Agitation 3.4: Opening Up

Source material: Worm, Agitation 3.4

Originally blogged: May 13, 2017


So what is Taylor gonna get up to while waiting for the bank robbery that she doesn’t want to do? It’s still two days away, if I remember correctly. I guess we might be in for a few chapters of development of the Undersiders and/or the Harpy situation. Even if the school is grossly incompetent, at some point they’ve got to start informing Danny that Taylor’s been missing classes, so maybe that’s a thing.

I don’t think we’re going to skip more than a day – the largest gap so far has been between 1.2 and 1.3, from Friday to Sunday night, and in that case, it was entirely believable that nothing noteworthy happened on Saturday.

I guess the story might still surprise me. One way to find out!


“I’ll be there. Yes-” I saw a light in the living room window and put my hand over the lower half of my cell phone while I briefly investigated. Damn, my dad was home. I put the phone to my ear, “I’m sorry, I’ve got to run. No. No. Look-”

Hm, who is she talking to? Brian?

I suppose the Undersiders are the only ones she can talk to with that phone. Otherwise, it might come back to Danny that she has one, and then he’s gonna have questions.

As I heard the front door open, I snapped the phone shut and jammed it into my pocket. I’d apologize for hanging up later. I definitely didn’t want my dad to see the phone. I didn’t think he would stop me from owning one, but ever since my mom’s death, cell phones had carried strong negative connotations.

Oh, right. Yeah, that would be a sore spot.

That, and I’d have to explain where I got it and how I’d paid for it.

Yep. “Oh, my new friends bought it for me! They can afford it ‘cause they’re super rich ‘cause they’re superpowered criminals, isn’t that nice!”

Brian had given me three identical cell phones – all disposables – first thing in the morning,

I suppose the cell phones being disposable might come in handy.

and I’d decided to go with him to the loft rather than head to school.

So this is Wednesday, it seems, and Taylor is now repeatedly skipping school entirely. Two days in a row, seems like something the school should notify Danny about. Given that Taylor is arriving home and Danny is there, we might be in for a confrontation here.


The way I figured it, I didn’t have much of a chance of focusing on classes with Thursday’s bank robbery occupying my attention on top of the stress of just being there and waiting for the other shoe to drop as far as my skipped classes. Besides, I rationalized, it didn’t make a lot of sense to go if I knew I would be skipping again to go rob the bank.

I’m surprised she doesn’t mention the Harpies. I guess that goes along with “the stress of just being there and waiting for the other shoe to drop as far as my skipped classes”?

I’d promised myself I would go the day after tomorrow. Face the music.

More like a cacophony, really.


I’d spent the day with the group. Rachel had been out of the apartment, the others weren’t specific on why and I wasn’t interested enough to risk looking too curious by asking.

I feel like Rachel just values her alone time, but there might be something more to it.

So it had just been me, Brian, Alec and Lisa. We’d hammered out the fine details of the robbery and I had decided what weapons I wanted Lisa to ask the boss for. I had elected for both a combat knife and a telescoping police baton.

Ooh, interesting choices.

If Taylor were the type to name inanimate objects, I’m pretty sure the knife would be the Stinger. Gotta keep that bug theme going, y’know?

As for the telescoping baton:

why is it so hard to find a good gif of Chat Noir extending his baton?


Basically what I’m saying is that Taylor continues to remind me of the protagonists of Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Chat Noir in various ways.

She’s got the design capabilities and self image issues of Marinette, the resourcefulness and bug theme of Ladybug, the loneliness of Adrien and the escapism, the “evil-associated power used for good” thing and now the extendable baton of Chat Noir.

Sort of, anyway. There are differences within these similarities, like how Chat Noir’s extendable baton is indefinitely extendable and doubles as a phone. Baby steps, though.


The knife would serve for emergencies and those people who were just too tough to hurt with the baton. The baton, twenty one inches long when fully extended, was for more general use, offering more clout than I’d otherwise get with my fists. Lisa had promised I would have them for tomorrow.

Nice.

After that, we kind of avoided the subject of the robbery, by some unspoken agreement. It wouldn’t do to overthink it or risk getting too nervous.

I appreciate this retrospective summary. What I’m being told here would make for one long, tedious chapter if it were written like the previous one.

Either way, I had felt a need to burn some nervous energy, so I had helped clear out the storage closet around lunchtime, with Lisa and Brian’s help.

“Time for lunch! Let’s go eat the contents of the storage closet.”

“Oh, you’ve been storing food in there?”

“No.”


[Discord] Krixhond:

Why is it so hard to find a good gif of Chat Noir extending his baton

I’ve found a total of one where he’s extending it at all

And why are there so many results showing the kiss from Dark Cupid when searching for “chat noir baton extending” gifs

which baton is he extending


Having tired ourselves out, we’d all collapsed on the couches and watched some of Alec’s movies from Earth-Aleph, the alternate Earth that our Earth had been communicating with since Professor Haywire tore a hole between realities.

Um

Is

Is she kidding, describing the setting of the movies, or is that canon now?

Alrighty then! The world might have contacted an alternate reality or it’s the setting of a movie series and I genuinely can’t tell which it is.

Media was one of the few things that could be traded back and forth through the hole.

It’s the former. Huh. Alright!

Long story short, you could get books, movies and DVDs of TV shows from the other world, if you were willing to accept the price tag. The benefit? I got to spend the afternoon seeing how the other universe had handled episodes one and two of the Star Wars films.

Pfft, are they any better?

Honestly though? Episode I is in my opinion the most enjoyable Star Wars movie other than VII. Then again, I’ve only seen it once or twice, so maybe I remember it as being better than it deserves.

I guess I just look for different qualities in movies than the average Star Wars fan.

Fact: they were still pretty disappointing.

Ahahahaha

Some things are just universal constants, like for example John Cusack.

(#Star Wars #Homestuck

#yes there’s homestuck in this post

#the john cusack thing is a homestuck reference)


By the time my dad got in,

Looks like it’s back to the present!

I had pork chops defrosted, dusted with lemon and pepper and sitting in a frying pan, with vegetables in the microwave. Cooking was sort of something you started doing when you had only one parent, unless you really, really liked takeout.

I suppose it’s either that or leave all of it to one person, and that’s not something that one person would appreciate in most cases.

“Heya,” my dad greeted me, “Smells good.”

“I started dinner a bit early because I have somewhere I want to be, tonight, If that’s cool?”

He tried to hide it, but I could see a bit of disappointment. “Of course,” he said, “Your new friends?”

I nodded.

“I’ll be there.” at the beginning of the chapter wasn’t about the robbery, then.

Danny is presumably disappointed that he won’t be spending the evening with Taylor, though I’d imagine he’s at least a little happy that Taylor claims to have made friends and is spending time with them. Still, there’s probably also doubt, doubt that the friends are people who can be trusted not to mess with Taylor, if they even exist.

…I wonder how the Undersiders would act if Taylor introduced them to her dad?


“Let me get changed and then I’ll ask you all about them,” he promised as he headed upstairs.

Oh boy, this could get interesting.

Great. I hadn’t had to answer these questions last night because my dad had been working late. My mind started racing to anticipate questions and come up with plausible details. Should I use their real names? Or at least, the names they had given me? I wasn’t sure if that would be a breach of trust. I decided to use their real names for much the same reason I’d decided to use my own with them. It just prevented disasters if my dad ever happened to meet them, which was a terrifying thought, or if they called for me.

Seems like a good call.

I don’t think it would be a breach of trust, since these are the names they’d go by as civilians anyway. If someone befriended them and didn’t know they were parahumans, that person would also tell their parents or whomever the civilian names. It’s only a breach of trust if you connect the identities.

I didn’t need to worry about my dad hearing about four kids being arrested, all of whom had the same name as my ‘friends’, since most or all of them were minors and their names would be kept from the media under the law.

…Taylor thinks of everything.

I was also under the impression that the courts didn’t always unmask capes when they arrested them. I wasn’t entirely sure what was up with that. It seemed like something to ask Lisa about.

Huh, that’s odd. Corruption?


By the time my dad had come back downstairs, I’d resolved to try and keep my lies as close to the truth as possible. It would be easiest to keep everything straight that way. That, and I hated lying to my dad.

Yeah, “almost true” usually leaves fewer details to get busted on.

My dad had changed out of his dress shirt and khakis, into a t-shirt and jeans. He mussed up my hair and then took over the last bit of the cooking. I sat down at the table so I could talk to him.

“So what’s going on?” he asked.

“Nothing big, just robbing a bank tomorrow. How about you, anything new happen at work?”

I shrugged. I hated feeling this tense around my dad. He’d never bugged me about the bullying, so I’d always been able to come home and sort of let my guard drop. I couldn’t do that now, because I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop as far as my skipped classes,

Second time using that exact phrase in this chapter. Can’t blame Wildbow for that, though, I’d do exactly the same thing. Both in writing and in speech.

and my new ‘friends’ brought a whole mess of secrets and lies into the mix as well. I felt like I was on the verge of a terminal breach of trust. One mistake or a single concerned phone call from the school, and my dad would probably flip, and things wouldn’t be the same between us for a long time.

Parahumanning is risky business when it comes to trust.

And yes, parahumanning is totally a word. It’s like humanning, but para.


“Are you going to tell me their names?” he asked. He set the food on plates and brought it to the table.

“Brian, Lisa, Alec, Rachel,” I confessed, “They’re alright. Get along with most of them.”

I’ve mentioned before how Taylor only sometimes refers to Rachel as Rachel in the narration, whereas she almost always respects the names of the others. Imagine if she had slipped up here…

“Brian, Lisa, Alec, Bitch. They’re alright. Get along with most of them.”

“Where did you meet them? School?”

I shook my head, “I wanted to get away from school for a bit, so I caught a bus downtown to catch a bit of a break. I ran into them at the library.” Partial truths.

Not bad, Taylor.

You couldn’t really catch a bus downtown and back during the lunch break – I’d tried, when I was avoiding the trio – but I doubted my dad would research that. I did sort of cross paths with the Undersiders at the library, though.

If anyone tries to tell you what happens online isn’t real, fuck that.


“They go to the library at lunch? What are they like?”

“Brian’s pretty cool. He’s the one I’ve talked to the most.”

“A boy, eh?” My dad wiggled his eyebrows at me.

Shipper on board, matey!

Meanwhile, I can’t ever seem to waggle my eyebrows properly without feeling like it looks really stupid.

“Dad, stop! It’s not like that,” I protested. I doubted Brian had the slightest interest in me, not least because I was two or three years younger than him. Besides, well, I was me. I opted not to mention the age difference to my dad.

I can’t help but notice that she said nothing about her own interests.

Changing the subject, I said, “Lisa’s alright too. Really smart, though I haven’t talked to her all that much. It’s nice being able to hang out with another girl again, even if she’s pretty different from me.”

“If she’s smart, she can’t be that much different from you.”

Nice sneaky compliment, Danny, though not all smart people are alike!

I could’ve kicked myself. I couldn’t explain she was a bad guy, while I was an aspiring superhero, or exactly how she was ‘smart’. I’d talked myself into a minor corner where I didn’t have an answer ready, and I needed to avoid doing that. Fumbling for an answer, I said, “She’s only a year older than me, and she’s graduated high school already.” That was the truth. She cheated, but she did technically graduate.

Heh, well played.


My dad smiled, “Impressive. Tell me they’re all excellent students that can serve as good role models for you.”

I could have choked. Good role models? Them? I kept my composure and limited myself to a little smile and a shake of the head, “Sorry.”

Hehe.

I could see Brian and maybe Lisa to some extent being good role models, but Alec and Rachel are a whole other issue.

“Alec is the youngest, I think. Kinda hard to connect with. He’s an amazing artist, from what I’ve seen, but I don’t really see him draw.

Oh yeah, the bedroom door art!

It seems kind of hard to get him interested or involved in anything. He always looks bored.” As I said the words aloud, I realized they weren’t exactly true.

Either bored or amused.

The two times I’d seen Alec react to anything had been when he’d played his little prank on Brian, tripping him, and after Bitch and I had been fighting. A streak of schadenfreude to his personality, maybe.

Seems apt, yeah.


“And the last one? Rita? Rachel?”

Rita Skeeter?

And here I thought Taylor was the buggy one.

I hope Taylor says she’s a “dog person”.

“Yeah, Rachel. I don’t get along with her. I don’t like her.”

Well I mean, that’s… pretty much all you need to say, I guess.

Also that she’s a dog person. Come on, Taylor, you can do it.

My dad nodded, but didn’t say anything. I was halfway expecting the typical parental line of ‘maybe if you try to show interest in things she likes’ or some other inane advice. My dad didn’t pull that on me, he just took another bite of pork chop.

Danny knows Taylor too well for that kind of thing.

I elaborated a bit, to fill the silence, “She wants things her way, and when she doesn’t get that, she gets mean. I dunno. I get enough of that at school, you know?”

“I know,” my dad said. It was a good lead-in for him to question me about what was going on at school, but he didn’t take it. He stayed quiet.

I guess Danny doesn’t want to rip open those particular wounds while Taylor is telling him about her new friends.


I felt immensely grateful, right then. My dad was respecting the boundaries I’d set, not pushing, not digging for more. It made this conversation so much easier that it might otherwise have been, and I knew it couldn’t be that easy for him.

Yeah, that too. Danny knows Taylor doesn’t want to talk about it, and respects that.

I felt like I owed him something for that. Sighing, I admitted, “Like, at school. The, uh, the people who’re giving me a hard time? They sort of ganged up on me on Monday. Just, you know, taking turns insulting me. It’s why I needed to get away and went downtown.”

Woah! I know she wanted to be honest, but I wasn’t expecting this level of opening up.

I felt embarrassed, saying it, because it was humiliating enough to live through without having to recap it, and because it felt so disconnected from the rest of the conversation. But if I didn’t say it right then, I don’t think I would’ve been able to.

Sometimes you have to take the moment. Taylor is absolutely the type to overthink things at times, and if you think about saying something like this for more than a moment, it’s easy to back down.

My dad sort of went still. I could see him compose himself and choose his words before he asked, “Not to diminish how much it sucks to get put down like that, but they didn’t do anything else?”

I raised my eyebrows in question as I chewed. They had, kind of, but I couldn’t really say ‘They used Mom’s death to fuck with my head’ without having to explain the Emma thing.

“HOLY SHIT SHE’S OPENING UP TO ME WHAT DO I SAY DO I ASK FOLLOW-UPS WHAT DO I DO”

But yeah, this is an important step. Taylor may have to distance her dad from new parts of her life, but she can bring him closer to the old ones.


“Anything like what happened in January?” he asked.

The noodles remain strong in this one.

I lowered my eyes to my plate, then shook my head. After a few moments I said, “No. January was a one time thing. They’ve pulled smaller ‘pranks’ since then, hassled me, but no repeat performances on that front.” I made air quotes with my fingers as I said ‘pranks’.

what happened in January

“Okay,” my dad said, quietly, “That’s a relief to know.”

I didn’t feel like sharing any more.

That’s fair. Take it at your own pace.

You’d think I would feel better, after opening up, but I didn’t. I felt frustrated, angry, awkward. It was a reminder that I couldn’t have a real conversation with my dad like I used to be able to. More than anything, I felt guilty. Part of the guilt was because I’d apparently let my dad think that every time I was bullied, it was like it had been that day, nearly four months ago, when things had been at their worst. I stabbed at a bit of fat with my fork.

Yikes, yeah, that can’t feel good, for either of them. The bullying is bad enough as it is, and here Danny had been worrying over it being way worse.

Hopefully this moment will help Danny feel a little bit better. In Interlude 1, he was feeling awful about not being able to do anything about the bullying and the fact that Taylor wasn’t opening up to him, and now Taylor has opened up to him, just a little, and explained that while bad, it wasn’t as bad as he thought.


“When were you going out?” My dad asked. I glanced at the digital clock on the stove and noted the time.

I was glad for the excuse to escape, “Now? Is that okay? I won’t be long.”

“Meeting your friends?” he asked.

“Just going to meet Lisa for coffee and conversation, away from the rest of the group,” I told him as I stood up and moved my plate to the sink. The lie was heavier on my conscience after the open disclosure I’d just had with him.

Given the approach Taylor took to the rest of this conversation, I suppose it is only Lisa, but not just “coffee and conversation”.

“Here, wait,” he said. He stood up and fished in his pocket for his wallet. He handed me a ten, “For the coffee. Sorry I don’t have more. Have fun?”

I hugged him, feeling painfully guilty, then headed to the back door to pull my shoes on. I was just opening the door when I barely heard him say, “Thank you.”

Thank you. Thank you for opening up to me. Thank you for letting me know what they’ve been doing to you wasn’t as bad as January. Thank you for being my daughter.

“Love you, Dad.”

“I love you too. Be safe.”

Honestly, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see the chapter end here. There appears to be more, though.

I shut the door, grabbed the gym bag I’d stashed under the back steps and headed around the house at a light jog. I held the gym bag low so my dad wouldn’t see me carrying it.

Ooh, meeting in costume, are we?

I took the same general route I took on my morning runs, heading east, towards the Bay. This time, though, instead of turning up towards the Boardwalk, I headed south.

Let’s see if my impression of the Docks being south of the Boardwalk is accurate.

Back in its heyday, every inch of the city had been a bustling metropolis. Ships were coming and going at all hours, trains were coming through to deliver goods to be shipped overseas and the city teemed with people. The northern end of the bay – especially the area close to the water – was all about the industry. Ships, warehouses, factories, railroad and the homes for everyone who worked those jobs. You also had the ferry running across the bay itself.

That sounds like the Docks, meaning it’s north of the Boardwalk. Then what’s south?

The ferry was my dad’s pet project. Apparently, it had been one of the first things to go when the import/export dried up. With the ferry gone, the Docks had sort of been cut off from the rest of the city, unless you were willing to drive for an extra half hour to an hour.

Wait, haven’t you been going there on foot?

I suppose she did take the bus a few of those times, but as late as a few chapters ago, she walked straight from the Boardwalk to the Docks. Right?

My dad held the opinion that the lack of that transportation to the rest of the city was why the Docks had become what they were today. He believed that if the ferry were to start running again, jobs would be created, the people in the low income neighborhoods would have more access to the rest of the city, and the low-class, high-class, no-middle-class dynamic of Brockton Bay would smooth out.

He’s probably right about that, at least partially. If people can’t get to work easily, they look for work elsewhere, and then the businesses get in trouble.


So when I’d been trying to think of a place that was fairly private but easy to find, I thought of the ferry. I could probably thank my dad for the idea.

So I suppose the ferry is left at the southern end of the bay, then.

I approached the station and found a disused restroom to change into my costume.

The building and the ferry itself were well kept, at least on the outside, which was one of the reasons my dad felt it would take so little effort to get things going again.

I wish I could say the same about the old school building here.

Still, that wasn’t the city’s issue. They didn’t want to provide the addicts and the gangbangers easy access to to the rest of the city, all the while paying to provide the service, for mere hopes of maybe getting improvements for the future.

…hm, fair enough. Though them getting access to the features of the city might help them too.

So the city kept the station and the ferry looking pretty for any tourists that wandered far enough south from the Boardwalk and maintained eternal ‘temporarily out of service’ and ‘coming soon’ signs up around the building and in the brochures.

This reminds me of defunct webcomics, eternally on “hiatus”.


Aside from the regular replacements to keep them looking new, the signs hadn’t been taken down in nearly a decade.

Pfft.

I mean, at least if it ever gets back up and running, “temporarily” will become retroactively true. There’s no hope for “coming soon” though, unless you’ve got a very skewed sense of time.

I ignored the doors to the station’s interior, and instead headed up the stairs to the outdoor patio that overlooked the bay.

Ooh, sounds like there’d be a very nice view here. Especially before the Docks on the other side became the run-down mess they are today.

There were some large panes of glass to break the wind, and stone tables and benches for those wanting to sit to eat. It was one of the best vantage points for seeing the PHQ in all its splendor.

Oh, right, the Protectorate Headquarters are out in the bay! I forgot about that. Weren’t they floating over it, even?

The headquarters was a series of arches and spires mounted on a retrofitted oil rig. Even the platform it was built on was beautiful, though, with hard edges and sweeping lines.

An oil platform is kind of like a floating island…

The entire thing was lit up by tinted spotlights and set against a faint corona of shifting colors, like the aurora borealis trapped in the shape of a soap bubble. A forcefield, forever on, shielding the people who watched over Brockton Bay.

That sounds really, really cool.

I live far enough north to see the northern lights from time to time in the winter. By no means often, though.

If you ever go on a trip to even northerner Norway, or even to Svalbard, to go on one of those guided aurora-hunting trips they have up there, be prepared for the fact that you quite likely will not get to see one. They aren’t as common as they’re sometimes presented as being. (Especially if you go to mainland Norway in the summer or Svalbard in the winter.)


“Wasn’t sure if you would show up,” a male voice broke the silence.

I turned to face Armsmaster, “I’m sorry. I had to hang up on your receptionist. Real life called.”

Oh shit, hi there, Nathan F–, I mean, Armsmaster.

Not who I expected.

Are you going to inform him about the bank robbery and your undercover mission? Because that’s actually a good idea that prevents a few of the complications I was half expecting, half hoping would come up during the robbery.

He looked somehow different than the first time I’d met him. His lips were set in a hard line, his feet set further apart. His arms were folded across his chest with his Halberd in one hand, the pole resting against his shoulder. It conveyed such a different attitude that I momentarily wondered if he was the same person under the suit.

Huh. He seems quite a bit more business this time. I wonder what changed? Have the Protectorate been keeping an eye on Taylor and seen her interacting with the Undersiders?

Or maybe he’s just wary of the fact that she’s a teenage girl who can rot a man’s dick off.

“I need to call in a favor.”

“Could you ask the Wards to not pay too much attention to this one bank tomorrow? No particular reason.”


End of Agitation 3.4

That was a good chapter. There’s an alternate universe with slightly different movies, Danny learned about the Undersiders, Taylor opened up a little about the Harpies, the two had a heavily emotion-laden moment as Taylor left, for a surprise (to me) second meeting with Armsmaster at the end. It was all executed very well.

I suspect the next chapter will skip the rest of Taylor and Armsy’s conversation and get us started on the bank robbery, which will end up going way more smoothly than the other Undersiders had expected. At least at first. Maybe Shadow Stalker will decide to show up anyway.

See ya then!


[postscript]

What if the alternate universe, home to Earth-Aleph, was like our universe up until the point where the hole between realities appeared, and the Star Wars movies Taylor found to be “still pretty disappointing” were our version of them? Remember, the movies in question came out almost 20 years after the existence of parahumans became publicly known in Taylor’s ‘verse.

I bet Wormverse George Lucas would still decide to answer the question nobody asked though.

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