Source material: Worm, Gestation 1.3
Originally blogged: January 23, 2017
Alright, I’m home, I’ve been fed and this blanket’ll keep me warm on the sofa – it’s time to read some Worm.
Still in Arc 1, Gestation, I see. I wonder if there’s more to happen before Taylor can get around to her proper hero debut…
My training schedule consisted of running every morning and every other afternoon. In the process, I had picked up a pretty good knowledge of the east side of the city.
Good to have if you’re going on patrols. It doesn’t help much to hear about a place where you’re needed if you have no idea where it is.
Growing up in Brockton Bay, my parents had told me stuff like “stick to the Boardwalk”. Even on my runs, I had scrupulously stayed on the Boardwalk and avoided the bad part of town. Now it was Sunday night and I was in costume and breaking the rules.
What a rebel!
*puts on some Homestuck music while he reads*
I had dyed and painted the costume on Friday, bought temporary costume pieces (belt, the straps for the mask and the lenses) on Saturday and finished the most necessary details over the course of my Sunday afternoon before heading out for the evening.
Of course the mask has lenses. Probably big ones – can’t have a bug theme without them!
The costume wasn’t complete yet, lacking the full extent of the armor paneling I had planned out, but the armor covered the most essential areas – my face, chest, spine, stomach and major joints.
Good prioritization. This isn’t a girl who’ll just wear whatever – she knows what she needs for this… job? hobby? …activity.
The mask design featured dull yellow lenses, the only color on the black and gray costume, as well as sections of armor designed to imitate a bug’s mandibles while simultaneously protecting my jaw.
Gotta say, even though I’m usually not super interested in outfits and such in literary fiction, I’m loving the stuff about this outfit. It’s just… very creative and really well thought through, both by Taylor and by Wildbow.
The mask left my hair free, which did leave the back of my head more vulnerable, but that was just one of the sacrifices I’d had to make to go out in an unfinished costume.
I guess in some ways she’s rushing this a little, but she made a conscious choice to speed it up, and she’s already spent three months planning this. I can’t blame her.
It was just after midnight, and I was crossing the line between one of the nicest parts of town and the part of town where the crack whores and gangsters lived. The distance between the two was thinner than one might think.
Now entering: Crookton Bay
The Boardwalk was where the tourists came. Running north-to-south along the beach, there were shops that sold dresses for over a thousand dollars, cafes with ludicrously expensive coffees and stretches of wooden walkways and beaches where tourists could get a great view of the ocean.
From pretty much any point on the Docks, you could see one of Brockton Bay’s landmarks, the Protectorate Headquarters. Besides being a marvel of architectural design with its arches and towers, the PHQ was a floating base of operations that a squadron of local superheroes called home, outfitted with a forcefield bubble and a missile defense system. There had never been occasion for either to be used, but I had to admit, it made you feel safer.
The Protectorate is a superhero team confirmed!
…I probably sounded rather silly when I theorized about them being a sinister big brother type organization running a dystopian society or something, didn’t I. 😛
If you headed west from the Boardwalk, away from the water, you found yourself in the area the locals just called the ‘Docks’.
I’d imagine docks would be by the water, but apparently not these presumably non-literal ones.
When the import/export business in Brockton Bay had dried up, there had been a whole lot of people who were suddenly out of work. The richest and most resourceful people in town had managed to make more money, turning the city’s resources towards tech and banking, but all of the people who had been employed on the ships and in the warehouses had few options left to them. They faced leaving Brockton Bay, sticking around while scraping up what little work they could or turning to more illicit activity.
So basically, business dried up (maybe that’s why the Docks aren’t by the water… or vice versa) and while the bourgeoisie survived through other means, the proletariat was dropped into the abyss of poverty and crime.
I feel like this story is beginning to show something that may well be one of the big reasons why it’s so loved by the fandom: Everything seems to be very thought through.
This all contributed to the boom in the local supervillain population.
Naturally. I failed to mention it, but one of the last few posts got me thinking about the mechanics of superhero/villain balance. Basically, almost every superhero story needs a supervillain to pose a challenge to the hero, and if there are many heroes in one setting, you need many villains, or a few very strong ones, for all the “excess” superheroes to even really have anything to do.
That’s part of what League of Super Redundant Heroes (which I was rereading earlier today because it came to mind back in chapter 1.1) takes up to 11 for humor – Shitropolis has a huge amount of superheroes, so naturally it also has not only a similarly huge amount of supervillains, but it’s also frequently the target of threats like alien invasions, meteors, tidal waves, etc.
But yeah, point is: If there’s a lot of heroes, there’s got to be a lot of villains.
The potential for big money coupled with the number of eager-to-please mooks and henchmen made it the city to be for the villains in the late 90s. It took a few years for the hero presence to establish and organize themselves, but they did, and there was something of an equilibrium now.
Or it can go this way, with superheroes cropping up to defend against existing supervillains.
And see? Equilibrium. Clearly Wildbow understands how it has to work.
As far as cape population went, Brockton Bay wasn’t in the top 5 cities in the U.S., but it was probably in the top ten.
Oh wow, apparently supers are rather common in this ‘verse.
Plot twist: Worm is in the same ‘verse as LoSRH and #1 on the list is Shitropolis.
Just moving from one block to the next, you could see the change in the area. As I made my way into the Docks, I could see the quality of my surroundings decline steeply.
Suddenly everything looks like it’s drawn really badly and some kid nearby loudly declares that his name is “Jhon Ebgret” while flailing a pair of… are those hams?
There were enough warehouses and apartments in the area for even the most destitute to find shelter, so the only people on the streets were unconscious drunks, whores and gang members.
I steered clear of any and all people I saw and ventured further into the area.
Where exactly are you going?
The lack of lights in the area was what made me stop and draw myself against the side of a building when I saw a spot of orange in the dark street ahead. The orange was the flame of a lighter, and I was able to make out several faces around it.
I wonder if she might be able to gather information from bugs through the telepathic link other than, like, information about the bug itself. Maybe with practice she might be able to access a specific bug’s senses or something? Anyway, Taylor’s powers might extend to facilitate spying, either now or later.
They were Asian, some wearing hoodies, others wearing headbands or long sleeved shirts, but all wore the same colors. Red and green.
Oh, apparently they were close enough for her to see them mostly properly anyway. Gang members, huh? Probably…
I knew who these guys were. They were members from the local gang that left the tags ‘Azn Bad Boys’, ABB for short, all over the East end of the city.
Well that’s one gang name. Alternative backronym botherations:
– Altercation Beep Boops
– Astrophysicists betrayed Basil
– Alternative Baby Bottles
More than a few went to my school. As far as the criminal element in Brockton Bay went, they weren’t small potatoes. While the typical gang members were just Koreans, Japanese, Vietnamese and Chinese forcibly recruited from Brockton Bay’s high schools and lower class neighborhoods, the gang was led by a couple of people with powers.
I’m… not sure how I feel about the mixture of ethnicity into this. Gonna give it the benefit of the doubt for now, I guess.
Gangs didn’t tend to be that racially inclusive as far as who joined, so it said something that their leader had the ability to draw in members from so many different nationalities and keep them in line.
Ah, okay, so the Atrocious Bowl Busters are one of the less homogeneous gangs. Hm.
[Apparently at this point I answered an ask in the middle of the chapter. Oh, and apparently this is the format for comments from future Krixwell now. Hi.]
I reactivated my five year old tumblr account for this, and I LOVE it. You seem really detailed, which is great, but I don’t want you to burn yourself out! Question: have you seen/enjoyed Watchmen, or failing that, V for Vendetta?
What an honor!
Yeah, burning out can be a risk if I don’t pace myself, which I suppose is part of why I don’t have a schedule and take it fairly slowly. If I start worrying about cramming out reactions to X chapters a week or such, that’s the kind of thing that can lead to burning out.
As for the actual question, I have heard of both Watchmen and V for Vendetta, but never actually seen either. I know Watchmen is a superhero comic/movie and I think it involves the Vietnam War? I know even less about V for Vendetta (are there aliens?).
Let’s see how Taylor’s going to deal with the Arachnophobic Backstreet Boys.
The street was unlit, so my ability to see was dependent on the moon and the few indoor lights that were still on and shining out onto the sidewalks.
Sensory access to the bugs would be useful here. Or, y’know, night vision. But hey, can’t have all the powers.
(aaaaaaaall of them)
I started actively looking for their boss.
I hope she’s looking for them (probably “him”, given the gang’s name, the Acropolis Butch Babes, er, Azn Bad Boys) for the purpose of avoiding them until she’s dealt with the rest. Taking out the head can be a good way to incapacitate a gang, but I don’t think she’s ready for that fight yet.
They didn’t have the atmosphere of people who were just hanging out, either. They were expressionless or scowling, and they weren’t talking.
Hm… guards, perhaps? Also, for all we know they might be under mind control. That would explain the leader’s ability to “draw in members from so many different nationalities and keep them in line”.
I spotted their boss as the gang pulled away from the door of the building to give him room. I only knew about this guy from what I had heard on the news and read online, but I recognized him immediately. He was a big guy, but not so big that he would send people running when he walked down the street, like some people with powers were.
Leader confirmed to be one of the members with powers, but that’s kind of to be expected.
He was a little over six feet, though, which put him head and shoulders above most of the gang members. He had an ornate metal mask over his face, and wasn’t wearing a shirt, despite the chill. Sprawling tattoos covered his body from the neck down, all depicting dragons from Eastern mythology.
He went by ‘Lung’,
Oh hey, there he is! [WP version] So this is Lung. I wonder if he might have breath powers? But then the mask would probably get in the way.
had successfully gone toe to toe with whole teams of heroes and had managed to keep himself out of jail, as evidenced by his presence here.
Yeah, I don’t think Taylor is going to try to fight this guy unless she absolutely has to. She’s too smart for that.
As for his powers, I only knew what I could scrounge up online, and there were no guarantees there. I mean, for all I knew, he could have misled people about what his powers did, he could have a power he was keeping up his sleeve for an emergency, or he could even have a very subtle power that people couldn’t see at work.
If my mind control hypothesis is true (I wouldn’t call it a theory just yet, the only basis I have for it is the word “expressionless”), then that would definitely count as a “subtle power that people couldn’t see at work” if used in a certain way.
The information online and in the papers had told me this: Lung could gradually transform.
Gradual transformation? Interesting. So kind of like Steven Universe-style shapeshifting, where you can either change the whole body or just a part of it according to your will, I’d imagine. Could be quite versatile in combat.
Maybe it was based on adrenaline, his emotional state, or something, but whatever it was, it made his powers more potent the longer he was in a fight. He healed at a superhuman rate, got stronger, got tougher, got bigger, and he grew armor plating complete with blades at each fingertip.
So basically, take him out quickly, or he’ll grow way tougher. A good power to mix hypothetical mind control with if having his henchmen fight the superhero while he’s present “counts” as being in a fight.
Rumor had it that he even grew wings if he fought long enough. If that wasn’t enough, he was a pyrokinetic, which meant he could create flame out of thin air, shape it, intensify it, and so on.
Man, you’re really outclassed here, Taylor.
Incidentally, Lung shows off how people can develop a variety of mostly unrelated powers, so I suppose that means there’s room for Taylor to develop new ones too, probably. Depends a bit on what exactly causes the development of powers. It could be one single force playing by the same rules for everyone, or it could be many different things. Time will tell, and also Wildbow. Hopefully.
That power apparently got stronger as he transformed, too. As far as I knew, there wasn’t an upper limit to how strong he could get. He only started returning to normal when there was nobody left to fight.
Daamn, Lung, you stronk. I’m starting to understand why Lucy seemed so proud of managing to “almost obliterate him” in a roleplaying game based on the Worm setting. He’s tough!
And certainly not a good first enemy for Taylor to go up against. He could swat her like a bug.
Lung wasn’t the only one with powers in the ABB. He had a flunky, a scary sociopath called Oni Lee, who could teleport or create doubles of himself – I wasn’t a hundred percent sure on the details –
I hope it’s doubles with hue overlays. Red Oni, blue Oni…
but Oni Lee had a distinctive look, and I didn’t see him in the crowd. If there was anyone else with powers that I needed to watch out for, I hadn’t seen or heard anything about them in my research.
Well, that’s fortunate.
Lung began talking in a deep, commanding voice. I couldn’t make out the words, but it sounded like he was giving instructions.
Maybe it’s a good thing you don’t hear his words. They could be laced with mind control magic.
Although honestly, I’m really not sold on my own mind control hypothesis. It would seem kind of out of place in Lung’s power set, and the guy is OP to begin with.
As I watched, one of the gang members drew a butterfly knife from his pocket, and another of them put his hand on his waistband. Between the gloom and the fact that I was standing half a block away, I couldn’t see well, but a dark shape stood out against his green t-shirt. Chances were it was a gun handle. My pulse sped up a bit as I saw the gun, which was silly. Lung was more dangerous than fifty people with guns.
True, but you still ought to worry about the gun. You don’t know if your armor is bulletproof, remember?
I decided to move away from where I was and find a better vantage point to monitor their conversation, which seemed like a good compromise between my curiosity and my self preservation.
It’s kind of refreshing to see a hero with a proper sense of self-preservation, to be honest. And also, I think if Taylor went rushing in without thinking, I’d find it out of character, even though I’ve only had a couple of chapters to learn what that character is and still have a lot to learn about her.
Taylor is smart, creative and thorough. Rushing in without thoroughly considering the risks would seem odd.
I slowly backed away from where I was, glancing over my shoulder to make sure nobody was watching, and then circled around the rear of the building I was lurking beside.
She seems as if she’s done this a million times. This is her element. Yet she is a newbie.
My investigation paid off. Halfway down the alley, I saw a fire escape that was leading up the back of the building that Lung and his gang were standing in front of. The feet of my costume had soft soles, so I was nearly silent as I ascended.
See? She thinks things through, examining the surroundings and the opponents and thereby finds potential advantages for herself. She’s a tactician.
As someone with the power to lead an army of bugs, that’s a very useful trait.
The roof was covered in gravel and cigarette butts, which made me think I wouldn’t be nearly so quiet walking over it. Instead, I walked on the raised outside lip of the roof.
Butts, lips, lots of body parts around.
As I neared the part of the roof directly above Lung and his gang of ‘Azn Bad Boys’,
Ah yes, that one too.
I crouched and crawled forward on my stomach. It was dark enough that I doubted they would see me if I jumped up and down and waved my arms, but there was no reason to be stupid.
The stomach and arms don’t count because they’re literal.
Being at the top of a two story building when they were on the ground floor made it hard to hear them. Lung had a strong accent, as well, which meant I had to wait until he had spoken a few sentences before I could figure out what he was saying. It helped that his mooks were utterly, respectfully silent as he spoke.
Again with the henchmen being completely silent.
Lung was snarling, “…the children, just shoot. Doesn’t matter your aim, just shoot. You see one lying on the ground? Shoot the little bitch twice more to be sure. We give them no chances to be clever or lucky, understand?”
Solid planning. Horrible, but solid. Especially if they’re planning to attack a school or something, where I believe American students are taught to play dead if there’s a shooting.
The real question is which children they’re talking about.
Incidentally, this really doesn’t sound like mind control phrasing. I think it’s time to disregard that hypothesis.
There was a murmur of assent.
Someone else lit up a cigarette, and then leaned over to light a cigarette for the guy next to him. In those moments that his hand wasn’t cupped around the flame, I could see the gathered faces of just a dozen or so of the gangsters gathered around Lung.
There are quite a lot of them, huh. I’ve kind of been unclear on just how many there are.
In hands, waistbands and holsters, I could see the dark metal of guns reflecting the orange flame. If I had to hazard a guess, all of them had weapons.
I’m going to guess fifty. And Lung is more dangerous than the lot of them.
They were going to kill kids?
Apparently so. Again, question is which kids.
Hell, could even be an attack on Taylor’s own school, the one she’s been thinking about attacking herself.
End of Gestation 1.3
So. We saw Taylor’s first foray into the world of superheroics, although she hasn’t fought anyone yet. Ironically this is the first chapter in which she didn’t use her power.
We also met Lung and his Absurd Beanie Babies. Lung sounds like one hell of an antagonist, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Taylor tries to deal with their plot to exterminate an unspecified population of kids.
I feel like Lung is too strong to be just the final boss of this first mission. We might be looking at a longer-term antagonist here.
As for the quality of the chapter, I feel like it’s still improving. I feel like 1.2 had slightly more going for it on the characterization front, but that was following 1.1, so maybe I’m elevating it higher than it should be. 1.3 is by no means a bad chapter, though, and it pulled off what it was trying to do rather well.