Source material: Worm, Gestation 1.5
Originally blogged: January 28, 2017
Alright, now that I’ve eaten and gotten a workout by virtue of dancing along to Strife! while doing the dishes, it’s time to read Worm!
Let’s see how things go for Taylor now that
American Dragon Jake Lung knows where she is!
You don’t properly appreciate what superhuman strength means until you see someone leap from the sidewalk to the second floor of a building on the far side of the street.
Does this guy even need wings?
So here’s a quandary for you: Should sports associations exclude people with superpowers, or is that discrimination?
I genuinely want to hear what you think about that, actually. Try to leave the way superpowers work and are treated in the Worm ‘verse out of it, though, so as to avoid spoipers.
He didn’t make it all the way to the roof, but he came to a point maybe three quarters of the way up. I wasn’t sure just how Lung kept from falling, but I could only guess that he just buried his fingertips into the building’s exterior.
Fingertips, or claws?
He’s getting closer, Taylor. Think fast.
I heard scraping and crunching as he ascended, and looked to my only escape route. I didn’t harbor any delusions as far as my ability to get down the fire escape before Lung came over the top of the roof and deduced where I’d run off to.
Fortunately, thinking is a thing she’s good at.
Worse, at that point he could probably just beat me to the street level by jumping off the roof, or even just shoot fire at me through the gaps in the metal while I was halfway down. The irony of the fire escape being anything but didn’t escape me.
And don’t think I didn’t catch that… pun? It didn’t escape me that it didn’t escape her that the fire escape wouldn’t let her escape the fire.
“Escape” barely looks like a word now.
I posed my question about super sports on the @loreweaver-universe Discord server, and watching the discussion was a lot of fun.
[the following transcript from Discord was originally shown through screenshots]
The Krix of the Matter:
Here’s a quandary for you: Should sports associations exclude people with superpowers, or is that discrimination?
it’d be discrimination
however if enough people with superpowers were to join these organizations they might get their own category similarly to men and women
there should be a way to catalogue their strength in that particular sport
and make like
two different leagues, one for people with powers and one for people without them
basically what mij said
although, if the superpowers are caused by something provable such as radiation it might get banned in a similar vein to doping
what if it’s a MHA or charlotte situation, where a single event caused a fuckton of people to get powers?
then they’d probably get their own category
how do you define a fuckton
100 is not enough to create a new category in sports for superhumans
1 million might
fuckton is a very vague term
i’m talking about half a billion
like, an actually significant percentage of the population
I feel like if that happened the world would plunge into chaos, also yes there would be sport events specifically for superhumans
well, with charlotte logic, people lose those superpowers when they reach a certain age
around early twenties
and MHA logic enough people in the world are good that the amount of cool heroes outweighs/balances the amount of villains
I don’t think a super olympics would be interesting
are you kidding
you see, what makes them fun is that it’s a contest, you don’t know who will win
but unlike humans, who tend to reach a limit in ability
supers tend to infinity
yeah, that’s why i suggested rating powers
so the strongest might be twice as strong as the second strongest
I mean, I would definately watch them deadlift boulders or whateveer, but it wouldn’t be a real competition
I think it should depend on where the powers came from
I think it should be more like a dogshow
Natural supers should be allowed to compete, but Captain America is technically on steroids
that would actually be pretty cool, alpha [Alpha is Omegs]
“most destructive power”
“most practical power”
“most situational power”
who wouldn’t watch this
just how much disparity in power actually is there in this situation, do most people have pretty equally powerful abilities or do you have like spiderman and god-tier reality benders in the same world
i’d say the first
gadgeteers aren’t allowed, right?
They probably have their own shows
What about psychics?
work as normal powers
yeah, that’s why I think dogshow works best
imagine being the flash and showing up to a race
and then somebody just fucking teleports
to be fair, the flash basically can teleport, iirc
there was one story where the flash goes so fast he outruns someone using instantaneous teleportation technology
yeah, all the dc heros run on bullshit
Things that have happened when the flash runs fast enough:
He travels forward in time
He travels backwards in time
he moves into an alternate dimension
Like, how do you guys think speed works
aha but this isnt normal speed
this is speed force
yeah, it does whatever the writers require
man, come to think of it
the speed force
coincidence? i think not
i haven’t read ps238 in so long
Myself, I hadn’t considered the possibility of a separate superhuman branch, which makes a lot of sense. It would be quite a thing to watch! Also, I agree with Minda that how the powers were gained matters.
Alright, let’s get back to Worm.
I wished I could fly.
Maybe you could take a Mr. Pigeon approach to it:
Then again it’s probably even harder to keep your footing on a cloud of mosquitoes than on a cloud of pigeons.
My school offered the choice between Chemistry, Biology and Physics, with Basic Science for the underachievers. I hadn’t picked Physics, but I was still pretty sure that no matter how many I could gather together, jumping off the roof with a swarm of flying insects gripping me would be just as ineffective as the 9 year old superhero wannabes you heard about in the news, jumping off ledges with umbrellas and bedsheets.
I wasn’t expecting Wildbow to address that in this paragraph.
For the time being, I was stuck where I was.
It’s a sticky situation. Sticky, like some bugs.
Reaching inside the convex armor that covered my spine, I ran my fingers over the things I had buckled in there. The EpiPens were meant to treat anaphylactic shock from allergic reactions to bee stings and the like, and likely wouldn’t do a thing to Lung, even if I could get close enough and find a point to inject.
The pepper spray, perhaps? That would require getting dangerously close, though.
Worst case scenario, the injections would supercharge his power by prompting a surge of whatever hormones or endorphins fueled his power. Not useful, dangerous at best.
The implied/assumed entanglement of biology with Lung’s power is interesting. That Taylor thinks about it that way kind of suggests it’s not unusual for powers to be tied to emotional states or bodily balances in this ‘verse.
I had a pouch of chalk dust that was meant for climbers and gymnasts, I had seen it in the sports store when I was buying the lenses for my mask.
Another thing that might be useful to temporarily blind Lung.
I had gloves and didn’t think I needed the dryness and extra traction, but I had gotten the idea that it could be useful to throw at an invisible enemy, and bought it on a whim.
In retrospect, it had been kind of a dumb purchase, since my power let me find foes like that with my bugs. As a tool against Lung… I wasn’t sure if it would explode like regular dust could when exposed to flame, but fire didn’t hurt him anyways. Scratch that option.
Hm, good point.
I tugged the little canister of pepper spray free from my armor. It was a black tube, three inches long, not much thicker around than a pen, with a trigger and a safety switch. It had been a gift from my dad, after I had started to go on my morning jogs for training.
Her parents really don’t trust the safety of Brockton Bay, and with people like Lung running around, I can’t blame them.
He had warned me to vary my route, and had given me the pepper spray for protection, along with a chain to clip it to my belt loop so it couldn’t be taken and used against me by an attacker. In costume, I had opted not to keep the chain for the sake of moving quietly.
Solid safety measures right there.
Using my thumb, I flicked the safety off and positioned the tube so I was ready to fire. I crouched to make myself a smaller target, and waited for him to show himself.
Brave Dame Taylor gets ready to pepper spray the fearsome dragon that has been terrorizing nearby villages.
…crap. I just realized that Taylor has no guarantee that some of the henchmen that got away didn’t regroup and decide to attempt to carry out Lung’s orders while Lung himself fought off the bug attack.
Let’s hope for incompetent henchmen that need a strong leader.
Lung’s hands, still on fire, were the first thing to show up, gripping the edge of the roof hard enough to bend the material that covered the roof’s raised lip.
Here he comes.
This roof is gonna suffer.
His hands were quickly followed by his head and torso as he hauled himself up. He looked like he was made of overlapping knives or spades, smouldering yellow-orange with the low temperature flame. There was no skin to be seen, and he was easily seven or eight feet tall, judging by the length of his arms and torso. His shoulders alone were three feet across at the very least. Even the one eye that he had open looked metallic, a glowing, almond shaped pool of liquid-hot metal.
I can only imagine a direct fight between them going a bit like this. Or worse.
(minor spoilers for Acts 2 and 3 of Homestuck)
I aimed for the open eye, but the spray fired off at a sharp angle, just glancing off his shoulder. Where the spray grazed him, it ignited into a short lived fireball.
Does the canister have enough in it for another attempt?
I swore under my breath and fumbled with the device. While he brought his leg over the edge, I adjusted my angle and shot again.
This time – with a small tweak of my aim mid-shot – I hit him in the face.
Wooo! In your FACE! Literally.
The ignited spray rolled off of him, but the contents still did the trick. He screamed, letting go of the roof with one hand, clutching the side of his face where his good eye was.
Quick, get the other hand!
It had been vain to hope that he would slip and fall. I just counted myself lucky that however metallic his face looked, there were still parts of it vulnerable to the spray.
Yeah, that could’ve been a problem too.
Lung hauled himself over the edge of the roof. I had him hurting… I just couldn’t do anything about it. My bugs were officially useless, there was nothing left in my utility sheath, and I would hurt myself more than I hurt Lung if I attacked him. Making a mental note to pick myself up a concealable knife or baton if I managed to live through this, I bolted for the fire escape.
Yeah. You’ve bought time, now use it.
Let’s face it, Taylor didn’t win this round. (Yet, at least; maybe she’ll still be forced to stay and figure out a way to beat him by thinking outside the box.).
But she didn’t lose either, if she can get away. She did considerable damage to Lung and his Animorphic Blue Birds, and likely forced them to at least postpone their attack. In the time it takes them to recover, Taylor can get in touch with the “real heroes”, and/or prepare better for another encounter.
“Muh… Motherfucker!” Lung screamed. With my back turned, there was no way to see it, but the roof was briefly illuminated before the wave of flame hit me from behind.
Yowch. And that’s why most people don’t go around pepper spraying dragons.
Knocked off balance, I skidded on the gravel and hit the raised lip of the roof, just by the fire escape. Frantically, I patted myself down. My costume wasn’t on fire, but my hair – I hurriedly ran my hands over it to make sure it hadn’t been ignited.
Have I been told Taylor’s hair color? I’m shit at remembering physical descriptions of characters.
Small mercies, I thought, that there was no tar used on the roof. I could just imagine the flames igniting the rooftop, and just how little I’d be able to do if it happened.
Lung really has the type advantage on you.
Lung stood, slowly, still covering part of his face with his hand. He walked with a slight limp as he approached me. Blindly, he lashed out with a broad wave of flame that rolled over half the roof. I covered my head with my hands and brought my knees to my chest as the hot air and flame rushed over me. My costume seemed to take the brunt of it, but it was still hot enough I had to bite my lip to stop from making a sound.
Oh good. Remember how I found out that spider silk shrivels when exposed to intense heat and worried that the costume might just straight up fall apart if she got hit by fire? Apparently not the case.
Lung stopped advancing, slowly turning his head from one side to another.“Cock. Sucker,” he growled in his heavily accented voice, his cussing interrupted by his panting for breath, “Move. Give me something to aim for.”
That was… not a smart move, Lung. You just reminded your opponent that you need hearing to figure out where she is.
Although judging from “I had to bite my lip to stop from making a sound”, she’s already well aware of that and I’mthe one who needed that reminder.
I held my breath and stayed as still as possible. What could I do? I still had the pepper spray in my hand, but even if I got him again, I was running the risk that he would lash out and bake me alive before I could move. If I moved first, he would hear me and I would get knocked around by another blast of flame, probably before I could get to my feet.
Time to put on the thinking cap. Although that would probably make sounds.
Lung moved his hand from his face. He blinked a few times, then looked around, then blinked a few more times. It was a matter of seconds before he could see well enough to make me out from the shadows. Wasn’t pepper spray supposed to put someone down for thirty minutes? How was this monster not an A-Lister?
Damn, that really says something about how tough the villains that are “A-Listers” could be.
Lung op plz nerf
He suddenly moved, flames wreathing his hands, and I screwed my eyes shut.
Screwed? Odd word choice, but okay.
When I heard the crackling whoosh of the flame and wasn’t burned alive, I opened my eyes again. Lung was firing streams of flame, aiming for the edge of the roof of the adjacent building, a three story apartment. I looked to see what he was aiming at, but couldn’t make anything out in the gloom or in the brief second of light Lung’s flames afforded.
Maybe he thought he heard something? Or someone, perhaps. Is another superhero coming to the scene? People witnessed the mayhem earlier, so maybe someone contacted an established hero or hero group?
With no warning, a massive shape landed atop Lung with an impact I could swear people heard at the other end of the street. The size of a van, the ‘massive object’ was animal rather than vehicle, resembling a cross between a lizard and a tiger, with tangles of muscle and bone where it ought to have skin, scales or fur.
Oh fuck yes!
I suppose this is a hero with a transformation, then?
Lung was now on his knees, holding one of the beast’s sizable claws away from his face with his own clawed hand.
It’s lizard tiger versus injured dragon, everybody! My money is on the tiger. The money should always be on the tiger.
Did you know that in almost every single recorded fight between a tiger and a lion, the tiger won? The tiger is the true king of the jungle.
And you know, unlike the lion, it actually lives in the jungle.
Lung used his free hand to strike the creature across the snout. Even though he was smaller than the beast, the impact made it rear back.
It took a few short steps back in reaction, and then rhino-charged him off the edge of the roof. They hit the street with an audible crash.
Well then. Now Taylor has a choice. Does she stay to watch over the fight and, if possible, help? Or does she nope the fuck out down the fire escape?
I stood, aware I was shaking like a leaf. I was so unsteady on my feet, from the mixed relief and fear, that I almost fell over again as two more impacts shook the roof.
I told you this roof was gonna get it!
Two more creatures, similar to the first in texture, but slightly different in size and shape, had arrived on the rooftop. These two each had a pair of riders.
Riders, huh? That’s interesting. It suggests the first one is probably not a transformed super.
I watched as the people slid off the backs of the animals. There were two girls, a guy, and a fourth I identified as male only because of the height. The tall one approached me, while the others hurried to the edge of the roof to watch Lung and the creature duke it out.
Time to find out what’s up with these peeps.
Incidentally, I’m guessing there’s a fourth lizard tiger somewhere, since the first one didn’t have a rider. Then the first one might belong to one of the two riders on one of the next two, and one of the riders on the other night own the hypothetical fourth one.
If the fourth one is dead, that counts.
“You really saved us a lot of trouble,” he told me. His voice was deep, masculine, but muffled by the helmet he wore.
How long have they been watching?
He was dressed entirely in black, a costume I realized was basically motorcycle leathers and a motorcycle helmet. The only thing that made me think it was a costume was the visor of his helmet. The full-face visor was sculpted to look like a stylized skull, and was as black as the rest of his costume, with only the faint highlights of reflected light on the surface to give a sense of what it was.
Sounds like he has a low costume budget.
What is lighting up the roof, anyway? Lung’s not up there anymore with his fire. Is it just moonlight?
It was one of those costumes that people put together out of what they can scrounge up, and it wasn’t half bad if you didn’t look too close.
Basically what I just said.
I realize it gets a bit redundant, but this is actually part of why I liveblog at this level of detail. It lets me speculate and comment even if my thoughts get confirmed or debunked immediately.
He reached out a hand towards me, and I leaned away, wary.
Yeah, Taylor’s reasons to trust these guys are limited to
– attacked a bad guy
– and saved her life
Which are both worse reasons to trust someone blindly than some might think.
I didn’t know what to say, so I stuck to my policy of not saying anything that could get me into a worse situation.
I plead the third. Yes, that’s right, I refuse to quarter troops in my house. I have few principles, but I stick to them.
Withdrawing his hand, the man in black jerked his thumb over one shoulder, “When we got word Lung was aiming to come after us tonight, we were pretty freaked.
These were the children he was going after! I think I briefly considered the possibility of him talking about superheroes coming to stop their actual plans, but discounted it too much to even mention it.
So the plan was to go after these kids. But why?
We were arguing strategy for the better part of the day. We eventually decided, fuck it, we’d meet him halfway. Wing it. Not my usual way of doing things, but yeah.”
Do you have powers other than your lizard tigers? Considering Lung had ~25 people with guns in addition to his own powers… I’m not sure the “wing it” strategy had a lot of promise for your survival.
Behind him, one of the girls whistled sharply and pointed down at the street. The two monsters the group had been riding on bounded across the roof and leaped down to the street to join the fight.
Then again, these lizard tigers seem pretty tough. Always bet on the tiger, and now there are at least three of them.
The guy in black kept talking, “Wouldn’t you know, his flunky Lee is there with a half dozen guys, but Lung and the rest of his gang are nowhere to be found,” he laughed, a surprisingly normal sound for someone wearing a mask with a skull on it.
Wait, what? Where did Lung go?
And hi there, Oni Lee. What was it you did… Ah, right, it was either teleportation our self-duplication, with it being unclear to Taylor which one it was.
“Lee’s no slouch in a fight, but there’s a reason he’s not leader of the ABB. He got spooked without his boss there and ran. I guess you’re responsible for that?”
Ohh, I get it, he’s talking about where they were going to meet Lung halfway, not the fight going on right now. That makes a lot more sense.
I guess Lung’s 25-ish and Lee’s half dozen guys were supposed to meet up. I know Lee wasn’t there when Taylor launched her attack, at least.
Skull-mask waited for a response from me. When I didn’t offer one, he ventured towards the edge of the roof and looked down, then spoke without turning to look at me, “Lung is getting creamed. The fuck you do to him?”
Taylor didn’t win on her own, but she sure as hell did a number on him!
It sounds like three lizard tigers can more than handle a fully-armored Lung, at least in the state Taylor left him in.
“Pepper spray, wasp and bee stings, fire ants and spider bites,” the second of the girls said, answering the question for me.
Hm. So were you watching, or do you just have a real knack and/or power for identifying what’s happened to someone?
She was dressed in a skintight outfit that combined black with a pale shade of blue or purple – I couldn’t tell in the dark – and her dark blond hair was long and windblown. The girl grinned as she added, “He’s not holding up too well. Gonna feel a helluvalot worse tomorrow.”
Yeah, if one sting/bite feels bad the next day…
The man in black suddenly turned to look at me, “Introductions. That’s Tattletale. I’m Grue.
Tattletale definitely sounds like the name of someone who might go ahead as a kind of spy. Alternatively, she might have a mind reading power, and have pulled the answer to what Taylor did to Lung out of Lung’s or, more likely, Taylor’s mind.
Meanwhile, Grue will eat you in the dark.
The girl with the dogs-” he pointed to the other girl, the one who had whistled and directed the monsters.
So I guess the lizard tigers – or as Grue refers to them, dogs – aren’t really a thing they all have.
She wasn’t in costume unless I counted a plaid skirt, army boots, a torn-up sleeveless T-shirt and a hard plastic, dollar-store rottweiler mask as a costume.
Well, I mean, it’s not much less than Grue has. It’s even lower budget, though.
“-We call her Bitch, her preference, but in the interests of being P.G., the good guys and media decided to call her Hellhound instead.
Last and certainly least, we have Regent.”
Least in what way? Size?
I finally caught up with what he was saying. Those monsters were dogs?
I guess Taylor is a bit taken aback by all this. She was just almost killed by a huge chunk of metal with pyrokinesis, after all, then saved by a grotesque lizard tiger dog, and now this guy is talking to her as if they’re friends and dumping info on her.
It’s okay if this is a bit much, Taylor.
“Fuck you, Grue,” Regent retorted, with a chuckle and a tone of voice that made it clear he wasn’t really that offended.
Heh. I think I might like the way these people interact with each other.
Prediction: Taylor might end up joining them.
He was wearing a white mask, not quite as decorative or made up as the ones I associated with the carnivals in Venice, but similar.
*googles* Ooh, stylish.
He’d placed a silver coronet around his short black curls, and wore a ruffled white shirt with skintight leggings tucked into knee-high boots.
I like how most of the Google Image results for “coronet” are of cars.
The outfit was very renaissance faire. He had a build that made me think more of a dancer than a bodybuilder.
I swear to cod if he opens his villain battles with “Let’s dance.”… that would be fun.
Introductions done, Grue looked at me for several long moments. After a few seconds, he asked me, “Hey, you okay? You hurt?”
A reasonable question, considering all they know is Taylor fought Lung and now isn’t saying anything.
“The reason she’s not introducing herself isn’t because she’s hurt,” Tattletale told him,
Tattletale being a mind reader is seeming more likely by the minute.
as she continued to lean over the edge of the roof and watch whatever was going on at the street level, “It’s because she’s shy.”
I suppose that’s one way to put it.
Tattletale turned around and it looked like she was going to say something else, but she stopped, turning her head. The smile she’d been wearing faded, “Heads up. We’ve gotta scram.”
Uh-oh. What’s up? Is Lung getting a second wind? Or wings? Or maybe someone else is coming.
Bitch nodded in response and whistled, one short whistle followed by two long ones. After a brief pause, the building was suddenly rattled by impacts. In just moments, the three creatures of hers leaped from the alleys to either side of the building and onto the roof.
Oh good, the dogs are still alive. Always bet on the lizard tiger dog.
…I love the fact that this story had a character named Bitch.
Speaking of which, I wonder if this chapter is going to end with Taylor finally speaking up and introducing herself with her hero name, which has gone conspicuously unmentioned so far.
Grue turned towards me. I was still standing on the opposite end of the roof, by the fire escape. “Hey, want a ride?”
Ride the doggy. Be the cowgirl. YEEHAW
I looked at the creatures – dogs? They were bloodied, snarling creatures out of a nightmare. I shook my head. He shrugged.
I presume the lizard tigers are actual dogs that have been transformed by Bitch. And yeah, Taylor, there might be a reason the media call her Hellhound.
But why couldn’t you ride it. Why.
“Hey,” Tattletale said to me, seating herself just behind Bitch, “What’s your name?”
Even if Taylor doesn’t say anything, Tattletale probably already knows both of them now!
I stared at her. My voice caught in my throat before I was able to get the words out, “I don’t… I haven’t picked one yet.”
Ah, yeah, I figured that could be the case. Taylor has been thinking over the superhero concept for months, but the name probably just fell aside as less important to her. It’s a thing that defines how she interacts with people around her who aren’t villains, and that’s one part of life Taylor doesn’t seem big on.
“Well, Bug, a cape is gonna show up in less than a minute.
Bug. Not a bad name – it’s very simple and descriptive, and I think Taylor is going to like it. Whether she’ll stick with it permanently is another question, but I’m guessing she will.
Incidentally, I’m unclear so far on whether “cape” refers only to superheroes, or if it also covers supervillains.
Someone from the Protectorate shows up, finds two bad guys duking it out, they’re not going to let one walk away. You should get out of here,” She said.
…oh shit. Tattletale thinks Taylor (Bug?) is a villain. I think I mentioned back in chapter 1.1 or 1.2 that bug manipulation is quite a sinister power, the kind you’d expect a villain to have. I guess that’s what Tattletale is working with.
It does call into question her hypothetical mind reading ability if she doesn’t realize that Taylor considers herself a superhero a few seconds from now. Unless of course it’s an active ability.
Also worth noting: It’s possible that Grue, Tattletale, Bitch and Regent consider themselves villains too. After all, they’re running away too!
She flashed me a smile. She had one of those vulpine grins that turned up at the corners. Behind her simple black domino style mask, her eyes were glittering with mischief. If she had red hair, she would have made me think of a fox. She kind of did, anyways.
She does strike me as a bit of a trickster, I suppose.
With that, they leaped over my head, one of the three beasts hitting or stepping on the fire escape on the way down, eliciting a screech of metal on metal.
They’re escaping from above!
Man, if that just made the fire escape unusable…
When I realized what had just happened, I could have cried. It was easy enough to pin down Regent, Tattletale and Bitch as teenagers. It wasn’t much of an intuitive leap to guess that Grue had been one too. The ‘children’ Lung had mentioned, the ones I had gone to so much effort to save tonight, were bad guys. Not only that, but they had mistaken me for one, too.
And there we have it!
I don’t think risking her life to save them was the wrong thing to do by any stretch of the imagination, but I can see why it would be a bit bittersweet.
And yeah, being mistaken for a villain when you’re just trying to establish yourself as a hero isn’t fun. I guess we’ll see how Taylor deals with that in upcoming chapters.
End of Gestation 1.5
That was another good chapter! We got the defeat of Lung… probably… and we met four cool new characters that are probably going to be relatively important in the future. Whether they’ll be antagonists or friendly villains remains to be seen.
Honestly, I think I’d prefer the latter. I like when heroes have villainous friends.
I think in the next chapter, Taylor is going to meet a member of the Protectorate for the first time, provided she doesn’t get away quickly. That could be interesting, especially considering that cape might mistake her for a villain like the Doggy Gang (they need a collective name, so this’ll have to do for now) did at the end of 1.5.
I think we’re getting to the end of Gestation soon. For all I know, the next chapter might actually be 2.1 even if it does continue with the Protectorate member plot point.
Man, it’s hard to believe this started as a high school drama in 1.1.