Parasite 10.1: Cruciatus

Source material: Worm, Parasite 10.1

Originally blogged: January 9, 2018


Howdy! It’s time to continue my journey through Worm!

Judging by the fact that I was asked to do the Arc Thoughts after the last chapter, it seems we’re skipping the between-Arc Interlude we’re used to by now and moving straight into Arc 10. Double digits!

Let’s turn the page and find out what this Arc is called…

Parasite. Nice.

I suppose it was really only a question of time before that name showed up. Not quite as much so as Buzz, but still.

So, what does this mean? By definition, parasitism is a kind of symbiosis that benefits one of the organisms and is detrimental to the other… Sounds kind of like the situation Shadow Stalker has with the Wards, which benefits her by keeping her out of jail. Though I suppose you could argue that it’s not so much a parasitic relationship with the Wards as a mutualistic relation between Shadow Stalker and Piggot. Shadow Stalker is kept out of jail, and Piggot gets her little PR boost.

The second person I think of when I hear the word Parasite is Kaiser, who benefited from his subordinates’ help and broke many of those same people psychologically in the process. But Kaiser’s dead, so I seriously doubt that’s what we’re talking about here.

Another possibility is that this has to do with Chariot, whose intention appears to be to become an information-gathering parasite in the Wards.

And finally, since I have no idea what she’s like yet, I can’t discount the idea of it having to do with Imp. Exactly how, I don’t know.

As for chapter 10.1, I’m fairly sure it’s finally time to find out what Taylor and the Undersiders have been up to, who Imp is, and what they intend to do with Shadow Stalker. Although maybe that’s too much for one chapter? At the very least I think we’ll find out one of those things, probably starting with the last one.

So yeah. Without further ado, let’s start louse-combing! Uh, I mean, read Worm!


Creepy crawlies riddled the building’s interior, and I hadn’t even used my powers to bring them here.

Nice. That establishes quite nicely that we’re back to Taylor’s perspective. 🙂

One thing I suppose I haven’t really commented on before: Whenever we leave Taylor’s perspective, the story goes into third person, whereas Taylor’s narration is in first person. I like that – it makes for a consistency when it comes to who appears to be telling this story, even if it’s questionable that Taylor would end up knowing all the things we learn from other people’s narration, after the story’s end. Take Brutus’ Interlude in particular – he was a dog, and he’s dead, so there’s no mundane way for Taylor to get that story from him.

It seems like we’ve got an omniscient narrator who’s telling us about events and the setting from the POV of various characters, and limiting her narration to how she and the other characters were perceiving things back then.

(Not that I’m saying Taylor will literally become omniscient by the end of the story.)


[Discord]

LHC:
wait a minute Krix I’m sorry to butt in but
>it seems we’re skipping the between-Arc Interlude we’re used to by now and moving straight into Arc 10
Didn’t we already have a whole big thing where everyone pointed out that the interludes aren’t between arcs?

Krixwell:
Yeah, but they have been up to this point, even in the cases where there’s been bonus Interludes earlier. Thus that’s what we’ve gotten used to by now.

LHC:
by they’re not, dude

Krixwell:
Fair enough
Also this is the kind of thing that should go through asks.

LHC:
like, Danny’s interlude is properly the last chapter of arc 1
Victoria’s interlude is properly the last chapter of arc 2
and so on

Krixwell:
Ah, right, that whole thing
It still seems like semantics to me, for the most part. I’m treating them that way on the ToC, Arc Thoughts and tagging-wise these days, so I don’t really know what more you want.

LHC:
Like, actually think of it that way? The arcs are the discrete units that make up the story; the interludes are just a type of chapter that goes in them.

Krixwell:
Fair enough

LHC:
Sorry to bother you; I just saw the reference to interludes between arcs and I just internally went “fuck, he didn’t get it a long time ago when he took the poll and started tagging/ToCing them right”


No power meant the building was dark. The city, and consequently the building, were flooded, which meant it was moist. With exceptions for some of the luckier areas, pretty much every service was suspended, which meant no mail and no trash pickup.

Eesh.

Trash bags were accumulating anywhere that people lived, here included, and when they had run out of trash bags, people had started littering, throwing their trash out the windows or leaving it in hallways instead. To top it off, the weather was getting warmer.

Sounds like a place with a fantastic scent.

For bugs, all of these converging details made the city into a paradise.

Oh yeah, I remember (because I recently reread it) back in 1.2, Taylor commented on Brockton Bay being good for both bugs and capes because it was relatively warm, and now we’re getting closer to summer.

To be honest, I’ve started losing track of the specifics of the timeline a bit, so I’m not sure exactly how long it’s been since Gestation, but around 2-3 months or so sounds about right. Gestation started in early spring, so now we’d be getting into late spring and early summer.

I walked in the lead of the group, with Imp a step behind me and to my right. The two of us held flashlights, but Imp was barely paying attention to hers.

Hey there. Maybe Taylor’s going to tell us a little about you soon?

She held a knife much like mine, and she dragged the point against the wall as we walked down the hallway, carving a groove into the paint. Her flashlight spent more time pointed at her feet than in front of us, leaving me the burden of lighting our way.

Hm. Sounds kind of… disinterested?


I stopped, turned the flashlight on an open apartment door. “Here, maybe?”

Grue grunted, adjusted the position of the unconscious body he had draped over one shoulder, “Scout it.”

Time for the bugdar, I suppose.

Bitch nodded, letting Angelica off the chain, pointing at the door. Of the four dogs she had with her, only Angelica was still under the influence of her power, standing three times her usual size.

Ah, apparently not. It’s time for the far less subtle dogdar instead!

Despite the invigorating effects of Bitch’s attentions, the dog moved slowly as she loped into the apartment. It was painful to look at her – she was moving as though she were ten years older than she was.

Ouch. Did she participate in the Leviathan pileup and get injured rather than killed? I don’t remember any of the dogs in the pileup surviving, but it could’ve happened. I suppose it wouldn’t make sense for Rachel to keep Angelica out of it when she included Brutus and Judas.

The other dogs pulled at their chains, wanting to follow. Bitch made angry clucking noises, then ordered them to sit. They were slow to obey, but I think something about the look in Bitch’s eyes told them they’d better listen.

Oh, they’d better, alright.

One of them reared back as I sent more bugs into the interior to investigate.

Ah…


Bitch had been short-tempered lately. The loss of two of the dogs she was closest to? It played a large part in that.

Oh jeez, she was already pretty short-tempered before, so when Taylor’s saying/implying she’s even more short-tempered than usual? Sounds like she’s on a hairpin trigger.

She’d lost eight dogs in total, and Angelica had only lived because she had been too hurt to be brought along.

Oh. Right, now I remember. I guess it did make sense to keep her out of it.

Problem was, Angelica wasn’t recovering from those injuries, and from what I gathered, she might not ever recover completely.

Ah, shit. Fog, what did you do to her?

Bitch was forced to rely on a single crippled, obedient dog and three dogs that were in the peak of health, but impatient and untrained.

All while grieving the other two obedient dogs and six untrained ones. A pretty unfortunate situation overall.


Of course, I couldn’t deny that a big part of her attitude was me and the fact that I was here.

Hm, fair. I guess it’s too much to expect her to forgive Taylor that easily.

I wonder what Brian and Alec think.

Angelica returned to the doorway, looked up at her owner, and then returned to the apartment.

“No problems,” Bitch spoke, translating Angelica’s body language for everyone present. Grue looked at me, and I nodded confirmation.

Both is good.

I led the way inside, using my flashlight to scan the area.

The apartment had been ransacked, but it wasn’t the kind of ransacking that suggested the looters had gotten to it. No, it was the very thorough removal of everything valuable that could be carried away by a family of three or four.

Evacuees. Hopefully they’re alright, starting new lives in a different city.

There were two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen with room for a small table and accompanying chairs. There was a smaller bed in one room and a king sized bed in the other.

I guess it’s three rather than four, then. Not that it matters all that much.

Dresser drawers, cabinets and bedside tables were all open, clothes strewn around the rooms. The occupants had left in a hurry, and I was guessing they probably hadn’t expected to come back or find much of their stuff here when they did.

I wonder if they evacuated the moment they got out of the shelter.


Tattletale grunted as she dropped one box beside the couch, where it landed on something with a crunch. “City’s trying to restore order one area at a time. May be doing more harm than good. This building’s been declared uninhabitable, which isn’t exactly doing anyone any favors, because most places in the city are just as bad or worse, and a lot of people don’t have anywhere else to go. Anyways, they’re kicking everyone out, trying to clean up as best they can, get rid of that trash, do what they can about the infestation of rats and bugs.

Uninhabitable. Really.

At this point they should be concerned about whether it’s physically possible to live safely somewhere, not whether it’s possible to live there comfortably.

Might still be a few people around, but I doubt anyone’s going to be poking around enough to find us before eleven or so tomorrow morning.”

Yeah, sounds like a decent hideout.

“Then we have time to do what we need to do,” Grue spoke.

Which is?

He used one foot to drag one of the dining room chairs out from beneath the table, placing it in the center of the kitchen. I hurried to his side to hold the seat in place as he hefted the limp body from over his shoulder and set it down. Shadow Stalker nearly tipped over, but together we caught her and leaned her back. Her head lolled.

…hm. What if “Parasite” refers to whatever they’re about to do here? Maybe Imp’s power involves something like possession, and they want her to take over Shadow Stalker’s body like – or using – a parasite? Something along those lines?

Also, it’s entirely possible that Imp is the non-Regent Master Weld was talking about in 9.1, rather than Taylor, but Shadow Stalker didn’t seem to know about Imp from before, so chances are good the PRT in general didn’t either.


Regent put down a second, smaller box next to the one Tattletale had brought. I switched positions with Tattletale – she began searching Shadow Stalker, removing crossbows, cartridges of ammunition and two small knives.

Ah, yeah, good call disarming her.

She found a phone with a touch screen, then reached beneath the unconscious girl’s hood to pluck a wireless earbud from the girl’s ear. After rubbing it on Shadow Stalker’s cloak to clean it, she put it in her own ear and started fiddling with the smart phone.

Niice. That could come in handy, especially if they want to communicate with the Wards console.

After a few seconds she pronounced, “GPS hasn’t been activated. They probably won’t turn it on to look for her until she fails to return from patrol.”

Ah, right, of course they’d do something like that… I didn’t even think of it. Just goes to show how ineffective I’d be as a villain. 😛


“Can you stop them from activating it?” Grue asked. “Or maybe we could have Skitter’s bugs or a dog carry that piece somewhere else?”

The latter sounds like a good option if the former doesn’t work. And I’m not sure how they’d go about the former, so it seems like it’d be necessary.

By the way, possible Imp powers that appear to be ruled out: Things that can be used for scouting out an apartment, and things that can be used to move something far away.

Speaking of Imp, she seems to be rather quiet. Then again, Regent and Bitch haven’t said anything either, so maybe it’s too early to say much on that. At least she doesn’t seem overly talkative in this situation.

Tattletale shook her head, “I can turn it off. Give me a minute.”

Ah, okay. Nice 🙂

Regent and I had already started hauling extension cords out of the box Regent had been carrying, untangling them and feeding them over to Grue.

Hm. I have no idea what they’re trying to accomplish, but apparently it requires electricity. Better have plenty of cord, I suppose, since apparently this apartment doesn’t have power.

He began winding a cord around our captive, starting with loops around her wrists and arms, going up her arms to her chest, then back down to bind her body to the chair.

…oh.

Fair enough.

We handed him the next cord, and he did much the same thing with Shadow Stalker’s legs. As he worked the bindings up her extremities, he kept his index and middle fingers on her, wrapping the cord over top of them. When he was done with the loops at one spot, he moved his hand up further, then repeated the process.

Oh, I think I see what they’re doing. It still does require power, unless their bluff game is strong enough. They’re wrapping her in cords instead of ropes to prevent her from phasing through them like she would with ropes.

It seems they’re prepared when it comes to Shadow Stalker’s weakness, which suggests that yes, Taylor did know about it before getting to that fence. Likely thanks to Tattletale.


“Copping a feel, Grue?” Imp mocked, as she let herself half-spin and collapse lengthwise on the couch.

Hehe.

Good, she has a sense of humor that fits with her impy aesthetic. 🙂

“Making sure it isn’t tight enough to cut off her circulation.”

“Ah. You an expert on that stuff? I didn’t take you for a bondage freak,” she stretched.

Ahaha! I like this girl so far.

I mean he does wear a lot of leather… 😉

He sighed, “Just get the generator.”

“I just lay down.”

“So stand up and then get the generator,” he ordered.

THEN FIRE ZE MISSILES!!

She made a show of slowly standing and, with exaggerated motions, dragging herself over to the box Tattletale had brought.

Between the half-spin and this, she seems kinda dramatic. I like it.

She retrieved a black plastic portable generator that wasn’t much bigger than a microwave oven. She acted like it was ten times heavier than it was as she hauled it over toward the spot where Sophia sat.

As I was saying 😛


Grue, for his part, ignored her.

I get the sense that he doesn’t really care for the theatrics.

I think I know who might, though… *glances at Regent*

Once the wires were in place, he used duct tape to secure them, then he got two more chairs, laid them on their sides and taped them to her chair. He was almost done when Imp finally concluded her charade with the portable generator.

I was too distracted by Imp to comment on the generator, but yeah… when there’s no power where you’re going, you bring something that can make it for you. Of course.

The LEDs at the ends of the extension cords lit up as we plugged each cord in to the generator, glowing a dim orange. Grue stood, then pushed the refrigerator away from the wall so he could unplug it and plug the appliance into the generator. I couldn’t be sure if it was to ensure a steady current through the wire or because he wanted a working fridge.

That last thing is at the very least a nice bonus.

I’d finished unpacking the wires, so I picked up the empty box and entered the living room to put one box inside the other to minimize the mess.

Bitch had claimed the sofa for herself, reclining with two dogs up beside her.

This is the woof couch, only woofs allowed.

She was rubbing her forearms, which were probably strained from controlling the more unruly dogs with the chains. She glared up at me, and there was something ugly in her expression.

Yeeah, she’s not happy about this at all.

I really do wonder how Taylor and Lisa managed to convince Brian to a) trust Taylor and b) join in on whatever this plan of Taylor’s entails.

I couldn’t blame her for being angry. Her dogs, some of her closest friends in the world, had died because she had been saving me, only for her to find out shortly afterward that I had been a traitor.

Ouch, yeah.

Maybe saving me hadn’t been her primary motivation, but it seemed she’d used the past week and an unhealthy dose of simmering anger to revise her perception of things so I was to blame for what had happened. It wasn’t getting better, either.

Heh… yeah, this is gonna be tricky to fix. Very tricky.


She seemed to get angrier with every hour spent in my company, and I was worried I’d have to face the brunt of it very soon.

We don’t want a repeat of 2.8 around here, but it seems more likely by the hour… I don’t think Bitch’s anger will manifest in quite the same way if we get to see it, though.

“She’s awake,” Tattletale called out. I hurried to the kitchen, leaving Bitch where she was.

Sophia time.

Our captive hadn’t budged an inch.

“She’s sitting there, pretending to sleep in the hopes that we’ll say something. It would be clever, might even work, if I wasn’t here,” Tattletale said, with a bit of a wry tone.

Hah, nice.

Shadow Stalker’s head rose and swiveled as she surveyed the full extent of her bindings. Then she glanced at us.

“Shit, they totally do know my weakness.”

After a long pause, she spoke, “Electrical cords.”

“Strongly advise you to avoid using your power to pass through them,” Tattletale answered, “And in case you’re thinking of dropping straight down through the floor, don’t. We’ve got extra lying under the chair.”

Nice.


The heroine leaned hard to one side, looked down. “Hm.”

“You’ll be a little groggy,” Tattletale grabbed the last remaining chair from beside the kitchen table to sit down opposite the vigilante ‘heroine’. “The fight took a lot out of you, and we tased you, and I took the liberty of sticking you with one of your own tranquilizer bolts.”

Ahh, that would explain why she was asleep to begin with.

“You don’t hold back,” Shadow Stalker commented, seemingly unfazed by her circumstances. She tested the strength of her bonds, experimentally.

“Says the person who tried to slit my teammate’s throat,” Regent spoke.

Regent may be content with staying in the background most of the time, but when he does speak up in a serious conversation, it tends to be on point.

Shadow Stalker looked at me, the eyes behind her mask moving to my throat. “Tough costume.”

…is that meant as a compliment??

I mean, she doesn’t know that Skitter’s resourcefulness and creativity are the reasons behind that, but still.

Also, Sophia, I don’t think the fact that you failed was the point here.


She doesn’t even deny it. I can’t believe I’ve gone to high school with this lunatic.

And the same murderous lunatic has been getting on your case for ages, and recently attacked your civilian self personally. You’re lucky you’re alive.

I resisted the urge to respond, shrugged instead. Too easy to get into an argument, too easy to let something slip and reveal who I was.

Okay, so she’s still not intending to do that. Makes sense, but I couldn’t be sure that she wasn’t going to pull a “by the way, I’m Taylor you fucknugget”.

“Well, you fuckers got me,” she cocked her head to one side, “What’s next?”

We all turned to look at Regent. Regent, in turn, gave Shadow Stalker a serious look.

Regent’s turn? Yeah, I’d very much like to know what’s next too.

He ran his fingers through his dark hair. Tattletale stood from the chair, and Regent sat, putting himself four feet away from the heroine. His mask was a plain white, a half-smile perpetually frozen on the smooth, unadorned face.

Hm… I suppose the power to make someone’s body do things it otherwise wouldn’t could be useful for torture. I mean, last chapter he had her arm twist itself in a way that was physically painful, didn’t he?

Her eyes went wide behind the eyeholes of her mask, and she pulled hard against her bonds, “No! Fuck! Have you seen his files? You don’t know-”

Oh right, yeah, Alec’s past lends itself well to torture too. He’s got ability and experience.


“We have an idea,” Tattletale interrupted.

“Fuck you!” Shadow Stalker shouted.

“Guys, do me a favor?” Regent asked, not taking his eyes off Shadow Stalker. He smacked his scepter into the palm of one hand, “Gag her, then give us some privacy?”

The fact that he feels the need for privacy adds another layer of worrying to this situation. Which might be half the reason he asks for it.

“You sure?” Grue asked, as Tattletale moved over to Sophia’s side, bent down to get some excess cord, and lifted up her mask just enough to wind the cord into her mouth.

An interesting way to gag her, but I suppose that works.

The duct tape made a tearing noise as she freed a length from the roll. I could still make out the swearing on Shadow Stalker’s part as she tugged at her bonds and rocked her seat.

Heh.

The setup Grue had created by duct taping the other two chairs to her helped ensure she couldn’t throw herself to the ground and maybe break the chair in the process.

The Undersiders have clearly planned this all out thoroughly.


“I’m cool.” Regent shifted the position of his stool a half-foot to his left, so he could lean back against the corner of the refrigerator. He brought one of his feet up onto the seat of the stool and rested his chin on his knee.

But Sophia isn’t gonna be, in a bit.

“Just as long as you’re sure,” Grue spoke. “How long?”

Regent glanced at Grue, then looked to Shadow Stalker, “Depends on her. Could be fifteen minutes, could be three hours.”

So what exactly do they want from her? To renounce the Wards and go to jail?

I doubt it’s information. Tattletale’s power gives her loads on that front. Sure there could be some tidbits they need to know that her power won’t tell her, but kidnapping and torturing a Ward seems a bit much for that.

Shadow Stalker grunted, long and loud.

Grue began ushering us out of the room, and we obeyed, except for Imp, who seemed to need a little bit of an extra nudge – Grue blocked her view of Regent and our captive with his body and put a hand on her shoulder to push her toward the door.

I guess she might want to watch? I suppose a fascination with dark/macabre things such as torture fits with her aesthetic too.

Following, I cast a backward look over my shoulder, saw Shadow Stalker’s arm twitch. She winced, mumbled a swear word around her gag.

Yeah… it begins.


Grue shut the kitchen door behind us, and for a moment, all was dark, quiet and still.

Bitch and her dogs were all lying together on and around the couch, Bitch’s hand on Angelica’s head, where the dog lay just below her. Only Angelica’s eye was open – Bitch and the other three dogs had their eyes closed. Angelica’s excess flesh had been shed and deposited on the floor as she shrunk down to her natural size.

Eurgh. I forgot that was part of the deal.

I wonder if it’s edible? I know that’s a weird leap to make, but here’s the middle step: It seems like Bitch can produce theoretically unlimited amounts of this flesh as long as she has a dog, time and enough energy herself to use her power. In an absolute crisis, if the monster flesh is edible, that amounts to essentially growing renewable food on the dogs.

It looked like Bitch had kicked most of it one corner of the living room; blood and other fluids streaked the carpet between the base of the couch and the corner.

What a nice living room, eh?


“Can we watch TV?” Imp asked Grue,

Before scrolling down so the bottom half of this wasn’t off-screen, I thought that question mark was a 2, and was like “she wants to watch Norwegian TV?”

Although I suspect plenty of countries have channels called TV2.

“We could get one of the extension cords and-”

“No.”

Gotta make sure the electricity in the cords is zappy enough to keep Shadow Stalker in place, I suppose.

“Or plug in one of the lamps so we can-”

“No,” he repeated. “We’re here for another few hours. We do nothing that could draw attention. That includes having lights, flickering or otherwise, shining through the window of an apartment that’s supposed to have no power.”

Right, that too.

Also I know that what I just said isn’t really how electricity works.

“What the fuck am I supposed to do?”

“Sleep,” he glanced at Bitch, who was trying to do just that, “While the rest of us stand watch. Or go looking for a candle or flashlight and read somewhere the light won’t show through a window.”

Sounds reasonable.

“Fuck reading. We could find a movie and watch-”

“No movies, I just told you why we can’t turn on the TV. Why would a movie be any better?”

Hah.

Between the knifeplay earlier and this, Imp seems to be of a kind of restless disposition.

“We could cover one of the windows!”

“I want everyone keeping an ear out for trouble. You agreed to follow my orders, didn’t you? No TV, no lights.

It seems like Grue might’ve taken Taylor’s advice and become a more official leader of the team. Even if this plan they’re executing is Taylor’s idea.


They glared at one another, Imp’s chin defiantly raised so she could meet Grue’s ‘eyes’ – the dark sockets of his skull-faced helmet.

Between dealing with Regent, Bitch, Imp and a team member having joined specifically to betray them, I can honestly understand if Grue feels a bit #done with this leadership role.

“One of the people who lived here was a teenager, a little younger than you, Imp,” Tattletale cut in, “Go find the bedroom, see if there’s anything interesting. Anything left behind will probably get stolen before the family gets back, so you could keep some stuff for yourself, if you find anything good.”

“Feel free to steal, or it’ll get stolen anyway.”

I guess I can’t fault that logic.

Also, the way Tattle puts it, it sounds like Imp is a little younger than the others. I suppose that does make sense with the way she’s acting.

“Yes!” Imp spun on her heel and strode off to the other end of the apartment. Bitch opened her eyes and furrowed her brow in irritation at Imp’s outcry, or maybe at the recent argument, but she just shut her eyes and made a deliberate attempt at returning to sleep.

Relatable.


Grue waited until Imp disappeared from sight before groaning, “It’s tiring, dealing with her.”

Yeah, I can see that… also this sounds like a lead-in to an explanation of why you do.

“All of us irritated each other when we first joined the team. Give it time. We’ll find a rhythm.” Tattletale reassured him.

She does have a point there.

Grue turned his head my way, but he didn’t say anything. I wondered if he had been about to say I was the exception, then changed his mind.

Heh. Yeah, she kind of was. I mean, she irritated the hell out of Bitch, but the others seemed to like her well enough from the start.

Instead, he spoke, “I’m going to lie down for a bit in the master bedroom. Tattletale, Skitter, you keep an eye on things. Wake me when you need a relief.”

“Sure thing, boss,” Tattletale answered him. I couldn’t bring myself to reply, and stayed quiet instead.

I guess Taylor’s relation with Grue is still a bit awkward. Which is fair enough, considering the whole “by the way Skitter meant to betray you” situation.

As Grue was leaving, Shadow Stalker screamed from the kitchen, a strangled, muffled noise. Grue paused, waited a moment, and then continued in the direction Imp had gone, opening and closing the door at the end of the short hallway.

Having fun, Regent?

…I think not. Having to step back into the role his father forced onto him, even just this once, even though it’s not literally for his father? The role he became so detached to cope with? Doesn’t sound like something that would bring up good memories.


I hugged my arms against my body. Glancing toward the balcony showed that none of the windows were broken or open. It wasn’t because I was cold.

“You okay with this?” Tattletale asked.

“All-in,” was all I could say.

Would you feel differently about it it wasn’t Sophia? What if it had been a different murderous asshole in the Wards?

Either way, it’s pretty clear that Taylor isn’t quite comfortable with this, even if it was her idea.

Speaking of which… do the others know that this is one of the bullies? How much has Taylor told them?

She smiled a little, almost apologetic. “All-in.”

We were doing this to Sophia, I told myself. The same girl who had abused, insulted and tormented me almost every school day since I’d started high school. She’d punched, kicked and shoved me. Had ruined my belongings, insulted me, thrown food at me, humiliated me, and had goaded others into doing much the same things. She was the one who had pushed me to that do-or-die point where my powers manifested. If that wasn’t enough, she had tried to kill me less than an hour ago, not because I was a criminal that deserved the death penalty, but because I had seen her unmasked. I was inconvenient.

Those are pretty solid reasons to be on the shit list.

Torture is something that it’s hard to say that anyone deserves. There’s a reason the torture curse is considered Unforgivable in the Harry Potter series. But at the same time, I have a hard time feeling sorry for Sophia. There’s just no sympathy left at this point.

And with all that in mind, I couldn’t be sure that she deserved this.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I don’t want to say that she deserves it. But I can’t say that she doesn’t.


Tattletale got her MP3 player and put an earbud in the ear that didn’t have Sophia’s device in it. The other earbud dangled from the cord, faint music playing from it. Grabbing a blanket from the arm of the couch, she curled up in one of the armchairs.

Music is so good to have when trying to sleep. And at just about all other times. Music is good in general.

I took her cue, pushing one chair across the carpet so it was by the sliding glass door leading to the balcony. I didn’t settle in right away. First, I exercised my power.

There were definitely enough bugs in the building for me to use. I found the spiders in the building, and set them to preparing webs, stringing strands across every doorway, hallway and stairwell for every floor in the building.

Huh, neat. Making the abandoned building seem even more abandoned, and maybe setting up a mental alarm akin to Parian’s.

I directed buzzing houseflies and mosquitoes into every apartment, including the one we were in, and placed at least one bug on every person I found still inside the building – a trio of unwashed men in the basement, among the storage area where residents kept the stuff they couldn’t have in their apartments, a pair of teenagers that lay on the roof, holding hands, an older man near the top floor, alone, and one family of five on the second floor.

Seems the building is less abandoned than I thought.

I hope things work out for the teenagers. 🙂


After a moment’s consideration, I set spiders to stringing webs around the balconies as well. When capes were in the cards, I couldn’t afford to ignore the possibility of grappling hooks, rappelling, teleportation or flight.

Yeah, true. Might want to web up some of the windows too, for good measure.

The spiders would sense any movement of the webs, and I could sense what the spiders did, in turn.

Nice, it is like Parian’s thread 🙂

I found a book on a shelf that looked readable, then sat down sideways in the chair, so my back was against one armrest and my legs hung over the other, the kitchen door in front of me, the balcony behind. There were no lights in the apartment or out on the street, but the heavy clouds weren’t blocking the moonlight for the time being, which afforded me the opportunity to read, looking up after every page or two to double-check that things were quiet and still.

Neat.

It might have been peaceful, if not for Shadow Stalker’s occasional grunt or scream from the direction of the kitchen. On occasion, she went into her shadow state for a fraction of a second, then reverted back before the wires passed through her. Regent hadn’t called out, so I assumed all was well.

I guess she still has bugs on Shadow Stalker, since she can sense that.

Bitch’s bulldog, Bentley, was lying on the couch with his head nestled in Bitch’s armpit. I was on chapter three of my book when he began snoring, surprising me with how steady and loud the noise was. Sirius, the lab I’d met on a prior occasion, lay between Bitch’s legs, his head lying across her belt buckle.

I knew it! I knew Sirius would be among them!

I didn’t remember his name (which is stupid of me, considering my reaction to his name when we met him), so I didn’t mention him specifically, but I did call this.

A setter was curled up at the base of the sofa with Angelica – I couldn’t remember its name.

Fair enough.

Maybe Wildbow hadn’t come up with one yet, perhaps even wanting audience participation in naming it? One naming contest later, say hello to Doggy McDogface.


Bitch looked so peaceful, here. It was strange seeing her relax and rest so easily when, day-to-day, even before recent events, she seemed to be on edge to a degree that would drive most people to insanity. It wasn’t aggression or anxiety, exactly, but some combination of the two.

Not generally a healthy combination, especially when combined with trust issues.

Tattletale was playing some game on her mp3 player, I saw. The mosquitoes I’d placed discreetly on Brian’s back told me he was turning over constantly.

If he keeps this up, you might not have any mosquitoes left there anymore soon enough.

He was as restless and agitated in relaxation as Bitch was when awake.

Poor Brian. I wonder what he’s dreaming about. Or thinking about, if he hasn’t actually fallen asleep yet.

Imp, I could sense, was taking apart the teenager’s room, finding CDs and DVDs and holding them up by the window, maybe to see them in the light, as I was with my book.

Taylor must have quite a few bugs placed on everyone to be able to sense what they’re doing with this sort of precision.

I hadn’t known her to rest in the three days I’d known her.

1) We have a timeframe!

2) Sounds like a confirmation of the “restless disposition”.

I could almost believe she was one of the capes that didn’t need to sleep, but the theory would have felt a lot more tidy if I could connect it better to one of her powers.

Which are? Plural, I suppose.


I turned my attention back to my book, looked up again when I heard a bang from the kitchen, a grunt and a scream.

Dang it, still not going into the topic of how and why Imp ended up on the team. Oh well. Maybe that’s next chapter?

The bugs I’d placed on Regent didn’t show anything amiss, but I couldn’t really get anything from the contact with Shadow Stalker. She was violently flickering in and out of her shadow state, now, and the slow speed with which she was returning to normal seemed to suggest she was fighting the urge to use her power.

Sheesh, Regent, what did you do?

Regent was standing, but he hadn’t called for help, so I started to read again.

Fair enough, I suppose.

When I’d read the same page four more times and realized I hadn’t actually taken in any information, I dog-eared the page and closed my book.

Relatable.

I focused on each person in the building in turn, followed by a double checking of the spider webs, the others here in the apartment-

Hm?

What’s up?

I stopped short. Regent was sitting, unmoving, and in the last ten seconds or so, Shadow Stalker had disappeared from the chair.

Fuck.


“Fuck!” I shouted, standing. How?

Bitch climbed up off the couch, and Tattletale stood, looking to me, eyes wide.

I wonder if that look was enough to tell Tattle exactly what Taylor just sensed.

When I realized why her eyes were wide, I let the bugs flow from beneath the panels of my costume. I knew in an instant that Shadow Stalker was behind me.

Well shitfuck.

Deftly, she grasped my wrist, knocked me to the ground, and then pointed her crossbow straight at my eye, the arrowhead clinking against the lens of my mask. Which definitely wasn’t bulletproof or arrowproof.

If she wasn’t murderous before…


For several long seconds, we remained there, unmoving. Brian and Imp appeared in my peripheral vision, but they stopped when they saw Shadow Stalker.

Hm.

Yeeah, this is one hell of a tense situation, but why is nobody doing anything? Is it because Shadow Stalker is stuck between a hostage and a hard place? If she kills Taylor, there’s no way the remaining Undersiders don’t attack.

Shadow Stalker started laughing, then stood, holstering her crossbow. I felt Regent stand in the other room. When the kitchen door opened, he was laughing as well – the exact same cadence as Shadow Stalker.

Oooor maybe I was spot on about Imp being able to possess or otherwise control people. Multiple people at a time, by the looks of it. Is that how Sophia got loose in the first place – to play a prank on the others?

He ran his fingers through his hair, and Shadow Stalker moved one hand, as if to do the same thing, but the hood she wore stopped her.

It seems like she’s limited in how much she can control them individually without it carrying over to the other person/people being controlled.

She stepped away, and her movement seemed uncannily out of character; maybe a bit of a slouch, a bit of swagger, that hadn’t been there before. Her eyes met mine.

Out of character, because it isn’t her. Other than physically.


“Totally got you, Dork,” she chuckled.

Yep. She totally gotcha.


End of Parasite 10.1

She totally gotcha, Taylor.

This was a nice chapter. Kind of relaxed up until that last bit, despite Sophia’s screams in the background, and we got to know Imp a bit – she’s restless, she’s a bit dramatic, she’s either somewhat disinterested or likes to feign that, and she is, predictably enough, mischievious. I like her.

That little trick she played at the end there – or at least I assume that’s what’s going on, it technically hasn’t been confirmed yet… y’know, Regent does have a habit of calling Taylor “dork”, and his power involves controlling other people’s bodies, just not to this extent. I suppose it’s possible that torturing Sophia somehow unlocked stronger aspects of his power?? But on the other hand, it’s the perfect timing to show off Imp’s power, and I did bring up the possibility of this being it before the prank happened.

Hm. Shit, now I’m unsure.

Anyway, that little trick either Imp or Regent played at the end there was kind of disruptive, and I doubt Grue is going to like it (maybe not Taylor either), but it seems like the kind of thing they could all have a good laugh about later. 🙂

So yeah, next time we’ll hopefully collapse the wave function on Schrödinger’s prankster and maybe see some results of the torture. Sheesh, that sounds like a terrible thing to look forward to. “Oh hi guys, I’m Krixwell and I hope to see results of t o r t u r e, doesn’t that sound nice?”

See you next time!

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