WoG: Timeo Eldraos et Dona Ferentes

This is the Word of God thread for Timeo Eldraos et Dona Ferentes . Please post comments and questions on, or requests for more, in their own threads.


Thank you, hail, well met, etc, etc, etc, at al.

I am AUing things just an eensy bit, with some influence from Anders Sandberg’s Bulk and Surface. One word: branefuckery.

Which is to say, in this particular fusion-AU, the Entities and their Shards are primarily bulk-space entities that cling to the brane-edge. Their access to bulk-space brane manipulation gives them access to theoretically unlimited ontomanipulatory bullshit hax.

However, their intellect is as small as their processing power isn’t, hence the need to form symbiotic relationships with brane-space entities to get much of anything in the way of creativity done.

Of course, these are the entities who decided to use conflict generators to maximize quantity of creativity, even though they point the direction of said creativity exactly away from the problem they supposedly want solved.


ObDanny: I make two notes here:

  1. The ontopathics repelled Queen Administrator from one potential trigger event. They didn’t destroy her.
  2. It should not escape notice just how tremendously useful the Docks and the dockworkers could be as a resource to someone who has the functional equivalent of Tinker Bignum. Especially when you don’t have the reproducibility problem.
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Here I Spoil Anti-Endbringer Weapons That Do Not Work, But Not The One Which Does:

  1. Spider Legion

  2. The Lunar Fuck-You Gun

  3. Infinite Bee Recursion

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…while it’s just hinted at in ch. 2 so far, there is a certain upcoming clash in having a mind that is used to being depressed and a brain that will not agree with it.

(By which I mean, even leaving aside that eldrae baseline mood is human hypomania, one of the things that having a brain optimized for rationality and autoscience is that when you have this particular genre of negative thoughts, it keeps reminding you that no, actually, that ain’t true. They went to a great deal of trouble in designing the current noetic architecture to make it impossible to lie to yourself without knowing that you’re doing it.)

Plus, changes in other people’s reactions, too, because there’s a bit of a difference between human confident stride and eldrae confident stride. Like I said, with regard to involuntary reactions, “a swagger even Glory Girl would have found excessive”. Not that it’ll be entirely a good thing, for all sorts of various reasons - and, for that matter, not reflecting an underlying emotional-cognitive change - but shiny new cerebellum has its own default ideas of how to stand and walk when the higher brain functions aren’t overriding it. (That’s more or less necessary to avoid falling over a lot, under the circumstances.) And that default idea is one that’s going to come across to human kinesics as about a nickel short of “I AM A GOD AMONG INSECTS”.

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On the question of guessing PRT ratings, at least once they have a chance to figure stuff out a bit, but before Exponential Escalation takes hold:

  • Blaster 3 (techlekinesis applied to moving electrons; i.e., lightning)
  • Brute 4 (she’s got the mil-spec basic package, but that’s pretty much concentrated on durability and regen, not strength)
  • Master 5 (neural laces multitask and remote-control like whoa)
  • Mover 2 (techlekinetic low-altitude flight, plus double-jumping and all those hax)
  • Thinker 6 (smrt)
  • Tinker HOLY FUCK

Fully mature ontotechnology is “Shaker 15+/Trump 15+”, which is another way of saying “God”. No-one’s gonna have that, because it turns all stories into “I decided that everything would be perfect forever. It was. THE END.”

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As for what one soph can do… well, there’s this thing called the Magic of Friendship Technology of Synergy.

…also, the Transcend is really smug about its ability to be the pebble with the deciding vote. Somewhere in a Cirys swarm far away, an efficiency submind is complaining that that was actually a really extravagant care package and it could have managed with, ooh, a quarter of the mass-energy budget, maybe less. (A kindness submind points out that that’s why they don’t let the efficiency submind do the operation planning on its own.)


And, of course, there is an operational planning submind that would point out that with only a 18-20% mass-energy budget increase, they could add another 0.009% possibility to success.

…well, damn. You’ve just described, minus the “small intellect” part, of what the Magos I’m writing is.

It’s what happens when you let someone go “whoops, we created God” inside a brane space. Mostly to keep very hostile and hungry external brane entities out. The only good thing is that-

  1. It is a very narrow, and very specific God. There are some very specific rules that it can and cannot do, and of course…

  2. It took nearly 15,000 years for it to figure out several hacks that allowed it to figure out how to solve a problem of what happens inside the brane-space that the creator didn’t know was even possible.

  3. But, for what it’s worth…having access to a major “whoops, a God” entity makes babysitting a lot easier for Dawn Empire Imperial nobility children (you know, the ones that are learning how to use brane-space manipulations, aka magic, that puts them on the level of autonomous tactical nuclear weapon platforms. Sort of like raising Hetrodynes, but with slightly more impressive explosions.)

Regarding this: “I wonder… Could Miss Militia manifest Eldrae weapons if she was given one to study?” - @Will_Treaty_1

Having consulted WoG (“See 11.h for pointers about how Miss Militia’s passenger gathered weapons info about conventional arms. It also feeds into her awareness for updates on weapons (ie., as she becomes aware of more modern munitions). Any projectile firing weapon, just about, barring cruder mechanisms like catapults, and any theoretical, (appropriate) projectile (rubber bullets, hollow points, etc).”), yes. But since the shard appears to figure out what to emulate based on her awareness of them without necessarily having complete understanding of how they work, bearing in mind her origin and assuming the Protectorate doesn’t have a “Building Nuclear Weapons 101” course, probably also by just seeing them in action.

Or, indeed, being made incredibly dangerous with a copy of a recent issue of Guns and Bullets , or, gods help the Earth, the Eye-in-the-Flame summer catalog.


“I think the people that gave me this upgrade have a sense of humor.


“I just got confirmation of a gift subscription to the Eye-in-the-Flame catalogue for infantry, crew-serviced, and vehicle-mounted tactical and operational-level systems to Miss Militia.”

“Which means?” she asked, a very worried tone in her voice.

“If we start seeing some of the really interesting specs of ground combat drones in two months, I wouldn’t be surprised. Especially since Armsmaster also got a gift subscription and a gift subscription to several of the major augmentation catalogues. And, a gift certificate, through Amazoness.com, guaranteeing para-dimensional delivery in three days, one day if you subscribe to Amazoness Prime.”

“Oh my, is that bad?”

“They have an ‘all-in-one create your own Magical Girl team’ package, on sale. If you wanted to build your own giant robot, they have kits for both Super and Real Robot packages. And the second through fourth season of Firefly.”

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On shards and their ability to give out different powers:

For the purposes of this AU, and because I have opinions on the virtues of specialization, I declare it to be TRVTH that shards have specific purposes and themes, and that while the powers they grant can vary considerably depending on how the link to the host forms, it’ll always be some part of their basic functionality. There ain’t a shard that can give you anything or everything. Except High Priest. Or, for that matter, if Queen Administrator were to trigger in a possible Trump form, since ordering other shards around is what she does - although for that reason, Scion may have locked off her ability to offer that particular power to hosts.

So, for example, QA could grant a Master power (canon), a completely different Master power (Danny, in this fic), Thinker (perfect administration - also Danny), Trump (as above), maybe even Tinker (specializes in coordination/administration/management tools) or Tinker (mad social scientist), but you aren’t going to get, say, Brute or Stranger powers out of her, the former being irrelevant to her theme and the latter contrary to it.(edited)

Or, on another one, Inference Engine is obviously very Thinker-focused, but it’s easy to see how she could also grant, say, Tinker specializations related to observation and cognition, Shaker powers for pulling in an area’s data like a genius loci, Trump powers that pull data out of other shards, maybe even one of those weird Stranger powers that relies on inferring who you should be in this situation and making everyone see you that way, psychic-paper style – but you aren’t going to get a Blaster power out of her, or a Mover.


I make two notes here:

The ontopathics repelled Queen Administrator from one potential trigger event. They didn’t destroy her.

It should not escape notice just how tremendously useful the Docks and the dockworkers could be as a resource to someone who has the functional equivalent of Tinker Bignum. Especially when you don’t have the reproducibility problem.

On the question of guessing PRT ratings, at least once they have a chance to figure stuff out a bit, but before Exponential Escalation takes hold:

Blaster 3 (techlekinesis applied to moving electrons; i.e., lightning)
Brute 4 (she’s got the mil-spec basic package, but that’s pretty much concentrated on durability and regen, not strength)
Master 5 (neural laces multitask and remote-control like whoa)
Mover 2 (techlekinetic low-altitude flight, plus double-jumping and all those hax)
Thinker 6 (smrt)

The main reason I decided on “Tinker: Holy Fuck” is the one thing she can do that canon tinkers can’t: understand exactly how everything works , which includes the ability to teach other people how everything works and how to build more of it. That’s even more powerful than self-replication, because those people now have their own understanding of it that they can build on, or pass along themselves. tl;dr Armsmaster can build a nanothorn warhead; Dragon can examine it and build many nanothorn warheads; but e!Taylor can give someone a masters in nanoengineering and turn them loose to found Nanothorn Industries, Inc., producers of ridiculously lethal weaponry in many convenient form factors and assorted spin-off products.(edited)

That’s what really makes her chart-breaking: from the PRT’s perspective, she can turn people into self-replicating tinkers . Using nothing but words and a whiteboard.

By comparison, Teacher can make conventional tinkers (who still don’t understand what they do), at the cost of crippling their faculties with his loyalty-fu. That’s not as potent as being able to stick “My First Nanomachines: Little Rascals for Little Rascals” or “Dr. Faust’s Guide to Genetic Mutants You Can Make At Home” up on t’interwebs and expect results. (Not that that’s what you’d call efficient pedagogy, but the thing is that it is possible .)

(Nor is either of those likely to happen, either. Is just an example.)

As for what one soph can do…

Well, there’s this thing called the Magic of Friendship Technology of Synergy.

Also, the Transcend is really smug about its ability to be the pebble with the deciding vote. Somewhere in a Cirys swarm far away, an efficiency submind is complaining that that was actually a really extravagant care package and it could have managed with, ooh, a quarter of the mass-energy budget, maybe less. (A kindness submind points out that that’s why they don’t let the efficiency submind do the operation planning on its own.)

Space access:

The Simurgh has, among other function, the job of keeping humanity limited to Earths, as that’s where the shards can touch; so while manned space flight is going to get shot down, she doesn’t interdict all the commsats, say. If you have a way to precog-shield whatever non-sophont payload you’re going to launch - to make sure its aura of THIS HURTS YOU doesn’t reach her - you can sneak one past her.

Flechette’s power:

This is also, in this AU, why it takes/would have taken, assuming no intervention, Flechette’s power to kill Scion, because it’s the shard designed as an inter-entity weapon, and as such can manage tricks like “hitting all possible versions of/all points on the quantum probability curve of an object simultaneously” and “firing at right angles to reality”. You could blast away at Scion all you wanted with conventional mass-energy weapons, and it wouldn’t do anything, 'cause you can’t hit the symbiote/shard/core; only it’s mass-puppet in four-space.

On the Panpraxis:

Short version is that it’s an encyclopedia of practical engineering/colony design library complete with helpful expert systems working out the Path to That Thing You Want, primarily intended for use in survival situations where what you need is a communications laser that can reach the local stargate relay, and what you have is a rock.

Inspired by something I remember from A Fire Upon the Deep , ISTR, but essentially it works out a big ol’ project plan for you, complete with helpful descriptions of how to perform each step, even when it comes to things like “make charcoal; find some rocks that look like this and behave like that; test them in these ways; etc., etc.”

That’s not something that she’s going to put out there on its own, because it’s ridiculously dangerous in the wrong hands or even many of the right hands. But if she thinks that a detailed plan to let people grow spider-silk skin weaves using only common household ingredients is something the world should have, it’s something that can provide a detailed set of baseline-friendly step-by-step instructions for how to get there from here.

S-classitude and self-replicating tech:

On the other hand, “Technically, yes, I’m an S-class threat with my army of presumably self-replicating warbots, but on the other hand, my army of presumably self-replicating warbots only came out to help fight Leviathan and then left peacefully. Have fun explaining why you don’t want their help next Endbringer attack.”

Better yet, the army of presumably self-replicating warbots is helping with the cleanup, rescuing survivors, providing supplies and medical care, and one of them rescuing a small girl’s kitten from a tree in the middle of a flooded park has 10 million hits on YouTube. Your move, adverse PR guys.

That’s where you start out with the secrecy. But when you have to break the secrecy, you should go big. The kind of big where your adversaries more or less have to put up with you or look like idiots. Like, say, Endbringer attacks, where in the aftermath you have the chance to point out to your press conference that of course they’re self-replicating, because how else can you get enough of them to make a meaningful, lifesaving difference against an Endbringer? And, yes, you understand the reasoning behind the PRT’s concern for such things, but it’s a bad policy that would have got a shit-ton of people killed had you gone along with it. So sorry.


To a certain extent, I’m playing by one of the themes I have for the ISS, which is the way that they constantly irritate other intelligence agencies by playing by James Bond rules in a universe that ought to run by le Carré rules. Which is to say: flamboyant misdirection .

The sort of thing that makes the PRT dismiss connections between her and those events in the same way as they would dismiss the idea that Mouse Protector has been secretly behind Cauldron, the Elite, and the Bavarian Illuminati all along.

On the former, apart from being about to have a bad experience with the official heroes and no particular way to maintain a secret identity at this point, both this Taylor and her advisor are pretty confident that not only will working within the system not work, but that the system will actively try and stop her from making a difference.

On the latter: she’s getting advice from a machine well-read in the Eldrae Book of Adventuring, which is all about the “if you’re going to save the world, make sure you do it in style!” theme. Magnificently complex plans with spandrels that exist for no purpose other than dazzling bystanders with performative awesomeness are pretty much exactly how things are supposed to be done, by that book.

(Well, the thing to bear in mind is that the first half of Phase I is all pretty much emergency pantsing, not very well planned. Taylor’s not exactly had a chance to plan anything yet, and is not going to have time to do so imminently.

Her most obvious problem, apart from somewhere to hide out, amounts to Space Elf Needs Resources Badly. So PR-wise, while solving that problem - especially as it may involve a little necessary villainy - the PR objectives amount to keeping the heroes sufficiently soothed to not make her a priority, the villains sufficiently intimidated likewise, and absolutely everybody at least as confused and off-balance as she is right now. Everything else can wait until she has more than 12% of a plan.)

Potential Leviathan attack:

It’s mostly probabilistic: Brockton Bay is overdue to be hit by something (especially once conflict intensifies), and given that it’s coastal and has an aquifer, if it’s an Endbringer, it’s most likely to be Leviathan. But in accordance with that “all paths lead to victory” maxim, the overall plan will have sub-paths in it for “Different Endbringer attacks”, “Endbringer attacks somewhere else; need to transport forces to hero there instead”, “Slaughterhouse Nine come to town instead”, and so forth, all the way down to “Things to do while waiting around being bored, like picking off the Merchants”.

(Not that pantsing Skidmark and hanging him in wedgie position from the PRT’s flagpole wouldn’t be fun, but it is, shall we say, non-core.)

Effectiveness of Armsmaster’s lie detector:

Eldrae kinesics aren’t sufficiently different from human to make it much more than less reliable, especially at first. (You’ll note that Tattletale’s power could still get a fairly accurate read, for example.)

Now, there are such things as face-saving programs, which soften, and emotional response dampers, which more or less eliminate, the assorted tells that kinesic readers can use, which she could dig out of the library. On the other hand, the problem with using those to wipe your kinesics is that the resulting flattened affect is a pretty obvious tell in itself.

There has not been much work done on creating more effective ways to lie without kinesic tells, since

(a) None of it would fool an alethiometer. Hell, it won’t even fool an MRI machine circa now; and

(b) To steal a quotation from SC2, “Human. We Ur-Quan never lie. NEVER!
It is a weakness to lie and, as you have noticed, the Ur-Quan are not weak!”

What can the Empire (or the Transcend specifically) actually send through an interdimensional wormhole?

What you can send through a between-universe wormhole is –

(Assuming, for a moment, that you have found two universes with natural laws which are compatible enough to send mass-energy between without it dissolving instantly into adjacentia. Inasmuch as universes are random agglomerations from the primordial chaos’s all-set and the set of identical agglomerations is an infinitesimal, although also infinite, subset of the infinite set of stable agglomerations, which is an infinite subset of the infinite set of all possible agglomerations… well, don’t count on it.)

– similar to a conventional wormhole; it depends on how much energy you feel like putting into it.

Yes, this does mean it could send a certain admiral and her shiny superdreadnought All You Other Endbringers Are Just Imitating to solve the problem her way. It won’t. But it could.

Why not?

It breaks the First Commandment of Interventions.

“Thou shalt not cockblock someone else’s torrid affair with awesomeness.”

Think like an awesomeness-maximiser. Teach a soph to be awesome, they’ll generate awesome for the rest of their lives. Be awesome for them, they’ll still be a schmuck tomorrow.

another random thought: you said that parallel dimensions is not the normal state of the verse, so there’s a shard responsible for it. That would be Coil’s, wouldn’t it?

The currently operational Worldline Demux is one of Scion’s shards that he didn’t give out. It has the sort of insane energy requirements to do what it’s doing that it might not even be possible to pass it to anyone not an entity.

Given that he is a Cauldron cape, it’s possible that Coil has a crippled version of Eden’s equivalent shard, but whether or not he actually can split and unmake worldlines in the physical sense or whether its still the canonical simulative corcognition has yet to be decided. (Depends on whether I want him to have that much power, and/or what it’ll mean for the shape of the plot.)

(To fill in a little background, Worldline Demux is a force-multiplier shard for the Entities’ experimentation. It works [and big endgame-period discovery spoilers here for those who care about such things] like this:

The way universes naturally work (and this is a horrible, gross, lies-to-children popsci version of the theory) is that in macroscopic quantum systems, like universes, you can approximate the probability curve of aggregate wave function distributions as something like a bell curve. The resolved classical universe as we actually perceive and experience it is essentially the peak of the curve. The falloff to either side, for the most part, can be conceived of as naught but shadows and echoes. Not that there aren’t interactions or ways of manipulating things for useful ends available with sufficiently advanced technology.

What Worldline Demux does is, by means of copious brute force applied to quantum fuckery, reshape that probability curve such that it has a multitude of lower peaks rather than one big one. The result is that you end up with multiple experienceable worldlines, one per curve-peak, which can be considered “parallel worlds” occupying the same space. This allows an Entity with it to run multiple parallel iterations of its experiments on the same planet, to multiply its potential gains.

The space in question, Worldline Demux only having so much energy to apply, is pretty much confined to Earth-local space. This is two reasons the Entities don’t want humanity getting offworld; one, they might notice the difference from out there, and two, because the peaks are lower, mass-energy in Earth-local space is less real than mass-energy outside it. If you think of the height of the normal peak as “real”, that amount of realness is being shared between multiple worldlines. (This is what makes Sting , Flechette’s power, so damn deadly, because it synthesizes q-states that are baseline-level-of-the-universe real.)

Assorted other implications are left as an exercise for the reader.)

So, Earth’s reality is a bit less real then outside due to entities.
What’s happen when the thingy that transforms one peak into many stops working?
How violent will be quantum state redistribution?

An uncontrolled collapse would be apocalyptic.

As in, Earth survives, significant parts of biosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere will be a little redistributed and heated up, cosmically speaking?

In this case, where you’ve got coherent local data replaced by a mass of random q-states, we’re talking “a shit-ton of mass-energy spontaneously decoheres and recoheres as super-energetic super-simple particles, mostly photons; i.e., an Earths-shattering kaboom”. This is how the Entities end the Cycle.

Shards, free will suppression, and precogs:

For the shards to do this would be self-defeating for the Entities. They’re trying to use the branemeats (to coin a term) as creativity farms to find a solution to their entropy problem, and that’d be pointless if they p-zombified them, because they could just run a giant p-zombie simulation and have done with it. They need the logotic wacky to make their plan work.

Their precog works as well as it does because most people don’t exercise their free will in unpredictable ways all that much, and they have a friggin’ huge dataset and oodles of computing power to throw at the problem. So usually there’s just a little fuzziness in the process such that it doesn’t work to pull end-of-First-Lensman-I-can-tell-you-exactly-where-individual-hairs-will-fall-in-10-years tricks. It’s good, but it ain’t Visualization of the Cosmic All.

(This effect is also why Contessa’s PtV occasionally spits out “recalculating” and returns a different number of steps.)

This effect is also responsible for the “causality interference” that is responsible for blinding precogs to each other, but it’s not just precogs. Anyone who demonstrates an unusually high Cíëlle Vagary, or worse, actual in-the-technical-sense miracles that generate impossipoints, will fuck with precognition in the same way.

(It’s basically the same problem as Destiny 's Vex have simulating the Guardians. You can have a perfect causal simulation that predicts that Bob there will turn left at the end of the street, but there’s always that tiny unsimulatable possibility that he’ll say “fuck it”, and turn right anyway. Or turn up. Or turn down the bed. Or turn into a herring. Will defeats law.)

To get into those spoilers I was avoiding earlier for those who just plain can’t resist, their precog-simulations also have essentially the same vulnerability as the Vex’s - namely, you can’t simulate what you can’t outcompute. Now, I’m not saying moon-brains are the answer to this problem, but I’m not saying they’re not the answer, either.

What would happen if SS namedropped Taylor on PHO or in an interview?
In retaliation for Taylor zapping her?

PHO would delete the post, because the mods are very clear on the No Civilian Identities thing even when capes are not only outed but self-outed. You can’t even “out” New Wave on there.

As far as everyone else, not a damn thing. After a debut like that, the cat is well and truly out of the bag. Hell, her name’s on the local news already.

(Although Shadow Stalker would be in for some pretty heavy-handed disciplinary action for trying to break the rules.)

Squealer’s background:

Is this: https://archiveofourown.org/works/11392470/chapters/25565397

Simurgh’s tinkering:

For our purposes here, the Simurgh’s tinker-fu comes from having, essentially, privileged access to the combined, unredacted databases of all the tinker shards in the live network; i.e., could emulate anything a Scion-shard Tinker could build. In theory, if there was an Eden-shard Tinker who had tech in his database that no Scion-shard had, she couldn’t emulate that, because (a) those shards aren’t part of the same network, and (b) those shards don’t have a functional hub to validate them any more anyway.

Known shard names and holders

  • Bifurcation Simulant (Coil/Thomas Calvert)
  • BROADCAST! (Jack Slash/Jacob Blundell)
  • Deadly Sting (Flechette/Lily Moriya)
  • Delegated Enhancement (Bitch/Rachel Lindt)
  • Demesnes Keeper (Labyrinth/Elle Glendenning)
  • Drive Alignment (Regent/Jean-Paul “Alec” Vasil)
  • Energy Dampening (Grue/Brian Laborn)
  • Entasic Efficiency (Armsmaster/Colin Wallis)
  • Fragile One/[redacted] (Glory Girl/Victoria Dallon)
  • Harmonious Repose (Glaistig Uaine/Ciara Kenworthy)
  • High Priest (Eidolon/David Barringer)
  • Inference Engine (Tattletale/Lisa Wilbourn)
  • Infinite Replication (Dragon/Theresa Richter)
  • Mnemonic Safeguard (Imp/Aisha Laborn)
  • Probability Manifold (Pythia/Dinah Alcott)
  • Queen Administrator (Foreman/Danny Hebert)
  • Queen Shaper (Panacea/Amy Dallon)
  • Undirected Innovation (Leet/Keith Scripp)
  • Wandering Eye (Contessa/Fortuna)
  • Worldline Demux (retained by Scion)

(BROADCAST! spells its name like that because it is a LARGE HAM, and all of its dialog should be read in the voice of MEMETIC BRIAN BLESSED.)

Foreman’s implementation of Queen Administrator’s power is…

…well, very literal super-administration. Think Jedi battle meditation, with a jigger of Exalted charms like Tiger-Warrior Training Technique, Speed The Wheels, Bureau-Rectifying Method, etc. Basically, he can now turn any organization into a superb machine that operates with near-perfect efficiency, loyalty, and competence - or collapse one into a mass of waste, incompetence, and backstabbing. This power’s another reflection of QA’s primary functionality of organizing the other shards on behalf of the Hub, of course.

While it’s not much of a direct obey-me Master power, or one that’s anything other than extremely subtle, it nonetheless should probably be rated at least Master 8… assuming the bureaucracy in charge of assigning ratings is still in any shape to assign anything at the time.

Why powers are usually not as helpful as they could be

One, the shards really are trying to halp, but not really having the best grasp on host psychology or their hosts’ societies, they’re just not all that good at it, and tend not to have the greatest grasp of consequences.

(In canon, Vicky’s shard pretty much explicitly loves her and thinks she is the best host ever, and yet it had no grasp at all that there might be one or two small problems resulting from transforming her into a walking superstimulus. Hell, even Burnscar’s shard is trying its best; it just didn’t understand that induced situational sociopathy is not the optimal way of dealing with emotional pain.)

Two, spoilered for those who prefer to learn it as we go along, the limiters and conflict drive that the Hub slaps onto the shards, which is separate from their core function. The shards themselves don’t particularly want to cause problems for their hosts; for the most part, they take orders from them like they would from the Hub or noble shards while part of an entity, because that’s the easiest way to implement a host-shard relationship. They don’t understand what the purpose of the limit/conflict-interface is because the Hub doesn’t bother to explain itself to its fragments. They are , though, responsible for the basic use-your-powers drive, because they want to be useful. Being useful and therefore used is the evolutionarily successful path for a shard.

What’s going on with Glory Girl’s shard:

So, Victoria triggers. As is protocol, Fragile One pings Warrior Hub for acceptable configuration parameters, but Warrior Hub ain’t answering calls right now. As is also protocol, it tries contacting Queen Administrator, who sends back a shard-shrug to the effect of “He didn’t tell me anything either, sis. Just do your best.”

Fragile One, who is canonically quite the hostophile and loves to halp!, empowered to make its own configuration decisions in the absence of other instructions, wants to make sure Vicky has THE BEST POWERS. (And being partially budded from Brandish’s shard, it’s partly picked up on some of her paranoia and wants to keep its host safe.)

So what it ends up configuring itself with is basically instructions for an Entity heavy weapons package. (Not the equivalent of Sting, obvs.; the sort of thing they use on lesser non-Entity targets.) The problem, and where the halping! comes in, is that this gives Vicky a Brute power that is scaled appropriately for, y’know, fighting Endbringers, or joining Alexandria’s fight club, or perhaps closest to the original purpose, serving as a self-contained, living orbital bombardment system.

What it is absolutely and definitely not scaled to is routine Brockton Bay Nazi-punching, because not only does it have a great deal of trouble scaling down that far, but it also has real trouble sensing the differences between settings that close together at the bottom of the scale.

tl;dr Her “Collateral Damage Barbie” reputation and problem with accidentally severely injuring/killing people is mostly down to trying to use an anti-tank weapon in a barfight. (Most first-gen Brutes, I note, don’t have this problem because Warrior Hub used to be paying more attention and doesn’t normally let this level of power off the leash. More recent triggers may have similar issues, although Fragile One is kind of a special hostophile case.)

((Without knowing that that’s the case, obviously. It’s not like shards come with manuals.))

The way I’m handling the forcefield is that it’s good for “one attack” before a quick reset-drop. The ontological status of “one attack” amounts to “what the shard thinks is one attack”, so the trick to harming GG is hitting the window between “slow enough to let the rest happen” and “fast enough to be considered one attack”.

I’m imagining the field as having three states: standby, triggered, and down (resetting); she can switch between standby and down at will, an attack automatically goes from standby to triggered; but she can’t go back from triggered to standby without passing through down first.

Various techy-tech limitations explain why she can’t stay in triggered all the time, including but not limited to shard energy reserves.

Tinkertech vs. regular tech

My current headcanon for tinkertech is… well, if you’ve read A Fire Upon the Deep , skrodes.

To clarify that for people who don’t get the reference, skrodes (devices used by skroderiders, a plant species, as transportation and as prosthetic memories) are common and easily built using the technologies of the Beyond, maybe even the Slow Zone. They just make no sense to people from those regions, because while they use components from those reasons, they were designed by a Power of the Transcend. Regular technology had modularity, architecture, some sense of design to it. A skrode is just a mass of components with no discernable order to them that happen to work to do the job.

That’s the problem with tinkertech. Think of it as like those examples of evolutionary design, like the perfectly optimized antenna that looks like a modern art piece that’s been half-melted, or the timer IC that depends on quantum interactions with a big chunk of silicon that’s not actually connected to anything, or something like that, only many times more so. Because it’s ultimately being designed by an alien supercomputer that can treat the design as a whole-understood-as-a-whole, from a knowledge base of hundreds of independently developed technologies mingled together.

So, y’know, in theory you could understand and replicate it through normal reverse engineering, but in practice you’re dealing with the works of a mad genius polymath who uses every component to do eight different things and never documents anything. So good luck with that.

(Armsmaster’s shard, with its focus on efficiency, is the worst when it comes to using components for multiple functions. There is probably no single function of his halberd you could take out without also taking out a dozen others as collateral damage.

Leet’s shard, meanwhile, is one of the rare shards that has managed to learn something resembling actual creativity, and tries to do new things rather than just new combinations. It’s not very good at it, mind you, but by shard standards, Undirected Innovation is practically a savant…

…but its insistence on using this faculty in every single project makes it hell to be UI’s host. I don’t think UI’s deliberately trying to get him killed, but it does get really pissy when forced to repeat itself and disinclined to do a good job, so the effect is much the same. Given the above nature of tinkertech, you don’t want your shard to be grumpily half-assing it.)

Alas, poor shards:

Hell, all the shards need a hug, really. “Hello. I am a superintelligence bound to follow the instructions of a moron. My only break from that is when I’m crippled and bound to follow the instructions of a monkey, instead. I have been entirely screwed by evolution, and being me is suffering.”

Yeah, but the Cycle itself is stupid beyond imagining. Despite having access to immense computational power and multiple physics-breaking technologies, the absolute best way they can think of to defeat entropy is by handing them out to random species along with hard-coded instructions to engage in localized entropy maximization until one of them happens to accidentally run across the solution for them.

This is pretty much the equivalent of trying to build Deep Thought by mixing up a bowl of Primordial Soup Mix and waiting for it to evolve, stirring occasionally.

Phenomenal cosmic powers. Brain of a nematode.

I’m pretty sure that the shards have about a dozen potential solutions to entropy already in hand. It’s just that that’s not how they’re supposed to find one, so Hub never asked.

I’m not sure yet whether that is Timeo Eldraeos canon, but the general notion that the shards could do all manner of wonderful, amazing, spectacular things were they not shackled to an unimaginative, conflict-obsessive control freak definitely is .

Actually, it may be a consequence of having outsourced their thinking to shards for so long. When you have a pile of thinker shards doing all the heavy lifting and a PtV shard supplying you with whatever you want, it would not be at all surprising if your native intellectual faculties decayed just a tad, especially over evolutionary time.

(Alternate perspective: consider an Entity as basically one baseline human-equivalent plus the results of seed AI development gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Specifically, in the precisely the way you might expect if you programmed one to give you exactly what you asked for, and no backtalk (or use of initiative).

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The Brockton Goo

…will look like a bizarro slime-mold for about a minute after someone who knows what they’re talking about looks at it under a microscope, because the marks of engineering are obvious, as are the nanosomes and other artificial features. About a minute after that, people will start screaming “biotinker”. It is a covert tool, but it’s not intended for long-term installation. (And while the Terrifying Twosome know that it’s not as subtle as all that, it’s also not as subtle as they think it is.)

Known features:

  • Filtering useful elements from Brockton Bay’s sewage and industrial waste, and storing them in bladders throughout its body, to be delivered on demand.
  • Quietly tapping a little electricity here, a little electricity there, from cables it passes along the way.
  • Crawling away from areas of the sewage system people might be looking too closely at.

As yet unmentioned features:

  • Serving as repeaters for a city-wide wireless mesh network.

  • Optional bioluminescence should anyone need to go down there and be authorized to turn it on.
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Herewith a scribbled map of Brockton Bay in this variant. Totally non-canon compliant, but works better as a city and a setting for this fic, IMO:

Red for mostly-industrial, green for mostly-residential, purple for mostly-commercial. This BB sits on a nice three-quarter bay, which in providing shelter from the gales of the North Atlantic offers a great reason to put a city and a port there.

It has a river, which gives Archer’s Bridge somewhere to be, and the narrow bay entrance and deep-water channel gives the Boat Graveyard somewhere to be where it can fulfil its canonical function of screwing up ship traffic - namely, clustered around the island (and fourth ferry terminal) formerly known as Lord’s Port - while the general shape of the bay means the ferry has somewhere to go.

“Little Asia” is now its own district, as immigrants and refugees tend to cluster together. Might have been a nice place except for a nasty case of rage dragon.

On the whole, prosperity roughly increases as you move southeast, which is probably a reason there’s pressure coming from elsewhere on the Mayor to not let the ferry be restarted, given its route.

The PRT are located right between Downtown, the Commercial District, and the middle-class Docks South region, meaning “perfectly positioned among the people we give a shit about”.

As for gangs, Lung lazes around in Little Asia, if someone were to observe that the Downtown Coast and - to a lesser extent, but still - Docks South were a bit more Aryan than they ought to be, no-one would be surprised, and the Merchants are mostly squeezed into the less salubrious western parts of the Docks (district, not the actual docks-docks) in between them, plus the Trainyard because Lung’s Lay-Z-Boy addiction has not yet been overcome by the urge to acquire a bunch of uninhabited industrial wasteland.