Tangle 6.9

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Dear Miss Militia…

Was it wrong to start with Dear?  Was that implying more friendship or intimacy than there was?  Would it seem taunting?

Miss Militia, we met earlier tonight…

No.  If I went that route, she might throw it aside alongside all the other fan mail she got.

Miss Militia, you know me as Skitter, but you don’t truly know me…

Better, but I didn’t like the tone.  I’d leave it as is, move on, and come back to it later.

You see, I’m not a villain, despite…

Despite what?  Despite the fact that I’d terrorized and hurt a lot of innocent people?  Despite the fact that I’d nearly killed Lung and later cut his eyes out?  That I had nearly two hundred and eighty thousand dollars in illegitimate money to my name?

I shivered, pulled my hands from my pockets and did up my sweatshirt to cover my exposed stomach.  After we’d arrived at the Loft, Brian had suggested that we were all too tired to discuss Coil’s proposal, so we tabled all discussion until the morning.  I was glad for the excuse to avoid hearing or seeing anything that might make this any harder.  Besides, I’d promised my dad I would be home tonight.

It was past nine, so the bus from the ferry was only arriving every ninety minutes.  I’d figured it was better to walk home than wait.  I could use the stretching, too, given the abuse my body had sustained while I was riding Judas.

Sticking my hands back in my pockets, I returned my thoughts to how I’d word my letter to Miss Militia.  Scratch ‘despite’.  Another approach, maybe?

…Believe it or not, my intentions all along have been good.  I joined the Undersiders in the first place to assist you.  To assist this city…

Was that entirely true?  No.  If I was being entirely honest with myself, part of the reason I’d joined and stayed with the Undersiders was because I had been lonely.  What if I offered some honesty?

…It caught me off guard just how easy it was to like them.  I was in a bad place, and they accepted me.  So writing this email to you is difficult.  But it is necessary.  In the end, I decided to go this route because it serves the greater good…

That was what I had told myself, earlier today, before we left for the job.  That sticking with those guys would pose the greatest risk to innocents, that it would eventually lead to someone getting caught in crossfire, or me getting arrested for something serious.

But now I had Coil’s agenda to consider.  Was he really being honest about how he planned to help this city?  I had no reason to believe he was lying, and Tattletale was vouching for him.  But at the same time, Coil’s motif was a snake, and Tattletale had hedged the truth and misled me before.

Question was, was I taking this route because it served the greater good?  No.  Or at least, I wasn’t sure enough either way for it to be the reason I was doing this.

Why was I doing it, then?

It had been a hard question to answer hours ago, and it was doubly hard now.  Enough that it spooked me.  How had I gotten to this point?

I was put in mind of a time I’d sat in on one of my mom’s university classes.  I couldn’t have been older than ten, my dad had been busy and my mom hadn’t been able to find a babysitter.  So I’d been precocious, proud as hell to be sitting in that English lecture with the teenagers and twenty-somethings and understanding what my mom was saying.  We’d even read the book together, over the prior few weeks, so I knew the material.  Oranges are not the Only Fruit.

While I’d been sitting and listening, an older man had come in and sat next to me, in the back row.  In a kind voice, he’d murmured a comment about how my mother was an excellent professor.  Then, a few minutes later, when I got up the courage to raise my hand and answer one of her questions, he’d complimented me, got up and left.  All my pride in myself and my mother aside, what had struck me about the encounter was the man’s hair.  A ridiculous comb-over.

After the class was over and my mom had been taking me home, I mentioned the man, and she’d identified him as the head of her department, her boss.  Then I brought up the comb-over and how bad it looked.

“Look at it from his perspective,” she’d explained.  “Maybe, a long time ago, he started to lose a little hair, but he could brush it to one side in a way that made it not show so much.  Every year that passed he brushed his hair over a bit more.  It was gradual, something he slowly got used to, seeing it in the mirror every morning and every night.  Lots of small steps.”

“Why doesn’t someone point it out?”  I’d asked her.

“He doesn’t have anyone to point it out for him,” she had replied, “And anyone who knows him well enough doesn’t want to hurt his feelings, even if it might be better in the long run.”

“You could,” I’d told her.

So she had, later that week.  Ripped off the band-aid for the old head of the English department.  According to her, he’d gotten a haircut, then thanked her at a later date.  That event and what my mom had done afterward always stuck in my memory.

I swallowed past a lump in my throat.  It always caught me off guard, just how frigging much I missed her, when I thought about her.  I’d give anything for a thirty minute conversation with her, right this moment.  I didn’t have the slightest doubt in my mind that she could have made sense of everything, put things into terms so simple that working it out looked easy.

I had to stop, look up, blink back the tears in my eyes, and take a deep breath before I moved on.

Was my situation the same as the old man’s?  Had I let myself gradually slip into a bad spot, because of my lack of perspective beyond what was going on inside my own head?

I hadn’t been thinking about this clearly.  I was still confident enough I could send that email, make the call… but before I did that, I had to get my thoughts in order.  Composing the letter in my head wouldn’t work, I needed the words on my computer screen in front of me, concrete words in black and white.

I walked around the back of my house and reached into my pocket for my keys.  Before I could get them, my dad opened the door.

“Taylor.  It’s good to see you safe and sound.”  My dad looked tired, years older than the last time I saw him.

I gave him a brief hug, “Hi, Dad.  You got my message, saying I’d be late?”

“I did.”  He shut and locked the door behind me.  “What happened?”

I shrugged as I pulled off my sweatshirt, made sure my pepper spray, phone and keys were all in the pockets, then hung it up by the door.  “Nothing big.  I was at Brian’s, helping him put furniture together, then his sister and his sister’s social services caseworker came without any warning.  I couldn’t find a way to leave without it being kind of awkward.”  Which did happen, pretty much, just at an earlier time.

“I see,” he murmured. “Were you two alone?”

“No,” I lied, to stop him from getting the wrong impression.  “At least, not for long.  Lisa left a few minutes before the caseworker dropped by.”

“And you have a new shirt, I see.  It’s nice.”

“Lisa’s,” I fibbed, squirming a little under the scrutiny.

“Ah,” he nodded.

“I’m going to go to my room, if that’s alright?  I’m kind of wiped.”

My dad shook his head, “I’d rather you stayed to talk.”

Not what I wanted to do.  My mind was jammed with enough crap and internal debates that I didn’t want to worry about concocting more lies for my dad.

“Can we do it tomorrow morning?” I offered him, retreating toward the door to the front hall, pressing my hands together in a pleading gesture. “I really need to sit at my computer for a minute and organize my thoughts.”

I pushed on the door and it didn’t open.  Strange.  I tried the doorknob, and it didn’t help.

“Door’s jammed,” I said.

“Door’s locked, Taylor.  So is the door to the living room.”  My dad answered me.  When I looked at him, he showed me the old fashioned key in his hand.

As I watched, he pulled out two chairs from beside the kitchen table, placed one in the middle of the room, then placed the second chair against the back door and sat down in it.

“Sit.”

“Dad, tonight’s not really-“

Sit.

My heart dropped out of my chest.  Or at least, it felt like it.  I felt an ugly sour feeling in my stomach.

“I talked to your school today,” he informed me, confirming that ugly feeling.

“I’m sorry.”

“You’ve missed nearly a month of classes, Taylor.  Three weeks.  You’ve missed major tests, project due dates, homework… they’re saying you might fail, if you haven’t already.”

“I- I’m sorry,” I repeated myself.

“I could maybe understand, I know what you’ve been dealing with, except you didn’t just leave me in the dark.  You lied to me.”

I couldn’t form the words for another apology.

“I called the school to get an update on how you were doing, and they said you hadn’t been to class in some time, and I didn’t know what to do.  I just- I felt completely lost.  I called your Gram.”

I winced.  Gram was my mom’s mother, an austere woman who’d never fully approved of my dad as a match for her daughter.  It wouldn’t have been easy for him to make that call.

“She convinced me that maybe I’ve been too focused on being your ally, and not focused enough on being your parent.  If she’d told me that a week ago, I would have hung up on her.  But after talking to your school, realizing how badly I failed you-“

“You didn’t fail me,” I told him.  I was caught off guard by how my voice broke a bit with emotion.

“I did.  It’s clear that whatever we’ve been doing hasn’t been working, if you’re in this situation, if you can’t talk to me.  No more secrets, no more half truths.  So we’re going to stay here all night if need be.  I’ll even call off work tomorrow if I have to, but we’re going to talk.”

I nodded and swallowed, hard.  I still hadn’t sat down in the chair he’d left in the middle of the kitchen.

“I, um, need to use the washroom.”

“Okay,” he stood.  “I’ll walk you there, and I’ll walk you back here to the kitchen afterward.”

“You’re treating me like I’m a prisoner?

“You’re my daughter, Taylor.  I love you, but I know there’s something going on, and it’s not just the bullying, or it’s something to do with the bullying that you haven’t mentioned yet.  I’m scared for you, Taylor, because you’re avoiding me and staying silent even if it means failing.”

“So you force my hand by making me your prisoner,” I replied, letting anger and hurt creep into my voice, “Do you think this is even remotely cool, after all the times I’ve been cornered by those bitches from school?  I’ve got to come home to this bullying power-abuse shit, too?”

My dad answered me with the utmost patience, “I hope you know that I’m doing this because I love you.”

I did.  Thing was, that didn’t make it even slightly easier to handle.

Do you need to go to the bathroom, Taylor?”

I shook my head.  What I needed was to get out of this room.  I saw him purse his lips, knew he was aware I’d just been looking for an escape.

Talk to me, Taylor.”

“Don’t feel like talking.”  I walked across the room to try the other doors, to the living room and basement.  Locked.

“Why are you so insistent on escaping?” he asked.  I could hear the pain in his voice, which didn’t make me feel any better.  “Please, just relax, sit down.”

I felt the crackle of my power at the edges of my awareness, realized I was clenching my fists.  Why was it that the people I was supposed to be able to rely on were the people who turned on me, cornered me, made me feel the worst?  Emma, the school, Armsmaster, now my dad?

I kicked the chair, hard enough that it made a mark as it hit the fridge.  My dad’s eyes went just a bit wider, but he didn’t move or speak.  I could feel the tug of my power as bugs throughout my neighborhood began to move to my location.  I had to willfully cancel out the order to make them back off and return to their normal behavior.

Not feeling even remotely better after my abuse of the chair, I shoved the cookbooks and printouts off the shelf beside the fridge, letting them spill to the ground.  A picture frame that had been hidden in the middle of the pile broke as it hit the ground.

“Damn it,” I muttered.  I still didn’t feel better, and I was having a harder time keeping the swarm at bay.

“Possessions can be replaced, Taylor.  Vent however you need to.”

“Dad?  D-” I had to stop for a few seconds until I felt like I could catch my breath and talk without my voice breaking up, “Do me a favor?  Stay quiet for a bit and let me think?”

He gave me a careful look before he answered me.  “Okay.  I can do that.”

With nowhere else to sit, I put my back to the wall under the bookshelf I’d just cleared and let myself sink to the ground, my legs making their protests felt as I brought my legs up against my chest.  I folded my arms, resting them atop my knees, and buried my face against them.

I knew it had been 9:24 when I got in.  By the time I’d suppressed the bugs, got my power under control and felt safe to raise my head, it was 9:40.  My dad still sat in the chair.

I let out a long sigh, quiet, then buried my face in my arms again.

What now?

Come on, Taylor.  You’ve faced down Supervillains in life or death situations.  You faced down Armsmaster earlier tonight.  Is it that hard to face your own dad?

No.  Ten times harder.

But I had to face the problem the same way.  Catalogue my options, my tools at hand.  Physical violence was out.  So was using my power.  What did that leave me?

The situation was ultimately the same, I decided.  I still had to write that letter to Miss Militia, organize my thoughts.  Problem was, now I had an additional thing to deal with.  I had to fess up to my dad about what I’d done.

I wasn’t sure I could say it.  My throat was thick with emotion, and I doubted I could organize my thoughts enough to convince my dad that I’d done everything for the right reasons.  I’d open my mouth to tell him, stammer out the basics of it, maybe he’d even look concerned at first.  Then as I kept talking, failing to adequately describe what I’d done and why, I could see his face turning to confusion.  After that?  Disgust, disappointment?

A little part of me died inside at the thought.

I’d write it.  I raised my head abruptly, looked to the papers scattered around me.  I found a manilla envelope, the kind you put documents inside.  Then I found a marker.

Along the top of the envelope, I wrote the words: “I AM A SUPERVILLAIN.”

I stared at those words on the brown envelope that rested against my legs.  Then I looked up at my dad.  He was reading a book, his right ankle resting on his left knee.

I imagined handing him the envelope as-is.  Just that one line.

Fuck.”  I muttered.

“Did you say something?” my dad looked up from his book and reached over to put it down.

“It’s okay.  Keep reading,” I said, absently, annoyed at the distraction, still pissed at him for cornering me like this.

“Okay,” he agreed, but he didn’t look at the book for longer than three seconds before glancing up at me again, as if to check on me.  I tried to ignore him and focus on the envelope

What to write?  After a second, I began writing below the title I’d put on the envelope.

I like Brian and Lisa.  I even like Alec and Rachel.  But they’re supervillains too.  I joined them with the idea that I would get details the Protectorate needed and then betray them.

I raised the marker and frowned.

Why was this so damn hard?

I put the cap on and nervously tapped the marker against my knee.  Thinking about stuff, trying to gauge my feelings, exploring my thoughts to see what it was that made that knot deep in my gut get tighter.

My dad?  Was I too conscious of what he would read, how he would perceive it?  Yes.  But it had also been hard to write when I’d been mentally writing it for just Miss Militia.  That wasn’t the whole picture.

Was I scared of arrest?  No.  Well, I’d seen bureaucracy at work with school, I didn’t trust the system, I fully expected to get screwed over somewhere down the line.  But that wasn’t what was driving my choices.  It was something more personal.

The team.  Was I worried over how they would take it?  Over possibly having them as enemies?  Like Coil had said, there was no guarantee any action against them would be wholly successful.  Tattletale would probably be able to tell a PRT team was there before they could get in position, and the team was good at making an escape in a pinch.  Then I’d have one or more enemies after me, who knew everything they needed and had all the tools to make my life a living hell.

Warmer.

It did have to do with those guys, and it slowly dawned on me what it was.

I stood, then walked over to the oven.

“Taylor?” my dad spoke, quiet.

I folded the envelope lengthwise to hide the words, turned on the oven burner, then held the tip of the envelope to the flame until it ignited.

I held the burning envelope over the sink until I was sure my message was obliterated.  I dropped the remains of the envelope into the basin and watched it burn up.

I didn’t want to send that email to Miss Militia because I liked those guys.  That wasn’t the big realization.  What made me stand up and burn the envelope was the realization that I liked those guys, I was fond of them, I trusted them to have my back…

Yet I’d always held myself at arm’s length.

It was stupid, it was selfish, but I really, desperately wanted to see what it would be like to get to know Lisa, without worrying that she would find out my scheme.  I’d like to see what it was like to interact with her without having to censor myself out of fear that I’d provide that damning clue.  I wanted to get to know Bitch and Alec better.  And Brian.  I wanted to be closer to Brian.  I couldn’t phrase it any better than that, because I didn’t know if there would be any future with him beyond a simple friendship.  I didn’t expect there to be.  It still mattered.

I’d let myself think that I’d tried a friendship with these guys, that I had grown as a person, so it was okay to go ahead with my plan.  But I hadn’t.  I’d never let myself truly open up and connect with them, and I was realizing just how much I wanted to.

My reasons for going ahead with my plan were thinning out, getting harder to justify.  My reputation was probably in shambles, I’d made enemies of everyone that mattered, and I had a number of felonies under my belt.  As much as I might try to ignore all that and tell myself I was doing it for the greater good, my conversation with Coil had left me less sure.  That wasn’t to say I believed him wholeheartedly, or that I thought he’d be as successful as he thought, but I was less sure.

Damn it, I wanted to hang out more with the Undersiders. Knowing I was out of reasons to justify sticking with the plan, all the crap that would come raining down on my head if I did go ahead with it, how much I’d loathe myself for betraying friends?  This little desire for a real, genuine friendship was enough of a nudge in that direction.  I could change my mind.  I wouldn’t be sending any letters to Miss Militia.

I ran the tapwater over the smoking remains of the envelope, watched the remains get washed away.  I watched the water running down the drain for a long time after the last scrap of burned paper was gone.

I turned off the tap, stuck my hands in my pockets, and crossed the kitchen to lean back against the door leading to the front hall, glancing briefly at the handle and lock before I leaned against the door with my back to it.  I called some bugs from the living room, hallway and heating vents down the front hall and up to the door, into the mechanism of the lock.  Could they move the necessary parts?

No such luck.  They weren’t strong enough to manipulate the door’s internal workings, and any bugs that might be strong enough wouldn’t fit inside.  Go away, I told them, and they did.

Which left me no good way to avoid dealing with my dad.  I felt more guilty than ever as I looked across the room at him.  He looked so bewildered, so concerned, as he watched me.  I didn’t have it in me to lie to his face again.

But whatever I did was going to hurt him.

I crossed the room and he stood up, as if unsure as to what I was going to do.  I hugged him tight.  He hugged me back tighter.

“I love you, dad.”

“I love you too.”

“I’m sorry.”

“You have nothing to be sorry for.  Just- just talk to me, okay?”

I pulled away, and grabbed my sweatshirt from the hook by the door.  As I crossed back to the other side of the room, I fished in the pockets and retrieved the phone.

I started typing out a text.

“You have a cell phone,” he was very quiet.  My mom had died using a cell phone while driving.  We’d never talked about it, but I knew he’d thrown his out not long after the accident.  Negative connotations.  An ugly reminder.

“Yeah,” I replied.

“Why?”

“To stay in touch with my friends.”

“It-it’s just unexpected.  I wouldn’t have thought.”

“It worked out that way.”  I finished the text, closed the phone and stuck it in the pocket of my jeans.

“New clothes, you’re angrier, lying to me, missing school, this cell phone… I feel like I don’t know you anymore, little owl,” he used my mom’s old pet name for me.  I flinched a little.

Carefully, I replied, “Maybe that’s a good thing.  Because I sure didn’t like who I was before.”

“I did,” he murmured.

I looked away.

“Can you at least tell me you’re not doing drugs?”

“Not even smoking or drinking.”

“Nobody’s making you do anything you don’t want to do?”

“No.”

“Okay,” he said.

There was a long pause.  The minutes stretched on as if we were both waiting for the other to say something.

“I don’t know if you know this,” he spoke, “But when your mom was alive, and you were in middle school, the subject of you skipping a grade came up.”

“Yeah?”

“You’re a smart girl, and we were afraid you were bored in school.  We had arguments on the subject.  I-I convinced your mom you would be happier in the long run attending high school with your best friend.”

I coughed out a laugh.  Then I saw the wounded look on his face.

“It’s not your fault, dad.  You couldn’t have known.”

“I know, or at least, I have that worked out in my head.  Emotionally, I’m not so sure.  I can’t help but wonder how things would have played out differently if we’d gone ahead with what your mother wanted.  You were doing so well, and now you’re failing?”

“So I fail, maybe,” I said, and I felt a weight lift, admitting it out loud.  There would be options.  I’d picked up enough that maybe I could still pressure the faculty to let me skip a grade.  I would be old enough to take online classes like Brian was.

“No, Taylor.  You shouldn’t have to.  The staff at the school knows your circumstances, we can definitely get some exemptions made, extend deadlines…”

I shrugged.  “I don’t want to go back, I don’t want to beg and plead for help from those assholes in the school faculty, just so I can return to the same position I was in a month ago.  Way I see it, the bullying is unavoidable, impossible to control or prevent.  It’s like a force of nature… a force of human nature.  It’s easier to handle, if I think about it like that.  I can’t fight it, can’t win, so I’ll just focus on dealing with the aftereffects.”

“You don’t have to give up.”

“I’m not giving up!”  I raised my voice, angry, surprised at myself for being angry.  I took a breath, forced myself to return to a normal volume, “I’m saying there’s probably no fucking way I’ll understand why she did what she did.  So why waste my time and energy dwelling on it?  Fuck her, she doesn’t deserve the amount of attention I’ve been paying her. I’m… reprioritizing.”

He folded his arms, but his forehead was creased in concern.  “And these new priorities of yours are?”

I had to search for a response.  “Living my life, making up for lost time.”

As if to answer my statement, the back door opened behind my dad.  My dad turned, startled.

“Lisa?” He asked, confused.

Lisa revealed the key she’d taken from the fake stone in the back garden, then placed it on the railing of our back steps.  Unsmiling, she looked from my dad to me.  She met my eyes.

I shoved my way past my dad, and he grabbed my upper arm before I was clear of the doorway.

“Stay,” he ordered me, implored me, squeezing my arm.

I wrenched my arm free, twisting it until he couldn’t maintain his grip, and hopped down the back steps, felt my knees ache at the landing.  Three or four strides away, I turned back in his direction, but was unable to look him in the eyes.

“I love you, dad.  But I need-”  What did I need?  I couldn’t form the thought.  “I, uh, I’ll be in touch.  So you know I’m okay.  This isn’t permanent, I just… I need a breather.  I need to figure all this out.”

“Taylor, you can’t leave. I’m your parent, and this is your home.”

“Is it?  It really doesn’t feel like that’s the case, right now,” I answered.  “Home’s supposed to be a place I feel safe and secure.”

“You have to understand, I didn’t have any other options.  You were avoiding me, not talking, and I can’t help you until I get answers.”

“I can’t give you any answers,” I replied, “And you can’t help anyways.”

He took a step forward, and I quickly stepped back, maintaining the distance between us.

Trying again, he told me, “Come inside.  Please.  I won’t press you any further.  I should have realized you weren’t in a place where I could.”

He took another step toward me, and Lisa took a little step to one side to get in his way, as I backed up again.

“Lisa?” My dad turned his attention to her, looking at her like he’d never seen her before.  “You’re okay with this?”

Lisa glanced between us again, then carefully said, “Taylor’s smart.  If she’s decided she needs to get away and work stuff out for herself, I trust it’s for good reason.  There’s plenty of room for her at my place.  It’s not a problem in the slightest.”

“She’s just a kid.”

“She’s more capable than you give her credit for, Danny.”

I turned to leave, and Lisa hurried to catch up with me, putting an arm around my shoulders as she reached my side.

“Taylor,” my dad called out.  I hesitated, but didn’t turn around.  I kept my eyes fixed on the gate of the backyard.

“Please do keep in touch,” he said, “You can come home anytime.”

“Okay,” I replied.  I wasn’t sure if my voice was loud enough for him to hear.

As Lisa led me to her car, I had to steel myself to keep from looking back.

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42 thoughts on “Tangle 6.9

    • Yeah sucks hard from dads point of view, teenage daughter just leaving like that out of the blue. I dont imagine how any parent could let that happen without resorting to physical violence.

      But from Taylors point of view, what would have been the alternatives really?
      Fess up that your pasttime last month has been robbing banks and gouging eyes out? Not really viable.
      Lie through your gills and make up some random story? Probably not going to hold water and will not result in any kind of long term solution.
      But run away from home? Quite regular teenage behaviour, tho usually happens secretly.

      PS
      Aswesome work wildbow, I could see this getting published one good day. Doing a partial reread and i rarely do that(skipping long combat descriptions – not much point if i know how it ends). Plenty of subtle clues here are there tho, that only make sense further on in the story.

  1. Damnit. I was really hoping for a different outcome. But I just really don’t like Coil or his plans.

    I suppose Taylor acknowledging herself a supervillain isn’t necessarily favorable for Coil, but it sure does feel that way. I guess I can hope the Undersiders decide to tell Coil to stuff it and go on being villains without a real agenda.

    Also, a stray thought, because I feel as though this chapter is winding down, and I neglected to put in my two cents for previous Interlude requests. I’d like to know who Manton was, what he was studying, and how he got the Manton Effect named after him. I don’t know if an interlude about Manton is feasible, but one in which we get more of a look as to what is generally (or not so generally) known about parahumans in theory and practice would be cool.

    • I was bound to leave some people unhappy one way or the other. That’s the trouble with this approach. Still, things are hardly over yet. Don’t lose hope. :)

      Interesting thought on Manton. I think the man himself would be sorta boring to discuss, but I did have one idea (which, incidentally, was something I was considering for the 2nd interlude) that I could use to provide info on that front. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the interlude you guys would be getting on Saturday, and I’m thinking I’d rather do something different for the one at the end of the next arc.

      Which raises the question – is there interest in more interludes? I’ve been doing a fair bit of writing lately, getting a bit ahead, getting a better sense of how the rest of ‘book one’ is going to play out, and I feel like there’s a lot more stuff I’d want to cover in interludes, but with only 3-4 arcs remaining, it’s tricky to fit in everything I’d want to cover. At the same time, though, I don’t want to saturate the story with too much side-story stuff, nor do I want to overload myself.

      So, my question: I was considering something like a donate panel, with bonus interludes offered to all readers if and when a landmark ($25, $50, $100?) was reached. Nothing would be taken away from the story as-is (all updates and interludes would continue as normal). My concern, I guess, would be that I wouldn’t want a neglected donate box stuck on the front page as an eyesore, and I wouldn’t want to set up a situation where readers were later disappointed if said box was taken down or if the landmark was raised (due to lack of interest, too much interest, etc.) It’d be a way to get some spare change for banner ads, at the very least.

      Thoughts, anyone?

      TL;DR: Donate button, yea or nay?

      • I’ll leave questions of policy in your hands; I don’t have particularly strong feelings one way or another. That said, I probably would make use of a donate box at least once. Can’t speak for anybody else.

        Also, being displeased by an outcome is not at all the same thing as being unhappy with a story, and I have to say that I’m still really happy with this story.

    • It seemed to be implied (and I don’t remember if it was ever confirmed) that Manton was a researcher of some kind researching parahuman powers. That’s plenty to get an effect named after you, just like Hawking radiation or Newtonian physics.

      I wonder who else was researching parahumans, and if Manton got his name on anything else. And what else there would be to name, actually. A unit of superpower?

  2. I am very glad that Taylor made the decision on hero vs villain herself. I was kind of afraid that the choice was going to gradually slip away from her, or that armsmaster was going to take it completely out of her hands.

    I liked how Taylor thought of Lisa as Lisa whenever she was speaking, but as Tattletale whenever she moved or acted. Also the way that Dan looked at Lisa as if he never saw her before right after she moved and was thought of as Tattletale was very striking. It brought home to me that with their experience these kids can probably be incredibly menacing even when out of costume.

    • Actually, the references to ‘Tattletale’ were an error on my part, and while I can appreciate the effect, it wasn’t intended. As I’ve been trying to be consistent on the naming thing, and given concerns it would convey the wrong ideas, I’ve changed it.

  3. wait, she has how much money saved up now? she got paid a quarter million for embarrassing the mayor, plus — what was it — 25 grand for the bank job; she should be closing in on 300k by now. unless she’s spent over 40,000 dollars on something in a month?

    (i’d been thinking about that, actually, since if she gets over how it was earned she’s basically set for the first half of her life or so by now. PhD in entomology at whatever college her brain can get her into? financially covered already, if she wants to do it. go into entrepreneurship in the docks area once Coil’s takeover pacifies the town somewhat? she’s got the starting capital for most any type of business…)

    • Ah, good eye.

      Second time in recent memory that I’ve done that. I put down a number for something and make a mental note to go back later, research/read prior chapters and then adjust it. Except I forget all about it, and somehow skim over it when I’m doing revisions, after.

      I could excuse it by saying that Taylor is willfully ignoring the subject of money, so she’s just ballparking it without thinking about it, but saying ‘over two hundred and thirty thousand’ is way, way off if she just got paid two hundred and fifty. Tweaked that line.

      Thanks for pointing it out.

      • This is sort of funny. I noticed the discrepancy, too but I assumed that a fair chunk of the money they earned was being spent to cover the team’s joint expenses, and that the actual hauls from earlier jobs, at least, were smaller than reported to account for having the money laundered.

        In retrospect, the numbers don’t quite work out even with such considerations, especially since it’s implied that laundering without a fee is one of the things Coil’d been doing for the team. But the world is put together in a manner sufficiently coherent that when I encounter an inconsistent detail like that, I assume I’m making an incorrect assumption or that I’ve failed to notice something.

  4. Put enough energy into light and even it is sufficently coherent.

    Nah, you’re doing good, wildbow. One or two of the details gets fudged, oh well. Anything I’ve written for others to read, I’ve always been way too concerned people won’t like it. You just have to worry about someone second-guessing the math in the illicit bank account.

    A very nice little chapter here. A great one for the tension showing how much we care about the path Taylor chooses. I can’t help but feel sorry for her dad too. Maybe she should have asked Coil for a 30 minute conversation with her mom. There’s a nice contrast as well showing the difference between how things should work and how they do work. Two main conflicts: bullying at school and being a superhero.

    When it came to bullying, Taylor did nothing wrong. She didn’t try to provoke it, she counted on the right people in authority to help her, and they wouldn’t. Nothing could be proved in just the way they needed, and the other side had a big-shot lawyer on their side that would have bankrupted her and her dad dealing with the case.

    Being a supervillain? She did kind of set that one up, though people were assuming it from the very beginning anyway. She was trying to do the right thing there as well. She tried to work with the people in the proper authorities again, only to find out that once more they are willing to sacrifice what is right because of money or ego. Her choice was either to work with these people, as one of these people, being one of the bullies for once (after all, there is something kinda bullying about a superhero coming out of nowhere after a supervillain at times), and hope it’s all for some vague good that society’s supposed to uphold. Or she can stay with her friends, people who care about her for who she is and who actually realize and act on the bullying Taylor has gone through. She can try for something that will stand a good chance at improving a small portion of the world by someone who knows what he’s doing. One nice thing about supervillains is that they don’t care if there’s 50 years of statistics and research by a scientist that shows it would be more or less cost effective. They’re going to do it. And screw evidence that stands up in a court of law. Sure, a henchman might occasionally be offed when he shouldn’t be, but at least it’s easier to deal with your enemies when you can just carve out their eyes rather than hope they’ll stay in jail long enough for a jury of buyable people to see evidence that isn’t quite enough.

    In this, we also see a similarity to the one light-powered woman and Kaiser Roll. She has to work with a guy she doesn’t fully agree with, who she hates, and who is using her. But she’s willing to do it for this deal of a lifetime that involves helping the city.

    And, you know, isn’t it odd that Kaiser’s willing to give up power in a year’s time just when Coil is coming on the scene ready to take power over the whole city?

    Anyways, tune in this saturday, kids, same Worm time, same Worm channel!

    • Purity’s actually one character i’m hoping to see more of, yet. if the next arc or two ends up dealing with the empire and its take-down, maybe we’ll see what becomes of her still. and Kaiser’s offer to her of giving up power? yeah, i’ve got this bridge she might want to buy, if she’s buying that one…

    • I laughed at the same worm time, same worm channel line, and I smiled as I shook my head at the ferry instead of a bridge bit.

      I’m sincerely surprised you aren’t writing, gecko. I think you have a way with wit, a superior ability to make those mental connections and conjure something amusing out of them. You should stress less and write more. I mean, -I’m- worrying people won’t like chapters as they go up, especially for chapters where something major happens (Coil is revealed to be the boss, this chapter, etc). I’m usually up for a few hours after the update goes up at midnight, waiting for the reactions and breathing a bit of a sigh of relief when I get good feedback. But when I get really good feedback (I love THQ for this) or a raving review (Hy pretty much made my holidays with hers on Webfictionguide) or enough votes to rise to top 4 of Topwebfiction, it’s an amazing, gratifying feeling – one that usually prompts me to sit down and churn out one to three chapters in one sitting.

      I think the important thing is to recognize that you’re your own worst critic, that you know your own work better than anyone else, flaws and all, and that you’re often so involved with the writing process that you lose objectivity, so you can’t necessarily see it for being good, bad or whatever. You can’t get a genuine grasp of the quality of your own work until you’re either very experienced or until someone else reads it and comments.

  5. Read the tale up to here in the last few days.
    In my opinion this is one of the best works of fiction on the web.
    Taylor would lose a lot of my respect if she betrayed the only people that befriended her in her whole life.
    She could just leave the group, move to another town with her dad and the money (not impossible) and work solo avoiding small crimes for a while. There are other similar middle ground options for her.
    But I respect her decision.
    I lived in a dictatorship during part of my life. So, I know quite well how much this system is tempting when there is someone charismatic in power.
    Among other things, in a dictatorship police can do whatever they want. Their crimes (those of the police) are not divulged by the press, but they can get thieves using all kinds of mechanisms that simplify things, like torture. As a consequence, there is a feeling that crime is diminishing, since the only crime being committed does not go to press.
    We all want a big powerful father figure to take care of our needs and keep us safe, a good dictator will fill this role.
    This said, perhaps one beautiful day Taylor will realize that the downside is complete lack of freedom. What the guy in power wants, he gets, and this is also valid for his subordinates. A dictatorship is feudal in nature, there are those guys that can do anything and those that can´t.
    Of course Coil will have to act in the background and this will give some power to the people, justice will work independently in all cases that do not involve his people …
    In real life dictatorship, sometimes a police officer kills an innocent, sometimes a “big shot” does not like someone and this someone disappears …
    In Coil´s regime? Who knows.
    The interesting part is that Taylor will be upper crust in this regime. She will have some freedom, she will be able to do a lot of good and the people that she likes will be protected. Tempting, isn´t it ?
    Besides, the “heroes” in this town work under a military hierarchy controlled by the government that make them less than heroic. Fund raising when crime is at its top? Allowing the docks to remain like they are? Not pressing the mayor to do a better job?
    This reminds me of superman and batman going against Lex Luthor, as president, while many other heroes stood at the side of what they saw as the law. An ideal hero has to uphold the ethics of his society and, when possible, the law, even if he or she has to go against a person with political power. Or else, they may uphold a dictatorship like that in Venesuela where the guy remains in power because he was democratically elected, had majority of congress, and changed the law.

    • Insightful, Eduardo. I wish I had more to add, but I’m limited by the fact that I don’t want to spoil anything, which kind of ties my hands as far as expanding on/discussing your thoughts. I admire authors who don’t struggle so much with this.

      I’m really glad you’re enjoying the story. I hope to see you commenting in the future. :)

    • >>A dictatorship is feudal in nature, there are those guys that can do anything and those that can´t.

      That is not exactly the nature of a ‘feudal’ system. Indeed one lack of our modern society in general, and this book in particular, are many aspects of the feudal system: In particular the family and loyalty nature of feudalism.

      Those lacks, in addition to the complete lack of any ideological basis (such as there was in Nazism or Marxism) would make the rise of a dictatorship very, very difficult. Even crime syndacits tend to run with some kind of loyalty structure: typically family but it can be a more gang-loyalty type… as well as some kind of sexual ties: which were so incredibly important in feudalism (every other story being about some arranged marriage or the like).

      • Loyalty to family and friends is what Taylor is showing.
        From the point of view of a peasant there were those that could (the nobles) and those that couldn´t (thenselves).
        Honor, loyalty, in most cases this was not applied to the plebeians.
        Wait … OK, depending on the country and on the time “feudalism” gave more or less power to the commom born, but the basis of the system IS what we can infer from the chronicles of Fire and Ice (George R Martin). The nobles can do all, worry only about their honor, their power games and the commons … don´t matter.

    • I think the Superman and Batman thing only happened after he had done something. Otherwise, they did actually let the guy go and get elected in a fair and democratic process. It was just inevitable he’d do something anyway.

      You do bring up a good point about the heroes being less than heroic. I believe Green Lantern/Green Arrow played with that some. Green Lantern was the hero that worked as a policeman for society, while Green Arrow was a hero as a force for aiding society even if that meant disrupting it. Law, order, and stability versus progress of society. Today’s political criminals are tomorrow’s politicians. One day, society is threatened by women wanting to vote, the next day society is no longer threatened because they can. Martin Luther King Jr., and the entire civil rights movement, greatly disrupted a law-abiding society, and yet those laws were wrong and that disruption was right.

      While my examples are biased in favor of one side, both sides have good points. I’ve said before that a death ray is just a tool that can be used for good or evil, and the same is true of both sides there. Emphasis on law and order has done horrible things: Argentina wanted the military to take over to finally end the political violence that had disrupted the country before then. Then came the desaparecidos…the disappeared…people taken and never heard from again, never confirmed to be dead. Sometimes their babies were taken as well, a reward to couples who supported the regime but couldn’t have a kid of their own. I once read the testimony of a man who was grabbed but was later let go. He was beaten and electrocuted, sometimes at the same time. Then, they spent a day yanking his balls till they were swollen and sore. Then he had to lay down on his stomach and they started removing the skin of his feet with a razorblade. And this is a man they let live.

      Sedated political prisoners were flown out over the ocean, stripped nude, and dropped in.

      And the military taking power was also revolutionary. Many times there have been horrible things done in the name of revolution, as if it didn’t matter because they were going to finally make the country right. Bombings, public shootings, repressing of religious rights. Sorry if my examples on that end are much less concrete, though I’m sure no matter your political persuasions you can think of something.

      It’s an important struggle to examine and can go either way. It’s defined politics and superheroes and some of the best writing out there. Conformity versus progress/stability versus upheaval. Animal Farm versus 1984. Coke versus Pepsi. Roe versus Wade. Joe Frazier versus Muhammad Ali. Liu Kang versus Kratos. Ready, FIGHT!

  6. Damn.

    If she’s cutting out her dad like that (conceivably to protect him) she’ll need the Undersiders as friends even more than before. No way she can turn them in now.

    Looks like I’ve caught up to the current arc. It’s gonna be pretty frustrating to have to wait longer between chapters!

  7. “It was gradual, something he got slowly got used to, seeing it in the mirror every morning and every night.”

    Extra “got” there.

    Also, want to point out that I’m really enjoying the story as I make my way through the archives.

  8. This is amazing! Just read the archive up to this point and needed to comment, finally. I am really giddy, since there 8 arcs to go!
    The best serial I have ever read on the web, simply brilliant.

    Supervillians are often much more interesting than their heroic counterpart, and Taylor is such a believable character. Her “fall” is gradual and very understandable. She does all the right things, and it all comes to nothing. The only people that offers her compassion and friendship are her new friends, and the only one offering her any hope of change in her life is Coil.

    Her distrust of authority and the established systems comes from a relatable place. I still have an anti-authoritarian streak because of some things that happened in high school, ages ago now. I love that she makes her choice here, and that she stays with her friends instead of trying to ingratiate herself into the society that admits people like Emma and her dad. but rejects her at every turn.

  9. Woah, this chapter was amazing. You’re taking the story in exactly the direction I’d hoped it would go – shattering Taylor’s misconceptions about the nobility of law and shifting her decidedly into neutral good territory. When she sat down and meditated while under her dad’s custody, I was mentally yelling at Taylor to grab a pen and paper and finish her train of thought from earlier. I literally cheered when she did just that.

    I’m so glad that she’s cutting through the bullshit and doing what matters most to her, now. This chapter is a real inspiration for me; it makes me want to do the same.

  10. This chapter is a gut punch or several. Can’t help feeling for both of them, and being very concerned about Taylor’s choices and the reasons she’s making them. Probably one of my favorite chapters in the whole of Worm.

  11. Awkward wording:
    “Question was, was I taking this route because … ”
    How about, “The question was, did I think of taking this route because … “

  12. “I’d give anything for a thirty minute conversation with her, right this moment.”

    This is the kind of thing you barely notice the first time you read it.

  13. Wow very good resolution! I love her thoughts on Coil and her laughably bad attempts at the letter to Miss Militia. I’m really glad that she ended up making this choice herself too rather than being cornered into it. While the decision to leave her Dad was heartbreaking I think it works both in character and to move the story along faster. I feel really bad for Danny but the dude really did not go about his intervention in a smart way at all. I hope that when I become a parent I have a little more tact than that. I also like how Lisa called him Danny at the end. Considering that she is still a teenager that’s really a big deal. I always called the parents of my friends Mr. and Mrs. So and So because when you call them by their first name it raises you up to their level. I loved that about the confrontation. I really hope that Taylor ends up telling the group what she had been planning originally or at least telling Lisa/Brian. I doubt it would go over well but I think she is still going to eat herself up about it until it gets out.

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