While the following contains numerous and abundant spoilers, many facts about the story are nevertheless omitted for brevity. Be warned.
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Arc 1 (Gestation)
1.1The story begins late on a Friday morning in Mr. Gladly's World Issues class on the day that he introduces the subject of parahumans. The protagonist, fifteen-year-old student Taylor Hebert, has been looking forward to the class for the whole semester, but struggles to pay attention, noting that Mr. Gladly (or "Mr. G", as he asks his students to call him) is her least favorite teacher.Immediately after World Issues is lunch, a meal which Taylor has been eating in one of the women's restrooms in order to avoid the trio of fellow students who have been bullying her — Madison Clements, Emma Barnes, and Sophia Hess. Unfortunately, they find her in a locked stall and dump juice all over her and into her open backpack, ruining her textbooks and clothes. It is after the trio have left victorious that we discover that Taylor is actually a parahuman herself, possessed of the power to detect and control insects, spiders, and the like, and that one of the bullies — Emma — was once Taylor's best friend.
1.2In any case, she dismisses the insects and leaves the school midday to ride the bus home. Looking at the contents of her bag, she sees that one of the destroyed items was the notebook where she was taking notes on how she could become a superhero with her powers. She initially despairs over trying to recreate all the information in a new notebook, but after she gets home, showers, and examines her costume (a bodysuit she was making out of black widow spider dragline silk), she decides to take it as a sign that she should stop preparing and start her career immediately, that weekend.
1.3-4She buys the remaining pieces for the costume on Saturday and finishes assembling and dying it Sunday, then leaves for her first patrol on Sunday night. She mentions in the narration that her running routine (which she had taken up to build her strength and endurance prepatory to becoming a superhero) had given her a good knowledge of the neighborhood, but that she had never been into the worst, most crime-ridden parts of the Docks until her patrol that night. As she travels along the streets, gathering insects and spiders from her surroundings to bring with her, she spots members of a local gang called the Azn Bad Boys gathering in front of a building, including the leader, a supervillain named Lung who generates fire, regenerates quickly and becomes more powerful the longer he fights. Wanting to eavesdrop on their conversation, she climbs the fire escape of the adjacent building and sneaks around to a point over their heads, where she overhears him ordering his followers to shoot the children. Realizing that she doesn't have any way of getting in touch with official groups of heroes such as the Protectorate to alert them, she resorts to using a share of her swarm to attack the gang, biting and stinging (without injecting venom) the mooks while biting and stinging (with venom) Lung in all the most vulnerable places (including there).
1.4-5Lung proceeds to decimate her swarm with his fire powers, eventually simply setting himself on fire in order to kill any bugs that try to approach him. Realizing that she was unable to do anything else against him, and that his gang was scattered enough to disrupt his operation, she begins to retreat towards the fire escape when Lung's instant reaction to her stepping on the gravel roof reveals he has superhuman hearing. He then proceeds to jump most of the way to the top of the building and climb the rest. Taylor quickly checks through the items in the storage compartment in her armor and pulls out a tube of pepper spray her father gave her, as the best she can find that might still affect him. It does, but when she tries to run for the fire escape he is still able to blast her with a gout of flame before she can reach it. She finds herself trapped on the roof and out of options, just waiting for him to heal enough to be able to spot her in the darkness, when a massive animal jumps onto the roof from a nearby rooftop and slams into Lung. The animal and Lung end up in a fight on street level as two others arrive, each bearing two people in costumes — two male and two female, all high school age.After the four new arrivals disembark, one orders the other animals down to ground level to attack Lung while the others start up a conversation. Taylor remains silent as the leader thanks her for her assistance, introducing himself as Grue and his companions as Tattletale, Bitch (or Hellhound, to the PRT), and Regent. They stop when Tattletale alerts them to the approach of a superhero and Bitch calls her dogs (that being what the giant animals were) back up to the roof. Grue then offers Taylor a ride out, which she refuses, and Tattletale advises her to leave, as a member of the Protectorate who encounters two villains fighting is likely to detain them both. It is not until after they leave that Taylor realizes both that the children Lung planned to kill were supervillains, and that said children assumed she was one as well.
1.6She remains on the roof as Armsmaster — the leader of Brockton Bay's Protectorate team — arrives on a motorcycle and uses his Halberd to quickly reach the roof. He yells a challenge to Taylor, who informs him that she is an (aspiring) hero; which (to her surprise) he believes. When she expresses her surprise that she was not killed by Lung, he reminds her of the Wards (the junior version of the Protectorate); in order to avoid having to discuss her reluctance to join said organization, she asks about Lung. Armsmaster informs her that he had found Lung beaten unconscious and tranquilized and locked him in a cage. Taylor then gives him a full briefing on the fight. Armsmaster then reveals to Taylor that the gang of teenage villains she met had been an infuriatingly-evasive liability, with both Regent and Tattletale being completely unknown entities.He then asks Taylor whether she wants credit for helping take down Lung. He warns her that taking credit would be dangerous, as other members of the organization (including Bakuda, whom he informs her is a tinker specializing in bombs who was recently recruited by Lung) would then target her; he advises that she either join the Wards for protection or keep her involvement in the capture of Lung secret. She realizes that the latter gives Armsmaster the opportunity to take the credit himself, but not wanting to join the Wards, reluctantly opts for it anyway. Armsmaster praises her for it, and tells her to call the PHQ if she ever needs help before departing.
Interlude 1 (following Danny Hebert)The chapter opens with a narration about the history of parahumans, starting with the first, a golden man seen floating over the open ocean on May 20th, 1982, who is latter dubbed "Scion". Shortly after the narration segues away from Scion and other early parahumans to talk about the beginnings of government involvement, we see Danny Hebert, Taylor's father, turn off the TV and pace worriedly — it was three-fifteen in the morning, and he had woken just after midnight to the sound of the back door of his house closing and discovered Taylor was not in her room. We learn from his narration that his wife is dead; also, that he fears she either went running (a routine he knew she found calming) and was accosted or that the bullies at school (whom he knew of, but not the identities of) who had been targeting her had lured her out.When he hears her come in, he decides to remain in his room until she returns to her own room, so as not to humiliate her by confronting her if she had just returned from being bullied, but when he steps out in the hall to knock on her door, he smells jam and toast — from which he concludes that she wasn't returning from any such encounter. His fear turns into anger, but in keeping with a promise he made to himself not to inflict his temper on his family the way his father did, he remains in his room, eventually calming enough to sleep and deciding to talk to Taylor about her midnight excursion in the morning.
Arc 2 (Insinuation)
Taylor joins the Undersiders, intending to collect information on them before turning them in to the Protectorate.Closing interlude follows Victoria Dallon, AKA Glory Girl of the hero team New Wave.
Arc 3 (Agitation)
The Undersiders rob a bank at the request of their mystery boss. They fight the Wards, but escape successfully. Taylor is assigned a cape name: Skitter.Closing interlude: the Wards and other heroes debrief with PRT Director Piggot following the bank robbery.
Arc 4 (Shell)
The Undersiders (minus Bitch) hang out. Tattletale takes Taylor shopping. Taylor shares her origin story. Grue reveals his in return. Bitch seems to disappear after being tasked with exchanging the robbery proceeds for the team's reward. They hurry after her and find themselves in a fight with local joke villains Uber and Leet, plus a surprise guest.Taylor is concussed during the fighting. The Undersiders take her to a doctor for treatment, and Brian and Lisa take her home to her dad. They explain her injury without revealing her identity.Initial "apology" interlude: Purity reluctantly agrees to resume her position in her ex-husband's organization, Empire Eighty-Eight.Closing interlude: Brutus goes for a walk with Bitch, which becomes eventful when her destination turns out to be a dogfighting arena.
Arc 5 (Hive)
The villains and mercenary capes of Brockton Bay meet to address the problem of the ABB's sudden sustained offensive. The reader is introduced to the Merchants, the Travelers, Coil, and Faultline's Crew. They split into interwoven teams to attack and dismantle key ABB operations. Taylor works alongside several capes from different criminal organizations, and encounters Lung for the second time.Closing interlude follows Gregor the Snail, a cape with a nonhuman appearance who works with Faultline. We see a day in the off-duty life of a mercenary cape and learn more about the phenomenon the Protectorate calls the Case 53s.
Arc 6 (Tangle)
Out of school with her injury, Taylor spends more time hanging out at the team's loft. She visits Brian's apartment and meets his sister, Aisha. She and Brian encounter Sophia Hess.The Undersiders embarrass the heroes of Brockton Bay at a celebration of their victory over the ABB, and learn the identity of their boss, the extent of his organization, and his plans for the city.Taylor's dad discovers she's been lying to him about her school attendance, and confronts her, refusing to back down until he knows what's going on. The best thing she can think of is to admit she's an undercover superhero- but faced with the prospect of actually turning the Undersiders in to the Protectorate, she's overcome by her feelings of camaraderie. She leaves her dad without giving him an answer, and resolves to give up on the undercover operation, becoming a real member of the team.Closing interlude: Canary, a parahuman who chose not to be a hero or a villain, is transported to the Birdcage alongside Lung and Bakuda. We learn more about Canary's alleged criminal offense and the decision to imprison her, and the nature of the most effective parahuman prison.
Arc 7 (Buzz)
Gang violence overtakes Brockton Bay once again when the secret identities of the top members of Empire Eighty Eight are revealed to law enforcement and news media by Coil's operatives. The Undersiders mobilize against the white supremacists, first because Tattletale's power makes them the prime suspects, and then to stop the violence spilling out across the city as Purity demands the return of her daughter.Closing interlude: Miss Militia recalls events from her childhood and adolescence, including her trigger event, and is the first to learn from Dragon and Armsmaster that an Endbringer attack on Brockton Bay is imminent.
Arc 8 (Extermination)
Leviathan comes to Brockton Bay. Taylor joins the assembled capes of the city to fight off the monster.In the aftermath of the devastating battle, the city is in shambles, and several secrets are revealed. Taylor learns that Shadow Stalker is Sophia Hess. The Protectorate learns that Armsmaster deliberately risked the lives of other combatants to attempt to fight Leviathan singlehanded. The Undersiders learn that Taylor planned with Armsmaster to betray them.Donation interlude spotlights Tattletale, both before the formation of the Undersiders and during Leviathan's attack.Closing interlude follows Coil in the aftermath of Leviathan.
Arc 9 (Sentinel)
Taylor's decision at the end of Arc 8 remains unclear. A series of interludes focuses on the Wards of Brockton Bay in the week following Leviathan, including two new members brought in from other locations: Weld, a Case 53 composed of various metals who involuntarily absorbs metal items that he touches, and Flechette, a "kitchen sink cape" with several minor powers that make her accurate and effective with ranged weaponry.The Slaughterhouse Nine are revealed to be in town.We see more about Parian, Brockton Bay's primary rogue, and the area of the city that she's protecting.The Wards approach a potential new recruit, a vehicular tinker called Chariot, and learn that he's a mole, probably for Coil. As they've done with certain PRT agents, they decide to accept him and pretend they don't know his real intentions, in order to learn more about Coil's organization and possibly manipulate him.We receive a hint about Taylor's decision when the Undersiders capture Shadow Stalker.
Arc 10 (Parasite)
Taylor and the Undersiders execute a daring heist on PRT headquarters, going up against the Wards to steal classified data. The team has a new member. Regent reveals the full extent of his power, and his origin. Taylor's relationship with her teammates has changed following the end of Arc 8.When Coil consults Dinah for information about the Slaughterhouse Nine, she reveals a frightening prophecy: there's an event coming that will kill the vast majority of Earth's population. Jack Slash is the first person she's recognized in connection with this: if he leaves Brockton Bay alive, this event happens sooner- between two and eight years, instead of fifteen.Closing interlude: Regent methodically disassembles Shadow Stalker's out-of-costume life as revenge for what she did to Taylor.Donation interlude: Dragon reviews some recent communications and draws important conclusions about the identities of two young parahuman ladies in Brockton Bay.
Arc 11 (Infestation)
Taylor claims a territory and begins to establish infrastructure, providing food, shelter, protection, and supplies to the people of her section of the city. Sneaking into a Merchants gathering with Tattletale and four of Coil's mercenaries to retrieve a missing person earns her her first two employees: Sierra, whose brother was taken in by the Merchants, and Charlotte, an abductee they encountered and rescued who recognizes Taylor from high school. Faultline's Crew disrupts the gathering and retrieves a prize of their own: a briefcase with the same symbol as the Case 53s, containing canisters purported to give the user superpowers.EIGHT closing interludes. See next folder.
Arc 11 Interludes
The Slaughterhouse Nine are in town, and they're recruiting. Eight interludes cover the Nine's visits to certain parahumans, mostly their chosen recruits.
- The Siberian presents Bitch with a gift, and offers her freedom from other people's rules.
- Bitch receives a wolf pup, who she names Bastard.
- Jack Slash, disappointed by his encounter with Oni Lee, pays a visit to Purity's apartment.
- Theo Anders, Kaiser's son, is given a deadline: kill Jack within two years, or Jack and the Nine will kill a thousand people in Theo's name, ending with Theo and his baby sister.
- Burnscar attempts to reconnect with Labyrinth.
- Mannequin draws a comparison between himself and Armsmaster.
- Dragon decides to share her secret with Armsmaster.
- Shatterbird blackmails Hookwolf into cooperating with the tests.
- Crawler attempts to contact Noelle of the Travelers.
- Dinah Alcott overextends her precognition to save herself and Coil's other employees.
- Cherish draws her estranged brother, Regent, into the Nine's initiation trials out of spite.
- Bonesaw attempts to bring out a kindred spirit in Panacea.
- Panacea violates her policy against affecting the brain (healing her brain-damaged foster father), and runs away from home.
Arc 12 (Plague)
The cape factions of the city meet to discuss their response to the Nine, including Dinah's prophecy. Mostly ejected from the general meeting by Hookwolf's manipulations, the Undersiders and Travelers strategize in private. After the meeting, they encounter half of the current Nine, who introduce Regent and Bitch to the testing process and announce Shatterbird's usual citywide attack. Tattletale is wounded after revealing Cherish's plan to subvert the Nine, but entices Jack to a deal- if the tests end with more than half the candidates surviving, the Nine take the first volunteer and leave town.Taylor uses her bugs to warn as many people as possible of the imminent devastation from Shatterbird's power. (Her dad is injured, but Coil's medics arrive immediately and take him to get treatment.) While she's working to provide relief to the injured in her territory, Mannequin attacks. He kills several of her people, but she promises to make him regret it, and succeeds.Donation interlude recaps the history up to this point of Battery, a local hero who bought her powers from Cauldron, and her encounters with Madcap, the supercriminal that she was determined to capture.Closing interlude: Jack Slash considers Tattletale's offer while he and the Nine massacre the Merchants' leadership and scatter their followers.
Arc 13 (Snare)
The Nine's tests begin. After Burnscar turns a narrow but decisive victory against Mannequin into a mutual retreat, Taylor persuades the Travelers and Undersiders to change tactics and attack the Nine directly rather than risk weeks of attacks without rest. The plan is a success, resulting in the capture of both Shatterbird and Cherish, but the remaining Nine take Grue captive in return.After the Protectorate refuse their request for help, the Travelers and Undersiders mobilize to rescue Grue (and possibly Imp). They distract most of the Nine by giving their location to the city's other villains, but Bonesaw still manages to capture the strike team, plus an enraged Parian. She's considering a selection of fates worse than death for them when Grue has a second trigger event. He kills Burnscar, heals his captive teammates, and forces Jack to cut Bonesaw's hands off at the wrists and abandon the battlefield.In the aftermath of the mutual rescue, Taylor attempts to support Brian emotionally. He explains his new power- the darkness he generates has always slightly hampered the powers of other capes inside it; now, that effect is magnified, and he can access some of the ability the affected capes lose.Donation interlude: Aisha checks in on her mother before attempting a raid on the Nine.Closing interlude: Director Piggot plans an attack on the Nine, hoping to capitalize on their losses so far.
Arc 14 (Prey)
The Protectorate's attack on the Nine is a success, eliminating Mannequin and Crawler and putting the Siberian on the defensive for the first time. But the string of victories by the heroes prompts Bonesaw to release the penalty she prepared for the Nine's game: a bioweapon that destroys the ability to recognize other people. Unable to identify friend or foe and severely hampered by the resulting isolation and paranoia, Taylor manages to contact Panacea and get her to release a cure, but in the meantime, Jack learns of Dinah's prophecy. Intrigued by the future it promises, he and his remaining teammates leave Brockton Bay with one new recruit- after a quick stop to punish Cherish's planned betrayal with a fate worse than death.One donation interlude: Legend meets with the top tier of the Protectorate regarding the results of his stay in Brockton Bay, including the new information about the Siberian.Closing interlude: Taylor's employee Sierra continues to manage day-to-day life in Skitter's territory, until her boss returns from the campaign against the Nine.
Arc 15 (Colony)
The Slaughterhouse Nine are gone, but now Taylor is convinced that Coil has no intention of releasing Dinah. The Undersiders agree to back her up when she's ready to move against him. She even recruits a new ally in Parian, after donating money to cover treatment costs for the rogue's family members who were altered by Bonesaw. Her day turns around when Coil orders her, Trickster, and Genesis to deliver a message to the mayor. Intimidating a public official at dinner with his family would be uncomfortable enough, but Tattletale also gets a strong impression that Coil intends for Skitter to be killed in action. And then the Protectorate shows up...Three donation interludes:
- Carol Dallon, aka Brandish, recalls key moments of her history as a cape before finding out what's happened to her daughters, Victoria (Glory Girl) and Amy (Panacea).
- Brian tries to cope with what he suffered in Bonesaw's lab, and decide how much help he's willing to accept from his teammates.
- Alexandria's history: scenes from her origin as one of the early superheroes, the planning and formal establishment of the Protectorate, the defense against the first Endbringer attack, the first fight against the Siberian, and more.
Arc 16 (Monarch)
The Travelers and Undersiders are on track to have the city under control by Coil's deadline— until seven of Dragon's suits descend on the city with orders to capture them. Coil volunteers the use of his assembled resources to deal with the problem, and offers additional incentives including a promise to honor the condition Taylor proposed. Now all she has to do is make sure the two teams come out victorious against seven times the firepower ever deployed by the best tinker in the world... and then find out if Coil intends to keep his promise.Three donation interludes:
- Parahuman Response Team squads deploy to eliminate a threat whose powers aren't fully understood.
- Defiant continues the hunt for the Slaughterhouse Nine, and reaches a surprising conclusion about Dragon.
- Marquis tries to guide Panacea through a crucial moment in her introduction to the Birdcage.
Arc 17 (Migration)
The origin of the Travelers- all seven of them. We learn how they met, how they got their powers, the nature of their common goal as capes, and why they came to Brockton Bay.All-interlude arc, similar to Sentinel, but with a single perspective.
Arc 18 (Queen)
The Undersiders successfully enlist the help of the Protectorate and Wards for the first time, even receiving out-of-town reinforcements to help against Noelle. It's still far from a comfortable alliance.Four donation interludes:Recaps of later chapters to follow...
- Kevin Norton, the most powerful man in the world, makes two important decisions, including naming his successor.
- Crusader helps reach a turning point in the Pure's ongoing effort to force Theo's trigger event.
- Dr. Jessica Yamada holds therapy sessions with a series of parahuman patients from long-term care facilities, the Wards, and even the Protectorate.