Buzz 7.2: Actual Worms!

Source material: Worm, Buzz 7.2

Originally blogged: October 10, 2017


*bzzt* -ome in, come i– *shsrk* -ixwell calling reade- *crckl* -ead me? I’m b- *skrrch* -me more Wor- *walkiesplode*

Hm, maybe I should consider blogging through Tumblr instead of walkie talkies.

So, last time, we learned a lot about Alec’s past, and then Taylor surprised everyone by negotiating herself into spending some quality time with a less than happy Rachel, which I’m pretty sure is what we’re getting into today. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how these two get along now that Taylor a) isn’t keeping herself at arm’s length and b) understands better how Rachel’s mind works, and they’re in a setting that means a lot to Rachel.

Let’s just jump into it and find out who let the dogs out!

(Hint: It was Rachel.)


Bitch led the way as we traced a winding path through the Docks.  Her dogs trotted at her side, occasionally stopping to sniff, but never rushing ahead or lagging so far behind that they pulled on the leash.

Even Angelica [here] is behaving. 🙂

Glancing at her, I could see how she was more at ease, like this.   When she was walking with the dogs at her side, I could see that the lines of her face were softer, there was less tension in her body.  She wasn’t quite so guarded.

Maybe she, to some extent, has managed to forget that Taylor is tagging along. But yes, I think Brutus and the other dogs aren’t the only ones here who enjoy walkies.

I’d sort of assumed that her days of being homeless and fending for herself were the bad days, to her.  That it was a step up, being with us.

They certainly sound bad, to readers who are used to the highly social society we’re part of. Maybe it was different for Rachel, though. Even discounting what her power did to her brain, people are very different, perhaps especially when they’ve grown up under such different conditions.

I was beginning to reconsider whether that was entirely true, seeing her stride down the streets and alleys with her dogs beside her.  Here, she didn’t have to worry about dealing with people and the social maneuverings she could no longer grasp.  This was what she was used to.

Only her and her dogs. :Å)


By the way, on the topic of Brian being the scentless man, from the 7.1 asks: While I was looking for the post about Angelica pulling on the leash, I skimmed some of my posts about the scentless man. I found one in particular that showed that I did actually consider the possibility of it being Brian, but I discounted that possibility [also here]. For somewhat weak reasons, admittedly.


She glanced my way, and a shadow of irritation touched her expression.

Ah, yes, there we go.

“Oh right. She’s here.”

I was intruding on her domain, spoiling that.  If I slipped up and pissed her off, I’d be lucky to get hit just once.

A deal’s a deal, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a chance she’ll go “fuck what Brian said” if sufficiently pissed off.

I knew we were close to our destination when I heard the barking.  Angelica yapped back in reply, cranked herself up to ‘excited frenzy’ mode and rushed forward, pulling on the leash.  Bitch stopped her, directed her to lie down with a motion of her finger, and we waited.  When Angelica relaxed and put her chin on the ground, we moved forward again.

Ah, yes, there’s the leash-pulling. :Å)

We didn’t get three steps before Angelica pulled again, provoking the repetition of orders and another minute long wait.

I think I see what the goal here is. By stopping every time she pulls on the leash, eventually she’ll learn that pulling doesn’t get them to the destination faster.

The third time it happened, Bitch gave me a dark look.  As though it were my fault, or more probable, she might have been anticipating impatience on my part.  I didn’t really mind, though.  It wasn’t like I had anywhere to be, and it was interesting to see her process.

Hehe.

Third, less likely option: “do you see this shit?”


“How long have you had her?”

“Five months.”

“That’s pretty amazing,” I conceded, “I mean, she was abused before you got her, right?  So even with having to get her past that, and she’s already better trained than any dog I’ve seen that isn’t yours.”

Yeah, that’s honestly a fair point. Although there’s a chance the abuse involved excessive training in the first place. :/

“Walk on,” she instructed Angelica.  When Angelica didn’t pull, Bitch handed out treats to Brutus, then Judas, then Angelica in turn, without breaking stride.  “Dogs learn from their pack.  She learns some from imitating Brutus and Judas.”

Ah, I’m sure that helps a lot.

Brutus and maybe Judas probably used to pull on the leash just like Angelica. Brutus does indicate that Angelica “still” does it, after all.

I nodded.

“Most dog owners are retards anyways.”

“I can believe that.”

Heh.


We approached the building that all the barking was coming from.  The rusted skeleton of a small crane stood atop a partially constructed building.  Bitch opened the door and waited until I was inside before closing it and latching it shut.  I could hear scratching at the door just past the first room.

E8ÅD

…that dog smiley is getting out of hand.

When the second door leading further into the building was opened, a tide of dogs nearly bowled us over.

AWOONAMI

I couldn’t count them, but there were more than ten, less than twenty.  All sorts of breeds, different sizes and shapes.

Look at that huge hexagonal prism dog!

As Bitch moved forward as though the dogs weren’t there, I struggled to even stand.

Turns out Rachel can swim through dogs like Scrooge McDuck through money.

I leaned against the front door for balance, and all I could think about was that moment Bitch had set her dogs on me, back when we first met.

Well, if she wanted to get back at Taylor for winning that fight, now would be an excellent opportunity. Though I have a feeling these dogs aren’t as thoroughly trained as the usual trio, she could probably still sic many of them on her.


I couldn’t afford to appear weak in front of Bitch, so I avoided asking for help.

Yeah, that’s fair. Appearing weak might not get the best of reactions.

Cement was laid out over nearly half of the building interior, as the floor or foundation, but the work had been interrupted and abandoned partway through.  There were areas where crushed stone had been laid out in preparation for the cement pour, and a combination of wind and rain had mixed regular dirt into the crushed stone a long time ago.  Any spot inside the building that wasn’t covered in concrete was marked by patches of grass and a few scraggy weeds.

There’s one thing there’s no doubt about, even if it hasn’t really been specified: We’re still very much in the Docks.

Three walls of the ground floor were erect, plywood and drywall bolted to wood frames, with cement blocks piled against most of the exterior walls.  Enough had been done at the front of the building for the construction workers to have started laying out a second floor, providing an overhang between the ground floor and the sky to keep things more or less dry.

I wonder why construction stopped.

Things were too much of a mess for me to tell if the far exterior wall had been left incomplete or if had fallen down.  It stood open to the environment, letting rays of dusty sunlight inside.

Not really the best place to keep dogs, but I guess Rachel just has to make do with what she’s got access to.

Y’know, unless she changes her mind about Coil.


Bitch headed to a wood pallet stacked with bags of dog food, which rested atop a pallet of bricks.  She drew a knife across the top of two bags and let them empty into a trough sitting below.  I was grateful when most of the dogs around me rushed off to get their food.

Hehe. Go get your food, doggos ❤

The reprieve didn’t last long.  Several of the dogs began fighting in front of the trough.

Uh oh.

A black lab, snarling with his expression pulled into something grotesque, chased a smaller dog directly toward me.  The little dog collided with my legs, and with the lab hot on her heels, it started fighting tooth and nail in its own defense.  A bigger dog, longer and lankier than the lab, with very short fur, crossed the room to join the skirmish, protecting the little one.

Welp. So Rachel, are you going to do something about this, or do you consider this the natural order of the pack?

“Bitch?”  I asked, doing my best to keep my voice calm as the dogs fought beneath me, bumping into my legs.  I backed up, but they brought the fight right to me once again.

“The black one is Sirius.  He’s the newest, not used to things.  He’ll get better as the other dogs socialize him and I get a chance to train him.”

Does he turn into a human wizard sometimes?

Okay, but seriously – no pun intended – a black dog named Sirius does not strike me as a coincidence. (Sirius Black’s animagus form was definitely not a labrador, though. Apparently Padfoot was played by a German sheperd in PoA and a Scottish deerhound in OotP.)

Anyway, it seems Rachel is content with letting this go on for now.

“They’re, uh, really going at it,” I winced and pulled one leg off the ground to keep it out of the way.

“Let me know if he draws blood.”

Fair enough, I guess.


The fighting was nerve wracking, conjuring up very vivid memories of Bitch’s dogs terrorizing me.  Why did this spook me so much when being around her dogs in monster form didn’t make me that nervous?

Maybe because the dogs weren’t in monster form when she attacked you, and you’ve been around them in monster form a lot recently. Maybe it feels like the hellhounds are more under control (which they aren’t).

Shutting my eyes, I drew on my power.  My objective wasn’t to do anything with it, but simply to get a little outside my own head, achieve a greater perspective.

Sure, that might be helpful.

Focusing on the big picture, seeing myself as a very small figure against the backdrop of a whole neighborhood, I was able to center myself.  I could ignore the hairy animals shoving up against my legs, jumping up at and around me, pressing their cold noses against my hands and arms.

Some people dislike seeing themselves as an ultimately insignificant entity in a greater whole. Taylor, on the other hand, seems to draw comfort from that.

I think I can relate, to be honest.

A mass of bugs in my immediate vicinity lunged between my legs.  My eyes snapped open, and I saw the culprit, placed my hands on him, the dark furred lab.

“hi!”

It wasn’t fleas, either, or ticks or anything like that.  It was a denser mass.  The closest parallel I could draw would be a wasp nest.  Or maggots in a trash bag.

Oh, geez. Maybe he’s acting up in part because of this?


“Bitch,” I spoke, cautiously.

“What?” She sounded… annoyed was the wrong word.  She sounded ready to kill me, for interrupting her from setting the dogs up with fresh water.

“I think one of these guys is really sick.”

Her head snapped in my direction.  “Show me.”

Oh yeah, now that’s certainly gonna get her to care.

The dogs stopped fighting as she stalked toward us.  I took the opportunity to gingerly take hold of Sirius’s collar as she ushered the rest away.  She glowered at me, “Explain.”

It was hard to organize my thoughts, even without accounting for her intense scrutiny.  “Worms.  But not, like, tapeworm.  I-I can’t see through their eyes or anything.

I suppose they don’t have eyes, then. Flatworms (tapeworm being parasitic flatworms) do have simple eyespots, so I guess that’s what Taylor is using to rule them out.

Um.  I don’t know what they are, so I can only tell you what I know.  They’re mostly juvenile, only a few adult, um-”

“Above the heart, here?”  She pointed to a spot low in his chest.

I nodded.

At least if the worms are young, that might mean this is a recent development.

“And the arteries?  There’s one from here,” she pointed at the lab’s shoulder, “To here?” she traced her finger along his spine.

“That’s where a lot of them are.  But they’re not just there.  They’re everywhere inside him.”

Rachel seems to have some idea of where things are not as they should be. She might be able to tell based on something that is visible to the outside, but which Taylor wouldn’t be able to identify just by sight.

“Fuckers.  Those fuckers,” she growled.  “I warned them.”

Taking hold of the lab’s collar, she ordered the dog, “Come along, Sirius.”

Which fuckers are we talking about, specifically?

I suppose it’s off to the vet.


The dog resisted until Brutus moved forward, then went along, though he still pulled and twisted against the grip on his collar.

“I don’t know dogs,” I said, following her into the herd of dogs just inside the building.  “I never had a pet, so I’m clueless here.”

Worth getting that on the table where they can both see it, I suppose.

“It’s heartworm.  Something dogs are supposed to take medicine to prevent, every month.”

“The owners didn’t, then?”

Ahh.

And hey, unlike flatworms, the roundworms responsible for heartworm infections don’t have eyespots. (Some aquatic roundworms do, but it’s unclear whether they can actually sense anything through them.)

Hm…

“Dogs show no indication of heartworm infection during the six-month prepatent period prior to the worms’ maturation, and current diagnostic tests for the presence of microfilariae or antigens cannot detect prepatent infections.” (source)

Sounds like this might’ve been in Sirius’ body for months, but is still being detected earlier than it normally would.

“The shelter didn’t.  Lazy, cheap-ass motherfuckers.

Oof. People who are supposed to know what they’re doing. Those fuckers.

This is the second dog I got from that place that wasn’t taken care of.  And people who do adopt get a sick dog?  Fuckers, fuckers, fuckers.”

Damn it, shelter!


“What are you going to do with him?”  I tried to ignore the dogs milling around me, to keep moving forward and follow Bitch.

Judging by your luck moving through the dog swarm so far, this might be difficult.

We are going to help him.”

Ooh. I like how Rachel is very pointedly including Taylor here. So do you have a plan involving Taylor’s power?

I shook my head.  “I don’t think I can get the worms out without hurting him.  I mean, they’re in his bloodstream and the closest thing to an exit would be his lungs, and I think they would bleed too much.  I’m not even sure I can move them.”

Hrm. And I’m guessing there’s no good way to get the worms to kill themselves off.

“Grab that chain.”  She pointed across the room, still holding on to Sirius.

I saw several lengths of heavy chain, spotted with rust, looped up and hung on the wall above a pallet of weather worn brick.  I hurried over and hauled it down.  It was heavy enough I had to drag it on the grass to bring it to her.

Hm. What are you thinking, Rachel? Is this just to keep Sirius from running off, or do you have something else in mind for the chain?

“Backpack,” she told me.  I took it off and handed it to her.  She opened the front and handed me a carabiner, a metal loop with a locking hinge.  “Go tie the chain to something solid.”

I did, looping the chain around the base of the crane that was bolted to the concrete pad, toward the center of the room.  I fed the length through the carabiner  and headed back to Bitch.

Fairly basic chain usage so far.

Judas, Brutus and Angelica were already halfway to full size.

Huh? Why?

I just, really don’t see what the plan is here if hellhounds contribute to it. Unless… Is she going to tie Sirius on one of their backs… wait, no, that doesn’t make sense with the attachment of the chain to something solid, nevermind.

Bitch took the chain and began extending it around the struggling dog, winding it through a half dozen carabiners so it extended around his neck, body and stomach, and between his legs.

“What’s going on?”

Hm… keeping him from flailing too much?

“I’m using my power on him.  And he’s not trained.”

“Wait.  Didn’t a dog kill some people, back when you first had your powers?”

Ohhh, I see! There may not be a good way to get the worms out of a normal dog without hurting him too much, but a hellhound isn’t going to let something as trivial as a punctured lung kill him.

The other three powering up would be a precaution in case he gets out of the chains. Three trained hellhounds to counter one untrained one.

Hm… from a Doylist perspective, a good alternate name for Sirius, given this situation, would be Fenris.

[Then again, he is Siriusly ill.]


“Yup.”

I felt my heartbeat speed up a notch.  “So this is really dangerous.”

“Yup.”  She tugged on the chain at his neck.

“Okay.”  I exhaled slowly.  “What can I do?”

Hehehe.

Yup.

“Keep out of the way for now.”

Sirius started to grow.  Muscles rippled underneath his black coat, and he yelped, pulling away.

“Couldn’t we maybe get him tranquilized, first?” I asked, watching the lab try to get away, despite the chains binding him.

Who knows how tranquilizers would interact with the power? Anyway, I’m fairly sure that even if it went without a hitch, Sirius would wake up shortly after becoming a hellhound, unless they used a dosage that’s probably lethal to regular dogs.

Bitch held the length of chain in her hands, keeping him in place.  “No.  My power would burn away the drugs.”

Ah, yeah, fair enough.

“He doesn’t like it.”

“It takes getting used to. But this is better than what he’d go through if a vet took care of it.  Safer.”

“If an animal is diagnosed with heartworms, treatment may be indicated. Before the worms can be treated, however, the dog must be evaluated for heart, liver, and kidney function to evaluate the risks of treatment. Usually, the adult worms are killed with an arsenic-based compound. The currently approved drug in the US, melarsomine, is marketed under the brand name Immiticide. It has a greater efficacy and fewer side effects than previously used drug (thiacetarsamide sodium, sold as Caparsolate), which makes it a safer alternative for dogs with late-stage infections.

After treatment, the dog must rest (restricted exercise) for several weeks so as to give its body sufficient time to absorb the dead worms without ill effect. Otherwise, when the dog is under exertion, dead worms may break loose and travel to the lungs, potentially causing respiratory failure and death. According to the American Heartworm Society, use of aspirin in dogs infected with heartworms is no longer recommended due to a lack of evidence of clinical benefit and may be contraindicated. It had previously been recommended for its effects on platelet adhesion and reduction of vascular damage caused by the heartworms.

The course of treatment is not completed until several weeks later, when the microfilariae are dealt with in a separate course of treatment. Once heartworm tests are negative, the treatment is considered a success.” (source)

Yeah, doesn’t sound like a pleasant experience.


Not for us, I thought, as Sirius pulled back.

Heh.

Don’t worry, Taylor, I’m sure Rachel knows what she’s doing.

Bitch pulled him closer to her, shifting her grip to the chain at his neck and chest to feed the slack through it and give Sirius more room to grow.  His ears were pulled back, his face etched in fear and rage, teeth bared.  I would have been terrified he would snap at me, given how easily he could take half of someone’s face off with a single bite, but Bitch never flinched or broke eye contact with him.

Rachel knows how to act towards Sirius here. Eye contact, no signs of weakness, etc.

Something moved to my right, and I saw Brutus pacing.  The other dogs, the ones I didn’t know, stayed back a fair distance, kept at bay by Brutus’s watchful presence.

A reminder to Taylor and the reader that the usual trio of dogs is here too. And apparently Brutus is doing his best to keep the other dogs safe.

There was a sound of shuffling chain as Bitch adjusted the chain again.

“Judas, Angelica!” she called out, releasing Sirius and backing away.  “Hold!”

Good plan. 🙂

Sirius, pupils narrowed to dots, lunged at her.  Judas stepped between them, while Angelica struck at the lab from the side, knocking him to the ground.  In a moment, the two dogs were on top of him, Judas holding Sirius’s throat in his jaws, while Angelica lay astride his hindquarters.

“Bad boy. Stay down.”

Even with two full size dogs piled on him, Sirius managed to put up a struggle.

“The heartworm?” Bitch glanced at me.

I felt out with my power.  Whatever was going on inside Sirius’ body, the worms were being churned up, disintegrating and dissolving.

Oh, I see. We don’t even need to get the worms out via the lungs, the power takes care of that too.

“Almost gone.”

She nodded.

She turned her attention to Sirius, who was lying prone, his chest heaving.  “Heartworms have a bacteria inside them.  When they die, the bacteria gets released into the dog.

Oh yeah, I read something about that in the Wikipedia article. Apparently this can cause inflammations?

Having a vet treat it is a long process that involves injecting arsenic into muscles and lots of antibiotics.  Like this, his body won’t just kill them, but it can kill the disease.  He’ll be fine by tomorrow.”

Niice.


Sirius let out a long, mournful noise, somewhere between a whine and a howl, loud enough that I had to turn my face away and cover my ears.

When I was sure he wasn’t about to do it again, I dropped my hands.  I asked Bitch, “Have you done this before?”

She shook her head.

Hm… but she also said this was the second dog that came with this from that shelter. Did she treat the other one via the mundane means, without thinking of the possibility of using her power to do it? Or did she… find out too late?

“I’ve used my power on most of them, but only a little, to keep them healthy.  Sirius is the only one I’ve made this big since Angelica, Brutus, Judas and Rollo.”

…there’s one name that sticks out here. Was Rollo the dog she empowered when she first found out about the power, the one who killed someone?

I almost asked who Rollo was, but I kept my mouth shut.  It was a habit of mine, I found, that I usually pushed a conversation with Bitch too far, gave her an excuse to get pissed at me.  I could prioritize other things over my curiosity.

Guess we’re not finding out right now, unless Rachel herself decides to elaborate. But she’s not exactly the elaborating type.

Besides, as I thought on it, I realized Rollo might’ve been the first dog she used her power on.  The one with the body count.

Yeah, that’s my theory too, Taylor.

“Time?” She asked.

I found my cell phone, fumbled with it to press a button and display the time.  “Nine minutes past eleven.”

As it happens, it’s currently about five minutes past eleven here. Although that’s PM for me, and AM for Taylor and Rachel.


“We’ll give it fifteen minutes,” she reached for the chain and held it.  “Takes about that long for it to wear off.”

“Okay.”

“I don’t need you here.  If you want to be useful, there’s a shovel by the door.  You can go pick up the shit in the short grass over there.”

I guess it’s something to do while waiting for a huge dog to get smaller.

“Fuck you,” the words spilled out of my mouth before I could censor them.  I wasn’t positive I wanted to censor them, but it bugged me that I’d done it without thinking it through.

Hehe.

Honestly, I think there’s a decent chance Rachel isn’t going to take offense here. This is Taylor not showing weakness – Rachel might appreciate that.

“What?” she growled at me.

“Fuck you,” I repeated myself, “I came to help.  Thought maybe I was helping, by pointing out what was wrong with Sirius.  That doesn’t mean I’m going to be your slave, or that it’s an excuse to give me the worst jobs.  You want me to pick up the poop?  Cool, but I’ll do it when you’ve got a shovel in your hand too, and you’re working beside me.”

Ehh, fair enough.

“You told me I could hit you, free and clear, if you pissed me off,” she threatened me.

I think Taylor’s cool with that, Rachel.

“Yeah, but if you do it here, for this reason, I’m hitting back,”

Heh, nice.

I didn’t move my eyes away from hers, even as every awkward part of me twitched to look away and leave.  If she really did default to interpreting social interactions in dog terms, then eye contact was important.

Yes, keep doing this. Standing up to her might actually get her to respect you more.

I didn’t know much about animals, about dogs, but I did know that it was the submissive dog, the dog lower on the totem pole, that backed down.

“I’ve got Brutus, you wouldn’t win the fight,” she told me.

Can she actually assign Brutus to a different task right now? He might be stuck keeping the other dogs at bay.

Almost definitely true, I thought.  But I couldn’t give in.  I resisted the urge to look at Brutus and told her, my voice low, “You want to go there?  Try it.”

Man, I hope this ends in Rachel laughing, to Taylor’s surprise.

She set her jaw, stared at me for several long moments.  Then Sirius made a noise, a smaller version of that whimpering howl he’d made earlier, and she turned her head.

Ah, or she can get distracted. Fair enough.


I waited a minute, watching as Sirius got the strength to struggle again, nearly standing up, before the weight of the other two dogs pressed him down again.

“Bitch- Rachel.  I’m getting the impression you might be here a while, to keep an eye on Sirius, give him some attention after he’s back to normal so he knows everything’s okay?”

Makes sense.

“What about it?”  Her voice was hard, and she didn’t look my way.

“Do you want me to pick up something for lunch, so you can stay here with him?”

“…Fine.”

And thus, Taylor ended up finding a non-degrading way to help.

“You know this area better than I do.  Where-” I stopped.  I needed to convey more self confidence than simply asking her for the info.  She might even see it as begging.  I told her, “Tell me where to go.”

Small changes can make a world of difference to how you come across.

I was crossing my fingers she wouldn’t go nuts over me giving her an order.

She was too preoccupied with watching Sirius to argue with me.  “There’s a Greek food stand if you walk in the direction of the Boardwalk.  You’ll smell it before you see it.”

Headcanon: Despite the Protectorate HQ providing excellent food (made by a parahumanly skilled chef or five, with tinkertech kitchen equipment), and there otherwise being plenty of good restaurants in Brockton Bay, Dauntless likes to go to this food stand in the Docks for lunch from time to time.


“Okay.  What do you want?”

“Anything with meat.”

“I’ll be back,” I told her.

Heh, of course she wants meat.

She didn’t reply, leaving me to make my way through the crowd of dogs to the front door.  I stuck my shaking hands into my pockets and headed off to grab our lunch, leaving Bitch with the monster in chains.

See you soon!


End of Buzz 7.2

Either I was faster than I thought, or this was a short chapter. Either way, it was a good one. I really feel like we made some progress on Taylor and Rachel getting along, and Taylor tagging along allowed Rachel to cure a dog of a potentially fatal disease, which I count as a win.

Next time… well, one of two options: Either we follow Taylor to get lunch, or we pick back up when she returns to the doghouse. If it’s the former, that’ll bode ill from the start – if there’s a chapter about Taylor going out for lunch, something’s bound to come up on that trip. Maybe she’ll run into someone, like Emma or Danny, or there’ll be some kind of parahuman situation going on.

I honestly think the next chapter starting when she comes back is more likely, but it not doing so is a possibility worth considering.

I guess I’ll just have to find out when I get there. See you then!

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