Extermination 8.6: Scrubs

Source material: Worm, Extermination 8.6

Originally blogged: December 13-14, 2017


Hello, flesh beings.

I am Krixwell. That is my name. I am not a robot. Here, let me prove that.

[Image description: A Captcha test that says… something.]

Look. This is easy. This says…

Calculating…

Calculating…

Calculating…

You know what, it doesn’t matter. Let’s get on with it.

Accessing imported human memory bank…

Last time, Taylor saved at least some of the people at a shelter and got paralyzed from the waist down, Bitch’s heart was broken at least six times over, Scion showed up to scive the day and was really cool, and Taylor was taken to a hectic hospital and… possibly arrested by the PRT instead of treated.

This time, we’ll hopefully see whether that last part is true, learn a little bit more about what the hospital treatment (to whatever extent Taylor gets a treatment) is like, and possibly see what happens as Taylor and other villains get processed further by the PRT. Maybe we’re in for an interrogation scene.

Without further delay, let’s jump into it!’); DROP TABLE Blogs;–

(#let’s hope i didn’t just kill tumblr)

[I think I was half serious about that.]


All of the adrenaline, emotions and endorphins that had been building since I first heard the sirens, maybe even before them – when I learned about Dinah Alcott – made for one hell of a rush.

Oh yeah, there’s been a lot going on over the last few hours.

More relevant to the present, it made for one hell of a mental wipeout as I came down from the rush. A low point to equal the ‘high’.

So essentially, the cape life is… “intoxicating” enough to give Taylor a hangover.

The background noise of screams, shouted orders of doctors and nurses, a hundred heart monitors beeping out of sync and my ‘cell’ of three curtained ‘walls’ cutting me off from everything else? Didn’t help.

Oof, yeah, that doesn’t exactly sound very conducive to getting over it.

Granted, I fortunately don’t have personal experience with this particular kind of mental wipeout, whether that means the wipeout following the high of fighting a monster that killed over fifty people over the course of a single chapter, or the alcohol-induced kind I just half-jokingly compared it to.

(Or do I have the former kind of experience…? You don’t know. For all you know, I could be a vigilante superhero billionaire.)


My arm hurt, and hanging from the manacle made that ten times as bad. My back was the worst thing, a slow, steady, pain that terminated in my midsection.

Owwww.

It seemed to build in intensity every second I paid attention to it, settling into a dull blistering of pain when I focused my attention elsewhere.

Try not to think about elephants. Or the Game. Which both I and all of you readers just lost.

(By the way, it just occurred to me that the Game is a lot like inter-continental nuclear war. The only winning move is not to play.)

If I didn’t focus on keeping my breathing steady and deep, I found that I unconsciously held my breath to minimize the pain. That only made it worse when I did have to breathe again, because it brought tightness in my throat and chest, along with agonizing coughing fits.

Ouch.


(Homestuck spoilers ahead, feel free to skip this post)

Full disclosure: Taylor having a “hangover” like this reminds me of the scene Minda just passed in Homestuck, with the four alpha kids hungover from their run-in with trickster mode.

Which in turn made me think of the idea of trickster Taylor. (Not to be confused with Taylor dressed as Trickster of the Travelers.)

…if you know of any fanart of that, I’d be interested in seeing it.


None of that was even touching on that growing terror over the fact that, hey, I couldn’t feel my legs, and it wasn’t getting better.

Yeeeah. Let’s hope Panacea pities the fool bug, or some other healer or medical personnel can help out on that front.

If my back was really broken, it could mean my best case scenario was surgery and years of physical therapy, years of crutches and wheelchairs.

And explaining what happened to Danny, for that matter. Whether you tell the truth or lie, that sounds miserable. Question is, miserable moment or miserable life?

Taylor has enough of the latter already without having to live a lie towards her dad while recovering from paralysis. Besides, isn’t it better if Danny knows that it happened while she was protecting people and the city, even it does mean telling him she made some questionable and dangerous choices leading up to that?

I guess what I’m saying is Taylor and Danny both deserve better than Taylor lying about this.

My worst case scenario would be never walking again. I didn’t have a power that would help too much on that front.

Tell that to miss Sha “wheelchair of bugs” Rks [here].

It would mean the end of my career as a cape, never having sex with a boy the natural way, and never going for another morning run.

“the natural way”

Taylor, the girl who thinks of almost everything, has clearly already considered her options here.


I made myself take a deep breath. It shuddered as I exhaled slowly, and not just because it hurt to breathe.

I couldn’t do anything about my back, in the here and now. My arm? Maybe.

…how?

The metal pole was fixed to the wall at every foot or so by horizontal bars, and the end of the manacle was stopped from descending any further by one of the bits that extended to the wall, three feet or so above my head.

I wonder if Taylor could pick the lock with her bugs or something. I feel like most bugs wouldn’t be strong enough, though.

I couldn’t really believe they were going to arrest me. Like Tattletale had said, there were rules. Largely unspoken rules, but still more important than anything else in the cape community. You didn’t profit from an Endbringer attack, you didn’t attack your nemeses or take advantage of undefended areas to steal. You didn’t arrest a villain that came to help.

Exactly! It’s fucking cheating!

Besides, it’s actively against the PRT’s interests to do this kind of thing. Next time there’s an Endbringer, do they think anywhere near as many villains are going to show up to help, the word having spread that there’s a risk the PRT will just arrest them the moment the Endbringer has beaten them up enough?


Because when people started doing that, the truce broke and things became ten times easier for the Endbringer.

Ek-fucking-zactly.

The manacle on my wrist made me wonder. I’d made some enemies with the good guys. Maybe I was getting some rough treatment because of it.

One ominous idea nagged at me, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. It was that I might not get any treatment at all – for my back, specifically – because of grudges against me and capes who could ‘suggest’ that maybe the doctors’ resources could be better directed elsewhere.

Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that since the end of the last chapter… it’s not a pleasant idea.

If they went that route, one hundred percent deniable, excusable, then there’d be nothing I could do about it.

Pretty much the only thing you could do then would be to drag yourself out the door by one arm, get out of your costume, and drag yourself back in as Taylor “totally not the villain with the exact same injuries and other physical characteristics who just dragged herself out the door in the same manner” Hebert.

…this kind of gag works a lot better when you actually know the person by a two-part name.


If that was what was going on, being manacled like this would be something of a slap in the face, a way of letting me know it was intentional, while keeping me from contacting anyone to complain.

Technically, Taylor could put up a huge sign saying “Help I’m trapped in a healthy person factory” outside, as long as it’s within four blocks and there are enough bugs left in the area.

My arm shifted involuntarily as I cringed at a painful intake of breath, swinging a little, and I clenched my teeth.

I turned my head, gripped the fabric of my pillow with my teeth, tugged and pulled my head forward at the same time. It moved to my left.

What are you trying to accomplish here?

I did it again, bumped my shoulder, making my arm swing on the chain once more. I suppressed the noise I might’ve made at the pain, choked back the gorge that rose in my throat.

Oh, she’s trying to move the arm further, into a position that’s less painful.


Whatever was going on with my back, it prevented me from sitting up, denied me the use of my abdominal muscles. I could only work with my shoulders, my head, my teeth.

This sounds… familiar. It reminds me of Interlude 6.

Shifting the pillow over several long minutes, I managed to gingerly ease it under my shoulder and upper arm. Provided I didn’t move -which I couldn’t, really- it gave my arm something to rest on, prevented all of the weight from dangling off of my cuffed wrist.

Ah, nice. I was half right, I suppose.

Of course, I was now absent one pillow for my head and neck, and the propped up shoulder and arm made my back twist slightly, which only intensified the pain there.

Yeeah, this came at a cost.

I closed my eyes, focused on just breathing, tried not to pay too much attention to how slowly time was passing by, or the cacaphony of noise from the rest of the triage area.

Sometimes, when in pain, it can be good to try to sleep. It’s an escape, but it’s an escape that lets your body rest a bit and focus its energy on repairing the thing that’s causing the pain while you don’t have to consciously deal with the pain or the long hours of the recuperation.


What if Taylor falls asleep here and wakes up at the PRT HQ?


I hated this. Hated not knowing, not having any information about what had just happened, what was happening, what was going to happen.

It always comes back to this, doesn’t it. Information. Knowledge. The insecurities and risks tied to not having that, the things having it can let you get away with, the power you wield against the world when you know what you’re up against well.

On the other hand, Wildbow killed off the one character who by all means should have the most of this power in this Arc.

Unless it turns out I’m wrong and Taylor was right to doubt the armband’s definition of “losses”, but while I’m not happy that Tattletale seems to be gone, that would feel like something of a cop-out at this point. Her death was well-written. Let her have that.


[reblogging the post about waking up at the PRT HQ]

Wait, no, that doesn’t work, the PRT HQ was destroyed by Leviathan.

I guess they have to have somewhere else to keep the newly arrested villains, though.


Roughly half of my nightmares about being bullied took place in the classroom, knowing that a class was just about to end, or that a teacher was about to assign us group work.

Moments right before being bullied, moments of uncertainty about whether she’d be bullied right then, rather than the bullying itself.

And honestly, while I haven’t experienced it myself, that might just be the worst part of it. The uncertainty of when and where and how the bullies will strike.

It’s all rather analogous to terrorism.

That some group of faceless bullies were waiting to pull the worst ‘prank’ yet. It was the idea that I was about to be put in a situation where something bad was about to happen, that it was inevitable. Being helpless to do anything about it.

This is another similarity.

Maybe it was stupid, but I’d never failed to wake up drenched in sweat after that, even when I woke up before the follow-through. The dreams had come less often after I got my powers, but they still came from time to time.

Huh, interesting. On one hand, this might be because the power acts as a confidence booster, a “you’re not helpless”, even if she never wanted to use the power against the Harpies. On the other hand… she got the power specifically as a result of being bullied.

Miss Militia got a weapon that helped her in her time of need. Maybe this is actually a subtle direct side effect of Taylor’s power?

I don’t know, it’s a very weak theory at this point, but it’s something I should keep in mind. Especially the idea of the powers possibly being designed in such a way that a nonhuman entity providing them (Karahindiba or its like) might think they’ll help against the problem in the trigger event.

Miss Militia needed a way to fight back against the Turkish soldiers and got a versatile weapon. Taylor was alone in the dark and got “company” and a new way to sense.

The counterpoint is our third known trigger event story, Grue’s, which I originally took as clear evidence against my theory of the powers having to do with the trigger events. I still don’t know how the darkness would be helpful in Grue and Aisha’s situation… maybe Karahindiba thought their stepdad might come after them because of Grue’s actions and wanted to give them somewhere to hide? That’s less direct and more far-fetched than the other two, though.

Oh yeah, I just remembered – we also know that second-generation parahumans have an easier time being triggered. Glory Girl supposedly had her trigger event while playing basketball…

I suppose flight and intimidation are rather helpful in a basketball game, if perhaps somewhat against the rules.

(#i’m almost certainly giving this quote more attention than it really deserves tbh)


is flight and supernatural intimidation against the rules of our world’s basketball?


Another major counterpoint to that theory: We know well by now that the specifics of the powers are hereditary, though mutating.

Which, by the way, probably explains just why trigger events are so much easier for second-gen parahumans. While their parents had to go through something incredibly upsetting to get the powers in the first place, the kids have mutations of those powers in them all along and just need a trigger event (that matches the powerset, if that is indeed a thing) to unlock them.


I had suspicions they might come even years after I left high school behind me for good.

Not unlikely.

I hear a lot of people still have school nightmares well into adulthood, and that’s in many cases without regular traumatic experiences.

But that state of mind in the nightmares? I felt like that now. Trying to keep from panicking, knowing that no matter what I did, I was counting on luck and forces beyond my control to not ruin my day, my week, my month. Ruin my life.

Yeah, uncertainty and helplessness are shitty feelings.

I’d done the heroic thing. Drawn Leviathan away from those in the shelter who were still alive. A part of me was proud of myself. The rest of me? Faced with the idea of spending the rest of my life in a wheelchair? I felt like an idiot of epic proportions.

At least the sacrifice of the use of your legs wouldn’t be in vain.

I’d bought into the idea of the grand, noble gesture, and in the here and now it felt like I had to convince myself that what I had done mattered. It sure as shit didn’t seem to matter to anyone else.

Maybe not to the PRT, at least.


The chain of my manacle clinked taut as I yanked my right hand forward angrily. The pain that caused me in my midsection stopped me from doing it again.

Ow.

A girl in a nurse’s uniform pushed the curtain aside to enter. I identified her as a girl rather than a woman because she barely looked older than me.

If not for the fact that Taylor knows how she looks both in and out of costume and would probably identify her as such immediately, I’d suspect this of being Panacea.

Oh, and the pointlessness of Panacea changing into a nurse’s uniform.

Bigger in the chest, for sure, but baby faced, petite.

…it really does seem like the chest and/or general attractiveness tend to be the first things Taylor looks to when describing girls/women.

As a third theory for why that is, on top of “Taylor’s own insecurities with her appearance leads her to immediately compare other women favorably to herself” and “Taylor is bi”… I’m acutely aware that this is written by a male author. 😉

Her brown hair was in a braid, and the lashes of her downcast eyes were long as she stepped to the foot of my bed, picked up a clipboard. She was very carefully not looking my way.

“Hi,” I spoke.

What has the PRT been telling her, I wonder?


To be clear, I was at least half-joking with the comment about Wildbow being a male author potentially being a part of the reason Taylor describes girls/women in terms of attractiveness or bust size. I think Wildbow is the kind of writer who’d stay away from doing that kind of thing without a legitimate reason (and he has at least one in this case).

Slander was not what I intended with that comment.


She ignored me, turned her attention to the heart monitor, made a note on the clipboard.

“Please talk to me,” I spoke. “I have no idea what’s going on, and I feel like I’m losing my mind, here.”

This kind of openness might work, I suppose.

The nurse doesn’t seem all that comfortable with being in here either. This might help put her at ease a bit.

She glanced at me, looked away hurriedly the same reflexive way you’d pull away from a hot stove with your hand.

“Please? I’m- I’m pretty scared right now.”

I don’t think this nurse wants to be this impersonal, but has been told to.

Nothing. She took more notes on the clipboard, noting stuff from the screen the electrode ran to.

“I know you think I’m bad, a villain, but I’m a person, too.”

Ooh, that’s a pretty good one. If nothing else did, this might get through to her a little.

She glanced at me again, looked away, returned her eyes to the clipboard and frowned. She stopped writing as she glanced up to the monitor, as if she had to find her place or double check her numbers.

We’re not quite there yet, but progress seems to be being made.


“I have a dad. Love him to death, even if we haven’t talked lately. I love reading, my- my mom taught me to love books from the time I was little. My best friend, it wasn’t so long ago that she helped pull me out of a dark place. I haven’t heard how she’s doing. If she’s dead or if she’s here too. Have you seen her? Her name’s Tattletale.”

Oh man, Taylor is pulling out all the stops here.

Also, I love that Taylor is finally explicitly saying that Tattle is – was – her best friend. It’s how I’ve thought of her for quite some time now, and it’s good to get confirmation that Taylor does too.

“We aren’t supposed to talk to the patients.”

The patients? Or the villains?

“Why not?”

“While back, some cape sued the rescue workers after a battle much like this. Hadhayosh, I think.”

Oh, huh, there’s an actual reason behind it?

Well, at least you’ve got her doing the exact thing she’s telling you why she shouldn’t do.


Hadhayosh, huh?

Power: Having hayosh. What’s hayosh? Fuck if I know.

Hadhayosh used to be Havehayosh, but the battle the nurse just mentioned caused them to lose the hayosh.


“That’s one of the other names for Behemoth. Like Ziz is for the Simurgh?”

Ohh, I see. Hadhayosh wasn’t the cape.

…so Behemoth used to have hayosh, then?

Alright, jokes aside, I guess the significance of this is that the nurse may come from a different culture, and the fact that there are different names for the Endbringers. Makes a lot of sense, that, given that the Endbringer we’ve seen wasn’t capable of naming himself.

Actually, I suppose he could blink it in morse code (does he have eyelids?). Or write it in the sand or spell it out with water like Taylor with her bugs at the gallery. Or with the bodies of the slain, or sign language… Point is, if he wanted to and knew how to write an alphabet – unlikely – he’d have ways even if he doesn’t have a mouth.

Why was sign language the last thing I thought of there?

Anyway, point is none of the Endbringers are likely to provide their own names for themselves, so people have to make up their own, and the Americans aren’t the only ones who have to deal with these fuckers.

Also, while I’m not familiar with Hadhayosh, Ziz sounds familiar. I think that’s an Egyptian or Mesopotamian god, but I’m not sure.

[Wikipedia]

The Ziz (Hebrew: זיז‬) is a giant griffin-like bird in Jewish mythology, said to be large enough to be able to block out the sun with its wingspan.

It is considered a giant animal/monster corresponding to archetypal creatures. Rabbis have said that the Ziz is comparable to the Persian Simurgh, while modern scholars compare the Ziz to the Sumerian Anzû and the Ancient Greek phoenix.

Alright, I got the what and the where somewhat wrong, but at least I was in the right general area.

The Ziz being a giant bird isn’t terribly surprising, what with the Simurgh also being a bird and the mounting evidence of the Endbringers having elemental affiliations.

Incidentally, I really like that Ziz happens to appear together with Behemoth and Leviathan in the illustration. Or, well, I say “happens to”, but I really don’t think that’s a coincidence. The fact that these three appear together in one place and form an elemental triad (though Behemoth here seems to be earth rather than fire, unless those are fireballs on the left edge of the image) leads me to suspect that they were considered a set historically just like they are in Worm. That’s the kind of thing I think Wildbow would know or find out while researching and then base himself on.


Might as well look up Hadhayosh too while I’m at it.

[Wikipedia]

The Hadhayosh is a land creature from ancient Persian mythology. In the Avesta it is also called the Sarsaok. In the 14th century, it was said to have raided Iran, giving itself a name as a fearsome beast.

Alright, so we’re looking at Persian mythology, much like the origin of “the Simurgh”. Maybe this nurse is from Iran, and/or just wants to be consistent by calling all of the Endbringers by names from the same culture.

Palestinian is also an option. It would make sense for a Palestinian person to not want to use the apparently Jewish names Behemoth and Leviathan.

And much like the Behemoth in the illustration for the Ziz, it’s specifically a land creature. I guess maybe Wormverse Behemoth/Hadhayosh could be a combined fire/earth type? At the very least, he’ll be a land-based fire type.

[Wikipedia, same article]

Description in the Avesta

The Avesta is one of the very few texts which reference the creature, describing it as a primeval ox:

Of the ox Hadhayosh, which they call Sarsaok, it says, that in the original creation men passed from region to region upon it, and in the renovation of the universe they prepare Hush (the beverage producing immortality) from it.

This description also fits the illustration. There’s a good chance these were different cultures describing the same mythological beings with different names, just like in the present Wormverse.

It also makes it much more likely that Behemoth will have horns.


“Yes, some heroes got hurt badly enough they wouldn’t recover, they knew they had no more income from their costume career, so suing, it was a way-” she stopped, closed her mouth deliberately, as if reminding herself to stay silent.

A way to stay afloat on the restitution money.

But what does talking to the patients have to do with that, anyway?

“You can’t tell me if my back’s broken or not?”

She shook her head, “No.”

That’s… kind of dumb, honestly.

“I won’t tell. I won’t sue.”

“Saying that isn’t legally binding,” she frowned, again, “and It- it’s not that. I’m just a nursing student. I haven’t even graduated.

Nice, we’ve got her talking about herself now.

They recruited us to help meet demand, to do the paperwork and check that patients weren’t coding, so the people with experience could focus on handling the patient load.

Coding? As in trying to communicate with each other via code? Or as in “code red” and such, maybe?

I don’t have the training to diagnose you on any level, let alone your back.”

That’s fair.


My heart sank. “Have you seen Tattletale? Have you heard if she’s dead or injured? She wears a lavender and black costume, and there’s this eye in dark gray on the black part across her chest-”

I’m sure this was helpful for fan artists. I know her outfit has been described before, but I don’t think it was quite this clear.

Then again, I’m not good at remembering outfit descriptions.

“I’m sorry,” she hurried to the foot of the bed, hung up the clipboard.

I’m sorry? Was that an answer – condolences – or was it a refusal to speak on the subject?

I think it might’ve been both. The most she can say without technically overstepping her boundaries further, while simultaneously apologizing for not being able to say more.

I might have made a noise, because she turned back, stopped. I couldn’t be sure, though, over the sounds from the other nurses, doctors and patients.

“We’ve got a code!” someone screamed, just beyond the curtain. “Need paddles!”

“Paddles are in use!”

Well, shit. I guess we’re about to get clarification on what exactly coding means in this context. It sounds like it’s the “code red” option so far.

“Then get me someone with electricity powers! And you, resuscitate!”

Heh, nice thinking.

Seriously, rogues and how society handles having them can sometimes be more interesting than capes.

In this case, the electricity powers don’t necessarily need to be from a rogue – there are plenty of capes here, even if most are beaten half to death – but I’m thinking about the potential use of rogues in hospitals under more normal conditions.


I closed my eyes, tried to stop myself from imagining that they were talking about Tattletale, or my dad, or even Brian, though I was pretty sure Brian had made it out okay.

Well, at least we never heard “Grue down” from any of the armbands, but Taylor did spend a lot of time away from functioning armbands towards the end.

Even as I managed to dismiss those images from my mind, a voice in the back of my head noted that whoever was on the table was important to somebody. So many beloved family members, friends, coworkers, gone from people’s lives.

Yep. This was not a good day.

Even by Endbringer attack standards. A good day was defined in 8.1 as a one-in-four death rate. The protectors of Brockton Bay lost over half in a single attack this time.


[Discord]

Upthorn:
Krix: coding is general US hospital terminology. It’s short for “code blue” and means the heart has stopped beating.

Krixle Wells:
Ah, okay. Thanks 🙂

Looks like I just got the wrong color. 😛


Here, have a piece of music that the last paragraph reminded me of through its title:


And since I’m already sharing music, I’ve been meaning to bring up this track as another potential musical theme for this Arc:


Meanwhile, this is just a really good song I’ve been listening to a lot lately:

(#the music video for that last one is a lot sillier than I was expecting #hehe

#actually #too silly

#it gets in the way of my favorite moment in the song

#ruins that moment completely

#so i grabbed this video instead)


[Discord]

The Fish Formerly Known As Shark:
@Krixle Wells on the topic of your current wormy blog
this arc except leviathan is actually a giant fish

Krixle Wells:
*yes*
flop flop flop

Upthorn:
ocean sunfish

Krixle Wells:
Ahahaha

The Fish Formerly Known As Shark:
armsy chases him over the city as he just kinda flops around
the entire city is destroyed as leviathan flops around like, well, a dying fish

Krixle Wells:
Leviathan used Splash!

Upthorn:
it’s SUPER EFFECTIVE

Krixle Wells:
For once!

And here we see the reason why I limited myself to “Behemoth will have horns”. 😛


Hm. I was about to say “alright, let’s get back to the story”, but it’s very late (closing in on 3 AM) and there’s a lot of chapter left, so I think I should call it here. We’ll pick this back up tomorrow (Thursday). 🙂

[End of session]


[Session 2]
Alright, let’s get back to the story!


“Do you want to call your dad? Or try calling your friend?” the nurse-in-training offered me.

Those do sound like decent options, though (on top of lingering awkwardness between them) calling Danny does present some of the same problems as coming home injured, mainly that he’s guaranteed to ask questions that would compromise Taylor’s identity as Skitter if answered honestly.

If she was offering for me to call Tattletale, that at least meant she hadn’t seen Tattletale’s body. That was some relief.

Oh yeah, that’s a good point.

I still think she’s soggy toast, but I suppose it doesn’t hurt to let Taylor have some hope for now. There’s been very little of that going around in this Arc, after all.

I wasn’t sure if I should take the offer. If I called my dad, would they track the call? Find out who I was? Would they track down Tattletale, if she wasn’t dead or dying?

Oh yeah, I didn’t even think of that.

Although if they really wanted to find out your identity, there’s not much you could do to keep them from removing your mask. Granted, they’d still need to tie the face to a name.

Who else could I call? Coil? Way too many issues if they traced the call, and I wasn’t sure if Lisa had passed on word of our recent argument and/or breakup.

I seem to recall that being mentioned in passing. Must’ve been in Interlude 8 if I’m not making it up.

Grue, Regent, Bitch? I wasn’t on their team anymore.

Doesn’t mean they’re not the ones most likely to know something about Tattle out of those you can contact.


A darker thought struck me.

“Is that – would that be my one phone call? These cuffs – am I being arrested?”

Right, that whole mess.

She shook her head, “I was just offering. I don’t know if they’re arresting you. Only thing they said was that I was supposed to fill in the charts for the patients on this end of the room that have the red tags.”

Fair enough.

She pointed to a set of plastic tags that were clipped to the curtain rod, so that one large tag hung down on either side of it. Was it to designate the seriousness of my injuries? No, they hadn’t even examined me.

Villain tag, eh?

I drew a connection to my line of thinking from earlier – was it because I was a villain? Did I get a mere check-in from the nurse-in-training while the heroes got actual nurses and doctors? I hadn’t seen anyone put the tags up, but then again, I hadn’t been looking at the curtain rod right after I was stuck here.

Taylor and I are on the same page here. I like when that happens, because I’m an idiot compared to Taylor sometimes, though it does leave me with the occasional paragraphs where I can’t really say much else than “yes, that’s what I just said”.


“Okay,” I spoke, quiet, my thoughts going a mile a minute.

“The phone call, I can let you use my cell phone if you promise not to…” she trailed off, as if realizing the possibilities of what could happen if a villain had her phone number, contact info for her friends and family.

Aw. I like this nurse-in-training.

Yet she could hardly back out, not without potentially upsetting a bad guy.

Whoops.

I shook my head. “No. But it’s really good of you to offer. Thank you,” I tried to put as much emphasis on the thanks as possible. “With that kind of empathy, I’m sure you’ll become a great nurse.”

😀

Absolutely.

She gave me a funny look, then backed out through the curtain. I could have called after her, asked for something for the pain, asked if maybe I could get some help, but I suspected she didn’t have the power to give me any of that.

Yeah, probably not.

Besides, she has other patients to visit.

I had no idea how long I’d be here, and I suspected it’d be worth more to have a potential friendly face around than go for the long shot and risk seeming manipulative or alienating her. That, and I didn’t want to get her in trouble.

That’s another good point. You’ve pushed the boundaries a fair bit already, might want to take a break.


Minutes ticked on. No more than three seconds passed without someone screaming or shouting orders or updates regarding a patient in crisis.

This place is hectic as fuck.

It would have been interesting to listen to, if I could make out more than half of it, and if the half I could hear wasn’t so horrible.

Yeeah, not exactly a pleasant audio backdrop.

The anxiety over my circumstances and not knowing what was going to happen was gradually overriden by a maddening boredom. I couldn’t move, had nobody to talk to, didn’t know enough about my present situation to think up contingency plans.

Relatable. Waiting at hospitals tends to be pretty dull, whether you’re in the bed or a visitor.

I closed my eyes and used my power, because it let me be outside my own body in a way, because it was something to do.

Nice.

Boredom is usually one of the feelings people hate most. Most people will prefer mild pain over boredom, just because it’s some kind of stimulus. Taylor, fortunately, has remote access to a stimulus most people don’t.


A handful of cockroaches from near the kitchen made their way through the walls, through an air intake grate in the wall, and up to my bed. They gathered on my stomach.

Hi, little friends. (Might want to avoid the sight of the hospital staff if you want to stay alive.)

I gathered them into a pyramid on my stomach, let them collapse. Made a kaleidoscopic starburst pattern, then moved them all in sync to expand out into a perfect circle.

😀

“You’re so creepy, you know that?” the voice was familiar, but I couldn’t place it.

Ooh.

Hm. I’m going to guess that this is Panacea. It would make sense for her to be walking around here, visiting patients, she’s someone whose voice Taylor has heard a while back, and it sounds like something she might say.

“I’ve heard worse,” I replied, opening my eyes. Panacea was entering my curtained enclosure, shutting the curtain behind her. There was a PRT uniform with her.

Yup!

Nice to see you again. Are you going to help Taylor move her legs again? 🙂


“I’m sure you have,” she frowned. Her hood and scarf were down, so I could see her face, much as I had during the bank robbery. She had dark circles under her eyes that looked painted on. She spoke, sighing the words, “I need your permission to touch you.”

“What?”

That might not be the best way to phrase it.

But yeah, it makes a lot of sense that Panacea would be required to ask consent, especially considering she can run her power in reverse, so to speak, and make matters worse if she wants to.

That said, Panacea doesn’t necessarily need touch to affect someone… although it seems her power is vastly weakened if she doesn’t. I guess that’s why she complained about Taylor’s outfit covering everything back in Agitation – if she had been able to touch Taylor’s skin for just a moment, she might’ve been able to do so much worse than give Taylor a headache.

“Liability reasons. Someone overheard you say you’ve got a broken back. There could be other complications, and that takes people, time, equipment and money that the people in charge of this hospital are reluctant to spare at a time like this.

Yeah, that’s all fair.

You could refuse to let me touch you, make the hospital give you the X-rays and MRI, get months or years of treatment paid for by the Preservation Act, all under oppressive confidentiality agreements that could cost the hospital millions. It’s an option, but the treatment wouldn’t be as fast, good or effective as it would if I used my power. You’d be shooting yourself in the foot for the sake of being stubborn.”

Taylor has literally no rational reason to decline this. I mean, she’s butted heads with Panacea before, and Panacea could do some nasty stuff to her, but if Panacea really wanted to be that spiteful here, she might as well do it without asking permission. She’d get in trouble either way unless she kept it subtle.


“Um.”

“Just agree, so I can move on to other patients.”

Panacea sounds very tired of all this.

I can’t blame her. She’s probably been healing non-stop for several hours now.

“What was it you said during the bank robbery? You’d make me horribly obese? Make everything I eat taste like bile? What’s to stop you from doing something like that here?”

“Nothing, really. I mean, you could sue me after I did it, but you’d have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, and that’d be damn hard if I gave the symptoms a time delay before they showed up.

You’re not helping your case, Pan, by bringing up a detail of your power I didn’t know about that invalidates my argument for why Taylor could trust you.

Plus I’m a valuable enough resource that I could get help paying the legal costs. And, let’s not forget, Carol, my adoptive mother, is a pretty kickass lawyer.

Ah, yeah.

Whatever you did by trying to sue me probably wouldn’t cripple me as much as what my power did to you.”

Yeah, I suppose that’s true.


“That’s not reassuring.”

“It’s not meant to be reassuring. I suppose maybe you’ll just have to either trust in the fact that I’m a decent person or refuse my help,” she shrugged, glaring at me,

She may not be helping her case, but at least she’s being honest. Putting all the cards on the table for the patient who’s about to make an important decision regarding consent is important.

“There’s a kind of poetry to this. Like, a thief fears being stolen from the most, a scumbag… well, you get the drift.

Heh.

The more horrible a human being you are, the more you’ll agonize over what I might have done to you, with a time delay of minutes, hours, days, years.

Honestly, I have a feeling that this knowledge is revenge enough for Panacea. The seed of insecurity that gets Taylor to worry about Pan for years after the fact.

That said, she’s wrong. Sure, being a horrible person can give you some imagination as to what she might’ve done, but there are definitely more horrible people in this story who wouldn’t think about it nearly as much as Taylor would.

Yet if you’re a decent person, you’ll be more inclined to think better of me.”

I suppose this part might be accurate, though.


“Are you?”

“What?”

“Are you a decent person, Amy?”

Amy is… I’d say she’s good-hearted but vicious if crossed. What remains to be seen is whether she holds a grudge enough to stay vicious weeks after the crossing.

She gave me an offended look.

“I envy you, that it’s so easy for you to think of things in terms of black and white. I’d like to think I’m a good person, believe it or not.

Actually… this might be something Taylor needed to be called out on. She has been thinking of a lot of things in black and white. It was only thanks to her time with the Undersiders that it seemed to occur to her that villains aren’t necessarily bad people, that heroes aren’t necessarily good people, and that there are different degrees of badness.

And hell, just look at her encounter with Mr. Gladly last chapter. He did one thing that Taylor saw as a betrayal, and because of that, Taylor was almost ready to let him die.

Or the Dinah Alcott situation. Taylor left the Undersiders because she realized they weren’t willing to put themselves at risk to save Dinah – none of them making that decision out of malice – thus making most of them plummet into the “bad person” category in her view.

This is a world of gray and black morality, and that line does not quite follow the line between hero and villain.

Everything I’ve done, I did because I thought it was right at the time. In hindsight, some of the ends didn’t justify the means, and sometimes there were unforseen consequences.” Like Dinah. “But I don’t think of myself as a bad person.”

That realization in the middle there is important. If Taylor takes this to heart and applies it to herself and the Undersiders, they might be able to get past their differences.

[Hm. I think past me might’ve been attributing this line to the wrong character?]


“Then you’re either ignorant, deluded or you have a very twisted perspective.”

“Maybe.”

I for one think intent matters a lot. That’s the crux of this, I suppose: Amy is following a philosophy of intent whereas Taylor follows a philosophy of consequence.

She went on, “Don’t really care which it is. If you’re going to call yourself a good person,” she paused, shook her head a little, “Then don’t waste my time. Give me an answer, one way or another, so I can get on with helping people.”

Yeeah, a debate over what makes someone a good person is very much not what Panacea came here for.


It wasn’t really a choice. A long, hard road to recovery, possibly with no recovery at all, fraught with any potential health complications that the universe decided to hand my way, or healing for a broken back, with the potential health complications that Panacea decided to give me?

Yeah, I think this is a pretty clear decision.

I mean, whatever she deigned to inflict on me would be calculated to make me miserable, if she went that far, but at least then I’d have someone to hate.

Hehe.

“Please,” I spoke, “Use your power.”

She nodded at the PRT uniform, who left the enclosure. Then she approached the side of the bed.

Nice.

So judging by the comment about Taylor’s suit covering her skin, I guess this means Taylor will have to find some that she can bare.

“I’m going to have to move some of your mask aside, to touch your skin.”

“Permission granted,” I spoke, “Though I’ve been wondering since the bank robbery – why didn’t you reach up and touch my scalp?”

Huh? Was Taylor’s scalp exposed at some point in the robbery? I don’t remember that.

[Yeah, at the time the back of her mask was unfinished, leaving her hair hanging out.]

“No comment.”

Ah. Something about hair, maybe?

Hm. Or maybe something about not actually wanting to follow through on the sorts of threats she came with.

A weakness in her power. Maybe it was mucked up or confused by ‘dead’ tissue?

But yeah, this is also a possibility, and given the track record, Taylor’s probably right.


She fumbled with my mask for a second.

“Lower,” I informed her, “The mask and body part of the costume overlap just above the collarbone.”

Useful information.

She found it, separated the two, and touched a fingertip to my throat, like she was taking my pulse.

The pain left in an instant. My breathing became easier, and I felt a steady pressure deep in my broken arm.

😀

“You have a brain injury that’s not fully healed.”

“Bakuda’s fault.”

She still has traces of that concussion, huh? It’s been a while.

Granted, I’m no expert on concussions. For all I know, this could be normal.

“Hm. Outside the scope of my abilities.”

Hrm, you sure about that? I seem to recall something from Interlude 2 about you not wanting to mess with brains even though you technically can.

Ominous, but I wasn’t ready to put too much stake in what she told me, and what she might be leaving out.

“Okay,” my voice was stronger, without the crippling pressure in my chest and back.

It’s seriously very nice to see Taylor feeling better. 🙂

“Microfracture in your shoulder, nerve damage to your left hand, reduced fine dexterity.”

“Really? I hadn’t noticed.”

It’s not like she’s been using the left hand much since the arm injury.

“It’s there. I’m not going to bother with that, either.”

“Wasn’t expecting you to.” Couldn’t let her ruffle me.

I guess that’s fair. If Panacea stopped to deal with every little thing wrong with every patient’s body, she’d never get anything done.

Especially when the patients also distract her with moral philosophy.


“Broken arm, broken spine, fractured ribs, small perforations in colon, kidney and liver, some internal bleeding. This will take a minute.”

Lots of nasty stuff right there.

I nodded. It was more severe than I’d thought. That unsettled me some.

Yeah, I’m no medical professional but I’m fairly sure at least three of those things are potentially lethal if left unchecked.

A part of me wanted to apologize for what had happened at the bank robbery, but the tone of our earlier conversation made it feel like I’d be trying to dissuade her from doing something malicious with her power.

Fair enough.

Relief overwhelmed me as sensations began returning to my legs. They were quick, like being shocked, but they ranged from hot to cold to the unfamiliar, running from my abdomen to the tips of my toes, tracing every internal area of my legs.

Yay! You can have sex with boys “the natural way” again! Eh, Taylor? 😉

I mean, unless that’s the one thing Panacea decides to mess with.


“Ow,” I muttered, as one line of pain drew itself from my hip to my ankle.

“I’ve got to test your nerves as I re-establish the connections, but I’m too tired to do it all with my power, and I can’t dope you up with endorphins because Armsmaster, Miss Militia and Legend will be coming to talk to you in a bit, and I’ve been told you need your head one hundred percent clear for that. So some of this is going to hurt.”

Well that’s an intriguing tidbit. Unless they’re going to everyone (which would take quite some time), it seems the higher-ups have taken some interest in Taylor. Not entirely undeserved, after her actions at the shelter, though I don’t know how much they’d know about that at this point.

There’s also a chance Armmaster told the other two about his previous encounters with Taylor, and about her supposed undercover recon mission. It’ll be interesting to see what Legend has to say about that if he did.

“Wait, what? Why do I need my head clear to talk to them? Why are they talking to me?”

“Mmm. I can feel your emotions in your body, hormones and altered chemical balances. You’re scared.”

Yeah… First she’s been worried that she’s getting arrested, and now the leader of the organization that would do the arresting wants to talk to her in person?

I’m more optimistic about it, but I understand why Taylor would be a bit concerned.

“Damn right, I’m scared – ouch. Fuck, that stung.” My leg jerked.

“It’s going to happen any time my concentration slips. Best to stay quiet.”

Heh. I can’t tell if Pan’s being sincere here or she just wants Taylor to shut the fuck up already.


“No, seriously. Why are they talking to me? Is that why I’m in handcuffs? To keep me here until they, what, arrest me?”

“No comment,” she smiled a little.

Oh, she enjoys making Taylor uncomfortable like this.

…these two could make pretty good kismesises, maybe. (Homestuck spoilers through link)

“Hey, no. You can’t call yourself a decent person and then leave me here agonizing over details.”

Ahaha

“I can. I don’t know what they want to talk to you about, though I have… strong suspicions,” her eye drifted to my manacle. “But I have been informed that you are to be lucid and fully mobile.”

…hm. Is that the only reason Taylor actually got treatment?


“Why?” I had a growing suspicion as to why, helped by her glance to my restraints. If they were arresting me, they couldn’t have me agree to any deals or plea bargains while I was drugged up, or it would be thrown out of court. I was pretty sure. One semester of a law class didn’t exactly leave me an expert.

Hm.

Maybe we’re looking at a Shadow Stalker type deal here.

I feel like this is a good spot to put some of the thoughts from further back in my mind over the course of the last few paragraphs into words:

What if Taylor does end up as a Ward? It’d be a quite legitimate way to continue the story. It’d allow Taylor to see (and Wildbow to show) some of the game of capes from that side of things too. She’d also end up getting to know her fellow – surviving – Wards better, too, including Clockblocker and (I think) Weld.

Honestly, I’m not sure which way I’d like it to go more. Going back to the remaining Undersiders has the benefit of continuing the thing with Taylor being a villain who originally meant to be a hero, and allowing her to mend her relationships, but her ties to them have been cut rather dramatically – with Brian’s rejection and the loss of Tattletale, among other things – and we lost my favorite Undersider.

…and besides, this event is one that by all means should cause a change to the status quo.

I think I might like Taylor becoming a Ward or otherwise part of a hero team.


A third option would be Taylor becoming a solo hero (or less likely, villain), but that seems unlikely, especially with how much Taylor craves company.


“According to the woman from the PRT that I talked to, it will work best if all of you are kept in the dark for as long as possible.”

Ominous… we might be dealing with…

*thundercrack*

…a surprise birthday party!!! *dun dun dunnn*

(The Protectorate doesn’t know Skitter’s birthdate, so they just guessed that it was today. It wasn’t.)

Also of note: “all of you”. Whatever this is, it’s not exclusive to Taylor.

…man, what if we’re getting both routes? What if all the remaining Undersiders (or maybe Brian and Alec, leaving Rachel out to dry – though I have a hard time seeing Brian accepting such a deal if he knows it’ll break up the group even further) get picked out as well as potential Wards?


All of us?” It wasn’t just me.

“A slip of the tongue.” She smiled slightly, as if enjoying stringing me along.

Oh, she does. She absolutely does.

Headcanon that Amy arranges surprise parties for her family.

“Do these others include Tattletale?” I asked, “Did you heal her?”

She quirked an eyebrow. “No. I can tell you I didn’t.”

Ouch. Yeah, no… Sorry, Taylor.

“You didn’t. Because she didn’t need your help, or because she was already dead? Ow!”

My leg jerked again, a muscle in my thigh clenching hard, not unlike a charlie horse. It subsided.

“I think we’re done here.”

Yeah, that’s definitely not her concentration breaking.


“Hey!” I raised my voice again, “Give me an answer! Stop fucking with me!”

She lifted her finger from my throat, and many of my smaller bruises and scrapes began making themselves felt once more.

Huh. I guess her power subdues the pain while in use. Makes sense – a lot of the procedures her power can stand in for would be rather painful without some sort of measures against the pain, even if they’re supposed to fix things.

I could breathe without a problem. I wiggled my toes experimentally, felt them move against the soles of my costume. I moved my left arm, felt no pain. Tugged on the chain with it and felt everything working as it should, no pain.

Excellent. Shame your right arm turned into a cactus, though.


She leaned close, so her mouth was by my ear, “Not so fun, is it? Let me tell you, this isn’t a hundredth of the mind-fuckery that your teammate was pulling on me, back then.”

Ohh, yeah. Nasty tactics from Tattletale back then. Effective, but nasty.

“That wasn’t-” I stopped.

“What? Wasn’t you? You stood by and watched it happen, played along, took advantage of it. Or maybe you were going to say it wasn’t that bad? You really don’t know.

Yeeah, Taylor doesn’t really have the perspective to understand the full extent of how nasty that was. And given that we were looking at it from Taylor’s perspective, neither do most of us, for that matter.

Well, at least at the time of first reading.

You don’t know me, you don’t know Glory Girl, you don’t know what Tattletale was saying, how she was threatening to ruin my life.

I guess she’s talking about the deeper meaning of what Tattle was saying… although there might’ve been something that was presented as Tattle whispering to Panacea, or Taylor not hearing it. I don’t remember.

Imagine the person you care about most, finding our your darkest secrets. Secrets that, even if they eventually came to accept it, you know they would taint and color every single conversation you have with them afterward.”

The true horror of the name “Tattletale”.

She could’ve gone for a name that indicated her knowing people’s secrets. Instead she went for one that indicated that she would spread them.


I couldn’t help but picture it. My dad finding out I was a villain, what I’d done. Forevermore having doubts about me.

You’re talking to the person who just prevented you from having to explain how you lost the use of your legs.

“I’m sorry,” I spoke, my voice low.

“Maybe you are. I doubt it. I’m sorry to leave you wondering what happened to your teammate, what the big name capes are going to say to you, but I have others to help.”

Fair enough. See ya around, I suppose.

She didn’t sound sorry at all.

Yeah, no, on some level she clearly enjoys it.

“Hey!” I raised my voice again, “Come back here!”

She turned her head to give me a dark look as she walked away, “Good luck with Armsmaster.”

Maybe she needs it. Maybe not. I’m honestly leaning towards not.

Either way, Panacea is still oozing with insincerity.


I pulled on the chains, angrily. I almost, almost sent the cockroaches on the bed after her. I stopped when I saw the PRT uniform hold the curtain back for her in courtesy.

Hah, sure, that would help a lot. :p

When Armsmaster and Legend arrived, it would be too late.

Hm?

I sent the roaches after him, the PRT uniform. They landed on him, individually squeezed into the pouches on his belt and bandoleer.

Found the keys on his belt.

Welp, we’ve got an escape attempt.

Oddly enough, this only makes me more sure that Legend, Armmaster and Miss Militia are going to be amicable. Well, as amicable as one can expect given the social circumstances and personalities involved.

I’m thinking they’ll intercept Taylor soon enough.


Getting the keys out of the pouch was harder. I had to be smooth, and the keychain was heavy enough that the roaches couldn’t pick it up with their mouths. Instead, I tried lifting it up with the middle of a roach’s body, supported by the rest. No luck, it slipped free off of the convex exterior of the cockroach’s shell.

Whoops.

I turned it upside down, instead, used the more textured underside to catch the loop of metal.

Not bad.

The rest of the roaches latched on, hauled the roach up and out of the pouch, squeezed it through the flap-covered opening, breaking it nearly in two against the metal of the ring as they drove it through the too-narrow gap. One roach dead, but the keys were falling free of the pouch.

This sounds like an oddly cute scene right up until the lifting roach dies.

Instinct took over, and I unconsciously bid roaches to move into place beneath the keys as they fell to the floor, muting the noise of metal against the ground. They skittered my way, the weight of the keychain managed between them.

Nice work!


Hopefully people were too busy to notice the falling keys or the small number of bugs. I suspected it was crowded and busy out there, from what I had glimpsed when I was brought in. If people did notice, well, I was still getting arrested anyways, right?

Nothing to lose, I suppose, unless whatever the Protectorate higherups have in mind counts.

Getting the keys up onto the bed would be harder. I had the roaches put the keys beneath the bed, set them on the blanket, to start unraveling it. Ten sets of mandibles -eleven now, as another cockroach came from the air vent- each working at individual threads.

…are they making a rope to tie to the keychain?

I was torn between rushing this and doing it right. I had to convince myself that I wouldn’t be dragged off to jail in the next five or ten minutes. Probably.

It probably took that long to get a long enough piece of thread. One group of bugs set to looping the thread around the keychain, tying it into a firm knot, while the others brought it up the side of the bed, up my body, my arm, and to my hand.

I mean, if wires can make knots without even having a brain, why not roaches?

Once I had the thread in my fingers, I started winding it up around my fingers with a circular motion of my hands, reeling in the keys.

Skitter the fisherwoman.


In a matter of seconds, I had the keys in hand. Good.

Sweet.

The cockroach that had brought me the thread helped me figure out the keys that would work, traveling over them to eliminate the ones that were too large, acting as an added digit to help sort through them and putting the right keys between my fingers. It guided the end of the keys into the lock. The first key didn’t fit, too large.

Worm; or: 72 Interesting Uses for Cockroaches

The second unlocked the cuff.

I guess the help of the cockroach allows Taylor to avoid the rule of three.

I hurried to unlock the cuff on my left hand, flexed my hand and arm, rubbed at my wrists.

I pulled the covers off, swung my legs over the side of the bed, and gingerly tested them against the ground. They supported my weight.

😀

The relief was palpable. Almost something I could feel, making me want to hug my arms around my body in quiet joy.

Careful, you’ll prickle yourself on your cactus arm.

But my priority was getting out of here. Not so easy, with the amount of capes and PRT personnel around. No windows around me, but if I stepped outside the curtain and into the main area, I risked running into someone like Legend or Armsmaster.

It’d be kind of funny if all three were right in front of the curtain entrance as she came out.

Hm. New crack theory: What if they wanted to make this happen, for the remaining Undersiders to prove their skills as masters of the escape, and that’s why it “works better if all of you are kept in the dark as long as possible”? Seems quite unlikely, but it’s a fun idea.

I was assuming from what Panacea had said that they had been treated for the injuries that had taken them out of the fight and were up and about.

Yeah, sounds about right.


No, a better plan of action would be to keep out of sight.

Stealth mode: Activate!

I sent my bugs forward, tracing the lines of the curtains and wall. Once I was sure that the curtains in the next few patient enclosures were closed, I moved the curtain to my right and headed that way.

Nice.

Some cape I didn’t know was unconscious, blood smeared around his nose and mouth, almost caking the upper half of his mask to his face.

Ouch.

Where’s Greenfire when we need him?

Another enclosure, an empty cot, with red stains on the sheets from whatever patient had been there earlier.

Schrödinger’s stains: Whoever was here earlier is up and about, dead, and/or invisible.

Invisible zombies, huh…


[Discord]

Krixle Wells:
Concept: Invisible zombies

stronglight the menorah:
Jojo bizarre adventure already did it

Krixle Wells:
Huh.
Well then.


There was a window past the next enclosure. I wasn’t sure if I could climb out, or if there would be somewhere to go once I had, but it gave me hope.

It’s good to have hope back. I mean, this is a minor thing, but hope is still something we haven’t seen a lot of in this Arc.


I pushed my way into the next curtained enclosure. Stopped.

Oh.

There were shouts behind me, which might have been someone noting my absence. I was at the point of not caring anymore.

What did you just come across.

I tried to take a step forward, to move to the bedside or around it, but my newly healed legs gave out under me. I crumpled into a kneeling position.

Did… did they take in Tattletale after all?

Or is it Danny?

Staring up at the occupant of the bed, a few things came to me. For one thing, I got to experience first hand what Brian had told me, about how he’d gone cold, still and quiet inside on that day he’d gotten his powers.

Oh shit.

For another, I realized why they’d had me chained up. Kind of stupid not to, in retrospect. A glance at the curtain showed a blue tag, the same style as the red one that had been on my curtain, plastic, unlabeled.

The presence of civilians that the villains could harm?

The bed’s occupant lay on her back, tubes running into her nose and mouth, an IV in her arm.

Guys, I have a sneaky suspicion that this is not Danny. There’s just something about this sentence…

So does that mean Taylor was right to doubt the meaning of “losses”?

An ugly cut marred her right breast and shoulder, which were bare. Smaller cuts covered the rest of her body.

Running footsteps and the sound of a curtain being heaved open in a neighboring section didn’t stir me from my daze.

Sounds like they’re looking around for Taylor.

The bed’s occupant wore Shadow Stalker’s costume, sans mask.

Oh. Alright…

Is it Emma? Or one of the other Harpies? Because damn if that wouldn’t be quite the twist.

Wait, no, definitely not Emma. We’ve seen her and Shadow Stalker in the same place. Twice.

Sophia, perhaps. I suppose the personalities match, to the extent we know them. Also, maybe it wasn’t just the running team Taylor got Sophia in trouble with?


I believe I did at one point half-jokingly suggested the idea of one or more of the Harpies being a cape, though I don’t remember exactly when, or if I specified which one (if I did, it was probably Emma).

[It was Sophia, here, very off-handedly. It caught me quite off-guard, rereading that.]


I recognized her. Sophia Hess.

Bingo! 😀


End of Extermination 8.6

That’s right, we can go back to regular “End”s now. At least unless it turns out Leviathan isn’t as chased off as it seems.

So, that was an interesting chapter. Between Taylor talking to the nurse-in-training, getting healed and antagonized by Panacea (♠), learning that some of the Protectorate higher-ups want to talk to her and some unknown others, performing a daring escape and discovering that Shadow Stalker is Sophia Hess, there was plenty of action here for a chapter that mostly had the protagonist lying in a hospital bed. I quite enjoyed it.

That one of her tormentors is also a cape is a pretty big realization for Taylor. It marks the collapse of another guard post on the border between her civilian life and her cape life. One of the most important guard posts, in fact.

Also, this recontextualizes a few past events. At the mall, who stepped in-between Taylor and Emma? Sophia. And who is obsessed with being a rival to Grue, but romantically jealous over Brian? Sophia. (That last thing is almost approaching Miraculous levels of dramatic irony.)

So, next chapter, Taylor will have to deal with this discovery, which seems to have shook her so much that it’s only a matter of time before the people looking for her find her. As such, I suspect we might learn what Legend & co. have to say to Taylor as well.

See you then!

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