them, no matter what Trump is saying.
        So far Shin is peaceful but we don’t know how they’ll react in the future. We also don’t know if Chris can be trusted (he’s not the most sane and safe guy to let him control such weapons without probably negative consequences)

      2. The ironic thing with Gary is that while he hates parahumans, he let himself being manipulated by…Dinah.
        The same irony with Shin- they hate parahumans yet they put their security and lives into the hands of…Amy and Chris.
        Talking about irony and/or stupidity at its finest.

      3. One of the things I think that TAP_M113 comment brings to mind is that the anti-parahumans seem to justify their positions with two arguments:
        – the capes are abusing their abilities to have more than their fair share of political power in the society and to avoid responsibility for their actions,
        – the passengers have more agency than their hosts.

        Most of the anti-parahumans seem to focus on the first argument. TAP_M113 seem to be more focused on the second one. And I think that he may be right to do so. While I think that he may overestimate the influence that shards typically have over their host’s minds, it is worth noting that if he is right, then the humanity has a far greater problem than a prospect of being subjected to a cape oligarchy of some sort.

        1. WoG is that people OVERESTIMATE the shard’s influence over their hosts. They merely nudge people. But they also choose people who have a greater potential for conflict.
          “Depends on the shard. Bonesaw elaborates on the idea by noting ‘breadth and depth’ in her interlude. If the shard gets you while you’re young, it can shape your personality across the board, on a deeper level. The more conflict you’re involved in, the more toeholds it gets to rewrite your consciousness and your subconscious. To alter your thinking, it needs to do it as a part of the trigger event, or as part of the brain’s development.

          In the extreme cases, the shard can leave you with an impulse (Must fight when a fight presents itself), help set up an obsession (“Wall myself in!”), steer a neurosis in one particular direction (specific hallucinations rather than random ones, of you hurting people, pushing someone down the stairs, etc), create a link between A and B (Being around fire makes subject lose empathy and inhibitions. With lower empathy and inhibitions, subject uses power to make more fire.), or steer a personality trait to an extreme (Must be on top, I answer to no one!), or they just overwrite stuff (Can’t understand humans, only dogs).

          In the lesser cases, it can be a nudge, hard to distinguish from one’s own psychology. You might be on the fence about something, trying to make a call, and the passenger pushes you one way over the other, based on your own feelings of doubt or fear. It might tap into emotions, and dampen X emotion while promoting Y, just dampen them across the board, or take the joy out of day to day living while adding excitement to the cape life. A vague sort of depression that only goes away when one’s out and fighting. Sometimes, as mentioned before, it’s set up as a trap, a flood of emotion or a set of mental switches that get thrown when a prerequisite is met – such as a cape just steering clear of all confrontations, except the shard set it up so they can’t, and they have a sort of limit break/command cutting in that mandates them to fight in one way or another. Or it plays off a limit or a berserk button that already exists – Damsel can’t spend too long being anything less than top dog or she gets restless, and if she goes too long despite that, then she has to act, she’s acting without thinking about it. This takes time and effort for the passenger, and a host that doesn’t demand that time and effort (by circumstance or intent) is going to develop a better connection with the power. This in turn is a reward of sorts. If Damsel did kill the local capes and assume control over the area, fighting off all comers, she’d find her facility and control with her power just ramped up like crazy.

          It varies from cape to cape and shard to shard, and it varies depending on the host, the host’s background and the host’s personality.

          Beyond that, other influences include the passenger playing fast and loose with the power itself, as it controls the metadata, which may be more visible if the subject breaks from their norm in terms of consciousness (gets a concussion, tranquilized), working off base instincts and impulses like ‘stay camouflaged’ (be a little more creepy and unsettling), intimidate/dominate (passenger works behind the scenes to make you look a little more dangerous as you mutate/grow/surround yourself in the aura of your power), etc, etc. In more pronounced cases, the power is just plain controlled by the passenger, not the host, and the passenger makes the seemingly random or uncontrolled aspects generate more conflict… pushing a power to kill rather than leave someone alive, or a thinker power turns up a vision of something the subject didn’t want to see.

          On the macro level, too, don’t discount the fact that some shards (particularly powerful ones that warranted attention) are just sent to specific people, with the idea that it’s a combination that’s going to promote more conflict just by the sheer dynamic of it (Powerful person with a destructive power, a desperate person with a power with negative implications).”

          So, shards CAN’T have more agency that their hosts or overwrite them as some people believe.

          1. Yeah, I knew about this WoG (or at least one similar to that), which is why I said that the agency problem is probably not as serious as some anti-parahumans (and TAP_M113) seem to think it is.

            Let’s not forget one thing – shards and Entities are not perfect. They make mistakes. Scion’s and Eden’s deaths may be the biggest proofs of that, but there are more. One even from a previous cycle, which, as March’s shard mentioned, was almost aborted because some molluscoids created nanofluids that Withdrawal currently uses.

            Moreover since the Entities wanted to learn from humans, they probably gave parahumans as a group as much freedom as they thought they could get away with safely. Deaths of first Eden and then Scion who were supposed to intervene if things went wrong somewhere likely gave parahumans even more freedom. Which means that at least as long as no new Entity is not created it is likely that the humans are the ones with more power in their relationship with shards. Not always on individual basis of course, but as a whole.

            Finally I suspect that some shards may be intelligent enough to realize that ensuring survival of the human species gives them the best chance to figure out a way to find a way to somehow continue the cycle. That currently the human-shard relationship is more symbiotic than parasitic in that extinction of humans is likely to seal their doom too. All that needs to happen is to convince as many shards as possible about it, and to ensure that the shards can actually organize themselves to a point where they are no longer an existential threat to humanity. Perhaps this is what Teacher was trying to do?

            1. And of course even if Warrior’s and Eden’s shards will no longer be likely to wipe out humanity either by accident, or through malice of some of them, it doesn’t men that the series would have to end. The humans and shards would still face the problem of actually finding the way to continue the cycle without wiping out all Earths.

              There would also still be external threats out there – like other Entities, or maybe even something more dangerous then them. The fact that the Warrior and the Thinker never met anything like that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Who knows? Maybe Abaddon was trying to hide from something, and killed the other two Entities so that they couldn’t reveal where it was?

              What could be the nature of such threat? I think that one possibility might be an alien civilization similar to humans who was also “visited” by an Entity, and managed to find a way to control it (or its shards) and use powers gained this way to start a conquest and/or purge of the multiverse?

              Either way the existence of potential threats from the outer space may mean that the smartest thing humanity could do once Warrior’s and Thinker’s shards are unlikely wipe it out is to continue refining these shards through conflict in order to turn them into weapons that could deal with such external threats. After all human technology and ingenuity alone without powers isn’t likely to be enough to deal with something like that.

              Not to mention that even if humans and shards find a way to coexist without wiping each other out it doesn’t automatically mean that shards’ (or humans’) tendency to cause conflicts will be gone entirely, so even without new threats from outer space or serious risk that the shards will end up killing their host species through some interdimensional disaster or a super-broken trigger, I would expect that there would still be plenty of conflicts big and small on all known Earths, and plenty of parahumans involved in them.

  30. What do you think could happen if Victoria and Tattletale were caught communicating against Wardens’ wishes right now? Would both of them (and Kenzie who made it possible) end up being treated like Damsel was? “Please leave, don’t contact us, don’t ask for our help or resources.”

    If it happened, could Victoria end up… joining the Undersiders?

    1. Well, if these breaking rules will not end up as a horrible and irreparable mess 🙂 and if Victoria is lucky enough to not be jailed for her recklessness, yes, I think she can join Undersiders. Maybe the entire Breakthrough will join her later, creating a common team of vigilantes/antiheroes. I WANT this shit to happen. Victoria (and probably Tristan and Sveta too) will make such a cool addition to Undersiders.
      Plus, more occasions for Victoria and Lisa to work together and become even more close.

      1. I think that if Victoria would join the Undersiders in this scenario, she would likely tell the rest of Breakthrough to stay away from her as far as possible most of the time, so they wouldn’t bring Wardens’ ire on themselves too. Essentially she would be taking the fall for the team, and would do everything she could not to take them down with her. A little like Taylor accepted limiting her contacts with the Undersiders after surrendering to the PRT – otherwise PRT probably wouldn’t leave her old team as relatively free to do what they wished with BB.

        Not that I’m certain that Breakthrough to accept Victoria’s wishes on the matter as well as Undersiders accepted Taylor’s. In my opinion it wouldn’t take much to convince them to “follow her into exile”, since I doubt that at the end of the day any of them can be as pragmatic as Tattletale ended up being as the new leader of her team after Taylor left.

        Not to mention that Breakthrough wouldn’t have any reason to think that being separated from Victoria would be as necessary as separation of Taylor from Undersiders was. After all Taylor had to become a hero to save the world, while the rest of the Undersiders had to continue being villains, because it was the only way to keep Brockton Bay (not to mention Taylor’s orphans) safe, and all of them knew it. Barring an intervention of a trustworthy thinker (likely a precog) Breakthrough would have no reason to believe that separating them like that would be equally important. All they would understand that Victoria, who is their friend and who did so much for each of them, really needs their emotional support right now.

  31. @lulu
    I agree on this one. From a narrative point, Victoria going off the deep end and becoming a powered, well intentioned tyrant, would be devastating to everyone she knows, and would make things very interesting. So bad for her but good for the story!Is unlikely to happend as that would make her a big bad, but is fun to imagine.

    Actually I want Amy to be an evil Red Queen too, because my main problem with Amy is that she isnt fully commiting to being a villain or a hero. She keeps justifying her actions as those of a good person, even the unjustifiable ones, refuses to get help, and is just…not a hero, but she isnt a full villain either. She just shuts up and weakly protest when Victoria manipulates her,or Sveta and Vista claim they dont like her and dont trust her. She is just kind of a wet blanket, conflict wise, and is not using the full potential of her power, because while I dont think she is stupid, as you think she is, she is no strategic mastermind. That honor goes to Marquis, whose talents Amy is not using not even a little bit, which is a horrible waste of potential.

    As Amadeus from A practical guide to evil said “Justifications only matter to the just” best Amy for me would be one who decided to be full villain, make strategic plans, actually use her power in Shin, become a political figure of influence, and say “fuck you too” when someone sass her. Oh you dont trust me?well, I dont care, fuck you. Just…leaving Victoria alone, stop trying to be someone who she thinks Victoria will approve of, because even if Amy solves worldwide hunger Victoria will never acept her back. Just embrace villainy, Amy. It would be so much interesting from a story viewpoint, and she would be much more compelling a villain than now where she makes fucked up doomsday weapons, yet still flinches because Vista doesnt like her or someone implies something whatever about her.

    I say “stereotypical” teen for something. Is an stereotype of teens. Same as any other stereotype, not all teens are like that, but there are enough that are to make it well, a stereotype.

    Disclaimer:I dont hate Victoria. I may look as overly critical of her, but I do like both Amy and Victoria. I think that what happened between them isnt fully either´s fault, and that a lot of factors went into what happened. I believe both Amy and Victoria had enough trauma for a lifetime, and each consecutive one made their mental state worse and worse which lead them to horrible mistakes that hurted themselves and each other. I know is not a popular opinion against the Saint Victoria and Devil Amy some people really like, but I like both of them and I think both have good and bad traits. What pisses me off is people being unable to give Victoria criticism at her faults, and not wanting to see that she can be as self deluded and hypocritical as Amy.

    They both need help, because they are BOTH going down a slippery slope real fast. Amy refuses help and Victoria looks down at her therapist cause he is unpowered so fuck him.

    I like Sveta just fine, despite how annoying she can be. My favorite breakthrough member is Kenzie, because I share a lot of problems with her, so I can relate to her. Sorry for the long ass disclaimer, I just wanted to clarify, I dont really hate any character here.

  32. “How would she act if I spat in her face? Would that stay with her? Would it play any part in her seemingly unending ability to twist her thoughts around and think there was chance of reconciliation?

    What if I just picked up a telephone pole and demolished her legs? Arms too? Spine? Let her spend years in a hospital room, thinking back over all the decisions she’d made to date?

    Would she get it then?

    What if I used Tattletale? Leaned on a power for some biting, penetrating comments, found the thread of Amy’s argument and pulled on it until it unraveled?

    Or Mockument? What would Amy do if I had Damsel’s teammate pull out a monstrous caricature of her? If I forced her to face it?”

    – Victoria’s constant fantasizing about making Amy suffer is scary. She’s not just fantasizing about getting rid of her, so she doesn’t have to deal with her anymore – she’s fantasizing about making her -suffer-. It’s sadistic and concerning. Her hatred will not serve her.

    Sveta does not help – she just enables and feeds Vic’s hatred. I know that’s what Victoria -wants-, but it isn’t what she -needs-.

    Amy does not help either. I really wish Papa Flashbang had the sense and courage to talk to Amy straight – tell her that trying to force a relationship with Victoria will just fuel her hatred more, and that will just make things worse for -everyone-.

    Amy needs to move on from Victoria… and Victoria needs to let her hatred go. These two characters are hopelessly stuck in their own self-destructive ways.

  33. I can’t believe I wondered why Antares would be benched. Of course she would be benched. Few people know her or Amy’s background in much detail; the whole room saw confident/well-meaning/misguided Amy make the Shin warmongers back down and while her visibly-shaking opposite number threatened a planetary diplomat with death and mentioned having nearly “broken” her sister last week as a positive.

    Some surely picked up on the Red Queen’s circular argument style, but meanwhile Antares risked breaking the universe to push an intern with the Force Field of Accidental Maiming. Never mind that she’s being going around telling people her core self/personality changed last night when she became one with her agent.

    1. I don’t believe Wardens’ unfamiliarity with Victoria is the reason she is benched. Most Brockton Bay if not all of the capes should know her story well enough, and there are plenty of them among the Wardens. Moreover Amy is an S-class cape and one of the key people who allowed humanity to survive Gold Morning – everything related to her would be of great interest to the Wardens. Especially a person who can provoke as strong emotional reactions as Victoria can do. This means that the members of Wardens leadership who didn’t know Victoria probably already learned as much as they could from the ones who did.

      The fact that Victoria herself doesn’t appear to be emotionally stable herself is certainly one of the reasons why she was benched. So is the fact that she has displayed willingness to take some very big risks with both her and her teammates’ lives, and dealing with things nobody really understands (for example bringing people to shard-space or breaking Teacher’s crystal there), while at the same time few Wardens think that doing so is necessary (remember that in chapter 17.3 Vista said “What the Wardens are doing is working.”). Even against Defiant’s strong suggestion. But the biggest factor is probably that the Wardens realize that she may be able to help them deal with all sorts of problems – from the situation with Red Queen and Cryptid, through the aftermath of the expected disaster, to figuring out what is going on with the shards in general and how to proceed with them – Victoria’s current shard-augmented “intuition” alone almost certainly makes her invaluable for both parahuman scientists, and anyone who in foreseeable future will need to deal with all sorts of power-related problems in practice. Even problems that no one even predicted yet.

      In other words Wardens benched Victoria to protect her from her own recklessness. And they did it because they think that she is too important to lose. Cinereal put it best in the previous chapter:

      “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.”

      The Wardens also realize that:
      – both Contessa and Dinah have expressed interest in Breakthrough,
      – Valkyrie gave her a few minutes of her precious time, and sent two members of her flock to give her more advice,
      – that Teacher appeared to be more afraid of Victoria than people like Contessa and Legend,
      and they are not stupid enough to ignore such signs, especially since they saw very similar ones once already with one Taylor Hebert who was correctly prophesied by one of the above precogs, and later basically confirmed by Glaistig Uaine to be the person necessary to save humanity. There is no way that they will let someone as obviously important her to kill or break herself like Khepri did while doing something as reckless as what she did last night before they are sure what exactly makes her so special. What her exact purpose is.

      Not to mention that there are a lot of the capes out there – both members of the Wardens and their allies – who probably wouldn’t forgive themselves if they let one more savior of humanity pay a price as high as Khepri did.

      1. And of course poor Victoria still doesn’t realize her own importance, much less the fact that Wardens do. After all how could she know for example that Valkyrie had Kid Win nad Clockblocker give her almost the same advice she gave to Khepri? With the taboo surrounding Khepri Victoria may even not fully realize the impact and the risks of messing with parahumans connections to their shards. She feels that she and her work are underestimated, while in fact people in the know consider her more important than she herself does.

        I wonder if this is intentional on Wardens and their key allies part. After all they remember how self-destructive Taylor was in her pursuit to find a way to fulfill her destiny. Perhaps the big players simply decided that keeping Victoria ignorant about her own importance is the best way to protect her from sharing Khepri’s fate?

        1. By the way perhaps the decision to keep Victoria ignorant is also the reason why Contessa apparently still hasn’t told anyone that Taylor is alive. After all with all blind spots around Contessa can’t predict behavior of Wardens, Tattletale, Dinah etc. with 100% certainty. She should however realize that:
          – Telling Victoria that she is likely to be the next savior of the world increases risk that Vicky will become as self destructive as Taylor was when she was looking for a way to fulfill her destiny during Gold Morning (especially since Victoria can be just as selfless and willing to sacrifice herself to save other people as Taylor was).
          – The more guilty Wardens and co. are about what happened to Khepri, the less likely they are to increase the risk that Victoria will take the same path. And of course that they will feel more guilty if they are convinced that they let Taylor die.

          Which means that Contessa may simply think that the best way to ensure that Victoria won’t end up sacrificing herself for the greater good like Taylor did is to let everyone who ever cared for Taylor think that she payed the ultimate price for saving the world. At least until Victoria plays her role.

  34. Big v getting some practice with fine control can only try and be as cool as little v. I love this. The idea of practicing with powers to the point of handling little conveniences makes those characters seem real like no other method.

  35. @Alfaryn: Atlas and the Relay Bugs weren’t ‘power constructs’. They were life altered by a power, but not generated wholesale. Panacea can’t create biomatter, so she has to take things and alter them. Breed, meanwhile, created his minions because he could create biomatter. That means his minions are directed- at least slightly- by Breed’s shard, whereas Panacea had no way to control the Relay Bugs or Atlas.

    This is also why Nilbog was so dangerous. His altered life was generated using natural biomatter repurposed by his power, rather than generated by his shard. This means his power got around the long-term fragility of power-generated materials by not generating the materials.

  36. Chapter 14.10:

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

    Interlude 16.z:

    The little goblin put out its tongue to lick unconsciously at Amy’s neck, and sensations of its being, physical makeup, and overall health leaped into her awareness.

    So basically Amy has a little critter who lives in her hair, likes to carry sharp objects, and has been asked to make sure that Amy doesn’t make any mistakes. A critter who, thanks to its fur and Amy’s hair, is protected from Amy’s power most of the time. What do you think are the chances that if Amy ends up losing her marbles completely, Dot will literally backstab her Queen, or, say, slits her throat?

  37. »Parts of my body ached in a bruised sort of way, but it wasn’t a bad ache. Credit for that.«

    +1 is your credit. Congrats, Vick.

    »What ended up being forty-five minutes with Anelace was mine too.«

    Congrats for Anelace too.

    Anel-ace. Huh, shy of a vowel…

    But, naaa, he seems like a cool, understanding dude.

    Victoria’s sometimes bluntly bleak day-to-day and darkly uncertain future are my masochistic highpoint of the day (week?).





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