Hive 5.4: Trial

Source material: Worm, Hive 5.4

Originally blogged: July 23, 2017


Who’s that on the horizon? Why, it’s Krixwell, returning to the land of the living to share his thoughts about another chapter of Worm!

So, last chapter, Taylor punched Emma and it was glorious. Then she almost got arrested and it was concerning but justified. And then she told Danny the truth about who was in charge of the bullying and it was heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

This chapter… well, my speculations haven’t changed since the last end-of-chapter post: We might get to see more of Danny’s reaction to this knowledge, but I think a scene change is more likely, and it just might be to Taylor returning to school after her break… and after the impact of her fist to Emma’s face.

I accidentally wrote “Danny returning to school” there. That would really be something, huh.

I suppose we might alternatively switch back to the Undersiders and explore how things are faring between them after their confrontation in 5.2. That would be nice.

Without further ado, let’s board this train and see where Wildbow’s ride is taking us today!


A huge pet peeve of mine: being asked to arrive for a specific time, then being made to wait. Fifteen minutes was just about my limit of my patience.

That’s a very understandable pet peeve. I feel you.

So… who asked you to meet them? One of the Undersiders?

My dad and I had been waiting for more than thirty minutes.

Ah, probably not the Undersiders then.

“This has to be intentional,” I complained. We’d been asked to wait in the principal’s office a few minutes after we arrived, but the principal hadn’t been around.

The principal, huh? That just makes the whole punctuality thing even worse. When you’re in charge of an institution that places as much weight on punctuality as a school does, you should really be on time for your own deadlines.

I wonder if the principal is a cape and that’s why they’re late.

“Mmm. Trying to show they’re in a position of power, able to make us wait,” my dad agreed, “Maybe. Or we’re just waiting for the other girl.”

It mostly just makes it look like they’re sloppy, to be honest. There’s fashionably late and then there’s “practically didn’t show”.


I was at an angle where if I slouched in my chair just a bit, I could see the front of the office through a gap between the bottom of the blinds and the window. Not long after we’d arrived, Emma and her dad had showed up, looking totally casual and unstressed, like it was a regular day. She isn’t even worried.

So in other words, they’re not just waiting for Emma… though it seems weird that Danny wouldn’t refer to Emma by name, so maybe he meant one of her friends.

And Emma is probably planning to use the punch at the mall as ammo against the accusation that she is the bully in this situation. Not sure how well it’ll work out.

…but with the way this story has depicted authority figures before I’m suspecting the principal will be pretty useless if not harmful. Granted, the previous depictions have been severely tinted by Taylor’s cynical, misanthropic view of the authority figures, but I don’t know for sure to what degree Wildbow considers her to be right.

Her dad was her physical opposite, beyond the red hair they shared – he was big in every sense of the word. Taller than average, big around the middle, and while he could speak softly when the situation called for it, he had a powerful voice that caught people’s attention. Emma just had a biggish chest.

It took me a while to remember who the guy her dad makes me think of was and what he’s from, but…

He totally makes me think of Buddy Gleeful from Gravity Falls. I think he did back in 5.3 too, before this physical description was given.

On the other hand, there’s the red hair…


Emma’s dad was talking to Madison’s mom and dad. Only Madison’s mom was really petite like she was, but both her mom and dad looked really young.

So Madison, or at least her family, is here too. I guess “the other girl” is the final part of the Trio… what’s-her-face…

Unlike Emma and her dad, Madison and her parents did look concerned, and I was guessing that some of what Emma’s dad was doing was reassuring them. Madison in particular was looking down at the ground and not really talking, except to respond to what Emma was saying.

At least one of them isn’t so confident about this going their way. Good.

Sophia was the last to arrive.

Ah, yes, Sophia, that was it.

I think she’s been the least relevant Trio member so far, can you blame me for forgetting her name? There are a lot of characters in this story, and these three are among the most forgettable in terms of personality.

(Yes, including Emma.)

She looked sullen, angry, an expression that reminded me of Bitch.

Early on, Bitch reminded Taylor of the Harpies. Now a Harpy is reminding her of Bitch.

The woman who accompanied her was most definitely not her mom. She was blond and blue eyed, had a heart shaped face and wore a navy blue blouse with khakis.

Adoptive mom, stepmom, caretaker…?

The secretary came to get us from the office not long after.

About time, huh? 😛

I guess they were waiting for Sophia, then.


“Chin up, Taylor,” my dad murmured, as I slung my backpack over one shoulder, “Look confident, because this won’t be easy. We may be in the right, but Alan’s a partner in a law firm, he’s a master manipulator of the system.”

Oh, fantastic.

And from the way he was acting in the waiting room, he’s fully and wholly siding with his daughter.

I wonder if he’s scared of her. That would really complete the Buddy Gleeful comparison.

I nodded. I was getting that impression already. After getting a phone call from my dad, Alan had been the one to call this meeting.

…oh shit. Which means he’s the one who told the school what this was all about.

I think we’re in for an overblown focus on Taylor’s punch.


We were directed down the hall to where the guidance counselor’s offices were, a room with an egg-shaped conference table. The trio and their guardians were seated at one end of the table, seven in total, and we were asked to sit at the other, the tip of the egg.

The room is kept oddly cold, because if it gets warm enough, the egg table might hatch into a chick table, which would eventually become a fully-grown chicken table, and there isn’t enough space for that in the room.


The principal and my teachers all came into the room not long after, filling in the seats between us. Maybe I was reading too much into things after seeing an eerie echo of this situation just two days ago, with the meeting of villains, but I noted that Mr. Gladly sat next to Madison’s dad, and the chair next to my dad was left empty.

Ahahaha! What did I tell you about Taylor and authority figures? Here she is directly comparing her teachers and the principal (as well as the Harpies and their families, but that’s more justified) to the villains she saw in 5.1!

Priceless.

We would have been completely isolated from the mass of people at the other side of the table if Mrs. Knott, my homeroom teacher, hadn’t sat at my left. I wondered if she would have, if there’d been another seat.

‘course, if Alan has painted Taylor as the villain here when calling the meeting…


I was nervous. I had told my dad that I’d missed classes. I hadn’t told him how many, but I hadn’t wanted to repeat Bitch’s mistake and leave him totally in the dark.

That’s kind of what you’ve been doing for a long time, Taylor. I don’t blame you for that in the least, but still.

I was worried it would come up. Worried this wouldn’t go the way I hoped. Worried I’d find some way to fuck it up.

And I’m worried about Emma and her dad fucking it up for you.


“Thank you all for coming,” the principal spoke, as she sat down, putting a thin folder down in front of her. She was a narrow woman, dirty blond, with that severe bowl-cut haircut I could never understand the appeal of.

Heh.

Someone help these poor people.

Okay, some of the people on this Google search manage to pull it off, but most of them look like they’re wearing a painted coconut hat.

She was dressed like she was attending a funeral – black blouse, sweater and skirt, black shoes, “We’re here to discuss incidents where one of our students has been victimized.” She looked down at the folder she’d brought in, “Ms. Hebert?”

Note that she hasn’t quite specified which student has been victimized yet.


“That’s me.”

“And the individuals accused of misconduct are… Emma Barnes, Madison Clements and Sophia Hess.

Okay, looks like this hasn’t been flipped-turned upside down in the process of arranging the meeting. Good.

You’ve been in my office before, Sophia. I just wish it had more to do with the track and field team and less to do with detention.”

Sophia mumbled a reply that might have been agreement.

Is… this something the principal is actually allowed to talk about?

“Now, if I’m to understand matters, Emma was attacked outside of school premises by Ms. Hebert? And shortly after, she was accused of bullying?”

“Yes,” Alan spoke, “Her father called me, confronted me, and I thought it best to take this to official channels.”

Aaand there it is. The punch is brought up immediately. Now, I can understand the principal using words like “accused” to refer to the bullying, since it is still just an accusation from her perspective, but it doesn’t exactly sound very promising.


“That’s probably best,” the principal agreed. “Let’s put this matter to rest.”

Then she turned to me and my dad, palms up.

“What?” I asked.

I’m with Taylor. What? Is that a gesture to have them explain their side of the story?

“Please. What charges would you lay against these three?”

I laughed a little, in disbelief, “Nice. So we’re called here on short notice, without time to prepare, and I’m expected to be ready?”

Taylor calls bullshit. Nice.

“Maybe outline some of the major incidents, then?”

“What about the minor ones?” I challenged her, “All of the little things that made my day-to-day so miserable?”

“If you can’t remember-”

“I remember,” I cut her off.

Ohh man, I think we’re in for a beautiful moment here.

I bent down to the backpack I’d set at my feet and retrieved a pile of paper. I had to flip through it for a few seconds before I could divide it into two piles. “Six vicious emails, Sophia pushed me down the stairs when I was near the bottom, making me drop my books, tripped and shoved me no less than three times during gym, and threw my clothes at me while I was in the shower after gym class had ended, getting them wet. I had to wear my gym clothes for the rest of the morning. In biology, Madison used every excuse she could to use the pencil sharpener or talk to the teacher, and each time she passed my desk, she pushed everything I had on my desk to the floor. I was watching for it the third time, and covered my stuff when she approached, so on the fourth trip, she emptied the pencil sharpener into one of her hands and dumped the shavings onto my head and desk as she walked by. All three of them cornered me after school had ended and took my backpack from me, throwing it in the garbage.”

Did Taylor write down everything as it happened? Niiice.

“I see,” the principal made a sympathetic face, “Not very pleasant, is it?”

Understatement of the year.

“That’s September eighth,” I pointed out, “My first day back at school, last semester. September ninth-”

“Excuse me, sorry. How many entries do you have?”

Ahaha!


“One for pretty much every school day starting last semester. Sorry, I only decided to keep track last summer.

Did I say we were in for a beautiful moment? Yes, I did, and I was right, because this totally is a beautiful moment. Show them what’s up, Taylor! 😀

September ninth, other girls in my grade had been encouraged by those three to make fun of me. I was wearing the backpack they had been thrown in the trash, so every girl that was in on it was holding their nose or saying I smelled like garbage. It picked up steam, and by the end of the day, others had joined in on it. I had to change my email address after my inbox filled in just a day, with more of the same sorts of things. I have every hateful email that was sent to me here, by the way.” I put my hand on the second pile of papers.

Evidence, nice.

“May I?” Mrs. Knott asked. I handed her the emails.

“Eat glass and choke. Looking at you depresses me. Die in a fire,” she recited as she turned pages.

“Let’s not get sidetracked,” my dad said, “We’ll get to everything in time. My daughter was speaking.”

Danny is a great dad, too.

They’ll let Taylor speak until they get the message, he’ll see to that.

“I wasn’t done with September ninth,” I said, “Um, let me find my place. Gym class, again-”

“Are you wanting to recount every single incident?” the principal asked.

“I thought you’d want me to. You can’t make a fair judgment until you hear everything that’s happened.”

That said, getting through this thing might require a semester of History of Taylor Being Bullied classes. And that’s the point.


“I’m afraid that looks like quite a bit, and some of us have jobs to get back to later this afternoon. Can you pare it down to the most relevant incidents?”

“They’re all relevant,” I said.

Fuck yes, they are.

Maybe I’d raised my voice, because my dad put his hand on my shoulder. I took a breath, then said, as calmly as I could, “If it bothers you to have to listen to it all, imagine what it feels like to live through it. Maybe you’ll get just a fraction of a percent of an idea of what going to school with them felt like.”

Holy shit, Taylor’s on fire today.

This ought to be pretty damn effective.

I looked at the girls. Only Madison looked really upset. Sophia was glaring at me, and Emma managed to look bored, confident. I didn’t like that.

I wonder if Madison’s parents are less… accomodating than Emma’s when it comes to this. Madison might not be as worried about repercussions from the school as from her parents.


Alan spoke, “I think we all grasp that it’s been unpleasant. You’ve established that, and I thank you for the insight. But how many of those incidents can you prove? Were those emails sent from school computers?”

On one level, the multitude of the accusations could actually weaken this side of things. There’s more for Taylor to prove, and some of the adults may not find it believable that someone would go to such lengths to fuck with someone so thoroughly.

“Very few school email addresses, mostly throwaway accounts from hotmail and yahoo,” Mrs. Knott replied, as she flipped through the pages, “And for the few school email accounts that were used, we can’t discount the chance that someone left their account logged in when they left the computer lab.” She gave me an apologetic look.

At least Mrs. Knott seems to be compassionate.

“So the emails are off the table,” Alan spoke.

“It’s not your place to decide that,” my dad answered.

And then there’s Alan.

I do wonder if he believes his daughter to be innocent.

“A lot of those emails were sent during school hours,” I stressed. My heart was pounding. “I even marked them out with blue highlighter.”

“No,” the principal spoke, “I agree with Mr. Barnes. It’s probably for the best that we focus our attention on what we can verify. We can’t say who sent those emails and from where.”

The sad thing is I can’t say they’re wrong.


All of my work, all of the hours I’d put in logging events when remembering the events of the day was the last thing I wanted to do, dashed to the winds. I clenched my fists in my lap.

“You okay?” my dad murmured in my ear.

I don’t think the logs have been completely defeated just yet, but you’ll probably need something more.

There was precious little I could actually verify, though.

“Two weeks ago, Mr. Gladly approached me,” I addressed the room, “He verified that some things had occurred in his class. My desk had been vandalized with scribbles, juice, glue, trash and other stuff on different days. Do you remember, Mr. Gladly?”

Mr Gladly nodded, “I do.”

Nice. And here Taylor thought that would be completely unhelpful!

“And after class, do you remember seeing me in the hallway? Surrounded by girls? Being taunted?”

“I remember seeing you in the hallway with the other girls, yes. If I remember, that was not long after you told me you wanted to handle things on your own.”

“That is not what I said,” I had to control myself to keep from shouting,

It’s close enough to what you said to reasonably be what he heard.

“I said I thought this situation here, with all the parents and teachers gathered, would be a farce. So far, you’re not proving me wrong.”

Hrm. It’s going slightly better than she probably thought, but not much.


“Taylor,” my dad spoke. He put his hand on one of my clenched fists, then addressed the faculty, “Are you accusing my daughter of making up everything she’s noted here?”

“No,” the principal spoke, “But I think that when someone is being victimized, it’s possible to embellish events, or to see harassment when there is none. We want to ensure that these three girls get fair treatment.”

…fair enough. It shouldn’t be the main priority, but fair enough.

“Do I-” I started, but my dad squeezed my hand, and I shut up.

“My daughter deserves fair treatment too, and if even one in ten of these events did occur, it speaks to an ongoing campaign of severe abuse. Does anyone disagree?”

This is an interesting reversal. We’ve been told that Danny has quite a temper, and that Taylor was afraid he’d blow his fuse if he found out who was responsible, but here Taylor is losing her cool and Danny is calmly helping her make her case.

“Abuse is a strong word,” Alan spoke, “You still haven’t proven-“

“Alan,” my dad interrupted him, “Please shut up. This isn’t a courtroom. Everyone at this table knows what these girls did, and you can’t force us to ignore it. Taylor ate dinner at your dining room table a hundred times, and Emma did the same at ours. If you’re implying Taylor is a liar, say it outright.”

Niiice, Danny.


“I only think she’s sensitive, especially after the death of her mother, she-”

Oh fuck you.

I shoved the pile of paper off the table. There were thirty or forty sheets, so it made a good size cloud of drifting papers.

And there she goes.

“Don’t go there,” I spoke, quiet, I could barely hear myself over the buzzing in my ears, “Don’t do that. Prove you’re at least that human.”

Oh yes, that’s still a thing. I’m still fairly certain Taylor will at some point lose control over her power. Now is not the time for that, though.

And yeah, I get that you’re a lawyer, Alan, but come on. There are legends of lawyers who are human too. Try to live up to them.

I saw a smirk on Emma’s face, before she put her elbows on the table and hid it with her hands.

She knows just how vulnerable Taylor is to that particular topic. She probably told her father that while they were preparing for this.


“In January, my daughter was subjected to one of the most malicious, disgusting pranks I have ever heardof,” my dad told the principal, ignoring the papers that were still making their way to the floor, “She wound up in the hospital. You looked me in the eye and promised me you would look after Taylor and keep an eye out. You obviously haven’t.”

Hm… excellent timing, narratively, of finally showing us the circumstances of this event in the previous Arc, right before this development.

Mr. Quinlan, my math teacher, spoke,

With a name like Quinlan, he sounds like a math teacher.

“You have to understand, other things demand our attention. There’s a gang presence in this school, and we deal with serious events like students bringing knives to class, drug use, and students suffering life threatening injuries in fights on the campus. If we’re not aware of certain events, it’s hardly intentional.”

You know, I don’t think I’ve heard anything about this school that would make me want to go there.

“So my daughter’s situation isn’t serious.”

“That’s not what we’re saying,” the principal answered him, exasperated.

Isn’t it?

Alan spoke, “Let’s cut to the chase. What would you two like to see happen, here, at this table, that would have you walk away satisfied?”

My dad turned to me. We’d talked briefly on this. He’d said that as a spokesperson for his Union, he always walked into a discussion with a goal in mind. We’d established ours. The ball was in my court.

“Transfer me to Arcadia High.”

Nice!

For Taylor, this is a great opportunity, not only to get away from the Harpies, but to get to a school that’s just generally a lot better, as far as we know.

For Wildbow, it’s a great opportunity to introduce new characters and a new setting on the civilian side of Taylor’s life.

Also, it’s not lost on me that most of the Wards go to Arcadia High. Imagine the irony of Taylor potentially befriending some of them as civilians! Especially if it’s Clockblocker.


There were a few looks of surprise.

“I expected you to suggest expulsion,” the principal answered, “Most would.”

“Fuck no,” I said. I pressed my fingers to my temples, “Sorry for swearing. I’m going to be a little impulsive until I’m over this concussion. But no, no expulsion.

Hm.

Because that just means they can apply to the next-closest school, Arcadia, and because they aren’t enrolled in school, it would mean accelerated entry past the waiting list. That’s just rewarding them.”

I see. So instead, Taylor wants that for herself so she can get the better side of getting away from the Harpies.

“Rewarding,” the principal spoke. I think she was insulted. Good.

“Yeah,” I said, not caring in the least about her pride,

Heh, classic Taylor.

“Arcadia’s a good school. No gangs. No drugs. It has a budget. It has a reputation to maintain. If I were bullied there, I could go to the faculty and get help. None of that’s true here.”

“Frankly, my dear, your school totally sucks.”


“That’s all you would want?” Alan asked.

I shook my head, “No. If it were up to me, I’d want those three to have in-school suspension for the remaining two months of the semester. No privileges either. They wouldn’t be allowed dances, access to school events, computers, or a spot on teams or clubs.”

Seems fair.

“Sophia’s one of our best runners in Track and Field,” the principal spoke.

“I really, really don’t care,” I replied. Sophia glared at me.

Same. It only serves to make it feel more like the punishment she deserves.

“Why in-school suspension?” Mr. Gladly asked, “It would mean someone would have to keep a constant eye on them.”

If someone’s keeping a constant eye on them, they can’t pick a new target to treat as badly as they have Taylor.

“Would I have to take summer classes?” Madison piped up.

“There would be remedial classes if we took that route, yes,” the principal spoke, “I think that’s a little severe. As Mr. Gladly mentioned, it would require resources we don’t have. Our staff is stretched thin as it is.”

…fair enough.

“Suspension’s a vacation,” I retorted, “and it just means they could take a trip over to Arcadia and get revenge on me there. No. I’d rather they got no punishment at all than see them get suspended or expelled.”

Yeah, those forms of punishment really aren’t very effective in this situation, especially when Taylor isn’t remaining at this school to, uh, not have them around while they’re suspended.


“That’s an option,” Alan joked.

“Shut up, Alan,” my dad replied.

Heh.

To the rest of the table, he said, “I don’t see anything unrealistic about what my daughter is proposing.”

“Of course you don’t,” Sophia’s guardian spoke, “You’d feel differently if the tables were turned.

How so? Is this about the track and field thing?

I feel it’s important that Sophia continue to attend her track and field practices. The sports give her structure she needs. Denying her that would only lead to a decline in her behavior and conduct.”

Hrm. Sounds like you’d need to put in some more work parenting to make up for it, to be honest. I can see the structure thing, though…

Madison’s dad added his own two cents, “I think two months of suspension is too much.”

“I’m forced to agree on all counts,” the principal spoke.

You’re lucky Taylor isn’t taking this to court! Granted, we’ve been over the issue of evidence that holds up in court versus this meeting, but still.

As my dad and I moved to protest, she raised her hands to stop us, “Given the events that happened in January, and with Mr. Gladly’s own admission that there’s been incidents in his class, we know there’s been some ongoing bullying. I’d like to think my years as an educator have given me some ability to recognize guilt when I see it, and I’m certain these girls are guilty of some of what the victim is accusing them of. I’m proposing a two week suspension.”

Ugh. At least do the Arcadia High thing too.

“Weren’t you listening to me?” I asked. My fists were clenched so hard my hands were shaking, “I’m not asking for a suspension. That’s pretty much the last thing I want.”

Yeah, this went south all of a sudden.

(…why is south associated with wrong in English, and “straight west” in Norwegian? What’s so wrong about south and west? Linguistics is interesting.)


“I’m standing by my daughter in this,” my dad spoke, “I’d say two weeks was laughable, given this laundry list of criminal offenses these girls have committed, except there’s nothing funny about this.”

Nice emphasis there.

“Your list would mean something if you could back it up with evidence,”Alan wryly commented, “And if it wasn’t all over the floor.”

I thought for a second that my dad would hit him.

Shut up, Alan.

“Any longer than two weeks would mean these girls’ academics would suffer to the point they could fail the year,” the principal stated, “I don’t think that’s fair.”

“And my schoolwork hasn’t suffered because of them?” I asked. The buzzing in my ears was reaching its limit. I realized, belatedly, that I’d just given her an opening to raise my missed classes.

The missed classes would just be proving your point.

“We’re not saying it hasn’t,” the principal’s tone was patient, as if she was talking to a small child. “But eye-for-an-eye justice doesn’t do anyone any favors.”

She hadn’t mentioned the classes. I wondered if she even knew.

I do agree with her that eye-for-an-eye is bad. Sort of. My more emotional side is not so sure.


“Is there any justice here?” I replied, “I’m not seeing it.”

“They’re being punished for their misconduct.”

I had to stop to willfully push the bugs away.

Damn, getting pretty close to that loss of control.

I still have my doubts about it being tied to this situation, but I’m certain it will happen eventually.

I think they were reacting to my stress, or my concussion was making me a little less aware of what I was doing with them, because they were pressing in without my giving them the order. None had entered the school or the conference room, thankfully, but I was getting increasingly worried that my control would slip. If it did, instead of sort of wandering in my general direction or gravitating towards my location, the bugs would erupt into a full fledged swarm.

At least the room getting filled up with insects might get Alan to shut up.

Might.

I took a deep breath.

“Whatever,” I said, “You know what? Fine. Let them get away with a two week vacation as a reward for what they did to me. Maybe if their parents have an ounce of heart or responsibility, they’ll find an appropriate punishment. I don’t care. Just transfer me to Arcadia. Let me walk away from this.”

Please.

“That’s not really something I can do,” the principal said, “There’s jurisdictions-”

Try,” I pleaded, “Pull some strings, call in favors, talk to friends in other faculties?”

Yes, let Taylor go to a school where the faculty won’t force her to unleash dangerous magic in order to help the school once again win the year’s round of friendly competitions that have turned into a yearly trouncing for the sake of the worse school’s reputation.

…wait, that’s not right…


(Actually, this is kind of a role reversal from the movie I was just joking about, Equestria Girls: The Friendship Games. Here, Taylor wants to move to the more prestigious school, which is portrayed as better, whereas in the movie, the principal more prestigious school’s causes much of the conflict to boost her ego and the school’s reputation, ultimately causing a transferral to the less prestigious school.)

(#this doesn’t matter)


“I don’t want to make any promises I can’t keep,” she said.

Which meant no.

Considering she didn’t keep the one promise we know she did make, that seems about right.

I stood up.

“Taylor,” my dad put his hand on my arm.

“We’re not the enemy,” the principal spoke.

Interesting you should say that.

“No?” I laughed a little, bitter, “That’s funny. Because it looks like it’s you guys, the bullies and the other parents against me and my dad.

‘Cause it’s us against the world
You and me against them all
If you listen to these words
Know that we are standing tall
I don’t ever see the day that I won’t catch you when you fall
‘Cause it’s us against the world tonight

How many times have you called me by my name, today? None. Do you even know why? It’s a trick lawyers use. They call their client by name, but they refer to the other guy as the victim, or the offender, depending. Makes your client more identifiable, dehumanizes the other side. He started doing it right off the bat, maybe even before this meeting started, and you unconsciously bought into it.”

Huh. Nice catch, Taylor.

And by “he”, she of course means Alan.

“You’re being paranoid,” the principal spoke, “Taylor. I’m sure I’ve said your name.”

“Fuck you,” I snapped, “You disgust me. You’re a deluded, slimy, self-serving-”

“Taylor!” my dad pulled on my arm, “Stop!”

Sometimes explicitly standing up to authority isn’t actually that good an idea. I’m pretty sure Taylor can say goodbye to the idea of the principal even slightly agreeing to try to get her into Arcadia.


Taylor’s always had a lot of typically villainous traits.

She’s an anti-authoritarian misanthropic loner (though not a loner by choice) with the power to bend the will of simple-minded creatures, or using officially cooler phrasing, bugs – either way it sounds like a power you’d typically find in a villain. Despite her claims that she has a moral code, she’s willing to rationalize away horrifying actions if she deems them necessary to further her own goals, and she has a terrifyingly vivid imagination when it comes to what she can do with her power. On top of all this, she has a temper that is showing more and more as her confidence rises from the ashes.

Really, all she needs to become a fully-fledged villain is to let go of the idea that she’s trying to be a hero. Maybe not even that, really.


I had to concentrate a second and direct the bugs to go away, again.

“Maybe I’ll bring a weapon to school,” I said, glaring at them, “If I threatened to stab one of those girls, would you at least expel me? Please?” I could see Emma’s eyes widen at that. Good. Maybe she’d hesitate before hassling me again.

Wow, the timing of that previous post may have looked odd, but it seems like it was perfect.

We’re coming full circle, back to 1.1 and Taylor’s contemplations about going Carrie, except her goal has changed from “get back at them” to “get ‘punished’ for trying”.


“Taylor!” my dad spoke. He stood up and pulled me into a tight hug, my face against his chest so I couldn’t say any more.

“Do I need to call the cops?” I heard Alan.

Taylor did essentially just threaten to, uh, threaten his daughter. I’m not sure how much trouble it’d get her in considering the added layer of hypotheticalness, but calling the cops might actually be reasonable at this point.

“For the last time, Alan, shut up,” my dad growled, “My daughter is right. This has been a joke. I have a friend in the media. I think I’m going to give her a call, email her that list of emails and the list of incidents. Maybe pressure from the public would get things done.”

Oh shit! That would wreck the reputation of young model Emma and the school. It’s one hell of a bargaining chip.

“I hope it doesn’t come to that, Danny,” Alan replied, “If you recall, your daughter assaulted and battered Emma just last night. That’s in addition to threatening her, here. We could press charges. I do have the surveillance video from the mall, and a signed slip from that teenage superheroine, Shadow Stalker, that verifies she saw it happen, in what could have provoked a riot.”

He does have a point – they have evidence. Taylor barely has any. If the media and police got involved, the Barneses would have the upper hand.

It might still wreck one or more reputations, but Taylor might end in bigger trouble.


Oh. So that was why Emma had been so confident. She and her dad had an ace up their sleeve.

Don’t tell me you didn’t see the punch getting brought up coming, Taylor. If you didn’t, the concussion must be affecting you harder than I thought.

“There’s mitigating circumstances,” my dad protested, “She has a concussion, she was provoked, she only hit Emma once. The charges wouldn’t stick.”

“No. But the case could drag out for some time. When our families used to have dinner together, you remember me saying how most cases were resolved?”

“Decided by who ran out of money first,” my dad said. I felt him clutch me a fraction tighter.

…yikes.

And the Heberts aren’t exactly rich.

“I may be a divorce attorney, but the same applies in a criminal case.”

He’s a divorce attorney? Yeesh, is there any branch of lawyer work that benefits more from manipulating the perception of the opponent?

If we went to the media, he’d press assault charges just to drain our bank accounts.

“I thought we were friends, Alan,” my dad replied, his voice strained.

“We were. But at the end of the day, I have to protect my daughter.”

I mean… fair enough. Don’t expect Danny to come crawling back to you after this, though.

Also, I suppose there’s a sort of parallel here. Barnes and Hebert are friends, then something happens and Barnes turns against Hebert.


I looked at my teachers. At Mrs. Knott, who I’d even say was my favorite teacher, “Don’t you see how fucked up this is? He’s blackmailing us right in front of you, and you can’t understand that this manipulation has been going on from the beginning?”

Taylor has long since dropped any pretense of being sorry for swearing.

Mrs. Knott frowned, “I don’t like the sound of it, but we can only comment and act on what happens in school.”

“It’s happening right here!”

“You know what I mean.”

Ugh.

I pulled away. In my haste to get out of that room, I practically kicked down the door. My dad caught up to me in the hallway.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“Whatever,” I said, “I’m so not surprised.”

“Let’s go home.”

It seems Taylor was right – this whole thing was a farce.

I shook my head, turning away, “No. I need to get gone. Going. I won’t be home for dinner.”

“Stop.”

I paused.

I’m guessing she wants to go to the Undersiders HQ.

“I want you to know I love you. This is far from over, and I’ll be waiting for you when you come home. Don’t give up, and don’t do anything reckless.”

What a good dad.


I hugged my arms close to my body to get the shaking in my hands to stop.

“‘Kay.”

I left him behind and headed out the front door of the school. Double checking he hadn’t followed and that he couldn’t see me, I retrieved one of the disposable cell phones from the front pocket of my sweatshirt. Lisa picked up partway through the first ring. She always did – one of her little quirks.

Heh. She’s one of those people who always knows when someone’s about to call.

Literally.


“Hey. How did it go?”

I couldn’t find the words for a reply.

“That bad?”

“Yeah.”

I don’t think she needed Knowing to know what that silence meant.

“What do you need?”

“I want to hit someone.”

“We’re gearing up for a raid on the ABB. We didn’t bother you about it because you’re still recovering, and I knew you’d be busy with your meeting at school. Want in?”

“Yeah.”

Ooh, this sounds interesting.

“Good. We’re splitting up for a bunch of coordinated attacks with some of the other groups. You’d be with, um, one second-”

She said something, but it wasn’t directed at the phone. I heard the bass of Brian replying.

Cooperative raid together with other villainous groups? Sign me the fuck up.

“Every team is splitting up, bit complicated to explain, but yeah. Bitch would be going with one or two members of the Travelers, some of Faultline’s crew and probably some of Empire Eighty-Eight. It would do a lot for our peace of mind if you went with. ‘specially with the tension between us and the Empire.”

Taylor, Bitch, some of Faultline’s, and I bet the part of E88 they’re working with is Purity’s group. This sounds fantastic.

I could see the bus at the far end of the street, approaching.

“I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”

Hell yes.


End of Hive 5.4

This was a farce, but it was a fantastic farce. I loved so much of this, where do I even start?

Taylor was great, her confidence soaring high and letting the faculty know what was up, even if it didn’t ultimately stick. The implicit middle finger in every line she spoke was amazing.

Danny proved once again that he’s a great dad. It’s going to take a bit more to dethrone Greg Universe as the greatest dad I’ve ever seen in fiction, but Danny Hebert is coming damn close.

And then there’s Alan. Shut up, Alan.

At the end, we were introduced to the plot of the next chapter, and probably the rest of the arc. This time there’s no strong doubt as to what the next chapter is about: Taylor, Bitch, some Travelers (which I missed in the previous post), some Faultline folks, and some E88ers (probably including Purity) will be teaming up in a raid on the ABB, which I think will be a lot of fun. 😀

See you then!

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