Shell 4.2: Shopping with Lisa

Source material: Worm, Shell 4.2
Originally blogged: June 20, 2017

Daaamn, Krixwell, back at it again with the Worm liveblogs!

(Yes, I know that’s an old meme by now, but I don’t give a damn.)

It’s time to go shopping with Tattletale! Probably. If Wildbow doesn’t decide to skip to Fugly Bob’s (still a great name btw). But I think if he was going to do that, the group splitting up probably wouldn’t get as much attention at the end of 4.1, so I’m fairly confident we’re in for some Tattletayl bonding today.

I suppose there is a chance something directly parahuman-related might happen to interrupt it, but I don’t think it’s likely. My theories haven’t changed since the End of Shell 4.1 post; I still think we might be getting one-on-one with each of the Undersiders (except Rachel) and Taylor trying to figure out who’s the second murderer.

Anyway, enough talk for this post. Let’s go shopping!

(#that’s our shortstop)

“We’re updating your wardrobe,” Lisa decided, after we’d left the boys behind.

“What’s wrong with my wardrobe?” I asked, a bit defensively.

I actually went clothes shopping today myself. Got a suit for tomorrow’s end-of-school arrangement.

“Nothing, really.  It’s just very… you.  Which is the problem.”

Pfft, criticizing Taylor’s, uh, fashion sense? …fair.

If I remember correctly, Taylor’s everyday clothes are rather simple and practical, with little to no color so as to not stick out much. It’s one of the traits that made me erroneously label Taylor as a goth in my (embarassing) Gestation 1.1 liveblog. Since then it’s become clear that it’s yet another survival mechanism against the Harpies.

Taylor showing up to school with a new, more flashy style would be another metaphorical slap in Emma’s face, showing her that she doesn’t care what the Harpies think.

“You’re a cautious person, Taylor.  I like that about you.  I think it’s an essential addition to the group dynamic,” she led me to a collection of stalls where there was a lot of women’s clothing, and quickly drew three dresses from a rack.

“Brian’s cautious.”

With people like Rachel and Alec on the team, you’re gonna need all the caution you can get.

“You and Brian are similar, but I wouldn’t say he’s cautious.  He’s… pragmatic.  You both are.  The difference between you two is that he’s been doing what he does for three years, now.  Two years of experience, before he joined the group.

Ah, I see. He knows which risks are practical to take, rather than being careful about taking risks at all.

So a lot of what he does is automatic.  He doesn’t give a second thought to the little things he’s done dozens of times already.  He takes a lot for granted.”

That could blow up in his face some day when the variables change in ways he hasn’t accounted for.

“And I don’t?”

Not really, no. Taylor puts lots of thought into almost every decision she takes, if she has time for it. If she doesn’t, that’s when the less rational and less moral side of Taylor comes out.

“You’re observant, detail oriented and focused.  More than any of the others.  You watch, you interpret, and then you act with this careful, surgical precision. That’s a strength and a flaw.”

The flaw side of that can involve what happens when the interpretation is wrong. And we know Taylor is very sure about her own conclusions and rationalizations.

“What does this have to do with my clothes?”

I wonder, does Lisa Know about the Harpy situation and why Taylor wears such plain clothes to school?

“Your personality is reflected in your fashion choices.  Muted colors.  Brown, gray, black, white.  If you are wearing something with color to it, you’re wearing it under a sweatshirt, sweater or jacket.  Never anything that would stand out.  Never showing much skin.

This would be a pretty handy reminder if I had forgotten about Taylor’s fashion choices since 1.1, which I probably would’ve if I hadn’t taken so much, ahem, notice of it back then.

While most people our age are picking clothes with the intention of defining an identity for themselves, fitting into a clique, you’re focused on staying out of sight and not attracting attention.  You’re being too cautious, overthinking things you don’t need to, always making the call to play it safe.”

“staying out of sight and not attracting attention”

Yeah, I think she Knows. It’s not an unreasonable conclusion to reach from what Lisa would know in the ordinary sense, but the way she’s wording it seems very specific.

“And you want to change that.”  I sighed.

“I’m suspicious you’re capable of surprising everyone, yourself included, when you drop your guard, start being bolder and improvise.

Hey, we just had that happen last chapter!

Also, you know what this is generally called? Coming out of your Shell.

Not just when circumstances force you to.  I’m not just talking about clothes, you know.”

“I kind of got the drift.”

Lisa totally Knows.

“More to the point, I’m seeing you alternate between the same two pairs of jeans every day, when you got a paycheck for two grand five days ago.  If I don’t make you buy clothes, I don’t think you’re going to.”

“My dad will wonder where I got them,” I protested, as she folded a pair of blouses over one of my arms.

Taylor does raise a valid point there, but on the other hand, he knows she has friends now. “My friend bought them for me” would easily solve that particular excuse.

“You borrowed them from me.  Or they don’t fit me anymore and I gave them to you.  Or you can keep them at our place and leave him none the wiser.”

Those also work.

“I don’t like lying to my dad.”

She ushered me into a curtained off area that served as a change room.  Through the curtain, she told me, “I envy you that.  But if he hasn’t figured out the reason your wardrobe has shrunk so much, chances are he’s not going to notice if you have some new clothes.”

The reason… okay yeah, I think she’s definitely talking about the Harpy hasslings now.

I was halfway through pulling off my shirt when that sunk in, “What are you talking about?”

“Come on, Taylor.  I’d suspect you had some problems going on even without, you know… a little bird whispering in my ear.”

“It’s all over Twitter these days, Taylor.”

I hurried to pull on the first dress in the pile, then opened the curtain, “You’re going to have to be a little more specific, before I can confirm or deny anything.”

“Not that one,” she waved at the dress, a plaid number, predominantly red and white.  Annoyed, I shut the curtain.

I like how the actual shopping is kind of happening in the background of the conversation. Exactly what Taylor’s trying on doesn’t seem super important at the moment, but it gives the characters something to do while chatting.

From the other side of the curtain, she explained, “At first I thought your dad was abusing you.  But I dropped that line of thinking pretty quick after I heard you bring him up in conversation.

Yeah, if he was abusing her, that would be the kind of thing Taylor wouldn’t want to bring up, or even get close to bringing up.

It had to be a major part of your life that’s sucking, though, and if it’s not home then it’s got to be school.  Brian and Alec pretty much agree with my line of thinking.”

“You’ve talked about it with them,” I dropped my hands from the buttons of the dress and let my head thunk against the shaky plywood wall of the change room.

Hmm. Fair enough. I think Lisa just wants Taylor to be happy, and if Brian and Alec might have something to contribute, it would make sense for Taylor to talk to them about it. Plus, they’re not blind either; it’s possible that Brian brought it up to Lisa rather than vice versa. Not so sure about Alec on that front, but still possible.

“It came up when we were talking about you joining the group, and we never hundred percent dropped the subject.  Sorry.  You’re new, you’re interesting, we talk about you.  That’s all it is.”

Sooo they were discussing this after having met her for about five minutes. I guess Lisa Knew about more than Taylor just being “shy”.

I finished doing up the buttons of the dress and opened the curtain, “Ever think I didn’t want you prying?”

She undid the top button. “What you want and what you need are two different things.

Taylor, of course, is both defensive about the Harpy situation – it’s not without reason she’s been keeping it from Danny for so long, and here Lisa is saying she’s been looking into it – and nervous about what else Lisa might find out if she’s Knowing that much about her.

Though I’m surprised the narration hasn’t said much about either of those feelings yet.

Cornflower blue is a keeper. Throw that one over the top.”  She pushed me back inside and shut the curtain.

“What I need is to keep…” I struggled to find a way of wording things that wouldn’t raise red flags for any eavesdroppers, “these two major parts of my life separate.”

This is a pretty standard line of thinking for escapists. Rarely works out that way for them, though.

“The suckish part and the non-suck part.”

“Sure, let’s go with that.”

Escapism summarized in one short quote!

I found a top and a pair of low-rise jeans in the pile of clothes.

“I could help make the suckish parts suck less,” she offered.

Is she offering to help Taylor by making Taylor act differently (like dressing more boldly), or… to mess with the Harpies using powers like Taylor has previously struggled with the temptation of?

Leaning towards the former for now.

I swear my blood turned cold in my veins.  I could just see her showing up at school, taunting Emma.  I think the prospect of facing down Glory Girl again would spook me less.

Looks like Taylor’s leaning towards the latter.

I struggled to do up the top button of the jeans, which wasn’t made any easier by my agitation.

No, Taylor, that’s the wrong arc!

It took thirty seconds to get the button done up, and I swore under my breath the entire time.  Where in the world had Lisa found jeans that were this tight on me?  When I had them on, I opened the curtain and confronted her face to face.

The whole knowing things… thing was bullshit, this is Lisa’s real superpower: Finding tight jeans.

“Having me try on clothes is fine,” I told her, doing my level best to keep my voice calm, “But you interfere directly in my problems, and I’m gone.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that,” I said, “I’m sorry.”

Clear as day. Granted, it’s not clear whether they mean the same thing by “interfere directly”.

She looked a little hurt, “Fine.”  Pouting a little, she waved a hand in the general direction of my clothes, “What do you think?”

I tried to adjust the collar.  I liked the abstract design on the right side of the shirt, but the v-neck collar came to a point near where my ribcage ended and my stomach began. “Top is cut too low, jeans are too tight.”

Damn, that’s a really deep cut. Better get Panacea on the case.

“You need to get used to showing some cleavage.  Like I said, be bold in your fashion choices.”

“I’d be fine with showing some cleavage if I had anything to show,” I pointed out.

Showing some cleavage! I’m no expert on women’s clothing, nor am I going to judge anyone who does like to dress like this, but a V-neck down to the bottom of her ribcage seems dangerously close to showing all of the cleavage. All of it.

That would certainly be bold, at least.

“You’re a late bloomer?” she tried.

“My mom was a B-cup, and not always then, depending on the brand of bra.  And that was after she went up a partial size being pregnant with me.”

Fair enough. Can’t all be humongous, even in a superhero setting.

“That’s fucking tragic.”

I shrugged.  I’d been resigned to being broomstick thin and flat as a board pretty much from the point I’d started puberty.  I just had to look at the genetics on either side of my family to know what I was in for.

Don’t worry, Taylor: a) you can still look great like that, and b) even if you don’t, looking great isn’t actually as important as it might seem.

“And my condolences about your mom.  I didn’t know.”

…well now she does. Heh.

“Appreciated.”  I sighed. “I’m vetoing the shirt.”

“Fine, you’re allowed, but we’re keeping the jeans.  They show off your figure.”

“The figure of a thirteen year old boy,” I groused.

“You’re taller than a thirteen year old boy, don’t be silly.


Besides, whatever you look like, whatever your body type, there’s bound to be someone out there who thinks you’re the hottest fucking person they’ve ever seen.”

See? Lisa knows what’s up!

It’s nice to see Taylor’s issues with her body image addressed like this. I mean, involving someone else’s perspective and not just Taylor’s narration implying that she has them.

“Fantastic,” I mumbled, “There’s a sketchy pedophile out there with my name on him.”

oh my cod taylor.

So determined to be pessimistic about this, are you? :p

Lisa laughed, “Go, try something else on.  But throw the jeans over the top.  I’m buying them for you, and if you never wear them, I’ll have to be content with you feeling guilty about it.”


“Find me the same jeans one size larger, and I’ll wear them,” I negotiated.  Then, before she could protest, I added, “They’re going to shrink in the wash.”

“Point.  I’ll go look.”

Fair enough.

Things continued in that vein for a little while, with Lisa doing a little shopping for herself, too.  We stuck to talking about the clothes, and it was clear that Lisa was carefully avoiding the earlier topic.

I guess she was only intending to help Taylor via talking to her, and since she’s gotten clear indication that she’s not allowed to intervene directly (even though Taylor meant something else), she’s avoiding the topic so as to not make Taylor think she’s trying to intervene.

When we finished, the woman at the cash totaled it up on a notepad and passed the slip of paper to us.  Four hundred and sixty dollars.

3938 Norwegian kroner at today’s exchange rate. That’s not cheap, but not insane either, I suppose. Especially when you’ve robbed a bank.

For comparison, the suit, shirt and clothing bag I bought today came out to a total of 2697 kroner, or $315. (To be honest, that comparison is mostly for my own benefit.)

“My treat,” Lisa said.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“A bribe in exchange for your silence,” Lisa winked at me.


Good question, Taylor…

She glanced at the cashier, “After.”

Secret stuff. Obviously.

It was only after we’d left the stall well behind, the pair of us laden down with bags, that Lisa elaborated. “Do me a favor and don’t go telling the gang how badly I let things slip, as far as Panacea being one of the hostages.  If they ask outright, you can say, I won’t ask you to lie.  But if they don’t ask, maybe don’t bring it up?”

Oh, they haven’t mentioned that yet? Fair enough.

“Grue is gonna kill me, for missing that.”

“This is the silence you’re buying?”


“Alright,” I answered.  I would have without the gift of clothes, but I think she knew that.

Yeah, totally. I’m pretty sure she wanted an excuse to buy you clothes without you objecting.

She grinned, “Thanks.  Between them, I don’t think those guys would ever let me live it down.”

“Would you let them, if the tables were turned?”

“Hell naw,” she laughed.

“That’s what I thought.”

I love these dorks. :p

“But about our earlier conversation… last I’ll say on the subject tonight, promise.  If you ever decide you do want me to directly interfere in any of your personal stuff, just say the word.”

That’s fair. “I realize you don’t want my help, but if you change your mind, I’m here.”

It’s a pretty similar situation to the one between Danny and Taylor, really.

I frowned, ready to be annoyed, but I relented.  It was a fair offer, not pushing anything.  “Okay.  Thank you, but I’m fine.”

“Then that’s settled.  Let’s go eat.”

F U G L Y   B O B ‘ S

Fugly Bob’s was fast food of the most shameless kind, sold out of a part-restaurant, part-bar, part-shack at the edge of the Market, overlooking the beach.

Previously, I uncertainly described it as a “restaurant/diner/whatever”. Clearly it’s in the “whatever” category.

Anyone who lived in the area had probably eaten there once, at some point.  Anyone with any sense then waited a year to give their hearts a chance to recuperate.


It was the sort of place with burgers so greasy that if you ordered takeout, you could see through the paper bag by the time you got home.  The specialty burger was the Fugly Bob Challenger: if you could finish it, you didn’t have to pay for it.  It probably went without saying that most people paid.

“Excuse me, I ordered a burger, not… uh… soup?”

Brian and Alec were already there when we arrived, and we ordered our food right off.  Lisa and I agreed to split a bacon cheeseburger, Brian ordered a portobello-beef double-decker and Alec matched him with a Hideous Bob – Fugly Bob’s interpretation of a Big Mac.

I’ve had a Big Mac once or twice (their availability to me is a bit limited, as there are only McD’s in the southern half of the country). My parents found them disgusting, I found them… okay. Not really a highlight. Also, the name is a terrible fit.

I much prefer the chicken burger, which I had a couple times when I was in Rome.

None of us were hungry, brave or dumb enough to order the Challenger.

I could totally see Alec trying it someday, and probably failing miserably.

Brian and Alec had been sitting outside so they could spot us when we arrived.  After a brief debate, we agreed to stick to the table they’d been sitting at.  It was by the window, so we could see the TV.

I wonder if something relevant will come on this TV before this scene ends.

It was still cool enough that most people had ventured indoors.  The only others outside were some college-aged guys, and they were sitting on the opposite end of the patio, occupied with beer and the game on the TV.  The primary benefit was that we enough had privacy to talk.

Ah, maybe not, there’s some kind of sport on. It’d have to be either at the tail end of the game or some especially important news for that to change, I think.

Which is fine; I’m always down for Undersider talking 🙂

“I don’t want to be a nag,” Brian said, eyeing the piles of bags, “But I did say you shouldn’t spend so much so soon after a caper.  It’s the kind of thing cops and capes watch for.”

There’s that pragmaticism Taylor mistook for general cautiousness again. But yeah, he’s totally right.

“It’s cool,” Lisa brushed him off, “It only raises flags with the credit card companies or banks if it’s a dramatic change in a given person’s spending habits.  I buy close to this amount of stuff every week or two.”

Fair point.

Brian frowned.  He looked like he wanted to say something in response, but he kept his mouth shut.

“So, what comes next?” I asked.

Waiting, wasn’t it? Planning future heists, or waiting to get jobs from the boss… After the money goes through the boss, that is.

“Dinner, then dessert,” Alec replied, his attention on the TV inside.

Living in the moment as ever.

“I meant in terms of our,” I lowered my voice, “Illicit activity.”  A quick double-check showed the college guys at the far end of the patio were still engrossed in the game.  I couldn’t make out anything they were saying, and they were being loud, so I was pretty sure they couldn’t hear us.

“Is there anything you want to do?” Brian asked me.

“Oh, it would be nice if we could do something that got me closer to figuring out who the boss is so I can betray you all later, wait did I say that out loud?”

“Something less intense,” I decided, “I’m kind of feeling like I jumped into the deep end of the pool without entirely knowing how to swim.  I’d prefer to get to know my powers better in the field, figure out how to deal with situations, before I’m up against people like Lung and Glory Girl, who are literally capable of tearing me limb from limb.”

Seems like a good approach.

“Hah.  Something easier then.”

“If Rachel was here, she’d be calling you a wuss again,” Alec commented.

Of course she would. :p

“I’ll just have to be glad she’s not here, then,” I smiled.

Our food arrived, and we used extra plates to divvy up our individual side orders so we all had a little bit of each.

Sharing is caring… But seriously, this sounds nice.

That left each of us a mix of fries, sweet potato fries, onion rings and deep fried zucchini on an individual plate.  The sides alone would have been more than enough raw foodstuff for a meal on its own, but there were also the burgers themselves, each large enough to take up nearly an entire plate.

2011 the burger place gives you enough food, that’s for sure.

Lisa and I cut the bacon cheeseburger in half, and we each took a portion.

“I guess you’re not the type that gains weight,” Lisa eyed me.

“I have to work to put it on.”

Even if you don’t do daily runs?

“Dammit,” she grumbled.

Hehe, kinda figured there’d be a pang of jealousy.

“If it’s any consolation,” I said, after taking a bite and wiping my mouth with a napkin, “This is going to be hell on my skin.”

“That does help,” she grinned.

Alec rolled his eyes, “Enough with the girl talk.”

Pfft. Sure, let’s involve the boys a bit too.

“What do you want to talk about, then?” Lisa asked him.

He shrugged and took a bite of his burger.

I had a suggestion.

Ooh… Stay tuned to find out what Taylor’s suggestion is in the next post of Krixwell Reads Worm!

Cliffhangers don’t work very well when I do these posts immediately after each other and you all know what’s going to happen, do they.

[And then the posts get reformatted to be one piece for WordPress…]

“I know it’s kind of cliche, but when people with powers get together, isn’t it kind of standard to share origin stories?”

Oooooh this could get interesting!


Oh man, I just realized this is likely to include Taylor’s origin story too

I’ve been waiting for that since, what, 1.1?

Apparently, I couldn’t have picked a better way to kill the conversation.

okay then

I guess that isn’t “kind of standard”

That or all of them have less than happy feelings about their own origin stories.

A connection between traumatic events and gaining powers isn’t unprecedented in the story. We have Taylor, after all. Although we (I) don’t actually know if the winter event happened as a result of gaining the power, or vice versa, if there’s causation at all. Correlation does not imply causation, and in this case we don’t even know which way that causation would go.

Anyway, my point is, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if traumatic events are one of the main causes of developing powers, or perhaps… unleashing them. Considering we know heredity can affect the likelihood of “developing powers”, it’s possible that even those without paraparents are born with their powers, but the powers lay latent until something (a particular stimulus, a trauma) causes them to activate.

Lisa turned away, for once without a smile on her face.  Brian and Alec gave me strange looks, not saying anything.

“What?” I asked.  I double checked there was nobody in earshot.  “What did I say?”

This might actually be the best thing Taylor could say in this scenario. It clearly indicates that if she offended or hurt them somehow, it wasn’t on purpose, and shows a willingness to learn.

*scrolls down*

Oh. Oh shit. That’s the end of the chapter.

End of Shell 4.2

Well, shit. That sure wasn’t the reaction Taylor was expecting, nor I for that matter. An innocent question about origin stories, and the Undersiders are acting like Taylor dropped a bombshell… eh? eh? nevermind.

Wildbow’s streak continues – I really liked this chapter. Lisa is always a hoot, even in serious discussions, and the way she’s reaching out to Taylor, wanting to support her against the Harpies, and more generally trying to help her out of her shell is a very welcome development.

And the ending? This is how you do a cliffhanger. I’m very much looking forward to the next chapter and seeing what the Undersiders will all be willing to say.

See ya then!

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