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I’m eating well, I’m sleeping, I’m studying and I’m training. I’ll do it right this time. I won’t die this time.

Flare 2.6

Ashley Stillons,[1][2] known as Swansong, and as Mangled_Wings on Parahumans Online, is a nascent hero and a clone of the previous Damsel of Distress.

Personality

Ashley's personality can be said, especially by her, to be a distilled version of the original.[2] Ashley's current personality is based around the original Damsel of Distresses (hereafter referred to as DoD) with some original memories.[7] She has a hard time remembering her childhood while her actions in combat like in the 'Boston Games' were much more clear.[8] Remembering that she fought New Wave when the hero team came to Boston to help with the Villain situation. Similarly she remembered that, fortuitously, she was not a multitrigger.[9][10] Like the original DoD she does do dramatic monologues but it is unknown if the original DoD could distinguish this as the push from her shard that Ashley can.[11]

Like other S9000 clones, given Bonesaw's messy and inaccurate cloning process, Ashley started out with a cobbled together collection of memories,[12] with some memory bleed from the shard.[13][14] This included memories of her predecessors including the original and a child version that Bonesaw created for testing.[15] As well as, presumably, her clone 'sisters',[16] they even shared memories.[17]

She started out with a less mature connection to her shard.[18] However Riley also tweaked the psychology of her subjects to make them more stable and effective.[13] Because of this gaps remain; she was not originally familiar with computers or Parahumans Online, likely lack of life experience and her programming, but learned quickly.[19]

In an argument on PHO in 2014, she described herself as a villain who was taking a break thanks to the Amnesty to educate and re-orientate herself.[20] They stated that they "don’t fly under the radar. I know what I am and I know what I’ll be, if I don’t die first" and described herself as "restless".[21] Regardless she had to deal with the fact that her former approach to life had ended with her killed and made into a tool for others purposes. She decided to try something new and joined the new hero team.

Due to how her personality was constructed as well of the nature of her shard she was extremely competitive. Going all in even on training exercises.[7] She still sees herself as Damsel of Distress as opposed to 'Ashley'.[2] Further she held herself in high regard and did not accept insults.[22] She does not like showing weakness or disability,[23] again much like the original DoD, and prefers to take a hit socially rather than reveal it.[24] Ashley is commonly candid when dealing with others,[25] and observant, able to draw accurate conclusions based on her read of people.[26]

Had considerable initial difficulty adjusting to Goddess' influence.[27]

Relationships

Ashley is a member of the Chatroom group, by her own admission she is staying with the group until they failed, so she could learn how to deal with hero teams. Sveta qualified this statement saying that 'failure' in this case meant a catastrophic unrecoverable failure as opposed to organizational stumbling. Likely because of this the group the group were surprised when she expressed sympathy toward Rain's plight.[28] Despite her attitude and other challenges she has formed connections with various group members.

They consider her to be different from the previous Ashley[29] even if Ashley herself does not.[2] She tends to like small exclusive groups of people, with all others being potential enemies.[30]

Sveta

Had lunch with Sveta and Weld and Director Armstrong that opened Ashley's eyes to problems faced by Case 53s.[31] Respects Sveta even if she finds her annoying sometimes.[citation needed]

Rain

She sometimes listens to Rain, who is one of the more socially adroit members.[11] She was able to tell that he had changed to a more martial attitude then before.[32]

Was glad that he is in the prison with her.[33]

Kenzie

Kenzie was able to connect with Ashley where others could not. Such as when the the former villain had an episode following a group training exercise.[34] Ashley was fond of Kenzie in turn, and defended Kenzie and her progress to one of the Tinker's former teammates Houndstooth. Calling his assessment of her friends situation inhumane.[35] After Rain revealed his background Ashley comforted the young tinker as she processed the information.[36] Ashley worried how participating in the Mathers Compound Assault affected Kenzie.[37] She is willing to protect Kenzie's privacy.

Victoria

Ashley told Victoria the she considered them to be pretty similar people.[38][39]

Victoria was able to teach Ashley how to be a bit more of a hero.[40] Ashley trusted Victoria enough to suggest she look after the Apartment.[41]

"Sister"

Ashley saw Damsel as an interesting reflection on her own choices.[42] Was comfortable with the amount they were differentiating.

Truly appreciated her sister,[43] how much of this was reflected narcissism is another question. They took easily to "bantering" with each other in their own private manner.[44]

Their relationship did become somewhat strained when they were released from prison. Swansong was willing to forgive Damsel even when she attacked her.[45]

Appearance and Equipment

Biologically appearing somewhere between eighteen and twenty, Ashley naturally has silver-blonde, though her power bleaches it white,[46] hair that hung down to the small of her back.[47][7][48] She later cut her hair to shoulder length which helped with her swan estetic.[49] She was thin, but had some degree of muscle.[48]

The irises of her eyes were pale, almost white.[47] From a distance or in poor lighting, it was often impossible to make out what direction she was looking.[50][48] When she used her power, her irises and pupils became pure white, leaving her eyes blank for a few seconds.[51][46]

Ashley has decorous presentation, generally wearing black dresses, one had a dozen straps overlapping in an intricate way at the shoulders and back. Some of the hem and straps had been damaged and imperfectly mended.[47][52] She would accessorize this with black makeup, nail polish and even masks, much like the previous DoD had done.[53] On one occasion, she wore a raincoat with a hood over it.[54]

By way of a costume she initially wore a black mask[52][48] that was v-shaped, covering the nose, ears, and around her eyes, leaving her eyebrows partially visible.[55]

As a hero she goes by Swansong.[3] As Swansong, she wore a black-and-white dress and a mask,[56][57] with a white smoke effect coming from her eyes, a tinker effect.[58][59] She did need to modify her costume as winter approached.[60]

Prosthetics

Ashley's hands and forearms are advanced prosthetics looking like normal, slender human hands with black-painted fingernails.[61] Despite this they do not leave fingerprints nor extrude skin oils.[62]

They are deeply integrated up to her forearms, with power-channeling tubes taking place of bones.[63] The prosthetics served to help prevent her power from activating accidentally, as long as they received regular maintenance.[64] If they did not receive regular maintenance her fine dexterity would suffer.[23] However, as long as prosthetics are not outright damaged, her power would still be safely restrained.

Overall, prosthetics make power expression less intricate, but more reliable.[63] If needed Ashley can tear them off, though this heavily damages them.[65]

The prosthetics were created by Bonesaw but Rain is able to provide maintenance for them.[66]

Abilities and Powers

Main article: Damsel of Distress

Her powers are largely unchanged,[6] and her random firing issues are taken care of as long as her prosthetic hands are maintained.[67] This means the previous enhancements that she had were refined and miniaturized to give her greater control.

In a fight she is extremely energetic,[68] and can propel herself wherever she wants thanks to her Blaster ability.[69] This forward moving combat approach makes her very hard to predict thanks to her head to head nature and the chaotic expression of her power.[7]

She is acknowledged to have a high degree of control,[69] and is able to use her warp blasts to erase small items.[51][70] This control, partially a function of her prosthetic limbs, was unavailable to her predecessor. When they are damaged she has to deal with the same issues her predecessor had. Agitation causes her power effect to play along her fingers.[71]

Ashley is immune to her sisters power just as she is immune to her own.[72] Her power expression is different from her sisters in subtle ways. Notably, it sounds slightly different.[73]

She still has some old residual body enhancements that do not require maintenance, making her more resilient than average.[74]

History

Background

Main article: Damsel of Distress

Her memories could be said to be an edited distillation of the original.[14] Much of her personality is intact,[75] but certain memories such as those from her childhood,[76] are vague and indistinct.

Post-Echidna

When Defiant killed the original Damsel, her DNA had already been preserved by Bonesaw, and was used to create several clones for The Slaughterhouse Nine-Thousand. This was the basis for Ashley's claim to have worked with over 20 villains in the past.[21]

Post-Timeskip

She and her finished clone sisters were awakened with the rest of The Slaughterhouse Nine-Thousand and was used in the rampage. Killing several people over the course of the event.[2]

She was forced to surrender through Bonesaw's remote.[75]

Gold Morning

She was one of the instances of the cloned Damsel that survived the initial deployment. She formed a family unit with her fellow clone afterward. Then a goddess stepped in and Ashley was used along with other surviving parahumans to end Gold Morning.[77]

Post-Gold Morning

Around the year after the Gold Morning she chose to return to civilization, likely with assistance of former Director Armstrong and sweeping amnesty. She was put into therapy, gained power-limiting prosthetics from top-tier biotinker and started a medication course to help with her mental recovery.[78]

One of the goals of her therapy was a research of postmortem memory phenomenon in parahumans, Ashley was being paid for participation.[63] It delivered extremely weird results.[79]

She tested ground on Earth N.[80]

At some point she had a lunch with Armstrong, Weld and Sveta. After several false starts things turned out well, the first idea to form a team was made here.[81]

Glow-worm

On August 19th Y1, Ashley registered a PHO account from a library computer. She argued about the post-Gold Morning amnesty with other users, then was invited to the Chatroom group.[21]

She claimed that it only took her less than an hour to learn to use a computer for the first time.[19] However, Strange_Mammal noticed that she had been logged in all day, and concluded that this was a lie. Manged_Wings was angry at the implication.[82]

Capricorn later noted that Ashley was practically living at the library.[83]

Early-Ward

Agreed to join the nascent hero team though she regularly hung around a certain villain bar. She was there when Prancer called several villains out to discuss a new business venture.[53] It is unknown if she was invited to the discussion.

Arrived at the latest therapy group meeting and came face to face with a former hero.[84]

When taking part in a training exercise she took command of the younger heroes in the group, and went all in for her strategy. Her team lost the engagement, which she did not take well, but was convinced to step away and calm down.

As the team was preparing to leave she confided Victoria that she was not even the most screwed up person in the team. Closer to the third. She also reiterated that she expected to be returning to villainy preferably after helping her teammates with their various issues.

She was part of the team's planning sessions and volunteered to go undercover to find out what had happened at Cedar Point. She also started exploring the possibility of a heroic identity.

Ashley infiltrated Hollow Point and met Prancer again.[85] She was eventually able to join Beast of Burden's clique, having helped some of his subordinates 'fend off' some nosy superheroes. She was part of the Hollow Pointers invasion. Through quick thinking she was able to temporarily break herself out of Valefor's mental suggestion. Once Beast of Burden overstepped in their strife for leadership she reflexively killed him. After brief discussion with the witnesses Ashley retreated to Patrol Block barricade and turned herself in.[86] While being there, she assisted Victoria with the Fallen that tried to break out.

Post-Fallen fall

She later went to trial for manslaughter, and passed on her apartment to Victoria.[87] She refused to use false evidence that Kenzie made for her.[88]

She rejoined her sister in prison, noting the differences and recalling commonalities.[75] She and Rain later had a call with Victoria and Kenzie, she tried to tell the little tinker about her relationship about her parents.[89]

With Rain, Ashley started gathering information about what happened at the prison.[90] Using Kenzie's projection technology, she continued to work with Breakthrough, showing up when the growing hero network apprehended Trial and Error, and appearing on Hard Boil to defend Kenzie.[91][92]

Along with the rest of her team, Ashley was aligned by Goddess, and was present during the events at the prison.

Post-Goddess' Takeover

Following the destruction of the parahuman prison, Ashley and her sister moved back in to her apartment with Victoria. Her sister's influence appeared to make her more imperious.[93]

Post-Time Bubble Pop

Swansong fought alongside Breakthrough during the second Wardens' assault on Teacher's Compound.

Once she was able to close distance, she managed to damage and capture one of the Saint's angels by annihilating its pilot, but was left severely injured.[94] She suffered some more damage while taking out elite soldiers of Teacher.[95] Her subsequent meeting with Ingenue and her goons did not help either, as Swansong was returned to her old power incontinence.[96]

Ashley died while fighting Spawner, and delivering a power boosting syringe to Canary on Contessa's behalf. Explicitly stated to not let Valkyrie revive her.[97]

Trivia

  • Her life following her creation would have been subject to another quest sometime after PRT Quest had concluded.[98]
  • The symptoms she describes are close to bipolar disorder. This is corroborated by Jessica Yamada's notes about the therapy group, which mention one member with a "potential bipolar diagnosis".[99] In addition, Ashley mentions that her medication makes her thirsty, which is a known side-effect of lithium, a common medication for bipolar disorder.[100]
  • Ashley was considered as a protagonist for Ward, but Wildbow found her perspective difficult to stick with in the long term.[101]

Fanart Gallery

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Group Text (@ Ashley Stillons, Chris Elman, Kenzie Martin, Rain Frazier, Sveta Karelia, Tristan Vera) - Excerpt from Glare 3.6
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Ashley clenched one hand into a fist. “You realize if I hadn’t been holding back, I could have annihilated each and every one of you?”

    Woah,” Tristan said, with emphasis. “Ashley-”

    She whirled on him, pointing, and he flinched, going silent. I stood from my seat.

    “Ashley,” I said, because I wanted her attention off of Tristan.

    “I’m not Ashley,” she said, her voice hard. “Nobody has called me that in a long, long time. I’m only Ashley because the therapists insisted and the others needed an actual name to put on the paperwork. I’m Damsel of Distress!”

    “Okay,” I said. “Can we-”

    I was spoken over. “I was a member of the Slaughterhouse Nine. They selected me. They had me kill and maim people. I didn’t mind doing it then, and I could do it here without blinking.”

    “I don’t believe you,” Sveta said.

    “I’ve died and I came back with only the vicious parts of me intact! All of the warmth, the good memories, the family, they’re just a fuzzy, indistinct dream. Those memories have no hold on me. The killing? Taking people’s arms and legs and watching them bleed out? That’s clear as anything. I could do the same to any of you.” - Excerpt from Glare 3.3
  3. 3.0 3.1 Shadow 5.1
  4. Beacon 8.7
  5. Ashley gave me a sideways look.

    “I saw that, Ashley Swan. Don’t do that.” - Excerpt from Polarize 10.2
  6. 6.0 6.1 Damsel of Distress High recoil 'shotgun' bursts of warped space, disintegration and gravity shearing destroy virtually anything, fling her back. Can be used as mover power Independent/Slaughterhouse 9 Mover Shaker - Parahuman List; bolded edit by Wildbow
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 “Hoo,” I said. My heart was pounding, and I fanned myself a bit with my hand. “You do remember this is a training exercise, right?”

    “You do realize my team is going to win this?” she retorted. Her hands shifted position slightly.

    Her face gave away nothing, I realized. It didn’t help that with the dust, her hair across her face, and the last remaining spots of light in my vision, I couldn’t make out her pupils. Her hands and where they were pointing were one of her tells. Her shoulders another. She was thin, but especially as she crouched there, hands slightly behind her and at her sides, shoulders pointing forward, I could see the muscles underneath the skin around her shoulder and shoulder blade.

    Was there power or Manton protection there, keeping her from dislocating her shoulders when she used the recoil to move around like that? Was it just strength and practice?

    I’d relied on instinct to respond to her, and I didn’t love that I’d relied on that instinct. I wanted to be careful and thoughtful about the moves I made and Ashley’s approach allowed absolutely none of that. I was left to digest that I’d reacted to her by fighting, going the opposite direction instead of the Judo-like approach of using the enemy’s strength against them. - Excerpt from Glare 3.3
  8. “Would’ve been in Boston. The slang term in the ‘scene’ was the Boston Games.”

    Ashley smiled for the first time.
    [...]
    “Heroes, like the PRT, and like my family’s team, followed, to try and keep the peace until things settled. My family’s team was Lady Photon, Manpower, Flashbang, Brandish, Lightstar and Fleur.”

    “The heroes without masks,” Ashley said.

    “Yeah,” I said.

    “I remember them. I was one of the villains who flocked,” Ashley said. - Excerpt from Flare 2.5
  9. Cap: I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with the cluster-trigger clusterfuck

    Heart_Shaped_Pupil: Amen.

    Mangled_Wings: Agreed. - Glow-worm P.6
  10. - Excerpt from Flare 2.5
  11. 11.0 11.1 “This was an idiotic game, and I. Don’t. Play. Games.”

    “Count down from ten,” Rain said.

    Ashley whirled on him. I left the ground, flying closer, stopping when things didn’t escalate further.

    “Count down from ten,” Rain said. “That’s what Mrs. Yamada says, isn’t it? When you’re wound up.”

    “It’s fine when she says it.”

    “It should be fine when any of us say it,” Rain said. “Count.”

    Ashley tensed. I could see it in her shoulders and the way the tendons stood out in her hands.

    Everyone was silent.

    I waited. Ten seconds passed. Then the fifteenth, then the twentieth.

    “Feel better?” Sveta ventured.

    Ashley turned, staring Sveta down. “No.”

    “Count down from a hundred,” Rain said.

    “I’m not going to-”

    “Count,” Rain said, his voice soft. “Please. You’ve said before, when you get like this, there’s a part of you that’s saying you don’t want to act this way, and you can’t listen to it. So listen to the numbers first, then listen to that part of you.” - Excerpt from Glare 3.3
  12. Though it’s somewhat justified in this instance as they don’t retain their full memories – only cobbled-together personalities and histories. - Comment by Wildbow in Sting 26.3
  13. 13.0 13.1 He followed obediently. “Where’s my Catherine? She’s my…”

    “Your mom, silly billy.” Cognitive dissonance would be bad. He could lash out. Not that he was that dangerous, like this.

    “I was going to say wife. And I have two children. They’re seven and five. Except I’m…”

    “You’re seven. You’re thinking of your sisters.”

    “I’m confused,” he almost mewled the words. “It hurts, so much of it hurts to think about. I- I let a lot of people down. I can feel their disappointment like… like it’s pressing in on me from all sides. I can’t hide from it and I can’t stop myself from caring. I-“

    “Hush,” she said. “It all gets better when you wall yourself in, doesn’t it?”

    He nodded mutely.

    “Walling you in,” she said, as she put him on top of the stand. A press of the button raised the glass enclosure. She could see him relax a fraction at that.

    A bit of a problem, Bonesaw mused, as the container filled with the nutrient fluid. - Excerpt from Interlude 25
  14. 14.0 14.1 Greendoor65: And Damsel snaps because she lost a training exercise. Honestly, it seems kinda really bad idea to have a former S9 member on your team, Amnesty or not for exactly this reason.

    Also, huh, are they saying that the Clones retain some memories through the Shards (If distant and faded)? If so, that's interesting as hell.
    ughzubat: In Riley's interlude she talks about the first batches of clones having some memory bleed over, she theorizes it's because of their shards
    Wildbow: Good recall, yep. 15 points to Cauldryn. - Conversation with Wildbow on Reddit
  15. “Do you remember having tea before? Is that one of your memories?”

    Ashley nodded.

    “I wasn’t thinking we’d have a tea party. I was thinking just… tea. I have cake from a shop.”

    Ashley shook her head slowly. The water in the sink dripped again. “I remember after the tea party we had.”

    “Oh. Yeah.” - Excerpt from Eclipse x.3
  16. “They’ve picked up other things. I don’t know if it’s because they copy me when they see me or if it’s because they’re getting it in other ways.”

    “You should have studied more about powers,” Jeanne said. “I think it’s the latter.” - Excerpt from Interlude 5x II
  17. “Enough,” Swansong said.

    “Enough? Don’t you mean stop?” Damsel asked, archly. Her tone became vicious. “Remember? ‘Stop? You stop.’ Wasn’t that what you said to him, before you put a hole in his chest? I did have that dream, you know. And I say dream, not nightmare. That registered. Not any of the soft friendship, not looking after lonely little girls, nor scruffy teenage boys. That moment meant more than all of this put together, and you’re trying to pretend it didn’t.” - Excerpt from Heavens 12.x
  18. The entity observed the ongoing conflict. No less than five seconds after it had been trapped, two figures had emerged from a doorway between worlds. The entity could see the paths forming, trace them back to the source. Another world, a living world without a shard occupying it.

    They engaged the eight with their own perception abilities, intervening to assist a group of others. As a pair, they opened fire with guns, then waded into hand to hand combat.

    The entity looked at the male, and it saw the connection to the same shard as the eight. His connection was stronger, more mature. - Excerpt from Interlude 26
  19. 19.0 19.1 Strange_Mammal:you said you hadn’t really used a computer before
    Mangled_Wings: I hadn’t.  I’m a fast learner.
    Cap: this is A?
    Strange_Mammal: it’s A…
    Strange_Mammal: …we’re using first-letters to stay on down-low…
    Strange_Mammal: …until we figure out what we’re doing
    Cap: how long did it take to figure it out, A?
    Mangled_Wings: Less than an hour. - Excerpt from Glow-worm P.3
  20. I am a villain. When I give you recommendations about leaving sleeping dogs alone I am referring to myself. When I tell you that you want to get out of the way if I have something I want? Referring to myself.

    I am not one of the leeches. I pay for my own apartment. I make no trouble. Yet. Yes I am talking to the heroes. They keep their eye on me and I keep my eye on them. There are other factors. This makes degrees of sense you are not equipped to comprehend. For now it is fine and you should take my word for it.

    I’m aiming to get stronger. I’m aiming to get smarter. - Excerpt from Glow-worm P.3
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Glow-worm P.3
  22. I started my flight toward toward Tristan.

    “You’ll regret ignoring me,” Ashley said, behind me.

    Pride, respect, they were key factors here. I could remember the meeting, the narrowing of the eyes. I knew Tristan was in a tough spot, but I paused, turning around in the air. I had to raise my voice to be heard with the distance between Ashley and me, as I said, “We’re not ignoring you. We’re dealing with you two against one.” - Excerpt from Glare 3.3
  23. 23.0 23.1 A moment later, she turned to Ashley. She lowered her voice, “Do you have powers?”

    Ashley nodded.

    “Can you?” Presley held out the notebook.

    “No,” Ashley replied.
    [...]
    I was having to get used to having the nice moments be routinely touched with those sour notes.

    “I can’t hold a pen,” Ashley murmured.

    I looked at her.

    She moved her hands from where they rested on her knee. She turned one over, moved a finger. It trembled throughout the small movement. “I’ll have my appointment after we talk to Houndstooth, get tuned up. Until then, it hurts to move my hands and I don’t trust my power. That’s why.”

    “You could have explained.”

    She gave me a look.

    “You could have,” I said.

    The look was maintained. Even with the sunglasses she wore, the disdain was clear. “Ripple effects, you said. I wouldn’t be revealing it to her alone. I’d be risking revealing it to everyone she meets from here on out.” - Excerpt from Shade 4.4
  24. “Frankly,” I said, still quiet, angry now, “you come across worse and smaller as a person when you say no to something that costs you nothing than you do by admitting you’re disabled.”

    “Temporarily disabled,” she said. “You’re wrong. I can’t think of anything worse than groveling before a child and telling her I’m weak when I’m the very opposite. I could kill everyone on this train if it came down to it. One after the other. By the time I made my way to the next train car, they would be ready for me, and it wouldn’t matter.”

    I tensed as heads turned. They weren’t responding to the words. Only the emotion behind them. - Excerpt from Shade 4.4
  25. There were cases where individuals protected themselves and cases where individuals were also protected by others. Kenzie had a role as the baby of the team, in a way. There were things she didn’t disclose and things she was intentionally or unintentionally coy about, despite her overly open personality. That was compounded by how others were ready to step up for her and defend her. That was the security they’d given her.

    I glanced over my shoulder at Ashley, who was hanging back, finishing the second of the bottles of water she’d brought back with her after going to the library. Ashley was very similar to Kenzie in that department. Unguarded in terms of how open she was about many things, but she had things she didn’t talk about, and she benefited heavily from the group’s defense of her. - Excerpt from Glare 3.5
  26. Shade 4.7
  27. Gleaming 9.3
  28. of5: Mostly.  Obviously not when I’m here.  Hard to strike a balance.  It’s not good times.

    Mangled_Wings: My sympathies.

    Heart_Shaped_Pupil: !

    of5: I… really appreciate that, a.

    Heart_Shaped_Pupil: !!

    Curious_Cephalopod: please, K.  Let it be. - Glow-worm P.6
  29. “Yes. And gradually trying to get her used to the idea of cooperating with the good guys, making sure she was staying reasonably healthy. They reached out regularly, letting her know there were better options. Except that Ashley was a different Ashley.” - Excerpt from Flare 2.7
  30. Distorted perspectives aside, [...] Ashley was a staunch defender of her favored few, with thorny words for anyone who stood against those few. - Excerpt from Gleaming 9.2
  31. Shadow 5.6
  32. Shade 4.7
  33. Beacon 8.3
  34. Glare 3.3
  35. “Frankly, I’d really lock down the school thing. See if you can have her rotate classes or do something non-classroom. Discourage friendships with classmates, because that’s not going to go well. If she starts showing true romantic interest in anyone, shut it down hard. I wouldn’t advise her being on your team, frankly.”

    “That’s extreme,” I said.

    “It’s dehumanizing and disgusting,” Ashley said. “Until she’s better, no human contact or relationships. Nobody can get close to her, nobody can show kindness, nobody can help her or accept help from her? Just a breath or two away from you saying you don’t ever think she’ll be normal. You’re disgusting.”

    She was starting to walk away, toward the path that had led us up the hill.

    “Ashley,” I said. “I get what you’re saying, but we did agree to hear him out as a favor.”

    “You hear him out then,” she said. “Tell me what you think I need to hear when you tell the others. But I’m not going to stay here and listen to this degenerate imbecile reduce her to a problem that can be solved like that. She’s human.” - Excerpt from Shade 4.4
  36. Shade 4.7
  37. When I get in trouble for blasting Beast of Burden, make sure she has someone. You or someone else.”

    I nodded. “Her parents?”

    “Go to that dinner at her house or ask the others if you want an answer to that question.”

    I tilted my head a little, trying to see more of her face. “Usually I can count on you for straight answers.”

    “Not about this. She’d be upset with me and things are hard enough. She’s upset with me and I’m upset with her. - Excerpt from Pitch 6.6
  38. “Right. Good to hear,” I said.

    “We’re similar, I think,” she said.

    I paused. I’d been taking a second to think about how I would gracefully exit. Now I was left to process what she’d said, and figure out how to gracefully answer that.

    “Should I take that as a compliment?” I asked.

    “Take it however you like. Them? They’ve experienced hurt. They’ve known horror. Maybe not so much for Kenzie, but she experienced enough hurt that it balances out.” - Excerpt from Glare 3.5
  39. Eclipse x.7
  40. I showed the others the picture and caption. I got an okay from both, and sent it.

    I held the phone where everyone could see it. With the first excited response, half of Ashley’s tension seemed to dissipate. With the second and third, she smiled. - Excerpt from Shade 4.4
  41. Torch 7.3
  42. Eclipse x.8
  43. “My roommate is fine. Exceptionally beautiful and graceful,” Ashley said. “Good genes, I think. Clever. Quick to learn. Witty, even.”

    “That joke is wearing thin,” Sveta said.

    “I’m not joking,” Ashley replied. - Excerpt from Beacon 8.4
  44. “Did you worry, when I had my claws so close? Did you fear me?” It was the other Ashley, talking to our Ashley.

    “I trust you as far as I trust myself.”

    “So corny,” Chris said. “I can imagine them just doing that nonstop for the next two years, and acting like it’s still cute or funny.” - Excerpt from Beacon 8.3
  45. Interlude 12.x
  46. 46.0 46.1 “Dye it?” Sveta asked.

    “Doesn’t work,” Ashley said. “I have natural silver-blonde hair, but I use my power-”

    She put her hand to the side of her head and used her power. I stepped back, stumbled into Sveta, then reached out to help her catch her balance.

    Ashley’s hair settled back into place. Her pupils took a long few seconds to reappear.
    [...]
    “My eyes and hair lose their color,” Ashley said, in a non-sequitur for Tristan.

    “You’d lose the dye,” I said. “Probably.” - Excerpt from Shade 4.6
  47. 47.0 47.1 47.2 The final member of the group entered the room. She was somewhere between eighteen and twenty, but her height might have been deceiving. Her white hair was long enough to reach the small of her back, her irises especially pale or similarly white, and she wore a black dress with a dozen straps overlapping in an intricate way at the shoulders and back. The hem of the dress was damaged at one end. Threads frayed, polyester melted, with a noticeable hole in it.

    “Hi, boss,” Kenzie said, a twinkle of mischief in her eye as Mrs. Yamada gave her a stern look.

    “I’m glad you could make it, Ashley,” - Excerpt from Flare 2.5
  48. 48.0 48.1 48.2 48.3 She raised her face and looked up at me. White eyes behind a black mask, behind white hair.
    She used her power again. Cords, columns, and shaped explosions of lensing, bending, and darkening within the roughly cone-shaped area, over the one or two seconds that she was creating each blast. She didn’t even rise from her kneeling position. She threw herself at me, and this time she caught me entirely off guard. Her knees hit my shoulders, at least one of her arms caught me around the head, the fabric of her dress pulling against my face as she tried to fold herself around my head. - Excerpt from Glare 3.3
  49. I noticed mostly because Lookout was bouncing in her seat, but Ashley was in view now. Double-vision. There were two of her, wearing similar dresses. The one slightly in the lead was our Ashley, our Swansong, with hair cut short. It had fanned out slightly at the bottom, and where weight had pulled it straight, it had a bit of a twist to it. Her bangs were similar, but more twisty, pushed over to one side. - Excerpt from Beacon 8.3
  50. Ashley was on foot. White eyes were wide open behind her mask, the pupils not visible from this distance. - Excerpt from Glare 3.3
  51. 51.0 51.1 She tipped back her water bottle, finishing it off, and without even lowering the bottle from her mouth, used her power. Shorter than her prior uses, abrupt. It made its usual cacophony of noise, my ears ringing faintly in its wake, and it pushed her hair up and back, so it took a second to fall back into place.

    She caught her balance, taking a second before she stood straight again. Then she looked at me with eyes that had no pupils, no irises, only the white, and only the dark makeup to draw out the eyelashes. Slowly, her pupils faded back in. - Excerpt from Glare 3.5
  52. 52.0 52.1 “What’s it good for?” Ashley asked. She was taking things a step further than Chris’ wearing of the same shorts. She wore the same dress she had worn at the meeting, the damage at the corner mended imperfectly. One of the straps, I realized, had been damaged and patched, but her hair masked much of it. She had a black mask in her hand, but she hadn’t put it on. - Excerpt from Glare 3.2
  53. 53.0 53.1 A young woman entered the restaurant. Prancer almost thought it was the first of the influx, but she was alone. She was an older teenager or twenty-something, with long white hair, wearing a black dress and black makeup, and she took a seat alone at the table. She rummaged in a bag to find a book.

    The waitress approached her, kettle already in hand. The money was passed across the table, and the tea was poured. A regular.

    Her mask was so simple it might as well have not been there. Curious, too, that she’d come this far to read a book. Maybe someone would be joining her. - Excerpt from Interlude 1 II
  54. Ashley was pulling on a raincoat, and Sveta’s hands were clasped in front of her.
    [...]
    Ashley stood on the sidewalk, her hood up. - Flare 2.7
  55. “Chris,” Ashley said. She pulled on her mask. It was v-shaped, covering the nose, ears, and eyes, leaving just a hint of her eyebrows visible above. - Excerpt from Glare 3.2
  56. ‘B-TV’. The building loomed above us as we got out of the car. It was me, Capricorn, Lookout, and, after a short delay for the camera and projector to boot up, Swansong in a dress that combined black and white. The dress had costume lines and straps that crossed over at the collarbone. Elegant, but short enough a dress that it could have been indecent. - Excerpt from Beacon 8.10
  57. A masked Swansong walked with her hands clasped behind her back to get to the rooftop’s edge. Depending on how the light hit her, her hologram nature would be more or less apparent. - Excerpt from Beacon 8.6
  58. “Eviscerate me?” Swansong asked, and even though her voice was calm, I could see the animation in her eyes- if it weren’t for Kenzie’s special contact lenses with their holographic smoke effect, I might not have seen how her eyes moved. As it was, I could see the starting point for the black smoke as a faint ring at the edges of her eyes. “You’re making us look bad, and that’s worse.” - Heavens 12.4
  59. - Excerpt from Interlude 12.x
  60. “You can tell me how I’m supposed to wear a costume with a dress built in, when the temperature is below freezing.”

    “I can try,” I said. I glanced at Sveta, who was now staring into the mirror. “You might have to wear leggings.”

    She made a face, then looked at Kenzie.
  61. Ashley raised a hand, slender, with black-painted nails. I couldn’t tell that her hand was prosthetic. - Flare 2.6
  62. “I found bullet casings,” Ashley said. She’d veered furthest from the group. Way off to the side, where the dirt gave way to the still-new, pavement of the highway, she’d found the casings. Bending down, long skirt blowing against her bare calves, she used a finger to prod one casing.

    “Careful you don’t taint the evidence,” Rain said. [...] “I’m… fuck. I’m the prosthetics tinker, and I forgot about your hands. You have no fingerprints, no skin oil.” - Excerpt from Polarize 10.4
  63. 63.0 63.1 63.2 Eclipse x.3
  64. “Reports were that you died.”
    “I did,” she said. “Now I’m back. My power isn’t holding me back anymore.”
    “You get sparky sometimes,” Kenzie said.
    “So long as my hands are maintained, I’m fine. I have contacts. I’m eating well, I’m sleeping, I’m studying and I’m training. I’ll do it right this time. I won’t die this time.” - Flare 2.6
  65. “I’m patient,” Ashley said. “We’ll entertain ourselves with our side of the investigation. I won over Llorona, I think.”
    [...]
    “Then how did you pull that off?” Capricorn asked.

    Ashley smiled. “When she acted like she was better than me because I wouldn’t play, I tore my left hand off in front of her.”
    [...]
    “It was such a mess,” Rain was almost despondent in tone, contrasted with Lookout’s excitement and Cryptid’s satisfaction. “I’m the maintenance, you know. And there’s blood with forced removals like that. Like, hurry, hurry, get dressed, shoes on, and run, because she might not live if it’s not plugged in right.”
    [...]
    “Letting the Queen place me at the bottom of the totem pole would have been worse,” Ashley said. “It helps Rain, too.”- Excerpt from Beacon 8.4
  66. Ashley smiled. “When she acted like she was better than me because I wouldn’t play, I tore my left hand off in front of her.”
    [...]
    “It was such a mess,” Rain was almost despondent in tone, contrasted with Lookout’s excitement and Cryptid’s satisfaction. “I’m the maintenance, you know. And there’s blood with forced removals like that. Like, hurry, hurry, get dressed, shoes on, and run, because she might not live if it’s not plugged in right.”

    “Spooky,” Sveta said.

    “Messy!” Rain exclaimed, to Sveta. To Ashley, he said, very seriously, “Messy.” - Excerpt from Beacon 8.4
  67. Flare 2.6
  68. She raised her face and looked up at me. White eyes behind a black mask, behind white hair.

    She used her power again. Cords, columns, and shaped explosions of lensing, bending, and darkening within the roughly cone-shaped area, over the one or two seconds that she was creating each blast. She didn’t even rise from her kneeling position. She threw herself at me, and this time she caught me entirely off guard. Her knees hit my shoulders, at least one of her arms caught me around the head, the fabric of her dress pulling against my face as she tried to fold herself around my head.

    Holy shit, was my first thought. She was not letting up. Every time she acted, it was with the energy of a sprinter taking off from their starting position, except her power gave her more of a push, and the jarring noises only magnified the surprise of it. - Excerpt from Glare 3.3
  69. 69.0 69.1 “It’s obvious you have control,” I said. “Kenzie, can you show the walljump?”
    [...]
    Kenzie jumped to the scene. Ashley leaping off of the wall with one foot, her power just starting to explode out from her hands. The power looked more solid in projection than it did in reality.
    [...]
    “The walljump,” I said. “The sequences of blasts to maneuver and the whole-body coordination it must take. That, to me, says control.” - Excerpt from Glare 3.3
  70. Ashley, on her screen, paused to write something down.

    LEAVING SOON

    She used a small burst of her power to destroy the paper shortly after writing it down.

    Kenzie snapshotted the note, then typed it up, adding it to a log in the sidebar, where it joined two other brief notes that Ashley had written on her way into Cedar Point. - Excerpt from Shade 4.1
  71. Ashley shook her head. She moved her injured hand, bouncing it up and down briefly, then clenched her other hand at her arm as a muffled use of her power erupted between her fingers. Agitation. - Excerpt from Pitch 6.6
  72. It was reassuring to see the only other person left in existence that understood, that she couldn’t hurt with her power, should a freak accident happen. It was terrifying. - Excerpt from Eclipse x.8
  73. I heard Damsel using her power.[...]I heard Ashley using her power. A little more oomph, more of an eruption of power than a jetting out. Unpredictable, uneven, but it gave her momentum. - Excerpt from Blinding 11.3
  74. Dying 15.5
  75. 75.0 75.1 75.2 Eclipse x.8
  76. Torch 7.10
  77. I found members of Bonesaw’s Slaughterhouse Nine. Clones who’d fled, or who’d been left behind, lurking in dark corners, or simply hiding. A Mannequin, two Damsels that were keeping each other company, a Night Hag-Nyx hybrid, and a Crawler-Breed hybrid. - Excerpt from Speck 30.4
  78. Eclipse x.1
  79. Eclipse x.5
  80. She says she spent some time in Earth N at one point, getting the lay of the land, she can give tips on who’s there. - Excerpt from Torch 7.10
  81. Shadow 5.6
  82. Strange_Mammal: for your information…
    Strange_Mammal: …others can see time you spend online on your profile.  you spent longer than one hour…
    Strange_Mammal: …you’ve been online all day.
    Mangled_Wings: I am at the library.  Something to do with that, I’d think.
    Strange_Mammal: it doesn’t work that way.  I am 95% sure.
    Strange_Mammal: there is no need to lie, A
    Strange_Mammal: the reason for this project is supposed to be we know each other
    Strange_Mammal: K will find out if she does not already know.  she pays attention to those things
    Mangled_Wings: If you are 95% sure there is still 5% chance you are wrong.  Assume you are wrong before you get on my bad side.
    Mangled_Wings: You do not want to get on my bad side. - Excerpt from Glow-worm P.3
  83. Cap: C was saying he had to go get lunch soon.
    Cap: I think that’s why he left
    Cap: A is eating too. she practically living at library now I think.
    Cap: but she has to leave it to eat. - Excerpt from Glow-worm P.7
  84. Flare 2.5
  85. Shade 4.1
  86. Shadow 5.11
  87. “In exchange… take my keys. Take over the rent for the apartment.”

    My eyebrows went up.

    “You’re staying with your cousin, you said. If you haven’t found a place, then stay here instead. Keep the things you like and store the things you don’t.” - Excerpt from Torch 7.3
  88. Eclipse x.1
  89. Torch 7.10
  90. Beacon 8.3
  91. Beacon 8.5
  92. Beacon 8.10
  93. “We also require information,” Swansong said. She raised her chin a fraction. She was alone- Damsel was back at the apartment. The lingering influence from her other half still seemed pretty darn apparent. There was more of the imperiousness I’d seen in our initial interactions. - Excerpt from Polarize 10.3
  94. Dying 15.5
  95. Interlude 15.x II
  96. Interlude 15.y II
  97. “No. No. Death doesn’t scare me. I’ve beat it enough times before. No, don’t let her have me. Val…”

    “Is that why you said not to wake her up earlier?”

    There was a pause. Spawner couldn’t see enough to know if there was body language.

    “I thought I’d go out screaming and ranting, sick and hating myself for it. I did… every other time except the first…”

    “You said you had a friend?”

    She nodded. “Glad it was me. Means there’s less chance it’s her. I can handle this. Been here enough times.” - Excerpt from Interlude 15.z II
  98. 6. Damsel of Distress Quest - pre & post S9, possibly post-Worm, hinting at elements of sequel, North America - Comment by Wildbow on Reddit
  99. “I cut down on the particulars. Only a few points that, if you weren’t already aware of them, you should be.”

    Suicidal ideation…

    Potential bipolar diagnosis…


    “I don’t know,” I said. - Excerpt from Polarize 10.13
  100. “Do you want more water?”

    Ashley nodded.

    Jessica took the water bottle and went to the sink in the corner of the office. “Is the thirst because of what you experienced in the dream? Stress?”

    “The medication.”

    “Of course. It’s only been a short while, so we’ll give it time.” - Excerpt from Eclipse x.1
  101. Word of God on Discord

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