Sundown – 17.8

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This is going to be a juggling act.

At Shin Station, Capricorn, Sveta, and Rain were part of a greater assembly of heroes, forming the group at the station entrance and the loose perimeter around the Mother Giant.

The Shepherds who’d been stationed at the entrance had backed off, as a crowd of capes emerged.  Half-and-half.  Half had clothing in the Shin style, with masks and draping cloth.  Capes, like more old fashioned capes had worn on Bet, but with more emphasis.  Layered with one cape atop another with a slightly different cut, so the edge of the one beneath framed the one above.  Stylized drapings of cloth made to evoke images, or made so overwhelming that the cape was ninety percent of the costume.  There were patterns recurring across the costumes that looked like Shin’s equivalent of tartan, argyle, or houndstooth, but more complex.

The other half were ours.  Our most problematic.  Coalbelcher, Gambol, Crock o’ Shit, La Llorona.  More.

Coronzon, Seir, Ahrima, Bamet.  Fallen, arrested during the raid of their compound.  Taken to the prison.  Broken out by Lab Rat and the Red Queen.  A couple of the capes in their periphery looked like they might have been at the Fallen raid.  Allies of the Crowleys, bikers and drug dealers, roped in, arrested.

Amy joined the group from Shin.  Giants walked with her, kneeling on either side of the group.  She stood with one hand on a giant, doing her work, as others gathered off to the side.

In a way it was good that I’d tied her hands.  Good that we’d pit her against a threat that essentially never stopped coming, and forced her into supplying a constant stream of soldiers to wage war against it.  It limited what else she could do.

Coronzon approached Amy, bending down to say something in her ear.

“It looks like she cured his cancer.” Rain murmured.

Coronzon would be the senior member of the Fallen group when Mathers was captured.  From what little I’d seen of him earlier, he’d been someone who was very like Mama Mathers in how he’d moved.  She had been so thin and malnourished that she’d looked like she would creak when she moved, a wisp of a person who came across as old when she definitely wasn’t.  Coronzon, as Rain had suggested, had had cancer, and had been ill enough he’d hobbled.

He didn’t hobble now.  He moved like a young man.  He wore a shawl of animal hides that had been bleached as white as hides could get, over white robes that had stains around the ankles.  A hood covered his head, and a thin black mass bubbled and twisted in the expanse beneath that hood, casting his face in permanent but inconsistent shadow that made it look like his skin was boiling.  It didn’t follow his face perfectly, and at times he moved his head or glanced over at the heroes, I saw someone with sharp features and a sharper glare.

CAN’T LISTEN IN. SORRY

“It’s okay, Kenz,” Sveta murmured.

“Do we have a problem?” Moonsong called out to the Shin capes.

Coronzon kept talking, his voice low and impossible to make out.  Amy listened, not responding.

“What are you even doing, Amy?” Sveta called out.  “What is Shin doing?  They’re playing games with you, and you’re playing games with everything.”

“Can you give a message to Sveta for me?” I asked.

“Depends on the message,” Eric said, without looking up from his screen.

“Tell her to tone it down?  If Amy listens, she’s going to be on the defensive.”

“Is this a continuation of your plan to manipulate your sister?”

“It’s a continuation of my plan to not have the Red Queen flip out and hurt people.”

Amy!” Sveta’s voice had that digital edge to it, filtered through long distance and a microphone, with no benefit from Kenzie’s attention because Kenzie wasn’t good at sound.  “Victoria’s going to be disappointed.”

“Victoria’s always disappointed!” Amy snapped back, turning.  “I’m a deluded little monster, according to her.  According to half of you, apparently.”

“More than half,” Sveta said.  “Speaking as someone who spent far too long being an actual monster-?”

I could see Egg shift position, where he stood a little distance away from Sveta.

“-It doesn’t have to be the single thing that defines you.”

“It apparently does, but I’m not doing the defining!” Amy replied.  “She is.  They are.”

“Let me talk to Sveta,” I said, again.  “Or take my message, pass it on to her.  Just tell Sveta ‘Victoria says to relax’.  That’s all.”

Eric didn’t.

I typed: Tell Sveta to relax?

“Amy-” Sveta started.  She stopped.

A pause.  Sveta took in a deep breath.

“I could tell you to call me the Red Queen.  I don’t think it would be unfair to ask, either,” Amy said.  “Especially when people can’t stop saying my name with such negative emotion tied to it.”

“Amy,” Sveta said, less negative.  “Why would Shin trust you and Cryptid with something this big?  Objectively, would you trust yourself?”

I saw the momentary hesitation on Amy’s part.  She answered, “If I had to.  If you have no other options, sometimes you have to force yourself to trust.  I don’t think Shin thinks they have many options.”

Chilling fucking words from someone who had one primary goal -me-, and who felt backed into a corner by her own actions.

“It doesn’t feel like they explored a lot of the alternative options,” Moonsong said.  “Cooperation, treaties, deals.  We were doing well before, and we jumped straight to this.”

“We could debate that forever,” Amy said.  She brought a hand with a fingerless glove on to her hair, pushing it out of her face.  “They think all parahumans are fucked up, rotten, dangerous.  I don’t think they’re completely wrong to think it.  If you have a few thousand rotten eggs scattered around, I think the adage about putting all of your eggs into one basket deserves to change.  At least then you can hope to manage it, instead about worrying about every step you take.”

That’s a great fucking metaphor, Amy, I thought.  If you have a few thousand rotten eggs, the only basket anyone rational is going to put them in is the waste basket.  You’re calling yourself a trash can.  Not to mention the ‘basket case’ interpretation.

Coronzon leaned in close to say something in Amy’s ear again.  Amy turned to Coalbelcher, said something, and the heavyset man with sandpaper stubble on his chin, black smears on his face serving to create a skull mask, and greasy black hair turned to go back.

“I’ve got to go.”

“Red Queen,” Moonsong called out.  She had a good, projected voice.  “We have more to discuss.”

“I’ll be back,” Amy said, letting go of the giant she’d been working on and walking away.  “Be good.  If they do anything, my soldiers have permission to defend Shin.”

Moonsong was silent, but I could see her fuming.  She’d been ignored, and she was an experienced enough heroine to know that posturing and position were critical for capes.  It was something my mom had hammered in many times.  Posturing, position, and power.  None of those things could exist in isolation of the others.

Continuing to speak into a void or shout after Amy would hurt her reputation because it would have meant begging for a response.  Fucking stupid, when it was Amy being the bitch, here.

Call yourself Queen enough and you’ll start to act like one.  Keeping in mind that enough queens in history had been sufficiently monstrous or problematic to get the guillotine.

Amy’s absence had cut off the procession line.  Leaving a small army of capes she was supposed to be keeping under control behind.

The heroes frozen by the implied threat of a fight, because Amy had left orders to protect Shin, and any action could be taken as aggression.

Fucking fuck, Amy.  What are you doing?

“Every time you get in touch with me, my life gets a hundred times more complicated.”

The voice in my ear was Tattletale’s.

Tense, not happy with how the situation had been left, with the Shin capes and the heroes in a standoff that was complicated by the continued production of giants.  I rotated through the individual video feeds on the laptop.  No Tattletale feed, but the kids were in the same building.

I went to my notes, typing up details on the Fallen, and in the midst of it, typed and deleted a message for Tattletale, hoping Kenzie or her system would catch it.

Coronzon, retreats into a portal, stews, emerges as a monster.  White hides and cowl, boiling black blur for mask.

Ahrima, grants danger sense and hyperawareness to others.  If she’s protecting Amy, can’t drop something on Amy from a great height.  Single eyeball mask, wing motif.

Seir, blasts out shadowy duplicates.  Can exchange location with any of them.  Horse head, hides, robes.

Bamet, gives humans animal features and vice versa.  Permanent.  Not touch based as originally assumed.  Three-faced mask, animal, human, and hybrid.

Hey Tattletale.  Considering what the Undersiders pulled in Brockton Bay Original, that sounds just.  Karma coming around.

“If it weren’t for us, the city would have been condemned.”

And controlling businesses, influencing the local heroes, and managing all organized crime in the city are your reward for that hard work.

“Yep,” Tattletale said.

Apparently a cosmic power that gave her incredible insights didn’t help her grasp my sarcasm.  Or she was just acting like it didn’t to annoy me.  Probably the second.

She said, “Your tinker is about to start making her thing to jab in my eye.  Until then I’m at my computer in the kichen, watching the same feeds you are, making coffee.”

Shin capes at the Station?

“Yeah.”

I don’t know how far this goes.  How far until she breaks or something goes tits up.

“Wish I could tell you.  I’m working with limited information here.  Going to pull my team together, situate your kid to get all the information possible, and I’ll use that information to put together a better picture.  Good?”

I don’t know if it’s good.  I’m worried this isn’t it.  That this latest Panacea fuckup is going to distract us from whatever the real problem isKenzie said you felt the same way.

“Yeah,” Tattletale said.  I could hear her sigh.  She fell silent.  I could see from Candy’s point of view that Darlene had passed through the kitchen, where Tattletale stood by the counter, laptop perched there, her attention on the coffee machine.

Not wanting to talk if she could get caught talking to me.  I could appreciate that she had a good sense about that stuff.

“Let me get the eye thing, and we’ll see what we can do as a collaborative thing,” Tattletale said.

Okay.

Armstrong had risen from his seat.  Another guy had joined Larue and Eric, leaning over the table.

The tone of the room had changed.  I’d been so sucked into that video feed in front of me and the space around and behind me where people might be looking over my shoulders that I hadn’t noticed.

Citrine.  Mayor Jeanne Wynn, with two people in her company, presumably Wardens.

I watched through Kenzie’s feed as she passed through the kitchen again, carting stuff this way and that.  Checking a box.

Tattletale spoke, “Your kid says Citrine just showed.”

Yeah.

Kenzie was altering the video and sound feeds.  What I was seeing of her milling around was what others were seeing.  But she was telling Tattletale stuff and getting her up to speed, presumably.

I’d have been a bit spooked if it wasn’t so useful.

Citrine took the seat at the end of the table that faced the screens.

“Do you need anything?” Armstrong asked.

“No,” Jeanne told him.  She was pale enough to look really washed out, all dressed in black.  Her hair was styled and perfect, her makeup done up nicely.  It made me think of my mom’s efforts, in a way.  But where my mom kept her hair short for strictly utilitarian reasons, Jeanne had hers long.  My mom was a blade that she kept sharpened.  Jeanne was… elegant.  Regal, even in mourning.  “I want to make sure my city’s okay, Kamil.”

I wondered if she actually cared.  It was hard to picture, when she was as emotionally reserved as she was.

“Hey, your kid has a tummyache, F.Y.I.  You know why, right?”

The sudden comment from Tattletale made my head spin for a second.  Too much of a change from where we were.

I know.  She and I talked about it this morning.

“Just making sure.  You have to warn people.  Case in point, check your feed.  Look at what your kid is doing.”

I’d been keeping an eye on the situation.  Rain was giving a rundown on the Fallen to the local capes, talking quiet while the standoff persisted between the two groups.  Three groups, almost.  The Shin capes didn’t mingle with the prison capes and Amy.

I switched, getting an uncomfortably close view of Chicken Little’s face.  He leaned back and she leaned in.  She was talking, “-and get your bird cameras going, for more targeted strikes.  And there’s the topological stuff, in case the topology topples, and this city thing happens-”

I typed out a message to her as she went on.  She didn’t seem to get it.

I looked up and over at Eric.  “Can I call Kenzie?  Strictly non-cape stuff.”

“You’d need to outline what you want from us.”

“Stopping a fight from breaking out between kids.  Possibly a serious one.”

“Again, tell us what you want to communicate, and we’ll review it quickly.”

I clenched my fist.  “I-”

“Red light, Lookout,” Tattletale barked, on the microphone.  It was something that would be picked up by anyone watching any of the kids.  I was safe to stop and listen.

“Huh?” Kenzie twisted around.

“Means freeze.  Stop.  Freeze.”

“Oh.”  Kenzie stopped.  Chicken Little backed off, and from the view of the other kids, I could see Kenzie deflate a bit.  “Why?”

“Proxemics,” Tattletale said.  “Personal space.”

“Tattletale’s got it,” I muttered.

“Good,” Eric said, sounding happy.

“I know what proxemics are.  Is,” Kenzie replied, sounding as annoyed as I’d heard her.

“You’re bad at it.  For right now, don’t get in so close to your buddies.  Don’t get any closer than you’d need to to reach out and put your hand on their shoulder.”

“Was I making you uncomfortable?” Kenzie asked, looking at Chicken.

“A little.”

“Oh.  I’m sorry,” Kenzie said.

The scene put her in the middle of the room, Chicken having retreated about three paces toward his room with all the now-empty birdcages.  Darlene was near her room, and Candy sat on the back of a chair, feet on the seat, back to the wall, leaning forward.  It was almost like Kenzie was surrounded.

I wouldn’t have wanted to handle it that way.  Making such a point of it.

Especially not after the whole thing last night, when the Heartbroken had turned on her.  She looked visibly anxious.

“You do that sometimes,” Chicken Little said.

“I’m sorry.”

“I’m not mad or upset,” Chicken Little said, insistent, like he was already expecting or seeing resistance that didn’t come across on the camera.  Maybe it was how fast the apology had come after his statement.  I could almost relate, thinking to my dealings with Amy.

I really didn’t want to connect Kenzie and Amy in my head.

“Sorry,” Kenzie said, still a bit defensive.

Difference is that Amy doesn’t say sorry.  I’m not even convinced she feels sorry.

They’re both really bad at listening or noticing cues when it’s stuff they don’t want to hear, though.

“I’m just trying to explain so we can be better friends in the future,” Chicken Little went on.  “You get into whatever you’re talking about and the conversation becomes one-sided, and it gets really hard to get a word in, especially if I’m trying to say step back a bit or stuff.”

I typed out more words.  Take five.  Or ask for a short break.

Kenzie didn’t react.

“Can I call in?” I asked.  “Talk to her?”

“If you tell us in advance what you’re going to-”

I interrupted, “I want to reassure her, distract her, refocus her.  She’s a kid who had a surprise bad night after a bad evening and I want to ensure today goes more smoothly.  I want her to take a break.”

“Can you fill us in on what happened yesterday?  I don’t think that’s in the notes.”

“Do I need to submit a damn form?  What, in triplicate?” I asked.  “I want to help a kid by calling for a short conversation.  Nothing to do with Warden concerns.”

“Everything’s to do with Warden concerns.”

Armstrong looked concerned as he walked back over to where his chair and laptop were.  Citrine was unmoving at the head of the table, elbows on the white surface, hands clasped together and pressed to her mouth.  Or around it.  I wouldn’t be mushing up my hands to my mouth if I’d paid as much attention to lipstick as Citrine had.

No fucking allies.  Fucking idiots, all of them.

That stab of loneliness.  The frustration.

“Eric, seriously, is this a power trip?  Because I think you’re assuming responsibilities and guardianship that, as far as I can tell, weren’t officially passed on or handed down.”

“I am assuming those responsibilities.  But I have to,” Eric said.  “It’s either that or you leave this room.”

“That’s crazy.”

“Believe it or not, Victoria, the world doesn’t revolve around you.  The Wardens are busy.  They took the time to review your situation, they made their call.  I got what you got, and that’s all we get until they have a spare few minutes to give us more.  The difference between us is I have Cinereal’s trust.  I’ve worked with her for a little while now, she likes me because when I make assumptions I make the right ones.  I know how she thinks.  I’m making a judgment call that these continued restrictions are what she would want, and that she’d want to vet any statements you make, with all necessary context, before letting you unduly influence your team.”

I looked over at Armstrong.  “This doesn’t feel right.”

“Maybe not,” the man replied.  “Chevalier will report in by phone in about fifteen minutes.  Some of the others will be calling in too, including Miss Militia, who you know.  Can you hold on until then?  If you want to appeal, you can do it then.  I’ll pull strings to ensure you get the chance.”

“I’m worried this ends up an actual bloodbath before then.”

“It’s kids,” Eric said.

I pressed my fist against my forehead, face turning up toward the ceiling, taking in a deep breath.  “Lookout is powerful, yes?  It’s in the records, she’s proven herself to be capable.  But you don’t get kid capes without trigger events and trauma.  She’s been through a lot, and so have those other kids.  They’re parahuman kids.  Some are Heartbreaker’s.”

“The older ones or the young ones?” Citrine asked.

I turned, feeling a glimmer of hope.  “Young, but not the youngest.”

“They’re little nightmares.”

“They’re great, except when situations like this come in, and someone needs to step in and steer them.”

“Yes,” Eric said.  “You trusted her to Tattletale’s company, so… trust Tattletale to be that someone.  Stay put, no call.  Those are my instructions.”

“And I’m following these instructions on your say so?” I asked, bristling.

“Pretty much!” Eric retorted.  “You aren’t winning me over here with this attitude.”

“Is that possible?” I sat up straight, hands on the desk.  “To win you over?”

“I mean, it helps to try.”

“Helps what?” I asked him.

“If I have to make situational calls, and you’re being unreasonable or emotional, I might make different calls.  Listen, if you happen to be right, you can make your case to Cinereal and the other Wardens, and I’ll get hell for it.”

“I don’t care about your hell, or your status in the Wardens, or anything like that.  I want the world to end up okay, I want my team to end up okay.  Last night, the Heartbroken- two of those kids there are Heartbreaker’s, as you probably know-”

“I know.”

“-They mobbed Lookout and she only barely got out okay.  Now there’s another mob, and Lookout is tired, off-balance, and spooked.  They’re-”

“-on camera,” Kenzie’s voice had an edge to it.  Enough of an edge that it interrupted me.

Chicken Little had been doing most of the talking in the background, and now he fell silent.  The conversation had been heated, with underlying emotion, and probably a few things left unsaid.

Which seemed to be an ongoing problem, because this wasn’t the first time Chicken Little had tried to air his grievances or curb Kenzie’s problematic tendencies.  But each time this stuff did come up, the context of the situation meant it couldn’t be a debate.

That wasn’t even the biggest concern.  Bloodbath.  Darlene was conspicuously still and quiet through all of this, and it was her defense of Chicken Little and her very obvious attachment to him that spurred on her worst behavior.  No jabs, no comments, no tear-downs, no ‘don’t hurt the chicken’ lines.  She did nothing and that made me worry.

“I think you’ve said what you need to say, Chicken,” Tattletale said.  “She’s right.  This isn’t the time or place.”

“Cameras?”

“We’re on candid camera,” Kenzie said.  She smiled.  “Eye thing, remember?  I told you it’d be on and stay on.”

Chicken Little touched his chicken mask.

“It’s easy to forget,” Candy said, from the sidelines.

“Sorry.  Didn’t mean to gripe with people watching,” Chicken Little said.

He was a calm little guy.  I could imagine myself being a lot more frustrated at the circumstance.

“No,” Kenzie smiled back.  “We’re ok, right?”

“We’re okay.  We’re teammates.  Nothing changes that,” Chicken Little said.

“Good, let’s refocus for now,” Tattletale said.  “Lookout, go to your workshop, get what you need, build what you need.  Everyone else, pack.  I’m going to make something to eat, depending on what’s in the fridge.”

“I’ve got ten different kinds of egg, probably,” Chicken Little said.

“Throw those out so they don’t go bad, in case we come back here.  Or store them to bring them with us if you really think you can eat them,” Tattletale told him.  “But pack.  No procrastinating.”

Chicken Little groaned.

“Speaking of procrastinating, there’s a blanket in the medical room,” Candy said.  “Cold hands are awful to tinker with.  Let’s bundle you up.”

“The heat should kick in soon,” Tattletale said.  “I’ll remind you lot, the operative part of the word refocus is focus.”

“‘Soon’ isn’t now.  I’ll get the blanket anyway.”

“Thank you,” Kenzie said.  “I’m going to go get some water, then I’ll get to work.”

“It’s like herding cats,” Tattletale said, as the two kids ran off.

I had to switch to Darlene’s point of view to keep my eye on Tattletale, with a brief cycle through points of view to make sure Rain and the others were okay.

Standoff was in progress.  A bit of adjustment, because the size of the mob of giants had increased, forcing the heroes to move off to the side.  Some other stuff, some ongoing conversations, but it looked quiet, tense.  I was more concerned on ensuring Kenzie was handled.

Tattletale was talking, as I cycled back to her.  “-very hard?”

“I’m trying to be good,” Darlene said, quiet.  “Sitting on my hands, keeping my mouth shut.”

“It’s working.  In another circumstance, I could see you getting heated.”

Darlene fidgeted.  “She’s in a weird mood.  Lookout.”

“You’re not wrong, kiddo.  Do me a favor, you know where the medical boxes are.  Spare me having to use my power to find them and dig up some ibuprofen, then help me make… grilled cheese and tomato soup?  Hot chocolate and cookies a bit after?”

Darlene nodded, smiling.  She got up out of her chair.  “You used your power to work out what’s in our pantry.”

“Mm hmm.  Come on.  Extra cookie for you, for not stabbing Lookout with a pen.  And you’re not grounded anymore.”

“Knife,” Darlene said.  “I try to always keep a knife now.”

“I would have shot you if it came to that.”

“You would have tried.”

Tattletale put her hand on the back of Darlene’s head or her shoulder, guiding her.

I looked across the table at Eric.  He hadn’t reacted in the slightest, which made me think he wasn’t watching the video feed of Darlene’s perspective.

Tattletale guided the kid into the tiny kitchen that was in one corner of the hideout.

Darlene’s point of view was the best view I had of Tattletale.  Snuff re-entered the building, leaning into the doorway.  Candy stopped in her tracks.

“Tats!  It’s Snuff!” Candy said.

“Undersiders are coming,” Snuff said.  “Tell her.  I’ll leave you alone.”

“I heard!” Tattletale called out.  “Thanks Snuff.”

Snuff went back outside.  I watched through Darlene’s viewpoint as Candy, hugging a folded blanket to her chest, found her equilibrium, taking a few seconds before resuming movement, throwing the blanket over top of Kenzie, who was in her computer chair.

“Who’s coming?  Imp?” Darlene asked.

“Yep.  Aunt Rachel.  Foil, Parian.  Remember to use their cape names, since the cameras are on.”

Darlene nodded, the ‘camera’ bobbing.

Tattletale pressed her phone to her ear.  “Ibuprofen.  You know where it is?”

“I know where to look.”

Darlene went to the same room Candy was collecting blankets from.

Tattletale’s voice came through the mic, presumably for me alone.  “Hot chocolate, extra cookies, and whatever treats Imp brings for your kid?  It won’t make her unbearable or messy?”

She’d be holding the phone to her ear while talking to me, so it wouldn’t be too suspicious.

I typed: The messiness comes from social stuff, not really sugar.  She’d appreciate the extra care.

“Alright.  Anything to watch for?  I’m conserving some strength for what’s to come.”

I typed my reply: She hit a life milestone and she’s probably missing the fact she doesn’t have a mom or dad to give her that extra bit of care.  When Undersiders arrive, she’ll be the odd one out.

“Yeah.”

SO EMBARRASING

Fuck, this was hard.  Juggling, remembering who was aware of what.  Of Course Kenzie was seeing my interactions with Tattletale.

I typed: We’re all coming at this from a place of caringTats wants to help.

I MEAN C.LITTLE TELLING ME I DO ALL THESE THINGS
I DIDN’T KNOW!!!
I STAND TOO CLOSE AND I LOSE MY BREATH AND I THOUGHT EVERYTHING WAS GOING SUPER WELL AND IT ISN’T!
IT NEVER IS HAHA
AND EVERYONE WATCHING.  I SEE THE FACES ON WEBCAMS AND SECURITY CAMS AND AUDIENCE FEEDBACK SYSTEMS TELL ME HOW MANY ARE VIEWING AND ITS A LOTTTTT
UGGGGGGGGG
UGGGG
UG!  HAHA XD

I replied: I’m sorry.  Your team wants to take care of you so let them, ok?  Candy’s bringing a blanket and Tats is getting treats for after lunch.  I’ll be here as much as I can.

🙂

Take twenty seconds, take stock.  What do you need?  Breath of fresh air?  To sink into your work?  A friend?  If you don’t want to type to me, you can talk to Candy, I think.

MAKING SURE THE OTHERS ARE SAFE

With that, with renewed focus and motivation, Kenzie got to work.

I typed: The fucking bureaucracy of this place.  I want to chase leads and look into other possibilities, but it’s a mess.

“Prioritize my eye thing, Kenz?” Tattletale called out.

“On it!”

Tattletale added, in a quieter voice, “Because what I really need for this headache is information overload.”

She took the pills from Darlene, cracking open the bottle.

A good minute or two passed, as people got settled.  I switched back to the heroes and Shin parahumans.  Amy was back, her hand on a giant, and so was a monster.

My first take was that it was another empowered giant like the Chevalier or Nursery, but I could see the collar it wore.  The same as what Chris had worn when pursuing us in our little prison escape.  It was Lab Rat fresh from his lab, and he now loomed in the gate’s entrance.  He wasn’t as tall as the giants, but there was more mass to him.  He was rotund, belly expanded to the point his legs weren’t visible above the knee, his arms past the elbow.  Smaller arms lined his sides, stumpy like a maggot’s limbs.  Hairless, with dulled features.  A porcine lump of a nose that seemed to extend from the brow rather than any bridge of the nose.  Wide eye sockets rimmed with ridges of red and black, like the orbs had been set into wounds carved in loops and circles until there was enough of an indent for the eyes to rest in.  A hole for a mouth that seemed unable to completely close.

All of him was covered in what looked like papercuts or other lacerations.  Some were fine, pink against the ghoulish white flesh.  Others were crimson, jagged, like someone had hacked at him with a chainsaw.  Black masses that could have been branches or wire stuck out of the wounds.  In places, the branching wires were stuffed into the wounds and pried those wounds wide in their efforts to straighten back out.  When he shifted his weight, his mass shifted, wobbling like a waterbed, and the sheer mass of black wires poking and prying at his insides and around the gashes became evident.  Of all of them, only one at his side poked through, causing skin to break, then split from the pull of the flesh around it.  Wires were visible in the fresh and bloodless wound, thicker than elsewhere.

One of his hands held a syringe gun.  A smaller one held a clipboard.  He was naked in the cold, not that anything was visible, and didn’t seem to mind.

Eerie, to see something like that speaking with a misshapen mouth, with the cadence and apparent ability of any ordinary person.

Heads around the room turned as Larue put the image of Chris up on one of the main screens.

“Mr. Armstrong?  Should we send notice of his appearance to the Wardens?”

“I don’t think so, this is normal for him,” Armstrong replied.  “Have you seen this one, Antares?”

“No,” I said.  “No idea who he could have gotten it from, either.  He scans parahumans to get data he can utilize in his forms.”

My eye roved over the crowd of Shin parahumans.  Two stood out to me.

A man with what looked like a blue moth mask, wearing multiple layers of blue and white capes that wrapped around him, almost encasing his body.  He didn’t seem to have access to his arms or even the full range of motion of his legs.  His hair was nearly white, he was tall, and his lower face, visible beneath the mask, had a constant, slight smile to it.

Another was a woman, who slouched badly with her arms hanging at her sides as if there was an anchor tied to each hand.  She was missing one eye, the socket surrounded by a burn, and one of her breasts was gone.  She was beautiful in a scary sort of way, and the scars didn’t take away from that.  Her posture did.

She was paying more attention to Chris than anyone else, and Chris tended to get a lot of attention already.  Obsessive level of attention, then.

I’d heard that Goddess had access to a parahuman who could alter people’s appearances.  That she’d used this parahuman to make her parahumans beautiful and healthy.  It was in the Warden’s records, because there had been notices to watch out for Shin agents, after the issue at the prison a week ago.  To warn teams about taking on new and attractive members.

Those two felt like the ones to watch.  It was another intuitive thing, another thing for me to keep track of.  Another thing for me to juggle.

Another train of thought to go down, as I mulled over my newfound connection to my agent, to my Wretch.  I could remember papers, remember areas being explored.  This time, I was thinking less about what contributed to those connections, and more about what happened when the connection manifested.

Added control over powers.  Added nuance in power, sometimes in the form of new techniques and moves.  More power, obviously.  More range.  Those were the basics.  Powers that had drawbacks could find those drawbacks relaxed if the user regularly practiced with their power, meditated, put their powers to use in the field, which might be conflated with being in the midst of more conflict.

God, what had it been?  I wracked my brain to remember one file.  A passing remark by a cape with control over sound, who had pumped sound into a Tinker’s engine.  They’d evidenced a good sense of what sounds would be most effective- it had been a city-wide whining sound that was supposed to target people with criminal intentions only, and the sound-manipulator had known what sound was best.  They had noted in their paperwork that they didn’t think they’d have been able to do that the year prior.

Blessed paperwork, the little details that emerged.

That was awareness.  It might suggest a grasp of the subject matters adjacent to the powers.  A fire manipulator getting a sense of flames and how they burned, because that was the sort of thing their agent paid a lot of attention to.

And… of course, courtesy of a bit of paperwork from Golem, who stood next to Rain, while Cuff talked to Rain about Girls… there was another dimension of parahuman-agent growth related to that.  Because another thing adjacent to all powers was… powers.

Was my intuition augmented by my closer connection to the Wretch, that radiant, fragile, multi-limbed spectre I’d glimpsed last night?  Did it give me a greater sense of parahumans, threats, and where threats lay?

If it did, how was I supposed to distinguish between my actual gut and my power-provided gut?

I typed: Tattletale?

“Bad time to start talking.  I’m going to have to put the phone down soon so a little kid can jab something metal into my eyeball.”

I typed more: Blue bug person and the hunched-over woman with the scars that she hasn’t had Amy heal yet.  Why are they grabbing my attention like they are?

“Hold on, kid.”

I heard Kenzie make a complainy-sound.  Surprisingly whiny for Kenzie.  “I have stuff to do!”

Through Kenzie’s perspective, I watched Tatteltale look over to her laptop, switching the feed, and making the video fullscreen again.

“Did your power tell you something?” Kenzie asked.

“Yeah.  My power,” Tattletale’s tone was almost sardonic.  “The one in blue is the cocoon trump.  Makes people beautiful, stronger, healthy.  Gives them protections, keeps them a certain age.”

I typed: The one with the slouch is paying attention to Lab Rat.

“We want you gone,” Amy announced.

How ironic, I mused, with no humor.

“Not an option,” Moonsong replied.

Capes behind Moonsong had shifted position in the last ten or so minutes.  The standoff hadn’t broken, and it was apparently a question of power and position.  Amy could move, because the procession of giants she was treating and giving innate instructions to hadn’t ceased, but the Shin group was doing a better job of keeping still and staring down our side than the inverse.

Moonsong, I noted, hadn’t budged.  Breakthrough was doing pretty well.  Rain had only moved to square off against the Fallen, facing them.  The Shepherds and the Shepherd’s sub-teams.  They had a core team of about sixteen members, and another thirty lesser members who handled the ground game, focusing on neighborhoods and sub-communities within the city.  The Huntsmen were there, I noted.

Breakthrough was there too, but only half of the group.

Opposed by a stubborn Amy who had found her next cause to be stupid over.   She was backed by Chris, Fallen, Shin capes that had apparently been tortured, and prisoners.

The sides looked to be about even.  Not counting the ‘Mother Giant’, nor the army she had gathered in rings around her.  Shuddering fonts of fertility, flesh, and afterbirth.

The offal-eating, squirrel-sized goblin was the most normal person in her immediate circle right now.

“You have forces massing on our border.  Shin insists,” Amy said.

“I thought you wanted cooperation with Antares.”

“I want cooperation with Shin, too.  I gave you what you want, I need you to listen to them too.  This is non-negotiable.”

“They can’t attack,” I said, out loud.  “Ahrima will protect the key players, like the Red Queen and Lab Rat.”

“If they leave, we don’t regain the ground we’ve ceded,” Armstrong told me.

“I don’t think they win.  I think you have some exceptionally talented capes there, but I think the bad guys- Shin, they come out ahead.”

“They’d say we’re the bad guys,” Eric said.  “Can we get ahold of Chevalier?  You said he’d be available.  We need a judgment call.”

Armstrong motioned at a nearby terminal where the Wardens’ staff were gathered at one of the bigger computers.

“No, sir.  He’s still walking to the portal.  Weather’s slowing him down.”

“Can we send a helicopter?  Is one free?”

“No.  The three closest helicopters are transporting Foresight, clearing a jam on one of the main roads so the people can keep evacuating, and coming back from the Cheit border situation.  That last one won’t reach Chevalier before he reaches us.”

“Can’t use powers,” Armstrong said.

“I’m in,” Tattletale murmured, her voice a buzz in my ear.  “I can see.”

How to even handle this?

“Ahem.  Listening?”  Tattletale asked.

People around the table reacted.

“Listening,” Eric said.  “Senior Wardens are tied up elsewhere.  You have two ex-directors here.  Armstrong and Pearce.  Have you been following?”

“One of the capes there is a problem.  Woman with the slouch and the burned eye.  She’s aggressive  If anyone makes the first move, it’s going to be her.  She’s the source of the black shit Lab Rat has inside his body.  She inspired the power he’s built his body around, like a trial run of the giants.”

“Thank you, Tattletale,” Armstrong said, leaning forward.  He looked back at a woman who was at the terminal.  “We’ll pass it on.”

“Passing it on,” the woman said.  Pearce, I assumed.  “Informing team leaders.”

The escalating hostilities continued.  No longer a standoff.  The Shin capes were finding positions that were less standing in their individual groups and more finding the spots they wanted to fight from.  Spacing out.  Some capes advanced, so they wouldn’t have as far to travel to start hitting shit.  The slouching woman with the missing eye was among them.

Others moved closer to cover, like the pillars by either end of the station, or even using the kneeling giants that Amy had yet to tend to shield themselves from possible fire.

The ones to watch were the ones who didn’t move at all.  Bamet.  Seir.  The cocoon cape.

A quick check of the kids showed Chicken Little with Darlene at his desk.  Kenzie was in her computer chair in her workshop, bundled up in a blanket with a steaming mug of what might have been soup off to one side.  Candy leaned in behind her, hugging her around the shoulders while looking at the screen.  Candy’s mug sat off to the side.

No murder happening there.

Juggling, juggling, I thought.  I felt so out of place, out of my element.

Especially when the prick sitting across the table from me wasn’t letting me have any input.

“You realize,” Seir called out.  “If a fight breaks out, I break you in half, Rain boy?”

Rain didn’t respond.

“No extreme violence,” Amy said.  “I gave you rules and biological imperatives.  Follow them.”

“I am,” Seir said.  “Shin set their own rules and imperatives, remember?  You struck your deal with them, you gave us the rules they dictated.  We can do whatever’s necessary to protect Shin.  Including if we think a mass murdering little shit like him might pull something.”

“Dangerous, horrible little shit like him,” Ahrima said, her voice young.

Rain was stone still.

Amy was silent.

She didn’t have nearly as much control over her rotten eggs as she liked to pretend.

Chris turned his back to the scene, lumbering back inside.

“Bamet’s got a trick up his sleeve,” Tattletale said.  “People near him need to back up.”

Armstrong signaled.  Pearce accepted the signal, passing on the message.

Moonsong gestured to teammates.  They backed up, and Moonsong took a few steps back as well.  Bamet moved to get closer to some capes at the front line, and Moonsong had them back up as well.

Bamet could give people the features of animals, and vice-versa.  It took surgery to fix, unless he cooperated.  He hadn’t cooperated, apparently, for the entire time he’d been in the prison.  He’d said it was a matter of principle, belief, and making unbelievers appear on the outside as they no doubt appeared on the inside.

I hadn’t heard anything about Amy doing anything to make him come to Gimel and fix people, either.

“Good.  You’re going to need to pass on my tips far faster than that in about twenty seconds,” Tattletale said.

“Yeah,” Armstrong said.  “Giving you a direct line to Pearce.”

“Was that a literal twenty seconds?” Pearce asked.

“Yes. Two-”

“Brace!” Pearce ordered, leaning into the microphone.

The slouching woman moved, falling to her knees, her hands hitting the ground like dropped weights.

A line of black wire-branches ripped up out of the earth, tearing up road, each one larger than the last.  With Moonsong in front, Moonsong was the first in the line of fire.  Between the touch of the ground and the imminent impact, there was only about a second.

But the heroine didn’t run or try to get out of the way.  Instead, she raised a hand.

The branches were uprooted, flung skyward.  So was the offending cape.  With the break in her contact with the ground, the branches ceased appearing.

“No!” Moonsong called out.  “Years of good relationship, and you’re throwing it all away!”

The suddenness of the counterattack seemed to give the villains pause.

Amy perhaps most of all.  She’d never been a fighter.  She’d hated the idea of appearing on the battlefield.

I opened my mouth to tell Eric, and immediately gave up.

I typed: bait Amy.  She’s scared.  She wants a way out.

“I need you to pass on a message from me to the Red Queen,” Tattletale said. “Do not tell her it’s from me.”

I typed: My outburst earlier.  It’s eating at her.  Tell her…

I kept on typing.

Tattletale recited.  Passing it on.  Building on it, with her power.

“Amy!” Sveta called out.

“I don’t want to talk to you.”  Amy was so good at the position thing, so good at placing herself in areas we couldn’t touch her, where she had rank or respect.  She had power.

But posture.  She had a way of looking weak even when she was on top of a world, so to speak.

They were going to eat her alive.  It was inevitable.  I could see it in the Fallen.

“Earlier, Amy, you said when there are no other options, you end up extending trust to the wrong people and places.”

“That’s not what I said.  ”

“What options are you leaving Victoria?” Sveta asked.  She raised her voice.  My words.  Typed, translated, built on and passed on.

Seir lashed out.  A bolt of darkness, and a bunch of duplicates.  Rain slashed out with a silver blade, maybe anticipating that one would become real.  It didn’t.

Which, in turn, saw Scribe attack.  A chunk of building tore away from the wall, flying toward the Shin group.  Already marked with her sign, gripped with her telekinesis, probably well in advance.  One of Scribe’s companions leaped up with a jet of flame, touching the rubble.  It started crackling with electricity.

Someone in Shin’s faction blasted it, tearing it to small chunks.  But small chunks of wall were enough to gash, to concuss, to hurt others.  One caught Amy in the head.  And for a long three or four seconds, she was out of view.

I could entertain the idea of her dying and feel nothing except suspension.  Not even hope.

“Remember her outburst?  When she snapped at you?  Called you a deluded little monster?  Threatened you?”

Sveta’s voice sounded so minor, in the midst of other sounds, but I had zero doubt Amy heard it.

Amy straightened.  The hurt on her face wasn’t, I was pretty sure, from the head injury.

“Last chance,” Amy called out.  Her voice had taken on a different tone.  “You guys don’t get to dictate borders or rules.  If Shin says to back off, back off.”

“Listen!” Sveta called out.  “She said that because she was backed into a corner.  If you keep on this course of action, you’re only making that worse!”

Capes were backing away from the Mother Giant now.  Sveta was one of the ones who didn’t back off as much, because backing off would mean she was out of Amy’s earshot.

The imperatives might have been in evidence, here.  So long as our side was retreating, their side wasn’t attacking.

But retreat meant giving ground to Shin we might never retake.  Not like this.

“Your dad had his head injury.  So did your mom.  Your sister had her stay in the hospital.  Shitty as it sounds, your entire family has its issues with control and labels and identity.  Believe me, the time I spent with Victoria, I know!” Sveta called out.  “You are a member of that family, for better or for worse.  The only thing keeping you from being a part of that family is the decision you’re making right now!  You will lose Carol, you will lose Mark!  You’ll lose the chance to meet Victoria over iced tea twenty years from now, to talk and catch up!”

Amy shook her head.

My heart sank.

Seir stalked forward, Bamet at his side, his eyes glowing yellow.

Amy reached out, holding out her hand.  Her other hand went to her heart, pressing down over her crimson coat.

“People have been telling me to get real and to get a clue for a while now.  It’s about time I listen, right?”

“No,” Sveta said.  “Listen to what I’m saying right now.  Relax, get your guys to back down.  You have a way forward.”

“I don’t want a way forward,” Amy said.  Barely audible.  “I don’t even like me.  At all.  Why would I inflict myself on my family?”

“There’s a thread,” Tattletale’s voice came through.  “Trailing into the ground.  She took meat from the giants and put it beneath you guys.  The chest thing- that’s symbolic.  Run!

Breakthrough started running and telling others to run before Pearce had even finished communicating it.  Courtesy of the Kenzietech.

Seir hopped backward, pulling Bamet out of the way, as Amy exerted her connection through what was apparently an imperceptible vein of flesh that reached down her body and into a pool of biomass underground.  She must have been setting it up from early on, anticipating attack or already thinking about defense.

It erupted.  A triangular jutting of flesh, stabbing up from the ground, barring Seir’s path.

Amy turned her head, reaching to her belt.  She held what looked like a vial of chemicals.

“Lab Rat’s,” Tattletale reported.

“Going to lift her up, break the thread!” Moonsong called.

“Don’t!” Tattletale called.

Sveta lunged forward.  At the same time, another growth of flesh speared up out of the earth.  I couldn’t see the side that faced her, but I saw it yawn open, like it had a mouth.

To take in the vial.

Sveta grabbed the outgrowth, and her arm unspooled to form tendrils.

She snatched it out of the closing mouth, a few tendrils getting caught in the process, severed.  Black blood flowed.  Sveta tumbled to the ground.

Amy backed up, and more growths stabbed skyward.  Building sized.  Skyscraper growths.

She’d tapped into the Nursery.  I could only imagine what she would have been able to do if this growth of a thing had drank Lab Rat’s chemical and mutated.

It took the entire hero team to defend themselves.  Rain’s silver blades.  Moonsong pressed growths flat.   Golem created giant hands that reached up and gripped them.

But they were like fingers, claws, tentacles.  Reaching skyward, preparing to come down.

“Moon!” Tristan called out.  “Rising star!”

He was already creating his orange motes.  Moonsong had only a second to decide.  She decided to cooperate.

She used her power, reversed gravity on the motes, sending them skyward, dropping a few.  Tristan created a few more motes at more distant locations.

A finger came down toward their group.  The orange motes solidified into rock, a spike.  The finger was impaled.

The spike turned to a piercing stream of water.  The water gushed into the internals of the finger and toward the base of the mass.  It ripped at the metaphorical seams.  Exploded.

Others came for Sveta, separating her from Amy.  Defensive.  A building blocked her exit on one side.  Limbs came down on two more sides.  Leaving her only forward- and soon that was blocked off.

She wasn’t as agile with her new body, all considered.  Not that she’d been adroit in her prosthetic one.  I felt so fucking helpless, watching as the fingers closed in, shrank the space available to her.   Amy, at the same time,  backed up.  My sister cornering my best friend, leaving her nowhere to go, while a spike-tipped claw loomed above, ready to drop like a scorpion’s tail.

It plunged.  Broke right past an outcropping of Capricorn’s rock.  I had Sveta’s view as she was trying to get to her feet, still trying and still looking skyward as the spike came down.

A blur of black.  Darkness.

I paged through to other views, to confirm what I didn’t want to see.

I saw Sveta, lying on the ground.  Her face buried against Slician’s shoulder.  The mover in the tight black costume who could slide through tight spaces.

“Go!” Amy called out.  “Leave!  Shin wants you gone!”

“I want to pass on the message!” Sveta called back.  “Get it through that thick skull of yours!”

“Why!?”

“Because Victoria said she sees something in you!  Her words!  Not that you’re a good person, not that you’re a saint or a healer or a possible tool!  You’re a person, to her.  Flaws and good sides included.  Those are her words!  She kind of hates you and I think you know that’s for good reason!  But she’s willing to extend you a chance.  I have no fucking idea why!”

I said that before you tried to stab Sveta, I thought.

One by one, the limbs receded, pulling into the ground, leaving ruined road and buildings in their wake.  The front of the station had broken away due to one power use.

She hadn’t even used her army.  She’d made them back off.

This wasn’t the Amy I’d known.  This was the Amy who had spent years with Marquis.

“I can’t even talk to her without her getting upset,” Amy said.

“Obviously not,” Sveta said.

The first thing she’d said that wasn’t in the script.

“What’s the point, then?” Amy asked.

I typed.  Kenzie gave Sveta the words.

“The point is you realize nothing you’re doing is making things better or happier.  You realize you’ve been hearing people say you need to talk to a therapist or reach out and you have a gut reaction not to.  Maybe you stop listening to that gut reaction.  Victoria’s willing to concede the idea it might be your power.  Your agent, nudging you.  Let’s take that concession, let’s fight past it.”

“Did she ever think that maybe, just maybe, my being around someone who has an aura that makes you think she’s the best thing ever or the scariest thing ever might mess with someone like me?  Like maybe it’s like an abusive relationship, yanking me this way and that, and that’s why I’m so screwed up?” Amy asked.

I froze.

The statement felt heavy.  Like it took something for her to voice it.

How long?  How long had Amy been holding onto that?

I typed.

Sveta said my words.  “You never went out into the field, Amy.  You hated caping.  She used her power around her mom and her dad, around Crystal, around Shielder, and even her boyfriend more than she used it around you.  At higher and lower intensities.  If it had that effect, it wouldn’t have been you.”

It was Amy’s time to freeze, to consider.

“I’m vulnerable.  Weak.  Pliable.  I was alone.  They were actual family, and Gallant was emotion resistant.”

I typed.

“Family doesn’t mean anything to the agents, Amy.  Second triggers don’t follow family lines.  They go by association.  Who’s closest and who’s most convenient.  Do you think Crystal and Eric weren’t vulnerable in the years around their triggers?  They triggered too.  They were second triggers like you.  They had their bad moments.  They felt alienated, capes among regular citizens.  They had trouble making real friendships.  Mark- you know Mark had his own struggles, weaknesses.”

I watched Amy’s expression through Sveta’s eye.

I watched her turn.

Had she been blaming me?  For how long?

I typed.

“Talk to someone,” Sveta called out.  “Victoria knows someone.  She can set you up with an appointment.  Tonight.  Ignore that little voice that says no or wants to resist.  Because it might not be your voice.”

Amy didn’t respond, instead pointing at Seir, at other capes.  Directing them back to the station.  They obeyed.

Sveta took a few steps to get closer.

“Amy!” Sveta called out.

You almost killed Sveta, I thought.  My heart was pounding.  I could have spit bile.  I swear, if you walk away now, I will kill you.

“Okay,” Amy conceded.  Barely audible.

The anger and hatred subsided, and it left me feeling utterly empty.  Drained.  It had taken everything I had, and if I had to look at Eric’s face, if he gave me that look like ‘we didn’t need you after all’,or if he suspected I had acted, I was going to flip that fucking eighteen foot long table, damn the consequences.

I held my finger to the power button on the computer, like I was crushing out its life.  I watched the screen go black, video feed frozen by the shutdown process, and closed the laptop.

I didnt know what to do with myself, and I didn’t trust that what I ended up doing wouldn’t be flipping that table, or punching down a wall until I’d burned out the last of my energy.

But I was aware I was part of a partnership.  And I’d be damned if I entertained even the notion that Amy was overcoming her own partner’s pressures, while succumbing to my own.

Nudges, intuitions, feelings.

Influences.  I was aware I was acting different, since the connection had come back up.  That I had hints, I had benefits.  A kind of security.  A new kind of vulnerability.

For now, I just had to ensure I remained better than her.  That meant saving the world, staying on course, maintaining my own balance.

Thank you, fragile one, I thought to myself.  For the hints and the nudges.  I’ll pretend they’re from you, because I can’t keep fighting and hating you.  I’m spent. 

Short break, and then we have more to do.

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118 thoughts on “Sundown – 17.8”

  1. Fragile one is a better name than “Waste”, let’s go with it.
    Aura theory, up on screen and shot down. Shard-influence theory doesn’t put the blame on someone she can hurt, so… I guess that’s a better out?

    1. Fragile, and yet, In a way, so very strong-her projection/manifestation breaks time and time again, but allways luches back up to keep protecting its host/partner- might the shard’s nature/powerset be the intrinsic reason it genuinely likes Victoria/ seems to be actually trying to assist instead of “just” stirring and acting as a battery?
      the old saw about “walking a mile in someone’s shoes” comes to mind- the way it constantly comes back to keep shielding Victoria is actually quite similar to..well..how she simply refuses to stay down when there’s good people in the line of fire- “merely” kindred spirits, as it were, or maybe, it actually learnt empathy- there are few bonds stronger then the ones between allies/warriors who’ve gone through hell together…

      .. or maybe its just my romanticism/optimistic streak flaring up again and im wildly off-base, as usual >.<

      1. The Wretch gets knocked down. But she gets up again. You’re never going to keep her down!

        Maybe we should add Tubthumper to the list of names for Victoria’s partner.

  2. “Family doesn’t mean anything to the agents, Amy. Second triggers don’t follow family lines. They go by association. Who’s closest and who’s most convenient. Do you think Crystal and Eric weren’t vulnerable in the years around their triggers? They triggered too. They were second triggers like you. They had their bad moments. They felt alienated, capes among regular citizens. They had trouble making real friendships. Mark- you know Mark had his own struggles, weaknesses.”

    I’m guessing this is supposed to be second generation triggers?

  3. Please ban Alfaryn before he starts in on this update. It’s so tiring, wading through so much crud to see what anyone else thinks.

  4. “They think all parahumans are fucked up, rotten, dangerous. I don’t think they’re completely wrong to think it.”
    -Well, they’re aren’t wrong. When it comes to Amy, for example, they’re not wrong when they’re saying: this fucked up, rotten, dangerous parahuman.
    “Those are her words! She kind of hates you and I think you know that’s for good reason! But she’s willing to extend you a chance. I have no fucking idea why!”
    -Gosh, Victoria, you’re so good at bullshitting. You managed to convince Amy to spare Sveta’s life, to stop a bloody war and to accept therapy therapy. Victoria is not only team leader and friend but she’s also the team diplomat (I was so scared that Amy will kill Sveta that I screamed “Fuck you, Amy, don’t you fucking dare” all this time)
    “Like maybe it’s like an abusive relationship, yanking me this way and that, and that’s why I’m so screwed up?” Amy asked.
    -Right, Amy, blame the victim, never the abuser, do the victim blaming. Your delusional attitude is uglier than any form Chris took and will ever take.
    -Victoria and Taylor have something in common: they really, really don’t like authority. For them authority and rules are some of the worst things that can happen to them. So, they’d get along so fine over breaking as many rules as possible in such a shot time.
    Watch Kenzie becoming the ultimate big bad and FORCING EVERY SINGLE BEING in existence to become her friend. Including Contessa’s lost fedora :).

    1. As funny as the fedora jokes are, I suspect that Contessa may want to break away from her “bogeyman” image, and losing the fedora seems like a logical step in that direction.

            1. Oh, THE HORROR of Contessa being a fashion monster. This is worse than anything Contessa ever did so far. I must…we must destroy her- Victoria.

            2. Not before the 31st of October Victoria! Let the bogeyman enjoy wearing her new and improved costume on at least one Halloween.

            3. In fact why not let Fortuna revisit her childhood once more, and let her do some trick-or-treating with her C53s friends while wearing this costume. The Heartbroken, Chicken Little, Kenzie, Gray Boy and Glaistig Uaine are obviously invited too. So is Chris if he decides to return to his early-Ward persona.

    1. Remember when simply watching a situation from up above was enough for Victoria to come up with decent battle plans, and she considered it a Thinker 1 power ?
      Wretchie (Fragile one ? Moro-chan ?) might just have been in contact with Negotiator long enough during the shardspace escapade to learn a few tricks from her. Victoria’s always been a glutton for cape info, and her agent obliged that angle to boost her Thinker adjacent-insight.
      Probably.

  5. Typo thread.

    > She was backed by Chris, Fallen, Shin capes that had apparently been tortured, and prisoners.
    > Golem created giant hands that reached up and gripped them.

    There are too many spaces before these sentences.

    > Amy, at the same time, backed up.

    There are extra spaces before this sentence AND between ‘time,’ and ‘backed’.

    instead about worrying about > instead of worrying about
    including Miss Militia, who you know. > including Miss Militia, whom you know.

    > I was more concerned on ensuring Kenzie was handled.

    Shouldn’t it be “concerned with ensuring” or “concentrated on ensuring”?

    Warden’s records > Wardens’ records
    most effective- it had been > most effective – it had been (?)

    > while Cuff talked to Rain about Girls…

    Can’t think about any group Cuff could be talking about, and whose proper name would include the word ‘Girls’, so I guess the word shouldn’t be capitalized?

    to tend to shield > to tend to to shield (?)
    Seir called out. “If a fight breaks out, > Seir called out, “if a fight breaks out, (?)
    “That’s not what I said. ” > “That’s not what I said.” (Remove the spaces between the dot and the quotation mark.)

    > Second triggers don’t follow family lines.
    > They were second triggers like you.

    As Aname pointed out these should be second generation triggers.

    you after all’,or > you after all’, or (space after a comma)

  6. “You realize,” Seir called out. “If a fight breaks out, I break you in half, Rain boy?”

    Hahahahahaha good friggin luck with that.

    1. Posture, position, power. From how Seir always talks, I’m halfway convinced his shard is an Ascension-grade jerk pushing all that bravado out.

    2. Ha ha, that was a good one. Rain can kick Seir’ sorry ass anytime he wants. Seir is just an arrogant asshole much more inferior to Rain in many ways.

  7. Is it only me, or did Citrine approach Victoria at the exact moment she needed to do so to stop Vicky from escalating her argument with Eric to the point where she could get in serious trouble with the Wardens? Was Citrine so focused on Victoria, so perceptive, or so lucky? Or was she following Contessa’s instructions about it?

    1. Or Dinah’s.
      I see a very small possibility she was called to keep a (short-term) handle on Victoria if she was to snap right there.

  8. More typos:

    cancer.” Rain > cancer,” Rain
    -me-, > – me –
    kichen > kitchen
    talking quiet > talking quietly
    Of Course > Of course
    Tatteltale > Tattletale
    She’s aggressive (missing fullstop)
    said. ” (extra space)
    had drank > had drunk

  9. Amy almost escalated into being full villain and realizing that Victoria will never be okay with her and stop listening to people manipulating her. Good for her. Another push and we will have her being an actual villain, taking on Marquis´s lessons and being well…an actual threat instead of someone who starts something and stops halfway through everytime someone tells her Victoria will be disappointed.

    People raging about Sveta, specially lulu over there, and seriously they got every warning to leave and they stayed, they knew what they were risking there, and Sveta´s best tactic was to promise Amy a heartfelt sisterly reunion with iced tea in 20 years. As if that going to happend. So yeah, good thing Sveta is not dead, but that was a shitty plan that they keep repeating and only works because Amy enables it, instead of saying “fuck it” as she nearly did this time

    Kenzie continues to break my heart when her issues get her in trouble with her team. Like I said, I share some of those problems so my heart is with her. You go kiddo.

    Fragile one is a beautiful name for your agent. May even be a possible candidate for a label that ficts Victoria and her shard?I approve of it.

    1. I would like for Amy to become a full villain too (will prove that she isn’t the good person that she still believes herself to be, on the contrary, she’s nothing but a crazy delusional monster) but she is still the pitiful idiot easily to be manipulated by Victoria, despite having some sparks. I also liked when Victoria manipulated the hell out of her through Sveta (Victoria proved to have a pretty manipulative side and this is just excellent).
      Heroes have all the right to remain there despite the warnings because they don’t trust Shin (Shin doesn’t give them any reason to trust them), they want to keep their enemies under surveillance and protect Gimel if Shin will decide to be hostile (as we already saw Shin parahmans attacking without being provoked. I doubt that Shin leaders ordered them to attack but they’re Shin representatives and they acted extremely aggressive towards the heroes who only were there to watch and supervise). I think is a very good strategy, if you don’t trust your enemy then keep an eye on it.
      I fully support Victoria/Wardens decisions. My opinion.

      1. Yes, I will defend the heck out of Sveta. She’s my second favorite character and I always like how brave, calm in very tense situations she can be, loyal to her friends to a fault and motherly, she’s such a great character. I share some personality traits with her, maybe this is another reason for me to be compelled to defend her. I’d love to have a real life friend like her.

  10. Poor Victoria. It still feels like the point of no return for Amy though. I’m really curious about what Shin’s overall plan is, because them going full-on hostile towards Gimel makes no sense on a pragmatic level.

    1. I’m afraid that the question may be not what Shin’s plan is, but what Cryptid decides to do. If Amy goes to see a therapist in the Cauldron complex right now, and everyone focuses on looking for threats to the city other than Shin (just like Victoria nad Tattletale are probably about to do), then who is going to stop Chris from using his concoctions to take control over Mathersbringer and Goddessbringer, and using them to take Shin over for himself? These two clones seem ideally suited for the task.

      1. I agree with Alfaryn. Nobody trust Shin and Amy and they’re doing their best to keep them under surveillance, but they don’t know that the real threat might be Chris, not Shin people, neither a mentally deranged villain wannabe be like Amy. An obviously mad scientist who love being a monster and living with monsters, with an increasingly desire for power, taking over Shin? Is not impossible neither improbable. I feel bad for Shin people if Chris will go this way. They barely survived Goddess only to be controlled by someone probably worse than her? They’re not the best people around, but even they don’t deserve this fate.

        1. Alfaryn, have you noticed that Chris and Alan the Mannequin aren’t so different? Both wanted to bring people in space (I don’t know if Chris still want but I think that his method of assuring their survival is to transform them into monsters under his direct control) and both denounced their humanity, preferring to live as monsters (well, Alan’s reason for his change of heart was Simurgh’s destructive attack that ruined his life and his well-intentioned plans).

          1. Sure. The difference may be that Chris may have the right idea how to accomplish what Sphere failed to do. Taking over Shin may be just a step in that direction. Since the problem with using tinkertech for this purpose is that powers don’t work outside Earth, then the solution may be to… not use them directly for this purpose. Remember that even without tinkers Bet almost certainly had the technology required to construct something like a permanent, manned Lunar settlement. It was only a question of throwing enough resources at the problem.

            Shin under Chris’ absolute rule may have enough raw materials, industrial capacity and manpower to support such space program. And even if Shin doesn’t have the technology to do so, people with the needed knowledge and skills may be among the refugees from Gimel Shin just took in. Remember that back in Glow-worm 0.1 it was mentioned that some of the people who worked on putting PHO back online were members of both US and international space programs, so we know that at least some of them survived Gold Morning and made it into the city.

            1. I think that two individuals will disagree with Chris’ plan. Simurgh and I. Simurgh must know that Chris will fail, otherwise she’d acted against him and stop him just like she did with Alan. She’s the most powerful precog, she knows what will happen and she doesn’t want to watch helplessly the humanity leaving Shin to live on other planets. So, Chris changed his plan or his plan is doomed to fail. We don’t know how he’s planning to be successful, we just suppose that if he’ll turn people into monsters/mutants, they’ll survive into space. Simurgh didn’t planned anything to stop him (or we don’t know yet) but I’m sure that she’ll do anything in her power to destroy his illusions if he’ll ever have a chance to be successful.
              Why I want him to fail? Because, if humans will manage to stop all the threats and reality from breaking then they can continue to live on Shin without problems as they did so far. Why become monsters under a madman control when they can remain free people on their own native planet? If you ask me, I’d prefer to live as free person in hell if necessary than as a slave in heaven.
              Why Chris would want to help the humanity when he hates it so much? Unless he have ulterior motives for his plan or he isn’t interested anymore to make it work. I don’t trust him anymore and I’m keeping an eye on Simurgh’s next movements. What Simurgh is planning to do tell us more about Chris’ own plans.
              My two cents theory.

            2. > Why Chris would want to help the humanity when he hates it so much?

              Isn’t it obvious?

              Imperative four: Take action, and whatever it is we do, it needs to be big.

              How many people can say that they got to use resources of an entire Earth, and technology of two to not only colonize to another celestial body, but also permanently take them out of shards’ sphere of influence in the process? How big accomplishment would it be?

            3. Got it. He only wants to “help” because he wants to show everyone how great he’s and what kind of extraordinary thing he did. He’s not selfless like Cauldron and Alan were, he’s entirely selfish and I’ll add, he have a God complex (he hates himself as a human but he definitely love himself as a mad monster). Not good, he’s more and more like the original Lab Rat and I feel sorry for the people who trust and follow him. I see him as a mad dictator. I almost hate myself for liking him before he showed his true colors. I was so naïve, I didn’t see the signs.

            4. Let God Will Bow hear you. But seeing how troubled Kenzie is right now, she have issues on her own. She can’t fight her own issues and other people’s issues at the same time even if she wants. She’s just a child. I feel so bad for her.

            5. Well, Ward is full of people who manage to help each other despite being deeply flawed themselves. This was even the basic idea behind Jessica’s therapy group.

              Another I’m wondering about – both Vicky’s and Amy’s fathers are still on Shin. What will their role be if Chris will indeed try to use Amy’s absence to his advantage? Will they simply become victims of Goddessbringer’s master power (in which case the sisters may end up having to fight their dads), or will they manage to actually do something about Chris? Marquis in particular seems like an interesting opponent for Chris, and may already be plotting something with Hunter, and possibly also Mark and/or Dot.

            6. Good suggestion. I think I’d like Marquis and Mark teaming up against Chris and even trying to save their daughter if he’ll ever go against them. As bad as Marquis can be sometimes (crimelord, duh, supporting Amy in whatever she’s doing), he loves his daughter and I have a soft spot for parents being just good and protective parents.

  11. >Wait, so Victoria has a Thinker power now?

    No. Remember how Jack the Slash coudlnt be hurt by any cape because his shard was so in tune with him, that it would warn Jack about any incoming attack from any nearby cape? That. Not a power, but a deep, powerful connection to shard. Which is quite scary tbh, because shards strive to conflict by nature, even though Vicky’s shard is cool enough to 100% want to “help the people of this city”.

    Although, now when I think about it, V and her shard might mean different things by saying that. What if in shard’s understanding, “help” is to fucking murder all of them and use their mental images to somehow create another Entity or something like that? Who knows?

  12. > Sveta said my words. “You never went out into the field, Amy. You hated caping. She used her power around her mom and her dad, around Crystal, around Shielder, and even her boyfriend more than she used it around you. At higher and lower intensities. If it had that effect, it wouldn’t have been you.”

    This is why we should appreciate Wildbow giving non-answers to our theories.

    I really loved this chapter; before, during, and after the action.

  13. @Hotdog Vendor
    >This is why we should appreciate Wildbow giving non-answers to our theories.

    @ grinvader
    >And I, for one, wholeheartedly welcome our already-existing fan theory-crushing overlord.

    See the thing I like in all this is that it IS a legitimate enough theory that it doesn’t actually seem unreasonable for Amy (or anyone) to have thought of it.
    And like… even Victoria freezes up and seems to acknowledge the idea in some sense (“How long she had been holding on to that?”). There is doubt there. Even if she doesn’t buy the theory, there is an extent to which it feels like IF you did believe that, it would be a sensible reason for Amy to be frustrated and pissed off.
    Not a good reason to expect forgiveness. Not a good enough reason to excuse what happened. But good enough that someone using it as a reason is *understandable*. A good enough reason such that there’s no “That’s crazy,” “That isn’t a good enough excuse” reaction, even in Victoria’s internal dialogue, but instead a “I’m pretty sure that isn’t factually correct.”

    There’s an extent to which “What about Victoria’s awe-ra” might be victim blaming, but to me it feels closer to “Giant alien parasite blaming”. Still fleeing responsibility, still not great, but its… it doesn’t feel quiet as icky.
    … but maybe that’s just me being dumb or insensitive. I don’t know.

    I think Sveta’s debunking of the theory is a fair explain, but also not something that the Fandom could potentially have argued previously; We readers didn’t really know how Glory Girl deployed her Aura in the past- for me, given the way Victoria talked about being far more careful about it at the start of the story, I kind of assumed if she just left it low grade always-on back in her Glory Girl years. Apparently she didn’t, which is good, but I’m not sure that is information we had previously.

    1. The best thing is that none of the fan theories were 100% disproven here. If anything since both the Victoria’s aura and Princess Shaper’s influence theories seem legitimate enough to give Victoria a pause, then it seems like they might have been important factors. And they are not the only things that might have lead Amy to where she is now. There ware also other things that affected Amy’s psyche:
      – The fact that Amy had a very potent and terrifying S-class power – something that could cause tremendous damage if misused, and make most people around the world fear Amy if they learned just what she is capable of.
      – Amy’s social anxiety coupled with coupled with the way she used her powers (not as a member of a team, and as such without a chance to use her teammates as a source of emotional support), and adoptive parents who also weren’t very supportive, which taken together mean that Victoria ended up being the only source of Amy’s emotional support.
      – three major blows to Amy’s psyche within just a few weeks – Tattletale’s revelations in the bank, Leviathan which not only destroyed the city but also resulted in deaths of two members of Amy’s family, brain injury of a third, and Gallant’s death (which likely left Amy completely isolated – without her usual support form Victoria), and finally everything that Slaughterhouse Nine did to Amy.

      Victoria may be right that none of these factors alone should be enough to make Amy flip. But in her bias against Amy Victoria conveniently forgets that these factors did not exist separately, and that there were a lot of them. That they added up, and it is just not fair to say “this shouldn’t cause you to do what you did because these people had to deal with the same, and succeeded, that shouldn’t cause you to flip too, because that other group of people managed to deal with the same…” Often it is just not one thing, but a total sum of all burdens that break a person, and it seems that it was the case with Amy.

      1. And let’s not forget that the day when Slaughterhouse Nine came for a visit to Dallon household was also the day when Amy discovered a letter from the Guild to Carol that confirmed Tattletale’s words, and that Victoria and Carol left Amy then in a company of a living reminder that Amy feared to use the full potential of her powers, and did not come back in time to save her and Mark.

        Sounds like it could have been too many blows at once, doesn’t it?

  14. @ Alfaryn
    >Is it only me, or did Citrine approach Victoria at the exact moment she needed to do so to stop Vicky from escalating her argument with Eric to the point where she could get in serious trouble with the Wardens? Was Citrine so focused on Victoria, so perceptive, or so lucky? Or was she following Contessa’s instructions about it?

    If I remember correctly, isn’t there a sidestory or WoG stating that it was Citrine who helped Imp deal with Heartbreaker during the two year time skip? If so, it might be less something for Victoria’s sake, and more just a completely natural reaction to Citrine hearing about the Heartbroken.

    Also, it seems a bit weird/foolish for Victoria to keep second guessing Tats parenting here:
    Tattletale KNOWS the heartbroken. She has worked with dangerous parahuman kids with boundary issues for years and has a power that is uniquely suited to the task.
    Also kinda shitty that she keeps treating Lisa as a villian who gets what she deserves:

    “Hey Tattletale. Considering what the Undersiders pulled in Brockton Bay Original, that sounds just. Karma coming around.
    “If it weren’t for us, the city would have been condemned.”
    And controlling businesses, influencing the local heroes, and managing all organized crime in the city are your reward for that hard work.
    “Yep,” Tattletale said.
    Apparently a cosmic power that gave her incredible insights didn’t help her grasp my sarcasm. Or she was just acting like it didn’t to annoy me. Probably the second.”

    The part I love here is the layers of sarcasm.
    Tattletale HATES running all the things and being responsible for all this shit. She’s sitting there thinking “We saved the city from being condemned, and our prize was to be *responsible* for the whole damn place and risk our lives fending off incoming villains while preparing for the end of the world and being hunted by the law. What a shitty prize”, and Victoria seems to just… not get it.

    This isn’t a case of Tats not getting Victoria’s sarcasm, this is a case of Vicky not getting Tats.

    1. Sure, whether she acted completely independently or thanks to a hint from a precog, Citrine (even when, as a sign of mourning, she doesn’t wear her color – which I’m actually a bit surprised nobody here pointed out yet) was the perfect person to de-escalate the situation. There is a reason why Accord considered her the best of his Ambassadors.

      As for Tattletale’s parenting, it is just obvious that Victoria simply doesn’t fully trust Tattletale’s abilities and methods (which are after all very different from Victoria’s own). Not to mention that it is still difficult for Victoria to fully understand and trust Tattletale as a person either – not surprising considering their history (especially in Worm, but working with members of Rain’s cluster and the Hollow Point villains early in Ward also was a strike against Tattletale in Victoria’s books), differences of character, the fact that Tattletale generally doesn’t make herself a very approachable person, and that Tattletale sometimes seems just as prejudged against the heroes as Victoria is against the villains. But I have no doubt that Vicky is getting there, and that what happened in this chapter was just another step in that direction.

      1. Heck, even if we consider Victoria’s three-point favorite behavior guideline (first follow the law, then do what is right, if everything else fails – reach out), we can see that Tattletale follows very different rules – she never lets the law prevent her from doing what she thinks is right, and it is very difficult for her to reach out. To the point where even when other people try to reach out to Tattletale, her first reflex is usually to push them away.

  15. What an awesome and beautiful chapter. I’m in love with this newly changed Victoria, and that “fragile one” and her reshifting of thought and perspective of her agent and field.. Gave me warm fuzzies, a true emotional resolution to V’s inner conflict with her powers.

  16. @Alfaryn @Ninegardens
    Thank you, thank you, for putting in words what I have been struggling to write here. I mean it, thanks. Im glad not every person thinks “victim” and “monster” are the only thing that defines both Victoria and Amy, as if wanting to erase all the events that caused both sisters to break as human beings, specially Amy. Neither of them are perfectly good or bad, just people, with flaws and good qualities, that went through a series of traumatic events that broke them completely.

    Lets not forget that Lisa told Victoria that she knew that Amy wasnt in a good place, mentally so, feeling guilty that she wasnt saving people 24/7, and being scared of who her biological villain father could be, and already thinking of herself as a bad person just for that, and she didnt push it for Amy to get help because it was convenient to just use her healing powers to cover up her messes. And while Lisa´s power alwas cut to the bad stuff and the stuff that will hurt, it doesnt tell lies. There is truth there, and there is truth to the aura theory, considering that what Sveta said was send by Victoria and could be her way to rationalize it or make an excuse about it. I say the aura theory is still on and valid until we get some thinker power to confirm it. Like Tattle tale maybe.

    Also, it would be great to remember that Victoria wasnt born a victim. That she did awful things or made mistakes as a normal human being would. Victoria did awful things. Victoria made mistakes. Just accept that, and dont go “omg victim blaming” “bUt sHe iS tHe VicTiM” everytime a character mentions that maybe Victoria screwed up too in her dynamic with her sister.

  17. I think these words about the sisters may be the key to Amy’s behavior:

    You’re a person, to her. Flaws and good sides included.

    Note that it was these words that apparently convinced Amy to stand down. That after hearing them she still argued her point of view, but also listened, and no longer fought. These were the words that Amy probably wanted (and needed) to hear all along.

    Amy’s obsession with Victoria may have to a large extent come from the fact that for years she felt that Victoria was the only one who saw her as a person. And after Gold Morning entire Victoria’s behavior signaled that it was no longer the case. That Victoria saw Amy as Prisoner 612 – a rapist and S9 candidate, Shaper – a creator of monsters (up to and including Khepri), Amelia Lavere – a daughter of a Birdcage inmate, Panacea – a world-class healer, Red Queen – a ruler of villainous capes on Shin. Many people, not just Victoria, saw Amy through such lens ever since she triggered. Some – like Carol – even longer (for her Amy always was a potentially dangerous Marquis’ daughter after all, or at least this is how Amy interpreted Carol’s behavior), but because during their Brockton Bay years Victoria saw Amy as a complete person, not just one of these labels which described some aspects of her, it probably hurt Amy more than anything else that Victoria seemed to be unable to look past such labels.

    Isn’t it ironic that Amy wanted to hear that Victoria, who defines herself through multiple labels she chose for herself, can see though the labels others gave Amy and see the person behind.

    1. > but because during their Brockton Bay years Victoria saw Amy as a complete person, not just one of these labels which described some aspects of her, it probably hurt Amy more than anything else that Victoria seemed to be unable to look past such labels.

      I’ve just realized that this bit might have been a bit confusing. Here’s a (hopefully) better version:

      but because during their Brockton Bay years Victoria had seen Amy as a complete person, not just one of these labels which described some aspects of her, it probably hurt Amy more than anything else that after GM Victoria seemed to be unable to look past such labels.

      1. Victoria manipulates Amy right now, not even she believes in what she’s saying (except for the aura theory. I’m glad that it was canonically dismantled). If Amy wants to be seen as a person with good sides, then Victoria can play her game. It’s like a chess game, where Victoria must take the Queen down. Since the Queen is too strong in this game, Victoria can’t take her down using pure force, but using her brains. Remember how teacher faked Victoria diary, showing her in negative colors as a ruthless manipulator? Well, it’s time for diary Victoria to replace the real Victoria and show that she can be that ruthless manipulator. Amy is a possible threat? Then take her down by skillfully manipulating her. Make her feel wanted and needed until she trusts her. I know it’s very cold and not healthy for Victoria, but is the only solution I can see if she wants to get rid of her abuser for the sake of herself and everyone else without resorting to blind and bloody violence.

        1. Whether it is a manipulation or not, the fact that it worked clearly shows that hearing these words, and not something else – like a sexual relationship, is what Amy desired most (and likely also what she objectively needed at this point).

          1. But if she doesn’t want a sexual relationship, then why did she kissed Victoria in Shin’s prison and keep a patch of her skin close to her chest? I think she wants both: to be seen as a complete person and to have a sexual/romantic relationship with Victoria (but without kidnapping Victoria because she hopes that Victoria will accept her request one day on her own will).

            1. I never said that Amy didn’t desire a sexual relationship at all. All I said is that it wasn’t what she desired most. Otherwise I don’t think she would deny Chris’ suggestion to make Victoria’s clone for her personal use.

              Another thing – is it only me, or is Amy actually already coming out of her delusional state a bit. Shortly after hearing the words I quoted at the beginning of this thread she admitted that she is “screwed up”. Isn’t it a progress even if she said it while blaming Victoria’s aura for her state? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it may be the first time since Amy met Glaistig Uaine and got her tattoos that she admitted to anyone other than perhaps Dot that she actually has a mental problem.

            2. Yes, isn’t just you. I read the chapter again and I admit that first time I missed when Amy admitted that she have issues. A little progress but it’s promising. Victoria’s manipulation (because I’m certain that she manipulates Amy) is working a bit. I can see her manipulation going two ways: either she’ll have Amy under her thumb and turn her against Shin and Chris or Amy will realize Victoria’s game and will turn full villain, seeing that she was manipulated and hating it. Victoria is playing a dangerous game, one wrong step and everyone will see the monster inside Amy. I wish her success, of course, but I’m very afraid for her and for people that she consider being her friends. If they’ll suffer as consequence of her plan turning a fiasco, will be Victoria’s biggest failure. She’ll never forgive herself.

        2. > Victoria manipulates Amy right now, not even she believes in what she’s saying (except for the aura theory.

          Actually this may not be entirely true. See this bit Sveta said, and Victoria’s reaction to it:

          “Because Victoria said she sees something in you! Her words! Not that you’re a good person, not that you’re a saint or a healer or a possible tool! You’re a person, to her. Flaws and good sides included. Those are her words! She kind of hates you and I think you know that’s for good reason! But she’s willing to extend you a chance. I have no fucking idea why!”

          I said that before you tried to stab Sveta, I thought.

          The way I read it, Victoria admitted that at least before attack on Sveta she was willing to not only see Amy as a person, but also give her an honest chance, and either changed her mind, or at least wasn’t sure if she should do it after the attack.

          In my opinion, a big part of why Victoria felt so spent at the end of the chapter is that she needs to sort out her feelings after Amy first attacked Sveta, but shortly afterwards took the chance she was offered. I doubt that Vicky would be so shaken if she was as ruthless as you want her to be, or if she really didn’t care about what happens to Amy, and her promise of giving Amy a second chance was completely false, and made only to convince Amy to surrender.

          1. My opinion is that she felt so spent because she’s under a lot of mental stress, she hates to have to negotiate with Amy, to be in the same room with the guy that she despises for reasons that I still don’t get (come on, Eric is just a person doing his job, he’s not Victoria’s enemy, neither her friend, he’s there because he have to keep an eye on her so she’ll not start an interplanetary war because she can’t deal with her abuser’s shit anymore), she hates seeing Amy almost killing Sveta in cold blood and she hates not being able to help her team. All of these made her feel spent.
            I still think that Victoria is planning a dangerous game with Amy but even if she genuinely considered to give her a second chance (let’s say you’re right), right now she doesn’t give a shit anymore. Amy tried to murder her best friend and if Victoria may forgive the evil that someone did to her, she’ll never forgive if her friends were hurt.
            Amy fucked up big time.

            1. I don’t know… Remember Victoria’s reaction right after Amy’s surrender:

              The anger and hatred subsided, and it left me feeling utterly empty. Drained.

              Perhaps it is just Victoria’s reaction to the fact that the crisis had been averted, and that she no longer had to worry about what Amy will do, what will happen to Sveta, if the situation will escalate to an outright war with Shin, etc. (at least for next few hours), but… doesn’t it feel like Victoria reached some sort of breaking point then? Something akin to a catharsis? Perhaps Vicky will never again be as angry at Amy or hate her quite as much as she did in this chapter?

            2. Only the next chapter will tell us how much hate is left in Victoria’s heart. We can’t be sure about anything with this information that can be interpreted in many ways, according to each reader’s pov.

          2. I think you are missing one important fact: Victoria hates Amy. Or more precisely, Victoria has a pathological hatred of Amy, to the point of self-mutilation. She doesn’t see, or cannot see, Amy as a person.

  18. @N

    >Also, it would be great to remember that Victoria wasnt born a victim. That she did awful things or made mistakes as a normal human being would. Victoria did awful things. Victoria made mistakes. Just accept that, and dont go “omg victim blaming” “bUt sHe iS tHe VicTiM” everytime a character mentions that maybe Victoria screwed up too in her dynamic with her sister.

    On the one hand, I agree with you, Victoria is not a saint, and shouldn’t be treated as such…. on the other hand, I kinda disagree with how your representating our fellow commenters. Most of the commentors I’ve seen mention victim blaming are also perfectly capable of criticizing Victoria, and have done so.
    And even if they weren’t, EVEN IF people were freaking the hell out… look, this story gets into some pretty heavy shit. Often. I Know *I* have been freaked out by bits of it (see the comments in say… 17.6). Having a community that listened to me rather than mocking what I said was really really helpful.

    1. Right. I like Victoria a lot and I will never blame her for Amy’s insane obsession with her but I admit that Victoria can be pretty violent and reckless when she wants to be, she risked killing so many people during her adventure in Shardland and Defiant was very right in everything he said to her, now she’s manipulative toward Amy (while I don’t disagree not even a bit, I’m just afraid that Amy might see what Victoria is trying to do and lose what little mental sanity she still have left), she have a mean side that she’s not afraid to show it to people she doesn’t like. She’s also like Taylor with: the authority sucks if they don’t play by my rules. I dislike how she treats Eric who’s just a guy doing his job and I feel bad for him. Plus her obsession with fashion is killing me (sometimes is funny but most of the times is getting boring).
      So, I don’t see Victoria a saint in general even if I agree with how she views Amy.

  19. Also @N

    Also, probably what I should have said in the first post: I’m glad that the random meanderings that me and Alf wrote struck a note with you.
    The commenting and theorising and looking at each of the characters and seeing how all you folks look at them is one of the joys of following WB.

  20. @lulu
    Is impossible to discuss anything with you. Me and @alfaryn keep bringing good points and arguments to this discussion and trying to understand and analyze Victoria´s and Amy´s behavior, and see them both as flawed people with good and bad traits, and you just…gloss over everything we say and just go over and over on an argument that can be resumed on “Amy is evil, is hitler, is satan, and Victoria has to kill her for the sake of everyone, she is on her right, because Amy is fucked up and a monster, Victoria should manipulate her and I will cheer her on when she kills Amy” like…dude, I dont know what kind of personal problem you are projecting on Amy and this webnovel but is exhausting to argue with a person that is pretty much a one string guitar and that seems to be unable to adress any of the points that are bringed up for debate.

    Im trying to be civil here, but seriously, is just annoying “Amy satan, Victoria perfect, die, die” doesnt make for a compelling argument on anything, and I think is an insult to wildbow to reduce two of his most compelling characters to a cardboard caricature of good and evil, to a simple label of monster and victim.

    Also, the aura theory hasnt been canonically dismantled. Im quoting @ninegardens here, because Im sure you havent read anyone´s argument here:
    “And like… even Victoria freezes up and seems to acknowledge the idea in some sense (“How long she had been holding on to that?”). There is doubt there. Even if she doesn’t buy the theory, there is an extent to which it feels like IF you did believe that, it would be a sensible reason for Amy to be frustrated and pissed off.
    Not a good reason to expect forgiveness. Not a good enough reason to excuse what happened. But good enough that someone using it as a reason is *understandable*. A good enough reason such that there’s no “That’s crazy,” “That isn’t a good enough excuse” reaction, even in Victoria’s internal dialogue, but instead a “I’m pretty sure that isn’t factually correct.”

    There’s an extent to which “What about Victoria’s awe-ra” might be victim blaming, but to me it feels closer to “Giant alien parasite blaming”. Still fleeing responsibility, still not great, but its… it doesn’t feel quiet as icky.”

    There was hesitation there, the possibility that Amy was right, and then Victoria dismissed it and made her own argument as to why that wasnt possible. Is a good argument and very fair…but is that. An argument. I see that you seem to operate under the base that Victoria has a thinker power like Tats or Dinah, but she is not. Any decision that Victoria takes, such as following the warden´s ban on comunicating with her team or not, if Amy can be saved/redeemed/helped, if Amy is a risk to the world, if aura theory is correct or not, anything that Victoria feels is correct, or right, or just is just that, a decision, an opinion, and not automatically correct or right. Is just like we all collectively assumed that Riley was dead because Jessica strangled her. Until I get a thinker´s opinion on the aura theory, Is all opinions and theories. Like Tats. Victoria should comment that to her.

    “Make her feel wanted and needed until she trusts her. I know it’s very cold and not healthy for Victoria, but is the only solution I can see if she wants to get rid of her abuser for the sake of herself and everyone else without resorting to blind and bloody violence.”
    And your continue cheering of Victoria becoming an abuser goes on. Yay. If Amy was manipulating Victoria like that, using her vulnerable points against her, you would be calling hellfire on her. But apparently, you are all too excited on the idea of Victoria becoming an abuser. Stories like the count of monthrecrist and Sweeney Todd, exist to prove how revenge ruins a person and being hellbent on revenge makes you as bad as your abuser if not only worse and it ruins your life. It has been done so many times on fiction that is quite the old trope already.

    The narrative even seems to point in this direction: Rain caused the death of many people, and ruined his cluster´s lives, and through the entirety of ward, he managed to get if not forgiveness, at least tolerance from Love Lost, the one he hurted the most. Tristan faked the death of his brother, and trapped him inside of his own body for a long period of time, and now he is at a point when he can have a good relationship with him.

    Kenzie abused her parents(They deserved it, but the fact that she chose to kept them with her under threats and full on big brother vigilance instead of giving them up to the autorities with the evidence she had is worrying. Same as letting herself be abused to have evidence to control them. Is not something sane to do and is telling of how bad her mental health is and how much she craved for love and approval) and she has had several behaviors that could be considered abusive, but she is redeeming herself, little by little. Same as Sveta, who is responsible for the murder of many people even if it clearly wasnt her fault, and Ashley who had some pretty bad behaviour as consequence of past life trauma and everything else done to her.

    In the case of Tristan and Rain(who by the way dont get any shit from you despite having been abusers at some point. If you are going to argue that they were a lot of factors into what both of them did, then congratulations, you are seeing what happened with Amy too)they were abusers that gained forgiveness from their abused and are now on a path of redemption from their past deeds. And in the case of Sveta, Kenzie, and Ashley, they all did horrible things and are moving past it and redeeming themselves, Ashley doing so at the price of her life.

    Is important, because we are on their side, we have their point of view, we understand why things came to be the way they came to be. We cheered for Rain, for Love lost to forgive him as he had been clearly manipulated and was in a horrible situation as a member of a cult. We cheered for Tristan, who snapped under the pressure of sharing his body with his brother until he started to hate him viscerally so and made such a horrible thing. But is harder to do so for Amy because we have Victoria´s perspective. If we shared Love Lost´s perspective we would have hated Rain as well.

    This is important, because from a narrative point of view it tell us that Forgiveness and letting go of the past is whats better for both parts. It gives us a similar enough narrative so we can put ourselves in the place of someone who has done something horrible after snapping mentally and enduring some pretty horrible things themselves. It creates a pattern, and this is at heart a story of redemption and therapy, overcoming trauma and abuse and come out of it the other side better, healthier. In the future, it may just be what happend for both sisters, even if it seems impossible now. Healing, even if they chose to never see each other again or if their previous sisterly bond is never the same again. Both of them need that, healing and peace of mind.

    …Well, that was long. And it was because is the last thing Im talking to you on the subject. Im not even sure if its going to get to you since you seem to disregard any other argument that contradicts your own and disregard any valid point other people have made to you to hold tight to your black and white narrative of things, but really, it doesnt matter to me anymore. This are my 5 cents on the subject, I welcome anyone who wishes to add anything to it.

    1. I think I have the right to have my own opinions over this story and its characters, I have the right to like or dislike whatever characters I want and I have the right to say that I UTTERLY DISLIKE Amy, I fail to see her nothing but the worst kind of an abuser- a rapist who doesn’t even feel sorry for what she did because she sees herself as a flawless person (unlike Rain and Tristan who regretted what they did and changed into better people)- and I agree with whatever Victoria plans to do to her.
      I have the right to see Amy as a monster and you should not judge me because I dislike characters that you like or because I don’t believe that Amy deserves a second chance especially since she refuses to realize her crimes and change.
      If I tell you that I hate Amy almost as much as I hate Teacher, Cradle, Jack Slash, is my right to see her in the same way I see them: a delusional monster who doesn’t feel any sorry for what she did and she continues to hurt Victoria. You have no right to force me to like or not the characters that you like or dislike just like I have no right to force me to love your favorite characters or hate the ones you personally hate. This is the beauty of Wildbow’s work, that there are so many characters, some of them complicated and we can choose how to feel about them, according to our personal views and opinions: we can have a different opinion about each character- I have a friend who kind of hate Contessa and believe Doctor Mother to be a heartless criminal but I’m a fan of Contessa. Or I saw people hating on Saint and people who agreed with him.
      On Reddit, there are people who demand Amy’s death, this is how much people there hate Amy. Why you don’t judge them as well because they keep attacking her?
      If I think that Amy is an abuser just like Jack and Heartbreaker and Victoria should never forgive her than it’s my right to think like this about her. Isn’t your right to tell me how you want me to think about her. If I agree with Victoria manipulating her then is my right to think like this.
      You defend your favorite characters too and try to see the good in everyone even when it’s clearly that there’s nothing (or almost nothing) good left then it’s your right. I’ll not force you to see the world from my perspective.
      I defend my favorite characters and see that not all people deserve forgiveness and second chance and there are people who are fucking evil and monstrous even when they don’t realize this then it’s my right. Just don’t force me to see the world from your perspective and we’re good.

      1. You’re lucky that you don’t talk with my friend. She believes in personal justice, in personal revenge, she thinks that bad people doesn’t deserve a second chance (especially people who hurt children and rapists) and so on. She keeps a Worm liveblog, she’s at her first reading and she already realized that Amy physically raped Victoria as well and she already hates her, despite defending her before. We are different people with different opinions and we have to respect each other opinions if we want to have a civilized discussion over a fictional work. I respect your opinion, I respect how many efforts you’re making to defend Amy and I respect that you believe in her redemption. I only demand the same respect from you eve if you don’t agree with my opinions. I can’t see Amy as something more but Victoria’s abuser, this is my opinion and I only demand from other people to not attack me over my own opinions about fictional monsters. Sorry, but you can’t change how I see her neither you can’t make me feel bad about myself because I don’t like and I don’t WANT to understand a rapist.

    2. I am trying to be civil here, but seriously, is just annoying “Amy satan, Victoria perfect, die, die” doesnt make for a compelling argument on anything, and I think is an insult to wildbow to reduce two of his most compelling characters to a cardboard caricature of good and evil, to a simple label of monster and victim.

      Unfortunately, there is a consequence of Wildbow depicting Amy as an evil, unrepentant, rapist moster that deserves tthe horrible thing she did done to her, that deserves to suffer, and that deserves to die. It is that, readers accept Amy as an evil, unrepentant, rapist monster that deserves to die.

  21. @ninegardens
    I do may have sound mocking about other comenters here and I apologize for it, as it was not my intention. It was mainly adressing lulu and her inability to see wrong in anything Victoria does, thinks or says, no matter what.

    1. No, I don’t see Victoria as a saint either, she’s only much more better than Amy. I like Victoria a lot and I will never blame her for Amy’s insane obsession with her but I admit that Victoria can be pretty violent and reckless when she wants to be, she risked killing so many people during her adventure in Shardland and Defiant was very right in everything he said to her, now she’s manipulative toward Amy (while I don’t disagree not even a bit, I’m just afraid that Amy might see what Victoria is trying to do and lose what little mental sanity she still have left), she have a mean side that she’s not afraid to show it to people she doesn’t like. She’s also like Taylor with: the authority sucks if they don’t play by my rules. I dislike how she treats Eric who’s just a guy doing his job and I feel bad for him.
      You personally attacked me because I don’t like your Amy, not because I see Victoria as an angel, which is untrue. I said that I agree with what Victoria thinks about Amy and want to do to her, but I don’t agree with how Victoria treats other people who never abused or hurt her.
      For the last time, I see Amy nothing but a monster and it’s my right to see her like this. If she’ll ever admit her wrongdoings and try to change then I might change my opinion about her. Until then…please, stop trying to convince me to change my mind because you like certain characters that I don’t like.

  22. @lulu
    because I dont use Reddit?jfc you are annoying. I never asked for you to like or approve of Amy just to adress any of the fair points people have done in this thread about Amy as a complicated character, and the events that went into what happened between her and Victoria.

    Im not forcing you to do jack shit other than acknowledge the points that people are making in their arguments instead of glossing over them and sticking to your own, as it makes people feel they are talking to a wall. You just ignore people. That and to recognize that Wildbow is a good writer that made complicated characters full of nuances and ambiguity and that you are trying very hard to turn his characters into one note stereotypes of good and evil. Thats the real beauty of wildbow´s work, that every character is the hero of their own story and have a side of their story to tell and their motives and actions can be analyzed.

    That you ignored 90% of my comment and went on a furious rant about me forcing my opinion on you, shows that you didnt cared enough to understand my point to at least make some on some good debate. I guess I´ll have to make it extra simple just for you. Keep on your opinion. You be you, keep thinking Amy is the antichrist and Victoria is the second coming of Jesus who has done no wrong in her life. Keep ignoring everyone´s opinion that contradicts yours. Do whatever you want. I dont care.

    P.S: Comparing Amy to Nickos fucking Vasil and Jack Slash is either willful ignorance on either of those three characters or gold comedy material, I cant decide on which one.

    1. I already said that Victoria is not a saint, read my comment bellow. Second, my opinion about her aura is that the aura never affected Amy since it never affected other family members and why Amy would be special? But its my opinion, other people believe what they want: aura affected Amy or not, its up to everyone’s choice to interpret Victoria’s words as they want or they feel like.
      Yes, Amy might be a complicated character for some people, she might be a saint for other people, but for me she’s neither: she’s just an obsessive abuser complicated enough to inspire mercy in some people who still think that she’s nothing but a victim who deserve a second chance despite never admitting and regretting her fuck-ups. Yes, I hated Rain at first but when he regretted his crimes and changed, I started to like him to the point that I wanted him to survive (despite understanding his tormentors as well, especially Love Lost, who had all the right to get revenge over the death of her daughter).
      Yes, I compare Amy with Heartbreaker and Jack, without being ignorant about them, all of them are abusers (Amy and Heartbreaker abused people that were their family and Jack abused Riley to the point when he got his Bonesaw). From this point of view, they’re kind of similar.

  23. @lulu
    You made fair points about Victoria here, and Im glad you can see her bad side as well. I apologize if you feel personally attacked by me, but I do was annoyed because you seemed to do agree with Victoria on everything no matter how wrong she was, and kept on ignoring everyoe that didnt agree with you.

    I cannot say it more clearly: IM NOT TRYING TO CONVINCE YOU OF ANYTHING. You are on your right to hate Amy. I dont care if you do, Im tired of repeating why I was annoyed at you, I repeat, IM NOT TRYING TO CONVINCE YOU OF ANYTHING. And wtf “You personally attacked me because I don’t like your Amy” even means?She is not my character, she is not mine. And she is not real person, she is not my anything. Get a grip. I dont even think she is perfect, she is deeply flawed and needs serious help.

    1. “sighs” Believe me or not, I still like Victoria more than Taylor. Taylor was pretty bad, she had good intentions, but she did a lot of awful shit. I was only sorry for her at the beginning of the story, when she was bullied, and at the end, when she lost her humanity. But she did so much awful things to people who didn’t deserved (Triumph, Aster- even if I understand why she had to shoot her, sacrificing heroes and civilians for her purposes, etc) that sometimes I felt like I hated her and I just wanted her to pay for her crimes. So, I’m full capable to criticize, dislike or even hate the main character or a story. I’m capable to hate Victoria (at best disagree with her) too if she’ll go on Taylor’s path (hurting other people who doesn’t deserve), believe me or not (but from a narrative point of view I’d like it because: action, suspense, drama, Victoria being badass, you know, the whole package that the adrenaline loving readers like to read about).
      I called Amy- your Amy because I was under impression that she’s one of your favorite characters, seeing how you defend her to the point that you pissed me a little for trying to make me change my opinion about her. Sorry for my outburst, I feel bad for reacting like this because I believed that you tried to change my opinion about a freaking fictional character. But this is how I felt: attacked because I don’t share your opinion about Amy. I still feel bad for my impulsive reaction anyway.

  24. @N, @lulu

    I know I’m butting in here, but by the sounds of it you would both be a lot happier if your left each other alone, and possibly just avoided each others comments. We don’t all have to agree on our interpretation of the characters. We don’t even have to acknowledge each others points, we don’t have to address them. That’s fine.

    There is no victory to be won here. There is no prize to be had.
    Call a Truce.
    Ignore each other.
    Go outside and enjoy the sunshine or listen to music or whatever else you like doing with your lives. Spend time with people you actually enjoy, and maybe tell them how great they are.

    … fuck it, this is getting weird and rambly and sentimental or whatever. I REALLY should not be trying to think on this little sleep.

    1. -VIRTUAL HUGS- thank you for being so nice and conciliatory. I’m sorry if our little virtual fight didn’t let you sleep. Sleep well :).

  25. @lulu
    Okay, some actual argumenting here.
    I think the main argument is that Amy was in her formative years when it came to her brain, and that as she saw Victoria as her only emotional support, she was more inclined to be affected by her aura than the rest of her family. Of course, Crystal was in a formative age as well, so take it with a grain of salt. I believe it contributed to Amy falling in love with Victoria, but its effects may have been overly exaggerated by the fandom, I give you that.

    Is funny, I was the same with Tristan. I hated him with a passion. But he showed genuine remorse, improved his relationship with his brother, and now, I want only the best for him.

    As for the other thing, they are similar in that regard, yes. But they are fundamentally different and is easy to see why.
    -Heartbreaker´s abuse of his kids and women was aware and conscient. He had not a saving grace, not a shiver of a excuse, wasnt under pressure, wasnt in a bad state of mind…nothing. He was a man who brainwashed women and tortured his children to make them trigger and have a small parahuman squad at his beck and call. He did so for the benefit of himself, money, power, sexual pleasure. Amy is nowhere a monster as Heartbreaker was, in a sense. Maybe his trigger event could help to see another side to him, but I doubt it. And if he could redeem himself we dont know cause he is dead. Honestly he was kind of underused.
    -Jack Slash was…chaotic evil. Point period. He did things for the sake of it, he wanted to see the world burn. He controlled other capes and manipulated them. He is nothing like Amy, who is not the least bit chaotic, and has no real ambition when it comes to the world, not to mention her brand of insanity is around Victoria and Victoria only. She doesnt fuck up with Marquis or Chris or…anyone really. She doesnt act for the sake of it.

    I see your point on the three of them being unrepented abusers, but they are fundamentally different in personality and motives. I do believe Amy regrets what she did even if she is delusional about it. I call it a mechanism of self defense, because the alternative is facing what she had done and she couldnt cope with that. Anyway, point is, they are different.

    P.S:Sorry for not replying to a thread but Im on laptop and when I click on reply it doesnt add to the thread. Idk. Im kind of tecnologically challenged I guess.

    1. I never said that Jack, Nikos (btw, I can’t see Jack and Nikos capable to ever redeeming themselves not even if they’re still alive/not trapped for eternity in Gray time bubble. They’re like pure evil people with zero redeeming qualities. The same goes for Mama Mathers, Teacher, Cradle and March) and Amy weren’t different, I just said that they’re ABUSERS and until Amy will admit her abuse, will apologize to Victoria and will try to fix her fuck-ups towards her, I’ll keep my current opinion I have about her.
      I can respect and even agree with people’s opinions, if they’re similar to mine, despite you seeing differently. Look how much I agree with Alfaryn over certain characters and situations. Or with ninegardens, when they advise us to stop fighting and call a truce instead. I absolute agree with a truce.
      So, truce and ignore our opinions when we don’t like? 🙂

  26. @ninegardens
    You are a treasure. And yeah, I think you are right, and Im probably going to stick by not adressing lulu anymore, I just replied the one more time to have a chance to do some Heartbreaker/Jack slash rambling.

    Also go to bed. Take care of yourself.

  27. People are obsessed with Amy being a rapist and an abuser, but nobody point out that Amy tried to KILL Sveta without being in self defense. Sveta didn’t tried to physically hurt Amy yet Amy went straight to murder. Wow, that is a new low from Amy, she’s slowly hitting all the bad guy death flags now.
    Poor Sveta, she barely survived thanks to the new girlfriend of her ex.

    1. Well, I already said that Amy was so close to kill Sveta and only stopped when she was manipulated by Sveta/Victoria combo (otherwise, she’d have murdered Sveta in cold blood).
      Victoria is a criminal too, I admit it, but she killed that Leaper dude in self defense (he’d have killed everyone if his life was spared). But Sveta didn’t tried to kill Amy, she was send there with the mission to supervise Amy and Shin capes and report back if they tried to break the fragile peace (she was just doing her job), but Shin capes were the first ones who attacked (because they’re a bunch of murderous assholes ex-Fallen) and the heroes tried to defend themselves without killing anyone. Amy was the only one who tried to kill Sveta only because she was pissed because Sveta was telling the TRUTH about her and she hated it.
      I can see Amy not limiting herself at only a murder attempt just like I don’t see Victoria forgiving her for trying to murder Sveta.

    2. > Amy tried to KILL Sveta without being in self defense.

      That is not entirely true. Sveta did lunge forward when Amy attacked her. Remember that Sveta has a triple digit body count, and her body can (or at least could before it was modified – not that Amy has precise, reliable information about current Sveta’s capabilities) kill very quickly. There is a good chance that Amy did consider her response a necessary self defense.

      I also hope that almost killing Sveta (who Amy knows is not only a good person, but also Victoria’s best friend) will end up becoming Amy’s lowest point, a yet another wake up call for her, and an added motivation to seriously work on her own mental recovery.

      The good thing about it is that perhaps because Sveta was saved by Slician, it will be easier for her to overcome any hard feelings she may still have for Weld and Slician.

      1. By the way – let us not forget that Amy doesn’t only know intellectually how quickly Sveta can kill, or that Sveta didn’t always have a good control over her killing instincts (once again – Amy has no way to know to what extent this has changed exactly since the beginning of Ward). Amy also saw (and experienced through her power) Taylor’s hand that had to be burned out by Lung after Sveta massacred it. She has good reasons to fear Sveta’s attacks – both consciously and (especially) subconsciously.

        1. Speaking about Slician and Sveta, I hope that they’ll become good friends, despite their rather unpleasant history they share together. I think I like Slician and Weld made a good choice.
          As for Amy, my only hope for her is that she’ll never go full S9 but…who knows…

  28. How worried do you think we should be that we saw Crock o’ Shit among Shin capes who confronted Gimel’s in this chapter? Could it mean that hardliners like Yosef got their influence on Shin’s political scene back?

    1. Or maybe Crock o’ Shit decided to switch sides and work for Luis/Amy just to get some advantages in a society that doesn’t like her too much. I won’t blame her for being an opportunist.

      1. My worry is not about what Crock o’ Shit decided to do. My worry is that someone out there on Shin apparently thought that it is a good idea not to keep her if not behind the bars, then at least away from places where she could cause problems – like tense national borders.

        1. Well, if the Shin Hitler…I mean Yosef returned back in the position of power, be sure that Shin-Gimel war would have started with or without Luis/Amy/Chris approval. That bastard never cared about “small” things like diplomacy and peace, he was into “big” things, going so far to almost start a war by trying to assassinate a non-cape diplomat. No war yet, no Yosef, this is how I see the things going.
          Maybe Luis decided that is a good idea to send her to supervise the enemy side (her power is pretty strong and she’s ruthless, I would say a good choice for Shin to be intimidating with their capes).

  29. Whew. This whole chapter I kept worrying that Eric was going to notice Victoria’s weirdly energetic typing and confiscate her laptop right in the middle of feeding lines to Sveta, resulting in everything going to hell.

    Also, Victoria, don’t think I didn’t notice your little “I’m surrounded by idiots” moment. You need to make like a snowman and chill, because you’re about three ogles away from going full villain. I know it’s tempting to walk that road, but remember: Tattletale will never let you hear the end of it.

  30. That psychological warfare carried out by Victoria pretending to be Tattletale pretending to be Victoria was pretty good. I wonder if it’s going to help or hurt her relationship with the Wardens if/when they find out it was her.

    1. Well, can go both ways. Help her relationship if the situation will become so messy that only Victoria can help because all the Wardens’ strategies will fail and she will become their only hope or hurt her relationship if they’ll realize that she broke the rules imposed on her (knowing Wardens, they’ll probably not throw her into a jail and throw away the key but they’ll send her away, telling her to never ask for their help or cooperation again). Bonus: they can act just like the heroes acted in Taylor’s case-Taylor broke every single rule, they’re pissed yet they let her do whatever she wanted. I think that I kind of want Wardens to get rid of Victoria in a non-jailing her fashion. It’s very possible for her and her team to become part of Undersiders and do the things in their own way. Taylor became a hero in order to save the world. If Victoria will have to become a villain in order to save the world then I’m very ok with this.

      1. Another reason why I think that Victoria will go full villain. Waste wants her to become the Tyrant. Victoria is more in synch with Waste now than she ever was. If she’ll ever have a “gut feeling” (in fact, the gut feelings are influenced by Waste, we know that) that Waste wants her to go on the villainy road, and she’ll listen to it. You can’t become a Tyrant and still stay the authority fearing, rules obeying good guy.

  31. > I wonder if it’s going to help or hurt her relationship with the Wardens if/when they find out it was her.

    Hurt, no question. The strain in her relationship with the Wardens is originally due to ignoring their request that she stand down and not interfere with a complex, volatile situation. That strain was worsened when she appeared to ignore orders and conspire with Capricorn. The misunderstanding was resolved, but it made very clear that whether Victoria can be trusted to obey is a sore point for the Wardens. Now she’s gone and disobeyed them again by secretly communicating with her team and involving herself in an operation she wasn’t supposed to be a part of. Yeah, she helped de-escalate it, but she also proved that she’s both too arrogant to follow orders and willing to be sneaky about it.

    That shit’s not acceptable to an organization like the Wardens. Between their scope and the various master/stranger/precog issues, they can’t afford to fully inform every little member about every plan they’re juggling and the reasons for every order. They need to be able to trust that when they tell someone not to get involved with a particular situation, that person will listen, even if they don’t agree with or understand why they’re being benched. Victoria refuses to do that, and it’s going to get her thrown out if she doesn’t get it under control.

    1. Actually, I don’t think that Victoria will get into too much trouble for contacting Kenzie and Tattletale without Wardens’ consent. Wardens realize that she is a cape, and has her issues, and that two of them are her need to feel in control, and her need to help. I suspect that they provided ker with a computer set to receive signals from Kenzie’s cameras precisely to ensure that she will channel these needs in a way that is safe for Victoria, predictable and can be monitored by Dragon. There is also the fact that at this point Wardens probably consider both Victoria and Kenzie assets that may be problematic, but also indispensable. The most that Wardens may try to do is to try to use Victoria’s behavior to justify supervising her even further. To put her even more under their control.

      The only person who I think may get into trouble because what happened in this chapter is Eric. He made plenty of rookie mistakes – including guessing the exact interpretation of his orders (instead of checking with his superiors), being disrespectful to a hero an ally and indispensable asset who was placed under his supervision and who deserves his respect for everything she did during her carrier (remember that unlike Victoria he can be easily replaced), first deciding it is his job to monitor Victoria’s communication with her teammates, and then when Vicky quite obviously needed to do it quickly – not allowing it under the pretext that he had not enough information (and it was his job to get any information he could need in such easily predictable situation before it arose). The only thing that is likely to save him is that he obviously is a rookie, and Cinereal obviously recognized that. Why else would he be paired with Larue and then also supervised by Armstrong and Pearce?

      And Eric’s mistakes actually had an unexpected beneficial outcome – it let Victoria see that Tattletale can do a good job “herding” not only “her” Heartbroken “cats”, and CL, but also “Victoria’s” Kenzie. Not that Vicky has any good reason to be surprised other than her personal bias against Tt – after all Tattletale not only has a thinker power that is useful for that, but also far more experience when it comes to working with difficult kids than Victoria does, and she already spent plenty of time with Chicken Tenders, including Kenzie.

  32. @Pizza
    I think Victoria has a pathological need for control that is very common in abuse survivors and it comes from the complete loss of control, mental and physical she suffered with Amy. Not excusing her, just giving her some slack. It is still a bad actitude to have with the wardens, and a good reason to bench her as it implies she is not in a good mental space,and shouldnt be involved in delicate situations involving Amy, as she has way too many conflicting emotions and trauma with her to be impartial, but there do is a reason behind her disobedience of direct orders. I hope Jessica or Darnall adress it at some point.

  33. is it possible for Amy to make a full size clone Victoria, have that attach to Waste-Chan and also cut our Victoria off access to Waste-Chan?
    in which case Victoria will still have her extraordinary knowledge, insight and leadership but will be nonCape, a identity that she is apparently unable to empathise with.
    Also mirrors the thorburn bogeyman in a way.

  34. I don’t think that the Dallon/Pelham family are immune from the aura, Victoria is aware of this, and unless there is some type of retcon, we have seen Carol, Crystal et. al. affected by it in Ward.

    From Daybreak 1.7, right after Victoria realizes that Amy is at the BBQ:

    I threw my aura out, one push. My mother stopped. Crystal stopped in her tracks, already at the fence. People rose from their seats.

    A little bit later in the chapter, Victoria uses her aura directly on Carol:

    I pushed out with my aura, hard.
    “Do not use your power on me, Victoria Dallon. That has never been okay, and it doesn’t work anyway.” I drew in a deep breath. There were things I wanted to say to that, too.

    It seems like members of Victoria’s family do experience a jolt of awe or fear when they are hit with her aura (just like an unrelated person would). However, because New Wave understood they were being effected by a power, the healthier members were able to properly contextualize those feelings. Amy was not.

  35. > is it possible for Amy to make a full size clone Victoria, have that attach to Waste-Chan and also cut our Victoria off access to Waste-Chan?

    I don’t think it works like that. By now we’ve seen lots of clones from lots of sources (Echidna, Mockument, Bonesaw, Chrisamy), but we’ve never seen them cut each other or their originals off from their powers. Zero-sum power-sharing seems to be something imposed by cluster shards rather than the general case. Unless Victoria really has been inducted into the Mall Cluster, any Victoria clones Amy creates would probably just have parallel access to her power rather than monopolizing it.

    That said, the cost of clones sharing powers is more strain on the shard, meaning that making a bunch of Vicky clones continuously overuse their powers might eventually drain Waste’s reserves until their collective powers all cut out. Given the nature of Victoria’s powers, this would probably require thousands of clones to get it done in a reasonable timeframe. Normally that would be pretty hard to arrange, but Gimel just sent her over a million refugees to work her magic on.

    We could be mere chapters away from Victoriageddon.

  36. 1. “The chest thing- that’s symbolic.”
    What chest thing? “A flap of what looked like loose skin was draped over her shoulder, but it wasn’t skin.” described in 17.7?

    2. “Hey, your kid has a tummyache, F.Y.I. You know why, right?
    I know. She and I talked about it this morning.”
    What tummyache and when it was discussed?

    3. “But I was aware I was part of a partnership. And I’d be damned if I entertained even the notion that Amy was overcoming her own partner’s pressures, while succumbing to my own.”
    So now it “patner”, huh.

    4. [Amy] “never been a fighter. She’d hated the idea of appearing on the battlefield”. And then Amy uses prepared meat thread and control building sized tentacles. So much for Victoria’s predictions on Amy.

    5. “Kenzietech”… good name for IT company 🙂
    (already taken, unfortunately)

  37. > What chest thing?

    “Amy reached out, holding out her hand. Her other hand went to her heart, pressing down over her crimson coat.”

    > What tummyache and when it was discussed?

    Menstrual cramps. As for the when, Victoria was either lying or mistaken (or Wildbow slipped up) when she said they talked about it this morning. It was actually discussed toward the beginning of 16.6, which was last night when Kenzie and Victoria were stomping through the snow on their way to meet up with Natalie for a ride to Rachel’s. Victoria mentioned that she noticed some toiletries had gone missing, and a few lines later Kenzie said this: “and I’m weird-sad and sore because yay, I’m a woman or something”

  38. I think that one thing that some of us seem to forget while discussing Amy is how much she probably hated, and despised herself. And probably still does. Even back in chapter 14.6 Amy thought that what she did to Victoria’s mind was unforgivable. Even Tattletale couldn’t convince her otherwise.

    Because Amy considered what she did unforgivable, she decided to leave her family and spent the rest of her life atoning for her sins. She would obviously want to “fix” Victoria’s brain first, but until Crawler got Vicky it was not possible – Victoria quite clearly let Amy know that she was not going to let herself be touched again. After Victoria was wounded by Crawler Amy got her chance, but despite Tattletale’s advice she didn’t do it as soon as she could. Why? Because she decided that the moment she healed Victoria she would have to leave forever. And leaving Victoria was just too painful for her to bear.

    So Amy found herself excuses to postpone healing Victoria. It begun relatively innocently – all Amy wanted to do was to make her sister smile. Making someone smile couldn’t be so bad, could it? And it wouldn’t hurt Victoria that memory of that smile was something Amy could treasure for the rest of her life in exile?

    But of course at the back of her self-loathing mind Amy knew that what she was doing was wrong, and thought that it only made her a real monster. Tattletale made it clear to her in chapter 14.6 after all. The problem was that since Amy deep down considered herself a monster, she had no reason to stop – both because her actions were further “proven” to be “unforgivable”, and because monsters do horrible things like that, don’t they? So she continued to indulge herself to further postpone the moment when she had to leave. Note that doing so most likely did not make Amy happy, even if might have done something to satisfy her selfish, carnal desires (and once again – since Amy considered herself a monster, why would she not satisfy them? It is what monsters do after all). As I stated at the beginning of this post she must have hated, and despised herself at that point. All she was convinced she was doing was postponing the inevitable. Until she reached the point when she convinced herself that she could no longer put Victoria back together correctly – at which point there was absolutely no more reason for her to stop on her own. She had to be stopped by someone else.

    The way Carol behaved once she found her daughters (in her interlude in arc 15) was probably a final blow. Carol did not acknowledge Amy as her daughter. All she wanted to know was what happened to Victoria and how it could be fixed. And when Amy explained what she did and why, what she planned to do after healing her sister, and that she could no longer remember how to do it, she practically begged Carol to tell her what to do. And what Carol did? Instead of saying anything she almost struck Amy with one of her blades. She relented in the last possible moment because she recognized that ultimately Amy was a victim, but she didn’t say it, and in her self-loathing Amy must have interpreted Carol’s silence in the least favorable way – “My own mother not only no longer considers me her daughter, not only doesn’t want to speak to me… she also doesn’t think I deserve a mercy of a swift death. That confirms it – I truly am a worthless monster, I truly can not be forgiven, and I truly belong in the Birdcage.”

    In the Birdcage Amy found a new reason to live. Meeting Glaistig Uaine let her realize what the source of powers truly was, what danger the “power-granting entities” pose, and that she is the only person who can warn the world about it. This in turn convinced her to act. In particular:
    – Restore her confidence in her ability to use powers again (which in her opinion she lost when she reached the point when she no longer could restore the changes she made to Victoria. Conveniently she could “train” on some of the worst villains on Bet – it would be no big loss, if something horrible happened to one of them because of her mistake, right?).
    – Seek a way to warn the outside world about the entities, and a way to leave the Birdcage so she could explain the details, and offer any other assistance she could to the people trying to oppose this threat. (“conveniently” Teacher’s contact with Saint gave Amy real hope that she may be able to leave the ‘Cage one day)

    Moreover since Amy realized that she may play a key role in saving the world, she regained hope that what she did to Victoria may be forgiven one day. Hence the tattoo, and a promise to “fix” Victoria one day. At the same time the “red hands” part of the tattoo shows as that Amy still considered herself a monster at this point. The only difference was that now she had some worth. Not as a person – she was still a monster after all – but because of what good she could do. After all helping to save the world had to be worth far more than everything she could as a healer, right? By the way basing her sense of self-worth on what she could do to help others, not on who she was, wasn’t new to Panacea… and is something that Victoria in Ward (especially earlier arcs) did too.

    And Amy actually managed to do a lot of what she wanted to. She managed to regain a lot of control over her powers. She managed to leave the Birdcage. She played a crucial role in saving the world. And she did “fix” Victoria’s mind and body. She thought she still had a lot to atone for, and a lot to prove to Victoria who still didn’t want to see her after GM, but from Amy’s point of view things seemed to go in the right direction… until they didn’t.

    First Victoria run away when she saw Amy in the family meeting, then she said some things to her old therapist that made Jessica all but say that Amy is mentally ill, next Victoria revealed her forcefield to Amy which showed that she wasn’t “fixed” as well as Amy thought, and finally when Amy decided redouble her efforts to prove her worth by taking most dangerous parahumans on Shin, and turning them from a danger to the city into an asset that may save Gimel one day (not to mention convincing Shin to provide humanitarian aid), and finally explaining what she knew about the impending disaster, and Teacher’s connection to it, and pointing out that she may help Victoria to deal with all of that… Victoria said that no good Amy did or could do is ever going to make up for harm she did, and then threatened her with dimensional exile or death.

    It shouldn’t be surprising then that Amy tried to do even more to prove herself by “helping” even more – first desperately trying to heal Hunter (something Victoria demanded she did), and when she failed – agreeing to proceed with Chris’ insane “Endbriclone” plan. Because surely an army of “regular” capes she got out of the prison couldn’t be enough, since they failed to convince Victoria about Amy’s usefulness. It didn’t matter that the clones were likely to do more harm than good – Amy was desperate to find ways to help, because this was the only way she believed she could prove herself, and “earn” Victoria’s forgiveness.

    And then… Sveta told Ay that Victoria sees her as a person. That she can see not only her bad, but also her good side, and that she is willing to give her a second chance. Amy must be ecstatic. She finally got a confirmation that Victoria may be forgive her one day. Hopefully it means that she will see reason, and stop doing more and more risky things in order to prove herself. It probably depends a lot on Victoria though – if she treats Amy well, Amy will likely be more willing to do what Victoria asked her to – like seriously work with an actual therapist. If on the other hand Victoria will keep attacking Ay like she did until now, I’m afraid that Amy may go back to looking for even more outlandish ways to “prove herself” by “helping”.

    A couple side notes:
    1. Amy’s relationships with her girlfriends likely did not work out not only because no other woman can compete with the walking perfection that Victoria is (at least in Amy’s mind), but also because of Amy’s self-loathing – it is difficult to form a healthy romantic relationship if you hate yourself.
    2. Despite of what Amy kept repeating about having a perfect control over her powers, she doesn’t appear to believe it. At least not to the point where she would risk healing a relative who could function without her help. At least this is why in my opinion she didn’t risk healing Mark.
    3. Amy may not want to remove the memory blocks she put in Victoria’s mind not because there is some sort of surprising secret for Victoria to discover there that we don’t know about or Victoria doesn’t suspect, but for two simple reasons – because she is so ashamed of what she did then, and because she wants to spare Victoria the pain of remembering the time when her mind and body were so broken. This second reason is also why in my opinion Amy offered to block memories of Victoria’s time in the asylum.

    So what do you think about this analysis of Amy’s psyche? Which parts of it do you think are correct? Which are wrong? Isn’t it ironic that at least in my opinion Amy did a lot of horrible things because she felt that what she did was unforgivable? That she considered herself such a horrible monster? And later – because she was trying to “buy” Victoria’s forgiveness by helping in any way she could think of.

    1. If Amy hates herself like you’re saying then why she keeps saying that she’s a “good” person and she can’t do anything bad because she’s “good” like that? She’s either in a strong denial that she hates herself or her black-white vision of the world make impossible for her to see herself as a monster because monsters can’t do anything good and she’s doing only good according to her beliefs.
      She needs therapy. Urgently. For her and everyone else sake.

  39. I think what @Alfaryn is trying to say is that *deep down* Amy hates herself and is disgusted with herself. I think she is afraid to face the possibility that she is a monster so she keeps repressing that notion and being in denial…but deep down she suspects she is. *Because* she has a black and white POV, Amy can’t see herself as something in between, someone with shades of grey just like anyone else. She’s either a monster or a good person. IMO, the problem is that if she comes to terms with these underlying feelings of hate, she’ll stop trying convince herself and Victoria that she is a good person. She’ll just give up and give in to Lab Rat’s temptations and manipulations. She’ll make the Victoria-clone, she’ll go full villain because there’s no point in trying anymore if Victoria will always see her as monster.
    Mind you, I’m NOT defending her. She is one deluded, fucked up person. Leave it WB to create such three dimensional, complex characters. You’re disgusted with her, horrified by her actions, you can’t help but see her as sort of weak and pathetic while also being terrified for the people around her. For the people she may heal in the future. For people like Tt who she hates. And of course, Victoria. I could easily see Amy becoming some sort of nascent A class threat, the same way Echidna was referred to as a pseudo nascent-Endbringer. She’s already so far gone and she has these Enbriclones to protect her ,need be. The realization that Victoria will likely never forgive her will probs push Amy over the edge. After that, it’s game over.

    1. Actually I would say that in early Worm Amy wasn’t in denial about being a monster. In fact she considered herself more monstrous than she actually was. Remember that she was convinced that her rules were everything that held her from becoming someone who would deserve to go to the Birdcage, and the fact that her father was already there only reinforced that belief. When S9 actually forced Amy to break her rules, she convinced herself that what she did was unforgivable, and started behaving like a monster, and later had herself sent to Birdcage in no small part because the situation fit the scenario she envisioned in her head earlier.

      It was essentially a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      The denial came only later – after meeting Glaistig Uaine in the Birdcage, and developed slowly through following years. After all few people could constantly torment themselves for years with a thoughts that they are monstrous. Most people want to consider themselves good.

      Denial is a natural defense mechanism in such situation, and it was particularly easy for Amy to convince herself that she wasn’t that bad, because she actually did a lot of objectively good deeds since then. And (with exception of unleashing Khepri) it was probably only after Amy realized that she did not manage to “fix” Victoria as well as she thought, and that Vicky still hated her that Amy went so deep into her denial that started doing more and more questionable things in an attempt to convince both herself, and everyone else (Victoria in particular) that she was a “good person” despite of what Vicky said.

      1. In other words while Victoria has been recovering during Ward, Amy has been going in the opposite direction – she was sinking further into denial and delusion. And Victoria – probably the only person who could reverse that trend was still too traumatized to do it, and even pushed Amy further down that road. Victoria apparently finally managed to do it in this chapter – through Sveta. And I think she may have done it in the last possible moment…

  40. A quick theory about the upcoming disaster. The weakest point in the city may be the intersection of portals where old Wardens HQ used to be. Maybe the disaster will happen there? And assuming that the HQ ended up at the point exactly corresponding to the portals intersection, perhaps the disaster won’t be caused by anything that happens in the city itself, but instead in the HQ? Possibly something that Bonesaw, Valkyrie, or some other cape who lives or will end up visiting that building sometime soon?

    Alternatively the intersection if portals could become a point through which a disaster originating in the city will spread out to another Earth(s) – likely endangering the old HQ and everyone in it.

  41. I can’t help but wonder if Eric is actually doing this to Victoria, on purpose, UNDER INSTRUCTION.

    Just felt like he was acting in the exact ways necessary to hit her trigger event nerves. Like so perfectly such that it feels performed and intended

  42. Well I meant how she is now, not how she was in the beginning of Worm. Complete delusion and denial in her current state, that’s what I was referring to.
    I don’t think Victoria managed to do much other than put off the inevitable. She bought some time and prevented a lot of bloodshed, don’t get me wrong. However, once Amy realizes she just got her hopes up and that Victoria was lying, she’s gonna *snap.*

    I could easily see Dot being the one to eavesdrop on Victoria while she’s with the Wardens or something. She’ll hear the truth, that Victoria was just lying to manipulate Amy and will report it to her Queen.

  43. I’m sure this has been brought up before, but is there word of God on how it is that Amy’s alterations of Victoria basically perfectly match Victoria’s shard?

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