Gestation 1.2

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My thoughts were on Emma on the bus ride home.  For an outside observer, I think it’s easy to trivialize the importance of a ‘best friend’, but when you’re a kid, there’s nobody more important.  Emma had been my ‘BFF’ from grade one all the way through middle school.  It hadn’t been enough for us to spend our time together at school, so we had alternated staying at each others houses every weekend.  I remember my mother saying that we were so close we were practically sisters.

A friendship that deep is intimate.  Not in the rude way, but just in terms of a no-holds-barred sharing of every vulnerability and weakness.

So when I got back from nature camp just a week before our first year at high school started, to find that she wasn’t talking to me?  That she was calling Sophia her best friend?  Discovering that she was now using every one of those secrets and vulnerabilities I had shared with her to wound me in the most vicious ways she could think of?  It was crushing.  There’s just no better way to say it.

Unwilling to dwell on it any longer, I turned my attention to my backpack, setting it on the seat beside me and sorting through the contents.  Grape juice had stained it, and I had a suspicion I would have to get a new one.  I had bought it just four months ago, after my old one had been taken from my locker, and it had been just twelve bucks, so it wasn’t a huge issue.  The fact that my notebooks, textbooks and the two novels I’d shoved into my bag were wet with grape juice was more troubling.  I suspected that whichever girl had been holding the grape juice had aimed for the open top of my bag as she poured it.  I noted the destruction of my art project – the box I’d put it in was collapsed on the one side.  That bit was my fault.

My heart sank as I found the notebook with the white and black speckled hardcover.  The corner of the paper was soaked through with as much as a quarter of each page stained purple.  The ink had diluted and the pages were already turning wavy.

That notebook was – had been – my notes and journal for my hero career.  The testing and training I’d done with my powers, pages of crossed out name ideas, even the measurements I was using for my costume in progress.  After Emma, Madison and Sophia had stolen my last backpack and stuffed it in a wastebasket, I had realized how big a danger it was to have everything written down like that.  I had copied everything over into a new notebook in a simple cipher and wrote it bottom to top.  Now that notebook was spoiled, and I was looking at having to copy some two hundred pages of detailed writing into a new notebook if I wanted to preserve the information.  If I could even remember what was on all of the ruined pages.

The bus stopped a block away from my house, and I got off, trying to ignore the stares.  Even with the gawking, the knowledge that my notebook was ruined and my general nervousness about missing afternoon classes without permission, I felt better as I got closer to home.  It felt worlds better to know I could drop my guard, stop watching my back and that I could take a break from wondering when the next incident would happen.  I let myself into the house and headed straight for the shower, not even removing my backpack or taking off my shoes until I was in the bathroom.

I stood under the stream with my clothes on the floor of the tub, hoping the water would help get the worst of the juice out.  I pondered.  I don’t know who said it, but at one point I had come across this notion about taking a negative and turning it into a positive.  I tried to take the day’s events and turn them around in my head, to see if I couldn’t find a more positive twist on it.

Okay, so the first thing that came to mind was “Yet another reason to kill the trio.”  It wasn’t a serious thought – I was angry, but it wasn’t like I was going to actually kill them.   Somehow, I suspected that I’d hurt myself before I hurt them.  I was humiliated, frustrated, pissed, and I always had a weapon available – my power.  It was like having a loaded gun in your hand at all times.  Except my power wasn’t that great, so maybe it was more like having a taser.  It was hard not to think about using it when things got really bad.  Still, I didn’t think I had that killer instinct in me.

No, I told myself, forcing myself back to the subject of positive thinking.  Were there any upsides?  Art project wrecked, clothes probably unrecoverable, needing a new backpack…  notebook.  Somehow my mind fixated on that last part.

I cranked the shower to off, then toweled dry, thinking.  I wrapped the towel around me, and rather than head to my room to get dressed, I put my wet clothes into a laundry hamper, grabbed my backpack and headed downstairs, through the kitchen and into the basement.

My house is old, and the basement was never renovated.  The walls and floor are concrete and the ceiling was exposed boards and electrical cords.  The furnace used to be coal fueled, and there was still an old coal chute, two feet by two feet, where the coal trucks used to come by to unload the winter’s supply of coal for heating the house.  The chute was boarded up, but around the time I was copying my original ‘superpower notebook’ over in code, I had decided to play it safe in all respects and start getting creative with my privacy.  It was then that I’d started using it.

I removed one screw and removed the square wooden panel with the peeling white paint that covered the low end of the coal chute.  I retrieved a gym bag from inside and put the panel back in place without screwing it back in.

I emptied the contents of the gym bag on the disused workbench that the house’s previous owner had left in our basement, then opened the windows that were at the same level as the driveway and front garden.  I closed my eyes and spent a minute exercising my power.  I wasn’t just grabbing every creepy crawly in a two block radius, though.  I was being selective, and I was gathering quite a few.

It would take time for all of them to arrive.  Bugs could move faster than you thought when they moved with purpose in a straight line, but even so, two blocks was a lot of ground for something so small to cover.  I busied myself with opening the bag and sorting out the contents.  My costume.

The first of the spiders started coming in through the open windows and congregating on the workbench.  My power didn’t give me a knowledge of the official names of the bugs I was working with, but anyone could recognize the spiders that were crawling into the room.  These were black widows.  One of the more dangerous spiders you could find in the States.  Their bite could be lethal, though it usually wasn’t, and they tended to bite with little provocation.  Even under my complete control, they spooked me.  At my request, the dozens upon dozens of spiders got into place on the workbench and began drawing out lines of webbing, laying the lines across one another, and weaving them into one work.

Three months ago, after I’d recovered from the manifestation of my powers, I had started to prepare for the goal I had set for myself.  It had involved an exercise routine, training my power, research, and preparing my costume.  Costumes were harder than one might think.  While members of official teams surely had sources for that stuff, the rest of us were left to either buy costumes, put them together piecemeal with stuff bought from stores or make them from scratch.  Each option had its problems.  If you bought a costume online, you ran the risk of being traced, which could blow your secret identity before you’d even put a costume on.  You could put a costume together with stuff bought from stores, but very few people could do that and look good.  The final option, putting a costume together yourself, was just a hell of a lot of work and you could run into the issues of the prior two options – being traced or winding up with a lame costume – depending on where you got your materials and how you went about it.

In the second week after I’d figured out my powers, when I still wasn’t entirely sure what was going on, I had come across a segment on the discovery channel about a suit that was made to withstand attacks by bears.  That segment talked about how the suit was made of synthetic spider silk, which had inspired this particular project.  Why go synthetic when you can produce with the real thing?

Okay, so it had been harder than that.  Not just any spider worked, and the black widow spiders themselves were hard to find.  They weren’t typically found in the northeastern states, where it was generally colder, but I was fortunate that that key element that made Brockton Bay a tourist destination and a hotspot for capes also made it a place where black widow spiders could live, if not thrive.  Namely, it was warm.  Thanks to the surrounding geography and the ocean bordering us on the east, Brockton Bay had some of the mildest winters you could find in the Northeastern States, and some of the most comfortably warm summers.  Both the black widows and the people running around in skintight costumes were thankful for that.

With my power, I had ensured the spiders could multiply.  I’d kept them in safe locations and fattened them on prey I directed straight to them.  I had flipped that mental switch that told them to breed and lay eggs as if it was summer, fed more prey to the hundreds of young that had resulted and had earned countless costume spinners for my trouble.  The biggest issue had been that black widows are territorial, so I’d had to spread them out to ensure they didn’t kill each other when I wasn’t around to control them.  Once a week or so, on my morning runs, I rotated the locations of the local spiders so I had a fresh supply all filled with proteins for the production of the essential materials.  This ensured that the spiders were always ready for working on the costume in the afternoon, after school.

Yeah, I needed a life.

But I had a badass costume.

It wasn’t a great looking costume, just yet.  The fabric was a dirty yellow-gray.  The armored sections had been made out of finely arranged and layered shells and exoskeletons I’d cannibalized from the local insect population and then reinforced with dragline silk.  In the end, the armored parts had wound up dark mottled brown-gray.  I was okay with that.  When the entire thing was done, I planned to dye the fabric and paint the armor.

The reason I was so pleased with my costume was the fact that it was flexible, durable, and incredibly lightweight, considering the amount of armor I had put on it.  At one point I had screwed up the dimensions of one of the legs, and when I tried to cut it off to start fresh, I had found I couldn’t cut it with an x-acto knife.  I had needed to use wire cutters, and even that had been a chore.  As far as I figured, it was everything a superhero wanted for a costume.

I wasn’t exactly willing to test it out, but I harbored hopes that it was bulletproof.  Or at least, that the armored sections over my vital areas were.

The plan was to finish my costume over the course of the month, then as the school year ended and the summer began, I would take the leap into the world of superheroics.

But the plan had changed.  I took off my towel and hung it from the corner of the bench, then began pulling on my costume to test the fit for the hundredth time.  The spiders obediently moved out of my way as I did so.

When I had been standing in the shower, trying to find the good aspects in the day’s troubles, my thoughts had turned to my notebook.  I had realized I was procrastinating.  I was constantly planning, preparing, considering all of the possibilities.  There would always be more preparations, more stuff to study or test.  The destruction of my notebook had been the burning of a bridge.  I couldn’t go back and copy it into a fresh book or start a new one without delaying my game plan for at least a week.  I had to move forward.

It was time to do it.  I flexed my hand inside the glove.  I’d go out next week – no.  No more delays.  This weekend, I would be ready.

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53 thoughts on “Gestation 1.2

  1. I just wanted to let you know that you repeated a word near the bottom of this entry: “The armored sections had been made made out of…”

    Other than that, great story! I’m already hooked after just reading two pages! 🙂

  2. Thanks for the catch, Allison. Those doubled words are hard to spot. Thought my browser’s built-in spellchecker would catch that sort of thing. Glad you’re enjoying.

  3. I had copied everything over into a new notebook in a simple cipher and wrote it bottom to top.

    You mean top to bottom?

  4. You’re brazen enough to depict teenage girls? Hats off to you, sir. So far, your story is reminding me a lot of the “Incarnations of Immortality” series, by Piers Anthony. It’s about a world where God and magic are known quotidian tools which anybody can purchase and use. Superheros seem to be commonplace in your world. I like the idea of this girl, Taylor, developing a nascent power. Interested in learning more about this world.

    • “brazen enough to depict teenage girls”


      I don’t understand that – could you explain it? I might be unfamiliar with the connotations, but why would it require brazenness?

      • He may have meant that unless you are a girl past your teenage years that it’s going to be hard to not sound like a bit of a weirdo if you ask someone “hey how do teenage girls spend their free time?”….get what I mean?. Either that or he is one of said weirdos

  5. So, going back for a re-read after having caught up, figured I may as well leave some non-spoilery retrospective comments.

    Two things on this chapter – First, I don’t think I ever shook the mental image of Taylor’s costume being grey with brown armour, even after she dyes it. Not sure why, but that colour scheme just stuck with me.

    Second, an aspect of her costume here is one of the very few things in Worm that stretches my willing suspension of disbelief – that you could make decent armour plating out of layered bug exoskeletons. They just seem too brittle and small. Granted, it don’t think the material it’s made of is ever brought up again and I pretty much forgot about it after this, but still.

    • It’s more the silk holding it together than the exoskeletons. It gives it a rigidity that wouldn’t exist otherwise, like rebar in concrete, on an admittedly smaller scale.

    • Bug exoskeletons are made out of chitin, which also makes up structures like snail radulas and crab shells. Sure, bug shells are flimsy, but that’s just because they’re thin. Layer them enough and…well, it’s not going to stop a bullet or spear, but I guess that’s what the spider silk is for. Or just not fighting people with guns and spears from where they can reach.
      Anyways, it’s plenty to stop more casual attacks like punches and amateur shanking, and Taylor doesn’t have access to anything better.

  6. I am not an exceptionally avid reader, but I live for everything from Oscar Wilde, to Tim O’Brien, to Russel T. Davies, to Grant Morrison…

    My point, I am very picky about what I am willing to take the time to read, and I enjoy a strangely diverse set of content.

    Well, already, I love “Worm!”

  7. > It hadn’t been enough for us to spend our time together at school, so we had alternated staying at each others houses every weekend.

    “Others” should be “other’s” to indicate the possessive.

  8. Hi.I discovered “Worm” through [[][Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality]], and I like very much this first chapter. One question though:

    – How do you prefer to receive corrections?
    – Through “Leave a Reply” or through email?
    – Batched or one by one?

    For instance, a minor correction in this chapter is: “She was good looking enough to get occasional jobs as a amateur model for the catalogs that the local department stores and malls put out.” -> “as aN amateur model”

    • In the comment section is best.

      I do have fixes planned for everything through to the end of arc 3, though (went over those arcs with my writer’s circle) – I just haven’t had time to implement them. I wouldn’t quibble over details there, as it’s probably stuff that’s come up before.

      Thank you.

    • Finished worm a few months ago, read some different stuff, and am now back for round 2. This is just a great story, and its refreshing to get back to Taylors roots. Still have my fingers crossed for a sequel though. This universe is just awesome with so much potential 😁

  9. Took me a month to read the whole thing. I must say, this is really something. Althought the style may not be all that great in earlier chapters, it becomes noticable only on second reading, the first time I was totally grabbed by the plot.

    I also dabble with translation to Russian. If I make it to, say, Arc 10, then it’s serious. Web serials aren’t a thing in Runet, yours could be a great starter.

    • I’m not sure if you know it or not, but a Russian Worm translation team already exist. You may find it at “vkontakte”. Right now we’ve published chapters up to 7.4. If you want to join and haven’t done it yet, you’re welcome. As well as anyone else who wants to help with the translation.

  10. Haven’} read everything yet, but when I read this part, I just think that it’s such a shame she didn’t use Darwin’s Orb Weaver silk instead, I read that their silk is the strongest in existence, proportionally ten times stronger than Kevlar, but maybe they don’t live around Brockton Bay?
    Black Widow silk is still cool though, strong as a steel cable, one sixth the weight
    I love just how she’d think up making her costume utilizing her power, Creative use of power I rarely read when dealing with arachnid supers

    • I guess I won’t spoil much by telling, that Tailor will be mentioned that spider in future and even get her hands on some of them to make better costume. And yes, creative use of superpowers will remain a prominent feature of the book.

      • Just gotten into that part (where she mention the orb weavers) and yes, I got here from tvtropes hoping for a great story, I wasn’t disappointed, with all the creative superpower use and interesting details, I’m pretty sure this serial is going to kill more of my time than my college will appreciate


    This is a solid, if uneventful, chapter, both building up the details of Taylor and her suit and powers that become extremely important over the story.. In absence of a section where she learns the ins and outs of how to use her powers (which I think you said elsewhere just didn’t work), this acts as a good introduction to the audience of both her powers and the building process of starting up her costumed identity. Good stuff!


    Clint Olson points to the following sentence: “It hadn’t been enough for us to spend our time together at school, so we had alternated staying at each others houses every weekend.” and he is correct that there needs to be punctuation to indicate possession, but his correction was slightly off. It should read “[…] each others’ houses […]”

    I have no spelling/grammar corrections to add other than that.

  12. Spelling/Grammar

    Hey, first of a few spelling/grammar corrections I’m going back to comment for you. I’m the least sure whether this one is really a mistake. Shouldn’t one say “I wrapped the towel around myself” rather than “I wrapped the towel around me”?

  13. She should go to Madagascar to get a suit made from the Darwin’s Bark Spider’s silk. (Its silk is 10 times as tough of kevlar.)

    • Where’s she going to get a Darwin’s bark spider? You’d need some pretty serious resources to import those, and if she’s working for a hero team with that much clout she can probably get cutting-edge ballistic fabric.

  14. I just finished Worm this morning, and after moping about for an hour or so feeling empty inside, I was like, “Oh, I’ll just re-read it!”
    It’s fascinating going back… it just makes me realize how much Taylor has changed, your writing has improved, and even how I’ve changed as a person ever since I started Worm a year ago. I feel like the characters are all so complex and realistic, it’s as if they’re a part of me. Worm is something truly epic.

  15. Re-reading this chapter reminds me how very much I hated Emma. The betrayal of trust, and using secrets a friend had entrusted to them to hurt them and try to emotionally destroy them? [spoiler removed]

  16. I think this is my fifth time, could be more. I read lots of books, online novels, comics, short stories and RPG’s; but I always come back. I really like Taylor. The young girl is as comfortable as an old friend.

    Worm is on my short list of reading to recommend to everyone. Brin’s The Postman, Bil Bryson’s Made In America, and Wildbow’s Worm.

  17. “One of the more dangerous spiders you could find in the States. Their bite could be lethal, though it usually wasn’t, and they tended to bite with little provocation.”

    There is a… valence mismatch? to my ears in that pair of sentences. The first sentence says “they’re dangerous” but the second sentence starts with “their bite probably won’t kill you” which sort of contradicts the first.

    I’ll also note that while being bitten by a black widow can be pretty horrible, I believe they actually require a good deal of provocation in order to bite. (In my experience, and based on a number of anecdotes I’ve heard.)

    • He points, out the fact they don’t really bite unless provoked. The reason they are not fatal is mostly because it is easy to get antivenom and you have an hour to adminster it.

  18. I have read two chapters so far and this is intriguing, yet it leaves a lot of room for the story to expand. I like the plot a lot and am excited to read more.

  19. It’s 2017 and I don’t know if you’re still reading the comments but I just found out about your work and am loving it. For the longest time I didn’t think superhero stories worked in prose but this gives me hope that I might be able to write a great superhero novel too.

    • The main thing is that superheroes are a visual medium, so there’s something of a shift that has to be made to change the focus away from the visual. You gotta dig a little deeper into the world and the character, where you might otherwise lean on the visual to do some of that work for you.

  20. One of the previous comments got me thinking – why did you decide to go with a female protagonist? Was there any particular reason or was it organic? Most of my own experience in the world of superheroes is mainstream, and the few females who are portrayed are often done so poorly – averagely at best. So to come across this work where you have such a relatable, likable, and realistic female superhero is genuinely encouraging, but also maddening as I’ve yet to come across such a character elsewhere who I relate to when superheroes have been so popular this last decade. If I recall correctly – since this is my second time reading this serial – you focus a lot on other female characters besides Taylor, and they are just as complex and interesting. Whatever your reasoning behind this concentration on women, I do wholeheartedly appreciate it.

  21. Me: Hears that Bug Control is a Superpower.
    Also me: “Well that’s kinda shit.”

    Bug Control: “I can make spiders make me the organic equivalent of kevlar armour.”

    Me: “Hold up, what the fu-“

  22. Kind of over how the otherwise highly intelligent and self-awarely analytical Taylor can’t seem to describe any activity involving touching bathing suit areas as anything other than “rude”. But I’m here for the thoughtful application of invertebrate-manipulation to create the strongest body armor on the planet.

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