Source material: Worm, Insinuation 2.9
Originally blogged: March 19, 2017
So what is this chapter going to be about, I wonder? There are a few options – it could be about Taylor socializing with the other Undersiders, but we’ve kind of been having that for a few chapters now, especially 2.7, so it’s possible that Wildbow is about to switch things up a bit.
Maybe we’ll be learning more about their mysterious “boss” and/or how their jobs are usually done? Both of those things might be best saved for later chapters, though.
I don’t know, so I guess I’ll just start reading and find out!
As Brian and I returned to the loft, I felt more than a little apprehensive. It wasn’t just that I was going to be around Bitch again, but I was also having to face Lisa and Alec. After shouting and talking about quitting the team, I was turning around and going back. A part of me wanted to apologize, but a larger part of me felt I shouldn’t. I had been justified in everything I had said and done, right? Maybe it was just because I wasn’t used to violence or raising my voice.
I mean yeah, it was very much a valid reaction. Getting attacked by a teammate less than three hours after joining the team doesn’t exactly scream “welcome in, you’ll have a fun time here!”
As I’d feared, there was a bit of an awkward silence as we reached the top of the stairs. Bitch was sitting in a chair beside one of the tables, her dogs nowhere to be seen. As she saw me, she scowled, but didn’t say anything. Alec grinned as I came back, but I couldn’t decide if it was because he was glad or if it was at my expense. I didn’t know him well enough to guess either way.
I don’t know. My idealistic side says it’s probably the former, but realistically he’s giving me the impression of a friendly jerk, so… Maybe it’s both?
“Glad you came back,” Lisa told me, a bit of a smile on her face, “Alec, can you go get the first aid kit? It might be in the storage closet.”
Pfft, “might be”. Relatable.
While Alec did that, Brian sat me down on the arm of the couch and I pulled off my sweatshirt to get a better look at the damage. I pulled the bottom of my tank top up around my ribs to get a look at where one of the dogs had been gotten at my stomach and back.
She’s been there for like half an hour and already the clothes are coming off… *waggles eyebrows in the goofiest way possible*
My clothes had taken most of the damage, and I’d only suffered three or four shallow-ish scrapes. There was bruising and some raw areas where I felt tender, but I figured I’d recover from that in a day or two. I had a cut on my ear, which would be harder to hide, but I was pretty sure I could keep the incident from my dad without him raising hell.
If he sees it he’s probably going to think the Harpies did it.
There was only one spot of real damage, a puncture where it looked like a fang had buried itself deep in the top of my forearm and then dragged an inch or so down towards my wrist as it made its exit. The area around it was already turning colors with bruising. I wasn’t sure how deep the puncture was, but I was pretty sure it should have been hurting more than it did. The blood from the injury had trickled down my arm, and was still welling out.
“Christ,” I said, mostly to myself.
Might want to get that looked at. It would be unfortunate if it got infected.
“should have been hurting more than it did” – maybe I’m reading too much into it, but could this be early foreshadowing of a slight healing factor? I don’t see how that would tie into the bug power, though, and we do know that capes are at least somewhat neatly categorizable despite the variety of (thematically connected) powers Lung had.
“That was awesome, you know,” Alec told me, as he returned with the first aid kit, “I didn’t think you had it in you to kick someone’s ass.” I glared at him, but he just sat on the back of the sofa, his legs kicking like an excited kid.
I mean… kicking someone’s ass is kind of why she’s here, but I guess he means physically, without using powers (I know she used it once during the fight, but that was only to counter Bitch’s own power, canceling the two out). I have to admit, I didn’t exactly see that coming either, but it makes sense.
“I think we’re going to clean that and stitch it. Tattle’s power should give us a better sense of whether stitches are necessary,” Brian said, quietly.
“Alright,” I agreed.
Tattle’s power is really damn useful.
I would hardly describe getting stitches as a bonding experience, but Bitch more or less stayed quiet throughout the process.
It’s a bonding experience between one side of the wound and the other!
We were both sat down and told to sit still while Brian both cleaned and sewed up the hole in my arm and the tear my kick had made in Bitch’s ear. Brian insisted I take two Tylenol, though the pain was still limited to a mild ache in my arm. I grudgingly obliged. I’d never liked taking pills, and never felt they made a real difference.
Much like authority figures?
New conspiracy theory: All authority figures are actually anthropomorphic pills in disguise
“You have first aid training?” I inquired, to make conversation and break the tense silence.
Alec complained, “We all do,
Well that word choice says a lot about how Alec views first aid.
In general, I feel like Alec doesn’t take things very seriously.
Brian made us all take a comprehensive class less than a week after we were gathered as a team. Such a pain in the ass, believe me. He’ll make you do it too.”
I wonder if Tattle’s power can help her learn practical skills more easily. I’m guessing she’d be able to know some of the background information but still need to practice to be able to do it herself.
“I already did,” I admitted, “One of the first things I did.” I jumped a little at a snarling from my left, but it was just Rachel cussing as Lisa taped a cotton pad to her ear.
“FCUK WHAT YOU ALREADY TOOK FIRST AID TRAINING WHAT THE FUCK I HATE YOU YOU BITCH”
(yes, fcuk. it ended up like that and I’m not changing it)
Brian just looked at me and flashed that boyish smile again. I looked away, embarrassed that a guy like him would get pleased like that on my account.
This may be something Taylor would feel regardless, but I do get the impression that certain feepings are being set up between Taylor and Brian. I wouldn’t complain if they were.
So what is the ship name for Brian and Taylor? Is it Braylor?
(Obviously, don’t tell me if it’s something that involves the newer name for Taylor’s bugsona (even if it is Worm, as I’ve speculated) that she wants to come up with, or other characteristics revealed after 2.9.)
With Brian gone and Lisa absorbed in trying to patch up Bitch’s ear, I was left with Alec. To make conversation, I said, “Alec. You were going to tell me what you do. You go by Regent, right?”
I need to know.
“The name is a long story, but what I do is this.” He looked over his shoulder at Brian, who was returning from the washroom with a damp washcloth in hand. Brian, mid-stride, stumbled and fell onto the floor.
Oh my fuckinf ahahaha
I swear, if his power is literally just “make people stumble”…
“Way to look good in front of the new girl, gimpy!” Alec mocked his teammate, laughing. Grateful for the break in the tension, I couldn’t help but laugh too. While Alec continued laughing, Brian got to his feet and ran up to the smaller boy, at which point he got Alec in a headlock and began punching him in the shoulder repeatedly. This abuse only made Alec laugh harder in between his cries of pain.
D’aw, they’re having fun 😀
So what’s the more technical description of what Alec just did? Is he capable of generally controlling other people’s bodies, or just tripping them up? How much control does he have?
I suppose simple telekinesis is an option too, but since when are the powers in this story that simple and generic?
Lisa turned to me, smiling at the prank and play fighting between the boys, “It’s a bit complicated to explain, but basically, Alec can get into people’s nervous systems. This lets him fire off impulses that set off reflexes or make body parts jerk into motion. It’s not a dramatic power, but with timing, he can make someone fall over midstep, drop something, lose their sense of balance or pull the trigger on a gun.”
So it’s more towards the “trip them up” end of the scale. Regent basically has body control, but he’s got to do it one impulse at a time, so controlling someone properly would be very difficult, what with how many impulses are firing in anyone’s body at any given time.
It’s like those experiments on dead frogs (or something like that) back when people were first figuring out the nervous system, when they discovered they could make the legs twitch by applying electricity. They obviously couldn’t revive the frog entirely like that.
This is an excellent power and I love it.
I nodded, absorbing the information. It sounded very underwhelming to me, but I was willing to admit I could be underestimating it.
It’s no draconic transformation, or army of bugs, or knowing things you’re not supposed to, but if you know exactly when and how to use it? It ought to be very versatile.
“Well,” I said, after a long pause, “I think I pretty much get what everyone can do, then. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Bitch can turn those dogs into those freakish monsters I saw the other night?”
Freakish? Don’t be mean to the poor little hellbeasts!
Sitting a few feet away, Bitch muttered, “They aren’t freakish.”
She loves her little doggos, yes she does!
Lisa answered my question, ignoring her. “Rachel can do it with any dog, actually,” she said, stressing the name, “And no codenames when we’re not in costume, ‘kay? Get in the habit of using the right name at the right times, and it’s that much harder to slip.”
That’s a fair point.
And yeah, I wouldn’t expect it to only be these specific dogs. In fact, when I first learned of the dogs being, well, actual dogs, I sort of worried that she might be stealing other people’s dogs for her purposes. I don’t remember if I mentioned that or not.
It was hard to think of Rachel by her real name. Bitch seemed really fitting given the stunt she had pulled. I apologized to Lisa, “Sorry.”
I have to admit I’ve also been more reluctant to switch over than for the others. Though I’ve been alternating between the names for them too.
Lisa gave a small nod in response, then told me, “She can use her power on any dog, but only Brutus, Judas and Angelica are trained well enough that they’ll listen to her when they’re pumped up.”
Oh boy, that sounds unpleasant. Hellhounds on the loose, not even listening to Rachel? Let’s hope it doesn’t also make them way more violent just by nature of the transformation.
Ah, so that was it. “And Brian makes that oily darkness that screws up your hearing. The Parahumans wiki said it was darkness generation.”
Brian smiled, “I put that into the wiki myself. It’s not wrong, but it does catch people off guard when they think they know what you can do, and there’s something more to it.”
Heh, that’s a smart move.
But Taylor, are you sure you want to admit you’ve been doing research?
Lisa added, “It’s not just hearing. It also cuts off radio signals and dampens the effects of radiation.”
Makes sense; radio signals are, after all, light.
“That’s what her power tells her, anyways. I haven’t had much chance to test that part of things. I get by as is,” Brian said.
It could be useful against security guards. Cut off the radio contact so they can’t report that someone just shrouded them in darkness.
He turned his hand palm up and created a handful of the darkness. It was like smoke, but so absolutely black that there was no texture to it. It was like someone had taken a scalpel to reality and the blackness was what was there when everything else was gone. I couldn’t even gauge the dimensions of it, unless I looked at it from a different perspective. Even then, with the way the darkness shifted and billowed like smoke, it was hard to judge the shape.
This would look pretty cool in a well-done Worm TV series, I think!
More of it just kept pouring from his hand, climbing upwards to cover the top of the room. As the light from the windows near the upper edges of the room and the florescent bars on the ceiling was cut off, the room got a great deal darker.
He closed his hand into a fist, and the darkness thinned out and disintegrated into strands and tatters, and the room brightened again.
This text-based story sure has some cool visuals.
I looked at the light coming in from the windows and was surprised it wasn’t later.
“What time is it?” I asked.
Lisa: “Oh, you’ve only been here for three chapters.”
Lisa: “I mean, uh…” *checks her power-provided internal clock*
“Nineteen minutes before five,” Lisa said. She didn’t look at a watch or a clock as she said it, which was unsettling.
I knew it!
It was a reminder that her power was constantly available to her.
Near-omniscience is still troubling for the undercover agent.
Brian asked me, “Do you have somewhere you need to be?
“Home, I guess,” I admitted, “My dad will wonder where I am.”
“Call him,” Lisa suggested, “Now that the introductions are over with, you can just hang out for a bit, if you want.”
Hm. Would Danny react with happiness, or worry, if Taylor said she’d gained friends?
The worry would be because of fear that she’s lying and is actually with the bullies, or fear that the new “friends” aren’t trustworthy.
I think… I think happiness is more likely as the immediate reaction.
“We could order pizza,” Alec suggested. Then when Lisa, Brian and Bitch all made faces, he added, “Or maybe everyone’s sick of pizza and we could order something else.”
We’ll win the fights and then go out for pizzas – WE!
“Stick around?” Brian made it a question.
I glanced at Bitch.
To be fair, she’s been relatively pacified since her defeat. Doesn’t mean Taylor has to forgive her, though.
She was sitting on the table behind one of the couches and looking like a mess, with a bloody bandage over one ear, blood smeared below her nose and lip, and a bit of green around the gills that suggested she was feeling a little worse for wear.
You did that, Taylor. If Lung wasn’t enough, here’s more proof that you can handle yourself in a fight.
With her in that state, I didn’t feel particularly threatened. Staying meant I could work to get things more copacetic and maybe dig for a bit more information. I’d also missed socializing with people – even if it was under false pretenses with a group that included an apparent sociopath. It had been a sucky day. Just chilling out sounded good.
“Okay,” I decided, “Yeah, I think I’d like to.”
“Phone’s in the kitchen if you want to call your dad,” Lisa said.
I looked over my shoulder as I headed across the loft. The others got settled on the couches, with Alec turning on the TV while Lisa and Brian took a second to clean up.
I found the phone and dialed my dad.
I bet Alec would love stuff like America’s Funniest Home Videos and other shows where people accidentally hurt themselves in comical fashion.
“Hey dad,” I said, when I heard the phone being picked up.
“Taylor. Are you alright?” He sounded worried. It wasunusual, I supposed, my not being home when he got back from work.
That said, worried seems to be Danny’s default state. Though we’ve only really seen him in situations where he was right to be worried, so that’s a bit biased.
But yeah, from Danny’s perspective, Taylor doesn’t really have any positive reasons to not be home.
“I’m fine, dad. Is it cool if I hang out with some people tonight?”
There was a pause.
“What the fuck?”
“Taylor, if there’s anyone that’s making you make this call… the bullies or someone else, tell me everything is fine. If you’re not in trouble, tell me your mother’s full name.”
Why did I decide happiness was more likely, again?
I felt momentarily embarrassed. Was it so unusual for me to hang out with people?
I knew my dad was just trying to keep me safe, but it was bordering on the ridiculous.
I don’t think Taylor really understands how the whole bully situation looks from the outside.
“Annette Rose Hebert,” I told him, “Really dad, it’s cool.”
“You’re really okay?”
My gaze roved over the kitchen, taking in the details, as I gave him my assurances.
“Better than ever. I kind of made some friends,” I said.
Are you letting it sink in why you’re really here?
My eyes settled on their dining room table. There was a stack of money, wrapped with a paper band just as the money in the lunchbox had been. Beside the money, plain as day, was the dark gray metal of a handgun.
My attention caught by the gun, I only barely caught my dad’s question. “What are they like?”
“Oh, they’re pretty cool, they live in an abandoned factory and they’re giving me a room and one of them attacked me but I kicked her ass or more accurately her ear and they have a handgun lying around and we all have superpowers and I love you dad bye”
“They seem like good people,” I lied.
End of Insinuation 2.9
That was another good chapter! Rather chill, after the violent and emotional rollercoaster of the previous chapter.
Not a lot actually happened, but we’ve learned a few things – notably we finally found out what Regent’s power is and it’s glorious – and had a very meaningful moment at the end.
On one hand, Taylor is on some level beginning to see the Undersiders (except Rachel) more as friends, but on the other, she’s very much aware of the fact that they’re still villains.
I’m very much looking forward to seeing how her impression of the Undersiders develops from here!