Insinuation 2.7: A Warm Welcome

Source material: Worm, Insinuation 2.7

Originally blogged: March 11, 2017

Alrighty, then, let’s get back to Worm!

I haven’t turned the chapter yet, because I want to speculate a little first. I’m not sure whether this will be 2.7, Interlude 2 or 3.1 – it could go either way. The end of 2.6,

“Alright then, count me in,” I told them.

is a potentially life-changing moment that would be a good spot to end the act on, especially if being part of the Undersiders is going to be a long-term plot. I’ve expressed what I hope happens – that it’ll turn permanent – but I’m in no way sure that Wildbow is actually going to take it in that direction.

But on the other hand, “Insinuation” could just as easily describe the early days in the group, after the initial entry. Taylor is going undercover, sort of, but she hasn’t actually wormed her way into the group – the group opened their arms wide and invited her in. This is where it might begin to take some worming to reach Taylor’s goals.

Which is to say that this next chapter might also fall under the dominion of “insinuation”.

If the whole thing is meant to be on a shorter scale, it’s hard to tell how many chapters it’s going to take Taylor to get all the information she’s after. At worst, it could take just one or two chapters before Taylor ollies outy, and not warrant a new arc. I say “at worst” not only because that’s completely counter to my hopes, but also because after this much buildup, I’d feel a bit cheated if that was it.

So my hopes are definitely pointing towards this being 3.1 rather than 2.7.

There is a third option here: Interlude 2. That would be close enough to 3.1 because it would mean a new arc following it. As for what it would be about: Last interlude, we got a look at a non-Taylor perspective, and I expect other interludes (if not all of them) will do the same. If we’re getting an interlude right here, it might be from the perspective of one of the other Undersiders (damn it feels good to finally have a proper name for them, and to be able to implicitly include Taylor), or even from an antagonist perspective – Oni Lee, Bakuda, etc.

…this post got long before I even turned the chapter, wow. Let’s finally get to that!

*clicks next chapter link*

Insinuation 2.7. Well then. Let’s see where this goes!

As I agreed to join the Undersiders, there was some whooping and cheering.

Starting exactly where we left off, I see. Nice, that’ll let us see the initial reactions of the other Undersiders.

I may be a little bit disappointed by possible long-term implications of this chapter existing, but that’s a positive. If this had been a new arc, we probably wouldn’t get to see this.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m very much looking forward to this chapter. It’s bound to have a lot of interactions between the Undersiders (now including Taylor), and those are a lot of fun.

I felt a touch guilty, for acting under false pretenses. I also felt pleased with myself, in an irrational way.

How is it irrational to feel pleased with what you’re doing? You’re pulling off something the Protectorate could only dream of, and that you’re viewing as an opportunity.

Or maybe she’s pleased because she feels welcome… for a change.

Damn, brain, way to turn that sentence sad all of a sudden.

“Where do we go from here?” Lisa asked Brian.

“Not sure,” Brian said, “It’s not like we’ve done this before. I suppose we should let Rachel know, but she said she might work today.”

I guess they weren’t really expecting her to say yes, what with their past experiences.

“If the new girl is okay with it, let’s stop by our place,” Lisa suggested, “See if Rache is there, celebrate the new recruit and get her filled in.”

“Sure,” I said.

Ooooh base of operations

I was kind of expecting there to be a chapter introducing Taylor to their base (I mean of course they’d have a base, of some sort), but I guess I didn’t see it coming this immediately, or this casually.

“It’s just a few blocks away,” Brian said, “But we would stand out if you came with in costume.”

Ah, here we go. The first test of how far Taylor is willing to go for the information: Is she willing to compromise her identity?

I doubt the costume will come off without a lot of consideration, and/or something else to keep Taylor’s face hidden, like a hood. I’m sure the other Undersiders would respect Taylor not being comfortable with this just yet.

I stared at him for a moment, not wanting to comprehend his statement. If I took too long to respond, I realized, I would ruin this plan before it went anywhere. Whatever the case, I could have kicked myself. Of course this was the natural progression of events.

Yeah, pretty much.

Joining their team would mean I would be expected to share my identity, since they already had. Until I did, they wouldn’t be able to trust me with their secrets.

Ah, yeah, I didn’t even think of that – even if the Undersiders respect her distrust of them for the time being, they can’t (or shouldn’t) trust her even more blindly than they already do until she shows that it’s mutual.

I could have blamed the lapse in judgement and foresight on my lack of sleep or the distraction of the events earlier in the day, but that didn’t change matters. I had maneuvered myself into a corner.

I think Taylor cares a lot about her foresight and putting careful thought into everything, so making a mistake like this is something she’ll be a tad upset about. For now, though, she’s focusing on the situation it’s landed her in.

“Alright,” I said, sounding calmer than I felt. I hoped. “This costume is kinda uncomfortable under clothes. Can I get some privacy?”

I’m not sure how the information that the costume is uncomfortable under clothes fits with the rest of this line. Wouldn’t a comment about how clothes are uncomfortable under the costume make more sense?

Remember my comments in 1.2 about the potential problems with being naked under the– oh, that’s how it fits in, she’s saying that she’d rather take the costume off entirely than put her clothes on top of it again.

But yeah, remember 1.2?

“Also, I guess she’s just gonna be naked underneath the costume? Nothing wrong with that, I suppose, but it could make the transitions a little bit awkward if someone’s around or she has to do it away from her normal clothes.”

Yeah, I totally called it.

“You want an alley, or…” Lisa asked, trailing off.

“I’ll change here, just take a minute,” I said, impulsively, as I glanced around. The buildings on the street were mostly one and two stories tall, with the only buildings taller than the one we were on being the one half a block away, and the one right next to us.

You sure you don’t want an alley?

There weren’t any windows on the building next to us with a great angle for seeing me change, and I doubted anyone on the distant building could see me as more than a figure two inches tall. If someone could see me change out of costume and make out enough details to identify me, I’d be surprised.

Of course that’s the side of the issue she thinks of primarily, rather than the nudity.

Does she at least have underwear under there?

As the three of them headed to the fire escape, I pulled out the clothes I’d stuffed into the backpack.

…I just thought of something. We still don’t really know how Tattle’s power works; it’s very much possible that she could easily spy on Taylor without looking over the edge, should she want to.

With supers around, you can’t truly be sure about your privacy even if you know they’re not looking.

Armor panels aside, my costume was essentially one piece, with the exceptions being the belt and the mask. I kept the mask on as I undid the belt and peeled off the main costume. I wasn’t indecent – I was wearing a black tank top and black biking shorts underneath, in part for extra warmth.

Oh good.

I guess wearing the costume otherwise naked back in 1.2 was the exception rather than the rule.

Silk wasn’t the best insulator on its own.

I wonder if Wildbow actually did research into the properties of silk for this line. I’m inclined to think that he did. I’m consistently getting the impression that Wildbow is a lot like Taylor in certain ways.

I stepped into my jeans and pulled on the sweatshirt, then rubbed my arms and shoulders to brush off the mild chill. I put my costume and the plastic lunchbox in my backpack.

A lunchbox, but no lunch. So how’s about that burger?

I felt a stab of regret at not having chosen better clothes to wear than a loose fitting sweatshirt and jeans that were too big for me. That regret quickly turned to a pang of anxiety. What would they think when they saw the real me?

The walls of her escapism are crumbling a little. Taylor isn’t exactly happy about who she is outside of the costume, and now she’s faced with the prospect of letting the few peers who think she’s awesome know what the “real” Taylor is like. She’s been told almost every day for a year and a half that she’s a loser, that she’s not good enough, that nobody likes her and nobody ever will.

That shit gets to people, even Taylor.

She’s found people who like her when her costume’s on, and now she’s afraid they’ll change their minds.

Brian and Alec were good looking guys, in very different ways. Lisa was, on the sliding scale between plain and pretty, more pretty than not.

Taylor frequently describes people according to how pretty/attractive they are, which is fair. Problem is, it’s generally in a way that implies “prettier than me”.

I’m not sure Taylor really realizes just how much the bullying is getting to her.

My own scale of attractiveness, by contrast, put me somewhere on a scale that ranged from ‘nerd’ to ‘plain’. My opinion of where I fit on that scale changed depending on the mood I was in when I was looking in the mirror. They were cool, confident, assured people. I was… me.

And that’s enough, but the Harpies have drilled into her head that it isn’t.

I stopped myself before I could get worked up. I wasn’t regular old Taylor, here. In the here and now, I was the girl who had put Lung in the hospital, accidental as it was. I was the girl who was going undercover to try and get the details on a particularly persistent gang of supervillains. I was, until I came up with a better name to go by, Bug, the girl the Undersiders wanted on their team.

Yes, good, take pride in your alter ego!

Honestly, Taylor is reminding me a lot of both main characters of Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Chat Noir. Marinette thinks herself very plain in civilian form, but she’s extremely confident when she’s Ladybug. Chat Noir is a destruction-themed hero and an escape from Adrien’s strict civilian life.

If I said I made my way down the fire escape filled to the brim with confidence, I’d be lying. That said, I had managed to hype myself up enough to get myself down the ladder, mask still on, costume in my bag. I stood before them, glanced around to make sure nobody else was around, and then pulled off my mask.

Keeping the mask still on for no reason other than to hype up the face reveal? Or delay it?

Is there a difference?

I had a few terrifying heartbeats where I was half-blind, their facial features just smudges, before I put on the glasses I’d had in my bag.

I completely forgot Taylor wears glasses.

“Hi,” I said, lamely, using my fingers to comb my hair back into order, “I guess it wouldn’t work if you kept calling me Bug or new girl. I’m Taylor.”

It’s honestly a little surprising that she uses her real name.

I think she’s already growing to trust the Undersiders more than she’s willing to admit to herself.

Using my real name was a big gamble on my part. I was afraid it would be another thing I would be kicking myself for five minutes from now, much like the realization that I’d have to go uncostumed.

A gamble, huh? Of course she’d thought about that.

Taylor thinks about everything.

I rationalized it by telling myself that I was already in this wholesale. Being truthful about that one thing might well save my hide if any of them decided to do some digging on me, or if I ran into someone I knew while in their company.

Hm, that’s actually pretty solid logic.

(I swear if Lisa goes “Oh, I know”…)

I figured, hoped, that by the time this whole thing was over, I could maybe pull some strings with someone like Armsmaster and avoid having them leak my real name. Not impossible to imagine, given the level of security around some of the prisons they had for criminal parahumans. In any event, I would cross that bridge when I got to it.

But will you actually get to it?

Alec offered the slightest roll of his eyes as I introduced myself, while Brian just grinned. Lisa, though, put one of her arms around my shoulders and gave me a one-armed squeeze of a hug. She was a little older than I was, so she was just tall enough to be at the perfect height to do it. What caught me off guard was how nice the gesture felt. Like I had been needing a hug from someone who wasn’t my dad for a long time.

Hell yes!

See, this is part of why I really want this to be permanent. Taylor needs friends, she needs peers who actually like her for who she is. If those friends can take part in both sides of her life, and be trusted with the secrets of not only Taylor, but Bug? That’s even better.

We walked deeper into the Docks as a group.

I think… it’s been a while since Taylor got to walk anywhere as part of a group in any positive sense.

While I had lived on the periphery of the area my entire life, and while most people would say the neighborhood I lived in was part of the ‘Docks’, I had never really been in the areas that gave this part of the city such a bad reputation. At least, I hadn’t if I discounted last night, and it had been dark then.

I can imagine her dad wouldn’t be happy about her going there, so I totally buy her not having been there before the night he couldn’t stop her.

It wasn’t an area that had been kept up, and kind of gave off an impression of a ghost town, or what a city might look like if war or disaster forced people to abandon it for a few years.

Did something seriously destructive actually happen there at one point, or is it purely a result of the poor economy in the area? With so many powerful capes around town, it’s not far-fetched to think that a particularly destructive battle could leave an area practically in ruins for a few decades.

Grass and weeds grew between slats in the sidewalk, the road had potholes you could hide a cat in, and the buildings were all faded, consisting of peeling paint, cracked mortar and rusty metal. The desaturated colors of the buildings were contrasted by splashes of vividly colored graffiti. As we passed what had once been a main road for the trucks traveling between the warehouses and the docks, I saw a row of power lines without wires stretching between them. At one point weeds had crawled most of the way up the poles, only to wither and die at some point. Now each of the poles had a mess of dead brown plants hanging off of them.

Wildbow really knows how to describe a run-down and ruined city area like this. This is very vivid.

There were people, too, though not too many were out and about. There were those you expected, like a homeless bag lady with a grocery cart and a shirtless old man with a beard nearly to his navel, collecting bottles and cans from a dumpster.

Pretty standard stuff, I suppose.

There were others that surprised me. I saw a woman that looked surprisingly normal, in clothes that weren’t shabby enough to draw attention, herding four near-identical infant children into a factory building with a faded sign.

Not shabby enough to draw attention, unless you’re in a location where shabby is the norm.

I wondered if they were living there or if the mom was working there and just couldn’t do anything with her kids but bring them with her.

Or maybe she’s cloning kids to work at her insidious factory!

We passed a twenty-something artist and his girlfriend, sitting on the sidewalk with paintings propped up around them. The girl waved at Lisa as we walked by, and Lisa waved back.

Hm, interesting. This implies that Lisa spends enough time here to form bonds with (as far as we know) civilian Dock residents, which might mean she actually lives in the Docks full time.

Our destination was a red brick factory with a massive sliding metal door locked shut by a coil of chain. Both the chain and door had rusted so much that I expected that neither offered any use.

Because of course you can’t enter the hideout through the door! That would be boring.

The size of the door and the broadness of the driveway made me think that large trucks or small boats would have been backed up through the entryway back in the factory’s heyday.

Hopefully the boats would actually fit.

The building itself was large, stretching nearly half the block, two or three stories tall. The background of the sign at the top of the building had faded from red to a pale orange-pink, but I could make out the bold white letters that read ‘Redmond Welding’.

That could work as a human name. “My name is Redmond Welding; nice to meet you.”

Brian let us in through a small door on the side of the building, rather than the big rusted one.

Oh. It is just a door.

The interior was dark, lit only by rows of dusty windows near the ceiling. I could make out what had been massive machines and treadmills prior to being stripped to their bare bones. Sheets covered most of the empty and rusted husks. Seeing the cobwebs, I reached out with my power and felt bugs throughout. Nobody had been active in here for a long time.

Except the Undersiders, right?

“Come on,” Brian urged me. I looked back and saw that he was halfway up a spiral staircase in the corner. I headed up after him.

I guess they use a smaller room in the building?

After seeing the desolation of the first floor, seeing the second floor was a shock. It was a loft, and the contrast was startling. The exterior walls were red brick, and there was no ceiling beyond a roof and a skeleton of metal girders overhead to support it. In terms of general area, the loft seemed to have three sections, though it was hard to define because it was such an open layout.

Sounds like a nice little hideout. Did the Undersiders renovate it themselves?

The staircase opened up into what I would have termed the living room, though the one room alone had nearly as much floor space as the ground floor of my house did.

Oh wow. Well, I mean, she did say the building was huge.

The space was divided by two couches, which were set at right angles from one another, both facing a coffee table and one of the largest television sets I had ever seen.

The Undersiders have this weird contrast thing going on between low budget and really damn high budget. I guess they all started out low-budget, and then this mysterious boss came along and started paying them massively, and since then they’ve prioritized certain things over others, resulting in a bit of a mishmash.

Below the television set were a half dozen video game consoles, a DVD player and one or two machines I didn’t recognize. I supposed they might have a TiVo, though I’d never seen one.

The more this place is described, the more I get the sense that they all live there full time.

Speakers larger than the TVs my dad and I had at home sat on either side of the whole setup. Behind the couches were tables, some open space with rugs and shelves set against the walls. The shelves were only half filled with books and magazines, while the rest of the shelf space was filled with odds and ends ranging from a discarded shoe to candles.

Heh, that’s nice.

The second section was a collection of rooms. It was hard to label them as such, though, because they were more like cubicles, three against each wall with a hallway between them. They were a fair size, and there were six doors, but the walls of each room were only eight or so feet tall, not reaching all the way up to the roof.

Hm… Not sure what to make of these. Perhaps they used to be offices for the higher-ups at the factory?

Three of the doors had artwork spray painted on them. The first door had a crown done in a dramatic graffiti style. The second door had the white silhouette of a man and a woman against a blue background, mimicking the ‘mens’ and ‘womens’ washroom signs that were so common. The third had a girl’s face with puckered lips. I wondered what the story was, there.

Did the Undersiders do this, or were some of the, uh, installments there when they came along?

The dramatic crown sounds like it would be Regent’s work. I’m guessing that’s his bedroom or something of that sort. By extension that would imply that the others have their own rooms. The washroom one is kind of throwing me off on that one, though – I don’t know how that could tie into any of the othe Undersiders. Another issue is that there are only three marked doors.

But if there is something to that thought, I’m guessing the puckered lips one is probably Tattletale’s.

“Nice art,” I said, pointing at the door with the crown on it, feeling kind of dumb for making it the first thing I’d said as I entered the room.

“Thanks,” Alec replied. I guess that meant it was his work.

Well, that’s one thing confirmed.

I took another second to look around. The far end of the loft, the last of the three sections, had a large table and some cabinets. Though I couldn’t take a better look without crossing the whole loft, I gathered that their kitchen was in the far end of the loft.

Ah, right, if they’re living here, they’re going to need that.

Hm, I think I have a solution for why there are only three marked doors. Back during Taylor’s research, we learned that two of the Undersiders were brought in from other towns, and that Rachel was homeless. I’ve forgotten who the two out-of-town members were, but that accounts for why three of them wouldn’t have other places to stay – or two of them, if Rachel was one of the two from out of town.

That leaves one member who probably had and possibly still has a different place to stay at night. I think this odd one out might have been Grue? Actually, why don’t I go back and check.

Hm… I can’t find the thing about two of them being from out of town. Did I imagine it? It seems Rachel is from Maine, at least.

Anyway, what this was supposed to boil down to was that maybe one of them has a place to go home to other than the factory.

Throughout, there was mess. I felt almost rude for paying attention to it, but there were pizza boxes piled on one of the tables, two dirty plates on the coffee table in front of the couch, and some clothes draped over the back of one of the couches. I saw pop cans – or maybe beer cans – stacked in a pyramid on the table in the far room. It wasn’t so messy that I thought it was offensive, though. It was mess that made a statement… like, ‘This is our space.’ No adult supervision here.

That is absolutely the impression I’m getting from this whole place too.

“I’m jealous,” I admitted, meaning it.

“Dork,” Alec said, “What are you jealous for?”

“I meant it’s cool,” I protested, a touch defensively.


Lisa spoke before Alec could reply, “I think what Alec means is that this is your place now too. This is the team’s space, and you’re a member of the team, now.”

Oh yeah!

I honestly don’t think it has fully sunk in for Taylor yet.

“Oh,” I said, feeling dumb. Lisa and Alec headed to the living room, while Brian walked off to the far end of the loft. When Lisa gestured for me to follow her, I did. Alec lay down, taking up an entire couch, so I sat on the opposite end of the couch from Lisa.

“The rooms,” Lisa said, “Far side, in order of closest to farthest, are Alec, bathroom, mine.”

Of course it’s a bathroom

How could anyone ever think otherwise, am I right? Ehehe…

That meant Alec’s room was the one with the crown, and Lisa’s door had the face with the puckered lips.

At least I called those two!

She went on, “On the side closer to us, Rachel’s room, Rachel’s dogs’ room, and the storage closet.”

D’aw, the dogs have their own room, that’s cute.

Lisa paused, then glanced at Alec and asked, “You think she-”

“Duh,” Alec cut her off.

“What?” I asked, feeling lost.

“We’ll clean out the storage closet,” Lisa decided, “So you have a room.”

I was kind of expecting this to happen (although I had assumed some of the rooms were empty). I doubt Taylor will accept, though.

Also I notice Grue doesn’t have a room here.

I was taken aback. “You don’t have to do that for me,” I told her, “I’ve got a place.”

Yeah, thought so.

Lisa made a face, almost pained. She asked me, “Can we just do it anyways, and not make a fuss? It’d be a lot better if you had your own space here.”

Hm? Why?

I must have looked confused, because Alec explained, “Brian has an apartment, and was pretty firm about not needing or wanting a room here… but he and Lisa have been arguing regularly because of it. He has nowhere to sleep but the couch if he gets hurt and can’t go to his place, and there’s no place to put his stuff, so it gets left all over. Take the room. You’ll be doing us a favor.”

Ahh, yeah, that makes sense.

Though of course, now that they’re clearing out the storage closet, there are going to be even fewer places to put Grue’s stuff.

“Okay,” I said. I added, “Thank you,” as much for the explanation as for the room itself.

“Last time he went up against Shadow Stalker, he came back here and bled all over a white couch,” Lisa groused, “nine hundred dollar couch and we had to replace it.”

“Fucking Shadow Stalker,” Alec commiserated.


“Nice couch for sale; white and red.”

Wait, weren’t the couches they’ve got now red? *checks* Ah, no, didn’t say. For now I’m going to headcanon that they are – the Undersiders having learned from their mistakes.

Brian came back from the other end of the loft, raising his voice to be heard as he approached, “Rache’s not here, and neither are her dogs. She must be walking them or working. Dammit. I get stressed when she’s out.” He approached the couches and saw Alec sprawled on the one.

Why do you get stressed? That’s a bit of an odd reaction. Is it protectiveness, and if so, of whom? Rachel seems a bit more unhinged than the rest; Brian might be scared of her doing something rash.

“Move your legs,” Brian told him.

“I’m tired. Sit on the other couch,” Alec mumbled, one arm over his face.

Brian glanced at Lisa and I, and Lisa scooted over to make room. Brian glared down at Alec and then sat between us girls. I shifted my weight and tucked one leg under me to give him room.

Alec isn’t the nicest individual, and generally seems to be a little bit arrogant? I’m not quite sure yet – his character is still not very easy to pin down.

That might be a good thing.

“So,” Brian explained, “Here’s the deal. Two grand a month, just to be a member of the team. That means you help decide what jobs we do, you go on the jobs, you stay active, you’re available if we need to call.”

“I don’t have a phone,” I admitted.

The Undersiders could easily buy her one, or they might use other means of communication when they “call”.

“We’ll get you one,” he said, like it wasn’t even a concern. It probably wasn’t.

Yeah, exactly.

“We generally haul in anywhere from ten grand to thirty-five grand for a job. That gets divided four ways… five ways now that you’re on the team.”

I nodded, then exhaled slowly, “It’s not small change.”

Lots a dough.

Brian nodded, a small smile playing on his lips, “Nope. Now, how on the ball are you, as far as knowing what we’re up against?”

I blinked a few times, then hedged, “For other local capes? I’ve done research online, read the cape magazines religiously for a few years, more since getting my powers… but I dunno. If the past twenty four hours have taught me anything, it’s that there’s a lot I don’t know, and will only find out the hard way.”

It’s good that Taylor is recognizing that some things are not learned through indirect research.

Brian smiled. I mean, really smiled. It made me think of a boy rather than a nearly-grown man. He replied, “Most don’t get that, you know? I’ll try to share what I know, so you aren’t caught off guard, but don’t be afraid to ask if there’s anything you’re not sure about, alright?”

Excellent. This is good for both Taylor and the readers.

I nodded, and his smile widened. He said, through a good natured chuckle, “Can’t tell you how much of a relief it is that you take this stuff seriously, since some people -” he stopped to lean over and kick the side of the couch Alec was lying on, “-need me to twist their arms to get them listening, and some people,” he jerked his thumb over his right shoulder, “think they know everything.”


“I do know everything,” Lisa said, “It’s my power.”

“What?” I said, interrupting Brian. My heartbeat quickened, though I hadn’t exactly been relaxed to begin with, “You’re omniscient?”

Lisa laughed, “No, no. I do know things though. My power tells me stuff.”

That much, I had figured out. But how? How does it tell her? How does it find out? What are its limits?

Swallowing hard, hoping I wasn’t drawing attention by doing so, I asked, “Like?” Like why I was joining their team?

Honestly, Taylor, I’m not sure you really know that. You think you’re doing it for information, but I think deep down you’re doing it for friendship.

Lisa sat forward and put her elbows on her knees, “Like how I knew you were at the library when I sent me the messages. If I felt like it, and if I had the know how, I’m sure I could have figured it out by breaking into the website database and digging through the logs to find the address you connected from, but my power just let me skip that step like that.” She snapped her fingers.

“And why exactly did you mention you knew where she was?” Brian queried, his voice a touch too calm.

“I wanted to see how she’d react. Messing with her a little,” Lisa grinned.

Which implies she would know how the reaction went, too. Maybe even literally “see” it.

“God dammit-” Brian started, but Lisa waved him off.

“I’m filling the newbie in,” she waved him off, “Yell at me later.”

“Priorities, Brian!”

Not giving him a chance to reply, she turned to me and explained, “My power fills in the gaps in my knowledge. I generally need some info to start from, but I can use details my power feeds me to figure out more stuff, and it all sort of compounds itself, giving me a steady flow of info.”

This! This is the itch that has needed scratching for about eight or so chapters!

I swallowed, “And you knew that a cape was on the way last night?”

“Yeah,” she said, “Call it a well educated guess.”

“And you knew the stuff about what happened in the PHQ the same way?”

Lisa’s smile widened, “I’ll admit I cheated there. Figuring out passwords is pretty easy with my power. I dig through the PHQ’s digital paperwork and enjoy a little reality TV by way of their surveillance cameras when I’m bored. It’s useful because I’m not only getting the dirt from what I see, hear and read, but my power fills in the details on stuff like changes in their routine and the team politics.”

Daamn, surveillance hacking plus!

I stared at her, a good part of me horrified that I’d gotten into an undercover situation opposite a girl with superpowered intuition.

Yeah, Taylor, you kind of stepped in it with that one!

Taking my silence for awe, she grinned her vulpine smile, “It’s not that amazing. I’m really best with concrete stuff. Where things are, timing, encryption, yadda yadda. I can read something out of changes in body language or routine, but it’s less reliable and kind of a headache. Enough information overload without, you know?”

At least that’s good for Taylor, that Lisa doesn’t like to focus on the behavioral side, which would definitely let her know something was up.

Although that side of things is presumably how she figured out that Taylor was being shy in 2.5.

I did know, her explanation echoed my own thoughts regarding my ability to see and hear things through my bugs. Still, her words didn’t make me feel that much better.

I actually considered mentioning that just now, but it seems the story is doing it for me.

“And,” Brian said, still glowering at Lisa, “Even if she knows a lot, that doesn’t mean Lisa can’t be a dumbass sometimes.”

Lisa punched him in the arm.


“So what are your powers then?” I asked Brian and Alec, hoping for a change in topic.

They didn’t get a chance to tell me.


I heard barking from downstairs.

Oh boy, Rachel’s back! This… could go quite a few ways.

A matter of heartbeats later I was standing, three paces from the couch. Three snarling dogs had me backed against the wall, drool flying from their mouths as their teeth gnashed and snapped for my hands and face.

And that’s one of the worse ones.

End of Insinuation 2.7

A warm welcome! Except from one considerably less happy customer.

This chapter was exactly what I would’ve expected it to be if it had been 3.1 instead: Taylor being introduced to the Undersiders’ rather cozy home and being treated as one of them. It’s also becoming more and more clear how much Taylor actually needs this, and my hopes that she’ll stay permanently are now even stronger than before.

It wasn’t a particularly hectic chapter, exactly, but it was a nice one. Cozy, like their base, if that makes any sense.

Things appear to be getting a bit less cozy in the next chapter, though, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this new situation plays out in 2.8!

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