|Date posted||6 October 2012|
Approaching Arcadia High, Skitter thinks back to the very positive pre-Leviathan reputation of the school. The current status of the building, overgrown, windowless and tainted with wisps of mist, is compared to a horror movie setting by Skitter.
Skitter lands on the roof, constantly repeating the identities of Panacea, Jack and "the chemist-tinker", in an attempt to retain memory of them. She tries to find a way to get help, but she has no phone signal and she dismisses a plan of creating a "9" over the school, because the heroes may bomb it. Skitter breaks in through the rooftop door to the school and distributes bugs throughout the school to scout, locating an area of the school where the bugs are dying instantly on entry. She concludes that the two members of the Nine are there, however since she cannot locate Panacea she is worried that the healer has been found by the enemy. Moving through the school, Skitter lays tripwires across various points to track possible movements. She is delayed by several wall traps before reaching the perimeter of the area filled with bug-killing gas, where she hears voices engaged in conversation.
Bonesaw claims that Panacea and herself are similar, excitedly suggesting that she could even modify Panacea to have the same age and appearance, although Jack assures Panacea that Bonesaw's youth and immaturity is natural. Panacea protests that she has no interest in listening to Jack, but ceases speaking when Jack implies the alternative is her death. Jack calls Panacea by her orignal name: Amelia Claire Lavere, and begins talking about Marquis, her biological father. Jack explains he met Marquis on his previous visit to Brockton Bay, and admits he failed to make Marquis break his code of honor, using this as evidence to dismiss Panacea's claim that Marquis killed Iron Rain. Jack asserts that Marquis would have broken his code upon Jack's attempts if he was ever going to break it, and the claims Dragon relayed to Carol about Allfather having put a bounty on Panacea were a way for Marquis to remind his daughter he still exists. Marquis would wanted his legacy to continue through his child, and Jack compares the rules that father and daughter both set for themselves. Jack describes Marquis' rules as his armor as it defined the goals he worked towards, while Panacea's rules are her weakness, leaving her with nothing but her sister to clutch on to. Jack reveals that Cherish's powers and his own knowledge of damaged individuals has clued him in to the incident between the sisters.
Out in the hallway, Skitter is concerned about the direction of the conversation but is not confident in her ability to land shots on Jack and Bonesaw without a distraction. Panacea refuses the idea that she is a monster, while Jack says that he almost enjoys the label. He desribes it as transcending humanity to become a myth, and then talks about the end of the world prophecy. Jack expects that it won't be a complete end to the world, and some people will remain to craft a new world. He suggests Mannequin and Bonesaw will play big roles in this, and proposes that Panacea could too if she choses as such. When Panacea calls him crazy, Jack claims clinically depressed people have a more accurate sense of reality than average, because they sell themselves less illusions. Panacea argues that he has a warped view instead of seeing too clearly, but Jack talks about the brutal history of humanity and the "survival of the fittest", claiming that the shaping of humanity into what it is has been the product of billions of horrific events and humanity now merely wears masks to pretend they aren't self-serving monsters. Panacea says she would kill herself before becoming a monster like the Nine, however Jack presses that she must understand how she could become like them if she abandoned her rules. Jack claims that she could have everything she wants, promising that she could be free of guilt, doubt and other negative feelings, and keep her sister by her side, letting Panacea be happy for the first time since childhood.
Panacea reveals that she has never remembered a time when she was happy, even in childhood. Jack quickly deduces that he earliest memory is being taken by those who became her foster family, also accurately describing how Panacea's efforts to please her family always ended in disapointment. She compares him to Tattletale, but Jack assures her his ability to understand her is derived from his experiences with many other damaged people, rather than from powers. He again offers the opportunity to be with similar people and to finally have someone who pays attention to and understands her. Panacea mentions, to Skitter's surprise, that Skitter and Tattletale paid attention to her. Jack correctly guesses that the Undersiders told Panacea she isn't a bad person and that she didn't believe them, but will believe Jack telling her she is a bad person, although Panacea refuses Jack's claim that being bad is fine. Jack questions if she doesn't deserve what she desires finally after years of bending to the expectations of society. Panacea finds this argument unconvincing, so Jack offers her a deal; If Panacea agrees to "indulge" herself, the Nine will leave the city. He stresses that she doesn't have to do so now and he doesn't care about what she does afterwards, he just wants her to speak the words "I'll do it".
At Jack's pledge to leave the city, Skitter immediately considers attacking before Panacea can make a decision. When she hears glass being stepped on as someone moves, she stands and moves to point the gun through the empty window frame of the door. She sees Jack approaching Panacea, with Bonesaw standing off to the side. Next to Panacea is biological construct resembling a coffin with a face etched onto the side facing Skitter, which she quickly deduces must be Panacea's sister. Skitter is briefly distracted by the 'sister', but proceeds to fire a shot into Jack's back. Her following shot hits the ceiling thanks to recoil and Bonesaw slips out of the room as Skitter tries to line up on her. Jack is almost immediately back on his feet, spinning around to slash at Skitter but failing to penetrate her costume. Panacea moves to her sister's side and wakes her up, then directs her to chase Bonesaw. Skitter finds herself paralysed by the emotion aura given off by Victoria until the girl is further away.
Jack criticises his opponents for leaving him with a hostage. Panacea reveals that she has been turning microbes that touch her skin into an airborne plague, but Jack explains that Bonesaw's smoke was originally designed as an emergency countermeasure to her own biological weapons, and it's ability to kill insects is a helpful side effect. He also tells Panacea about the meshes Bonesaw installed on the Nine that make them far less vunerable to bullets. Panacea tells Skitter to not worry about Panacea as a hostage, voicing willingness to die if it lets them kill Jack. While Skitter is willing to kill Jack or Bonesaw she is unhappy with having an innocent bystander killed in the process. Jack picks up on this and attempts to manipulate Skitter on her guilt again while he tries to locate her. She speaks up in an attempt to bait him into a tripwire trap, however he avoids it by jumping through a window instead of the door. She charges him, crashing into him when he kicks her in the side. Skitter attempts to seize the vial producing smoke from Jack's neck, but he begins stabbing and slashing at her with dual knives. Skitter scrambles away, wrapping her arms around her face as she gets to her feet. Her arms do not cover her head entirely, and the constant slashes rip at her ears. She makes a dash for the classroom Panacea is in, but is grabbed from behind and slashed across the back of her head as she throws the hand off. Skitter hears someone shout something, twice, but the blood in her ears makes her incapable of hearing the words themselves.
Skitter stumbles into the classroom and is quickly aided by Panacea, who fixes all her injuries except the impact of the mist on Skitter's brain. Skitter insists that the Nine could win if Panacea doesn't fix her brain, but Panacea says that breaking her rules would leave her to fall apart, a fate she considers worse than death. Skitter asks her to weigh it against the slow death of everyone in the city and the potential end of the world, and Panacea eventually yields and begins fixing the damage. Panacea explains the agnosia is being caused by a parasite that she can create a counter-agent to that will be able to undo the memory loss, although she explains the more severe brain damage will have to be attended to personally by her on another healer. Skitter memories return, but she has to wait for Amy to finish manafacturing a large scale solution, a parasite that will be spread by body fluids and act as a reverse-epidemic. Skitter asks Amy about the materials used for Victoria, and Amy reveals she lured stray animals to the area so she could supply Victoria with fat, since she was unable to supply enough nutrition. Skitter asks if Victoria will be returned to normal soon, but Amy insists she must be totally sure Victoria will recover first and then tells Skitter to leave when she tries to question more, declaring the countermeasure ready. Skitter notes a dark look in Amy's eyes before she leaves.
Skitter takes flight on Atlas, scouting the area with bugs in an attempt to locate newer, thicker patches of Bonesaw's smoke so she can identify the location the Nine have headed. She finds a fresh trail, which splits into two, indicating the Nine have split up. However, she then identifies a third trail and upon further searching locates even more trails. Skitter realises that Bonesaw's mechanical spiders have rejoined her and have been used to spread the smoke in many directions, eliminating her chance of pursuing the two.