Source material: Worm, Gestation 1.4
Originally blogged: January 25, 2017
I don’t have much to say here, so let’s just jump into it. Chapter 1.4 of Worm, here I come!
I felt a chill. A part of me really wished that I had thought to get my hands on a disposable cell phone.
She thought of everything, but not this. A tool of communication. I get the feeling Taylor didn’t really consider the importance of help from others? I suppose that would be in keeping with what we know about her so far.
I didn’t have a utility belt, but the spade shaped section of armor that hung over my spine hid a set of EpiPens, a pen and notepad, a tube of pepper spray meant to hang off a key chain and a zippered pouch of chalk dust.
I guess even superheroes could need a handy tube of pepper spray.
The EpiPens interest me, though. I don’t recall any allergies being established. *continues researching the use of EpiPens*
Ohh: “Common causes [of anaphylaxis, which EpiPens are employed against] include insect bites and stings, foods, and medications.”
I guess either she’s carrying them in case the bugs attack her (by accident or lack of control), or in case someone she’s fighting goes into anaphylactic shock because of her bugs. For all the contemplation of “going Carrie on the school”, Taylor doesn’t seem the type to wish needless, painful death on her enemies.
I could have fit a cell phone back there. With a cell phone, I could have alerted the real heroes about the fact that Lung was planning to take a score of his flunkies to go and shoot kids.
The real heroes. Yep, here it comes: The doubt. Suddenly she’s been forced to recognize the reality of what’s at stake here, and now she’s wondering if she’s good enough to risk playing the game.
And honestly? I don’t think she’s prepared to take on the Angry Banana Bunch yet.
At least, that’s what I had heard. I was in a state of disbelief, turning the words around in my head to think of a different context that would make sense of it. It wasn’t so much the fact that he would do something like that. I just had a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that anyone would.
It’s a messed up world we live in.
Lung answered a question for one of his gang members, lapsing briefly into another language.
Ah, there’s one benefit of foreign villains – they can say things the hero doesn’t understand.
He grabbed one of his minion’s arms and twisted it to an angle where he could get a look at the guy’s watch, so I guessed it had something to do with their timing or when they were leaving. The gang member who’d had his arm twisted winced as Lung let it go, but didn’t complain.
Getting the timing right can hurt.
What was I supposed to do? I doubted I could find any place in the Docks that would be willing to let me inside to use their phone.
Shame you don’t know how much, or little, time you have.
If I headed to the Boardwalk, I wasn’t sure I would find any places that were still open, and I didn’t have change for a payphone. That was another oversight I would have to correct for the next time I went out. Cell phone, spare change.
Taylor is the kind of person who thinks through most things thoroughly, and when she misses something, she makes sure to learn from it. That’s more than a lot of fictional superheroes do.
Maybe that’s her real power.
A car pulled up, and another three guys dressed in gang colors got out and and joined the crowd. Shortly after, the group – twenty or twenty five in total – started walking north, passing below me as they walked down the street.
On the road again
I can’t wait to get on the road again
I don’t know any other lyrics to this song
Blah blah blah-blah blah, blah blah blah-blah
Whereever they’re going, it’s presumably within a normal walking distance. Although it would be rather silly for them to call a taxi bus or something.
I was out of time to consider my options. As much as I didn’t want to face it, there was really only one option that I could have no regrets about.
Oh fuck yes, it’s hero time
I shut my eyes and focused on every bug on the neighborhood, including the sizable swarm I had gathered on the way into the Docks. I took control of each of them.
The tactician commands her army; controls it as intuitively as her own arms. Be it for the cause, for the commander, or for their own sake, each soldier goes bravely towards what may be the death of themself and many of their fellows. Through the dark night, the army’s fearsome battlecry rings out, alerting the rest of their kind to the impending carnage and bloodshed.
It was dark enough that I could only tell where the swarm was with my power. That meant I couldn’t even tune out the swarm if I wanted to have any idea about what was going on. My brain was filled with horrendous amounts of information, as I sensed each bite, each sting.
I wonder how “sensing” this feels.
As the thousands of insects and arachnids swarmed over and around the group, I could almost see the outlines of each person, just by sensing the shapes of the surfaces the bugs were crawling on, or the areas the vermin wasn’t occupying.
That’s a lotta bugs!
– “You mean features.”
Go away, Bethesda.
I focused on keeping the more venomous types at bay for the time being – I didn’t need any allergic thugs going into anaphylactic shock from a bee sting or getting serious complications from the bite of a brown recluse spider.
Yeah, I kinda figured she’d keep this in mind and avoid loss of life if she could.
[I had been tagging the posts with the dudebro bug jokes “#dudebugs”.]
By the way, “dudebug” is a gender neutral term that also covers gurlbugs and nonbinarybugs.
I sensed the fire through the swarm before I realized what I was looking at with my eyes. My power told me of the bugs’ recognition of the heat, but I didn’t even have time to devote conscious thought to block out the instincts the fire set in motion before the damage was done.
Well shit. Either someone thought to user those lighters the narration kept mentioning, or Lung is doing his thing.
Which might count as being in a fight. The clock is ticking, Taylor. Maybe.
The primitive thought processes of my bugs were reduced to confused impulses to alternately flee and to pursue the heat and the light they so often used for navigation. Many bugs died or were crippled by the heat.
Rest in peace, dudebug #569. Rest in peace, dudebug #375. Rest in peace, dudebug #245. Rest in pe
From my vantage point, I could see Lung lashing out with streams of fire from his hands, directing them at the sky.
Why is he called Lung, anyway? It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with breath so far.
Maybe I’m pronouncing it wrong and it’s actually an Asian name.
I suppressed a laugh, feeling heady with adrenaline. Was that all he could do?
But come to think of it, control over a mass of tiny attackers is probably one of the best things you could have against a few of the powers Lung was said to have – for example, claws aren’t that useful against an enemy smaller than each claw.
Maybe Taylor isn’t that outclassed after all, provided she can stay hidden.
I directed the swarm to gather, so those who weren’t already biting and stinging were in the midst of the gang. If he wanted to turn his flames on the swarm, he would have to set his own people on fire.
Taylor is damn clever.
The heated air and the smells gave me enough information, by way of my insects, to tell where Lung was in the crowd.
Smells? I guess the insects can track Lung by smell?
Also, this is close to the kind of thing I was talking about with sensory access. It sounds more like she knows what the insects sense, but with training, perhaps that could be upgraded to let her pick a bug and basically see, hear, feel, etc. through its sensory organs remotely.
It would be the difference between a soldier reporting what he sees over the radio, and headquarters having a live video feed from the soldier’s protective eyewear.
Then again, that would require focusing on one particular insect, risking loss of control/overview over the rest of the swarm.
I took a deep breath, and then sent in the reserves. I took a share of the venomous types I’d held at bay and directed them to Lung. A handful of bees, wasps, a number of the more poisonous spiders, like black widows and brown recluses, and dozens of fire ants.
Ah, yes. Spare the lethal force against the mooks, but put in any resources needed to take down the leader.
He healed fast when his power was working. Everything I’d read online said that people with healing abilities would shrug off the effects of poisons or drugs, so I knew I’d have to pump him full of enough venom to overwhelm that aspect of his power. Besides, he was a big guy. I judged he could take it.
Oh, I see, looks like she’s still not going for the kill.
From the information that I could glean from my bugs, Lung already had maybe a quarter of his body covered in armor.
In one sense, I suppose the gradual transformation is a weakness compared to instantaneous transformation, if it weren’t for the apparent lack of a strength cap.
I wonder if fighting training dummies or his own mooks would let him power up before going into a real fight.
Triangular sections of metallic plating were piercing through his skin, where they would continue to grow and overlap until he was nigh impenetrable.
In other words: Act fast.
Is Lung aware that there’s a superhero around yet? I mean, surely he must’ve figured out that the swarm isn’t natural.
If they weren’t already, his fingertips and toes would become like blades or metal claws.
Again, not super useful against smaller bugs like mosquitoes, but I guess that could help him against some of the larger ones.
I felt a sadistic glee as I organized the attack on Lung.
Well, Taylor has morals and a desire to protect, but like any real person, she’s not without her… sinister moments.
I directed the flying insects to attack his face. With distaste, I focused the crawling ants and spiders on… other vulnerable areas.
I did my best to ignore the feedback that I got from that particular attack, as I most definitely did not want the same kind of topographical map that the swarm had provided just a minute ago.
Lung was bad news, and I needed him out of action as soon as possible. That meant delivering the hurt.
Yes, keep telling yourself that’s the only reason you’re doing this.
Rationale aside, I did feel a stab of guilt about taking pleasure in someone else’s pain.
She’s not Evil, but she’s not entirely Good either. In D&D terms, I’d say she’s probably Chaotic Neutral.
I feel like Wildbow is trying to establish that Taylor could’vebecome a supervillain, what with the Carrie stuff in 1.1-2 and now this. Oh, and a power that is dark, gritty and heavily associated with villains.
I quieted that moment’s remorse by reminding myself that Lung had spread tragedy, addiction and death to innumerable families. He had been planning to kill kids.
“…Actually, fuck that guy.”
Not to get too political in here, but this is basically how I feel about people like Anders Behring Breivik. I’m usually the kind of guy who believes in benefit of the doubt and second chances, but there’s no doubt in this case and there’s no coming back from remorselessly killing over 70 people most of which were teens so Anders Behring Breivik can go fuck himself in his damn smug face while locked in his solitary confinement cell that he has the nerve to complain about when he’s lucky we didn’t reinstate the death penalty for him
Ahem. Sorry ‘bout that.
Also, I just realized that Anders Behring Breivik shortens to ABB
…when was this part of the story written again? 2011?
Lung exploded. No metaphor there.
Rest in peace, dudebug #446. Rest in peace, dudebug #139. Rest in peace, dudebug #694. Rest in peace, dudeb
He detonated in a blast of rolling fire that set his clothes, several pieces of litter and one of his gang members alight.
That’s the problem with mixing AoE attacks centered on yourself with having henchmen. Friendly fire. Literally fire, in this case.
Not literally friendly, though.
Almost every bug in his immediate vicinity died or was crippled by the wave of extreme heat.
ug #137. Rest in peace, dudebug #412. Rest in peace, dudebug #880. Rest in p
From my vantage point on the roof, I watched as he turned himself into a human bomb a second time. The second explosion turned his clothes to rags and sent his people fleeing for cover.
If he keeps this up you might get a topographical map whether you like it or not, Taylor.
He stepped out of the smoke with his hands burning like torches, the silvery scales that covered nearly a third of his body reflecting the flame.
Okay, that actually sounds pretty badass. At least until you imagine him doing so only to discover he just blew up his lower clothing and his dinkledonkey is hanging out.
Damn, damn, damn. He was fireproof? Or skilled enough at using fire to superheat the air around him without burning himself?
One of the two is usually a required secondary power, unless you’re going for comically incompetent.
Then again, I have a feeling this universe doesn’t play by “power relating to X – probably immune to X” rules. Taylor is, as far as I know, not immune to stings, venoms and such, for example, and she sounds surprised about fire not affecting Lung.
The meager scraps of clothing that covered him were burning away, and fire licked and danced around his hands without him seeming to care.
Yeeah if you end up fighting him close range, this might get uncomfortable.
That’s really one of Taylor’s weaknesses – she can fight from a rather large distance, but if the enemy gets close, it’ll get harder.
Oh, and I believe spider silk is quite flammable, is it not?
Apparently spider webs don’t burn, but they do “shrivel, quite rapidly, when exposed to intense heat.” Basically, Taylor’s armor could collapse if fire even came near it.
He roared. It wasn’t the monstrous roar one might expect, but a very human sound of rage and frustration.
Yeah, I’d imagine he’d be pretty pissed right now.
As human as it sounded, though, it was loud. All the way down the street neighborhood, lights and flashlights flickered on in response to the explosions and the roar. I even saw a few faces peering through windows to see the action. Idiots. If Lung’s next attack shattered any glass, they could get hurt.
Good point, although it’s not like they had a way to know that was a possibility before coming to the oh who am I kidding they live in a city with a bunch of supervillains around.
From where I was crouched on the side of the roof, I directed some of the more harmless insects to attack Lung. He lashed out with fire the moment they started crawling on him, which I had more or less expected.
Is this an attempt to show the people by the windows what’s up without risking Lung going all out in a glass-shattering attack?
He was managing to kill the majority of the bugs with each burst of flame, and knowing what I did about his powers, I knew his flames would only get bigger, hotter and more dangerous.
The mission statement remains: take out Lung as quickly as possible.
In a typical fight, you figure someone would get weaker as the fight dragged on. They would take their lumps, get tired, exhaust their bag of tricks. With Lung, it was the opposite.
I suppose that is a bit unconventional.
Although how much does Taylor really know about a typical fight?
I found myself regretting that I had used only a relatively small number of the more venomous bugs, because it was becoming clear that what I’d used wasn’t having much effect.
You still have a bunch left, but now he knows they’re coming…
He had no idea where I was, so I figured I still had the upper hand, but my options and the number of bugs in my swarm were running out. Despite my earlier glee, I wasn’t sure I could win this anymore.
You probably shouldn’t have been sure about it to begin with. In fact, you weren’t.
But you’ve done very well so far, especially for a brand new heroine. Didn’t you say entire superhero teams had failed to take out Lung? Meanwhile you’re new and alone and you’ve seriously hindered his plans already (we haven’t heard anything about henchmen in a while, so I’m assuming they’re all unconscious or on the run).
I hissed through my teeth, all too aware that time was running out. Before long, Lung would set fire to the city block, become immune to bites and stings in general, or destroy my entire swarm. I had to get creative. I had to get meaner.
I focused my attention on a lone wasp, and piloted it around Lung’s back, up behind his head and then had it circle around to his face and straight at his eyeball.
Wasp stings are painful enough on the hand
Painful enough to leave me with a phobia of buzzing insects. See also: Why I wouldn’t watch this if it were a TV series.
The wasp touched his eyelash, and he blinked before it could hit the target. As a consequence, the stinger only sank into his eyelid, prompting yet another explosion of fire and a scream of rage.
Though failing to partially blind Lung permanently is of course… unfortunate.
Again. I thought. A honeybee this time. I wasn’t sure if he eventually got armor plated eyelids, but maybe I could use the stings to make his eyes swell shut? He wouldn’t be able to fight if he couldn’t see.
The bee struck home this time, sinking his stinger into the ball of Lung’s eye.
It surprised me in that it didn’t stick or kill the bee, so I had the bee sting again, and this time the barbs let it stick in the skin at the corner of his eye, at the side of his nose. The bee died that time, leaving some tiny organs and a venom sac hanging from the stinger.
Venomous too? Damn, this eye’s gonna be fucked.
I expected him to explode again. He didn’t. Instead, he set himself on fire, head to toe.
I suppose that makes sense. A shield against further attacks.
I waited a moment, poised to attack with the next wasp to attack the moment he dropped his guard, but as the seconds passed, I realized he wasn’t planning on extinguishing himself. My heart sank.
Yeah, this spells trouble.
Surely he was burning up all of the oxygen in his vicinity. Didn’t he need to breathe? What the hell was the fuel source for his fire?
That’s a good po– IS THAT WHY HE’S CALLED LUNG? Maybe he’s capable of creating air and manipulating it to cause a fire reaction?
Still doesn’t answer where he gets the other part of the reaction from, the fuel to the fire. Also, if he’s actually an airbender rather than a firebender, why does he limit himself to fire?
Standing in the street, he turned around, searching for me, with the flames that licked and rolled over his body casting light where there had been only gloom. Abruptly, he hunched over. I wondered if – I hoped – the various toxins and venoms in his system had done the trick.
Then his back separated into two.
Is Lung a fusion?
A meaty looking gap appeared along his spine, followed by an eruption of long metallic scales all down the gap. After bristling for a few moments, the scales lay flat like dominoes falling. He stood and stretched, and I could swear he was a foot taller, now with an armor plated spine.
Oh, he just extended himself, he’s not two lesbians in a trenchcoat.
And the guy was already tall to begin with!
Still on fire, head to toe.
Head and shoulders, knees and FIYAH
If the ‘constantly on fire’ thing had tipped the balance of the fight to futile, watching Lung grow and look stronger than ever had pushed me to the point of being spooked.
You did well. It’s time to withdraw.
I started thinking about an exit strategy. Rationally, I figured, Lung’s men were scattered to the four winds and they were probably in pretty rough shape. Whatever Lung had been planning for tonight, chances were he wasn’t going to be able to carry out whatever plans he’d had after this debacle.
You should probably still see if you can find out more. Maybe if you find and threaten one of his henchmen.
I had more or less accomplished what I needed to, and I figured I could run and find a way to contact the PHQ just in case.
You having weakened him might be exactly what they need to finally catch him.
That was the rational perspective. Justifications aside, I just wanted to leave, right then. If things dragged on and I stayed put, there was a very real chance that Lung would give evidence to the rumor that he could grow wings, at which point I would be spotted for sure.
I wouldn’t be able to beat Lung at this point, anyway, which left only a graceless retreat as the remaining option.
A retreat is still more graceful than a corpse.
Lung had his back turned to me, so I lifted myself up, slowly. Crouching, I backed up to retreat to the fire escape, watching Lung carefully as I set foot on the gravel of the roof.
Here we go…
As if a gunshot had gone off, Lung whirled around to stare at me. One of his eyes was just a glowing line behind his mask, but the other was like an orb of molten metal.
Less and less human as the fight goes on. I wonder if that’s symbolic somehow.
A victorious roar filled the air, less human than the outcry he had made earlier, and I felt a kind of resignation. Enhanced hearing. The package of powers the bastard got from his transformation included superhuman hearing.
End of Gestation 1.4
That was a really good chapter. The action is really starting up around here, and I feel like Taylor got a good beginning, even if she’s now attempting to retreat.