Extermination 8.8: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Source material: Worm, Extermination 8.8

Originally blogged: December 19, 2017


Exterwination 8.8

HelloooooooooooOOOOOooooOOOooOOooooOo

It’s tiwe to liveblog some wore Morw!

Last tiwe mas awazing. Me learned that Tattletale is alive and Arwwaster mas even wore of a dick than me thought, as revealed by Tattletale mhile she mas being fucking amesowe.

And then shit ment south for Taylor as Arwwaster, in a last ditch effort to discredit Taylor, revealed to the Undersiders, everyone present and the viemers of Trickster’s video/streaw the true nature of Taylor’s first fem meeks as an Undersider.

Nom she’s leaving the hospital, mith nomhere to go. This chapter… pretty wuch anthyding could hadplen, but I’w thinking we might go looking for Danny and/or his house.

So mithout further ado or any sort of explanation for mhy I’w smapping Ms and Ws, let’s juwp into it!

(#Worm #Parahumans #or in this case #Morw #Parahuwans)


How was a city like Brockton Bay supposed to pay its respects to all the heroes, villains and miscellaneous others that died to protect it? Until about five years ago, the answer had been a funeral.

Makes sense… so what replaced it?

Also, does Taylor not know the term “rogue” for non-hero/villain parahumans? I don’t think she used it to describe Parian either – if I remember correctly, she just said that she wasn’t a hero or villain. I’ll have to go check.

Ah, never mind, she did both:

“Parian. She was local, and she wasn’t hero or villain. A rogue, who only used her powers for business or entertainment.”

It really hadn’t worked out.

Oh. I suppose the sheer amount of grieving people from either side of the hero-villain spectrum, as well as the amount of space needed to bury all the corpses, not to mention the costs of the whole thing on top of repairs… could become troublesome.

On the surface, it was a great idea, had made for an amazing scene. Grand speeches about great moments of true selflessness from even despicable villains, good guys doing the most heroic of sacrifices.

Oh, absolutely. It sounds great in theory.

Except problems started to stack up. Could the people in charge of the event really let someone stand up and give a eulogy for someone like Kaiser? If they did, you earned the wrath of the dozens or hundreds of people who’d had their lives changed for the worse by Empire Eighty-Eight.

…good point.

While I’m not the type to get infuriated by this kind of thing, I wouldn’t exactly be happy with some sort of official endorsement of a eulogy for Anders Behring Breivik either.

For those who don’t remember, that’s not an ABB gag. I’m talking about the most hated man in Norway, a man who singlehandedly killed 77 people in one day, most of them teens. I previously brought him up during 1.4 (here and here) and in 2.3. [Here and here on the WordPress site.]


The uneasy solution had been to avoid saying anything about the local villains, beyond the fact that they had participated, but problems had stemmed from that, too.

Naturally. You either rile up those who don’t like the villains, or you rile up those who do (a.k.a. the villains themselves).

This kind of reminds me of the situation at the start of Tangle, with Taylor being annoyed that the Protectorate glossed over the villains’ involvement in taking down the Aching Beam Blasters.

(This time it’s an ABB gag. We don’t have any terrorists named Aching Beam Blasters over here.)

Subordinates or teammates of the fallen villains had made a scene over these omissions, sometimes during the funerals, and villain participation in Endbringer situations started to decline.

Which is definitely not something anyone wants, unless their goal is the destruction of the city.

More issues came up, rooted in the reality that people who went out in costume were more theatrical or dramatic as a rule. Too many vying to take the spotlight, hero and villain alike, even some of the fallen, with measures or requests placed in advance.

Oh my cod she’s right they’re totally a bunch of drama royals

It didn’t happen every time, but enough events became sideshows and media circuses that the whole purpose of the events was defeated. The media was banned from recording the event, but the capes who’d sought to stand out only tried harder. Fights had erupted.

Naturally.


So the funeral services became less frequent. Then they stopped altogether.

At this point, that’s fair.

So uh, what do they do with the bodies, then? Mass cremation?

Also do powers linger after death? Can you cremate someone with an immunity to fire?

A memorial was simpler. All who had joined the fight could be treated equally. There could be no snubs, really, nor could there be insults, dramatic oaths, taunts or speaking ill of dead rivals and nemeses before cameras or audiences of capes.

I feel like this would result in a few of the same issues, but at least not allowing extensive coverage of each person gets rid of the problems surrounding that specific part of it.

It was simply a dedication to the dead, a list of names, sometimes with a statue, if the groups involved could decide on something that didn’t too closely resemble a particular hero or villain. Ever a difficult, delicate balancing act.

Everything to do with these truces would be, I suppose.

Brockton Bay’s memorial had no statue.

It’s become more apparent to me towards the end of this whole expository section that it seems like we’re skipping ahead a bit. There’s no way the memorial happened immediately after Taylor left the hospital. We’ve probably skipped to at least a few days later.


Brockton Bay’s memorial had no statue. It seemed to be black marble with stainless steel in the core of the monument, so that the etched letters stood out in a metal gleam, even reflecting the sun’s light if the time and viewer’s position was right.

…I wonder if Skitter is on there. I mean, yes, the head of the Protectorate – whether you mean the Protectorate in general or the Protectorate of Brockton Bay – knows she’s alive, but they probably weren’t all that directly involved in the process of getting the list of casualties to the people making the monument. I’m guessing they got the list from the armbands’ system, and it’s very possible that they forgot to say “erase Skitter from the list, her being reported as deceased was an error” before they or their subordinates sent along the list.

The overall shape formed an obelisk, with the corners and base unpolished and rough, only the four sides smoothed and polished. It was out of the way, placed atop Captain’s Hill, at the base of the mountains to the west of the city.

Captain’s Hill is a good name. I like it.

I wasn’t sure if it was put there to stay or if they intended to move it after reconstruction and city revival efforts.

It would make a lot of sense to put it downtown, next to Lake Heroic, if they’re not filling that in.


Even with the memorial being out of the way, set down in place five days after the attack, it had taken a full week before the worst of the crowds were gone. Four times, I’d felt compelled to come see it and pay my respects, only to see the press of people and turn back.

I guess that’s to be expected. I’m glad people appreciate the efforts of those who died to save them.

Now I was here, along with a little less than a hundred people, only a small fraction of whom were actually viewing the obelisk. Others sat on the hill or picnicked.

But of course, things are going to calm down a bit after a while.

So by the sound of it, it’s been at least two weeks or so. Fair enough. Hopefully we’ll learn a bit about what Taylor has been up to in that time besides attempting to visit the obelisk.

As strange and vaguely inappropriate as it seemed, I couldn’t really blame them. The memorial had been put here, specifically, because the rest of the city had been devastated.

Ah, yeah, I guess there’s not many other places to put it.

Besides, “Captain’s Hill” sounds like a nice picnic location in the first place, just from the name.

In any given area of Brockton Bay, there was flooding, shattered streets, collapsed buildings, septic conditions or ongoing reconstruction. Often three or four of those things at once.

Lots of stuff to repair after Leviathan’s visit.

Meanwhile Godzilla barely damaged buildings as he passed by them in the movie I watched last night. Though apparently the incarnation I was watching (typically called simply “Zilla”) is vastly inferior to the original Godzilla, who beat him without problem in one of the other movies.


Zilla doesn’t even have the atomic laser breath.


More than half of the city was without power, two thirds had no running water, and even with the rest of the country and the world pitching in, uneven food distribution, health concerns, lack of facilities and rampant looting and crime made for dangerous living.

Yikes.

Buses were leaving every hour with evacuees, but the city was still thick with crowds of people just struggling to get by. Too many were people who had no relatives or friends to go to, who wouldn’t leave their remaining possessions behind to be taken by unscrupulous thieves. Captain’s Hill, for now, was a place that was safe, dry and clean.

Yeeeah. Gee, thanks, Leviathan. You made Brockton Bay even more of a shithole than it already was.

I walked around the monument, noting the names.

Escutcheon / Tyrone Venson
Erudite / Mavis Shoff
Fenja / Jessica Biermann

Oh nice, they’re putting up the civilian names too.

I suppose that’s a point against Skitter being on there.

Fierceling /
Frenetic /
Furrow /

That said, there were naturally going to be some people they couldn’t find out for. That would make them being unaware of Skitter’s name a bit less conspicuous, but they’d still have to look into it.

Gallant / Dean Stansfield
Geomancer / Tim Mars
Good Neighbor / Roberto Peets
Hallow /
Herald / Gordon Eckhart
Humble /

The alphabetic listing is well-suited to putting “Skitter /” near the end.

Gallant was dead. Unsettling to think that I’d met him and fought him. Or, rather, I’d fought against his team in the same skirmish, even if we hadn’t actually paid attention to one another in the fight. Now he was gone.

Yeah…

I could guess that the ones without names either hadn’t given permission for their names to be released, hadn’t written any will or had reason to keep their names private, protecting teammates. I circled the monument, walking around to the right.

That, or nobody knew who they were, even after their bodies were unmasked.


Impel / Corey Steffons
Iron Falcon / Brent Woodrow
Jotun /
Kaiser / Max Anders
Manpower / Neil Pelham
Mister Eminent /
Oaf / Wesley Scheaffer
Pelter / Stefanie Lamana
Penitent /
Quark / Caroline Ranson
Resolute / Georgia Woo
Saurian / Darlene Beckman

What a conspicuous place for this list quote to end… 😉

Is Taylor going to comment on Kaiser now?

I noted Iron Falcon on the list.

Huh. Not at first, I suppose.

…should I remember the name Brent Woodrow from somewhere? I don’t think so.

A few nights ago, trying and failing to fall asleep, managing a half-sleep where my thoughts drifted, I’d made the connection between the boy I’d helped and the ‘Iron Falcon down’ report I’d heard from the armband.

Ahh, right, that guy!

Well, seems he didn’t make it, then. :/

The name had maybe stuck with me because I could remember reading about how it was becoming a trend for heroes to go the easy route and stick -hawk or some other bird of prey on the end of their names. Laserhawk, Flame Falcon, Steel Eagle, and so on.

Hah, nice.

It had become unfashionable, but apparently Iron Falcon had stuck with it.

Sure seems like it.

Are you sure that’s the only reason the name stuck with you, though?


If his name was here, it meant he hadn’t made it. Hadn’t it been a problem with his leg? How did that kill someone? It was hard to figure out how I felt about it. Disappointed? Sad for him?

I suppose maybe he was caught by the wave, like the overweight guy. Chubster, wasn’t it? Although Chubster wasn’t on the list. Did he make it through the wave after all?

It was hard to figure out how I felt, period. Not just about the dead.

…I see. Which end of the spectrum are we on here? Lots of conflicting emotions? No emotions, as with depression?

I shivered, and rubbed my arms to warm up. It was sunny out, but cool air rolled down from the nearby mountains, and the amount of moisture in the air made for a damp cold.

Should have brought something warmer to wear. I stepped back and out of the way so a pair of parents with a toddler could pass by me.

Surely there’s nothing metaphorical about the weather giving Taylor chills while she’s reading a list of dead people. Nothing at all.

Rubbing my sleeves against my arms, I traveled around to the right, to the far side of the memorial, which faced the city.

Oh, was that the end of the list? I guess they did catch themselves before putting Skitter on there, then.


Sham /
Shielder / Eric Pelham

Oh, never mind. It’s just too long for one side.

Smackdown / Jennie Ryan
Snowflake / Charlotte Tom
Strider / Craig McNish
Uglymug /
Velocity / Robin Swoyer
Vitiator /
WCM /
Zigzag / Bennie Debold and Geoff Schearn

But they did catch themselves.

Also, interesting that Zigzag is given as two people. Were they a duo and the people in charge of this decided that since both of them died, they might as well just put the duo’s name rather than their individual ones? Or did they maybe not have individual cape names in the first place?

It was shorter than the other lists, the last list of names, so there was space at the bottom. Someone had used the empty space to etch words into the marble.

This could go different ways, primarily along the axis of respectfulness.

Also, I only now looked back and noted Taylor walking around the monument with each portion of the list. The division makes more sense now.

It was crude work, with scuff marks around each notch where the tool had been off target. The letters were all in capital letters, all straight lines – the ‘o’s were squares, the ‘B’s two triangles joined at one corner.

Yeah, either Wildbow’s pulling a bait-and-switch or it’s pretty clear where this falls on the respectfulness axis.

KOOROW BULLIT

Bait-and-switch it is, whether intentional or not. 😛

MILK STUMPY
BROOTUS JOODUS
AXIL GINGIR

Curious names, these. Civilians with nicknames, I guess— wait shit

RACHEL

oh no poor sad doggo 😥


It’s not lost on me that Brutus and Judas (or BROOTUS and JOODUS, as Rachel apparently spelled it – I suppose with her background it makes sense that she might not be the best at spelling) seem to have been among the dogs Leviathan killed. I guess that leaves Angelica to tug at the leash alone. 😥

How long had it taken her? She would have had to come late at night, well after the crowd had left, sat there with a chisel, hammer and flashlight, painstakingly chipped the letters into the marble. If she even had a chisel.

Taylor clearly figured it out a little bit quicker than I did.

And yeah, poor Rachel must’ve been really intent on putting those names there. As they should be.

The doggos should be remembered too.

She might have done it with a screwdriver or something else she had at hand.

I bent down and ran my fingers over the letters.

“Sickening.” I glanced over my shoulder to see the father holding the toddler. He shook his head, added, “Vandalizing this? So soon?”

I mean, it’s a fair assumption. And, well, technically what Rachel did. But he doesn’t have the full story.

Neither do the Protectorate, for that matter, though I doubt they’d put the dogs on there to begin with even if they did.


“They’re names, and this took time,” I said in answer, turning back to the memorial. “They mean something to someone.”

Yeah… Good way of putting it without giving away that you know who these names belong to.

Or that they were dogs. I don’t think the man would take that well.

“I think you’re right,” a girl said.

The father didn’t respond, just continuing to walk around the memorial. I waited until the father was gone before I stood, checked to see that most of the people who’d been visiting were off getting their lunches, the rest out of earshot. I turned to face the girl, sticking my hands in my pockets.

Rachel? Lisa? Someone else we know?

Lisa’d had the sense to dress warmer than me.

Hiya!

I have a feeling Lisa’s going to treat Taylor much like she ever has, unlike the rest of the team. Maybe she’s going to explain that she knew for a while, and why she didn’t tell the others or call Taylor out on it privately.

Her hair was up in two tight buns, just behind her ears, and she wore sunglasses, an oversized sweater and a skirt with tights underneath. She had a backpack slung over one shoulder. She smiled lightly, almost sadly.

Sounds like a nice outfit.


If Taylor hasn’t seen Lisa since the incident at the hospital, this makes for a good opportunity to catch up with the last two weeks on both sides of the divide, since both people have someone to tell about it. That would also explain why Taylor hasn’t narrated about any of it yet, except for her efforts to get to the monument.

“You getting by?” She asked me.

I shrugged, “I’ve got a cot in one of the shelters for people who lost their homes, and I have some of the cash I brought with me, so I have the basics of what I need.

Did you lose your home, or do you just refuse to go back home due to your falling out with Danny?

Not sure if Coil cancelled my bank account or what, but I might have that too. I’m surviving.”

I mean, Coil doesn’t seem like the type to cut a former employee off from the salary they already received. He’s a villain with some questionable morals, but that doesn’t sound like him.

“I figured you would be. What I want to know is if you’re okay.”

A whole other question, that.


I shrugged. How did I respond to that? Confess that I wasn’t sleeping? That I had nowhere to go? That I was angry enough in general that I’d been asked to leave one shelter, for yelling at someone who hadn’t entirely deserved it?

Sheesh.

Taylor’s most definitely not okay.

Could I even bring any of that up?

Instead, I guessed, “So. You knew?”

“Yeah,” Lisa replied, bobbing her head in a nod. “I’m so sorry.”

I was always bobbing back and forth on this but c o n f i r m e d 😀

“You’re apologizing?” I asked, caught by surprise, “I’m the one who planned on screwing you guys over.”

“But you didn’t. You changed your mind. Me? I had an idea of what you were up to, I lied to you, misled you. Manipulated you. Kept it all a big secret. And I’m sorry for that. Really.”

…I mean, fair, I guess?

What kind of manipulation are we talking here, though? Manipulation into giving up the recon mission like she ended up doing?

“How long did you know? When I was lying on my cot in the shelter, wondering whether you did know, thinking back to your expression and the things you’ve said in the past, I thought maybe it was when I decided to leave the group over…” I paused, looked at the people nearby, who might or might not be in earshot. “…you know. But no. You’ve known from the start.”

Yeah, or at least far longer than that. The apology just now doesn’t make sense with Lisa only figuring it out right before the Endbringer alart.


“Since before we met.”

Wow. Since when you first found out Taylor was fighting Lung in your place?

Does that mean you were acting like you thought Taylor was a villain when you first talked to her, specifically in order to set her down that path?

That was unexpected. “What? How?”

She turned her head, surveying the scene, the handful of people still around the monument, “Over there?”

Hm?

I nodded.

We walked over toward the railing above the sheer drop to the base of the hill.

Ah, she was suggesting they walk over there.

I guess this puts us at a good spot to look out over the city and maybe visualize the events of 1.3-1.6?

The position gave us a view of the entire city. There was the ocean, the coastline with crews and machinery clearing away the wreckage of buildings and the PHQ. Blinking lights marked the barriers and trucks around the perimeter of the massive hole Leviathan had made in the upper end of Downtown. The hole was still largely filled with water. People were still trying to verify if it would ever empty on its own, or if it would be a permanent part of downtown.

Ah, yeah, I suppose that’s worth looking into before declaring it a new lake.

I couldn’t make out the details of the Docks, but I saw flattened and ruined buildings. I’d scouted it early one morning, pulling on my costume and traveling the streets at an hour that even the roving mobs were asleep. From a distance, with the help of my bugs, I’d verified it. The loft was gone.

R.I.P.

(#dang it timmy

#i mean the boardwalk got one and the loft was more important)


My dad’s house was intact, at least, if not in the best shape. Still, even with two nights in a row with barely three hours of sleep between them, I’d held off on returning. Too much I couldn’t explain.

Poor Danny probably thinks Taylor is dead.

There’s only so much a man can handle. I’m not sure he’s okay in any sense of the word right now.

Lisa leaned on the railing, “I didn’t think we’d win.”

Against Lung, right?

I seem to recall the Undersiders’ rationale for going out to fight him being essentially “fuck it, let’s go and do our best”.

I joined her, leaning beside her. Maybe she could read something in the fact that I put myself far enough away that she couldn’t reach out and touch me, couldn’t push me over if she had a mind to. Paranoid.

Oof.

I mean, considering everything it’s not unreasonable to be a little wary, but it still stings a bit.

Looking over the city, thinking of the devastation, the hundreds of thousands of hungry, dirty, homeless people still in the city, I thought aloud, “Did we?”

Oh, against Leviathan… I doubt you ever quite “win” against an Endbringer, really. There’s losing, and losing less. Brockton Bay lost less.

I’m still not entirely sure Lisa is actually talking about Leviathan, though Taylor seems to think so. The fight against Lung is a more natural follow-up to Taylor’s question.


“We’re alive. That’s a win in my book.”

Closest thing you get to a victory with this kind of enemy. So far, at least.

I didn’t respond, and a silence stretched between us.

“Okay,” Lisa told me, “No more secrets.”

Sounds good to me. Time to answer the question, then?

“Sounds good,” I admitted.

“And I’m trusting you to use that brain of yours to know what parts of what I’m about to say should stay between us.”

I think Taylor can handle that, yeah.

“Okay.”

“Imagine this. You walk down a street in an unfamiliar city, you’ve got an appointment to go to, but barely any directions. You follow?”

I nodded.

Hm… alright?

“You come to a branching path. Do you go left, do you go right? Whatever decision you make, you’ve got to live with it,

walk down that path, and if it’s wrong, you have to figure out how to get over to the other path. And that keeps happening, until you get where you need to be. Maybe you got lucky, picked the right paths, got there on time. Maybe you were unlucky, and you were late.”

Are you using this analogy to say that you were gambling on Taylor’s resolve to be a hero, and nudged her away from it whenever it seemed risky?


I nodded, not sure where this was going.

“That’s everyone’s situation, day-to-day, making choices. Through resourcefulness, like using a cell phone to call for directions in our hypothetical situation, or talent, like me using my power, we can make it more likely we find the right paths, but we inevitably come to a choice between A or B at some time, right?”

This is making me think of Homestuck. Homestuck spoilers ahead:

There’s a character whose thing is the impact of people’s perceptions of reality and the choices they make, and predicting the consequences of those choices. Tattletale is currently reminding me of that character.

I may have mentioned previously that I thought Tattle might be a hero of Light in Homestuck terms, possibly a Thief of Light or Rogue of Light, but based on the elaboration we’ve seen in this Arc on how exactly Tattle’s power works and what we’re seeing right here, as well as her proficiency in mind games, I’m inclined to say she’s a hero of Mind instead.

I’m not quite settled on a class yet, though. Mage, perhaps? Classpect speculation is varied, but I’d define a Mage of Mind as someone who understands/knows the mind and choices, or understands/knows through the mind and choices, and (unlike a Seer of Mind) uses this understanding/knowledge herself rather than spreading it to the team.

Yeah, I think that fits Tattletale to a T.


“Right.”

“What if you could choose both? Choose both A and B, so your A self knows what your B self knows and vice versa.

Intriguing… go on…

When you know path B is the right choice, you can make it so. The world where you chose to go down path A is gone, vanished, so when you comes to the next choice, you can do it again.”

This sounds a lot like how future vision works in Steven Universe.

“Sounds pretty useful.”

“Trick being that you can only have two realities running in parallel at a time, and the only differences between those realities hinge on the choices and calls you make.

Hm.

Is she describing Coil’s power here? Because this sounds a lot like Coil’s power, except with more of a bent towards knowledge.

The choices in question here wouldn’t affect the flip of a coin, though, unless you’re parahumanly good at physics.

So you delegate. You find people who will follow orders. Sometimes you send them out to do something in only one world, so that if things don’t go the way you want, you can default to the reality where you didn’t send them.

Okay yeah, this is absolutely sounding like Coil now.

What does he have to do with any of this, though?

Or, in simpler terms, in one world, you flip a coin. In the other, you hold on a second, delay, say something.”

…the character I was talking about in the previous post also does a thing involving a coin flip and parallel timelines.

“Until every coin you’re flipping gives you a heads. You’re talking about Coil,” I realized.

I see… so that’s how it works. Thank you! I’ve been really wanting to know the particulars of his power.

But again, what does this have to do with you knowing about Taylor’s secret since before you met her? Did you (or Coil) know something about the other reality’s Taylor, or something?

(#Homestuck #can’t escape it)


Tattletale nodded.

“He’s been doing that from the start?”

“Some. The bank robbery, he had our back. But timing was sensitive, and I guess he wanted to maximize the chances that he’d get Dinah, so he didn’t have a concurrent reality where he kept us out of action.

Makes sense, although I suppose he could’ve opted for a secondary reality where he sent someone else. Another team, or maybe some of his soldiers (though that would make the crime traceable back to him).

And, according to him, we succeeded in both cases, though Bitch got hurt in a fight with Glory Girl in the other one. Lucky for us, I suppose, that the world where she didn’t get hurt was the same one where Coil got his captive.”

Ouch, yeah.

I winced. Even an offhand mention of the role I’d played in what happened to Dinah elicited a painful stab of guilt.

Yeeah, Taylor’s not quite over that yet.

[Oh you have no idea.]

“We didn’t have him for the fight with Bakuda, but we did have him for the fundraiser. He had the other version of us in reserve.”

In other words, they were guaranteed to win because if they didn’t, he would’ve chosen the reality where he didn’t ask them to try.

This is a really cool concept, and can act as a very good device to explain plot armor while throwing the characters into incredibly risky scenarios.


“And the fight with Empire Eighty-Eight?”

Lisa frowned, “Apparently that was one case where he saved our hides. Remember that call I got? Telling me to be careful? Same thing he did with the bank robbery.

Yikes.

Tells one version of me to push us to be careful, tells the other to go in for direct confrontation.

Oh dang.

Yeeah, I could see the confrontational route not really working out.

Knowing how he works, I try to nudge us in one direction or the other. The group of us that went in for the headlong attack? We got taken down.”

“That happened?” my eyes widened. That would have been the fight with Night and Fog, and it hadn’t been pretty as it was.

Yep. There were a lot of ways that could’ve gone bad – and, in another reality, did.

I guess I can blame Coil for the anti-climax, huh? 😛

“Did we die?”

Lisa shrugged, “Not sure. He didn’t elaborate, often doesn’t, unless it’s key info. But Coil decided not to go with that option, so it was clearly worse than what did happen. Or worse in his eyes.”

Yeah, evidently.


“Damn,” I muttered. What had happened? Not knowing was almost worse than hearing we’d all been slaughtered.

No use dwelling on it now, I suppose.

“Anyways, point of this explanation is this: Knowing we had an imminent fight with Lung coming, knowing Lung planned to pyrokinesis our general area until he rooted us out, got civilians to finger us or brought in enough capes to make life difficult for us, I called Coil. He said he’d help, told us to wait five minutes, then take the more direct route, straight into the heart of ABB territory.

Sooo then there was another timeline where they didn’t wait and came either before or during the main part of Taylor’s fight.

Did they find out in that reality that Taylor was trying to be a hero, and report that to Coil, who then reported that to the Tattle in the reality he chose? No, that still doesn’t make it so she’d know before she met Taylor.

“We go, we take out a contingent of ABB gangbangers and scare off Oni Lee. Then I get a call back from Coil. The other reality? We left earlier, went a different route. Got in a fight with Lung before you showed. You decided to attack both our groups while we were occupied fighting each other, worn out, only Lung was stronger at that time, too strong for you to do too much.

Ahh, I see!

By the time you realized you’d have to work with us to stop him, which wasn’t long, it was too late. Lung was too tough.”

Sounds like Taylor died in that one. Possibly also some of the Undersiders, though someone would have to escape to report this info back to Coil.


I tried to picture that scenario.

“I got away, managed to call Coil, let him know what had happened. Coil, in turn, informed me in this reality, the one you remember. Told me to watch out for a junior hero in the area.”

Daamn, this is nice.

When I figured Lisa might already know, I was expecting it to be because of her power. This is so much better.

Look, I’m a Homestuck – of course I love circuitous timeline stuff like this! 😛

I nodded.

“So I told the group to hold up, fibbed a bit about needing to use my power, get a sense of things, like Lung’s location. I was hoping that you were a new member of the Wards, that you’d call in help and deal with Lung without our involvement, that you’d leave, or even start the fight on your own. You attacked him on your own.”

I love how this is shining an all-new light on the events of Arc 1.


She shrugged, smiled a little, gave me an apologetic look with a tilt of her head, “And my plan worked out. Of course.”

Sort of, at least.

Did Coil make one reality where he told the chosen Tattletale what he’d just learned, and one where he didn’t and tried to let the delayed arrival do its thing without alerting Tattle to Taylor’s presence?

“Of course,” I replied, dryly.

“It might have ended there, but then Grue mistook you for a villain, and you didn’t correct him.

Ah, right. And Tattle couldn’t– wait, yes she could. Anyone else sworn to secrecy on Coil’s powers couldn’t, but Tattle could blame her power for knowing it.

It was interesting enough that I played along.

This sounds more like Tattle anyway.

The idea of recruiting you came when he was finishing his introductions.”

Nice.


“So everything I’ve been through, all of this, it’s-”

“My fault, pretty much. That’s why I’m saying I’m sorry. I mean it, too.”

I sighed.

I see.

But I mean, this doesn’t remove Taylor’s agency in actually accepting the offer.

“It’s okay,” I told her. “I think… I think if it happened again, I’d still want to be part of the group, want to have met you guys. I’d want some stuff to go down differently. Dinah, my dad, having things come out like they did after the battle with Leviathan.”

Yeah… it’s not been without its problems, but it’s been fun.

“We can’t take back what happened,” Tattletale said. “But we can try to fix it. Some of it. You could go back home. Face the music. Tell your dad some or all of what happened. You could go somewhere else, or I could convince the others to leave you and your dad alone, if you wanted to do that.”

They’re not already?

“I’m not ready to go home just yet.”

She’s not willing to face the music. She’s not ready to find out what sort of genres Danny has gotten into while she was gone.

Danny, at home: *plays Evanescence, Good Charlotte and My Chemical Romance loudly over every speaker in the house*


“No? I mean, I knew you hadn’t gone home yet, but I thought maybe that was our fault, you protecting your dad, staying away from places we’d know you frequent.”

Ah, now the comment about making the others leave her and her dad alone makes more sense.

“I’m still hurt, still mad at him. Mad at myself, too. I guess, more than anyone, I expected my dad to understand, to give me the benefit of a doubt.

He kind of did, for a while.

And going home would be going back to the way things were, which is the last thing I want.”

Oh yeah, the escapism is still on.

I suppose the Shadow Stalker revelation doesn’t help either.

“So you don’t want to go home, you obviously don’t want to go to the Birdcage, and you turned down an offer to join the Wards.”

A revelation which Tattle might not know about yet.

Though I did suspect that she found out when Taylor and Tattle met eyes last chapter…

I hesitated, “Yeah.”

“So, what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know.”

Taylor is kind of stuck now.

What even is she going to be when she finds out what to do? Hero? Villain? Civilian? Rogue?

Those last two seem unlikely. This is a story, after all.


“Become a hero? Strike out on your own?”

I shook my head, stressed the words, “I don’t know.

“No hard feelings if you want to go that way.

I mean, solo heroism is an option, but it seemed like Taylor got a bit sick of the “heroes” in general last chapter.

Again, I can talk to the others, ensure they don’t go straight for revenge or any of that. We don’t hate you, now, hurt as some of the others might be. Except maybe Bitch. She probably hates you.”

Heh. Very reassuring.

Really, I don’t know,” I told her, exasperated, “I don’t like or even respect any of the heroes I’ve met, I don’t even see the point of it. As villains, we faced down other villains. It wasn’t so different from what I’d be doing as a hero… but what did we really accomplish? What does anyone accomplish, if all we end up with is this?” I gestured out at the cityscape stretching out below us.

It depends on how you see it. Do you see a broken city, or a surviving city?

That said, we do know that Endbringers seek out places with lots of tension, violence, etc. I don’t know to what extent that’s public knowledge, though.

Other than that… I guess “fun”. This seems like a prime opportunity to call back to 3.6 and Tattle’s theory of the game of heroes and villains.


“Maybe you don’t know what you want to do because what you really want to do is come back.”

Not gonna lie, I’m not discounting that option. Maybe it’s possible to mend relations with the other Undersiders.

I didn’t reply for a minute. The quiet was disturbed by the noise of not-too-distant helicopters moving over the city, some capes flying alongside them as guards. It would be another drop of much-needed supplies.

Nice. Though the necessity of guards for the supply helicopters has some nasty implications for what some of the villains are up to.

I sighed, “They wouldn’t have me, and those guys won’t budge on the thing with Coil and Dinah. Not really.”

Fair enough.

“Probably not. I mean, even if they took you back, you’d have to eat crow, accept a few concessions, like Coil’s ‘pet’. There’d be no more playing around. You’d have to go all-in, from here on out, if you expected to convince them you were legit.”

Yeeah.

I shook my head.

“You want to be forgiven for what you did? It’s not going to be easy. There’s going to be a sacrifice on some level. And that starts with giving up that stubbornness, being willing to talk to them. To talk to me.

I suppose so.

You might even change your mind, find yourself able to look past thing with the girl, for the sake of having friends, doing the things you want or need to do in other areas.”

I mean… it’s unpleasant, but it might be a necessity.

Question is, does Taylor want to be friends with people would would be willing to look past that whole situation? Judging by the end of Buzz, that’s probably a no.


I stood away from the railing, stuck my hands in my pockets to keep them warm. “Never.”

Yeah, no, this is not something Taylor is willing to budge on.

“Never’s pretty final. If you’re so certain, what do you have to lose by hearing everyone out? Hearing me out? I’ve got coffee and lunch in my bag, we can sit down, talk it all out. If you’re willing, we can then go meet the others. I’ll talk to them with you, back you up, keep Bitch from murdering you.”

I guess that’s fair enough? The main thing Taylor has to lose here is her mood, I suppose. And her life if Lisa and Brian fail on that last thing.

I shook my head, turned and rested my back against the railing, looking at the memorial, rather than the city.

So many dead. So pointless. What was wrong with this world, that it was this fucked up?

It’s written by an author with a penchant for fucked-up-ness.

That people like Sophia and Armsmaster were heroes? That there couldn’t even be a proper funeral for the people who had given their lives, because of a small handful of grandstanding idiots?

That first one comes from people defining themselves as heroes or villains. Well, I suppose Sophia is an exception on that front, given her arrangement with the Wards, but you get what I mean.

[No, she isn’t, because she was a vigilante, not a villain, suggesting she still labeled herself as a hero.]


The wind blew hard from the north, cold, blowing my hair into disarray. I pushed my hair out of my face, tucked it behind my ear. When I gave Lisa a sidelong glance, she was putting her hood up.

Yeah, Taylor should’ve brought warmer clothes.

I wonder if Lisa saw the weather and had her power tell her how it was likely to develop.

She spoke without looking at me, “I’d go on, ask about whether you prioritize friends or morals, talk about how you’ve grown as a person in so many ways since joining us, except my power informs me that you just settled on a decision.”

I suppose so.

She was right. As I stared at the monument, a goal was crystallizing in my mind, a focus. I knew, now, what I wanted to do.

But what? Make the world better, not as a hero, not as a villain, but something in-between?

I had to change things. I had to be better than them. Than Armsmaster, Sophia, Coil, and all the others.

“Yeah,” I replied. She turned to glance my way.

Sounds like I’m at least somewhat on the right track.

“And does this plan feature the Undersiders?”

I gave her my answer.

…fucking hell what a cliffhanger.

I’m guessing “No”, unless Taylor’s found some kind of plan that could benefit the Undersiders enough that they’d be willing to leave Coil behind to help her out. Brian and Rachel in particular would be difficult to get on board with that, even if they weren’t currently disappointed in and/or pissed at Taylor.


End of Extermination 8.8

Where is Taylor going now?

This was a nice chapter. We got a glimpse into what the past two weeks have been like for Taylor, we finally learned how exactly Coil’s power works (and it’s really interesting), a lot of cool and new context was added to the first Lung battle and Taylor becoming an Undersider, and Taylor made an important decision and then quite rudely didn’t tell us whether the Undersiders were to be involved yet.

I am very intrigued right now, to see how Taylor decides to go about changing things. How she’ll go about making the world a bit better while not falling into the pitfalls of all the other people we’ve seen who were allegedly trying to make things better.

Next chapter… I don’t know. I don’t even know if it’s a regular chapter 8.9 or Interlude 9 (yes it still bugs me that Wildbow seems to be breaking from the “Arc N -> Interlude N” format) or even chapter 9.1 (which would set that right again). Let’s take a look at the link.

Interlude… 8… what.

Oh my cod now I have to call the one with Tattletale “Interlude 8 (Bonus)” or “the Tattletale Interlude” to separate it from this one? And what do I do with my tags?!

…I’ll have to tag that bridge when I get to it, I guess. At least it seems we’re setting the numbering back to the old pattern. Hopefully Wildbow figures out how he wants to number the bonus Interludes soon. 😛

So, uh, see you in Interlude 8.2, I guess!


[postscript]
I suppose the Interludes always were the unpredictable ones.

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