Source material: Worm, Insinuation 2.6
Originally blogged: February 27, 2017
Whoo, here I am again for the next chapter of Worm! This time I’m quite hyped, because unless Wildbow pulls a fast one on me, this chapter is going to be the much anticipated second encounter between Taylor and the Mozarts.
…hopefully it’ll introduce a more sensible name for the group than “the Mozarts”.
But yeah, Taylor is meeting the Mozarts on the rooftop where they first met, and they’ve said they’re coming in casual wear. I kind of doubt Taylor is going to mirror that, as she definitely doesn’t trust the Mozarts as much as they seem to trust her, and is in fact planning to betray them. Of course, I still have my hopes that she’ll change her mind about that over time.
Right now there’s only one thing to say: Let’s get this show on the road!
Or on the roof, rather.
I showed up in costume. I didn’t care if they thought it was rude or paranoid, I would rather be capable of surviving having a knife pulled on me than play nice.
Yeah, thought so. Besides, there’s the whole secret identity issue, too.
They might be disappointed, but I think they’ll understand the hesitation.
I had caught a bus from the library to my house and put my costume on under my clothes.
…don’t think about the Iron Giant don’t think about the Iron Giant…
Most of the armor panels of my costume were separate pieces, held in place by straps that ran into slits in the fabric of the costume. Not all of them were, though. I’d made some of the armor part of the bodysuit, I’d made narrow, rigid sections of armor running along the center of my chest, back, shins, wrists, hips and the tops of my shoulders. so that when I strapped the larger pieces on, grooves on the underside of the armor would fit over them and help keep them from flopping around.
Hm, seems sensible. Might make it a bit uncomfortable under regular clothes, though.
I checked myself in the mirror before I left, and didn’t think anyone would notice unless I held a strange posture and they were paying a great deal of attention to what I was wearing. I wore loose fitting clothes over the costume, – one of my larger pairs of jeans and a sweatshirt, and even with that, I felt painfully conspicuous.
Is there a touch of literalitude to “painfully”? I guess the loose clothes ought to help on that issue too, though.
By the way, if you haven’t seen The Iron Giant, go rectify that.
I changed much the way I had the previous night, finding an empty alley, quickly pulling on my mask, pulling off my outer clothes, and stuffing the clothes into one of my dad’s old backpacks.
I guess she went out like described in the previous paragraph back between 1.2 and 1.3 as well? Except then it was night, so it wouldn’t feel as conspicuous.
I’d hidden the backpack before I went patrolling last night, but today, I opted to take it with me. I headed out the other end of the alley.
Wait what, is this a new new backpack? Or was there one in the hiding spot back in 1.2, perhaps? I don’t quite remember how she was storing things in there.
When I was a short distance away from the site of last night’s brawl, I sent a dozen flies out to scout. I focused on what they were sensing.
Bugs, it probably goes without saying, sense things in a very different way than we do. More than that, they sense and process things at a very different speed. The end result was that the signals my power were able to translate and send to me in a way my brain could understand were muted. Visual information came through as ink blot patches of monochrome light and dark, alternating between fuzzy and overly sharp.
Ooh, that’s a nice touch.
Sound was almost painful to focus on, breaking down to bass vibrations that made my vision distort and high pitch noises that weren’t unlike nails on a chalkboard.
At least she’s not feeling it as a leg itch!
Multiply that by a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, and it was overwhelming. When my power was new to me, I hadn’t been able to hold back.
The sensory overload had never actually hurt me, even at its worst, but it had made me flat out miserable. These days, I had that part of my power turned off a good ninety nine percent of the time.
I have a feeling she’s going to need audio perception at some point in the relatively near future of the story, and be forced to deal with the sensory overload.
My preferred method of sensing things through my bugs was touch. It wasn’t that their sense of touch translated much better than the hearing or sight part of things, but had more to do with the fact that I could tell where they were in relation to me. I was acutely aware when they were very still, if they were moving, or if something else was moving them. That was one thing that translated well.
That’s pretty useful, especially with a swarm, as we’ve already seen with the fight against Lung.
So as I sent the bugs out to scout, the twelve sets of compound eyes first identified the trio as blurry silhouettes atop a larger, more defined shadow, backlit by a flare of white that had to be the sun.
This kind of “distortion” (relative to human senses) could be useful narratively speaking, for example if there are things Taylor shouldn’t be able to make out via bug vision. Such as right now, when she can’t see what the Mozarts actually look like, just that they’re there.
…hang on. Trio? There are four Mozarts, so who’s missing?
I directed the flies closer, towards the ‘heads’ of the figures, and they touched down on skin. None of the three were wearing masks, which I deemed reason to believe Tattletale had been telling the truth.
Lowering the chances that this is a trap.
They weren’t in costume. There was no guarantee that the three were really Tattletale, Grue and Regent, but I felt confident enough to head around to the fire escape and climb up to the roof.
Oh right, Tattletale did list off who was going to be there, didn’t she. I guess I missed that she wasn’t listing off “B” as well.
She’s climbing onto the roof now… here we go!
It was them, no doubt. I recognized them even without their costumes.
But would you recognize them if you didn’t know who they were? It’s incredible how much the awareness of someone’s appearance in and out of costume can change if you know they’re the same person.
It’s one of the things that lets “costumes” like Superman’s work, kind of. That’s a bit of an extreme example, but bear with me here – we the audience know that Clark Kent is Superman, so it’s way easier for us to recognize that he’s the same man when he takes off his glasses and replaces his civilian clothes for spandex, or whatever it is he wears as a hero, than it is for the other characters. Of course, it shouldn’t take that much more effort for the other characters to recognize him, so that particular example is still pretty dumb.
(This is the second time I bring up Superman in this liveblogging session, but I don’t actually like him. Way too overpowered for my tastes.)
Two guys and a girl. The girl had dirty blonde hair tied back into a loose braid, a smattering of freckles over the bridge of her nose and the same vulpine grin I recognized from the night prior.
Nice! Tattletale’s appearance really suits what we know of her personality so far.
She wore a black long sleeved t-shirt with a grafitti-style design on it and a knee length denim skirt. I was surprised by the bottle-glass green of her eyes.
I stand by what I just said.
Although… Is it just me who rarely ever notices people’s eye colors? It seems like fictional characters like to make note of those.
Though if she doesn’t mention eye color for Grue or Regent, I’m going to consider it evidence for a certain mini-theory of mine. 😉
The smaller and younger of the two guys – about my age – was undoubtedly Regent. I recognized the mop of black curls. He was a good looking guy, but not in a way that would make me say he was handsome. He was pretty, with a triangular face, light blue eyes and full lips pulled into a bit of a scowl. I pegged him as having French or Italian heritage.
Makes sense, with how French/Italian-styled his cape getup was.
I could see where he would have girls all over him, but I couldn’t say I was interested, myself. The pretty boys – Leonardo Decaprio, Marcus Firth, Justin Beiber [sic], Johnny Depp – had never done it for me.
😉 😉 😉
So are there any other boys that “do it for you”? I mean, at all?
He was wearing a white jacket with a hood, jeans and sneakers, and was perched on the raised lip at the edge of the roof, a bottle of cola in hand.
Regent strikes me as sort of… casually non-casual? Non-casually casual? I have no clue what I’m even saying right now.
Grue was startling in appearance, by contrast. Taller than me by at least a foot, Grue had dark chocolate skin,
Describing black people’s skin by reference to food is frowned upon, I think. I’ll let it slide, though.
shoulder length cornrows and that masculine lantern jaw you typically associated with guy superheroes.
Hang on, gotta google a few things.
So “cornrows” are a hairstyle, one I hadn’t really imagined for Grue. Could look rather cool, though.
“lantern jaw” means about what I thought it would mean from the rest of the description. Visually, I don’t particularly like that look myself, but it’s not exactly something you can easily change. (No offense intended to anyone out there with lantern jaws! I’m sure you look great, all of you.)
He wore jeans, boots and a plain green t-shirt, which struck me as a bit cold for the spring. I did note that he had considerable muscle definition in his arms. This was a guy who worked out.
Probably necessary if you wish to be a cape and your main power is darkness generation. Though it might just be because he wants to.
“And she arrives,” Tattletale crowed, “Pay up.”
Hah! Of course they were betting!
Regent’s scowl deepened for a second, and he fished in his pocket for a wad of bills, which he forked over to Tattletale.
“You bet on whether I would show up?” I ventured.
“We bet on whether you would come in costume,” Tattletale told me. Then, more to Regent than to me, she said, “and I won.”
“Again,” Regent muttered.
Hehe, I’m already loving this.
And hey, this ought to show Taylor that they don’t mind that she prefers to come in costume. Or, well, Regent minds, but only because he lost.
“It’s your own fault for taking the bet in the first place,” Grue said, “Even if it wasn’t Tattle, it was a sucker bet. Showing up in costume makes too much sense. It’s what I would do.”
“Even if it wasn’t Tattle”
More evidence that her power involves not only knowledge she shouldn’t normally have, but likely also knowledge of things that haven’t happened yet.
Although I guess she might’ve just known that Taylor was on her way with the costume underneath her normal clothes. It’s still very unclear just where her limits lie.
He had a nice voice. It was an adult voice, even if his appearance gave me the sense of a guy in his late teens.
He is rather tall. Probably finished his growth, and a body like an adult should yield a voice like an adult.
He extended his hand to me, “Hey, I’m Brian.”
I shook his hand, he wasn’t shy about shaking my hand firmly. I said, “You can call me Bug, I guess. At least, until I come up with something better, or until I decide this isn’t an elaborate trick.”
The Mozarts are really dropping all guards. Meanwhile, Taylor is being surprisingly upfront about hers being up.
(Worm, Worm, Worm, Worm)
He shrugged, “Cool.” There wasn’t the slightest trace of offense at my suspicion. I almost felt bad.
Yeah, I think they get it. Hell, Grue himself just said he would’ve showed up in costume too, probably for similar reasons.
“Lisa,” Tattletale introduced herself. She didn’t offer me her hand to shake, but I think it would have felt out of place if she had. It wasn’t that she seemed unfriendly, but she didn’t have the same aura of geniality about her that Grue did.
Yeah, Tattletale seems social, but not in quite the same way.
“I’m Alec,” Regent informed me, with a quiet voice, then he added, “And Bitch is Rachel.”
Thanks for the reminder on Bitch’s name, because I had actually forgotten. I doubt Taylor has, but in my defense, the chapter where it was introduced was several days ago for me but only hours for Taylor.
Brian, Lisa, Alec and Rachel. All nice names. Very normal, very human.
So is Taylor going to mention that she already knows Rachel’s name, and give away that she’s been doing research? Probably not.
“Rachel is sitting this one out,” Grue said, “She didn’t agree with the aim of our meeting, here.”
“Which raises the question,” I cut in, “What is the aim of this meeting? I’m a little weirded out with you guys revealing your secret identities like this, or at least, pretending to.”
Yeah, that’s really the elephant in the room here.
I personally think the Mozarts may be wanting to invite “Bug” into their ranks.
“Sorry,” Grue… Brian apologized, “That was my idea. I thought we would make a token show of trust.”
Yeah, that part has been relatively obvious, but the real question is why. Trust which would let them form a friendship with Taylor and lead to gaining a new member?
Also, Taylor is readjusting to thinking about them using their legal names (I’m not going to say “real names”. Grue, Bitch, Tattletale and Regent can be just as much real names as Brian, Rachel, Lisa and Alec.) already, which might help her to think of them more as humans than villains.
Behind the yellow tinted lenses of my mask, my eyes narrowed, flicking from Lisa to Alec to Brian. I couldn’t draw any conclusions from their expressions.
“Why, exactly, do you need my trust?” I asked.
Taylor is asking pretty much the same questions as me, and I don’t think that’s an accident on Wildbow’s part. It’s time to get some answers to questions he’s been making the readers ask for a while.
Brian opened his mouth, then closed it. He looked to Lisa, who bent down and picked up a plastic lunchbox. She held it out to me.
“I said we owed you. All yours, no strings attached.”
If there’s a burger in that lunchbox…
Without taking the box, I tilted my head to get a better look at the front, “Alexandria. She was my favorite member of the Protectorate when I was a kid. Is the lunchbox collectable?”
“Open it,” Lisa prompted me, with a roll of her eyes.
I took it. From the weight and the motion of the contents inside it, I immediately had a pretty good idea of what it was. I undid the clasps and opened the box.
Now what in the world have they put in there.
“Money,” I breathed, caught off guard by suddenly having so much in my hands. Eight stacks of bills, tied with paper bands. Each of the paper bands had a number written on it in permanent marker. Two fifty each…
Fuck. Money, probably illegally obtained money. The bane of many a moral compass.
Lisa answered before I had the number totaled up in my head, “Two grand.”
I closed the box and did the clasps. With no idea what to say, I stayed silent.
“You have two choices,” Lisa explained, “You can take that as a gift. A thank you for, intentionally or not, saving our ass from Lung last night. And maybe a bit of incentive to count us among your friends when you’re out in costume and doing dastardly deeds.”
The Mozarts have enough enemies in the form of the Absolute Beetle Buffoons, so with a new villain around (or so they think) they’re trying to make friends.
What’s the other choice?
Her grin widened, as if she’d said something she found amusing. Maybe it was the irony of a villain talking about ‘dastardly deeds’, or how corny the phrase was.
Using corny phrases can be pretty fun!
(…an excellent track called “Sound Judgement”, about a character who fancies herself an enforcer of the law, just started playing on lumiRadio. I love the irony of that timing.)
She elaborated, “Between territory disputes, differences in ideology, general power struggles and egos, there’s a rare few people in the local villain community who won’t attack us on sight.”
Yeah, exactly. Enough enemies.
“And the second option?” I asked.
“You can take this as your first installment in the monthly allowance you’re entitled to as a member of the Undersiders,” Brian spoke up, “As one of us.”
One, we finally have a name! Finally, I can stop calling them “the Mozarts”, which was never a good name for them to begin with.
In fact, my cat’s name is Mozart, so it sometimes sounded like they were a bunch of copies of him. Which would be cute, I suppose, but not make for a particularly good group of villains.
Anyway, two: We have an invitation for Taylor to join!
I think Taylor is going to take them up on this offer. Perhaps not immediately, but she does have motivations to decide to do it – if she’s a member, she can learn more about them that she can decide to not volunteer to Armsmaster and then become a permanent member.
…yes, I know that would mean breaking bad, but I honestly feel like that might happen. Or maybe Taylor reforms the Undersiders to use their powers for good. Either way could work.
‘Course, there are other routes the story could take. This is just how I personally kind of hope it’ll go.
I shifted my gaze between the three of them, looking for the joke. Lisa still had a bit of a smile, but I was getting the impression that was her default expression. Alec looked a little bored, if anything. Brian looked dead serious. Damn.
Yeah, these people really want you on their side, Taylor.
“Two thousand a month,” I said.
“No,” Brian cut in, “That’s just what the boss pays us, to stick together and to stay active. We make, uh, considerably more than that.”
There is a boss. It’s not one of them, like Taylor figured out from the way they interacted, but there is a boss.
But if they make so much money, why do they all have such low-budget outfits? Except maybe Regent; he had some fancy-looking accessories after all.
Lisa smirked, and Alec chuckled as he swished the contents of his coke bottle. I made mental note at the mention of this ‘boss’.
Not wanting to get sidetracked, I quickly thought through the earlier part of our conversation in the context of the job offer.
I asked, “So Bitch didn’t come because she was against the, er, recruitment?”
“Yeah,” Alec said, “We voted on it, and she said no.”
Hm, that’s fair. They’ve only met Taylor for like five minutes before this, and Taylor barely said anything then. I can see why Regent might be reluctant, and it’s honestly interesting that the others aren’t.
I suspect Tattletale knows something again. It’s what she does.
“On the plus side, the rest of us voted yes,” Brian hurried to add, giving Alec a dirty look, “She’ll come around. She always votes against adding new members to the group, because she doesn’t want to divide the money five ways.”
Heh, makes sense. She was homeless; it’s no wonder she’s more conservative about the cash than the others.
“So you’ve done this recruiting thing before,” I concluded.
“Uh, yeah,” Brian looked a touch embarrassed, he rubbed the back of his neck, “It didn’t go well. We tried with Spitfire, and she got scared off before we even got to the job offer. Our fault, for bringing Rachel along that time.”
Spitfire, huh? I wonder if her power is literally spitting fire.
“And then she got recruited by someone else,” Alec added.
“Yeah,” Brian shrugged, “She got snagged by Faultline before we got a second chance. We’ve made an offer to Circus, too, and she told us in no uncertain terms that she worked alone.”
Spitfire, Faultline, Circus… A bunch of names being dropped here. Faultline might become an issue later, as a rival villain group.
Circus’ power is to make elephants balance on their back legs.
“Taught me a few new curse words while she did it, too,” Alec said.
“She was pretty vocal about how she flies solo,” Brian admitted.
Circus sounds like she has a way with words.
“So you’re going the extra mile, with no costumes as a show of trust and a cash bonus up front, to get me to join,” I said, as the pieces came together.
“That’s the gist of it,” Brian agreed,
Yeah, pretty much. Things are clearing up here.
“Long and short of it is, especially with Lung taken out of action and the ABB diminished by his being gone, there’s bound to be some pushing and shoving over territory and status among the various gangs and teams. Us, Faultline’s Crew, the remaining ABB, Empire Eighty-Eight, the solo villains, and any out of town teams or gangs that figure that they can worm in and grab a piece of the Bay.
Apparently Faultline is the name of a villain who leads a Crew, not the name of the Crew itself. Empire Eighty-Eight… let’s hope they’re not 88 villains, that’s a bit much. Maybe they’re a bunch of retro villains who love 1988?
“worm in” – you mean insinuate?
If it comes down to it, we want firepower. We haven’t screwed up a job yet, but the way us three figure it, it’s only a matter of time before we end up stuck in a fight we can’t win, with Bitch as the only one of us who can really dish out the hurt.”
I guess that tells us something about Regent. His power isn’t in the offense category, or it’s not all that strong. Bitch’s dogs deal a lot of damage, but if she’s incapacitated, the other Undersiders are relatively easy to pick off. Grue can hide them in artificial darkness, and Tattletale might be able to know where the enemy will look (or at least where the enemy is), and Regent can do whatever he does, but not losing isn’t the same as winning.
“I just don’t get why you want me,” I said, “I control bugs. That’s not going to stop Alexandria, Glory Girl or Aegis.”
Glory Girl? Is she similar to Good Girl from LoSRH, who goes around with a literal halo over her head that forces her to do good deeds?
Aegis sounds like they’d have protective/defensive powers.
“You fucked up Lung,” Lisa shrugged as she spoke, “Good enough for me.”
“Um, not really,” I replied, “In case you missed it, you’re the ones who stopped him from executing me last night. That just goes to prove the point I was making.”
To be fair, Lung was using fire and armor, two of Taylor’s bugs’ weak points. Many other power sets would have a hard time countering the swarms.
“Honey,” Lisa said, “Entire teams of capes have gone up against Lung and got their asses handed to them. That you managed as well as you did is fantastic. The fact that the asshole is lying in a hospital bed because of you is the icing on the cake.”
That too! Lung was considerably hyped up by Taylor herself as practically unbeatable, and then she went and almost beat him!
My reply stopped before it even left my mouth. I only managed a dumb, “Hunh?”
“Yeah,” Lisa raised an eyebrow, “You do know which bugs you had biting him, right? Black Widow, Brown Recluse, Browntail Moth, Mildei, Fire Ants-”
“Yeah,” I cut her off, “I don’t know the official names, but I know exactly what bit him, what stung him and what the venoms do.”
Pretty nasty stuff. Lung can’t be feeling very good today.
“So why are you surprised? A couple of those bugs would be fucking dangerous if they bit just once, but you had them bite several times. Bad enough, but when Lung came into custody they had him checked over by the docs, and the idiot doctor in charge said something like, ‘Oh, well, these do look like bug bites and stings, but the really venomous ones don’t bite multiple times. Let’s arrange to check on him in a few hours’.”
Pfft, doctor, you’re dealing with superpowers here.
(And there she goes, she HASS the knowledge)
My posts get longer when there’s dialogue.
I could tell where the story was going. I put my hands over my mouth, whispering, “Oh my god.”
Tattletale grinned, “I can’t believe you didn’t know.”
“But he regenerates!” I protested, dropping my hands, “Toxins aren’t supposed to be even one percent as effective against people who heal like he does.”
But you hit him with a lot of toxins.
“They’re effective enough, I guess, or his healing stopped working somewhere along the line” Lisa told me, “By the time they got to him, the big guy was just beginning to suffer from large scale tissue necrosis. His heart even stopped a few times. You do remember where you had the bugs bite him?”
I closed my eyes. I could see my reputation going down the tubes. One of the spiders I had been using was the brown recluse. Arguably the most dangerous spider in the United States, more than even the black widow. A single bite from a brown recluse could make a good chunk of the flesh around the bite blacken and rot away. I’d had my bugs biting Lung in the more sensitive parts of his anatomy.
Ahaha oh my cod she’s rotting a guy’s dick off while trying to be a hero
“Let’s just say that even with the ability to heal several times faster than your average person, Lung is going to be sitting down to use the toilet.”
“Okay, that’s enough,” Brian stopped Lisa before she could go on, “Lung is going to recover, right?”
Is he, though? And how fast?
With the look Brian was giving Lisa, I thought she might lie, regardless of the truth. She shrugged and told me, “He’s already recuperating. Slowly, but he’s on the mend, and he should be in good working order in six months to a year.”
Well, at least he won’t be giving us any trouble for a while. Directly, anyway.
“You’d better hope he doesn’t escape,” Alec said, his voice still quiet but bemused, “Because if someone made my man bits fall off, I’d be out for blood.”
Brian pinched the bridge of his nose, “Thank you for that, Alec. Way you two are going, our potential recruit is going to run off to have a panic attack before the idea of becoming an Undersider even crosses her mind.”
And apparently Bitch is even worse at the recruiting stuff, although that’s probably because she didn’t want to.
“How do you know this?” I asked, within a heartbeat of the thought crossing my mind.
Are we finally getting a confirmation/explanation of Tattle’s power?
When Brian turned my way with an expression like he thought he had said something to offend me, I clarified, “Tattletale, or Lisa, or whatever I’m supposed to call you. How do you know this stuff about Lung… or about the fact that I was at the Library, or that the cape was on his way, last night?”
“Library?” Brian interjected, giving Lisa another dark look.
Apparently she didn’t mention that to the others, huh.
Lisa ignored Brian’s question and winked at me, “Girl’s gotta have her secrets.”
“Lisa’s half the reason we haven’t failed a job yet,” Alec said.
“And our boss is a large part of the rest,” Lisa finished for him.
“So you say,” Brian grumbled, “But let’s not go there.”
Brian seems to be harboring some animosity for the boss, I think? Or he might just be a little irritated by the way Lisa implies that he and Alec aren’t that important.
Lisa smiled at me, “If you want the full scoop, I’m afraid the details on what we do only come with team membership. What I can tell you is that we’re a good group. Our track record is top notch, and we’re in it for fun and profit. No grand agenda. No real responsibility.”
Honestly, it shouldn’t be that hard to reform these guys if an attempt is made, though the existence of the boss and Bitch’s dependence on the money might make things harder.
It’s also just neutral enough to be easier on Taylor’s moral compass if she’s to join them permanently without reforming them. I’d peg Taylor as Chaotic Good, and this group is Chaotic more than Evil. Maybe even Chaotic Neutral.
I pursed my lips, behind my mask. While I had picked up some info, I felt like I had a lot more questions. Who was this boss they mentioned? Was he or she setting up other teams of highly successful villains, in Brockton Bay or elsewhere? What made these guys as effective as they were, and was it something I could steal or copy for myself?
It wasn’t like I was signing the deal in blood or anything. I stood to gain so much.
As I said earlier – membership means more info.
“Alright then, count me in,” I told them.
End of Insinuation 2.6
The deal is done. Taylor is joining the Undersiders! Fuck yes.
This might well be the final chapter of the arc, I don’t know. Either way, it was quite a fun one; I really like the Undersiders, and seeing them again was a hoot. With Taylor joining them (possibly permanently, if my hopes and dreams come true), we’re going to get a lot of them in upcoming chapters, and I’m very much looking forward to that.
In general things are going largely according to my predictions, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing – some things are predictable because they work. I’m enjoying Worm quite a bit at this point.
One thing I will say, though, is that the pacing can be a bit slow. Some chapters, like 2.2 and 2.5, consist almost entirely of Taylor researching or considering things, and those can get a little tedious. I suppose that’s to be expected with a story this long, though.
I think my decision to add a cutoff point for my sessions might actually be making me faster, because this one ended right before the cutoff point just like the previous one – a cutoff point that was meant to be about 60% through the time it usually took me to do a chapter. Either I’m faster or these two chapters have just happened to be shorter, I guess.