Source material: Worm, Hive 5.8
Originally blogged: August 3, 2017
Let’s see how this goes now that… yeah, no, the joke just doesn’t work anymore. Dammit.
So, last chapter we witnessed an excellent fight against Oni Lee. Now Taylor, Bitch and – surprisingly – Sundancer are going indoors to find and help Newter.
Indoors, which is where Lung was last spotted, together with Kaiser. Last time, I suggested that Kaiser might be betraying the team (because I sure as fuck don’t trust Kaiser), but on further consideration, he’d have to have a fair bit to gain before he’d be willing to work with Lung and the rest of the ABB. Gotta consider the racism.
I’m not so sure the inevitable Lung fight will start in this chapter, but I do suspect we’re about to learn more about Sundancer. It seems to me that there ought to be a narrative reason for Sundancer to join Taylor and Bitch in the search for Newter despite the limitations (or lack of limitations) of her power, and it would be odd to establish that and not eventually show us what the power actually does. If it wasn’t going to be shown, we could’ve been told earlier, which we weren’t.
Let’s do this thing!
I didn’t like leaving Labyrinth behind, after seeing her help turn the tide of our fight against Oni Lee, but I couldn’t use someone that couldn’t communicate with me.
Ouch. Try not to let Labyrinth hear that thought.
And she did communicate with you, just not verbally.
Bitch, Sundancer and I all sat astride Brutus as he headed towards the warehouse once again. My bugs lagged behind us.
“We should be fighting Lung,” Bitch growled, “Not helping the freak.”
“What?” Sundancer asked, “Why wouldn’t we help him?”
“His fault if he got hurt,” Bitch snarled.
…par for the course when it comes to Bitch.
Really, though, the main cause was – hey, look, it’s that theme again – lack of intel on the presence of Oni Lee and Lung.
“And if you got hurt?” Sundancer challenged her, “You’d want us to leave you?”
“Fuck no. But I wouldn’t be surprised if you did.”
Hm. I guess Bitch isn’t one for the Golden Rule.
“We’re helping him,” I stated, firm.
“Yeah? I’m the one telling this big lug where to go.” She slapped her hand on the side of Brutus’ neck a few times.
She does have a point there. Bitch could easily take control of this, or at least proven unhelpful by having the others jump off and make their way to Newter by foot.
I would have yelled at her, should have, maybe. Instead, I just leaned forward until I was pressing against her back, and spoke into her ear, “We let him die, you think Faultline’s going to let it slide? She might hurt or kill Tattletale or Regent in retaliation.”
Oooh, that might just work. Bitch may be a violent sociopath, but she’s not completely heartless towards her closest humans.
My piece said, I leaned back and waited to see how she’d respond. If that wasn’t enough to convince her, and I had no idea if it would be, I was ready to try jumping off Brutus’ back and seeing what I could do to help Newter on my own.
“Will you be helpful or not?”
Bitch didn’t reply. She didn’t take us around, over or through the building, either, though. When we stopped, it was by the stairwell leading up to where Newter had fallen.
Hm… If I recall correctly, the dogs don’t fit very well up that stairwell, right? And unless Bitch gets them up there, she’s little help in a combat situation.
Then again, it’s not likely there’ll be many active enemies up there. Newter took out all except Oni, didn’t he? Anyone up there would either have to have woken up from the hallucinations or come up the stairs after Newter’s defeat.
I give it almost even odds on whether Bitch jumps off Brutus and joins them upstairs (or perhaps makes Brutus crash his way up the stairs despite his size) or drops Taylor and Sundancer off and heads over to join Kaiser against Lung.
If Kaiser is fighting Lung.
The business they had been into wasn’t prostitution or slave trading.
Long tables were arranged around the ground floor of the warehouse, with stools lined up beside them. On those tables were shallow boxes with blocks and piles of a white powder.
Various tools – rulers, funnels, scales, measuring cups and no-name brand boxes of sealable plastic bags were arranged around each station. Heroin? Cocaine? I didn’t know my drugs well enough to guess. The center of the room had been left more or less clear, maybe so cars or trucks could pull in.
So the ’employees’ had been wearing little to no clothing, presumably, to keep the clothes clean of the white dust. Or maybe to keep them from pocketing any drugs for themselves.
That’s… more sensible than it really sounds.
The building rumbled with an impact, and I was reminded of the business at hand. Was I more distracted than usual, right now? Was it the concussion?
Could be. I’m on record as saying that fighting with the concussion is probably gonna bite you in the ass, Taylor, and I stand by that.
Bitch had been right, before – the stairwell and what I could see of the the second floor was too low for both a dog and a rider. I hopped off Brutus’ back, stumbling a bit as I landed, then headed up the stairs, taking them two at a time.
Ahh, too low for both of them, but possibly high enough for them to be side by side.
Doesn’t sound like Bitch is coming along, though.
Newter was lying in a puddle of blood, in the midst of a bunch of thugs, who were all lying down, crawling or writhing, oblivious to my existence.
I wonder what they’re seeing.
Seeing the thugs was enough to remind me of how dangerous it would be to touch Newter. I was wearing gloves and leggings with padded soles, but would that be enough? The dragline silk I’d used for my costume was mostly waterproof, but the weave itself was porous, and I was worried enough that touching his blood could mean a terminal overdose that I couldn’t risk it.
The concussion doesn’t have anything on what would happen if Taylor touched Newter, at least in the short term.
My approach stopped short of the puddle. Newter had a knife wound just below his shoulderblade that traced around his side, as long as my forearm and deep enough that I couldn’t tell how bad the damage was.
He was breathing, but his breaths were shallow enough that I almost couldn’t tell. I was here, I could bend down to touch him, but I was helpless to do anything. Moments after I made contact with his skin, even with my gloves on, and I’d probably be on some hallucinogenic drug trip, flopping around like a fish on dry land.
floppa floppa floppa floppa
Bitch and Sundancer approached from behind me, stopping at my side.
Oh hey, she came along!
“Bitch, go downstairs, check the supplies they were using with the drugs.
Aaand Taylor immediately sends her back downstairs.
Look for rubber gloves, saran wrap, anything like that. If you can’t find anything, look in the bathroom, under the sinks. I doubt there’ll be a first aid kit, but if you can find one, bring it.”
Bitch gets to climb the stairs twice as many times as strictly necessary. Today’s little workout.
Bitch didn’t answer, but she headed down the stairs. Just to be safe, as my bugs reached the building, I swept the flying ones through the rooms to help me look for first aid supplies and to keep an eye on Bitch and the rest of the building.
Nice. Should be helpful, especially near the stairs.
“What are we doing?” Sundancer asked.
“You’re staying with him. See if you can get a response, talk to him. I’m checking in there.” I pointed to the office at the end of the hall.
Taylor is really taking charge this Arc, and in a lot of cases so far, that means directing her teammates’ actions like a general. A war tactician.
I’ve commented on this before, but Taylor’s power really suits her.
Just in front of the door there was a gaping hole in the wall and a pile of debris – the mess Judas had made when he’d lunged through the side of the building to corner Oni Lee.
Try not to fall out.
I had a dim recollection of what my bugs had sensed when they’d first entered the building and checked out the room. I’d been more focused on the people and potential booby traps, but I remembered that it had been an office, with a desk and a curtained off area with a bed.
I’m technically sitting in my combined office/bedroom myself. Technically. I’ve never called it my office before now, and the only reason I’m doing it is that I have a desk with a computer.
Maybe the bed was there so the guys in charge could take turns sleeping there, ensuring there was always someone to keep an eye on things. Maybe it was for the half-dressed ’employees’, for taking advantage of them or so there was a place to put the ones that accidentally overdosed while working.
Entering the office, I confirmed my suspicions about the existence of the bed. I began stripping the badly stained sheets off.
On one hand, priorities. On the other hand, yes get that shit out please.
…I guess maybe she intends to use the sheets to help Newter, though.
[I haven’t been mirroring the occasional #tw tags, but I feel it’s worth noting that this particular post had four of them.]
Was it odd that this place freaked me out ten times as much as nearly getting offed by Oni Lee? Drugs had always spooked the hell out of me.
Drugs and rape… yeah, no, I get it.
One of the first times I’d ever ridden a bus, when I was around five or six, I’d seen a methhead freak out, making enough of a ruckus that the driver had to stop and force him off. I’d never really gotten over that first impression, where just the idea of being around someone that was high made me sort of anxious.
Very understandable. I wouldn’t want to be near someone who was high (or drunk, for that matter) either, and I’ve never actually encountered either.
It wasn’t just that, either. In grade school and junior high, I’d had classmates drop off the face of the planet, hearing only rumors and hints from other classmates or my teachers that there were drugs involved.
I know there is a drug presence even in this small city/town I live in, but I’ve never had direct experiences relating to it.
Either my classmates themselves getting caught up in things, or parents or siblings dragging the kid into their mess to the point that the kid couldn’t come to school. One as bad as the other.
Oh, I thought she meant they had died. Still, though.
Almost from the beginning, I’d had this sense of drugs as this unstoppable black hole of fucked-up-ness that swallowed in anyone close to the addict.
Not to mention the addict themself!
Yet people did it. It was something common and profitable enough that in an area like Brockton Bay where there were as many people unemployed as not, the ABB needed a money counting machine in this very office. Profitable enough that they had an open safe with stacks of bills inside.
My bugs weren’t doing much, so I set them the task of collecting the money. Within a second or two of my having the thought, the mass of roaches, centipedes, pillbugs and ants flowed into the piles of money and began pushing it all off the desk or into paper bags.
Heh, I love this mental image. Adorable little bugs running around with loads of cash, like, “I’m gonna buy so much delicious food with this!”
Houseflies and wasps gathered on the bills that tried to fly through the air and retrieved them. It wasn’t perfect, it was a little clumsy, but it still caught me off guard just how well they were able to coordinate for something like that, without any conscious direction on my part.
I suppose it’s not too far off from some of their normal behavior, really.
I couldn’t let myself get distracted. I could put my bugs on autopilot and have them finish the job while I focused on more important things. Pulling off the bedsheets, I uncovered a plastic sheet. The kind you used when your kids wet the bed. Doped out drug addicts, too, maybe.
The top of the plastic sheet looked kinda grody, but I wasn’t in a position to be picky. I pulled it off the mattress, balled it up in my hands and hurried back into the hall.
“Help me,” I ordered Sundancer.
Interesting choice of verb. She could’ve “told” Sundancer to help her, but no, she “ordered” her, implying a slightly more authoritative tone.
With her help, I laid out the plastic sheet, bottom side up, at Newter’s feet. By the time we had it flat and ready, Bitch was returning.
So are they using the sheet as a stretcher? And yes, please do it with the bottom side up.
“Found two pairs of plastic gloves and some rubber gloves under a sink,” she said, “First aid kit, too, but it feels light.”
“Open it,” I said, taking a pair of plastic gloves. It was awkward, fitting them over my normal gloves, but I managed it. Sundancer just pulled off her costume gloves and put on the plastic ones. She was caucasian, I noted, pale. “Tell me what’s inside, fast.”
“Got some tape, bandages, thermometer, safety pins, rubbing alcohol, soap…”
“Needle, thread?” I asked.
“Gauze pads? Big bandages?”
Hm. I guess the rubbing alcohol and the smaller bandages might come in handy?
With our plastic gloves on, Sundancer and I managed to haul Newter onto the plastic sheet. The moment she let go, Sundancer winced and reached up to her shoulder, but she stopped short of actually touching it.
Yeeah, try not to let that glove touch your wound.
I turned to my teammate, “Bitch, go downstairs.
“How many damn times are you gonna make me climb these stairs?”
Those people who were in here took their clothes off and my bugs say they stashed the clothes in a room below us. Find me some purses, as many as you can grab, as fast as you can grab them.”
She didn’t move, this time. She just glared at me.
“I’ve been through those stairs three times already!”
“Fucking move!” I shouted at her. She gave me the evil eye before she left again.
I think Bitch is a little tired of authoritative teammates.
“Bandages are going to be too small,” Sundancer said, as I tried to wrestle Newter’s blood-slick tail onto the plastic sheet.
“Douse them in the alcohol, use them to clean the injury of blood. Use the dry bandages to pat it dry so the tape can stick. Don’t be afraid to get into the wound, just be gentle.”
I was about to suggest that maybe Danny had taken Taylor to a first aid course, but then I remembered Brian was going to [WordPress link]. And reading that post reminded me why she’s skilled at it even though she hasn’t really had much time to take a first aid course between chapters:
“I already did,” I admitted, “One of the first things I did.”
Taylor, as always, prepared. She got ready for the hero life by taking a first aid course early in the planning process, before Gestation.
(Also hey, turns out my memory isn’t that shit. :P)
[Says the guy who just admitted to forgetting this.]
She nodded, and began working on it. I grabbed the tape and began fumbling with it. Two pairs of gloves on, and I couldn’t lift off the end of it.
Relatable as fuck, even without gloves.
I grabbed my knife and used the edge it to get the job done.
Once I had the tape, I began holding the wound closed and taping crosswise across it.
I could only hope I was doing the right things, here. A month of weekend first aid classes had not prepared me for this.
It certainly doesn’t help that you’re operating on a man whose biology is… unusual, either.
Bitch arrived with purses and practically threw them at me. I could have gotten pissed, but Newter couldn’t afford for me to.
Yeah, just gotta run with it.
I began emptying the purses onto the ground beside me and sorting through the contents. Pens, wallets, headphones, books, tampons, pictures, receipts, more receipts, change, keys, yet more receipts…
“What are you looking for?” Sundancer asked.
I suppose the tampons could come in handy, but they’re obviously not Taylor’s goal here.
The third purse turned up what I needed. Sanitary pads.
Eh, that’s not too far off.
I tore one open and pressed it to the wound, then began taping it down. Unasked for, Sundancer grabbed another and opened it so it would be ready for me.
I suppose they would make for pretty good makeshift bandages. They’re designed to do much of the same, aren’t they?
“Sterile, absorbent, covers more area than the bandage can,” I got around to answering her question. “If he lives, his teammates might give him a hard time, but it’s better than nothing.”
“You didn’t tape it down all the way,” Sundancer pointed out.
“Only three sides,” I agreed, “So it can breathe.” I only vaguely recalled some instruction on that front. I was hoping it was right.
Sounds about right.
If I failed here, what right did I have to call myself an aspiring hero?
Plenty! A hero is not defined by their first aid skills.
When the wound was bandaged as much as I could manage, the three of us bundled him up in the sheet and lifted him. Bitch and Sundancer had an injured arm and shoulder, respectively, so they both took his head and shoulders while I took his feet.
Head and shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes…
With agonizing slowness, we carried him down the stairs. then as carefully as we could manage with a body weighing half again as much as any of us, we draped him across Brutus’ shoulders.
So far, so good!
A bone-jarring crash nearly undid all of our hard work. Brutus nearly lost his footing at the impact, and I know I would’ve fallen if I hadn’t already been holding onto him.
Yeeah, I had a feeling it wasn’t gonna be that easy to get him out from here.
So far, so good. Now it’s time for the hard part.
A gauntleted hand as wide across as my armspan had crashed through the wall.
Uh… Someone with a giant form?
The whole building shuddered as another hand punched through the brick of the wall twenty feet from the first hole. Fingers gripped the building, and pulled the entire section of wall out in one piece.
Well, that’s one way to enter the fray.
“Go!” I shouted at Bitch, “Take him to the others! Call Tattetale, get the number for that cape doctor, get medical attention for anyone who needs it!”
She hesitated, opened her mouth to protest.
I raised my voice, “Do not fuck with me here!”
“Fuck with me somewhere else!”
There was a rumble outside as the removed section of wall was thrown against the ground outside, hard.
Just an instant later, a half dozen ABB members retreated into the warehouse through the hole, taking cover from the giantesses.
Giantesses. Plural. Oh wait, that’s right – Fenja and Menja! I forgot about them and their power.
They saw us and stopped short, wary, weapons ready but not raised or pointed at us.
I think they have enough to run from.
Lung followed his thugs into the room.
Weeell shit, here he is.
Lung followed his thugs into the room. He was bigger than I’d seen him yet at nearly fifteen feet in height, and was covered in layers of scales that left him barely recognizable as human.
Y’know, Lung’s power is pretty good for narrative scaling. Remember how I was questioning how Wildbow would make him feel like a threat after he was defeated almost solo by Taylor in Gestation and after we’ve met a much more threatening villain in the form of Bakuda?
This is how, and I should be ashamed for not realizing it until now.
Last time, he was starting from zero, and the main reason Taylor couldn’t beat him on her own was that he grew impervious to her bugs. This time, his transformation has a head start, and it has gone further than it had at the end of the fight in Gestation.
I wonder if this is going to continue happening until Taylor has to fight him in full dragon form.
Spearlike growths stuck out of his shoulders in what I realized were the beginnings of wings.
Sounds like he’s well on his way there already.
His mask had been torn off at some point, and the features of his face had been warped by his transformation. The shape of his skull and face were more catlike than human, and his nose and mouth were a single X-shaped opening, bristling with pointed teeth that stuck in every direction.
I could see why he usually wore the mask.
“Bitch,” I murmured, “If you don’t leave now, I don’t think you’re going to get another chance.”
“Which do you want more? To fight, here and now, or to make sure Faultline and the other groups don’t have an excuse to do anything to our teammates?”
Get Newter out of there.
‘Course, without Bitch there, that means Taylor’s gonna have to rely on the firepower of her bugs, Sundancer, and maybe Fenja and Menja. And the bugs are useless against Lung at this stage of his transformation.
I did say I thought we were going to see Sundancer’s power.
I saw her hesitate. The fact that she even had to think about it… I could have slapped her.
She might actually have considered the lack of firepower she’d leave Taylor with. Bitch probably doesn’t know what Sundancer’s power does any more than Taylor does.
Kaiser strolled in, unworried, unhurried. Lung moved like he was going to lunge for him, then stopped just in time to avoid impaling himself on the narrow blade of steel that had erupted from the ground, pointed at his heart.
Not buddy-buddies, I see. Good.
I still don’t trust Kaiser, though.
I wasn’t sure if it would have penetrated his covering of scales, but if I were Lung, I don’t think I would have gambled on it either.
It is interesting that Kaiser is still up, I suppose, considering the type advantage Lung has against him.
Fenja and Menja reduced their size to fit through the hole they’d made in the wall, then grew again as they had the headroom. They settled at a height of eighteen or twenty feet. Fenja carried a sword and round shield, while Menja had a spear. Or the other way around, whatever.
Nice. Sundancer, Kaiser, Fenja and Menja against Lung, with Taylor probably acting as a general. Though Kaiser probably wouldn’t be too happy about getting bossed around by her, and Fenja and Menja are loyal to him…
In the corner of my eye, I saw Bitch hop onto Brutus, then ride in the direction of the sniper team and Labyrinth, a wrapped-up Newter lying limp in front of her. Judas and Angelica remained behind, not far from Sundancer and I. Their entire bodies were taut with tension, their heads low, as they glared at the new arrivals.
Can Judas and Angelica fight without Bitch’s guidance? Or maybe Bitch is coming back once she’s dropped off Newter.
Lung turned to survey the room. His men were arranged in a loose circle around him, facing us. His eyes settled on me.
“You. Yooou! YOU ROTTED MY DICK OFF!!!”
“Ooo,” he rumbled, his words were distorted by the shape of his altered mouth, but it was easy enough to guess what he’d just said. You.
Turns out Lung is an Adventure Time fan.
End of Hive 5.8
This was a decent chapter. A lot of first aid, which I’ll admit wasn’t that interesting to read in the stretched out format liveblogging causes, but it neatly showcased Taylor taking charge of the situation and making use of her established skills. It also showed Bitch’s reactions to Taylor ordering her around, which were… less than pleased.
And at the end, we got setup for the next chapter. The inevitable Lung fight is about to start, and it’s looking like it’s going to be quite interesting!
See ya then!