Source material: Worm, Insinuation 2.5
Originally blogged: February 26, 2017
It’s time for more Worm!
Last chapter we left off with Taylor pondering her afternoon after once again skipping the end of the school day, upset by Emma making a reference to Taylor’s grief over her mother’s death. She has lost her new backpack, including the art project and her new World Issues book, to the Harpies.
Things are generally not looking up for Taylor right now – hopefully she can find a good way to spend the afternoon and put aside some of her problems.
There’s also the standing plot thread where Tattletale is trying to contact Taylor. I feel like we’re not going to be revisiting that just yet (other than perhaps Taylor thinking about it), because it somehow feels like a nighttime thing, and this chapter is presumably picking up with the afternoon.
Anyway, let’s get going!
If you looked at Brockton Bay as a patchwork of stellar and squalor, upper class and lower class with no middle ground, then downtown was one of the nice areas.
Hm, that’s an interesting description of the social dynamics. Sounds like Brockton Bay is quite heavily affected by capitalism…
Though I guess the narration isn’t strictly saying that is is like that, but more that it can look like that? So I’m not sure exactly how accurate this is. It certainly matches what we’ve seen so far.
The streets and sidewalks were wide, and that meant that even with skyscrapers in every other lot, there was a great deal of blue overhead.
I can barely even fathom what it’s like to have skyscrapers around everywhere. I live in a relatively small town in a particularly rural part of Norway, and even in the nearest larger city (which in this case means a population of about 50k) the tallest buildings are like 13-14 stories high, and there are only a few that are over six.
Also, what’s the blue color? Is it related to that bright thing I’ve heard ancient legends of?
Following my retreat from school grounds, I hadn’t been sure what to do. My dad worked an unreliable schedule, so I couldn’t spend the rest of the afternoon at home unless I wanted to risk having to explain what I was doing home on a school day.
Hm, yeah, that could be an issue.
I didn’t want to hang around the general area of my school,
That could really be an issue.
so that had left me the options of the half-hour walk to downtown or a trip to the Boardwalk. Between my morning runs and the previous night’s escapades, I had seen enough of the Boardwalk, so I’d decided to head downtown.
Heh, I can imagine.
So what are you going to do here?
I didn’t want to dwell on the subject of school or Emma, so I turned my focus to the recent message from Tattletale.
Okay, we’re going there a bit earlier than I thought, but I did say she might think about it. I doubt she’ll actually be doing the meetup in this chapter, unless it skips to night.
…I don’t know why I’m so fixed on the idea that the meetup needs to happen at night, to be honest. It just feels right.
She wanted to meet, presumably to repay the favor she felt she owed me. I considered the possibility that it was a trap, but I couldn’t imagine any angle where it would be. She just didn’t have any reason to go after me.
Yeah, even if they’d figured out she was actually a hero, they wouldn’t have a motive to pull a trap on her. That we know of, anyway.
The worst case scenario was that it wasn’t Tattletale, but that wasn’t the impression I’d had. What she said in the message seemed to flow with what I had seen of her last night. I would be careful, nonetheless.
Well, the message wasn’t very long, leaving little room for an impostor to accidentally reveal the falsehood, but it did sound like her somehow.
It was perplexing. These guys were, in large part, virtual unknowns. From what I knew of Grue and Hellhound, they were both marginally successful B-list villains who had been barely scraping by. Now both were on a team that was pulling high profile heists and confounding even the likes of Armsmaster.
Taylor apparently can’t make up her mind about whether to call her Bitch or Hellhound. Which is a shame, considering I seem to recall praising her for respecting Bitch’s choice of name.
And yeah, something definitely changed somewhere, and the story has so far seemed to imply it has to do with Tattletale’s mystery power. Let’s not forget that Regent is a complete mystery too, though!
The two of them seemed totally different in methodology and style, and if I was remembering right, both Grue and Hellhound had lived in different cities prior to teaming up and setting roots in Brockton Bay. That raised the question: who or what had drawn these four very different individuals together?
Hm, more of this moving cities to team up with someone, like Bakuda did for Lung.
What if Bakuda is behind it, betraying Lung? Nah, honestly, that seems unlikely.
There’s almost certainly something fishy going on here, though.
It was possible that Tattletale or Regent were the uniting factors, but I couldn’t really imagine it, having seen what I did of their group dynamic.
They all seemed to be decent friends, but now that I think back on it, it did seem somewhat like the kind of friendship you form after being grouped together…
Grue had poked fun at Regent rather than treat him like a leader, and while I couldn’t put my finger on it, the more I imagined Tattletale uniting that group of unconnected people with powers, the harder I found it to picture. In fact, when I thought about it, hadn’t Grue said they had fought for a considerable amount of time over how to deal with Lung? It didn’t really sound like they had any leadership worth speaking about.
Hm, that’s a good point.
It wasn’t hard to sympathize with Armsmaster. The whole scenario there was just bizarre, and it was made worse by the fact that there were practically no details as far as Tattletale or Regent went. Information, it seemed, was a major factor when dealing with capes.
Which is why Taylor’s approach to the whole thing is such a massive advantage. She makes sure she has all the information she can get and then uses that information in the field.
Also, finally confirmed that “capes” does also cover the villains.
The streets were busy with people on their lunch break. Businessmen and businesswomen were heading to restaurants and fast food places. My stomach growled as I passed a line of people waiting their turn at a street vendor. I checked my pockets and winced at the realization that I didn’t have enough for even a hot dog. My lunch had been in my backpack.
I stopped myself before I could finish that train of thought and put myself into a worse mood by dwelling on what had happened at school.
Oh no! Don’t think about elephants, Taylor! Elephants! Don’t think about them! Elephants are cool.
Still, as I thought back to the circle of villains and Tattletale’s message,
More a square than a circle, don’t you think?
the amusing thought crossed my mind that I could ask them to repay the favor by buying me lunch.
It wasn’t a serious thought, but the ridiculousness of the mental image – me eating a burger with a group of supervillains – put a dumb smirk on my face. I was pretty sure I looked like a moron to anyone on the street who happened to glance at me.
Yes, good! Be happy, Taylor!
You need it.
As I thought on it, though, the notion that I might actually consider taking Tattletale up on her offer of a meeting nagged at me. The more I thought on it, the scarier the idea got, and the more it seemed to make sense.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I want Taylor to befriend the Mozarts and go through some of the antics associated with a hero having villain friends. I’d really enjoy that.
And another thing I’ve said before: I’ll be very surprised if Taylor doesn’t take Tattletale up on the offer, because then what was the point of having this plotline in the first place?
What if I did take them up on the offer? I could meet them, talk with them, see what they had to offer, and all the while, fish for information. If I got anything worth sharing, I could turn around and give it to Armsmaster so he could use it against them.
Or you could discover that they’re not that bad and that you don’t want to sell them out. Better not tell Armsmaster about this plan before you put it into motion…
Just going by what Armsmaster had said about these guys and the scarcity of information on them, it would be a pretty major coup for the good guys.
Can we actually trust Armsmaster and the Protectorate, anyway? It seems in-character for the story so far to not have the essential “authority on heroism” be unilaterally good and helpful. Just look at how other authority figures have been treated – Mr. Gladly, for example, whom Taylor believes to be trying to help her just to save his own ass, or the city government laying off Dockworkers instead of making new jobs.
And we’ve already seen how Taylor suspects Armsmaster of wanting to take credit for Lung to boost his own reputation and ego.
I’m not saying the Protectorate is evil, far from it, but I think they’re going to be nuanced, flawed people and might get in Taylor’s way in the future.
“They were not the deific figures they had appeared to be. Parahumans were, after all, people with powers, and people are flawed at their core.” (Interlude 1)
Okay, so they would likely see my ploy as a monumental betrayal if and when I pulled it off. I would be making enemies. That said, I suspected that when it came out that I was a hero and not a villain, they would count it as such regardless.
Hm, unless you clear up the misunderstanding yourself, but it’s not like that’ll make it much easier to get information from them or to make friends with them.
Didn’t it make sense to leverage as much information as I could from them before they caught on, as far as their misconception went?
Well, yes. It’s how you use that information when they do catch on that will determine what happens between the five of you after that.
I turned around and headed in the direction of the public library. It was only a few blocks away.
I’ve been watching too many Minecraft videos; I just parsed “a few blocks away” as meaning “a few meters away”.
The library was busy, which made sense, given the number of offices and businesses around, the number of people wanting some quiet during their lunch hour, and people doing research or casual browsing they couldn’t do at their workplaces.
Oh, “casual browsing”, is that what you call it?
I would have included Brockton Bay’s biggest and fanciest high school, the nearby Arcadia High, in that generalization, but I doubted many students were spending their lunch breaks at the library.
I guess this places Arcadia High, the school I’m on record as saying “oozes essénce du high-quality school”, downtown, or at least right by the outskirts of downtown. That makes perfect sense – the “biggest and fanciest” would be in “one of the nice areas”, and the centralized location probably contributes to the waiting list.
The Central Library looked almost more like a museum or art gallery than anything else, with tall ceilings, pillars and massive pieces of artwork hung to frame the hallways between the major sections of the building.
Sounds like an excellent location for a parahuman fight, and/or a catburglar raid.
I headed up to the second floor, where there were about twenty computers and a line of people waiting their turn to use them.
Wow. Twenty computers and there’s still a line? No kidding when she said it was busy.
I anticipated a fifteen or twenty minute wait, but as the clock approached one o’clock, people headed back to work and the line rapidly thinned out.
“Well, I guess that’s all the time I have for looking at dicks today.”
A free computer came up within a few minutes of my joining the line. I let the person behind me go on ahead, waiting a bit longer so I could get a station with a little more privacy.
That’s probably a good idea. I wouldn’t want to have someone hanging over me while I’m using the computer even if I wasn’t about to answer super secret parahuman-to-parahuman contact, which is what I suppose Taylor is here for.
By the time I sat down, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to write. I found the message with the search function and clicked on the username ‘Tt’. A drop down menu appeared, and I chose ‘send private message’. It gave me the option of making an account, signing in with an already existing account, or sending the message as an anonymous guest. I chose the last option, then typed:
Using a public computer for this is probably for the best, I suppose. Not as easy to track who she is.
Bug here. Would like to meet, but want proof you are Tt. I’ll reciprocate if needed.
Interesting to see that she actually identifies herself with “Bug”. It makes sense for the context, I guess, but it’s still using the name she was given by Tattletale. I guess that could be seen as part of the deception?
Because I honestly don’t expect her to be using the name Bug permanently. My money is still on that she’ll come up with the name Worm at some point.
Although I suppose if my hopes of long-term friendship with the Mozarts come true, she’ll be more likely to keep the name. Hm.
I didn’t send it right away, taking a moment to consider.
Take a moment to to think of just
Flexibility, love and trust
Getting decent proof would prevent any potential problems like the message turning out to be a trap laid by, say, Bakuda. Leaving the burden of proof on Tattletale and leaving it up to her to decide if she wanted verification I was indeed ‘Bug’ meant I didn’t have to worry about coming up with exactly how one might prove their identity.
Clever. As usual, Taylor thinks of practically everything.
I reread it twice over, then sent the message.
I rewrite so much in even the simplest chat message. It’s one of the reasons I prefer chatting through text over verbal communication – you can’t go back and edit what you’re saying as easily when it’s already on its way out of your mouth.
The reply came only two or three minutes later.
That was quick!
It was fast enough that I couldn’t imagine Tattletale taking the time to check and double check every aspect of her message the way I had mine. Was that recklessness on her part, or just the benefit of experience?
Or maybe she already knows it’s you and doesn’t need to be careful.
Heh, imagine if she’s at the same library, on another computer.
I closed the tabs I had opened in the meantime and checked to see what she had written. It was a private message, from her to me, and it set my fight or flight instincts in high gear:
Oh boy, what did she write?
Proof? Last night you didn’t say anything until I asked your name. Big guy had a mess of nasty bites and you pepper sprayed him and I told my pal G that when he asked. Good enough?
Okay yeah that’s her alright.
G R and me will meet you at the same spot we crossed paths last night, k? Don’t have to get gussied up if you catch my drift. Rest of us will be in casual wear.
It doesn’t really surprise me that their meeting spot is going to be the rooftop. That also doubles as Tattletale’s security – if Taylor were an impostor, she would have to know where the Mozarts and Bug met.
Which, to be fair, Armsmaster does. But just any old cape fan wouldn’t be able to figure it out.
Coming in casual wear could be a bit more of an issue, though. I don’t think Taylor is going to like that concept very much, for her own sake.
If we meet at 3 will that give you enough time to get there from library with everything you need? let me know
I guess we are doing this in the afternoon, then!
And there’s still probably about 2-3 hours of liveblogging left of the chapter, so there’s plenty of time for the meeting to actually take place!
My heart pounded. She knew where I was, and she was letting me know. Why?
Oh right! I failed to think of that – Tattletale mentioned the library.
Again with knowing things she has no business knowing.
More to the point, how? Had I unwittingly entered an online exchange with a savvy hacker? I knew my way around computers, my mom had made sure I had one since before I could read and write, but I would be lying if I said I could tell if I was being hacked or do anything about it.
If anyone among the Mozarts were to be a hacker, I’d expect it to be Regent. Why? I have no clue why.
Anyway, besides Tattletale’s usual inexplicable knowledge being a more likely explanation, I think digging out the IP address and locating it to the library would probably take a little bit longer than it took for the message to come back to Taylor.
I would have interpreted the casual mention of my location as a veiled threat if it didn’t run contrary to everything else in her messages to me.
I think Tattletale sometimes forgets that others aren’t used to her knowing things without being told.
Besides – Tattletale was talking about meeting me in casual clothes. I took that to mean they wouldn’t be in costume. I couldn’t understand why, but at the same time, it was hard to imagine her threatening me with one breath just a sentence after she’d offered to meet me in a way that made her totally vulnerable.
Yeah, Tattletale, and by extension the other Mozarts, seem to have let their guard all the way down here.
I mean, asking Taylor to come in casual wear and saying they would could be a trap – there’s nothing actually guaranteeing that she’s telling the truth – but it really doesn’t seem like they have any motivation to trick Taylor at this point.
Tattletale had unwittingly raised the stakes for my scheme. My primary goal was to gather information on them, and here I was getting a chance to see them with their masks off. It was too good to be true, which made me wonder what kind of safeguards they had in place to protect themselves.
Yeah, and she didn’t even say Taylor had to come out of costume either. She sounds like she’d accept it if Taylor said she wasn’t comfortable with that. She’s basically offering Taylor the chance for a one-way identity reveal after having met her once for like five minutes.
I just had no idea what I would be getting into.
That seems to be a recurring thing with the Mozarts. A lack of information.
Maybe Grue has something to do with that. His darkness generation could be somewhat metaphorical in addition to the physical aspect.
I may or may not be thinking about this in terms of Homestuck classpects all of a sudden. Grue the Page of Void, Tattletale the Thief of Light? (No suggestions, please.)
The screensaver came up while I stared at the monitor with thoughts racing through my head. The words ‘BROCKTON BAY CENTRAL LIBRARY’ scrolled across the screen in varying colors.
What a shitty screensaver. Perfect for a public computer.
If I went, best case scenario, I could get enough information to turn them in. I’d get mucho cred from the good guys and respect from an international celebrity.
Can we just stop for a moment to appreciate the fact that Taylor just used the phrase “mucho cred”?
Alright, on with it.
If I’d judged Armsmaster right, I’d get even more brownie points if I gave him the info and let him – or helped him – make the bust.
I’m still not sure if I think Taylor is right about Armsmaster, but it certainly fits how I expect the story to treat its good guys – with flaws, as I discussed earlier tonight.
On the flip side of the coin, the worst case scenario was that it was a trap, or they’d figure out what I was doing. It would mean a fight, maybe a beating.
Again, it really doesn’t look like a trap, but that might just mean it would’ve worked on me.
I don’t actually think the Mozarts are going to fight Taylor once they find out what she’s up to. (Hell, they might even already know, thanks to Tattletale, though she didn’t figure out that Taylor was a hero last night.) I think there might be some harsh feelings, but more the kind you see when a friend breaks someone’s trust, if that makes sense? Which I guess can get violent too, but… yeah.
There was an outside possibility I could get killed, but somehow that didn’t concern me as much as it maybe should have. Part of the reason for my lack of concern, I think, was that the possibility existed any time I went out in costume.
Makes sense. We always have a risk of dying, but most of us only care when it’s higher than usual.
That, and from my interactions with them last night, I didn’t get a ‘killer’ vibe from them.
Even Bitch, who sicced hellbeasts on Lung, didn’t really give off that vibe. At no point did I feel like she was trying to kill Lung when she did that.
On the topic of the status quo… if I didn’t go, what would happen? This particular window of opportunity would likely pass, as far as being able to get the dirt on Tattletale and her gang.
Yeah, as I’ve been saying, there’s no way Taylor isn’t doing this, or the whole thing would be almost pointless.
Besides, what would the title then refer to? I’ve been forgetting to mention it for a few posts now, but Taylor is basically thinking about insinuating her way in among the Mozarts to gather information.
Speaking of the Arc, I wonder if it’s going to be longer than Gestation in terms of chapter count, or if we’re ending the arc soon after the meeting has taken place. We’re already at 2.5! 1.5 is when we first met the Mozarts, if I recall correctly, and then Gestation ended with 1.6.
That was okay, as I thought on it. It was a high risk, high reward venture anyways.
Yeah, you don’t lose anything on letting it pass, but there’s also quite a bit you don’t gain, and the difference between those two concepts is up for philosophical debate.
Taking that path would mean turning down the meet, then killing time for the rest of the afternoon, trying to avoid dwelling on the fact that I had missed two straight afternoons of classes and might, maybe, miss more. It was depressing to think about.
Ah, yes, that too. Escapism!
Startled, I looked up. A middle aged woman in a red jacket stood just behind me. As I met her eyes she asked, “Are you done?” She gestured at the computer, where the screensaver was still scrolling.
Hm, not really. Regardless of what Taylor chooses, Tattletale asked for a reply.
Heady with the relief that she hadn’t been, irrationally enough, Tattletale, I smiled and told her, “Give me thirty seconds.”
See you at three.
Fuck yes, here we go!
End of Insinuation 2.5
That was a bit shorter than I expected! I didn’t even reach the three-hour cutoff I was planning. Still, I feel like we got quite a bit done in this chapter, even though the summary boils down to “Taylor replies to Tattletale, Tattletale immediately responds and Taylor agrees to meet the Mozarts”.
As much as I’m starting to appreciate the bullying plot a bit more than I used to, I’m glad to see the return to this plotline – the superhero stuff is quite a bit more exciting. And exciting is really the word for what’s about to happen – I’m very much looking forward to the meeting that’s now undoubtedly going down in the next chapter! This could get very interesting, especially with the Mozarts appearing – as we’ve just learned they will – out of costume.
I don’t think I have much more to say about this chapter, so see you in the next one!