Interlude 11h: Fathers and Sisters

Source material: Worm, Interlude 11h

Originally blogged: April 21-25, 2018


Welcome back to Krixwell Liveblogs, where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter!

I think we’re in for a fun chapter this time. Unless time loops back on itself or Wildbow pulls a sneaky one on me and gives me Hatchet Face or none of the Slaughterhouse Nine instead, we’re in for Bonesaw today. She’s been presented as a wildcard, very hard to predict the actions of, which makes her sound quite entertaining to me, if perhaps rather difficult to work with as a liveblogger. I doubt I’ll be anywhere near as on-point for this one as I was for the last one.

By the way, I think I can practically guarantee that at some point I’ll accidentally call Bonesaw “Burnscar”. That actually happened already, in the chapter thoughts for the previous chapter (I went and fixed it when alerted to it), but I was not at all surprised – it was something I’ve known for a while was bound to happen at some point, and now that I’ve got a chapter where I’m probably going to be writing Bonesaw’s name a lot, there’s a good chance it’ll happen again.

It’s not my fault. The names are structurally very similar.

Anyway, as for predictions about the Interlude itself: I’ve been speculating about Panacea being Bonesaw’s nominee [here], but I don’t think Panacea fits as “the scaredy cat[here], unless that is referring to some side of her that’s been hidden from us thus far. Unfortunately I have no idea who would fit, especially while also being a person of interest to the Slaughterhouse Nine.

Danny??

Yes, that sounds about right. Danny Hebert, the newest member of the Slaughterhouse Nine. Sure.

At this point, I’m probably best off just jumping in and finding out the readery way. Let’s go!


Amy sat on her bed, staring at the piece of paper in her hands.

Ooooh!

I know the “scaredy cat” stuff made me waver on this, but I’m still going to count it as a win!

So does that mean Amy is the scaredy cat after all?

The header at the top was stylized, a silhouette of a superhero with a cape flowing, with a script reading ‘The Guild’ extending to the right.

Ooh, are we finally going to find out what the Guild is all about? I mean, we know it’s a superhero organization and that Dragon, for all her work for the Protectorate, is primarily in the Guild, but beyond that they’re pretty much a complete mystery so far. (I think I speculated at some point that they specialized in tinkers, but if this paper has to do with Panacea getting into it, then that’s probably wrong.)

So did Amy apply for, or get invited to, the Guild as a result of the New Wave disbanding, instead of going for the Wards like her sister?

Or maybe this is a completely unrelated document. Maybe it isn’t even for Panacea, and the reason she’s staring at it is that she found out something about someone close to her through it? Or about her dad.

Mrs. Carol Dallon. Brandish,

Alright, so it’s not for her. What’s this about, then? Did she just discover that her (adoptive) mom is joining the Guild?

Let me open by stating my condolences for the loss of your brother-in-law, nephew, and your husband’s injury. I have heard New Wave is currently considering disbanding, and you have my best wishes, whatever route you end up taking. We have too few heroes and heroines to lose them, and even fewer of the truly good heroes and heroines who set the standard for everyone else, parahuman and human alike. If finances ever become a concern, know that all you need to do is ask, and we will find you employment among the Guild’s uncostumed staff.

Hm… did Dragon write this? It sounds like her.

Either way, I think I like whoever did, so far.

Knowing what you have been through as of late, it is with a heavy heart that I send you this message with further bad news. Marquis, interred in the Baumann Parahuman Containment Center, confided to another inmate that he fears for his daughter’s life.

Ohhh.

Panacea didn’t know exactly who her father was, right? Wasn’t that part of the whole showdown with Tattletale in Agitation?

And now she’s found this letter to Brandish that states his name and makes it quite clear what his relation is, even if it doesn’t get more specific than this.

I have checked the facts to the best of my ability, and the details I have been able to dig up match with his story. I must warn you that Allfather may have arranged for Amy Dallon to be murdered at some future date, in revenge for his own daughter’s death at Marquis’ hands.

And hey, finding out that a dead bigshot villain may have set you up to be murdered can be upsetting in its own right.

(Also, yes, this is definitely Dragon.)


She had to stop reading there. The paper had been on Carol’s bedside table, and Amy had found it while collecting a change of clothes for Mark a week ago.

Mark? Would that be Manpower?

Carol had probably been reading it to him late the previous night, and maybe forgot to put it away due to a mixture of exhaustion and the distractions that came with waking up each morning to a disabled husband and a ten-year career in jeopardy.

Sounds like it, provided I’m remembering the family tree correctly. So what exactly happened to him in the fight against Leviathan?

Also this is a very good reason for forgetting to do something.

Amy knew she shouldn’t have read it, but the header had caught her attention. With her family’s fate uncertain, she had found herself reading, to see if they were joining the Guild, if something else had happened that could distract them from this.

Makes sense.


Hmm, if Amy is assuming that Carol would read the letter to Mark rather than have him read it himself, maybe that means his disability is that he went blind?

Or it could just be a little quirk of their relationship.


Now that door was open, and she could never shut it again. She didn’t care so much about the possible hit on her. No. What shook her was that she now knew who her father was.

Yeeah, the possible hit on her is more business as usual when you’re in this business, really. As a hero, there are going to be bad guys who want you dead, that’s just a fact of the occupation.

She even suspected that, like Tattletale had told her months ago, she’d always known. She just hadn’t dug for it, hadn’t put the pieces together.

Because she didn’t want to know.

Marquis had been an aspiring crime lord in the bad old days of Brockton Bay.

Wish I could turn back time
To the bad ol’ days
When my papa sang me to sleep
But now I’m stressed out

It had been a time when the villains had been flocking to the city to profit off the booming tech and banking sectors, to recruit mooks and henchmen from the city’s unemployed dockworkers.

…huh. I know we already had a mention of dockworkers becoming henchmen, long ago, but I never really made the connection that the situation of the dockworkers was overall good for villain business for that reason.

It had been an era when the heroes hadn’t been properly established, and the villains had been confident enough that some didn’t give a second thought to murdering any heroes who got in their way.

Nowadays, that just calls all the other heroes in town down on your head.

Marquis included.

Figures.


The bad old days were how Carol and Mark referred to that time. There were more heroes now, and there was more balance between the good guys and the bad, but things were arguably worse now.

How so? I mean, if you’re referring to right now, specifically after Leviathan, I can see it, but that “now” sounds wider.

Everything was in shambles.

Eh, never mind, guess it wasn’t.

Marquis had been an osteokinetic. A manipulator of both his own bone and, provided some was exposed, the bones of his enemies.

I’m sure he had a lot of skeletons in the closet.

They’d be potentially useful as minions.

He’d been notorious enough that she’d heard about him despite the fact that he’d been arrested more than a decade ago, that the city and the public had remembered him.

Yeah, that’s what I though. How exactly is that “aspiring”? Did he not successfully become a crime lord before he got arrested?

He’d lived in the outskirts of the city, residing in a large house in the woods, just beneath the mountains.

Sounds like a place to look for more answers, maybe. Though I expect it’s in shambles now, if it’s still there at all.

That was where he was arrested, right? And where they found Amy.

So if not to look for answers, it’s still a place Amy might want to visit.

She thought maybe there was something familiar about that idea. Was it imagination when the vague image of a house popped into her mind?

How old was she when they found her? Two, maybe?

The study with the black leather chair and countless bookshelves? Or was it memory, something recalled from her early childhood?

It can be hard to tell sometimes.


To all reports, the man had been heartless, callous. Wasn’t she? She couldn’t bring herself to care anymore when she went to the hospitals to heal the injured and sick.

Callous? Perhaps sometimes. Heartless? No, I don’t think so. Someone heartless wouldn’t care about fulfilling this duty as much as Amy seems to have.

She’s just burnt out. Not in the sense of the power leaving her, but in the psychological sense. She’s exerted herself too much. She was already stressed out about her work in Interlude 3. Add Leviathan and everything that’s happened since on top of that, and you really can’t blame her for disconnecting her emotions to deal with it all.

It was a chore, something she made herself do because people wouldn’t understand if she stopped. There were only so many people she could heal before she became desensitized to it.

Exactly. There’s a limit to how much you can deal with this sort of thing before it stops having the same impact.


What else did she know about Marquis? She vaguely recalled Uncle Neil talking about the man when he’d been talking to Laserdream about villain psychology. There were the unpredictable ones, the villains who were hard to stop because you couldn’t guess where they’d strike next, but who were less practiced in what they did and made mistakes you could leverage against them.

Hm. I wonder if Bonesaw falls in that category, or if she’s an exception.

There were also the orderly ones. The ones who were careful, who honed their methodology to perfection, but they repeated themselves, showed patterns that a smart hero could use to predict where they struck next, and often had rules or rituals a hero could turn against them.

That sounds more like the Marquis we know.

Which wasn’t to say that one was smarter than the other, or that one was better. Each posed problems for the local authorities and capes.

Oh, absolutely. Just different problems.

Marquis had fit into the latter category, the perfectionists, the pattern killers. He’d had, as Neil explained, a warped sense of honor, underneath it all. He didn’t kill women or kids.

Huh. Well, that’s something, I guess.

I’m guessing he was arrested by a team of all-female heroes.


Not hard to pull the pieces together. She could remember how quickly Neil had dropped the subject when he realized she was listening. He hadn’t outright said that they’d caught Marquis, but she could imagine that the weaknesses that Neil had been outlining had been what they’d used.

Yeah, sounds about right.

Send Lady Photon, Brandish and Fleur against the man. Add the fact that Amy had been there, a toddler, and Marquis had been too concerned about collateral damage to go all out.

Hah, called it.

It was him. She didn’t want it to, but it all fit together.


That’s right, Amy Dallon’s father is the famous Norwegian skier Petter Northug.


It was all so fucked up. She was so fucked up.

Aw.

Amy needs a hug.

There was a knock on her door. She hurried to hide the paper.

Family member, or surprise Bonesaw?

Bones. Marquis’s power was over bones. Even if I didn’t already suspect Bonesaw of having a specialty in medical equipment or something similar, that right there is a connection between Marquis’s daughter and Bonesaw.

“Come in,” she said, trying to compose herself in the span of one or two seconds.

Carol opened the door. She was pulling on the gloves for her costume. “Amy?”

Oh, hi! Come to inform Amy that she may want to watch out, especially for goons from either E44 team, for unspecified reasons that would leave her with more questions than answers if she hadn’t found this letter?

“Yeah?”

Carol took a few seconds before she looked up from her gloves and met Amy’s eyes. When she did, the look was hard, accusatory.

Ah, shit, she’s noticed that the paper was missing, hasn’t she.

Well, at least if they get the whole snooping matter out of the way now, they can have a proper talk about Marquis without Amy having to explain how she found out.


“There’s word about some strange howling near the Trainyard. Glory Girl and I are going on a patrol to check on it.”

Oh, huh. Looks like we’re going non-chronologically here and this happened just before Interlude 11a.

Was it ever established that that’s where Bitch’s area was? I don’t remember, but it makes a lot of sense for it to be up there.

Amy nodded.

“Can you look after Mark?”

“Of course,” Amy said, her voice quiet. She stood from her bed and headed to the door. Carol didn’t move right away. Instead, Amy’s adoptive mother stayed where she was, staring at Amy.

Yeeah, she definitely came in here with more in mind, but I guess she doesn’t want to say anything before she has confirmation. Not even a “hey, have you seen this one letter that went missing from our room anywhere”.

Amy reached the door and had to stop, waiting for Carol to speak.

If I’m right about why Carol isn’t saying anything about the paper, this is quite awkward.


But Carol didn’t. The woman turned and left the doorway, Amy meekly following.

Carol, internally: “Maybe she didn’t take it? What if I just misplaced it? If I bring it up and she didn’t know about it after all, then she will if I say something, and that opens a whole can of worms…”

They don’t understand.

Oh.

I might’ve been reading this situation all wrong. Carol might not be aware of the letter being gone at all.

She’s tense with Amy because she believes Amy could fix Mark’s disability.

Is it in the brain? Is that why Amy won’t do it?

Mark was in the living room, sitting on the couch. No longer able to don his costume and be Flashbang, Mark could barely move.

Flashbang, right. Manpower was the other guy. Uncle Neil, I guess.

He had a form of brain damage. It was technically amnesia, but it wasn’t the kind that afflicted someone in the movies and TV.

And I was right about the brain thing.

So if it’s not the kind you usually see in movies and TV, does that mean it’s anterograde amnesia – the kind where you stop properly moving memories from short term to long term memory, effectively meaning you barely remember anything after the onset of the amnesia?

Honestly, out of all the media I consume, Worm is the one where I’d be least surprised to actually see this arguably more heartbreaking, but lesser known and typically less narratively useful form of amnesia depicted.

What Mark had lost were the skills he’d learned over the course of his life.

Ohh. That’s a third form of amnesia I’m not familiar with, but the existence of which makes total sense. Retrograde and anterograde amnesia don’t usually affect the skills, and I’m aware of other contexts where memory of skills, knowledge and events are noticeably separate.

You don’t forget how to ride a bike, they say. That’s because of this, and that’s the sort of thing Mark actually has forgotten.

And so many more crucial skills. For one thing, Carol might’ve been reading the letter to him because he forgot how to read. And then there’s walking, eating with utensils, getting dressed, etc.

Yeeeah, I can see how this would prevent him from being Flashbang.

He’d lost the ability to walk, to speak full sentences, hold a pen and drive a car. He’d lost more – almost everything that let him function.

At least it’s probably possible to relearn, unless there’s such a thing as an anterograde version of this type of amnesia, but it’s gonna take a lot of time, effort and guidance.


What little he regained came slowly and disappeared quickly. It was as though his brain was a shattered glass, and there was only so much he could hold in it before it spilled out once again.

Ouch.

So they’d patiently worked with him, helping him to hobble between the bedroom, living room and bathroom. They’d worked with him until he could mostly feed himself, say what needed to be said, and they didn’t push him to do more.

Yes, good. Patience and support is key here.

Victoria was in costume as Glory Girl, but she was unclipping a bib from around his neck, something to ensure he didn’t stain his clothes while he ate.

I wonder what it’s like from within. By the sound of it, he retains his memories of knowledge and events, so he’s probably consciously aware of the change, of the infantile state he’s ended up in on the skills front, of the burden this turn of events puts on those he loves.

Of Amy’s power.

Amy’s adoptive father turned and smiled gently as he saw the other two members of his family. It was all Amy could do to maintain eye contact, smile back.

And of course Amy is guiltridden over it.

I know the story is written by the seat of the pants, but I wonder how long ahead Wildbow was thinking that something like this should happen. The dilemma Amy is in right now, between her unwillingness to mess with the brain and someone close to her ending up with a form of brain damage, seems quite solidly built up to through establishment and reinforcement of the former where there wasn’t really much narrative need to go into that at the time, going back all the way to Interlude 2.


“Ready, mom?” Victoria asked.

“Almost ready,” Carol said. She bent down by Mark and kissed him, and he was smiling sadly as she pulled back.

“I wish I still knew how to kiss you back.”

He mumbled something private and sweet that his daughters weren’t privy to, and Carol offered him a whispered reply. Carol stood, then nodded at Victoria, “Let’s go.”

See ya. Have fun back in Interlude 11a! Try not to run into anyone super out of your league, like someone who’s won against the Triumvirate repeatedly!

They left without another word. There was no goodbye for Amy, no hug or kiss.

Ouch. Yeeah.

The salt is real.

And I mean, it makes sense. As far as they think, she’s perfectly capable of putting this right, but refuses to for reasons they don’t fully understand.

Victoria can’t even meet my eyes.

There seems to be a lot of talk of eyes and the meeting or not meeting of them in this chapter. So far we’ve had Carol meeting Amy’s eyes sternly, Amy and Mark’s maintaining eye contact (it seems like Mark doesn’t blame Amy as much as the others, but it’s hard to be sure), and now Victoria not meeting Amy’s eyes.


The slight hurt more than she’d expected. It wasn’t like it was something new. It had been going on for weeks. And it was fully deserved.

Perhaps. I’m not gonna lie, I’m somewhat leaning towards their side, for now. I know Amy doesn’t like messing with brains, for fear of messing something up, but it might be worth at least trying. On the other hand, I completely understand that she doesn’t want to risk making it even worse.

Amy is the Spiderman of Worm. Not in terms of power, not in terms of personality, but in terms of that ancient wisdom that is oh so familiar:

With great power comes great responsibility.

The origin story of Spiderman, in every iteration I’m familiar with and probably most iterations I’m not, has always been all about Peter learning that if you’ve got the power to help, it is your duty to use it. In Interlude 3, we learned how Panacea feels bound by this – she has an amazing power that can help so many people, and with it came a sense of duty to do that as much as she possibly could, even at the expense of her own health, and the power/responsibility to make decisions on whom she should prioritize helping.

The other characters with strong connections to this theme are Taylor and Charlotte. Taylor is vocally against bystanderism, because so many people at her school, including Charlotte, had the power to open the locker and set her free, or fetch a teacher to do so, but nobody followed through on their responsibility to do so.

I think Taylor and Amy could, given circumstances forcing them to get to know each other better, relate to each other over letting this sense of duty to help someone out take over their lives and run them ragged. Amy is just a little further down this path, and more trapped by societal expectation than altruism at this point (though I don’t believe altruism has nothing to do with it). Taylor might not like Amy’s desire to quit, and Amy might not like Taylor for putting more pressure on her.

Amy: With great power comes great responsibility, which people around her expect her to fulfill regardless of what she herself wants.

Taylor: With great power comes great responsibility, which she wants to fulfill regardless of what people around her expect from her.


Amy felt her pulse pounding as she looked at Mark. Made herself sit on the couch next to him. Does he blame me?

I’m inclined to think not, given the smile he gave her earlier, but I think he’s probably aware of the drama. Unless that form of social awareness counts as a skill.

It was all falling apart. This family had never fully accepted her. Being in the midst of a family that all worked together, it was hard to preserve secrets.

Especially when the team the family forms has a thing about being open, with quirks like no secret identities.

Amy had learned a few years ago, overhearing a conversation between Carol and Aunt Sarah, that Carol had initially refused to take her in.

Ouch. At least that would’ve been before she got to know you?

Her adoptive mother had only accepted in the end because she’d had a job and Aunt Sarah didn’t.

For a moment I was confused as to why it wouldn’t be the other way around, with the one without a job having more time to take care of a child, but then I remembered you need money too, and New Wave doesn’t get paid by the government like the Protectorate does.

This moment of confusion might also have roots in the fact that apart from occasional freelance photography on my dad’s part, neither of my parents have had jobs in my life. We’ve made do with disability pension without much problem, and I’ve almost always had both my parents with me whenever I’ve been home.

I keep telling you guys, I’m privileged as fuck living up here.

One kid to Aunt Sarah’s two. When she’d taken Amy in, it hadn’t been out of love or caring, but grudging obligation and a sense of duty.

There we have it again. Grudging obligation and a sense of duty. That’s pretty much Amy’s character theme.


Mark had tried to be a dad. He’d made her pancakes on the weekends, taken her places. But it had always been inconsistent.

Inconsistent?

Some days he seemed to forget, others he got upset, or was just too distracted for the trips to the ice cream store or mall.

Aw.

I don’t think that means he didn’t love you, Amy. Everyone has days like these.

Another secret that the family hadn’t kept – Mark was clinically depressed.

…especially under those circumstances.

Honestly, that just makes me even more sure that he loves Amy and genuinely wanted to do his best as her dad.

He had been prescribed drugs to help him, but he didn’t always take them.

A common problem with depression, I think? I think I’ve heard something about that.

It had always been Victoria, only Victoria, who made her feel like she had a family here. Victoria was mad at her now.

Aww. 😦

Except mad wasn’t the right word. Victoria was appalled, seething with anger, brimming with resentment, because Amy couldn’t, wouldn’t, heal their father.

It’s not the first time they’ve discussed the brain healing, either. I don’t recall the exact circumstances, but the two of them discussed it in Interlude 2, and I’m fairly sure Victoria wasn’t very understanding of Amy’s reluctance to do it back then. I don’t know.

I guess I should reread Interlude 2 when I get to it in my current project to retroactively tag the chapter intros.


They’d fought, and Amy hadn’t been able to defend her position, but still she’d refused. Every second that Victoria and Carol spent taking care of Mark was a second Amy felt the distance between her and the family grow.

😦

So she took care of Mark as much as she could, only taking breaks to visit the hospitals to tend to the sick there. She’d also needed a few to process the letter she’d received.

Dammit, Amy, you were already working yourself to the bone, no pun intended, healing people all the time, and now you’re doing the same thing on another front but without using your power? Seriously, do you even sleep? I mean, it’s somewhat different if you’re one of those capes who don’t need to sleep, like Miss Militia, but still. This behavior is not healthy at all.

I may not have been clear enough about this earlier, when I was talking about power and responsibility: Amy is what happens when someone takes that too far.

(#there’s an mlp:fim episode about this #complete with the healing aspect

#it’s called ‘a health of information’

#fluttershy refuses to take breaks in her efforts to find a cure for her friend’s rare disease

#even when she herself catches it)


The letter. Carol wasn’t angry in the same way Victoria was. What Amy felt from her ‘mother’ was a chill.

Oh right, I forgot to mention, “the letter she’d received” doesn’t sound like the same letter she took from her mom.

Her mom who is apparently Dumbledore.

AMY DID YAH PUT YAH NAME IN THE GOBLET OF FIYAH

She knew that she was only justifying the darker suspicions Carol had harbored towards her since she was first brought into the family.

Are you sure she actually is harboring such suspicions? It seems like Amy is prone to being insecure about this sort of thing, which may cause her to assume things that aren’t necessarily true about how others see her.

It’s possible, yes, that Amy’s right. I just want to keep the option open that she isn’t, because I’m not sure how much I trust her as a narrator for other people’s thoughts on her.

It was doubly crushing now, because Amy knew about Marquis. Amy knew that Carol was thinking the same thing she was.

That she’s heartless and callous, her father’s spitting image?

I mean… okay, fair, under the current circumstances, it may very well be true that Carol thinks that of Amy in relation to the Mark case.


Marquis was one of the organized killers. He had his rules, he had his code, and so did Amy. Amy wouldn’t use her power to affect people’s minds. Like father, like daughter.

Oh, come on, Amy, that’s a really superficial comparison.

That’s like saying Taylor is like Bakuda or the majority of Slaughterhouse Nine because they’re all Chaotic.

“Do you need anything?” she asked Mark, when the next ad break came up.

“Water,” he mumbled.

Coming right up.

“Okay.”

She headed into the kitchen, grateful for the excuse to leave the room. She searched the dishwasher for his cup, a plastic glass with a textured outside, light enough for him to lift without having to struggle with muscle control, easy enough to grip.

That sounds good.

She filled it halfway so it wouldn’t be as heavy.

Tears filled her eyes, and she bent over the sink to wash her face.

When he said he needed water, I don’t think he meant from your eyes.

But yeah, all of this is clearly getting to Amy. It’s a really tough situation and probably some of the worst possible timing for her to find out who her biological father was.

Good job, Wildbow. Seriously, the entire premise of this situation is fantastic. Not for Amy, of course, but as a piece of writing, “girl with the power of healing and a self-imposed rule against messing with the brain is put in a tricky situation when her adoptive father suffers brain damage” is coddamn inspired. And then add the preexisting plot of “her biological father was a well-known villain”, a touch of “she finally finds out who her biological father was”, a dash of “villainous family resemblance angst” and finally a spoonful of “fucking Bonesaw”, and we’re in for a delicious treat.


And yeah, I haven’t forgotten that Bonesaw is almost certainly going to show up soon, one way or another (personally, I imagine her crashing through a window at any moment). She may try to do something to/”for” Mark while she’s here, or at least offer to.

And then later, when Glory Girl and Brandish come back from alerting the Protectorate about their sighting of Siberian, they might find Amy telling them about another Slaughterhouse member coming into their own damn house. That is, if she tells them.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, and the story. Let’s go back to crying Amy at the sink.


She was going to lose them. Lose her family, no matter what happened.

This… might actually be to Bonesaw’s benefit. “If you’re going to lose your family anyway, why not come with us?”

Not that I think Amy would accept that easily, and probably not at all.

Which meant she had to go. She was old enough to fend for herself. She would leave of her own volition, and she would help Mark as a parting gift to her family. She just had to work up the courage.

…damn. That’s an intense decision she just made.

Drying her face with her shirt, she carried the mug into the living room.

The TV was off.

Mark probably couldn’t do that.

Hello, Bonesaw.


Had Mark turned it off because he’d wanted to sleep? Amy was careful to be quiet, stepping on the floorboards at the far sides of the hallway so they wouldn’t creak.

Oh, I guess he can.

But yeah, I don’t think it would be on its own line like that if it wasn’t important.

A girl stood in the living room, five or so years younger than Amy.

There she is. Hiya!

Her blond hair had been curled into ringlets with painstaking care, but the rest of her was unkempt, filthy. She stared at Mark, who was struggling and failing to stand from the couch.

Oh, right, I guess Mark would probably recognize her, and do whatever he could – not much – to either stop her (heroic instinct kicking in, in spite of current disability) or flee.

The girl turned to look at Amy, and Amy saw that some of the dirt that covered the girl wasn’t dirt, but crusted blood.

Well, that’s pleasant.

The girl wore a stained apron that was too large for her, and the scalpels and tools in the pocket gleamed, catching the light from the lamps in the corner of the room.

Why did I assign Panacea [here] to be the TF2 Medic (tw: gore) when I was already theorizing – correctly, by the looks of it – that Bonesaw was essentially an evil, mad surgeon?

…also, I just realized she’s way too young to actually have a “medical background” like I suggested at one point. I think I kinda forgot at the time how young she was.


A girl stands in the living room, five or so years younger than Amy. It just so happens that today, the 17th of May, 2011, is this young woman’s birthday. Though it was twelve years ago she was given life, it is only today she will be given a name!

What will the name of this young woman be?

Amy recognized the girl from the pictures that were hung up in the office.

“Bonesaw.”


I just realized how late it’s getting – it’s almost 3 AM – and I think the introduction of Bonesaw into the scene makes for a good stopping point. See you Monday for the next part of the chapter!

[End of session]


Seeking screener for Twig

A friend is looking to start up a liveblog of another Wildbow work, Twig, but has trouble finding an ask screener.

If you are intimately familiar with Twig, have a decent eye for what is or isn’t a spoiler, and want to help out, please drop @killedthekat a message!

(Don’t send spoilers, obviously.)


[reblogging the previous post]
By the sound of it, this worked out quite well! Thank you! 🙂


I wonder if pony Skitter would have any power over changelings, the shapeshifting bug horses, or over breezies, the two-inch bug horses.

(#and – spoilers ahead – #whether she’d lose control over changelings when their default forms became fairy deer)


[reblog of a Tumblr post]

digamma-f-liveblogs:


well that was easy

Oh, so this is how you cure retrograde amnesia. Maybe it’d work on Mark’s procedural variant too!

Hey, Amy, have you tried just telling Mark in nearly meaningless terms how to do one thing, in the hopes that it might cause all his skills to come back?

It’s half-assed enough that it just might work if you’re lucky enough to be written by someone much lazier and less respectful than Wildbow at the moment! Try it out!


I think if I make more Worm videos, I’ll upload them on a different YouTube account.

I don’t think things watched on Polsy count towards YouTube’s recommendation algorithms, but it seems like either I’m wrong about that, or videos you upload yourself do even if you don’t actually watch your own videos.

“Parahumans Worm Abridged Arc 3” is showing up in my recommendations from time to time now. As someone who uses the recommendation tab a lot, I can’t have that happening with Worm videos that have actually spoilery thumbnails and titles, or ones that aren’t clearly Worm videos until I start watching them and get spoiled on something.


[Session 2]
Howdy! Let’s go find out what Bonesaw is doing in the Dallon family living room, and maybe where she’s hidden her doves!


“Hi,” Bonesaw gave a little wave of her hand. A wide smile was spread across her face.

Hiya!

I think I like her already.

“What- What are you doing here?”

“I wanted to see you. Obviously.”

Of course, what else?

I like how this doubles as somewhat meta, in that it ispretty obvious to the reader by now, even though it comes completely out of nowhere for Amy.

Amy swallowed. “Obviously.” Was it possible that Allfather had arranged for a member of the Slaughterhouse Nineto murder her?

Not an unreasonable guess under these circumstances, but I highly doubt that. And if he were to do that, Jack or Mannequin would probably be better choices. More reliable.

Amy’s eyes roved over the room, looking for Bonesaw’s work. Nothing. She looked over her shoulder and a shriek escaped through her lips.

Welp, what’s she got, and how did it get behind you?

A man was not two feet behind her, tall and brutish, his face badly scarred and battered to the point that it was barely recognizable as human.

Hatchet Face! Finally, we meet!

A long-handled axe sat in one of his massive, calloused hands, the head resting on the floor. Hatchet Face.

Nice, I called his weapon choice. Not that that was a difficult one to predict.

So what did Cherish do to him, exactly?


“Runnn,” Mark moaned, urging her. She didn’t give it a second thought.

Yeah, that’s probably not a terrible idea, though I don’t think they’re here to hurt her.

She dashed for the front door, threw it open with enough force that a picture fell from the wall.

Hatchet Face stood on the other side, blocking the doorway.

Um.

His power isn’t supposed to be teleportation or self-cloning. Is this Bonesaw’s work?

Hell, is this even actually Hatchet Face, or is it a set of fakes by Bonesaw?

“No,” she gasped, as she backed towards the living room, “No, please.”

This looks like one of the more genuine fear reactions we’ve had in the story, honestly. For all the scary people running around, most of the characters we typically follow rarely show much fear when faced with a scary enemy.

How? How had he gotten there so fast? She turned around and saw he was still there, still in the hallway.

The possibility of this happening is why I added “or self-cloning”.

I don’t think these Hatchet Faces are real.


There were two Hatchet Faces?

If that were actually the case, they’d be up to ten people even as they’re looking for someone to fill the ninth slot of the Slaughterhouse Nine (Siberian, Jack Slash, Burnscar, Mannequin, Shatterbird, Crawler, Cherish, Bonesaw, Hatchet Face and Hatchet Face).

Then again, Hatchet Face appear not to be counted after whatever Cherish did.

Then the first one exploded into a cloud of white dust and blood spatters, momentarily filling the room. Amy could hear Bonesaw’s giggling, felt her heart sink.

This reminds me of Bakuda’s decoy gangster bombs, except these aren’t holographic.

The white dust and apparent teleportation/cloning also remind me of Oni Lee, who last we knew was being taken back to the Slaughterhouse Nine, though that might’ve happened after this. But if it didn’t, it’s quite plausible that Bonesaw studied him and in some way adapted his power into some of her technology, much like how one of Bakuda’s bombs was based on Vista’s power but with the Manton effect overridden.

“Get it? You figure out what I did? Turn around, Hack Job.”

Hmm. Or did she modify Oni himself to look like Hatchet Face?

Amy had figured it out, but Bonesaw’s creation demonstrated anyways. He turned his back to Amy, and she saw what looked like a tumorous growth on the back of his head, shoulders and arms.

Oh jeez.

Except the growth had a face, vaguely Asian in features, and the lumps inside the growth each roughly corresponded with organs and skeletal structure.

Hatchet Face is still around, Burnscar said, “sort of”.

Bonesaw fused them. She fused too broken men together.

And now they have one body and probably both powers, though Oni’s power doesn’t work flawlessly with Hatchet Face’s body – thus the bloodspray accompanying the usual white dust.

As for any similar incompatibilities the other way: If Hatchet Face’s anti-power field didn’t allow picking and choosing targets (though I suspect it did), maybe Hack Job’s teleportation doesn’t work while the anti-power field is up.

I thought Hack Job was just a disrespectful nickname Bonesaw had for Hatchet Face, but it makes sense to give this fusion its own name, and it seems like an appropriate one.

The jaw of the figure that was attached to the back of Hatchet Face’s body was working open and closed like a fish gasping for air. The stitches were still fresh.

So while this does tell us that Interludes 11a and 11h take place after 11b (and probably before 11c), it seems it wasn’t too long after. She’s just finished this affront to nature.


Okay, so here’s what we know about the chronology of the Arc 11 Interludes so far:

  • 11b (Jack) takes place before 11a (Siberian) and 11h (Bonesaw): Oni Lee was still a separate entity.
  • 11a (Siberian) and 11h (Bonesaw) take place at the same time. In 11h, Glory Girl and Brandish go out to deal with the situation they arrive at in 11a.
  • 11c (Burnscar) probably takes place after 11b (Jack), possibly after 11a and 11h. Burnscar alludes to Hatchet Face being “sort of” around, which was probably in reference to Bonesaw’s Hack Job.
  • 11f (Crawler) takes place after 11e (Shatterbird). Coil receives news of the attack on the Chosen and the death of Leah the spy.

It seems like it’s probably mostly chronological, with the exceptions of 11b > 11a&h > 11c, but that’s still noteworthy because it’s the first time we’ve really seen unmarked but provably non-chronological presentation of the events in this story.


“You mashed them together. Oni Lee and Hatchet Face.”

“Is water just hydrogen and oxygen mashed together?”

“When it’s like this? Yes.”

“Yes! I can’t even begin to tell you how hard it was. I mean, I had to conduct the operation from a remote location, using robots, because I would lose my Tinker powers if I got too close to the big lug.

Oh yeah, that must be an odd sensation. I mean, for a lot of other people, it’s just a matter of not being able to do a thing you usually can’t, but for a tinker? It must feel rather weird to suddenly not be great with technology, or able to figure out how to do these crazy things their specialties allow them.

And I had to fit their bodies and nervous systems together so that they could use their powers without messing up the other.”

I suppose she did manage to make the teleportation work out fine, even if the destruction of the clones got a bit messier.

“Oh god,” Amy mumbled. Is this what she’s going to do to me?

If she were to, whom would she mash you up with? Mark?


“Had to add in a control frame and perform a spot lobotomy so Hatchet would obey me, you know. He didn’t lose much. Was never very bright.”

Ouch. And that’s after whatever Cherish did, and before being mashed together with a man who would obey any order.

“And Oni Lee?” Amy was almost afraid to ask.

“Oh, I barely touched his brain. He suffered some moderate brain damage from his close brush with death, but I revived him. His brain’s more or less intact, even. He can’t control his body, but he’s alert and aware, and he feels everything Hatchet does,” Bonesaw smiled wider.

Ahh, I see. This is more similar to the Voldemort situation from Philosopher’s Stone than I thought.

It’s also more horrifying.

“That’s horrifying.”

Hey, that’s my line!

“It’s not a perfect mesh. I only just started doing these mash-ups. Still practicing.

Hm, that suggests she’s done a decent number more of them, but not that many.

Hatchet’s power isn’t working as well anymore, and I’m worried about physical wear and tear as they teleport, but it’s still one of my better works.

For Oni it was mental wear and tear, but now we’ve put a body not entirely adapted to the teleporting in the picture.

Took me four whole hours.” Bonesaw clasped her hands in front of her, shifting her weight from foot to foot, waiting expectantly.

That honestly seems like quick work for something like this.


I love how Bonesaw is treating Amy like an old friend (even though there’s no solid evidence yet to suggest that that is actually the case, like it was with Burnscar and Labyrinth) and gushing about her work like a child proudly showing her latest drawing to her parents and waiting eagerly for their response.


Amy swallowed. She didn’t have words.

Bonesaw smiled. “I thought you’d appreciate this more than anyone.”

Does she know Amy from before? Amy doesn’t seem to know Bonesaw from anywhere other than pictures.

I suppose it’s just the profile Cherish put together of her, the public knowledge about Amy, the fact that they’re both medically inclined, and whatever surveillance Bonesaw might’ve done.

“Appreciate this.”

Hah, I love how you can just hear the flat dryness of this line.

“You’re the only other person who works with meat. I mean, we’re different in some ways, but we’re also really similar, aren’t we? You manipulate people’s biology, and I tinker with it. The human body’s only a really intricate, wet machine, isn’t it?”

That is a perspective I share, to be honest, though a machine people have a strong sense of ownership over. Which is reasonable, considering that machine is them.

Others were entering the room now. From the kitchen, a woman, the structure of her face altered into something that was more rat-like than human, conelike, ending in a squashed black nose that had staples around it.

Are these the other fusion experiments?

I don’t think I recognize this one.

Bonesaw had added a second set of teeth, all canines, so that the woman would have enough as her jaw was stretched forward. Drool constantly leaked between her teeth in loops and tendrils. She was pale, except for her face and patches all down her body, where patches of ebon black skin were stapled in place. Her hair was long, dark, and unwashed, but most unnerving of all were her fingers, which had been replaced by what looked like machetes.

Looking sharp. Ey? Eyy?

The clawtips dragged on the hardwood as she stumped forward on feet that had been modified in a similar way, no longer fit for conventional walking.

So what is this, a raccoon-themed one?


The third was another Frankenstein hodgepodge of two individuals, emerging from the hallway where the amalgamation of Oni Lee and Hatchet Face -Hack Job- had exploded.

I’m going to take this a confirmation that Hack Job is meant to be taken as a name for the amalgamation itself.

The lower half was a man who must have been built like a gorilla in life, rippling with muscles, walking forward on his knuckles. His upper body grew up from the point the other body’s neck should have begun, an emaciated man with greasy brown hair and beard, grown long. He was not unlike a centaur, but the lower half was a brutish man.

Oh wow.

That’s quite the look.

Then there were the other things. They weren’t alive. Spidery contraptions of scrap metal, they lacked heads, only consisting of a box half the size of a toaster and spindly legs that moved on hydraulics, each ending in a syringe or scalpel.

These would be some of the robots Bonesaw mentioned, I imagine.

A dozen of them, climbing onto the walls and floor.

I doubt Taylor could control robots just because they’re vaguely spidery, but it’s still fun to imagine that.


“Murder Rat used to be a heroine, called herself the Mouse Protector.

Huh. Power to control mice and rats, perhaps? Or at least communicate with them?

In a similar vein to Taylor and the spiderbots, I’m imagining Mouse Protector using a computer without moving her hands other than to type, controlling the computer mouse with her mind.

Anyway, Mouse Protector is a somewhat silly name, but if you treat “mouse” as a metaphor for the small and helpless, then it becomes kind of evocative.

One of those capes who plays up the cheese, no pun intended. Camped it up, acted dorky, used bad puns, so her enemies would be embarrassed to lose to her.

Pfft, like Spiderman. This is something I’ve previously commented on Worm not really doing, so it’s nice to know that there are capes in this world that actually are like this.

Ravager decided she’d had enough, asked the Nine to take Mouse Protector down. So we took the job. Beat Mouse Protector, and I took her to the operating table.

I’m beginning to understand why getting caught by the Nine is sometimes considered a fate worse than death.

The other Nine tracked down Ravager and collected her, too. Just to make it clear that we don’t take orders.

…of course.

We aren’t errand boys or errand girls either. Now Ravager gets to spend the rest of her life with the woman she hated, making up.”

Oddly poetic for talking about an inhuman Frankensteinian monstrosity.


Amy swallowed, looking at the woman.

“The other, I’m trying to figure out a name. The one on the bottom was Carnal. Healer, tough, and healed more by bathing himself in blood.

…something tells me he wasn’t a hero.

Thought he had a place on our team, failed the tests.

Ah, yeah, figures.

The one on the top was Prophet. Convinced he was Jesus reborn.

Huh. And here I was just recently talking about Christian end times and how Scion was the only one we knew of so far with a Jesus/divine aesthetic. I’m fairly sure there was something about false prophets in said end times.

What do you call a mix of people like that? I’ve got a name in mind, but I can’t quite figure it out.”

Hmm…

Communion. That’s what you call them. This is Jesus’ body. This is Jesus’ blood.


“I don’t know.”

“So you’re bad at names too?” Bonesaw grinned. “I’m thinking something like shrine, temple… but one with multiple floors. Um.”

I think you’re veering more into Asian religion and architecture with that. I do appreciate the connection to having the upper and lower portions of the body, that’s kind of clever.

I still prefer my own suggestion, though.

“Pagoda?”

Ah, right, that’s the word.

“Pagoda! Yes!” Bonesaw skipped over to her creation, wrapped her arms around one of his, “Pagoda! That’s your name, now!”

It’s not all that bad, I suppose, as a name.


None of the three monsters moved or reacted. Each stared dumbly forward, Murder Rat drooling, the others appearing to be in a daze.

Yeeah, I don’t think there’s much in there to react anymore.

“That’s good!” Bonesaw smiled at Amy, “I knew we’d make a good team!”

Ahaha! Getting a bit ahead of yourself, perhaps?

“Team?” What could she say or do to escape? Failing that, was there anything she could use to kill herself, so Bonesaw couldn’t get her hands on them, turn them into something like those things?

I’m not even sure being dead would save your body if that were what Bonesaw was after, but at least you wouldn’t end up being aware of what was going on like Oni.

In the worst case scenario, she could use her power on Mark before finishing herself off.

Oh yeah, shouldn’t Amy be able to use her power to kill herself if needed? We know it can do negative effects. Would that be too slow? Or maybe it doesn’t work on herself.


Except she wasn’t sure it would matter. Amy was incapable, but there was nothing saying Bonesaw couldn’t raise the recently dead.

Good point. We know something similar is possible, with Glastig Uaine – though her power didn’t seem to restore true life, it was enough that I think Bonesaw would be pleased with the result.

That said, I would imagine resurrection via tinkering might be even more difficult than via direct biology manipulation.

“Yes, team! I want you to be my teammate!” Bonesaw was almost gushing.

There we go, the purpose of this meeting is out in the air. Time to see how Amy reacts to that. I highly doubt she’s interested.

“I don’t-” Amy stopped herself, “Why?”

That’s a pretty good question to ask.

“Because I always wanted a big sister,” Bonesaw replied, as if that was answer enough.

…huh. That’s.

An interesting view of Amy for Bonesaw to have.

I like it.

(#it reminds me of scootaloo)


Amy blinked. Sister. She thought of Victoria. “I make a pretty shitty sister.”

Aww. Don’t sell yourself short, Amy.

“Language!” Bonesaw admonished, with surprising fierceness.

Ahaha!

And this from a member of the Slaughterhouse Nine! I can just imagine what it’s like when they’re all together and Bonesaw insists on keeping the language clean.

I really love the balance of immaturity, brutality and technological ability we see in Bonesaw. It’s ridiculous, disturbing and kind of adorable all at once.

There’s a good chance she’ll be at the top of my Slaughterhouse ranking in the Arc Thoughts.

“I’m sorry. I- I’m not a very good sister, I don’t think.”

“You could learn.”

This is quite the conversation to have with one of the most feared individuals in the country, in front of three affronts to nature and your recently disabled adoptive dad.

“I’ve tried, but… I’ve only gotten worse at it as time passed.”

And Amy is just so caught off guard by Bonesaw wanting her to be her sister that she starts opening up quite a bit.

Bonesaw pouted a little. “But think of the stuff we could do together. I do the kludge, the big stuff, you smooth it over. Imagine how Murder Rat would look without the scars and staples.”

True, that would probably help with the aesthetics, unless you’re going for the Frankenstein’s monster aesthetic.


Amy looked at the onetime heroine, tried to picture it. It wasn’t any better. Worse, if anything.

Eh, fair.

“That’s only the beginning. Can you even imagine the things we could make? There’s no upper limit.”

The sky’s the limit, they say, but the sky isn’t a physical thing. It doesn’t stand in the way of going far beyond. (The ground, on the other hand, is clingy and tries to pull you down.)

There was a beep from the answering machine. It began playing a message. “Amy, pick up! We’re looking at dealing with Hellhound, and there’s injured. Call Aunt Sarah or Uncle Neil over to look after dad and get over to the-”

Hm, were there mentions in 11a of Amy not showing up or answering, or something like that?

Also, I thought Neil was dead [here]. Was he not Manpower after all?

The message cut off, and there was the sound of a clatter, a distant barking sound.

Sounds about right.

I don’t remember, did we hear this message in 11a before Bitch cut Glory Girl off?

“I don’t think I have it in me to do stuff like that,” Amy said. If nothing else, I can’t disappoint Victoria any further.

Oh yeah, I don’t think she’d approve, exactly.


It’s neat how calmly Amy is talking at this point.

“Oh. Oh!” Bonesaw smiled. “That’s okay. We can work through that.”

Judging by the number of people nominated with moral compasses that don’t at all fit into the Slaughterhouse Nine, I believe her.

“I- I don’t think we really can.”

“No, really,” Bonesaw said. Then she snapped her fingers.

Uh. Should I be worried about what that snap means?

Hack Job flickered into existence just in front of Amy, and there was little she could do to escape. She cried out as the man’s massive hand smashed her down onto her back, a few feet from Mark.

Ouch. Yeeah, looks like Bonesaw just decided that “Oh, she’s not coming with me of her own free will due to her morals. Guess I’ll just have to do this the hard way.”

Mark struggled to stand, but Murder Rat darted across the room to light atop the back of the couch and press one of her three-foot long claws against his throat.

Sorry, Mark. There’s not much you can do about this.

Also, jeez, those claws are longer than I thought.


Amy was pinned. She tried to use her power on Hack Job through the contact he was making with her chest and neck, only to find it wasn’t available.

His specialty, though it “doesn’t work as well”. And if he doesn’t have the ability to pick and choose targets, that’s fine for Bonesaw unless she needs the abilities of the other amalgamates, because she doesn’t have much need for her tinker abilities at the moment.

She couldn’t sense his body, the blood flowing in his veins, or any of that. Even her own skin felt quiet, where she normally felt the pinprick sensations of innumerable, microscopic airborne lifeforms touching her.

Huh. I suppose it makes sense that with a touch-range power that allows her to sense and modify the biology of a target, all the lifeforms on and in her would count as touching her and therefore be available to her power. Even if she might not be as effective at modifying their ability when they aren’t human, it makes sense that she’d still sense them.

She’d barely even realized that was happening until it stopped.

Makes sense. It’s like turning off a noisy fan you didn’t realize was on.


“Jack’s taken me on as his protegé. Teaching me the finer points of being an artist. What he’s been saying is that I’m too focused on the external. Skin, bone, flesh, bodies, the stuff we see and hear.

How is “bone” external? Flesh, I can kind of understand, what with mouths and such, but if bone’s showing directly, something is probably wrong.

And if that kind of thing is “external”, what’s “internal”? The brain?

He’s told me to practice with the internal, and this seems like a great time to do that.”

Aaand we’ve got a victim right over there on the couch.

“Internal?” Amy replied.

“It’s easy to break people’s bodies. Easy to scar them and hurt them that way. But the true art is what you do inside their heads.

Looks like I broke that down correctly.

And I suppose there’s some truth in what she’s saying. Of course there are less artful ways to break a brain, but careful modification can create interesting results.

Do you have a breaking point, Amy? Maybe if we find your limits and push past them, you’ll find yourself in a place where you’ll want to join us.”

Oh, I see. Things are falling into place – she’s doing this in order to “work through that” like one might work through not having the key for a car when they’re stealing it.

She’s planning on hotwiring Amy.


…what would hotwiring translate to in the Cars universe?


A wide smile spread across Bonesaw’s face as she settled into a cross-legged position on the floor, facing Amy.

Have we seen her not smile yet?

“I- no. Please.”

“You’re a healer, but you can do so much more. Why don’t you go out in costume?”

I mean, we have seen her out in costume. But these days, I suppose she’s dividing her attention between Mark and the hospitals with no time left for that.

Amy didn’t respond. There was no right answer here.

“Are you afraid to hurt someone? That could be our first exercise.”

She’s willing to mess with people using negative effects, but the worst we’ve really seen was giving Taylor a headache.

Amy shook her head.

“Murder rat, come here. Hack Job, back off.”

Well. How are you going to get out of this one, Amy?

Hack Job let go of her, and she tried to scramble away, but Murder Rat pounced on her, pressing her down against the ground. The woman smelled rank, like a homeless person.

Probably the scent of wild city mice.


“So here’s the lesson,” Bonesaw said, “Hurt her, take her apart. If you go easy on her, or if you leave her in a state where she can move, she’ll cut you, and then she’ll cut a body part off that man on the couch there.”

Damn.

Murder Rat placed a blade against her cheek, scraped it down toward her chin, as if giving Amy a close shave.

“You know I don’t have a beard, right?”

She reached up and touched the woman’s chest. Without Hack Job touching her, her power was coming back quickly. She felt Murder Rat’s biology snap into her consciousness, until she could see every cell, every fluid, every part of the woman. The two women. She could see Bonesaw’s work, the integration of body parts, the transfusions of bone marrow from one woman to the other, the viruses with modified DNA inside them, skewing the balances and configurations until she couldn’t tell for sure where one woman started and the other began.

Chimeras. That’s what I should be calling these things.

Also, it’s kind of interesting how they’re connected enough that even though it’s not quite seamless, Amy only needs to touch one point on the chimera to get access to both parts.

(Alternatively, I suppose it’s possible that both women have cells in the area Amy is touching.)

She could also see the metal frames inside the woman, interlacing with the largest bones of her skeletal system, the needles in her spine and brain. Bonesaw’s control system. There was something around the heart, too.

Ah, yes, total control of her nervous system.

Metal, with lots of needles pointing inward. She was rigged to die if the control frame was ever disabled. The woman, no, the women, were awake in there. One and a half brains contained in a synthetic fluid in her skull.

Got a bit of a failsafe in case of technomancers or others with the ability to cut off the control and turn the chimeras against Bonesaw. And of course, they’re both aware of the hellish existence they now have.

She targeted the ligaments at the woman’s shoulders and hips. Cutting them was easier than putting the things back together again. Dissolve the cells, break them down.

Huh. Not a bad tactic.

The woman collapsed onto a heap on top of her.

Yeeeah, I would think detaching the bones of the arms and legs would do that.


“Excellent! Pick her up, H.J.”

Does Hack Job understand the initialism?

Hack Job picked up the limp Murder Rat, put her down a short distance away from Amy.

Apparently so.

Bonesaw walked over to her creation and propped up Murder Rat so she had a view of the scene.

“Hey, ligaments or no ligaments, you’re gonna watch this.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t kill her. The healer, letting someone suffer like that. Or are you against mercy killing?”

Oh boy, that’s a big debate.

In cases like this? I’d be in favor of killing her off.

Not sure Bonesaw would’ve appreciated it if Amy had actually done that, though. I mean, this is clearly something Bonesaw has put a bit of work into.

Again, there was no answer she could give that wouldn’t worsen her situation.

I don’t know about that. “No, but I didn’t want to ruin your work” might be a good one, even if not true.

“Or are you against killing in general? We can work on that.”

“Please. No.”

Oh boy. That would quite likely end up with Mark as the target.

“Pagoda. Your turn.”

Pagoda approached with an awkward lurch, and Amy managed to stand and run. She got halfway to the front door before Hack Job materialized in front of her, barring her way.

Coddamn teleporters, always getting in the way…

He pushed her, and she fell. Pagoda lurched over to her and pressed her down.

I wonder if Prophet was a healer, in a sense more like Amy than like Carnal. It would fit the Jesus delusion.


“I use my creations to collect material for other work. It’s a circle, using them to get material for more creations.

Seems like reasonable strategy. You know, as long as you ignore what those “materials” are.

Having the Nine was essential to get things started, and to help get things going again if a hero managed to put down a few, but now I’m in good shape. I stick around because they’re mostly fans, and they’re kind of family. I want you in my family, Amy Dallon.”

And there we have it again. Bonesaw inviting Amy to be family.

“Please.”

“Now, I’m willing to make sacrifices to see that happen. Same thing as with Murder Rat. You don’t stop Pagoda, I’ll have him hurt the man on the couch.”

Hm, seems like she’s not aware of the relation between Amy and Mark, or of who Mark used to be.

But I suppose that makes sense, since they arrived after the Endbringer event took Mark out of the main cape scene.

Amy used her power on Pagoda, felt his body, much the same as Murder Rat’s in so many respects, though the metal frame with the needles in his spine was different.

How does his spine even work? Does the bottom of Prophet’s spine attach to the top of Carnal’s?

She reached for the ligaments at his shoulders and hips, separated them.

Same tactic. Fair enough, why change it if it works?


The first had grown back before she’d started on the third.

Ah, right, regenerative powers.

Try severing the connection of the spines?

Though maybe that would mess with the control system and kill Pagoda.

“He heals,” Bonesaw informed her. “Two regenerators in one. There’s only one good way to stop him. Try again.”

Messing up the control system and thus killing him?

Pain. She inflicted pain on Pagoda. No reaction. She’d have to reach into his brain to make it so he really felt pain again. She tried atrophying his muscles, with no luck. Anything she did was undone nearly as fast as she could inflict it.

Quite a damage sponge, this one.

“Five seconds,” Bonesaw announced. “Four.”

Sending signals to his arms to get him to move. No. The metal frame overrode anything she could do with her power to control him.

The pressure is on.

“Three.”

Amy used the only option available to her. She disconnected him from the metal frame that Bonesaw used to control her subjects. She could sense it as the metal shifted into motion around his heart. Not needles, as there had been for Murder Rat, but small canisters of fluid.

Yeah, needles probably wouldn’t work against the regeneration.

Also, where exactly is his heart? Which chest, which ribcage is it behind?

“Two… one… zero point five… Ah, there we go.”

Pagoda lurched backward and broke contact with Amy, her power no longer giving her an insight into what was happening with him.

So what was the fluid? Explosives?

He sat down, using one hand to prop himself up. A moment later he slumped over, his eyes shutting. His breathing stopped.

Hm, no. Some sort of poison, I guess.


“A chemical trigger for something I already put in his DNA, when I was patching his regeneration abilities together. Reverses the regeneration so it does the opposite, starting with the heart.”

Ahh, interesting.

Amy looked at her hand. She’d just taken a life. A mercy, most probably, but she’d killed.

“WHAT HAVE I DONNNNE”

Something she had promised herself she would never do.

Aw.

She shivered. It had been so easy. Was this what it was like for her father? Had she just taken one more step toward being like him?

Oh yeah, this particular angst is still a thing.

I wouldn’t count this. You were forced.


[Session 3]

Go, go, Wormer Rangers!

Which is to say, let’s get back to the Interlude.


“Ready to join?” Bonesaw asked, looking for all the world like a puppy when her master had the leash out, ready for a walk.

Yeah, no, I don’t think so.

Eager, brimming with excitement.

For all the puppylike behavior, I don’t think Rachel would like Bonesaw.

“No,” Amy said. “There’s no way.”

“Why? Whatever’s holding you back, we can fix it. Or we can break it, depending.”

As horrible as it is, Bonesaw’s approach is actually better than Shatterbird’s. Shatterbird forces people into the Slaughterhouse Nine by threathening them with violence and the like, with no regard for whether or not the victim will be willing and loyal to the Nine. Bonesaw, on the other hand, attempts to force people into the Slaughterhouse Nine by changing them so that they’ll become willing. It might not be quite as effective at actually recruiting them, but the people she does recruit this way will be less likely to doublecross the team.

(Though she’s not doing it as… directly as I thought for a moment when she began. So far, anyway.)


“It’s not- don’t you understand? I don’t want to hurt people.”

Might be bad to say this. Now that is the thing to “fix”.

Now she might ask Amy to inflict pure pain, which we just had it confirmed that she can do.

“But we can change that! We’re not so different. You know as well as I do that anything about anyone can be changed if you work hard enough.”

…true. Within reason, I mean. There are some limitations as to what it can be changed to.

“Then why don’t you change? You could be good.”

Ooh, that’s an interesting angle to spin this. I like it.

“I like the other members of the Nine. And I couldn’t make anything really amazing if I was following rules. I want to make something even more amazing than Hack Job, Murder Rat or Pagoda. Something you and I could only make together. Can you imagine it? You could use your power, and then we could make one superperson out of a hundred capes, and all of the powers would be full strength because you helped and we could use it to stop one of the Endbringers, and the whole world would be like, ‘Are we supposed to clap’? Can you picture it?” Bonesaw was getting so excited with her idea that she was almost breathless.

I’m getting Steven Universe flashbacks.

I do like this idea that Bonesaw is not following the rules just so her tinkerish accomplishments can be unlimited by society’s ideas of right and wrong.

The idea of pitting this capeamari up against an Endbringer is also pretty cool – especially because while the idea of taking out one of them is something most people would consider good, that’s juxtaposed with the means and the motive (it doesn’t sound like she wants to take out an Endbringer for the sake of saving lives so much as for the sake of showing off how awesome her paracluster is).


“No,” Amy said. Then, just to make it clear, she added, “No, it’s not going to happen. I won’t join you.”

Bonesaw really doesn’t seem the type to take “no” for an answer…

“You will! You have to!”

“No.”

…but unlike Shatterbird’s way of not taking “no” for an answer, she’s more inclined towards “Yes you will!” or “Why not, we can change that!”

“I have to do like Jack said. He said I won’t be a true genius until I’ve figured out how to get inside people’s heads.”

Uh oh, back to this again. Are we going more literal with it, like I thought earlier?

“Maybe- Maybe you won’t be inside my head until you realize there’s no way I’m going to join the Slaughterhouse Nine.”

Heh, yeah. Not in the figurative way, at least.

Bonesaw frowned. “Maybe.”

Hm, is she beginning to accept it? Or just thinking up a different approach?

Amy nodded.

“Or maybe I need to figure out your breaking point. Your weak spot. Like that man there.” Bonesaw pointed at Mark.

…yeah, it was the latter.

“Cherish said you sleep here, and you’ve been around him for a while… so why haven’t you healed him?”

Oof. Sore subject.

She’s gotten enough of this from her family. Now she’s getting it from the one who wants to be family too.


Amy shivered.

“Who is he?”

“My dad.”

“Why not fix your dad?”

I doubt Bonesaw is going to have any patience for Amy’s reasons, really. I mean, she’ll probably hear her out, but she’s not going to respect them.

“My power doesn’t work on brains,” Amy lied.

Oooh, nice call, lying there. If she’d told her that she was afraid to use her power on brains, Bonesaw would probably be like “Oh come on, we can overcome that. Here, let’s try!”

“You’re wrong,” Bonesaw said, stepping closer.

Hm. Well, at least she didn’t take it as the lie it was.

“No.”

“Yes. Your power can affect people’s brains. You have to understand, I’ve taken twenty or thirty people apart to figure out how their power works so I can put them back together again the way I want them.

Oh yeah, I suppose that would make it easier for her to tell how powers work.

I’ve learned almost everything about powers. I’ve induced stress of all kinds on people until they had a trigger event, while I had them on my table and wired to computers, so I could record all the details and study their brains and bodies as the powers took hold.”

Jeez.

Well, at least if she gets caught, her data might prove useful to the scientific community, amorally obtained or otherwise.

Maybe she could divulge some interesting factoids to us while we’re here?


Twenty or thirty people she’s taken apart. However many others she’s tortured to death.

She didn’t say “to death”, but I wouldn’t put it past her.

Bonesaw smiled, “And I know the secrets. I know where powers come from. I know how they work. I know how your power works.

Okay, but does she actually? Has she figured out the involvement of the Dandelions and managed to take notes on them?

You have to understand, people like you and me? Who got our powers in moments of critical stress? The powers aren’t meant for us. They’re accidents. We’re accidents. And I think you could see it if you were touching someone when they had their trigger event.”

Hmmm.

I’m not sure I buy that. With the way Hana’s trigger event was depicted as involving the death of a Dandelion, maybe, but Scrub’s trigger event made things seem premeditated by the Dandelions.

But Taylor wasn’t touching Scrub at the time. She was quite a distance away from him, in fact. So maybe touching does make a difference in what you see.

Or maybe it lets you remember, for some reason?

“I don’t understand.”

“You don’t have to. What you need to know is that the subjects of our power, the stuff it can work on, like people? Like the fish lady in Asia? The boy who can talk to computers? Our powers weren’t created to work with those things. With people or fish or computers. It’s not intentional. It happens because the powers connect to us in the moments we have our trigger events, decrypt our brains and search for something in the world that they can connect to, that loosely correlate with how the powers were originally supposed to work.

Okay, yeah, this makes sense. Bonesaw is suggesting that, for example, Bitch’s power was originally meant to empower something, and only after connecting to Bitch did it become a power to empower wolves.

In those one to eight seconds it takes our powers to work, our power goes into overdrive, it picks up all the necessary details about those things, like people or fish or computers, sometimes reaching across the whole world to do it.

Interesting. In Bitch’s case, it would “learn” things about wolves, and dogs because they’re closely related.

Then it starts condensing down until there’s a powerset, stripping away everything it doesn’t need to make that power work.”

But how do these things relate to Taylor? How did Taylor’s brain in the moment cause the power to latch onto “bugs”? Was it because of the uncomfortableness of the situation?

And how do you explain powers like Scrub’s? Did it latch on to “nothingness”? ”Destruction”?


Ohhh. She meant if Amy specifically was touching someone during their trigger event, using her power to sense the biological changes as they happen.


Amy stared.

“And then, before it can destroy us, before we can hurt ourselves with our own power, before that spark of potential burns out, it changes gears. It figures out how to function with us. It protects us from all the ways our power might hurt us, that we can anticipate, because there’s no point if it kills us.

Resulting in required secondary powers, like Lung and Burnscar being fireproof.

It connects with our emotional state at the time the powers came together, because that’s the context it builds everything else in. It’s so amazingly complicated and beautiful.”

It really is.

Bonesaw looked down at Amy. “Your inability to affect brains? It’s one of those protections. A mental block. I can help you break it.”

Is the Manton effect the same way?

And are you suggesting that Amy “can’t affect brains” because the power doesn’t want to risk her messing up her own brain using her power on herself?


Bonesaw does seem to know what she’s talking about, but it’s still unclear whether or not she knows about the Dandelions. I don’t think she does, and as such, I’m taking the “accidents” part with a pinch of salt. The rest seems fairly reliable, though.


“I don’t want to break it,” Amy said, her voice hushed.

“Ahhh. Well, that just makes me more excited to see how you react when you do. See, all we have to do is get you to that point of peak stress.

This sounds a lot like something that has been suggested about the Manton effect before – that breaking it might require something similar to a second trigger event.

Your power will be stronger, and you’ll be able to push past that mental block. Probably.”

While I’m on the topic of Manton, what would a Manton-unlocked Panacea even be capable of? Repairing objects? Manipulating their structure? Or is her power just so innately biological that it wouldn’t make a difference?

Maybe it would allow her to revive the dead. We’ve seen formerly-living material count as non-living for the purposes of the Manton effect (wood vs green wood [here]). Maybe part of why Amy can’t revive people – besides the biological difficulty of getting everything working again at once – is that the Manton effect won’t let her manipulate the biology of corpses?


“Please,” Amy said. “Don’t.”

Bonesaw reached into her apron and retrieved a remote control. She pointed it at Mark, where he sat on the couch. A red dot appeared on his forehead.

Welp. Here we go.

“No!”

One of Bonesaw’s mechanical contraptions leaped across the room, its scalpel legs impaling the suede cushions on either side of Mark.

Time to cut him open?

One leg, tipped with a syringe, thrust into Mark’s right nostril.

Ahh. Let me guess, this is going to be deadly or at least highly detrimental to the brain if Amy doesn’t fix it?

He hollered incoherently, tried to pull away, only for two mechanical legs to clutch his head and hold him firm.

Yeah, this ain’t pleasant.


Amy’s screams joined his.

“I’m doing you a favor, really!” Bonesaw raised her voice to be heard over the screams. “You’ll thank me!”

Oh, sure, she totally will.

Amy rushed forward, hauled on the metal leg to pull it from Mark’s nostril, pulled at the other legs to tear it from him and then hurled it away. Lighter than it looked.

I suppose it makes sense that the robots would need to be light, in order to walk on walls or move quickly across the floor.

“Now fix him or he’ll probably die or be a vegetable,” Bonesaw told her. “Unless you decide you’re okay with that, in which case we’re making progress.”

So no matter what Amy does here, other than continue to pretend she can’t manipulate brains until Mark dies or becomes even more disabled than he already is, Bonesaw will see it as a victory.

Amy tried to shut out Bonesaw’s voice, straddled Mark’s lap and touched his face.

There are a lot of ways to touch someone’s face, but I can’t help but imagine Amy’s palm applied directly to the middle of the face.


She’d healed him frequently in the previous weeks, enough to know that he was remarkably alert in a body that refused to cooperate or carry out the tasks he wanted it to.

Much like the chimera components, though in a very different way.

Not so different from Bonesaw’s creations in that respect.

Hey, that’s my comparison, dammit!

She’d healed everything but his brain, had altered his digestive system and linked it to his circadian rhythms so he went to the bathroom on a strict schedule, to reduce the need for diapers.

Clever.

Other tune-ups she’d given him had been aimed at making him more comfortable, reducing stiffness and aches and pains. It was the least she could do.

Yeah, even if you wouldn’t heal his brain, it sounds like he was lucky to have you.

Now she had to focus on his brain. The needle had drawn ragged cuts through the arachnid layer, had injected droplets of acid into the frontal lobes.

Arachnid layer? Sounds like Skitter’s domain…

More damage, in addition to what Leviathan had inflicted with the head wound, and it was swiftly spreading.

Yeeeeah, acid to the brain? I think that might be bad.


Everything else in the world seemed to drop away. She pressed her forehead to his. Everything biological was shaped in some way by what it had grown from and what had come before. Rebuilding the damaged parts was a matter of tracing everything backwards.

Like making a model of an ancient city based on its ruins.

Some of the brain was impossible to restore to what it had once been, in the most damaged areas or places where it was the newest growths that were gone, but she could check everything in the surrounding area, use process of elimination and context to figure out what the damaged areas had tied to.

Makes sense.

She felt tears in her eyes. She had told herself she would heal him and then leave the Dallon household. Actually doing this, fixing him, taking that plunge, she knew she would probably never have found the courage if she hadn’t been pushed into it.

She did seem a lot more willing in that moment than I would’ve expected her to. In a world where Bonesaw didn’t show up in her living room, Amy getting cold feet about it wouldn’t be all that surprising.


It wasn’t that she was afraid to get something wrong. No. Even as complicated as the mind was, she’d always known she could manage it.

That was the main reason she gave in Interlude 2. So what’s the real reason?

No, it was what came after that scared her more than anything. Just like finding out about Marquis, it was the opening of a door she desperately wanted to keep shut.

The idea that it’s a bit like mind control, at least if she abuses it?

She restored his motor skills, penmanship, driving a car, even the little things, the little sequences of movements he used to turn the lock on the bathroom door as he closed it or turn a pencil around in one hand to use the eraser on the end. Everything he’d lost, she returned to him.

Yay!

He moved fractionally. She opened her eyes, and saw him staring into her eyes. Something about the gaze told her he was better.

😀


“I’m sorry,” she murmured. “I’m so sorry.” She wasn’t sure what she was apologizing for. For taking so long to do it, maybe.

Sounds likely. Or maybe for messing with his brain, still affected by a sense that doing that was wrong?

Or for the fact that she would now have to leave.

I mean… you could not leave, though Bonesaw doesn’t seem to make it easy.

Or have you decided to accept the offer just so she’ll leave Mark alone?

His attention was on his hands. She could feel it through her contact with him, the power he was just barely holding back. And Bonesaw? The little lunatic was somewhere behind her.

Oh yeah, that’s right, now that he’s mostly back to his old self, he’s a cape too. Flashbang’s back, baby. But what exactly could he do, especially with Hack Job around?

She drew Mark’s hands into his lap, between her body and his, where Bonesaw would be less likely to see.

It’s clear that whatever his power actually does, it involves his hands.

I would guess it causes flashes and bangs.


An orb of light grew in his hands.

An explosive light orb?

“It worked! Yes!” Bonesaw crowed.

Mark flicked his eyes in one direction, offered the slightest of nods, his forehead rubbing against hers.

Gotta keep Bonesaw from seeing the light orb until it’s too late for two reasons. Element of surprise, and keeping her from calling Hack Job on Flashbang.

Amy flung herself to one side as Mark stood in one quick motion, flinging the glowing orb at the little girl.

Excellent work.

Hack Job flickered into existence just in time to have to orb bounce off his chest.

Damn.

It exploded violently, tearing a hole into his stomach and groin. The villain flew backward, colliding with Bonesaw.

That looks like it hurts.


But two more copies of Hack Job had already appeared, and the scalpel spiders were responding to some unknown directions, leaping for Mark and Amy.

You guys are vastly outnumbered, right now, and the enemy can take your power away. You only really had that one shot.

Amy grappled with one spider, struggled to bend its legs the wrong way, cried out as the scalpels and needlepoints of the other legs dragged against her skin.

Ouch.

A blast sent her tumbling, throwing her into the couch and dislodging the spider. Mark could make his orbs concussive or explosive.

Why can he still make his orbs at all?

He’d hit the spider with the former, nothing that could seriously hurt Amy. She climbed to her feet, picked up the oak side-table from beside the couch and bludgeoned the spider with it.

cute_and_irritated_by_cats_arts_d9enehx-pre.jpg

(source)


More explosions ripped through their living room as Mark continued to open fire, hurling the orbs with a ferocity that surprised Amy.  When Hack Job tried to block the shots with his bodies, Mark bounced them between Hack Job’s legs, off walls and off the ceiling.

Huh, not bad.

But seriously, is there a reason Hack Job hasn’t turned off Flashbang’s power yet? Is he unable to because of the fusion causing his powers to not work as well? We’ve seen they do work, but maybe not having full power prevents him from turning powerful people’s powers off.

Almost as if he could predict what his enemy would do, he lobbed one orb onto the couch.  It exploded a half-second after one of Hack Job’s duplicates appeared there.

Sweet!

And unless Hack Job is really quick with his teleportations or the fusion caused a significant change to how the power works, any damage dealt very soon after a duplicate appears will stick.

More duplicates charged from either direction, and Mark dropped a concussive orb at his feet, blasting himself and one of the duplicates in opposite directions.  He quickly got his footing and resumed the attack, fending off one duplicate that turned his attention to Amy, then going after Bonesaw.

Flashbang is being awesome and I love it.


Bonesaw had retreated into the hallway that led into the bedrooms at the back of the house, the basement and the kitchen at the side.

She was caught off-guard by Mark being a cape, wasn’t she? I mean, she didn’t know who he was, and even after Amy said he was her dad, Bonesaw quite likely didn’t know the family gimmick of New Wave. And before Amy healed him, he was acting nothing like a cape, but all of a sudden he’s up and running and kicking ass in all directions.

Mark threw an orb after her, obliterating the hallway, but Amy couldn’t see if he’d struck home, not with the clouds of dust that were exploding from Hack Job’s expired duplicates.

Just dust? No blood?

Also this place is gonna be in great condition when Glory Girl and Brandish get home.

Between the time it had taken to create the orb, throwing it and the lack of a scream after it had gone off, Amy knew Bonesaw would have gotten away.

Is that the end? Is she taking her leave from the chapter now?


There was an extended silence.  Bonesaw and Hack Job were gone, leaving only Pagoda’s body and the limp Murder Rat.  Long seconds passed as the dust settled.

Yep.

See ya, Bonesaw! Nice meeting you! 🙂


“That woman.  Can you help her?”  Mark’s voice sounded rough-edged.  It hadn’t been used in its full capacity for a long few weeks.

Hmm.

Help her reattach her limbs, sure.

Help her out of this dreadful state of being? Probably not without killing her, like with Pagoda.

“Her mind is gone, and not in a way I think I could fix,” her voice was hushed.

In this state, her mind being gone might be a good thing.

“Okay.”  Mark walked over to Murder Rat and adjusted her position against the wall until she was more horizontal, almost lying down.  He crossed her claws over her chest, and then formed an orb of light the size of a tennis ball.

Gonna blow her up? I suppose that’s as good a way as any to put her bodies out of their misery.

Just a little messy, but this place is already partly blown up and covered in lots of Hack Job dust and some blood anyway.

“Rest in peace, Mouse Protector,” he said.

I wonder if he knew her.

He placed the orb of light in the gap where two claws crossed one another, just over her heart, then stepped away.

Boom.

There was a small explosion and a spray of blood.

Rest in peace.


“I’m sorry,” Amy said, “So sorry I didn’t help you sooner, that-”

Mark stopped her with a raised hand.  “Thank you.

“It doesn’t matter how long it took. I’m just thankful you did it in the end. That’s all that’s important now.”

She didn’t deserve thanks.

I think she does. It took her a while, and unfortunately getting forced into it by a villain, but she got past her fears and helped him in the end. And while one might argue that she only did it because she was forced, she was intent on doing it right before that happened. Even if she does think she would’ve chickened out.

“Are you okay?” He asked.

She looked away.  Tears were welling out.  “No.”

Amy has a lot of thoughts that need venting right now. Hopefully she realizes that Mark is willing to let her vent to him without judgment.

At least I think he is. He seems like a good guy.


“Listen.  Sit yourself down.  I’m going to call your mother and sister, make sure they’re all right after dealing with Hellhound, let them know what happened.  Then I’ll call the Protectorate.  Maybe they can help guard us, in case Bonesaw comes after you again.”

You’re going to need that. Bonesaw might not come after Amy again, but everyone else will, to test her.

“She will.  But I- I can’t sit.  I’m going to my room.  I’ll pack so we leave sooner.”

Seems reasonable enough. This doesn’t seem like a good place for the family to stay right now.

“You sure?”

She nodded.

“Shout if anything happens.”

“DAD! A pair of socks just fell on the floor!”

She nodded and turned to go, picking her way through the destroyed hallway.  The floorboards that looked like a giant-sized version of pick-up-sticks.  She was only halfway when she heard Mark on the phone.

“Hey, honey, are you okay? I heard your message on the answering machine.”

“Yes, we’re okay, but we ran into– wait, Mark?! You’re… you’re talking? In full sentences?”

“I am! Amy just healed me.”

“Finally! …I mean, that’s wonderful!”

“So who were you saying you ran into?”

“Oh yeah. We were fighting Hellhound and all of a sudden Siberian arrived! We fled the scene. I don’t know what happened to Hellhound after that.”

“You saw Siberian? Really? That’s quite a coincidence.”

“How so?”

“I guess you could say we had a visitor over here. Bonesaw.”

“WHAT?!”

“We kinda thrashed the place. Hopefully the Protectorate will have room for us somewhere.”

“That’s not what’s important right now, Mark!”

…and so on.


“Carol?  It’s me.”

Oh wait, we’re actually getting to hear this? I would’ve liked to hear Carol’s reaction too, but still, hell yes.

Her face burned with shame.  She made her way to her room and began packing her things into a gym bag.

Oh, never mind, guess it was just that line.

Clothes, toiletries, and other things, mementos.  A small scrapbook, a memory card filled with pictures of her, her cousins and her sister.  She found a pad of post-it notes and scribbled out a few words.

Are you still thinking about leaving the Dallons?

I’m sorry it took me so long to help Mark.

Good bye.  I love you all,

Amy.

She wouldn’t be coming back.

Aww.


Amy opened her bedroom window and climbed out, pulling the bag out behind her.

It would be better this way.  Maybe, after weeks or months, she could stop worrying, stop waiting for the other shoe to drop, for everything to fall apart in the worst way.  She’d already had to face finding out about Marquis.  She’d taken a life.  She’d broken one of her cardinal rules.

Um… didn’t the other shoe just drop, really?

Or do you mean more specifically about the family?

She wasn’t sure she could take any more.

She just had to get away.

😦


What’s this? I was thinking “She just had to get away.” would be the final line. Are we getting a few paragraphs from Bonesaw’s perspective, perhaps?

Amy cursed the curfew as she saw the figure in the air above her.

Oh, I see, just skipping ahead a little.

Would this flying figure be Flashbang, having just noticed the note, or maybe Brandish or Glory Girl either in that position or returning from the Bitch encounter.

Either way, the curfew makes Amy easier to spot, since there aren’t a lot of other people running around.

When people weren’t allowed out on the streets after dark, it made those few who did venture out that much more visible.  Not what she’d wanted, not when she was trying to avoid this exact conversation.

Yeeah.

It was even more problematic when she walked at maybe three or four miles an hour, limited to following the paths the roads and alleys allowed her, when her sister could fly at fifty miles an hour.

The troubles of the landbound.

So it’s Glory Girl up in the sky, then. Excellent. I like their dynamic and Victoria is the one Amy felt closest to and whose rejection she took the hardest.

She should have hid, instead of trying to make some distance.

Okay, yeah, that seems like a pretty silly decision. 😛


Victoria stopped midflight and hovered in the air, five feet above the ground and five or six paces in front of her.

Busted.

“I was just at the house.  I don’t even know what to say,” Victoria spoke.

Makes sense. There’s a lot around there to not know what to say to right now. Such as the exploded hallways, piles of white dust, and most importantly the goodbye note with no given reason.

A reasonable assumption for Victoria to make here, if she’s been filled in on the events of Bonesaw’s visit, would be that Amy left because she was afraid she’d make the others targets for the Slaughterhouse Nine by staying. There may be some truth to that, but it was not her main reason.

“Pretty self-explanatory.  One of the Nine came, house got trashed, I healed Mark.”

Heh.

That’s not what she was talking about, and you know it, Amy.

“Why?  Why heal dad now, when you couldn’t before?”

“I only did it because I had to.”

Not entirely true, but not entirely false either.

“That’s what I don’t get.  Why couldn’t you?  You’ve never explained.”

That doesn’t sound right. According to Interlude 2, they’d argued over brain healing repeatedly, and Amy gave a pretty solid reason – though one that was apparently not quite true – back then: That she was afraid of messing up.

“I can’t tell you.”

“So that’s it?  No explanations?  You just up and leave?” Victoria asked.

It’s that she’s afraid of mind controlling people, right? Something which would be seen as evil, put her closer to her biological father.

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

“You’re just gonna leave without giving me any explanation?” “Yes.” “Give me an explanation.”


Amy looked away.

“We could get you a therapist.  I mean, Mom was setting aside money for Dad’s care, we could use that to give you someone to talk to.”

“I… a therapist wouldn’t be able to help.”

A lot of people say that. A lot of those are wrong.

“Geez, what’s going on?  Amy, we’ve been together for a decade.  I’ve stood by you.  I’d like to think we were best friends, not just sisters.  And you can’t tell me?”

They have their differences, but it’s always been clear that the two of them are close.

Even in Interlude 2, I think.

“I can’t.  Just let me leave.  Trust me when I say it’s better.”

“Fuck that!  I’m not about to let you walk away!”  Victoria floated closer, reaching out.

“And you can’t fly away like I can, either!”

Don’t touch me,” Amy warned her sister.

Is that a threat?

Looking lost, Victoria stopped and spread her arms.  “Who are you, Amy?  I don’t even recognize this person I’m looking at.  You go berserk at the bank robbery over some secret I’ve totally not gotten on your case about.  You apparently say something to Skitter that causes this huge commotion in the hospital after the Endbringer attack.

Wait, what?

Hm… I suppose she did indirectly cause that. She’s the one who alerted Skitter to the fact that the big shots wanted to talk to her, which alarmed Skitter and caused her to go on the run, causing her to accidentally discover Shadow Stalker’s civilian identity, and so on.

You… I don’t even know what to say about your reaction to Gallant’s death, the way you distanced yourself from me at a time when I was hurting the most.”

…ouch.

Amy was close to Gallant too, wasn’t she? Not in quite the same way, but maybe she distanced herself from Victoria because seeing Victoria grieve was a painful reminder for her?


Amy looked down at her feet.

“And most of all, you just leave dad to suffer, when you could have healed him?  You lash out at me, here, when I’m trying to mend fences and be your sister?”

Ouch.

You’re not doing a great job, Victoria, but that’s not entirely your fault.

“You want to know who I am?” Amy asked.  Her voice sounded hollow.  “I’m Marquis’s daughter.  Daughter of a supervillain.”

And there it is. She finally let out the fact that she found out who he was.

Also, hang on, wasn’t the fact that she was the daughter of a villain, not just which villain, part of what she was trying to hide in Agitation?

“Marquis?”

Amy nodded.

Evil guy, ‘bout yeah high, makes bones sprout from his fingertips?

“How did you find out?”

“Carol left some paper out.  I think it’s under my pillow, if you want to look for it.”

“You have his genes, but you’re Carol and Mark’s daughter,” Victoria replied, her voice firm.  “And they’re going to be worried.  Come home.”

See, that’s better. Now that Victoria has some information, she can actually figure out a good thing to say.

“They don’t care.  They don’t love me, not really.  Trust me, this is better for everyone.”

I think you’re very wrong about that, Amy. Especially about Mark.

love you,” Victoria said, stressing the ‘I’.  She dropped to the ground and stepped closer.

“Even if you are right, there’s still someone who wants you to stay.”


“Don’t touch me!”

“Idiot,” Victoria grabbed her sister by the shirt collar and pulled her into a painfully tight hug.

Aww.

“Don’t,” Amy moaned into her sister’s shoulder.

“All of this?  We’ll work it out.  As a family.  And if your idea of family means it’s just you and me, then we’ll work it out together, just the two of us.”

Yes, good. 🙂

All it took was one moment of weakness, and she was weak.  At the end of her rope, desperately lonely, haunted by her father’s shadow, her shame at being unwilling and unable to help Mark until now, the idea that one of the Slaughterhouse Nine thought she belonged with them?

As I was saying.

She’s got a lot that needs venting right now.

She was losing everything so quickly.  Victoria was all she had, and it was the choice between abandoning that for everyone’s good and keeping Victoria close.

But are you sure the first option is actually for everyone’s good?

I don’t think it’s for anyone’s good.

Well, besides the whole “Slaughterhouse Nine coming after Amy and her family getting caught in the crossfire” deal.


She felt Victoria’s body more acutely than she felt her own.  Every heartbeat, every cell brimming with life.

Like a flame at the end of a long fuse, leading to a stick of dynamite, her power traveled from the side of Victoria’s neck to her brain.  It was barely a conscious action on Amy’s part.

Uh oh.

What are you doing?

Putting her to sleep?

Victoria let go of her, pushed her away.  “What did you just do?”

No…

Shit, this might be bad.

Amy could see the revulsion slowly spreading across Victoria’s face.

The magnitude of what she’d just done hit her with a suddenness and pain she likened to a bullet to the chest.  “Oh god.  Please, let me undo it.”

Is that revulsion a natural result of recognizing that her brain was manipulated, or a result of the manipulation itself?

She reached out, but Victoria stepped back.

“What the hell did you do?” Victoria asked, her eyes wide, “I felt something.  I feel something.  You’ve used your power on me before, but not like this.  I- You changed the way I think.  More than that.”

But in what way?

Whatever Amy just did, I think this is exactly why she didn’t want to mess with brains.

Tears welled at the corners of Amy’s eyes.  “Please.  This is what I was afraid of.  Let me undo it.  Let me fix it and leave, and you can go back to Mark and Carol and you three can be a family, and-”

😥

“What did you do!?”

“I’m sorry.  I… knew this would happen.  I was okay so long as I kept following my own rules, didn’t open that door.  Bonesaw forced me to open it.”

Dammit, Hiveswap Act 1 trailer slogan, get out of my head, this is not a good time for a joke about Amy getting transported to an alien planet in another universe.

(#’open the door’)


“Amy!”

“You have to understand, for so long, you were all I had.  I was so desperately lonely, and that was at the same time I was starting to worry about my dad.  I got fucked up, my feelings got muddled somewhere along the line, and it’s like… maybe because you were safe, because you were always there.”

Amy is panicking and going on about why she did it instead of answering the question of what she did.

Poor girl.

“You have feelings for me,” Victoria answered.  She couldn’t keep the disgust out of her voice, she didn’t even try.  “That’s what Tattletale was using as leverage, wasn’t it?”

Oh wow.

Wow.

Alright. I didn’t see that one coming.

That’s… something, alright.


Amy couldn’t meet Victoria’s eyes.  She looked at her hands, appalled at what she had just done.

I really don’t know how to feel about that reveal.

So what did you do? Mess with her brain to change her familial love into something else?

“And Gallant?  I was thinking you secretly liked him, but-”

Amy shook her head.  “I hated him.  I felt jealous because he had you and I never could… but I never acted on those feelings.

I see. And the distancing would be because seeing Victoria grieve over a lost love would be a painful reminder not of her own relationship to the deceased but of Victoria’s.

I never acted on any of my feelings, until just now, and all I want to do is to take that back.”

It really does sound like what she did had to do with making Victoria love her back.

It’s like the superpowered equivalent of an impulsive, non-consensual kiss while in a compromised state of mind.


“When I was at the lowest point in my life, when the boy I thought I might marry someday was dead, were you secretly elated?  Were you happy Gallant died?”

Hm. This could go either way, depending on the balance between “no more competition” and “this is making the one I like miserable”.

I feel like Amy is the type to lean more towards the latter.

“No!  Vic- Victoria, I love you.  I wanted you to be happy with him.  I just… it hurt at the same time.”

Yeah. A classic tale of bittersweet acceptance of the target of affection being with another person.

Just, y’know, with a bit more adoption than usual.


“Oh my god,” Victoria whispered, the revulsion giving way to something worse.  Realization.

Did she realize what Amy did?

“I- I tried to keep things normal between us.  To act like your sister, keep it all bottled in.  It’s just tonight was such a nightmare, and I’m so scared, and so tired, and so desperate.

See “compromised state”.

Bonesaw forced me to ignore all the rules I was imposing on myself.  All the rules I was using and following so I wouldn’t do anything stupid or impulsive.”

And there’s another one of the keywords from the analogy I used.

“Anything stupid.  Like what?  What did you do?”

Amy’s voice was a croak as she replied, “…make it so you would reciprocate my feelings.”

Suddenly a white van with the letters “C&D” on the side drives up to the two of them, opens a door and pulls Amy in before continuing down the road. The driver is Cherish.


She chanced a look at Victoria’s face, and she knew that the horror she saw in her sister’s expression didn’t even compare to what she felt.

Makes sense.

It’s not a fun thing to hear that you were just manipulated like that.

“Please.  Let me fix it.  Then I’ll leave.  You’ll never have to see me again.”

“What in the world makes you think I’d let you use your power on me again!?”  Victoria shouted, taking to the air, out of reach.  “Who knows what you’re going to do to me!?”

That is a fair question, honestly.

“Please?” Amy begged.

“I can find someone else to fix it.  Or maybe, at the very least, I can show some fucking self-control and realize it’s my sister I’m having those feelings about.”

To be fair, Amy has been practicing such self-control, up until this moment. It doesn’t prevent the feelings from being there, though.

Also… it’s not quite the same thing, but of all the people this could happen to, Victoria is probably the second most ironic one after Cherish. Victoria’s power is all about making people think more highly of her, be it as someone to respect or as someone to fear. But that’s temporary, and not quite as “real” as what Amy just did, and it doesn’t make them want to fuck their sisters.

Amy happens to be just about immune to that power by now. Maybe that’s not entirely because of overexposure, like she claimed in Interlude 2? And I can’t imagine being exposed to it made Amy any less confused about her feelings.


“You can’t.  I- Oh fuck.  You’re underestimating what I did.  Please.  If you never ever give me anything else, if you never talk to me or look at me again, just let me fix this.”

At least it doesn’t seem to have really kicked in yet. That might be because of the anger suppressing it.

Victoria shook her head slowly, then scoffed.  “Good job, Amy.  You just did an excellent job of taking every instance of me defending you, every instance of my giving you the benefit of a doubt, and proving me fucking wrong.  You were worried about being as fucked up as your dad?  Congratulations, I’m pretty goddamn sure you just surpassed the man.”

Ouch as fuck.

The sad thing is I can’t even really say she’s wrong. Marquis… we haven’t seen much from him, but from what we’ve seen, I don’t think he’d do this if he could.

With that said, Victoria was gone, flying into the distance.

Bye, sis.

Amy sank to her knees on the flooded street.

And by flying off? Victoria is implying that she no longer cares to continue talking Amy into going back.


End of Interlude 11h

That was one hell of a chapter.

What’s not to love about this one, honestly? Amy finding out about Marquis, a fantastic premise and throughline with regards to Flashbang, the introduction of the best Slaughterhouse member, beautifully horrifying parahuman fusion experiments, a reveal of a secret that… I still don’t quite know how to feel about, accidental mind manipulation, and a painful falling out between sisters (and now lovers, sort of, I guess) just as it looked like they were about to mend their relationship…

Seriously. This was really, really, really good. A+ work, Wildbow.

Bonesaw was really good. By now you may have noticed that I like cheerful characters, and she definitely falls in that category. I don’t think she was ever described as not smiling, although I’d imagine it faltered a bit during the fight sequence with Flashbang. On top of the cheerfulness, she has a fantastic combination of awfulness and childishness, showing her young age much more than Vista or even Dinah while juxtaposing that with her tinkery tech savvy, horrifying biological experiments, overall brutality and intimate knowledge of powers and bodies and the way they intermingle. As far as I’m concerned, Wildbow really saved the best for last here, both in terms of Slaughterhouse members and in terms of chapters to meet them in.

Speaking of last, this was the last Interlude of Arc 11! Now all that’s left is Arc Thoughts and then it’s onward to Arc 12!

See ya!

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