Last – 20.9

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The technology in my right eye winked out.  It was still highlighting random things, showing text, and countdowns I could no longer ascertain the meaning or relevance of, and it went dark, turning my eye into an ordinary eye.  If there was a light there, and I had no idea if there had been… there was nothing.

For a long, spine-chilling moment, I didn’t move a muscle or take a breath as I came to terms with the fact that that might be the world ending.

Medical monitors beeped, machines hissed, and at least one person was out of it and either didn’t care or didn’t know how much noise they were making.  Screams, grunts, and inarticulate cries.  People looked stressed and they had a thousand times a thousand reasons to look that way.

The area, at least, was well lit, although the brightness of the lights and the fact everything was white made my eyes hurt.  My head was pounding, even if my short sit-down with Jessica had let me recuperate enough I didn’t feel like even flying would make me pass out.

A crew of nurses made their way through the throng of people who were sitting in the waiting area.  Ten minutes had passed from my arrival, and I’d spent most of those ten minutes dwelling on the problem at hand.  The Wardens would be telling Dauntless and Fume Hood not to engage.  That gave us a short, short clock when it came to the Simurgh’s plan to end the world.

Around the time those ten minutes had passed, I’d stopped thinking about plans and counter-plans entirely.  I’d started watching the nurse that looked like he was going to get to me first, my full focus turned toward him, the checklist of questions he was asking, and the answers I’d give.  Could I make small talk?  What would I say?

If the world was really ending, could I make the interaction as pleasant as possible?

It was stupid, so minor, it didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.  But it kept my mind off of the raspy burr to each of my breaths, the pain, and more than any of that, the fact I didn’t really have any hope for the future.

If my estimation was right, then literally any moment now, the Simurgh would be merging with Fortuna.  If she’d miscalculated, then it could be a few minutes more.  If I’d lost track of time to a sufficient degree, then it could be already happening, the scream imminent.

And I was waiting in line, so to speak.  Sitting in a chair with a plasticky-white cover on the padding, elbow to elbow with the people to my left and right in matching chairs.

“Alright, miss?”

I turned my head- too quickly.  I winced as neck muscles pulled at my collarbone.

A female nurse, not the one I’d been anticipating.  The guy was stuck talking to someone elderly.  A refugee or a cape’s family.

“Antares, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” I said.  My voice had that same just-been-sick burr to it.

“What do you need?”

My hand was holding the washcloth-sized pad of cotton to my collarbone.  The cotton was stuck to blood, and pulled at my skin, which pulled at the bone.  I felt it grate and click, my expression changing to something like I was screaming, even though the air was locked in my throat.

A dribble of blood ran down from the pad’s edge to the heel of my hand, down to my sleeve.  It wasn’t like I didn’t already have a ton there.

“Okay.  Don’t remove that.  Come with me.”

“I think other people arrived before I did.  I don’t want special treatment.”

“It’s on a requirement basis.  That’s a clear break and serious blood loss.  Do you need help?  A chair?”

“I can fly.”

Technically, I knew that they were giving us triage.  I knew it wouldn’t be a first-come, first-serve basis.  At the same time, I was aware I didn’t have any friends.  The Wardens didn’t trust me after my altercations with Eric, non-Wardens had reasons to distrust me because they’d heard Chris’ filtered version of my plan.  Too many civilians were anti-parahumans.

On a level, I just wanted to minimize stress on as many fronts as possible.

I floated after the woman, who had ear decorations that threaded through holes in each ear- something that might have come from one of the cultures we ran into with all the interdimensional stuff.  She kept looking back to check on me, her eyes flicking down to my feet, as if to confirm to herself that I really was flying.  I didn’t run into that a lot.

The hallway had a u-curve, with sections separated by walls, privacy provided by curtains that slid out in front to form a fourth barrier.  People in Patrol uniforms stood guard here and there, keeping the peace.  Two of them were helping to carry a stretcher with a cape in heavy armor on it.

It all felt so surreal.

I’m sorry.  I really hope the Wardens have something.

My thoughts were jarred as I saw Marquis.  He glanced at me, saying nothing, before pushing a curtain aside just enough to step into the enclosure.

Was she here?

If there was a small peace to be found in the small kindnesses and smaller distractions, that possibility erased it, destroyed it.

“Doctor Close?” the nurse asked.  The doctor was in the center area, surrounded by nurses and papers that had been written on, not printed.

“Antares,” he said.  “I’ve seen you on television.”

“Oh no,” I said, deadpan in part because I was trying very hard not to provoke my injuries.

“I don’t take sides,” he said.  “That is a lot of blood right there.”

“There’s more,” I said.  “Hard to see with the black top on.”

He shined a light in my eyes, then at my mouth.  I opened it.

“Close,” he said.  I did.  He took my hands and looked at the fingertips.  Well, the ones he could see with the bandages.

“Lip color is okay.  Fingernails don’t suggest circulation problems.  Any confusion?”

“Thoughts are a bit rambly.”

“Dizziness?”

“Yep.”

“Sweating?”

“I just fought the Simurgh.  If I wasn’t drenched in cold sweat, that’d be the problem.”

“That’s a yes?”

“Yes.”

“Breathe deep?”

“I’d rather not.  My ribs are…”  Fractured?  Broken?  “Fucked.  Pretty fucked.  My collarbone’s really fucked.  Broken.  I’m not sure about the ribs.”

So much for that thinking I’d done earlier about talking to that nurse and being really concise, making everything easier.  It wasn’t just my thoughts that were rambling.

“Could be a fracture,” he said.

I peeled the pad of bandage away, as much as I could.  It helped I’d just done it a minute and a half ago.

Minute and a half.  The world is ending.  The Simurgh is winning.

“Oh,” he said, with enough surprise in his voice to bring me to the present.  I almost jumped, and the only reason I didn’t might have been that I was way too fucking tired.

“Oh?” I asked.

“Broken,” he said.

“That’s what I said,” I answered, my voice a whisper.

I wasn’t sure he heard, because he was preoccupied saying something to the nurse.  He looked back to me.  “Abdominal pain?  Chest pain?”

“My ribs are pretty fucked,” I reminded him, my tone tense.  I felt bad enough sitting in a hospital cubicle while the world was fucking ending, without him wasting time.

“Just running through ,” he said.  “I’d like to get this costume top off you, so we can get a better look at that.  Nurse?  If you could help miss- help Antares here with her costume.”

“I got it,” I said.

The nurse hesitated.

My forcefield peeled away from me, moving me as little as possible.  Forcefield hands brushed my hair off to the side, over my good shoulder, tugging it where blood made it stick to cloth or skin.  I began pulling it off in increments.

“I’ll give you a moment of privacy while I check things,” Doctor Close told me.  “Help her if she needs it, Leah.”

“Yes, doctor.”

Did I scare him?  I wondered.

I didn’t need it.  I debated tearing at the cloth, but, for one thing, I didn’t want to scare them, and for another, I wasn’t sure it was actually easier.  It was sticking to my body from armpit to waist.

Besides, I liked my costume, even if it was soaked in blood.

I let her hold my arms, gently raising and bracing them, holding them with a strength that didn’t let them waver or shake.  Handprints stood out against my skin.

“Do you have water?” I asked.  “And a cloth or paper towel?”

“We have bottled water.  Why?” nurse Leah asked.

“Please,” I said, my voice tense and my words curt because breathing was hard in this position, the breaks and fractures making every sound an effort.

She left, and I worked on extricating myself from my costume.  Forcefield hands removed the breastplate, setting it aside.

She returned with the water and a bit more of the cotton pad bandage.

With forcefield hands, I wet the cloth and used it to soak the parts of me where sweat didn’t reach but blood had.  It had clotted, and clung to tiny, translucent body hairs all down my back, until skin, costume, and clotted blood were inextricable.  The water helped.

Once I got past the small of my back and my stomach, it was easier.

My costume and the long-sleeved shirt I’d been wearing were inexorably bound together.  I put them to one side, folding them.

Nurse Leah touched the forcefield, and I stopped.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said.  She reached out tentatively, touching it again, a hand on a shoulder.

The Fragile One slipped out of her grip, moving up to the bed, sitting just behind and around me.  It was like I was the Wretch again, but only a part of me that was still shaped like ordinary two-arms, two-legs, one-headed Victoria was there.  The rest was invisible, invincible, and fragile.

“She’s out of your way now.”

“She?”

“Secret,” I said.  The Fragile One lifted the wet, scrunched-together cotton cloth to my lips, the fold in roughly the dimensions and length of a finger.

Not that secrets matter anymore.

“Bra off too.  I have a paper gown for you.”

The athletic bra hugged my upper body, and more blood had settled into it, adhering it to my body.  I was not looking forward to removing it.  It was one of my favorites, too, though two days of exertion had probably halved its lifetime.

I tore it off, the Fragile One applying gentle pressure to my body to approximate the light constriction of it before digging into it with fingernails, tearing the cloth.  Skin pulled and wet bandage helped with the tricky spots when it came to the stickiest bits of bloody cloth.

I had more that would be a nightmare.  I couldn’t really see with my current posture and my inability to turn my head without feeling like my collarbone was being broken all over again, but I was very aware that blood had run down my body to adhere costume bottoms to underwear and underwear to skin.

The nurse held the paper gown up against my front, and I had the Fragile One hold it there.  I didn’t put my arms through the sleeve and the nurse didn’t ask me to.  It was a pointless movement of my arms when every movement of my arms hurt and I’d need to take it off anyway.

“Antares?” the doctor asked.

“Yes.  You can come in.”

“I was just thinking, would you rather use your real name?  You don’t wear a mask.”

“Victoria, Ms. Dallon, Antares, whatever you want to call me,” I said.

He nodded.  He had a pad, and was writing things down.  He put it down, then bent down, investigating my ribs.

“Tell me if it hurts.”

“It hurts every damn time my heart beats, Doctor.”

He poked and prodded for a bit, then lifted his stethoscope.  “This’ll be cold.”

“Everything’s cold, Doctor.”

“That’s a concern when our most immediate concern is blood loss and-or internal bleeding,” he said.

“I mean, it’s winter, I’m not wearing a top, this building facility has holes in it you could fly an Endbringer or Dragon mech through…”

“I didn’t know about the holes,” he said.  He pressed the stethoscope to my chest.  It was cold.  He touched my wrist, then my hand.  “Your body temperature’s a bit low, even with all of that.”

If nothing else, I appreciated being in this hospital room because it was distracting me.  I could focus on the little things, like keeping the rest of my blood in, not passing out, how to articulate the damage to my ribs, and how to gently remove articles of clothing using alien engines of chaos and conflict.

Fuck.  I’d choose to feel like this for the rest of my life, broken collarbone, every breath sparking a thought-disturbing bit of pain, cold and sticky, if only it meant I didn’t have to feel the heartbreak.

I would have forgone any fixes at all, let these wounds stay open, if only someone from somewhere else in the facility would walk in and say there was a plan.

“Do you happen to know your blood type off the top of your head?” Doctor Close asked me, as he jotted some things down.

“B negative.”

“We’re going to get you some,” he said, without looking up.

“Disrupts powers, doesn’t it?” I asked him.  “Temporarily.”

“I was about to mention that.  No guarantees, but there’s a small chance you won’t be able to do that trick with the… what’s that?  Telekinesis?”

“Basically,” I said.  “I’d like to keep my powers available, just in case.”

Just in case.

“You won’t have anything if you go into hypovolemic shock.  Can I get you to lie down?  The nurse can assist.”

“I fly.  I can.”

I made the transition to lie flat on my back.  The Fragile One held the paper gown up against my front.

“Leah, a blanket, if you please.  I think they just brought more in.”

“On it, doctor.”

It was harder to breathe while lying down.  I let the doctor putter around, preparing the space for things to come.  My flight kept me from pressing down too hard on the bed.

A distant screech built up in volume.  Horror gripped me, lingering even as I processed it as hospital equipment or someone’s power.  Not the Simurgh’s scream.

I winced, because the sound had induced a bit of panic, and the panic came with heavier, faster breathing.  My hand gripped the edge of the bed.

“We’ll need you to sign a consent form,” he told me.  In the wake of the noise, it hit me harder.  I shivered.

The blood transfusion- if I said yes to it, I was effectively surrendering.  Saying there was nothing more.  My fight was done, no powers, no nothing.

“Knock knock.”

Ugh, fuck.  Was this a bad thing?  A good thing?

“Can I come in?”

The doctor looked at me.  “A friend?”

I didn’t know how to answer that.

“I’m topless, except for a bit of paper, I don’t know if you care about that,” I said, raising my voice.

“I was a warlord, I’ve cut throats, had my throat cut, I’ve shot people,” Tattletale said, as she let herself in.  “I really don’t care about your boobs.”

I rolled my eyes.  I wanted to move my head too, but that wasn’t an option.

“Are you here for a particular reason, Tattletale?” I asked.

“Chastity.  She got a good knock to the noggin.  Cassie’s fretting and Rachel needed to be told it’d be better if she stepped away instead of getting cranky about it.  I saw Marquis and a certain someone take their leave, realized you were here.”

“Mm.  My neck and side hurt like fuck, did you think I need a pointed pain in my ass instead?  You don’t have to.”

“Nah, hon.  Just checking in.  You did your ‘brute destroy, grr argh’ thing, you apparently forgot you’re supposed to be invincible, now your job is done.  Mine is ongoing.”

“Gathering info.”

“I just told you I was a warlord.  I’m still managing, administrating, moving key pieces around.”

“Rah rah,” I said.

“So I’ll get right to it,” she told me.  “A lot of the pieces are running around very upset and concerned about something that apparently started with you.”

“Uh huh.  That.”

“I want to play a little game, Vicky.  If I say black, you say…”

“White?” I ventured.

“Yeah,” she said, like it was the most profound thing ever.

“Can I kick her out?” I asked nurse Leah, who had just made her way inside, navigated around Tattletale, and who was now draping a weighted, warm blanket over my legs.

“You could.”

“Listen,” Tattletale said.  “That’s the way it’s supposed to be.  I say black, you say white, I say let’s literally nail Teacher’s ass to a wall, and you’re supposed to say that’s wrong, I’m a bad person for using cruel and unusual punishment.”

“Do you want her to leave?” the nurse asked me.

“I’m really tempted.”

“Except you went and came up with a punishment way worse than putting a tire around someone’s neck and setting it on fire.”

“You never did that.”

“Exactly my point!  You’re making me look too good, with your indefinite, jury-less detention, and now I hear you were apparently planning on mass murder?”

The nurse gave me a look, and it wasn’t her checking if I wanted Tattletale to leave.  One line from Tattletale, and the nurse was wary, not entirely on my side anymore.

“Can you give us a minute?” I asked.

The doctor and nurse made their exit.

In the background, I heard someone grunting and screaming.  There was a clatter.

“It’s more than just that,” I told Tattletale.  “Cryptid gave a pretty trite, one-line explanation.  There were contingencies, plans, post-plans.”

“Oh I know,” Tattletale said.  “Which is part of the reason I’m here, checking.  You had teammates going along with it, including a goody-two-shoes like Sveta and a kid who’s got a lot to redeem himself over.  The Wardens were entertaining it, despite the fact you’re not in their good books.”

“I’m okay in their good books, I think.”

“You’re not in their best books.”

“Conceded,” I grunted.

“So there’s more to it,” Tattletale said.

“It was a last-ditch effort.  Riley, Bonesaw, thought it would work.  So did Cryptid.  We send capes to fight Endbringers knowing that a good proportion will die.  We have to send a certain number or they win and we lose something fundamental.”

“Sure,” Tattletale said.

“Now we’ve got forces worse and stronger than a single Endbringer lined up.  It requires us to commit more, with a higher proportion of death.”

“One hundred percent.”

“Maybe,” I said.  I used flight to get to a sitting position, holding the paper dress in front of me and the bandage to my shoulder.  “Does it matter?  We don’t have what we need.  The Simurgh got out ahead of us.”

“It matters to me,” Tattletale said.  “I’ve tolerated a lot, spending time with you, helping out your teammate…”

I laughed, one note, then winced with pain.

“…But I have to draw the line here,” Tattletale said.  “I lost someone important to me because she wanted to make a stupid, grand gesture at the end.  She made the gesture without communicating with anyone… except your sister.  Then she carried it out.  You, I hate to break it to you, aren’t important to me.”

“Good.  I’m glad.”

“But I have no tolerance for this shit.  Zero.”

“The Wardens knew.  My teammates knew.  Lookout excepted.  The plan was to ask every single cape out there if they’d oblige us.  Maybe we’d force the problem elements.  The ones we’d sign off on executing anyway, I mean.”

“The monsters.”

“And… whatever.  Yeah.  The effect would be passed from cape to cape by contact.  But it required that handshake.  I think Cryptid thought it wasn’t worth it.  That we’d get halfway and fail because people wouldn’t take the risk, wouldn’t make the sacrifice.”

“I have teammates who would have taken your offer.  I don’t think I can be okay with that.”

“I am fucking open to better ideas, anything,” I told her.  “But I’m worried the Wardens’ contingency plans won’t work-”

“They aren’t.”

“They…”

“Sleeper has been baited in.  No luck.  Saint had a trick up his sleeve when it came to dealing with A.I., in case his big red button for dealing with Dragon didn’t work.  He’s trying it on the machine army.”

“And?”

“And nothing.  There’s talk of Dragon cooperating with him.”

I shivered.  I wanted to wrap myself in the blanket and I was pretty sure my bones couldn’t bear the weight of it.  My arms were limp to my side.  Forcefield fingers were running through my hair, combing it, and I didn’t remember doing that.  They were sharp, scraping my scalp without cutting it.

Tattetale took a seat on a side table, her arms folded.  “The Wardens aren’t a force for change, Victoria.  The PRT, aside from its initial revolution and moves, back in Bet, it wasn’t a force for change.  They’re all about the status quo.  The bigger they get, the more they have to hold back.  They’re too used to holding back.  They don’t have that frame of mind to make the big leaps.  At most they prolong the inevitable.”

“That’s a little uncharitable.”

“I’ll give them their due.  They’re doing their damndest.”

“We’re out of time, Tattletale,” I said, quiet.  “What they’re doing isn’t working, and you’re here, trying to vet my plan.”

“Trying to fathom it, when it’s the one action you could take that’s furthest from my ability to understanding.  It’s reckless.”

“It is, a bit.”

“There’s nothing noble about putting lives on the line, Victoria.  It’s even less noble when thousands do it.”

“You say that even when… you knew Khepri?” I asked her.

“No comment.”

“Do you have anyone you care about?” I asked her.  “That you’d make a sacrifice for?”

“Most of the people I care about to that degree are people with powers, and they’d be getting the touch of death.”

“It would be a dreaming death,” I said.  “Slow but inevitable.  Gotta pollute the cycle.  It’s critical that it take a little while.  Makes the rest of it easier.”

“Uh huh.”

“You said ‘most’, when you said most were capes.  Are there any that aren’t?”

“One person who doesn’t have powers, who’s far, far away right now,” she said.  “You haven’t really convinced me.”

“I haven’t exactly been trying.  I’m a little dizzy, I’m supposed to get blood, even though it might muck with my powers and screw up my newfound relationship with this girl here…”

I touched the side of the Fragile One’s face.

Tattletale leaned to one side, peering past the gap in the curtain.

“I dunno,” I said.  “I’ve been outlining it.  That’s all.  There’s more to it.  Steps, stages.”

“What would you say, if you wanted to convince me?”

“Is there a point, Tattletale?  If that’s where you draw your personal line in the sand, given your past experiences, I’m not going to fight you on that.  The feelings are valid and I think we’d only fuck up our fragile truce here if I tried.”

“Not my past experiences.  Current experience,” she said, meeting my eyes.  “As a person left behind.”

“Sure,” I said.  I shivered again.

“There’s a way,” she said.

I stared at her.  The goosebumps that crawled up my arms had nothing to do with the chill.

“Tell me,” I told her.

“No.”

Tell me,” I told her, again, rising to an upright position, my toes a half-inch off the floor.  I used my aura, pushing at her.  Big.

All throughout the hospital complex, conversations stopped.  Everything went quiet.

Tattletale stood strong.  “You haven’t convinced me.  You’d take Rachel from me?  Grue?  Again?  Imp?  Chicken fucking Little?  The Heartbroken kids?”

“Potentially.  People will die no matter what happens, Tattletale.  It’s a question of whether it’s one hundred percent or sixty or twenty five percent.  If we do nothing it’s one hundred percent.”

“If we do nothing the Simurgh might win.  We live.”

“We won’t be us and you fucking know it, Tattletale,” I told her.

She was silent.  There wasn’t a hint of a grin on her face.

“You’d rather die,” I said.  “Than see people you love die.”

“My life is defined by regrets,” she said.  “And I don’t know if I’m that different from Cryptid.  I don’t trust the people who are pushing for status quo, and when people are taken from you… it’s not noble or good or pretty.  There’s no heroism to fighting cancer or hurling yourself against an Endbringer and hoping it goes away.”

I thought of Dean.  Of thoughts I’d had not long after losing him.

“It’s just an ending,” Tattletale said.

“You could go, in place of Imp, or in place of Chicken Little.”

“What number are we trying to reach, then?” Tattletale asked me.  “You didn’t sound sure about how many would need to die.”

“I’m absolutely not.”

Someone moved on the other side of the curtain.  Tattletale flicked at the curtain itself, reached out with a hand, as if to tell someone to stop.  People reacting to the aura.

She clenched the outstretched hand, then brought it down to her side, balled into a fist.  “Then how many, Victoria?  How many people do we need to convince in a painfully short period of time?  What’s the point I can say we’ve met the threshold, I can trick Imp into staying home?  Or trick Chicken Little?”

She looked so sad, like she was about to cry.  I hadn’t seen Tattletale like that, but it felt more like her than any other conversation I’d ever had with her.

“Enough,” I said.

“Insufficient.”

“It’s the way it’s always been.  Against Endbringers.  Against Scion.  The more the better, and if we don’t get enough, then everyone loses.”

“Vista doesn’t get her knight in shining armor, and Capricorn doesn’t get to blow off years of pent up steam with Vista.”

“It’s not about that.  He’s not about that.”

“If you go, then you’ll break Capricorn’s parents hearts again.  How about that?  You’re leaving Lookout alone or you’re asking that poor kid to die alone despite the fact that it’s her worst fear.  You’re asking Precipice to end his journey unfinished.  Sveta never gets to be a human for a prolonged period, doesn’t get normal dorky dates with a creative boyfriend.”

“You’re using your power to get details.  That’s low.”

“Of course I fucking am, Antares.  I’ve been working my ass off to save those people.  I’ve gone without sleep, I’ve had migraines every third fucking day.  So if you want to convince me, you’ve got to tell me it’s somehow worth it to end every single one of those people’s stories where they currently are.  Miserably unfinished.”

I raised my good arm, then let it fall.  “That’s… not an argument.”

“It’s an argument you don’t like.”

“It’s… if it comes to that?  Any one of those people?  Those bad endings?  I think we’re willing to do it for their own reasons.”

“We are,” Sveta said, from beyond the curtain.

She slipped through.  Her tendrils were writhing.  I saw a glimpse of Rain on the other side.  Grue, too, his back to the curtain.

“A story half-finished is better than no story at all,” Sveta said.  “If we die, there’s nothing.  No legacy, nobody to remember or carry on sentiments.  There’s no point to it all.”

“There are so many other people out there with their own lives,” I told Tattletale.  “Civilians.  Jerks.  Capes who ran from these battlefields.  It’s basic fucking empathy to not want to end their stories either.  The world doesn’t start and finish with the people you know.”

I heard a sound, a deep voice.  Brian, murmuring words that sounded agreeable, though I couldn’t make them out.

“This world isn’t worth keeping if they’re not in it,” Tattletale said.

“That’s a big if and you know it,” I said.  “I don’t know if you’re disagreeing on principle, given your past-”

“A horrible, slow nightmare filled death for thousands?  That may be pointless?  That’s not principles,” Tattletale said.

“I think we let people choose,” I told Tattletale.  “I think we give them the information, we let them choose.  If we don’t end up getting enough… they’re just getting a head start.  I think you know that we should, and that’s why you’re standing here arguing with me, wanting me to say words that make this easier or simpler.  Or wanting me to force you to tell me, so you’re absolved.”

I knew, telling her, that there was a chance she’d realize and walk away, or hit a wall, or anything.  When using my aura to evoke an emotion, I knew there was a chance that a certain person’s lens for viewing the world would alter the response.  I could give a man fear and get anger in response.

Words were the same.

I watched as Tattletale took in that information through her particular lens.

I watched her turn, pushing aside the curtain with more force than was necessary, giving people a view of me wounded and unarmored, before Sveta closed the curtain.

“You have a call,” Tattletale’s voice came from the other side of the curtain.  “That communication with Fortuna you were planning.  Lookout’s handling the technical side.  You know where she is.  You’ll want Precipice with, since he’s the one that got through to her in the first place.  It might help.”

That wasn’t an answer, that wasn’t-

“If you need to get Riley or her stuff to a place you can use her, there are non-cape ways.  Several.”

I picked up my blood-crusty costume top with the Fragile One, pulling it on, the rush of realization providing a dizzying rush that threatened to make me pass out at the same time it dulled the edge of the pain.

Sveta followed, with Rain jogging along.

Semiramis was out there, with Tattletale.  As Tattletale gestured in my direction, I felt my collarbone pop.  My costume shed crusty blood.

My first thought was that it was a trap, that she was rewinding my memories as well, in a final action of regret.  But I didn’t feel anything slipping away.  I felt better, as the worst of my wounds were targeted.  Undoing what had been done.  Giving me just a bit more strength, a bit more of what I needed.

Which fit.  Outreach, possibly final, from Tattletale.  It served as a push forward, and recognition that she understood, even though she’d never be able to use words to voice it.

“Fortuna.  I’m… I’m hoping it’s the person that hears me.  Not the Titan.”

“If you have any fight left, I need it now.  I need you.  You can tell your agent we’ll give them Fume Hood and Dauntless.  They’ll know we’re telling the truth.”

“I need your help, and the help of the Titans you’re linked to.  Pouffe, Valkyrie.  One person to one place.  You should be able to defeat the Simurgh, and all the pieces fall into place just as they want them.”

“Please.    Thank you.”

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46 thoughts on “Last – 20.9”

  1. Typo Thread:

    plasticky- white (extra space)
    A chair?” (extra space)
    me feet > my feet
    shoulder tugging > shoulder, tugging
    threshold, I > threshold, and I
    blow off years of (extra space)

    I know Wildbow has said that dreams would be the one thing the entities take from this cycle, but I wouldn’t mind them taking politeness.

  2. -Finally, Victoria is getting proper medical care. It was the time.

    -Victoria sees Fragile One as a person now. She even called her “she”. Aww, so sweet.

    -“I was a warlord, I’ve cut throats, had my throat cut, I’ve shot people,” Tattletale said, as she let herself in. “I really don’t care about your boobs” MY NEW FAVORITE TATTLETALE’S QUOTE. SO MUCH YES!

    -Aww, Tattletale doesn’s want to lose more people important in her life. Poor girl.

    -I love my poor girl Tattle. She is so right in everything she said. Yes, there should be better solutions than genocide.

    -Hope that human Contessa will understand Victoria and will help. A little hope in such dark times is always needed.

    1. That was my first thought, which would confirm that TT is fully aware that Taylor is alive and where she is. Charlotte and Sierra are the only others that COULD fit that description, presuming she got one or both of them far away, but “far away” feels more like Taylor.

  3. That wasn’t Antares convincing Tattletale… that was Antares convincing everyone. Tats had Lookout turn off Antares eye so she wouldn’t see that they were recording this interaction and it will be publicly displayed. That’s how they get the volunteers. Poor Rachel and imp. If they have to live through this after losing taylor n true n now losing tats n true again….

  4. “grr argh”
    Mutant Enemy! That explains a lot :p

    So, it’s all coming together. Lots of very meta discussion about cutting stories short.

  5. – So they DID do the JRPG thing where the party all line up in front of someone and try to convince them of something with the power of friendship. But instead of beeing cheesey it was desperate and horrible.
    Man, Victoria’s plan is bad. About all that can be said in its favour is that it’s better than the Simurgh’s…

    – Also, yeah, Tattletale MIGHT have been talking about Taylor? Khepri is exactly who you’d need if you were going to make everyone do something as crazy as ‘cape genocide’, but she could have been just toying with the idea…
    Or WibbleBarf just put that mention in as a fan-service aside to keep people guessing.

  6. I loved this chapter. It was so…human? The reference, I’m assuming like others have, that Tattletale’s one unpowered, “far away”, would be Taylor (and the fact Lisa knew her best friend was alive, when the rest of the world did not, the whole time? Awesome but should have been obvious, as there are no secrets from Tattletale. Good job sneaking in a twist)…brought finality and a circular connection to the whole series for me. “The plan” now has more legitimacy, being by consent, and in turn makes it more heroic.
    Heroes sacrifice, it’s what they do. “The plan” epitomizes everything about heroes when the chips are down, when EVERYONE is on the line? Then the heroes step up, whether they used to identify as hero, villain of rogue. It is so much better, cleaner, and more true to the characters when they get to choose sacrifice, than to have what they would have been willing to do thrust upon them. I should have known that you had a plan to make it heroic instead of underhanded.
    Wildbow, you are a master at your craft. I am forever going to be a fan. I will read anything you write, but something about this series really connected with me. I’ve read thousands of books, and after starting Worm way back when, I dug into the Superhero book genre pretty heavily, about 100 novels of this subtype, and yours are truly my favorite. My biggest and only complaint is always the same thing, and being stuck inside so much more now due to Covid 19, just strengthens my one complaint. Having to wait so DAMN long for the next chapter.

  7. A lot of people are worried that for a story about overcoming trauma it’s gonna end by pulling the rug and saying “nah some people can’t overcome their problems and suicide is an acceptable option.”

  8. I do not understand how consent should factor when the threat is existential. When the total extinction of the human race is a guarantee, there is only one line to be drawn, and it is that the amount of people left after your victory is enough to repopulate. Everything else matters so very little.
    I don’t understand why Khepri gets so much flak in her case (though she assumed direct control of everyone, she was parcimonious) and why Antares needs consent.
    The shape of what remains (culture, law, political structure etc.) matters very little compared to the fact that SOMETHING remains, in my opinion. I’m not trying to be profound or trolling, but I honestly don’t understand why people disagree with both protagonists here.

    1. Consent is important for a lot of people even in the matters of life and death. People should choose if they want to live or not (and some people want to live- Chris, despite everything they’ll probably endure. I don’t judge Chris because he wanted to live, I judged him because he betrayed Victoria’s trust, he backstabbed her when she needed him the most. Well, he was partially under the Simutgh’s influence but still he acted like an ass). While I agree that Victoria’s initial plan- genocide- was better than eternal suffering, I agree with Lisa, that people’s consent should matter, even in this situation. If they want to die for a noble cause, is good, if they don’t want, it’s up to them. Nobody should play the role of a god and take decisions in other people’s place. I appreciate Victoria’s good intentions but Lisa and even Chris are right when they said that she went too far taking decisions in other people’s place. Why GM survivors hate and are afraid of Taylor? Because she used humans as her pawns in her war against Scion, without demanding their consent. Lack of consent is not acceptable by many, whatever we’re talking about reality or fiction.
      I’m kind of glad that Victoria’s genocide plan failed (even if it was a pretty good idea, yeah) but I like better this new plan.

  9. Okay, so perhaps a dumb question:
    How is this going to work?

    What I mean is…. okay, imagine a scientist, trying to do the science… and then the hamsters burn down the lab notes.
    They aren’t going to go “Fuck, no data, I guess the hamsters are in charge now.”
    They are going to go “Welp, THAT experiment didn’t damn well work. Better hop in my truck and go do science else where. Hope the next experiment works better.”

    It’s not like burning down the data prevents Fortuna Titans desire to go do science, it just ruins her CURRENT experiment. Unless they are going to damage the powers themselves (the lab equipment?) then I’m not really sure why this would be expected to do a thing.

    1. Basically you can’t cleanly separate the shards from the data the shards have- using the metaphor, its destroying the notes and the equipment, but also poisoning the scientist and chewing up the wiring in their truck.

  10. “You’d rather die,” I said. “Than see people you love die.”
    I see Taylor was a good influence on Lisa in the end…even if she made her a little hypocritical.

    Also, Wildbow’s getting so blunt in this chapter and I love it.

  11. “We’ll need you to sign a consent form,” he told me.

    The world may be on the brink of ending, but bureaucracy is eternal.

    I do not understand how consent should factor when the threat is existential.

    It’s because people are irrational. Victoria could ask Riley to come up with a genocide method that doesn’t require consent, but would Riley actually do it? And if she did, would they be able to actually implement the plan without some bleeding-heart chucklefuck like Sveta derailing it? Even Tattletale was barely willing to go along with the consensual version of the plan. If Victoria tried for forced genocide because it’s the “rational” thing to do, Tatts would have found out, as would any number of other high-end thinkers among the Wardens. Someone would have rallied a posse and tried to put a stop to it.

    A rational plan must account for reality as it is, not as you wish it to be, and the reality is that irrational people exist. You can ensure your plan will work in the face of irrational bozos, or you can fail. A plan that seems suboptimal but actually works is a better plan than an “optimal” one that nobody will allow you to implement.

    I’m kind of glad that Victoria’s genocide plan failed (even if it was a pretty good idea, yeah) but I like better this new plan.

    I think you misread something. The only parts of the plan that changed are that they’re now having Riley build it herself and asking Fortuna to handle transport rather than having Chris build it locally under Riley’s guidance. The consent bit is not new; it was always part of the plan. It just wasn’t mentioned until now because Wildbow wanted some extra tension in the story.

    1. Well, as long as people give their consent to die then I don’t have anything against this plan (even if I’m still not happy to see all my favorite characters commit mass suicide like this) and I don’t think that asking for consent is irrational, even in situations like this one. Consent should matter more than anything, it’s people choice if they want to live or not, you don’t get to decide in their place because you like to see yourself as a savior of humanity. If Victoria have everyone’s consent then I’m ok. If not and she still go with her plan, then she’s nothing but a murderer, as Chris said she’s. Luckily for her, people agreed with her plan.
      Yes, you’re right, Victoria is still obsessed with her genocide plan but she only changed the tactics. Instead of Chris, she’s asking for Contessa’s help, instead of forcing people to go with her plan, she’s asking for their consent (no, I don’t think that consent was always a part of the plan. Victoria only asked for consent AFTER Chris told everyone about her plan). But the question remains…will she still have time to execute her plan? The clock is ticking.

  12. Consider a scenario in which the plan works, or is on the brink of working, and Amy steps up and can’t let it happen…

  13. That will be annoying but also hilarious if Amy (of all people) will not agree with Victoria plan and will try to stop it. But I think that Victoria will kill her if she’ll dare to try to stop her.

  14. If Simurgh succeeds it would take away ability of all humans to consent to anything. Is it okay to violate consent of some, in order to preserve the very concept of consent? We accept a certain level of violation of consent in our society – nobody is in prison, because they consent to it. It is more of a line – behind it is consent violation, that is needed for society to function, beyond it violations that turn to tyranny and evil. So, where would the line be, if we are talking not just about all living humans, but also all humans that would ever be born and limits of what humanity can ever be and achieve?

    1. I don’t want to say that you’re more or less right- it’s your opinion, after all and is not my right to dictate how you should think or feel about something. I just want to ask you if you’ll be perfectly fine if someone else will decide that you should die -or the people you know should die- without asking for your consent, so the other people (people that you probably don’t even know) can live? Will you be ok if someone else will take this decision in your place without even waiting for your opinion? This is the moral wrongness of Victoria’s decision. Not because she decided that genocide is a good idea but because she took this decision without anyone (except for her team) consent. Now (because of Chris; I still see him as nothing but a nihilistic jerk but this jerk is kind of right in his own selfish way), she can’t do anything without consent.
      If you want to fight against a monster like the Simurgh don’t use her own weapons because you’ll end up becoming another monster. Use your own weapons.

  15. (no, I don’t think that consent was always a part of the plan. Victoria only asked for consent AFTER Chris told everyone about her plan)

    Lulu, she explicitly said it was always part of the plan:

    “The Wardens knew. My teammates knew. Lookout excepted. The plan was to ask every single cape out there if they’d oblige us. Maybe we’d force the problem elements. The ones we’d sign off on executing anyway, I mean.”

    Keep in mind that they’re not building a device that will just magically kill everybody once complete. It sounds more like a disease, where transmission of the effect will require direct physical contact with an infected individual. Where consent factors in is whether a given cape allows that contact. Basically she’s going to infect herself and some others, then they’ll go around asking capes if they want the infection as well. If they agree to it, they shake hands and transfer the infection, then both go separate ways to find more volunteers. So of course we haven’t seen her asking for consent yet; the “disease” isn’t finished and ready to be distributed.

    1. So, her plan is basically creating a cape killing disease. This is worse than a weapon of mass destruction, I’m not sure I will agree with this plan anymore (we already have troubles with a real life contagious disease taking so many lives, I don’t want to read about a fictional disease too). It is wrong if I kind of want for her plan to fail now? (besides, she said that she needs a second biotinker. Riley isn’t enough this is why she send Sveta to look after a biotinker. Well, if Contessa will help then she doesn’t need the second biotinker but…it is wrong if I want Contessa’s answer to be: I can’t help, you need a better plan? Sorry, but the currently real life is ugly enough for Ward to finish in the same way :(.

      1. They only needed a second biotinker to get the bio agent to the ward HQ in time. Riley can make it herself, and she’s doing just that right now, after Chris didn’t make it. Chris was only making it under Riley’s guidance because they couldn’t get to enough people in time from where Riley was.

        Now they’re contacting Fortuna to make a deal that if she gets Riley to them then they’ll help her fight off the Simurgh.

        It’s less a cape killing disease than it is a cape killing self-sacrifice or euthanasia method. People choose to make the sacrifice or not, knowing that refusal by enough people will mean complete destruction of them anyway, this Earth, every other Earth, every person they know or don’t know and every other living creature across all of those worlds. Some capes might prefer it all die with them, some might take the chance that enough others will self sacrifice that it’ll save the world and they still live, but if enough self sacrifice then Victoria’s hope is that it’ll save everything else.

        … Unless there’s a world advanced enough to have people living on Mars. Martians would be fine.

        It’s a last resort plan after all “better plans” have been used and failed. Victoria asked about the other plans and Tattletale said they’d already failed.

        I suspect they WILL gain some new option for a better plan OR something else will occur to make the ending somewhat less morbid than so many capes simply having prolonged, nightmarish deaths… But Worm didn’t exactly end on a happy note of everything turning out for a completely bright future, so I’d expect the basics of continued perseverance to survive in the face of adversity.

  16. And… whatever. Yeah. The effect would be passed from cape to cape by contact. But it required that handshake.

    PSA from Fortuna: Handshakes kill. Practice social distancing, people!

    1. I think I’ll laugh if this will be Contessa/Fortuna answer to Victoria’s request. Despite the grim situation, this answer will be total hilarious (still a very bad timing).

  17. I just want to ask you if you’ll be perfectly fine if someone else will decide that you should die -or the people you know should die- without asking for your consent, so the other people (people that you probably don’t even know) can live? Will you be ok if someone else will take this decision in your place without even waiting for your opinion?

    If you’re facing a situation where not killing me results in billions of innocent people dying, and killing me is the only way to save those billions of people, then yes, I would be totally fine with it. Because I’m not a fucking selfish asshole who thinks their life is billions of times more valuable than average.

    Meanwhile, if somebody else is so selfish that they think their own life is worth billions of other lives, then that person is too shitty for me to care whether they consent. Someone who’d allow billions to die just to save their own hide is a monster worse than any rapist or serial killer. So, either the person in question is good and consents, or they don’t consent and are therefor sufficiently evil to kill without their consent.

    That’s not to say that I’d be fine with you killing me to save just one or two other people. If two people I don’t know are dying of kidney failure and the only way to save them is to harvest both my kidneys, I’m likely to refuse. I’m at least a little bit selfish. I don’t know where exactly my limit is, but it’s somewhere between two strangers and a thousand, and it moves around depending on the particulars of a scenario. So in most real-life situations, it turns out the answer is: no, get consent.

    What Victoria’s dealing with is not a normal real-life situation. She’s in a situation where the lives of a few thousand people could save trillions of people and four billion years of their descendants from slavery and torture. Assuming her plan is the only viable way to save everyone, that’s well beyond the threshold where consent is implicit. At that point, consent only matters for the sake of politeness and avoiding friction and panic.

    (But yeah, I also hope that they find a different solution. My guess, though, is that they’re going to go through with it but rather than properly dying they’ll end up living on in some capacity within Shardspace.)

    1. I don’t think someone is an explicit “Monster” because they don’t want to die for the sake of billions. It’s completely normal human and animal behaviour to want to live. Now SACRIFICING billions or trillions to save your own hide is certainly monstrous. But while it’s human to have compassion for others to the extent you’d give your own life to save theirs, it’s also perfectly human to be afraid to die a slow death of nightmares.

  18. @ ninegardens:
    ‘What I mean is…. okay, imagine a scientist, trying to do the science… and then the hamsters burn down the lab notes.
    They aren’t going to go “Fuck, no data, I guess the hamsters are in charge now.”
    They are going to go “Welp, THAT experiment didn’t damn well work. Better hop in my truck and go do science else where. Hope the next experiment works better.” ‘

    The thing is, the scientists are long dead; they were Scion and Eden. The experiment is just running itself now, on autopilot, and has been getting things wrong from the start of Ward (broken triggers etc).
    The closest thing it’s got to anyone in charge is Ziz, who wants to put the experiment into a holding pattern until some new Entities come along.
    The hamsters CAN wreck the experiment; they’re just fighting the corrupted process (Titan Fortuna) and the Automated Lab Assistant (the Simurgh).

  19. Pizzasgood, let’s say that 90% of capes will give their consent. But, in order for this plan to work properly and Simurgh to abandon her mission to enslave humanity, I think that all capes should express their consent to die, including the 10% left. The problem is that Chris, Damsel of Distress, most of the selfish villains we heard about (Teacher, Mama Mathers) and probably other capes we haven’t heard about will not agree to die for a better cause. If only 90% capes (and this is the most optimistic prediction because most of people are selfish in general) will agree to die and 10% will survive, will be enough for the Simurgh to abandon her plans or she’ll still torture the humanity because the rest of 10% capes are still alive? We can see Vic’s plan as a failure if not everyone will agree?
    Yes, will be ideal if they’ll not really die, but continue to live in Shardspace, while the Simurgh will believe them to be dead and will leave the world alone. Still a bittersweet ending, yes, but a better ending than “look, all your favorite capes died because of a contagious disease affecting their Corona”.

  20. If only 90% capes (and this is the most optimistic prediction because most of people are selfish in general) will agree to die and 10% will survive, will be enough for the Simurgh to abandon her plans or she’ll still torture the humanity because the rest of 10% capes are still alive?

    It’s Fortuna they’re trying to stop via genocide, not the Simurgh. First they’re going to use Fortuna to stop the Simurgh, then use genocide to hopefully stop Fortuna from blowing up the planet. But the catch is that they’re only willing to help Fortuna beat the Simurgh if they have a reasonable chance of stopping Fortuna. If they don’t think they can pull off the genocide plan, they’d rather let the Simurgh win so that at least there’s a teeny tiny chance that somehow the Simurgh might be defeated later. That’s why the Titan Team Up plan was shelved after Chris sabotaged Plan Genocide, until Tattletale gave them the hint they needed to make it viable again.

    As to your question, I don’t know what percentage will be enough to stop Fortuna. That’s why that other guy was saying they shouldn’t be asking for consent and should just force the issue to get as close to 100% as possible. Though as I said before, then the issue becomes whether they could actually get away with trying that. I think the consensual genocide plan has better odds of reaching whatever threshold they actually need than a non-consensual plan would have.

    On the plus side, much of the resistance to the genocide plan is based on the alternative being continuing to fight the Simurgh after she defeats Fortuna. The equation changes once Kronos and Eve join Fortuna’s network and defeat the Simurgh, because at that point death is guaranteed. Either you accept the genocide and die to hopefully save the rest of humanity, or you decline the genocide and die anyway when Fortuna blows up the planet forty minutes later. Achieving a high percentage becomes much easier in that situation, though there would definitely be people who’d gamble that a high enough percentage will be achieved without them so they can personally just opt out and survive on the corpses of those who do sacrifice themselves, potentially dooming everyone when they don’t actually achieve that percentage.

    And now that I think about it, you could definitely point at helping Fortuna beat the Simurgh as a manipulative part of Victoria’s plan where she’s taking away the option for people to choose to live under the Simurgh and forcing them to choose between death or death. This part of the plan doesn’t involve anyone’s consent beyond the Wardens and anyone else directly involved in getting Eve and Kronos to connect with Fortuna. Gonna suck if they end up in that situation and then Victoria’s plan fails anyway. On the other hand, choosing Fortuna over the Simurgh is arguably a mercy killing compared to letting the Simurgh torture everyone for billions of years. 😐

    Here’s a slice of hope: when Kronos and Eve join Fortuna, they might sway her away from detonating the planet all on their own, without the need for genocide to poison the shards. Probably wishful thinking though, unless Victoria, Dinah, and a few others also Titan-up and join the Kronos network first to give them more strength.

  21. “look, all your favorite capes died because of a contagious disease affecting their Corona”

    How topical.

    I just want to ask you if you’ll be perfectly fine if someone else will decide that you should die -or the people you know should die- without asking for your consent, so the other people (people that you probably don’t even know) can live? Will you be ok if someone else will take this decision in your place without even waiting for your opinion?

    Most probably not. And that is precisely the reason I advocate for “I did what I had to do” from heroes. I am not as cold-blooded and rational as I wish I were, though I think I am more than most, and if I cannot be alright with assisted suicide, how many would simply refuse it on principle?
    What if your only chance at saving humanity rests on getting 99% of capes dead through simple skin contact? Would you wish to risk humanity because 600 inmates in the Birdcage said “fuck this shit”? If they’re aware of the process, you have to force them on top of killing them; if they’re not, they’re easier to corral.
    I’m not saying that an end justifies all means possible to achieve it, but that an end justifies the most parcimonious means to achieve it. Contessa did not regret her success during the attack on Teacher’s stronghold, but she did regret the death of the Number Man because he was an avoidable casualty: that’s my stance on parcimony. When Lung killed Bakuda in the Birdcage, in Worm interlude 6, he explained that he would have been okay with being insulted to his face should Bakuda have managed to free him: that’s my stance on Bakuda being justified in insulting him (disclaimer: it isn’t my stance on Lung being justified in killing her).
    I repeat: when your end is the litteral survival of humanity, which options should you dismiss out of hand? None. This does not absolve anyone (I also think the USA should be tried for warcrimes for their nukes on Japan) but there can be no trial when the jury is dead.

    In the end, I think this is in essence the debate between consequentialism (me, Taylor, Cauldron) and deontologism (you, Ward).

    She’s in a situation where the lives of a few thousand people could save trillions of people and four billion years of their descendants

    I don’t think they’re aware of the enslavement part, to be fair.

  22. Pizzasgood- (On the other hand, choosing Fortuna over the Simurgh is arguably a mercy killing compared to letting the Simurgh torture everyone for billions of years.)
    I agree with you. I’ll choose oblivion any time over eternal suffering but I prefer that I’ll have the possibility to choose for myself, not someone else. Also, I’m not going to choose death for people I love if they don’t want to die. If they prefer to suffer then I’ll let them live in the way they prefer while I’ll kill myself. I’ll never force my will on someone (even on people I love) because I care very much about consent and I think that everyone should decide for themselves. Just like Chris, maybe people prefer suffering over oblivion or they’re sure that they’re strong/well prepared enough to avoid this suffering. It’s their choice just like dying over suffering is my choice. This is why I never judged Chris for choosing to live. I’ll never force people to follow my choice even for their own good.
    But what if the Simurgh will still win, despite being injured and having to fight Fortuna and her most powerful Titans? Will the Genocide Plan still work if she will be the winner? If so many capes will die, she will have no reason anymore to torment the humanity- she only need capes to torment until a new entity will arrive, she’s not interested in non-capes. Or did I got it wrong?

  23. Fluoman, Contessa regrets many things, including the creations of Case53s and other atrocities she had to do for Cauldron to ensure the survival of humanity. She’s full of regrets, she was never cold-blooded like Dr Mother or Kurt. She was always a scared kid deep inside being gifted with a power that forced her to sacrifice so many things to achieve her goals, including her humanity. Contessa is very pitiable and I understand her a lot.
    As for USA, I’m with you. This country not only should be tried for nuking Japan (Japan wasn’t a danger anymore after Allies victory), but also for the useless and unnecessary Vietnam, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria wars and so on. I’m sorry for making so many americans angry, but their country is responsible for many unnecessary wars culminating in war crimes and the respective countries devolving into chaos. But is a superpower and superpowers are above justice. Too bad.

  24. But what if the Simurgh will still win, despite being injured and having to fight Fortuna and her most powerful Titans? Will the Genocide Plan still work if she will be the winner? If so many capes will die, she will have no reason anymore to torment the humanity- she only need capes to torment until a new entity will arrive, she’s not interested in non-capes. Or did I got it wrong?

    Depends on what exactly the genocide data actually does. According to the explanation she gave last chapter, the goal is to make Fortuna abort because she won’t have any worthwhile data to send off. I’m not sure that really makes sense; she could just cut her losses and launch anyway, good data or not. I think Victoria’s banking on the somewhat mechanical nature of Shards causing Fortuna to balk and then revert to the data-collection phase of the cycle (not sure that’s necessarily any better than the Simurgh’s version of data-collection though). Anyway, if that’s the case, then the genocide would not hamper the Simurgh any. More capes will trigger.

    So if it comes to a Simurgh victory, then we need to hope that the genocide plan does more than simply pollute the data. We need to hope that the bad data breaks infrastructure (like how a corrupted computer program might accidentally overwrite key system files with random gibberish), or else hope that the dreamy deaths Victoria’s engineering will enable the dead capes to retain some degree of agency within the shard network so they can operate like a computer virus and attack the Simurgh from the inside out.

  25. @Pizzasgood, so according to you belief, I’m worse than a rapist or a killer because I don’t want to sacrifice my life for billions of people. Well, why should I die so other can live? I’m sure they’ll never accept to die for me either so why should I die for them? Because I have to play a hero role? Because I’m evil if I care about my life more than anyone else’s life? Ok then, I prefer to be evil and let the goody two shoes die in my place, sacrificing their lives for complete strangers who are not even aware of their sacrifice. Die like losers with nobody to appreciate their noble sacrifice. I don’t want to play a hero role, I’m not an evil villain only because I love my life, I’m just a normal person who consider self-sacrifice as something noble, but not for me. Yeah, I’m very much like Chris, except for “I hate humanity but I hate myself more” thing. I don’t hate humanity but I don’t like it either. I like myself. But don’t call me a killer or a rapist because I consider that my life is very precious to me. I will never personally kill anyone, I’ll just refuse to die for anyone in this world. Isn’t the same thing.

  26. Fluoman, Contessa regrets many things, including the creations of Case53s and other atrocities she had to do for Cauldron to ensure the survival of humanity.
    That’s my point: she’s not okay with the means and if she had to do it again she’d probably look for a better way, but she did what she had to do.

    Well, why should I die so other can live?
    And this supports my point too: without someone willing to get their hands dirty and be judged for it afterwards, everyone’s going to watch each other and wring their hands until it’s too late.

  27. @Pizzasgood, so according to you belief, I’m worse than a rapist or a killer because I don’t want to sacrifice my life for billions of people.

    I understand where you’re coming from, but the fact of the matter is that when you’re presented with an opportunity to be a hero and you decline, you don’t necessarily get to walk away with your reputation untarnished. You can only get away with it when declining low-return opportunities, like running into a burning building or taking a bullet for someone. In situations like those you’d be risking several decades of your life merely to save several decades of another life; it’s not an appealing trade unless you’re already near-death anyway. But when the cost is lower or the return is bigger, things change. If you come upon a child beating another child senseless and you choose not to intervene because it’s not your problem and you don’t want to sacrifice a few minutes of your time, then that makes you a piece of shit. And if you’re in a position where sacrificing the several remaining decades of your life would save tens of billions of years of life? Then yes, shrugging it off and watching them die would make you scum.

    You don’t have to be a hero in those situations, but you don’t get to have your cake and eat it to. If you want to be considered a decent human being, then you need to act like it, and sometimes that means doing shit you don’t want to do.

    Well, why should I die so other can live?

    Empathy and math.

    Because I’m evil if I care about my life more than anyone else’s life?

    You’re not evil if you care about your life more than anyone else’s life, but that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about caring about your life more than a billion other lives combined. Maybe evil isn’t the right word for that, but it’s certainly not a healthy or sane way to think.

    I will never personally kill anyone, I’ll just refuse to die for anyone in this world.

    Again, we’re not talking about just anyone, we’re talking about everyone.

    But don’t call me a killer or a rapist because I consider that my life is very precious to me.

    Well, those wouldn’t be the terms I’d use for someone who merely feels that way without having acted upon it. If a situation were actually happening and you chose to shrug and continue your life at the expense of a billion other people, then I would call you a killer. But for now, you’re just someone who considers their own life to be over a billion times more precious than average. The term I’d use for someone like that is douchebouroboros.

  28. Wow, David, you’re not worse than a killer or a rapist, but you’re still selfish. I’ll personally sacrifice my life to save billions of people, without hesitation, because I’ll never forgive myself if I’ll allow so many people to die only because I’m too selfish to help. No, I’ll never sacrifice other lives, especially if they don’t give me their consent (I’ll never be someone like Cauldron or Taylor and get my hands dirty) but I’ll sacrifice my own life for the sake of humanity. Besides, you’re not alone on this world, David, I’m sure you have family and friends and I’m shocked that you’ll not even sacrifice your life for them. I’ll die anytime for people important to me. If they’ll live with the price of my life, I’ll be happy to die for them. Also, if I’ll be selfish and prefer to live and let others die then I’ll die too (when Fortuna will blow up the earth) or I’ll become Simurgh’s playtoy for the rest of my life. This is he price for being selfish, if I choose to be. I’ll still die or suffer a fate worse than death. With me, everyone else will die or suffer fate worse than death. But if I’ll accept death, many, many people (including people dear to me) will survive and my death will be peaceful and I’ll never suffer. Yes, I’ll choose to be selfless and do the right thing :).

  29. But while it’s human to have compassion for others to the extent you’d give your own life to save theirs, it’s also perfectly human to be afraid to die a slow death of nightmares.

    It’s fine to be scared to do the right thing. What’s not fine is to let that fear control you to the extent that you allow a billion people to die. That is not okay behavior.

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