Radiation – 18.1

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We’re coming back.  I read the message on the phone screen.  Kenzie’s.  Tattletale’s trying to convince them it’s safe to open a portal.  Powers are safe to use again.

I nodded, trying to keep my focus on the screen.  Tensions in the situation room had transformed.  For people like Eric, something they had maybe thought wasn’t going to happen had happened, and they were dealing with loss and horror.  For me, who had known and already felt some of that loss and horror, it was frustration and loss.  That was a bad combination that would lead to me yelling at him, in the same unproductive, obstructive way.

By the cameras, everyone was on their way back.  Pulling away from the city, gathering the troops.  There weren’t many wounded, but that was because the problems we were dealing with now were threats who tended to simply kill the ones they were in a position to hurt.  The map with the teams marked out with bubbles took center stage on the situation room monitors, now with added labeling.  Many had been made transparent, flashing, with timers slowly counting up above them.

Not responding to any attempts at contact for ten minutes now.

From the way they were seeming to confirm those various teams or cross them off, there seemed to be a thinker or long-range communicator attached to the problem, reaching out into that devastated section of the city and either getting a response or finding out the capes hadn’t managed to escape the collapse or the Titan in that area.

Eric stood from the table, closing his laptop.  Warily, I watched as he got his things, pulling on his suit jacket.  He said something to Armstrong I couldn’t hear, then took his leave, walking past me with an extended look that went head-to-toe and back again.  Like he was searching for something.

“Victoria, can I borrow you for a minute?” Armstrong asked.

I nodded, approaching him.  He indicated an unused laptop, and I grabbed it.

“To go over your notes.  I highlighted parts.”

Getting into the parahuman science stuff.  My self-report from the dream excursion, and the situation notes that I’d put in the share folder.

A welcome distraction.  Notes and files.  Clarification of intended meanings, answering short questions, verifying if I was being sarcastic or literal.  It let me refocus my brain to a task without feeling like I was tuning the world out.

Question one: I’d used ‘gut feeling’ twice.  What did I mean by that?

Answer: …

I’d convinced Fume Hood to get back into the game.  She’d planned to retire and I’d played a big role in convincing her to stick it out and keep trying to help, after she got shot.  Now… what?  Did she think?  Did a titan maintain any trace of its old psychology?  Was she trapped in there, or was she gone, good as dead?

Something told me this wasn’t in any way reversible.  Gut feeling.

I refocused on the screen.  The line of thought didn’t really connect, and it was only by chance that I’d circled back.

Like doing something I’ve practiced to death.  Holding a gun and knowing I could pick it up and hit the target, there’s a certainty and underlying confidence.  Take away the practicing from the equation, and that’s how I felt about things like smashing Teacher’s crystal.

I was calling on my time with the Patrol for that one.  I’d already done the gun safety and practice at my parent’s behest, once upon a time.  All of us kids had.  But I’d elected to do it again.  Back then, it had been about getting through the days.

Question two: You frame this ‘gut feeling’ as agent-derived.  On a scale of one to ten, to what degree could you separate your own biases, hopes, instincts, preconceptions, or own mentality from this impression the agent provides?

What do you think, Fragile one?

Hard to draw a firm line.

Seven.  Seventy percent.

There were more highlighted sections with just short instructions.  Clarify:Earth.  Clarify:Date.  Did I mean Gimel or Bet?  Did I mean today or yesterday?

Clarify:Event.  Did I mean the Fallen Raid or the Prison?  My note on Seir.

Clarify:Team Composition.  Who was with me?  Which members of Breakthrough?

When someone had a panic attack, it was important to touch base, ground them.  Where are you, what do you see, what can you touch?  What do you hear?

I wasn’t in the midst of a panic attack, but I appreciated the chance to ground myself.  Place was a heck of a question when worlds had already been tangled with the layering of what was more or less another dimension over the third.  Depending on whether portals were in the way, walking in a straight line in one part of the city could carry you to a point in Gimel or a place in Earth N.

Time was even more of a mind-screw.  It hadn’t actually been that long between the time Jessica had introduced me to the group that would become Breakthrough and today.

Team composition…

It was a horrible, horrible feeling to wrestle with the fact Breakthrough had lost two members.  Chris might have been inevitable, but Ashley hadn’t been.

Well, no.  Ashley had been inevitable, but losing her hadn’t been right or okay.

There was another in the possible line of fire, and I hoped it was me.  Not because I wanted to die, not when I had so fucking much left to do, to see, experience, and live… but because I felt a kind of responsibility.

A spiral of thinking for a short answer: Victoria, Swansong, Lookout.

I edited my documents with my clarifications, and added my notes to his document with my answers.

I could remember my cousin Eric joking he’d join the Wards in the lamest rebellion against his parents ever, if it weren’t for the paperwork.  I could remember a younger me feeling something weirdly and positively defiant, like the paperwork wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, because it created something that was codified, more sure.  So much of what a hero did was unsure, struggling against evil, cruelty, and ruin and then going home, wondering if that brutal struggle had really made a difference.

I’d ruminated a lot on who I’d once been, the brutality of Glory Girl’s actions against the villains.  How much of that had been motivated by a desire to make an impact, or to go home and feel like I’d made an appreciable difference?  Find the unequivocal bad guys, and hurt them badly enough they wouldn’t be doing bad things again anytime soon.  Like when I’d heard from some classmates that there were gangsters strongarming them into joining the ABB.  Break the gangsters.

Having just thought of my cousins, I looked for and found Crystal’s regiment on the map.  She was okay.

While I was at it, I checked for the others.  Breakthrough.  Kenzie and the Tenders.  Everyone still on their way.

Other hero teams were hanging back, because one area of the city was on fire after some collapses, and there was another area that was being managed because some industrial buildings had collapsed, with a chemical gas spreading from the site.  I could hear Pearce at the comms, trying to get specific heroes to the site.

“Victoria.”

I looked over.  Miss Militia stood in the doorway.

“A word?”

“Do you mind, Armstrong, sir?”

He glanced over his own version of my notes with my additions.  “This is good.  Thank you, Victoria.”

“I’ll be back for the briefing part of it, if you need me.”

“It won’t be here.  Too many people.  Go to the downstairs hall when you’re done.  I won’t be the one in charge then, but we’ll coordinate if you’re needed for the briefing.”

I nodded, grabbing my coat, standing and crossing the room.  A shame.  Armstrong hadn’t ever been the kind of director who rallied the troops, went to war, or used his teams to surgically take out the most problematic villains.  Another person in his role might have been harsher with me, but he’d been largely passive, sitting back and ensuring he had all of the facts.

I appreciated that.

The hallway outside was emptier than it had been in a while.  Most people had places to go, and with the next big situation-room type meeting being downstairs, people who would be going back and forth were mostly just going forth.

Which meant it wasn’t all that hard to find a place to chat.  In the end, I stopped at the railing near where I’d talked to Jessica and Darnall.

“It’s good to see you,” I said.  “I hope your team wasn’t hit by this catastrophe.”

“It wasn’t,” she said, pulling her scarf down. “But we did lose a good portion of the city.  It might be years before we’re back where we were, especially with the relationships to Shin and Cheit being as strained as they are.  No advance preparation, some of the thinkers that helped put us on the right track are gone now.  We have far too many people out in the cold right now.”

“Is this doable?” I asked.

“If the titans were dealt with immediately, and we got to work, everyone coordinating to work together?  I think so.”

She’d become a bit more of a politician in the time since I’d known her.  That was a very positive message to convey a negative sentiment, with several points left vague.  How immediate was immediate?  Today?  In the next hour?  Who was ‘everyone’, heroes or heroes and villains?  How coordinated did she mean?

All for a ‘I think so’.  Not even a confident ‘yes’.

“There’ll be time for that at the briefing,” Miss Militia said.  She pulled out a handkerchief and rubbed at the corners of her eyes.  “Sorry.  There was a lot of smoke.  The other Wardens and I exchanged a few messages and decided it was best if I was the one to talk to you.  I’ve talked to you more than anyone else.”

I thought about that, then nodded.  It felt like a lifetime ago.

“If it weren’t for that, it would have been Defiant, but we were all pretty sure he would have spent the bulk of the time yelling at you.”

“Oh,” I said.  I thought for a second.  “This is that kind of conversation.”

“I’m afraid so.  If it helps, I don’t have long,” Miss Militia said.  “I’ve seen some the notes on the situation, thanks to Dragon and Director Armstrong.”

“Is he a director now?” I asked.  “Or is he-”

“He isn’t.  Not officially,” she said, cutting me off.

“Sorry.  He had me going over notes, clarifying terms and wording.  I might be a bit in that mode.”

“It could be that it’s a more comfortable mode than the one that has to face what’s happening on Gimel and its neighboring worlds,” she said, a bit more sympathetic.

“Are you doing okay?” I asked.  “It’s a lot.”

“I’ll manage.  I’ve always managed.  We’re worried you’re the one who isn’t managing, Victoria.  There are patterns of problem behavior.”

She didn’t specify what the behavior was, even with the time constraint.  I knew, but that she wasn’t outlining it changed this from the kind of conversation a teacher might have with a student to the kind of conversation a cop had with a potential suspect.  A teacher wanted to outline the right path.  A police officer wanted to see if the suspect talked their way into trouble.

“First thing this morning, Defiant interviewed us.  I told him I was under the impression that this would happen, potentially with Teacher at the helm.  Things got out of control then, but my intention was to be as equipped as possible to handle this… titan thing.”

“You knew it would be titans?”

“No.  No… but I knew it had to be something.  My team lost Swansong, and having precogs tell you your friend is going to die, then seeing them die?  Seeing a little girl lose her favorite person?  Kind of forces you to confront that hey, this is all for fucking real.”

She didn’t respond, just staring at me with bottle-glass green eyes.

I continued, “And I wasn’t exactly wearing kid gloves or operating under any happy-go-lucky delusions about how serious things were when I went to Shin as a favor to the Wardens, or brought my team into the fight to take this compound and stop Teacher.  And we lost Swansong because of it.”

“I am sorry for your loss.”

“Fume Hood was a friend and she’s one of the titans now, apparently.  I keep seeing people fall by the wayside.”

“I can sympathize,” Miss Militia said.  “Cinereal is also a titan, now.  Whatever that means in the long run.  She was hard to work with but she and I found common ground.  Losing her is hard.”

“We put everything on the line for what we do, Miss Militia.  This has been my life, from the start to now.  I was serious before this kicked off, I’m more serious now.”

Miss Militia nodded, leaning over the railing that looked down over lower floors.  “I don’t get the impression you’re drunk with power.  I’ve seen parahumans who lost the kernel of their self after a shift in their power, learning a new technique, or after an injury to mind or body.  For what it’s worth, I don’t think you’re there…”

I nodded, a bit concerned at this line of discussion.  “But?”

“But you’ve flouted rules.  Dragon knows about Lookout’s activities earlier.”

I glanced at her, raising an eyebrow, saying nothing.

Miss Militia smiled a bit.  “How do I say this?  Lookout is very good at what she does.  In nearly any situation, she might have gotten away with helping you and communicating with you.  To all appearances, you and she both were being good and focusing on your own work.  You had a few periods of quiet introspection, but that’s pretty understandable, everything considered.  Except Lookout ‘being good’ and focusing on her own work and socializing with her friends is outside her norm.”

“Is it really?  She works hard, she’s very fond of them.”

“And in the past week, there hasn’t been a waking hour where she wasn’t idly penetrating systems, gathering data, watching someone through a camera she’d gained access to, or figuring out how to sort the data she did collect.  This morning there was a two hour span where she did none of that… as far as cameras and general surveillance of her activity could tell.”

“She’s in trouble because she didn’t spy and gather data?”

“She did, but she did too good a job of covering it up, Victoria.  Dragon noticed the discrepancy and did a more intensive investigation.  She found out what you two were really doing.”

I frowned, eyes dropping to the ground.  “Every hour?  Really?  I would have thought it was a few times a day.  Half a dozen at most.”

“Dragon’s notes say it was what you say, a week ago.  This week…”

I nodded.  “Why tell me that?  You could have kept it in the back pocket and kept more of an eye on her and us.”

“Because we don’t intend to make the same mistake again, nor to extend the same benefit of a doubt.”

I set my jaw.

She went on, “First thing this morning, Defiant made you an offer.  You could work with the Wardens and accept our rules, or you could go your own way and we wouldn’t be supporting you in the same ways.  Should we revisit the question?  You don’t seem willing to accept our requests.”

I sighed.  “Felt and feels like the rules were explicitly to deny us the support the Wardens are supposedly offering.”

“Your teammate’s life was saved earlier by a Warden.  Slician saved Sveta.”

“Would Sveta have been there, in that specific circumstance, dealing with Fallen who hate her on principle in front of her, and ex-Irregular Case Fifty-threes behind her, if she wasn’t helping you?

“You mean would she be keeping an eye on the Red Queen, Victoria?  If you’d taken the other path first thing this morning, parting ways with the Wardens, and word got around that Amy Dallon was making giant clones with the limiters taken off their powers, I think Sveta would be joining you in investigating or taking some other related action.  She would be there because you would almost certainly have been involved.”

“Maybe I could have saved her in Slician’s place, then.”

“Maybe.  But we’re so far down the road of maybes I don’t think it’s productive.  We are providing you with support.  Medical care and support for Byron, assistance for your team, communication with other teams, shelter, and networks.  I know you visited Anelace, Clockblocker, Kid Win, and Vista, earlier.”

Anelace.  Damn.  I felt the skin of my face and ears heat up a fraction.

“Okay,” I said.  “Point conceded.  I still think a lot of what the Wardens were doing in the situation room with Eric in charge  was counter-productive and outright dangerous.  Benching me, okay, I can see it.  Denying me the ability to call my team, throwing road blocks in the way?  Cinereal’s point man in the situation room didn’t say it right out, but it was pretty clear he wasn’t going to pass on even critical messages.  They gave me the excuse of paperwork, qualifiers, all things that would tie me up until the situation was over.”

“He made choices I wouldn’t have, but I don’t think it matters.”

“Doesn’t it?  When those choices are that against what we’re trying to do?”

“For organizations like ours to work, sometimes we have to accept that we’ll get orders we don’t agree with, and then we follow those orders.  God knows I did that enough times when I worked for the P.R.T..”

“I’m okay with following orders, provided there’s some indication the person knows what they’re doing.”

Miss Militia raised her eyebrows.  I saw her take in a deep breath, like she was figuring out how to even begin with her massive rebuttal.

“The mishap with the dream camera excepted.  Defiant himself said that tapping on the glass or investigating was safe.  We took a look into pretty unexplored territory one of our team members had spent a lot of time in, that unexplored territory ended being bigger and more dangerous than we anticipated.  That was a fuck-up.”

“He said no and you went and did it anyway.  I think his feelings were hurt.”

“I-” I started, stopped.  Defiant was a massive cyborg, dressed up in green and gold dragon aesthetic.  Before that, he’d been as much a grizzled and live-for-the-job a cape as any I knew.  I really had no idea how to process the idea that I might have hurt him in any way, feelings included.

“Victoria, as I said, time is short.  I’ll be blunt here.  Eric did more harm than good.  Sometimes that’s the way it is in times of crisis.  He just lost his mentor, he’ll be starting from square one working under me.  It’s possible he’ll rise in the ranks quickly, if Cinereal’s assessment of him is correct.  She always had a great eye for nascent talent.”

I don’t envy you, Miss Militia.

“As for you, you’ve broken many of the rules we set.  You’ve been using your power in small ways, reportedly in one blatant, dangerous manner-”

“Touching Eric?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Flinch reflex.  Automatic.”

“The same kind that gave your mother massive cerebral hemmorhaging?”

I winced.  “No.  I have control, now.  He reached out to touch me all of a sudden, I was jumpy, it was a soft touch.  He did it again later and I used my hand to push his away.”

“Alright.  I’ll look into that.  Let me continue, I do want to wrap this up.  You reached out to command your team in an egregious breach of our rules, we did look at the contents of those messages, and they were more or less in line with what we would have found acceptable.  Telling Sveta Karelia to stand down, de-escalating situations, and providing some guidance when the Red Queen went berserk.  That was a massive de-escalation, when we had reason to believe Shin wanted a fight.”

“I still need to ensure she has a therapist to talk to.”

“After.  We’ll work something out.  The Wardens will help you.”

“Because when I tried, a member of the Wardens broke my phone and got aggressive.”

“I’m aware.  We will handle that separately.  Trust me, Victoria.  Please.”

I’m finding trust hard to come by, I thought.  My mom with Uncle Neil.  My sister.  Swansong going and getting herself killed.  My dad sticking by Amy without doing anything concrete.  Jessica letting me down.

“I’m running out,” I said.  “Of trust.”

She gave me a sad smile.  Her tone changed, less authoritarian as she wistfully said, “What I wouldn’t give to have had you on my Wards team for that one year, and to see you graduate to the Protectorate alongside Gallant.  The past few years have been so unjust.”

I shrugged, swallowing hard.  I didn’t want to get into how I’d fantasized about such while in the hospital.  “I needed to get knocked down a peg, to course correct.  I just… got knocked down all the way, I guess.”

She nodded, then checked her phone for the time.  “I’d like to catch up sometime, talk about that sort of thing if you’re open to it.  For now… to put it succinctly, I’m worried, the Wardens are worried, but our need for heroes is outweighed by the immediate concerns.  There will be repercussions, the Wardens may say no when it comes to access to certain resources or features in coming days.  Until you regain our trust.  Some of it will sting, but for the time being, we need to deal with the Titans and the city and we’re willing to postpone that sting.”

I nodded.

“We will be looking in more.  To keep track, and to ensure you don’t carry on down a worrying road.  Not just you, either.  Lookout will be sanctioned in other ways.  There’s too much concerning activity there.”

I frowned, but I nodded.  “As food for thought, though, if you have a thinker that’s clairvoyant and capable of seeing everything within a hundred miles around them, no off switch, you adapt, don’t you?  PRT or Warden?  You just accept them?”

“Yes.  But Lookout makes the decisions to do what she does.  There is an off switch.”

“She’s a kid with some struggles who just lost her favorite person less than a week ago.  The off switch is really hard for her to flip.  You’ve probably seen her file, so you know the history there.  Can you let me try to address this?”

“You do that, try to address it, but we’ll have to do something too.  We’ll go easy on her, especially if you’re taking a better course of action, but…”

“But you have to do something.”

“We can’t let that kind of invasive, dangerous behavior go entirely unanswered.  In the same way we can’t look past your team’s activities last night and your ignoring rules earlier today, whatever the circumstance.”

I nodded.  I didn’t have it in me for a fight, and a fight would have put things at risk, with Wardens deciding not to let me go out.  And that wasn’t an option.

“Before I go… I came to talk to you armed with an argument I was ready to use if you weren’t cooperating.  I didn’t find I had to use it… but I think I’d like to bring it up, just as food for thought.”

“Okay,” I said, wary.

“The Fallen were convinced they were in the right.  They operated based on beliefs they said to be truths, and through some combination of luck or efforts behind the scenes, they had a lot of successes.  They did reckless things in contravention to the unwritten rules.  When disaster struck, they believed they were in the right because they’d seen it coming, when you could pick three random citizens off the street, ask them if they thought the world might end, and get four agreements.  This encouraged them, and they ultimately pushed things too far and collapsed.  In their wake, they inspired others to go down the same course, the new Thomais branch, and those others also pushed things too far, made the wrong alliances, and died.”

“I’m not the Fallen.  That’s not fair.”

“I’ve been called a lot of things, with my handling of Brockton Bay and its treatment of the villain population, but unfair is not one of them,” Miss Militia said.

“If I’d been more laid back, planning, laying a groundwork, you’d be comparing me to Teacher instead.”

“Maybe,” she said.  “It’s not meant as an indictment.”

“It sure fucking feels like one.”

“A warning.  You and I know you’re not Fallen.  You’re a hero, and being a hero counts for something.  It gets you benefits of a doubt no other cape enjoys.  Defiant knows and has lived it.  Shadow Stalker in our old Wards program knew it and benefited from it.  Skitter got it when she joined the Wards.  Lookout, Capricorn, Rain, and Swansong all got some benefit out of it.  We’re desperate enough for more people on the side of good that we let things go…”

“That’s not encouraging, if you say I’m not Fallen and then imply the line between me and them is I picked the right side.”

“You picked the side of right.  There’s a distinction, and what you’re saying is not what I’m trying to suggest.  You work hard and I think however you ended up, you would always have been working hard for the benefit of the world.  That’s undeniably good, but it does provide camouflage of a sort, and it does require you hold yourself to a higher standard as a result of that.  Be aware of where you are, what it looks like, why you’re getting the flexibility we’re offering, and how this same kind of thing can end up.”

I wanted to argue the point, but again, I didn’t want to burn bridges for the sake of defending myself.

I settled for a nod.

“Thirty minutes until the briefing begins.”

“Can I fly home and change?  I think it’s at the edge of the damage.  I’d come in five minutes late at most.  My teammate can keep me in the loop.”

“I think that’s doable,” she said.  “I’ll see you there.”

She walked away.  I took a second, stopping to think.

My head turned, and I looked at the nearest security camera.  “We talk later, Lookout.  Catch up with you guys in a minute.”

The perpetual little blue light in the corner went off for a second, then back on.

I took flight, feet leaving the ground, and I flew down the hallway, back grazing the ceiling so I wouldn’t bump into any bystanders.  I flew with all of the pent-up fervor and frustration I’d been holding in as I’d sat back and watched Gimel suffer its mortal blow.

It didn’t take long to reach the entrance hall.  I landed with impact, letting my feet and legs absorb the force of some of my momentum, instead of coming to a stop first.

And then I was outside.  Coat on, black sweater, hands in my pockets.  It looked more like night than day, with the smoke heavy in the air, and the city keened.  Wind shrieking along the devastated sections I had only seen on video so far.

When I flew out into this cold, now-broken world, I took to the air with a violence I hadn’t been willing to use indoors, tearing through the sky in the same way a fighter might punch at a wall to vent his fears or sorrows.  No slowing before turns, I just took the brunt of it against my side, and felt the cold and the wind punch through the softer outer layers I wore.  No gentleness to the plunges or the skyward soars, no consideration for the g-forces.  It was a strain and I needed that strain to leech certain feelings out of me before they overflowed and I said or did something regrettable.

But the air, in a way, fed those negative emotions by the same measures with which they absorbed them.  Because as I rose higher to go over clusters of buildings it was too annoying to fly around or through, I could see the city, and I could see the damage.  A gaping black yawning through the heart of the city, where it wasn’t stretched thin along the coast in the direction of Boston, and where the buildings weren’t all temporary, one story tall structures, sprawling out and waiting to be replaced when the resources were there.  In the heart of the city, the buildings had been tall.  Now there was a hole extending far deeper than the buildings had extended up.

No succor in pummeling the sky with my body, here.  Not when it answered me with sights like these.

The forcefield protected me from the whipping cold.  There was, at least, succor in its companionship.

Soon.

Soon we see what we can do together.

Dive hard.  Extend my arms out, and experience the wind through those fingers, feel the air resistance… my actual hands still in my pockets.  I folded them in close, hugging them in tight and close to my body, and felt the resistance decrease.  An umbrella open in rushing wind versus one that was shut, spearing forward.

Fly harder, between buildings this time, because air flow tended to go over buildings, curling before continuing forward, and with the forcefield out I was vulnerable to the vagaries of wind, even with everything tucked in closer.

“No,” I breathed.

The apartment building was at the edges of the cracking, but the blurred, broken separations in reality had speared it.  Some fundamental support had given, and it had slumped over to one side.  The apartment I’d shared with Ashley.  Technically the first place I’d lived ‘on my own’, with no parents supervising or managing me, even though Ashley or Kenzie had been there at various points.

Toppled.  My things, my files, my clothes, my stuffed lion that I’d salvaged past the end of the world.  Ashley’s things.

I landed with enough force it made my knees and hips hurt.  I navigated around the slices in reality, putting out one of my forcefield hands that I could afford to lose.

The distinction between one place and another was clear.  The air lensed, like I was looking through prisms, magnifying glasses, or water droplets.  But when it was air meeting air, there was little distinction.  Perhaps temperature.

I walked across a landscape that looked like a stained glass window, with some ‘panels’ filled with snowy urban area and others with soil.  Drawn in every hard-edged shape that wasn’t a square, some extending up or down.

The forcefield died.  I had to experiment to see why.  Certain pockets of air close to the cracks were dangerous, slicing any passing limb by sending different portions to different realities.  Like thickets of nigh-invisible, ultra-sharp brambles.

I’d spent so motherfucking long trying to build a life for myself.  Collecting my files, rebuilding a wardrobe.  Gone.

I seized the roof and lifted it with more ease than I’d ever lifted anything as Glory Girl.  It wasn’t that I was stronger- I wasn’t.  But having eight extremities to balance out the distribution of weight meant it didn’t crumble to anywhere near the same degree when I held it up.

I threw it aside with more violence than was necessary.

Fuck.

Digging my way to the living room, using pieces of art and a general sense of what should be where to find my way to where it should be.

Fuck!

Some of the furniture had been shattered by the fall.  Ashley had tended to buy nice things when she bought stuff, so it was sturdy… but that made the ones that were unsalvageable that much worse.

Fuck!

I dug and destroyed until I found my way to what I needed.  My bed, my costume laid out on the foot of it.  I made sure I had everything.

Once I did, I bundled it up securely, and I raised my head, staring across the expanse of black.  There wasn’t much light, but when there was, it revealed hints of red crystal in the depths of that abyss, edges and points.

But mostly, looking out with nothing stabbing up or out of that chasm, the view was unobstructed.   A lake of black, so far across I couldn’t see the other side.   The only buildings on the other side were so obscured with snowfall they looked like mirages.  White snowfall pouring into a void, making no appreciable difference in the texture beneath.

I lifted up sections of wall, forming a rough pyramid around myself.  Cover while I changed into my costume.  Even while I did it, I was aware of every little detail and item, recognizing where it had come from.  Trinkets, decorations, drawer handles.

We’re all cast out into the cold.  It’s only fair.

When I was dressed, I thrust the walls away, sending some sliding out into the void, others flipping across the street.

I flew.

BriefingThen we get to work.

No violence to my flying now, except where I experimentally opened the mouths in my forcefield and felt the air rush in through the apertures, pulling at my hood.

No, best to conserve my strength.

‘Work’ would be a war against creatures that, reportedly, no team had been able to deal with yet.

Some of whom had been our friends and allies.

My landing was feather-light as I reached the outside of the entrance to the Cauldron facility.  I made my way to the entrance hall, with stairs reaching to upper floors on either side of a hallway so wide four buses could have driven along it.

The crowd was so thick I had to fly to get past it.  There were fliers in my way too.

I landed next to Armstrong, at the far left edge of the line of people who were facing the crowd, a kind of middle ground between that line and the crowd.  Legend was talking about the timeline and events.

Armstrong leaned in, murmuring, “We’ll have a laptop in front of us.  We can trade off as necessary.  You’ll address them with a summary of what the crystal landscape is like.”

I nodded, feeling a bit intimidated.  “Sounds good.”

Tattletale, I noticed, was at the far other end of the line.  In a similar, almost mirror position to my own.

Not quite part of the lineup, but adjunct.  The Undersiders weren’t far from her.  Rachel’s dogs were dog-sized.  I could see the Heartbroken peering out past people.

Tattletale tilted her head to one side, her eyes moving.  I followed her gaze.

My team.  Everyone together, healthy.  The Malfunctions were clustered near Rain.

My family wasn’t far from them,

My family

My mom.  Crystal.  My dad was there, but he was working his way around the edges of the crowd, toward a side hallway.  Marquis was with him, and where Marquis was…

Sure enough.  Amy.  Being escorted out and away.  I saw my dad look back at me, then back toward my mom.

I did too.  I saw Aunt Sarah there.  Beside her, a face I’d seen in photographs for the bulk of my life.  Uncle Mike.  Lightstar.  Looking less than happy for what I could guess were about ten different reasons.

That was where we were at, then.

Villains joined the crowd, capes were out of retirement.  The major teams of Advance Guard, Foresight, and the Shepherds were here, plus or minus a handful of core members, but plus the reserve troops, their B-teams and reserve lines, the capes they’d been using to manage whole tracts of territory with one underlying ethos.

We’d had all of this, we’d had more, really, and we couldn’t stop this from happening.

Now we were in a worse place.  Out in the cold, driven by desperation.

And we had to do better.

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57 thoughts on “Radiation – 18.1”

  1. A stunning and intensely visceral first chapter to the arc. Such loss, portrayed in emotional conversations and across perception. I look forward to the next chapter.

  2. -Miss Militia is one of the wisely, smart, well-intentioned, truly heroic capes. She’s for Parahumans what is Captain America for Marvel. I love this woman so much and she’s so right in almost everything she said to Victoria. I understand Vic for not liking Eric and Defiant but she have no reason to not like Hannah/or at least not listen to Hannah. Hannah is someone who only want what is good for Vic, her team and everyone else.

    The apartment I’d shared with Ashley. Technically the first place I’d lived ‘on my own’, with no parents supervising or managing me, even though Ashley or Kenzie had been there at various points.

    Toppled. My things, my files, my clothes, my stuffed lion that I’d salvaged past the end of the world. Ashley’s things.

    -I compare the destruction of Victoria’s apartment with the destruction of Taylor’s notebook. When she lost her “heroic identity” represented by her notebook she became a villain. The destruction of heroic notebook= the birth of Skitter. Victoria lost her “past human identity” represented by her apartment and now she’s very close to entirely become one with the Fragile One, turning into the Tyrant that will shape the world according to her will. The scene with her apartment it’s a sad and life changing scene= the birth of Tyrant?

    -Everyone against Titans. They should create a mixed team called Parahuman Survey Corps. Why not?

  3. From bad to worse the series…

    Had a thought about an earlier chapter. The shards dont have anyone coordinating them. Who do we know who is very capable at controlling and micromanaging a variety of things at once…?

      1. Apropos QA – I may have mentioned a few months ago that in my opinion the current post-shard-network-collapse chaos is so bad in part because the perfect shard to deal with it is out of the picture, and only its bud is left to provide some help (for now simply by convincing Breakthrough and the Undersiders to work with each other, and perhaps by arranging something last night in the shard-space – for example choosing the Fragile One as its champion and ensuring that all shards that were connected then provided FO with as much support as they could at the time, resulting in Victoria’s sudden power upgrade).

        1. In particular I imagine that Prince Administrator (or whatever the name of Aiden’s shard is) could say something like that – “Grasping Self, your host is a selfish dick. Now at least stop being one yourself and share whatever resources you can with that little one attached to a host who is actually a decent human being, and a successful heroine on top of that.” To which Grasping Self would respond “Well I’m good with hands, so I suppose I could help her controlling the ones she makes with her forcefield… But what is in it for me?” “How about we consider not killing your host, or do you need to be disconnected from him to share?”

  4. Typo thread.

    Word ‘titan(s)’ is inconsistency capitalized throughout this chapter.

    > A lake of black, so far across I couldn’t see the other side.
    > The only buildings on the other side were so obscured with snowfall they looked like mirages.
    (There’s are too many spaces before these sentences.)

    > Eric in charge was counter-productive
    (Extra space between ‘charge’ and ‘was’.)

    > worked for the P.R.T..”
    (I don’t believe the extra dot after ‘P.R.T.’ is necessary. Also the acronym is spelled inconsistently in this chapter – both ‘PRT’ and ‘P.R.T.’)

    > For now… to put it succinctly, I’m worried, the Wardens are worried, but our need for heroes is outweighed by the immediate concerns.
    (Considering the context, isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? “but our need for heroes outweighs the immediate concerns.”?)

  5. 1. So Miss Militia has “bottle-glass green eyes”? I don’t believe it is a common feature among Kurds. Could it be a side effect of her power?

    2. If Wardens were closely monitoring Kenzie’s activities “through cameras and general surveillance” for more than a week now, why haven’t they stopped Breakthrough and co. before their visit to the dream-room last night? Unless of course no Warden was paying attention to what Kenzie was doing before Natalie raised the alarm last night, and Dragon just analyzed over a week of records with Kenzie in mere hours since then?

    By the way let’s not forget that the change in Kenzie’s behavior Miss Militia mentioned seems to have happened around the time Swansong died.

  6. MM’s comparison of the Fallen is so general it could apply basically to anyone, including the Wardens, and can’t really be taken seriously. ‘They thought they were right and acted like it.’ Uh, yeah everyone kind of does that.

    The only thought going through my head during her lecture was that strictly following the orders of superiors only apply when you’re actually a part of the chain of command. Breakthrough isn’t. The whole issue of Ward is that the Wardens are too busy with other threats and thus have to rely on other teams like Breakthrough to take up the slack in a loosely defined alliance.

    (Except when reinforcements come out of the ether when needed under the cover of retirement, but forget that whole ‘powers need to be used’ bit, because Plot!)

    As such the only reasonable recourse is to either decide if Breakthrough is a liability and cut support off in totality, or accept that they’re actions are still beneficial but as a semi-independent team they aren’t going to do things the same ways you would do so.

    Also the bit about ‘Skitter getting the benefit of the doubt’ was rather hypocritically hilarious considering she had to kill two people upon joining, and the uphill battle with obstructive bureaucrats she had. But, I’m guessing Vicky’s on a rather parallel course of action to what Taylor’s was in Worm – Taking action, other people are staunchly opposed with, but such acts end up being the only things that saves everything.

    1. Regarding Miss Militia’s strict stance on hierarchy and chain of command – something like this is probably necessary in larger organizations like PRT or the Wardens. Small teams however can be more democratic, pay more attention to opinions of its every member, put more things to vote, even have multiple leaders without clearly defined hierarchy among them. And generally be more like a healthy family than a military organization. Breakthrough is like that, and it probably became that in no small part because Victoria came from New Wave – a team that was also an actual family.

      Such family-like team probably a fairly alien concept for Miss Militia, both because she spent pretty much her entire cape career as a member of a large organization, and possibly also because she grew up in warzone, where strict chains of command were necessary. The fact that after she triggered, she ended up in foster care may have also been a factor here.

      And it could probably be argued that Miss Militia’s strict adherence to hierarchy and almost military discipline can be unreasonable, and ended up causing a disaster at least once – when she did not do anything, even voicing a protest, to stop Tagg and Alexandria from pushing Skitter (a villain who surrendered to PRT in good faith after all) until it was too late. If she hasn’t changed in this regard since, then I’m afraid that this blind “love” for hierarchy and discipline may in some situations be one of Miss Militia’s most dangerous character flaws. And difficult to root out, because most of the time being as disciplined as MM is, is actually a good thing.

      1. After all a soldier should respect their superiors and their orders most of the time. But a soldier who does it completely unconditionally is a war crime waiting to happen…

    2. “Except when reinforcements come out of the ether when needed under the cover of retirement, but forget that whole ‘powers need to be used’ bit, because Plot!”

      They don’t have to stop using their powers to retire from the public spotlight. Someone with plant-related powers could become a low-key farmer trying to help feed people or open a flower shop, for example. Depending on exactly what the power is, they could have plenty of opportunity to exercise it without doing active hero work.

  7. Miss Militia commenting on hurt feelings to the person she got thrown in a torture gulag by being terrible at diplomacy is kind of hilarious. It’s not so much that she lacks a leg to stand on as that her body from the neck down has been taken out by a landmine of incompetence.

  8. I don’t understand why they can safely use powers now.
    I had imagined it works like an ice field, or a glass surface. If it is cracked now, you should be even more worried about someone jumping on it.
    But that’s not how it works then. So maybe it was more like a clogged pipe that broke open due to too water pressure. Just that it wasn’t water in this case, but some unknown myserious force.

    Aside from that, I feel like Victoria traveling back and forth between the old Cauldron base happens a bit too quickly here. Does she still have to do this password-thing to open a portal? Did the old wardens hq building even survive the collapse? etc.

    1. Regarding why using powers is safe now. I imagine that the city is more like a seismically active area a few days or weeks after a major earthquake – when all major tensions underground were released, so it is unlikely for another mayor quake to happen for a while.

      As for how quickly Victoria travels to and from Cauldron – I suspect that between the current emergency which demanded hero teams to be deployed quickly where necessary and to evacuate a large number of not only capes, but also civilians from the city to the complex, and the fact that there is probably enough personel in the complex to simply act as guards around the portals, at least some of the portals to might have been set up in a way that does not require any passwords.

      I also suspect that at least some of these “new” portals may not have been set up using Kenzie’s tech, but simply “inherited” from Teacher, who had enough thralls to forgo any complicated technological safeguards like the ones Kenzie implemented for the portals between the city and the bunker, and simply post guards around any portals he opened. After all there is probably no shortage of tinkers among heroes who can operate pretty much any piece of tinkertech Teacher’s “students” mass produced – including the portal devices he used to link the complex to other Earths.

      1. The above does not mean that there are absolutely no consequences to using powers now. Doing so probably brings the next disaster closer. But we are probably again in the “next big reality collapse is weeks or months away”, not “any reckless power use may cause our corner of the multiverse to end now” territory. And there is simply no way to make all copes stop using their powers for months. Not to mention that it is probably impossible way to stop the next disaster from happening without using powers somehow…

  9. Unfortunately for Miss Militia and the other Wardens, I strongly suspect that curing the malady that makes titans will involve going into the realm of powers. Which means giving Kenzie and Victoria free rein to traipse through that multidimensional wonderland.

    1. Mad props to Flashbang for insisting she stick with it too. It’s not easy to be the father of Amy and Victoria Dallon – the Hostile Sisters. Good play, Dallon Dad.

      Really great that Amy had the mental fortitude to not break in the face of Titanification. Very excellent that she’s willing to do the therapy. She’s got a power capable of doing tremendous good for the Wormverse, and she’s (IMO) fundamentally good. She’s incredibly sick – mentally damaged. She needs the therapy to come to terms with the evil she’s done, and to again learn how to act in a moral and ethical manner. Since the beginning of Worm, she’s seemed to be struggling to do what is right. We’ve seen her succeed at that, and we’ve seen her fail. And we’ve seen her make perverse justifications for those failures. But I’ve always been hoping that she gets the opportunity to sort out her broken mind, because a mentally health, morally corrected Panacea can probably save the world.

    2. As others pointed out, therapy isn’t a magical solution. Also I don’t see how therapy is going to fix Amy being a rapist monster, or Amy being Vickysexual.

  10. @Naoru
    Beware that therapy isn’t a magical solution to mental health issues though. There is a lot that can go wrong, especially since it is Darnall, who is rather new to handling capes. If Amy doesn’t trust him or feels like he can’t help her, then it’s not going to improve the situation.

  11. Also, Shin agreed to let one of their capes collaborators to get therapy. They are willing to trust the other side that they will not try to kidnap her or kill her in the meantime. That’s a huge improvement coming from them.

    1. Did Shin politicians agree to anything though? Or were they given no choice in the matter? I imagine that even before Amy and Cryptid made their giants Shin could do little to stop her from leaving. They almost certainly could do even less to control her afterwards. And after the disaster reached their Earth, and “tytanized” Hunter, things may have been chaotic enough that nobody in Shin governments may have even realized that Amy was leaving before she was gone.

      Of course if Amy indeed left Shin without their governments’ permission, then it may not only strain Shin-Gimel relations, but also make Shin take some sort of action against Gimel refugees there. Though I don’t think the latter is likely as long as Chris is still on Shin and has access to at least one of his giants.

  12. Well, fortunately they’ll be able to separate the helpful Titans from the aggressive ones easily enough. Dealing with them, the (unfinished ?) evacuation and the Machine Army at the same time isn’t going to be fun…

  13. More Typos

    share folder > shared folder
    Fragile one (maybe capitalise both)
    some the notes > some of the notes
    works hard, she’s > works hard. She’s
    live-for-the-job a cape > live-for-the-job cape
    rules, we > rules; we
    with Wardens > with the Wardens
    We talk later > We’ll talk later
    keened. Wind shrieking > keened. Wind shrieked (or keened — wind shrieking)
    capes were out > capes that were out

  14. Anyone else thinking the spearing of the appartment probably was a result of it being weakened by Swangsong, Antares and Kenzie staying there and using their powers there?

  15. I wonder if Victoria’s files are truly lost, or if they can still be recovered, and if so – by whom? The area around her home is supposedly dangerous to navigate without a power similar to her forcefield, and digging her stuff out without some sort of power or heavy equipment (if it can even be brought there) would be a slow and even more dangerous process, but I imagine that sufficiently determined party may be able to do so.

    And imagine how much damage someone like the anti-parahumans could do if they managed to get their hands on all of that information… Question is – who exactly knows both where Victoria’s apartment was, and that she kept such treasure there?

    As a side note – I wonder if between the loss of her own archive and the fact that the Wardens said that they are going to restrict Vicky’s access to their information more, the Scholar will move into the background, and more violent “aspects” of Victoria’s personality will come to the fore. Not that they need any more encouragement after everything else that happened to Victoria recently…

    1. Kenzie’s time camera.

      Or quite possibly Kenzie already has every file Victoria ever stored digitized and stored somewhere.

      1. As far as I remember Victoria managed to store only some of her files in digital form. And I’m not certain if her laptop isn’t destroyed or buried beneath the ruble too. As for backups, it is possible that they were stored in places that may have also been destroyed – like Breakthrough HQ.

        As for the time camera – even if Kenzie rebuilds it one day, I suspect that it may be even more useless in the area full of cracks in reality than in a place where Vista used her power.

        1. Not to mention that to use the time camera to read any particular file, you would need to find the exact time when it was open on the exact page you want. And the place too – there is a good chance that Victoria didn’t even open some of her files after she had moved from her Patrol Block office. Might not be doable in practice.

          And it is entirely possible that the time camera may have some limitations that make using it for such purpose even theoretically impossible – for example it may be unable to show any scene that is more than just a few hours or days old. At least not with quality needed to actually read any physical file that was open then.

  16. Is it a good ar a bad thing that Contessa, whose shard was supposedly not Scion’s, but also not “dead”, is a part of what may become a new “hub”?

    1. By the way here’s a twist to the old theory that Abaddon may have planted his shards in the Thinker to kill it and the Warrior and pick up their shards. Maybe it is not coming back, because its goal is not to absorb the shards, but to reproduce? Could it be that Abaddon’s shards (one of which Contessa is suspected to have) are supposed to kill hubs of Entities they were planted it, integrate themselves into new hubs (like the one that the titans may be starting to form), form a new Entity around that hub, and leave in search of other Warrior- and Thinker-like Entities to infect thus completing the reproduction cycle?

      And the interesting thing is that while Abaddon-like Entities may have evolved such reproduction cycle naturally, I think it is more likely that they either learned this sort of behavior from some past host species, or their common ancestor either had its hub killed and replaced or modified by some host species who wanted to kill Warrior- and Thinker-like Entities like the one that chose them as their hosts, and decided that the best way to do it was to create a new kind of an Entity – one that would kill the old kind of Entities as a part of its reproduction cycle. It could even work as a method to at least reduce the number and size of the Entities, especially if an Abaddon-like Entities were programmed to pick up only some of the shards of killed Warrior- and Thinker-like Entities while forming, and to leave the rest to die when they run out of energy. Maybe this is even the reason why, according to Scion’s interlude, Abaddon was smaller than either the Warrior and the Thinker?

      1. By the way, isn’t it interesting that the Warrior and the Thinker, who are descended from a species that reproduced so quickly that it eventually pretty much covered its entire home planet, did not seem to reproduce as a part of their life cycle? I wonder if their reproduction still happened once per some number of cycles, and simply wasn’t mentioned in either Scion’s or Fortuna’s interludes, or if the twin Entities simply chose not to reproduce (for example to keep more of the multiverse’s resources to themselves), or were even no longer able to reproduce for some reason?

      2. Also it could be an attempt to force exponential growth of number of Entities. Instead of continuous voyage of pairs they should create new ones on each planet encounter. Despite smaller size they would won by numbers.
        Also Abaddon could have been pseudo-Entity weapon, aimed to kill all encountered Entities.
        I wonder which hypothesis better explains anti-Entity air-cannon…

  17. I wonder if Victoria honestly feels that Jessica has become so distant, because of what she saw in the shardspace, and how later their talk went in chapter 17.6 (especially the fact that Jessica implied that she doesn’t want Victoria to help her with what happened with Bonesaw)? Or is there something else at work here? Perhaps due to her long association with Taylor Jessica triggered with a stranger power which makes her her “cut” social “ties”? Might also be the reason why Jessica said that only Valkyrie, not Jessica herself, visits Bonesaw these days?

  18. One more idea about a therapists. Considering that Victoria agreed to visit Darnall later today, that Amy agreed to a therapy, that the sisters’ entire family is in the complex right now, that people keep telling Victoria that they will organize some therapist for Amy without actually revealing who it is going to be, AND that Victoria mentioned that there was a chance for a group therapy with her parents when she was in the asylum, perhaps Jessica and Darnall decided to spring a surprise confrontation with Amy on Victoria today (obviously in conditions that Victoria would be more comfortable with than what happened in the Shin prison – possibly with some way to ensure that it would be very difficult for Amy to use her power on Victoria), followed by a group therapy involving the entire family?

    1. Well, perhaps not a surprise confrontation in a sense that happened in arc 1, since at least Jessica knows perfectly well how this one went, but something like “Victoria, your sister is waiting next in the room door, and you can go with me to talk to her there. I think it would help both of you a lot. But you don’t have to if you feel you are not ready yet. Just know it is an option whenever she comes for her therapy session.”

      1. Jessica and Darnall are aware of Victoria’s homicidal fantasies towards Amy, so they won’t try such a thing.

  19. Just finished binge reading Worm and Ward and now, here I am.

    I fear for Victoria’s sanity. Also, I think the situation may result in her second trigger. Which is probably what the agent is aiming for.

  20. Wow. Wildbow, and I say this with all of my heart, thank you. Thank you so goddamn much for this absolutely WONDERFUL, BREATHTAKING, BEAUTIFUL piece of ART that you have gifted the world. The fact that your work is so underappreciated is almost a CRIME. Thank you for so many good chapters of this absolutely incredible piece of work. You truly inspire everybody with your work, and I am SO excited for the next installment. You had me at the edge of my seat every single chapter, and with the way this is going, I’m almost sick to y stomach in anticipation for the next chapter. I highly, HIGHLY doubt you could make me upset with the way this story is going. I pray for things to NOT go the way I hope, because the mind-shattering writing makes me QUAKE with excitement. I write this at one in the morning, with college classes lined up tomorrow morning, simply at AWE with your creative genius. I pray every day that people will read your work and be as awestruck as I am. I know you probably won’t even read this comment, with your busy life, but I just want to thank you with every fiber of my being. I’ve read Worm thrice and this sequel is quite legitimately everything I’ve been hoping for. Drama, creativity, action, style, beauty, savageness, sweetness, happiness, sadness, power, depravity, redemption, hilarity, power, and almost perfect iniquity. Thank you. Thank you for creating my favorite piece of media to ever come across my attention. Thank you for the time you put into this to pick regular old people like me out of a crowd and make them feel like they’re on a pedestal of righteousness. Thank you for Worm, Ward, Pact, Twig, and every piece of writing you see fit to belong in the hearts of every reader. The fact that you even write is a gift to humanity itself, and I say again, with all my heart, thank you. Thank you for sharing your deity-level work with the world. I hope you never lose your passion for writing as long as our passion for reading about your beautiful mind and creativity never dies, (which I honestly never see happening.) so please, PLEASE, take your time, and make this novel another life changing read. I’ll never forget the story of Taylor Hebert, or of Victoria Dallon, or Blake Thorburn, or even Sylvester. Again, and I can never say this enough, THANK YOU FOR FOR WHAT YOU DO! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

    -A devoted fan

  21. > By the way, isn’t it interesting that the Warrior and the Thinker, who are descended from a species that reproduced so quickly that it eventually pretty much covered its entire home planet, did not seem to reproduce as a part of their life cycle?

    They reproduced each time they blew up a planet. After their shards got fat from tormenting their hosts, they’d call them back to review the data, frolic a bit, then culminate their love-making in a world-rending explosion that would shatter them into a bunch of new entity-pairs each riding the blast into space in different directions.

  22. Radiation 18.1 Abridged

    Miss Militia: You’ve been naughty.

    Victoria: Well, you Wardens aren’t being very supportive.

    Miss Militia: Um, hello? We facilitated your booty call.

    Victoria: Point conceded.

    Miss Militia: Also, you hurt Defiant’s feelings, so you’re basically a Fallen at this point, and Eric’s probably going to be more successful than you.

    Victoria: Rude.

    Miss Militia: Trufax. But the good news is we’re that desperate, so whatevs. Just get your shit together.

    Victoria: On that note, mind if I go dig some fresh undies out of the rubble before this big meeting?

    Miss Militia: That would probably be for the best.

    * * *

    Kenzie: the moral of this story is i need to teach a bot to do decoy intrusions so dragon stays out of my business

    Simurgh: >:)

    Lord of Loss: Hey gurl! \._./ With all those wings I bet it didn’t hurt at all when you fell out of heaven! O:->D

    Simurgh: >:(

    Dauntless: >:[

    Kenzie: oh hey! it’s cool to see you guys but you’re in the wrong channel and no fighting!!!

    Simurgh: Sorry.

    1. Meanwhile Contessa is deep in thought.

      Sahara is too rocky, Rub’ al Khali too far inland… Where can a big girl like me find a decently sized beach for herself?

      1. What about Teacher?
        -Hey, people, I’m still locked in this car trunk. Don’t forget meeeeeeeeee ༼☯﹏☯༽

        1. What is this? A toy car? If I’m going to a beach I might as well take some toys with me. Only… I wonder if it is sturdy enough for me to play with it? Let’s test it by dropping it down the elevator shaft of that doll house over there!

            1. Meh. It is already damaged. Someone messed with its locks, and then hot-wired it. Not to mention that if it took seconds to steal it, it couldn’t be a very good car in the first place.

          1. This is horrible (,,Ծ‸Ծ,, ). Stop talking like this. Alfaryn, you don’t have a heart? That poor car…

  23. > Also I don’t see how therapy is going to fix Amy being a rapist monster, or Amy being Vickysexual.

    She’s obsessed, but she isn’t literally Vickysexual. Therapy isn’t magic, but neither is this particular problem. It’s fixable, and even if it wasn’t, therapy could still provide her with healthier coping mechanisms in order to mitigate the effect of the obsession on her behavior.

    As for being a rapist monster, therapy obviously can’t change the past, but it can influence the future. It’s not as reliable at preventing recidivism as a firing squad, but it has much better odds than leaving her to her own devices.

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