Parasite 10.3: Shit I Used Up My Hacker Voice Seven Arcs Ago

Source material: Worm, Parasite 10.3

Originally blogged: January 13, 2018


Hello, test subjects. My name is Jerry.

I’ll skip the rest of the pleasantries and get to the point. You have been gathered here so we can study effects on the mind, other body parts and/or out-of-body parts, caused by reading the text commentary produced by the being known as “the Krixwell” when it is fed the web serial Worm.

Unscrupulous Science Incorporated does not guarantee nor care about your safety in this experiment. We’re required to inform you of that for legal reasons, though to be quite honest we don’t really give a shit about that either. I just wanted to see your reactions. And no, you can’t back out now.

In order to fully understand “the Krixwell”’s commentary, here’s a recap of the situation at the point “the Krixwell” is at in the text. (Martha, don’t forget that only one of the groups is supposed to get this recap. We need to test whether or not understanding the situation makes a difference, especially to the frequency of spontaneous ocular tentacle growth.) Right, so at this point the sympathetic villains known as “the Undersiders” have just been detected attempting to infiltrate the local youngster superhero team, “the Wards”. All six “Undersiders” are restrained, but one of them, “Regent”, is currently controlling the body of the “Ward” known as “Shadow Stalker” or “Sophia”, and the powers of the “Undersider” known as “Imp” are currently unknown to “the Krixwell”.

“The Krixwell” appears to believe that this chapter will feature a battle between “the Undersiders” and “the Wards”, and/or reveal the powers of “Imp”. It thinks “the Undersiders” are generally at a disadvantage, and the powers of “Imp” will be critical to their eventual success.

That is all you need to know. You may now direct your attention to your screens, and we’ll let “the Krixwell” do the rest of the talking. Good luck.


We burst into action the moment Weld called out his warning.

A̵l͡r̷igh͘t, ̷t̶i҉m̸e͏ ͘for̛ śome aćtion! Í w̷o̡n̕d͞ȩr i̶f̡ t͘h͝e̕y̵ hàd… *a͠hem* …a contingency plan for this sort of outcome.

Bitch drove her shoulder into the PRT uniform that held her back, then backed towards the front desk. Weld had already changed his hand into what looked like a baseball bat with four sides to it, long enough to reach from his wrist to the ground.

Probably don’t want to get hit with that.

Studs the size of golf balls ran down each of the four faces, with a blunted spike on the end.

…really don’t want to get hit with that.


Weld and Flechette were variables we hadn’t planned for. It was unfortunate, but Weld in particular was also very well equipped for the task of keeping us from retreating back to the front door.

Oh, he’s very well equipped, is he now, Taylor? 😉

Weld swung at Shadow Stalker, but his club passed through her. Fearless, she stepped close and punched the metal arrowhead of one of her crossbows into his right eye.

Sheesh, this story and eye attacks… What’s that, the third one, after Taylor setting bugs into Lung’s eye in Gestation and later carving his eyes out? Although I guess the eye is also made of metal, so I’m not sure this is gonna be very effective.

He stepped back a few steps, one hand going to his eye, and she threw herself at him, bringing her knees to her chest and then kicking out.

Oh right, metal arrowhead! It doesn’t pierce anything, but it gets stuck there!

Her feet slammed into his chest, and pushed him further back. Weld only staggered back a short distance, and it was Shadow Stalker who landed hard on her back.

Sorry, Regent, Isaac Newton bested you this time.

Kicking a five-foot-nine-inch block of metal had to hurt, but Regent doesn’t exactly have to be careful with Shadow Stalker’s body.

Whereas Weld does. That’s one hell of an advantage to Regent.


Bitch slipped past the pair of them, reaching the front door. I could hear her whistle at a volume that I doubted I could scream.

Oh wow. Guess we can cross off that “no dogs on the moon” disadvantage.

Grue and Regent were already free of their cuffs, the three PRT uniforms closest to them lying down on the ground.

And the “Undersiders are restrained” disadvantage seems to be getting dealt with, too.

Tattletale was grinning at the four wards at the end of the hall closest to the elevator – Kid Win, Clockblocker, Flechette and Vista. The laughter didn’t belong to Tattletale, however. It was cackling, sounding like someone having way too much fun.

Regent? I’m guessing it’s been a while since he properly used this aspect of his power.

Flechette shouted, “They’ve got someone with the Stranger classification!”

Ahh, it’s Imp.

Time to learn what she can do, I think!

(Though to be fair I’ve been saying that for a couple chapters now.)


We did?

So, Taylor, how much do you know about Imp’s powers? You sounded like you had some superficial knowledge, at least, enough to say that you couldn’t connect her not sleeping to one of them.

The Wards recovered fast enough. Vista was working to distort the ends of the hallway, the front doors, and the elevator at the end of the hall into impassable terrain. Flechette fired a shot at Grue, pinning him to the ground, quickly loaded and fired a second, rooting his feet to the ground.

Gotta admit this is nice work on the Wards’ part.

Flechette was loading for a third shot when a girl in black clothing with a horned demon mask and black scarf struck her weapon with a fire axe, splitting the metallic string and knocking it from her hand.

Hm, now where did the fire axe come from? Did she summon it somehow, or was it just around here as a genuine piece of fire safety equipment?

I don’t know what Imp is capable of, so I can’t discount the former off the bat.

The girl with the horns was on our side, wait- I could almost remember her. Some relation to Grue.

Daamn. Imp has the power to be forgotten. (Wait, who’s Imp?)

So if she uses this power continually, that gives her a perpetual element of surprise. It makes her a blind spot to the oh-so-crucial element of information – no matter how many notes you have on her (if you can even remember her enough after the battle to take notes), once you’re actually in battle, you won’t remember she even exists, let alone what her strengths and weaknesses and tactics are.

This is incredibly powerful, especially in a story that puts so much emphasis on the importance of knowledge.

Of course, it does seem to have the weakness that it’s not targetable. Imp can’t specify that only her opponents forget her. Also, it’s not a total wipe, as evidenced by the way Taylor’s already starting to remember.

Also, I think that last part is confirmation that she’s Aisha. Nice. 🙂


It did seem a little odd for Taylor to describe Imp as “a girl in black clothing with a horned demon mask and black scarf” in the middle of battle, even though we knew perfectly well who that was.


Then it slipped from my recollection, and I was distracted by the fact that Flechette was disarmed, her weapon broken. How had that happened?

Nice, it is a continual effect.

Wait, what is?

I couldn’t afford to worry about it. I had to focus on contributing.

I released the bugs from beneath my costume, drawing them out from beneath the panels of my armor and the compartment at my back where I kept my equipment and weapons.

Whoo, let’s get swarmy in here!


We did it, guys.

We finally found a major character you can’t blame me for forgetting things about. 😉


I’d known I wouldn’t be able to bring many bugs, and that it would be difficult to get more on site with a clean, sturdily built structure like this one. I could gather a swarm, but it would be a few minutes before the bugs arrived en-masse. I might have started sooner if I hadn’t been so concerned about alerting someone and giving us away.

Ah, yeah, if they arrived too early, it might set off some warning bells.

The nine hundred and seventy bugs that poured forth were roughly equal numbers of bees, wasps, spiders, mosquitoes and cockroaches. It was a smaller number than it sounded like, and their deployment was slower because of the way I had them arranged, stingers and abdomens carefully kept out of contact with one another.

So about 194 of each. Yeah, considering how quickly bugs tend to get roasted or otherwise killed en masse in this story, that’s not all that many. Fortunately, Clockblocker is the only Ward with a good way to take out lots of bugs, and I’d imagine he’d want to be careful to avoid a repeat of what happened last time he fought Skitter.

I hadn’t come without a plan.

Naturally. Whatcha got in mind?


[Discord]

Sharks:
Wait, @King Krix the Wwheek, which character?

King Krix the Wwheek:
Uhhh

stronglight:
We don’t know who your talking about krix

King Krix the Wwheek:
Was I talking about someone?

stronglight:
God this joke is so old in the worm fandom so it’s nice to be using it again for someone who’s new to it

King Krix the Wwheek:
Hehe
Wait, what joke?

I feel like I’m forgetting something again. You guys know how I can be…


The bugs found their way to Vista, Flechette, and Kid Win, the only young heroes with exposed skin, at roughly the same time as they managed to get beneath the masks and protective clothing of the two PRT uniforms that were holding me.

Nice.

At first the teenaged heroes swatted at themselves and backed away, as was usual. The ‘fun house mirror’ distortion at the exits stopped spreading as Vista’s concentration broke, and Flechette dropped one of the small lengths of pointed metal that she’d been withdrawing from her belt.

Excellent. Fun house mirrors are one thing, but space actually being warped like that makes things kinda hard to navigate, and it does seem like the Undersiders are trying to get inside for some reason.

Then Kid Win cried out, his words raw and barely intelligible because he was also screaming as he shouted them, “It burns!”

The bugs’ doing, or is Imp doing something involving a firey power?

(Who’s Imp again?)

Capsaicin was the chemical that made hot peppers burn your tongue. It was also the active ingredient in pepper spray. I’d used pepper spray a few times, myself, and I’d had it accidentally used on me when I’d been out in costume, rather recently.

Ouch.

So what, did you have the bugs bathe in pepper spray before going out to sting or even just walk on your enemies?

At the time, I’d stepped in to help fight back a crew of the Merchants up near the old Boardwalk. They’d been aiming to loot the stores, and a contingent of people who’d created an armed force in the ruins of the upscale shopping district had stepped up to fight them off. One of the defenders had sprayed a looter, and caught me in the effect as well, maybe intentionally.

Hm. I have a feeling this isn’t the last we’ll be hearing of that armed force. I’ll be more certain of that if they get a name, though.


I’d stepped back and let my bugs do the work while I recovered. After the fight had wrapped up and I’d headed back to a shelter in my civilian guise, I’d been left to consider the fact that my bugs were vulnerable to the pepper spray.

Hm, I see.

By all rights, I should have been alerted to that fact the night I sprayed Velocity at the fundraiser, but I hadn’t been able to keep that many bugs on him, then, and I’d had many, many other distractions at the time. It had escaped my attention.

Yeah, that’s fair.

While sitting up all night at the shelter, with kids crying and wailing and assholes making noise to intentionally piss off the other hundred people in the room, I’d had time to think. The next morning, I’d woken up, donned my costume and started experimenting to see if I could protect my bugs somehow. Pepper spray was only one thing. I was bound, sooner or later, to go up against someone who used some kind of bug spray or gas on my tiny minions.

Yeah, especially as you and your power get more well-known.

I wonder if Danny has heard of Skitter.

Had I found a solution? Not so much.

Fair enough… it’s a bit of a tricky task to make defenses for the bugs.


I had discovered that I could use hair spray to coat the abdomens and stingers of my bugs, and then dip said abdomens and stings into some of the capsaicin.

Hah! I was right!

She might not have found a defense, but she did find a way to improve the offense.

With a bowl of each in liquid form and two single file lines of bugs, I could dose a fair number before I went out in costume. It did wind up killing some of the less durable ones eventually, either through the hairspray obstructing breathing or the capsaicin getting on the bug, but the end result was that I’d stumbled onto a weapon while trying to experiment with defenses. I had figured out how to use my bugs as a delivery mechanism, smearing pepper spray onto fresh stings and bites.

I love it.

I could jam their abdomens into people’s noses, mouths and eyes to cause intense burning and pain to the point that it made them nauseous.

“Getting bugs in your nose, mouth or eyes wasn’t uncomfortable enough.”
– Taylor Hebert, 2k11

Flechette screamed, falling to her knees, her hands to her face. One of the PRT uniforms that was holding me let me go to stagger blindly toward the front desk. I struggled to get away from the other one, but he held me tight even as he bent over, threatening to topple to the ground with me beneath him.

Damn nice work, Taylor.

Also jeez, imagine if she’d done this before the Clockblocker fight in Agitation.


So yeah. It worked.

Ahaha

Clockblocker had been in the lead of the group as we’d all headed toward the elevator, and had been delayed by the fallen PRT uniforms and his collapsing teammates. His costume covered his entire body, preventing the bugs from getting to him, so once he got past his allies, there wasn’t much to get in his way.

Ah, right, there was that whole outfit swap back in Agitation. Taylor’s approach back then wouldn’t have worked without that.

I mean, she could still swarm him and trick him into freezing bugs all around him, though I think he’ll be prepared for that tactic this time. “Fool me once, holy shit my orifices are full of time-stopped bugs somebody help me. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

He charged straight for Grue, and Grue responded by shrouding his immediate vicinity in darkness, though he couldn’t do much else. One of Flechette’s bolts had nailed the sides of one of his boots to the ground – the other shot had missed, maybe because she couldn’t see his foot and hadn’t wanted to put a spike through his actual flesh.

Ah. I thought for a second that some Imp shenanigans were going on here, but looking back, the narration didn’t actually specify that the second shot definitely hit, and it was reasonable for Taylor to assume it did.


Clockblocker closed the distance and plunged into the darkness after Grue. He emerged out the other side, and the darkness dissipated behind him, revealing Grue, frozen in time.

Well, that’s a problem.

Also, I know it’s done like this to dramatically reveal the frozen Grue, but it seems he needs to continually channel the darkness for it to not dissipate. Up to this point it’s generally looked like he needed to either dissipate it actively or wait a while for it to happen on its own, but I guess not.

Even the shadows smouldering around Grue’s body faded, revealing his motorcycle leathers and the helmet with the skull-face molded into it.

Not something you see very often if you’re the ones fighting him.

Which was bad. It could be up to ten minutes until Grue was back in action, and we couldn’t necessarily afford to babysit his body until he reanimated.

Yeah, this is quite inconvenient.

The other PRT officer that was holding me broke away when a girl with a horned mask drove the wooden end of a fire axe into his shoulder.

Huh, who’s this?

Regent made Clockblocker stumble, and the horned girl shoved the PRT officer into the boy. They both fell in a heap.

Nice.


“Hey!” A girl shouted. I looked and saw a horned girl crouched by one of the fallen PRT officers, holding the foam sprayer. Imp. Right, it was Imp.

Hah, nice, Taylor already forgot about… uh… again. And then immediately remembered her, which I think suggests that either she just turned off the power, or she has the ability to make specific people remember her again for a moment despite the initial forgetting being universal or AoE.

She looked at Tattletale, “It won’t fire!”

Ah, yeah, if she actually needs to communicate with the others, it makes a lot of sense to turn off the power for a moment.

Tattletale hurried over, grabbed the fallen officer’s arm, and lifted it over to the handle of the gun. She put his finger on the trigger and aimed the gun at Clockblocker, unloading spray on top of his upper body just as he managed to heave the fallen officer off of himself.

Fingerprint trigger lock. Nice… I guess they learned from their experiences at the gallery.


Flechette threw a dart into the foam canister, and both Imp and Tattletale backed away as foam began spilling out of the hole, rapidly expanding to partially cover the uniformed officer.

Good thinking, Flechette.

After a moment’s pause, she threw a spike of metal into every other canister on the other fallen guards. One even erupted into a pressurized spray, jetting up at an angle to hit the wall, creating a growing barrier a few feet in front of me, partially blocking me from reaching the rest of the combatants.

I wonder if the Wards or PRT officers called for backup in some way. Imagine the awkwardness of everyone, including the Wards, getting stuck in one huge blob of foam until someone arrives to find them there.

Before Flechette could turn her darts on us, Regent reached out, causing her to fumble and drop it. A second later, he grunted and fell to all fours. Nothing I could see had touched him.

…what’s up now?

A backfire? So easily?

Oh yeah, I think that possibility was mentioned at some point… Is it because controlling Sophia and trying to use the impulse power on someone else at the same time is overexerting his power?

I was already turning to check when a primal scream tore its way from Shadow Stalker’s throat.

…shit. If she just got freed from Regent’s control, she ain’t gonna be happy.


She’d been fighting with Weld, and Weld almost fell over when he swung and she didn’t enter her shadow state.

If she did just regain control of her body, that would be because she wasn’t expecting to have (the ability) to do it herself. If she was even aware of what was happening while she was controlled. If she wasn’t she just essentially woke up to Weld attacking her and total chaos around her.

He couldn’t stop all of his momentum, but he stepped close and let his upper arm hit her instead. They stumbled together, Shadow Stalker continuing to scream like she was trying to empty her lungs of every last trace of oxygen.

Probably not so much a scream of anger as a lingering scream of pain from the torture, I suppose.

She raised her crossbow in my general direction, then moved, almost staggered, one step to the side. From her new vantage point, she targeted Regent; her movements weren’t fluid, and her shot flew past him.

Yeah, this is her alright.

Well on the positive side, at least she found someone to hate more than Skitter and Grue.

…is that a positive?

Probably not.

It hit Tattletale instead with a glancing blow, raking across her collarbone to penetrate her shoulder at a shallow angle. Tattletale was spun off-balance and fell.

Ouch.

Wait, “penetrated”? That was real, deadly ammo, wasn’t it. The tranq bolts are designed to not penetrate too much.


Shadow Stalker moved to load her crossbows, but her movements were jittery and jerky to an even greater extent than they had been a second ago.

Hm… it seems like she doesn’t quite have full control back yet.

She stopped midway through the motion, her head turning as she looked from one hand to the other, and then looked up at Weld, who was in close proximity to her.

And if she’s not in full control yet, Regent might be able to take it back.

“H-h-help.” She stuttered.

A fraction of a second later, Regent was in control again, and Shadow Stalker was attempting to repeat her maneuver from earlier, driving an arrowhead into Weld’s other eye, moving quickly and with as much grace as ever.

Aaand there we go.

He swatted her hand aside, and she entered her shadow state to avoid his follow-up swing with his club.

If nothing else, I guess this event might act as motivation for Weld. Though maybe he should be trying to attack Regent rather than “Shadow Stalker”.


A series of crashes and the sound of breaking glass showering onto tile announced the arrival of Bitch’s dogs.

Hey, doggos! 😀

They had barreled their way through the bulletproof glass that led into the lobby.

Just goes to show that bulletproof doesn’t equal hellhound-proof.

Weld spun to face them, and Shadow Stalker abandoned her fight with him, using the opportunity to finish reloading her crossbows and fire one at Vista, who was hunkered down on the floor, my swarm all over her.

It’s not even the first time Shadow Stalker attacks Vista today…

At least the girl wouldn’t be in further pain from what my bugs had done. I could inflict pain if it meant getting a job done properly. That didn’t mean I liked doing it.

That’s probably a good balance. When someone likes inflicting pain, you get people like Shadow Stalker.


“Shadow Stalker is conscious in there!?” Weld shouted, his back to us, attention on the three advancing dogs. None of the dogs were as big as they could get, Bitch couldn’t manage them if they were too large, but it was still the equivalent of three rather agile bears or three unnecessarily burly jungle cats joining the fight, each with some added natural protection in the horned growths of bone and calcified muscle.

Yeah, apparently she is.

And yeah, keeping your attention on the dogs is probably a good call. If there’s anyone here who can put a bulk in your armor, it’s the dogs.

“Since a little while ago,” Regent answered.

Ah, so she only woke up with the backfire or shortly before it.

That was disturbing. I didn’t have a better way of putting it. I’d almost been paralyzed by Leviathan in the Endbringer attack, but even before that, the idea of being left conscious but unable to move of my own volition had always spooked me.

It’s a pretty disturbing idea, yeah. Isn’t it fairly common to have nightmares about that, too?

I’d never had a relative in the hospital suffering from anything like that, and I couldn’t remember seeing any movies or shows on television that might have put the idea in my head at an impressionable age. Still, it was one of the first places my mind went when I thought about worst case scenarios and horrific fates.

I have a mouth and I still can’t scream.

It had been in my thoughts more over the past two or three years, and the idea had been showcased in more than one nightmare over the past two weeks.

That last part would presumably be because of the run-in with paralysis during Extermination, but is there a particular reason she’s been thinking about it more over the last few years?


Maybe it was more general than that. Not a fear of paralysis, specifically, but of helplessness.

Hm, yeah, checks out.

It’s very much worth noting that Taylor’s trigger event involved her being helpless in the locker. Also, that was the main issue she was faced with in Extermination, besides survival.

The dogs started fighting with Weld, and it didn’t seem to be a fight they would win. They were faster, they had the advantages of numbers, I even suspected they were stronger. Despite that, when it came down to it, Weld was a walking, talking statue.

Huh.

They could hit him hard enough to knock him down, but they couldn’t set their teeth into his flesh or deal any lasting damage. When Weld hit them, by contrast, the hits were most definitely felt.

Ah, I suppose that makes sense.

I mean, the dogs didn’t really have much trouble with an armored Lung, but I guess it’s different when there’s no squishy flesh underneath the metal.

Still, their intervention did allow us to turn our focus to the others. Vista was out of action, as was Clockblocker.

Which leaves Flechette and Kid Win. Flechette’s weapon is broken, so she’s down to her darts, and I think Kid was last heard from when he was in pain from pepper spray stings.


“Help Skitter!” Tattletale ordered, sounding urgent as she turned her attention to the remaining Wards that stood between us and the elevator. Who was she talking to?

I wonder if her power keeps telling her about Imp every time she forgets. Or maybe the power of knowledge makes her immune to forgetting.

Not that I remember why that matters right now.

Then I felt hands at my back. I flinched, but they held firm. A second later I felt my cuffs come undone. Imp. Right.

Nice.

I was getting the distinct impression that it was easier to recall her and react as if she were present if I hadn’t been actively trying to pay attention to her.

Huh. Sounds like the power detects people actively trying to remember her and doubles down on the effect when it comes to those people.

It was almost as if actively trying to commit her presence to memory had the opposite effect.

Yeah, or you could put it like that, sure.

Except how was I supposed to put that knowledge into practice, if acting on that knowledge counted as recognizing her presence?

Heh, yeah, that could get tricky.


I didn’t get a chance to work it out, because Imp was gone from behind me a moment later, and we were faced with the issue of dealing with Flechette and Kid Win and the fact that our movements were getting more and more limited by the growing piles of adhesive, nigh-indestructible foam.

Ah, right, the foam’s still going.

Wait, who’s gone?

Kid Win had pulled himself together enough to draw a small blue pistol from his waist. I tensed, bending my knees and shifting my weight to the balls of my feet so I could move the instant he aimed at me.

I wonder if he could remember… hm… for long enough to aim and shoot at whoever it is.

He didn’t fire it, though. Instead, he slapped his chest, and the armor there opened up, revealing a circular depression. He slammed the little blue gun there, where the weapon stuck like it was glued in, or maybe because of a magnet. The chest portion of his armor closed up.

Hm. Is this the thing he was working on in 9.5? Are the floaty orbs going to replicate the projectiles this gun would’ve fired?

He staggered to his feet, swatted at his face, then looked like he immediately regretted doing that, judging by his pained grunt and gritted teeth. His costume started to light up, glowing with a silvery light where it had been gold, before. Two pear-shaped pieces of metal that had been attached to the armor on his shoulders raised into the air, floating.

Sorry, floaty pears, not orbs.

Abruptly the pieces of metal jerked so the smaller ends pointed at us, and they each belched out blue sparks the size of softballs.

Niiice.

I wonder how it’s controlled. Does something in Kid’s helmet detect brain signals and control the pears accordingly, is it automatic, or…?


Imp appeared as she ducked out of the way of one, while Regent avoided the other. Tattletale was still on the ground, one hand to her shoulder, and the shots passed well over her.

Nice dodging.

So do the pears help seek out heat signatures and such too?

Also is one of Imp’s other powers invisibility? Some of this doesn’t sound like remembering that she’s there so much as her not visibly being there.

It might be conditional invisibility, though, because there’s no good reason for Imp to drop out of her invisible state when she needs to do something. Maybe she can only be functionally invisible while she’s not making quick movements?

I suppose it could also be a result of people constantly noticing that there’s someone standing in a spot and then immediately forgetting it, but that still doesn’t quite explain why she shows up when she does something. Hm… Maybe it’s that she’s more memorable while actually doing something other than just standing there or walking around, and that makes it take a little longer to erase the memory, which allows people to process that she’s there before they forget it?


I didn’t see the need to dodge – the shots weren’t fast moving, and both seemed ready to collide with the walls on either side of me. What I didn’t expect was for their trajectory to slow, then stop altogether, before they hit the wall. Picking up speed, they headed back toward Kid Win.

…huh. Boomerang shots?

Better be careful about how you dodge them.

“Heads up!” I shouted. Imp and Regent turned just in time to avoid the boomeranging projectiles, but the distraction nearly cost them as the guns above Kid Win’s shoulders blasted off another two ‘sparks’.

It seems like Imp appearing just now involves her turning off her power, since Taylor is having no trouble remembering her from moment to moment, but I don’t see why. Isn’t being shot at a good reason to make the shooter forget you?

“What the hell!?” Imp shouted. The returning sparks had fallen into a lazy orbit around Kid Win. Two, then four, then six sparks orbited him, with more joining the mass. As the seventh and eighth sparks joined the ring that spiraled around Kid Win, arcs and flashes of electricity began to dance between them, making it into a loose ring that encircled him. He advanced a few steps.

Electrons. Eight for a full outer circle. Although the first circle only has room for two, which the allusion here seems to be ignoring.


Electrons can jump outward when energized, too, and fall back when that energy leaves (usually in the form of radiation). That’s probably what the boomeranging represented.


My bugs were dying in droves with the residual electricity, but Kid Win, at least, was largely incapacitated, his eyes swollen nearly shut, with some bugs gathered over and around his eyes to further obscure his vision.

Well, that’s something at least.

I’d read up on the Wards, when I first got my powers, I knew they weren’t allowed to use lethal weapons. Shadow Stalker had to use tranquilizer darts instead of real arrows, though she violated that rule often enough, and this device of Kid Win’s, no matter how intimidating, wouldn’t be allowed to do any sort of serious injury.

Ah, I figured Shadow Stalker’s tranquilizer darts were due to her probation.

Also I know it wasn’t officially approved when we first saw it, but are you telling me the Tiro Finale / Alternator Cannon wasn’t potentially lethal?

“Shadow Stalker!” I shouted, “Charge Kid Win!” Expendable assets.

Heh, nice.

“Can’t!” she and Regent shouted in unison, “It’ll disrupt my control!”

Huh. That’s interesting, but I suppose it makes sense given the electrical nature of nerves.

Hearing that, Kid Win turned and fired a pair of sparks in their general direction.

Naturally. Regent just gave away the weakness of his control.

Which… amusingly enough happens to be the same as the weakness he used against Shadow Stalker during her capture. Electricity.

The sparks flew further and faster, and they reached far enough that I actually had to dodge those. One slammed into the spray of foam that the canister was blasting into the wall, while the other sailed toward Shadow Stalker, but stopped a few feet short and then looped back toward Kid Win.

Whoops. That’s the problem with returning projectiles, I guess. You end up setting a maximum range.

That left one option.

Bitch wasn’t around, which left it to me. I whistled, hard, getting the attention of the dogs. When the dog with the squarish, almost snoutless head turned my way. He’d be the bulldog puppy, Bentley.

You gonna send the dogs into the electricity instead?

I took a step toward Kid Win, pointed at the young hero, then shouted, “Get him!”

A ragged, horn encrusted tongue lolling out one side of his mouth, Bentley eagerly tromped past Weld, who lashed out with his club but only grazed Bentley’s rear flank. Recklessly, the dog charged Kid Win, slamming into him, taking the full brunt of the ring of vibrantly blue electricity.

Oof. Yeah, Kid’s gonna feel that.


The dog and the boy crashed to the ground together, and skidded far enough toward the elevator that they collided with Flechette, who had retreated from the storm of blue sparks, her back to the elevator. Bentley stood, flashes of brilliant blue light crackling at the chain that was rigged around his muzzle.

C-c-c-combo!

He limped strangely, but it wasn’t due to any injury. From what I could tell, he’d stepped in some of the foam as he ran, and his foot was sticking to the floor.

Aw, sticky doggo.

More foam had splashed his shoulder. In any event, the two teenage heroes were down, and it looked like the sparks had done more to incapacitate them than it had the puppy.

Aaand that’s all of them, isn’t it? Or is Weld still up, fighting the other dogs?

“Good boy!” I called out, “Good Bentley!” His tail, shorter than any of the other dogs, wagged at the attention.

Hehe :Å) Good doggo!

Shadow Stalker, Imp and the two remaining dogs had Weld on his heels, Imp doing her best to smack him in the face with the fire axe and have the metal obscure his vision.

Hah, nice.

Creative weaknesses can lead to interesting actions from opponents. For instance, usually people don’t try to use an axe in quite that manner.

Bitch slipped past the melee. I looked away, tried to figure out a simple way to get by the spout of foam that was still sputtering out of the hole Flechette’s dart had made in the tank while still avoiding the flailing PRT uniform that was kneeling a short distance from me.

We’re almost through here. For what, I don’t know, but we’re almost in.


Maybe the Undersiders want access to the PRT/Ward computer system for some reason?

The next thing I knew, I was being slammed into a wall, hard. For one moment I thought it was Weld, but I heard the snarling of the dogs and the noise of impacts. I knew Weld would have hit me harder.

Hm. What now?

No, it was Bitch.

Not the time, Bitch, unless you’re saving Taylor from something but not caring if you hurt her with the amount of force you’re using.

“You do not give orders to my dogs!” she growled in my ear. “You do not get a say in whether they are good or bad! Do that again and I will order them to chew you up and spit you out!”

Cod damn.

I suppose Bitch not wanting Taylor to override her commands is fair to some extent, but this is clearly about more than that.

Still. Not the time.

“Bitch!” Tattletale shouted, I could almost see her out of the corner of my eye, cringing at the pain shouting caused her. She still had the crossbow bolt sticking out of her shoulder, “Not the time!”

Ahahaha


Bitch made a feral noise as she broke away from me, releasing me from my position against the wall. I turned around to see her grabbing the flailing soldier and throwing him on top of the foam canister that was still spraying in fizzing spurts. She walked on him to head toward the elevator. Reluctantly, I followed.

I suppose that’s one way of getting past it.

So how about Grue, are you just gonna leave him here and let him catch up when time resumes and he finds himself left behind in a really messy scene?

Tattletale got Imp’s help in dragging Vista to the elevator door. Regent took over and helped Imp hold Vista there, their fingers prying her eyes open until the retinal scan finished, then dragged her inside.

I guess they’re bringing her along in case of more retinal scans and such.

Specifically Vista because she’s the lightest one and a couple of the others are unavailable due to things like containment foam or still being conscious.

“Come on!” Tattletale urged us.

I looked back at Grue.

“Bitch, the dogs and Shadow Stalker will be here to protect him!” she called out.

Ah, nice. We’re splitting the party more evenly, then.


I considered a moment, then nodded. I joined the rest of the group in the elevator, and we headed down to the lowest floors.

“Cameras,” Tattletale spoke. I nodded, and sent bugs into the room, found the surveillance cameras that were spaced at regular intervals around the room, and covered the lenses with bugs.

Nice.

We exited the elevator, stepping into the Ward’s headquarters. The room was vast, with a high domed ceiling that probably made this floor three stories deep. A computer console with a dozen monitors sat to our right, and the far end seemed to be walled off into several smaller rooms.

Damn, a dozen monitors. Did we know that? Either way, that’s really cool.

The signs at the doors to the left implied they led off to the bathrooms.

To think that, if things had gone a little differently, I might have wound up here.

I’ve heard that fanfic writers have absolutely thought about that quite a bit.


Tattletale was at the computer in an instant, reaching into her belt pockets to retrieve a series of USB thumb drives, which she slid into the available ports of the computer.

Introducing a virus? Or more likely, extracting copies of the data?

The monitors went to a blue screen. As she typed, the word ‘JPIGGOT’ appeared on each monitor.

J. Jane, maybe? There are a lot of good J names, but I feel like Jane or Jeanette are the ones that would fit best for Piggot. Or maybe Joan.

When that word disappeared from the screen, she typed a password, a row of asterisks appearing on the screens, twelve or thirteen characters long.

*prepares hacker voice*

Then gibberish filled the screen.

We’re in.


Some looked like code, much looked like random numbers, letters and symbols, even hearts, spades and smiley faces. Some of the snippets of code appeared to be file names.

Hearts, spades… we found Piggot’s Homestuck shipping charts. Smiley faces are for platonic friend ships. (No, I don’t mean moirallegiance, that’s not platonic.)

“This should be every document the PRT has on file for their teams, barring the most secure documents, which wouldn’t be kept accessible, even in this isolated network.” She handed me a pad of gauze from her belt.

Excellent. So what do we need this information for? Future encounters? Is this for Taylor’s plan, or does Coil want this? Coil is helping them with this mission, and he probably has lots of use for this.

“How long?” I asked. I snapped the feathered end off the crossbow bolt, then pushed it out the other side. The arrowhead wouldn’t take to being pulled out backward.

“Two minutes.”

To copy/transfer, I guess. Better hope you can stay safe here for that long.

“But we may have to wait up to ten, depending on when Clockblocker’s power wears off.” While I talked, I held the gauze to her shoulder with one hand and took the offered tape with the other.

Right, though shouldn’t that cap be a little lower now?

There was a rip in her costume, and I opted to tear it a little wider and put the gauze beneath before taping it on, to let the skintight fabric hold it firm.

Sounds reasonable.


“Bad luck he got one of us, yeah.” Tattletale made a face, “Regent, let us know if there’s movement from Grue up there, through Shadow Stalker.”

Good to have a literal extra pair of eyes sometimes.

“We’re going to have to fight our way through their reinforcements if we wait too long,” Regent said.

Right. That’s a bit of an issue.

“Probably. But not the Protectorate. The only one who could get here fast enough to matter would be Velocity, and he’s dead.”

Let’s hope there don’t show up like fifty PRT soldiers, then.

“They could have new members like the Wards did,” I said.

That is a good point. Hell, the Wards are in the process of recruiting another one, who would be able to get here in a jiffy.

Tattletale frowned, “True. They recruited those guys fast. Especially since they’ve been here a few days.”

Well, that’s not quite what the situation is. Actually, this might be a good time to point out that Weld and Flechette were at the Endbringer battle.

“Either way, we should make a quick exit,” I advised. “Fast as we can manage, anyways, with Grue being stuck like he is.”

As the screen filled with more gibberish, reaching the point where there was more white text than blue background, we prepared to make our exit.

Yeah, better hurry.


“Elevator’s down.”

“Of course it is,” Tattletale sighed, “There are stairs, through the door by the little window, where the tourists look in,” Tattletale said.

Down as in further down the shaft, or disabled as a way to hinder the Undersiders?

She waited with one hand poised over the USB drive.

A half second before the last blue dot on the screen disappeared, the entire room plunged into darkness. The computer screens went black.

…shit.

Silence reigned for a few heartbeats. It wasn’t Grue’s power, though. I could hear my own breathing.

“Someone cut the power?” Imp asked.

“No,” I heard Tattletale, “Separate power source, buried deeper beneath the building.

Hm. Then what?

Same with the computers, there’s nothing upstairs or even in the city that could turn them off. They’re hooked up to that power source, they’ve got internal batteries, and the only external connection is by satellite linkup. They might terminate our connection to the computer database via the satellite feed, but not the lights.”

In that case, something’s definitely fucky here.

Shadow Stalker, any trouble outside?

“So this is bad?” Imp asked.

A computer generated face appeared on the computer screens, illuminating us and our immediate surroundings with the pale glow the image cast. I didn’t recognize the face, but I could guess.

…Dragon.

What is this, some sort of preprogrammed security measure against exactly what Tattletale was doing?

Also is this an actual video call or a prerecorded message? I’m inclined to guess the former.


Dragon. She was onto us. Yeah, that was pretty bad, as these things went.

Yeeah.


End of Parasite 10.3

This was a good chapter, though some parts were kinda forgettable.

Nah, I’m kidding. It was overall a good battle and I love someone’s power, though I can’t for the life of me remember whose.

And then Dragon. Welp. I don’t know what all she can do remotely, but I wouldn’t underestimate her. One thing I guess she could do is send remote-controlled mechs into the building, but this is her filesystem we’re trying to copy, and she probably had a hand in designing a fair bit of the equipment around here. I’m guessing she can do a lot more.

By the way, I don’t think we’re ever going to actually see Dragon in person. It seems like her gimmick that she always, always, is remote and computery. She didn’t even show up to the Endbringer battle in person, as far as we know.

In fact, the only evidence we have that she isn’t completely virtual is that she’s supposedly the one building mechs and Birdcage security measures and such.

Anyway, next time, lets face the cold wrath of the Dragon. See you then!


[postscript]
Headcanon: Besides her Homestuck shipping charts, Director Piggot also keeps shipping charts involving the Wards and Protectorate (separately, of course). Unlike her more personal and more deeply hidden Homestuck charts, though, the PRT shipping charts are based entirely on which relationships make for better PR, and thus largely match the hero fandom’s most popular ships.


It has not occurred to Piggot that Dragon has full access to all files in the overall system, including those that are normally only accessible to the specific users. Dragon is fully aware of Piggot’s secret Homestuck shipping and disagrees vehemently with most of her ships.

Dragon’s OTP is Terezi ❤ Sollux.


While awaiting trial, Armmaster spends some of his time reading Homestuck, after remembering that Miss Militia recommended it to him a while back.

He finds himself relating quite a bit to Vriska Serket, a morally ambiguous character who, largely due to her desire to be important and draw attention, tries to set things up so she gets to be the one to kill the bad guy. (And also loses an arm at one point.)


Hello, test subjects. Jerry here.

I just wanted to thank you once more for taking part in today’s experiment. If you are still sentient and capable of moving your body by any means – be it legs, arms, tentacles, burping or something else – please proceed to the waiting room to fill out the questionnaire.

Scribes will also be available for those who can no longer write for whatever reason. Please refrain from eating the scribes, as they cost about twenty bucks each to replace. Also, if you must devour other test subjects, please wait until they’ve finished the questionnaire.

After you’ve finished the questionnaire yourself, you may leave the premises through the door to the left.

Thank you again for your participation.

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