Shell 4.1

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“You actually showed up.”

I looked up from my math textbook to see Emma looming over me.  She was wearing an expensive dress that had probably been a gift to her after one of her modeling contracts, and her red hair was up in the kind of complex knot that looked ridiculous on ninety-five percent of the girls that tried to pull it off.  She could make it work, though.  Emma was one of those people who just seemed to ignore the social awkwardness and minor issues that plagued everyone else.  She didn’t get zits, any style she wore her hair or clothes in looked good on her, and she could break pretty much any social code of high school and walk away unscathed.

God, I hated her.

Mr. Quinlan had ended class fifteen minutes early and instructed us to do some self study, before leaving the room.  For most, that was a chance to play cards or talk.  I’d set myself the task of getting all the homework done before class ended, to free up my weekend.  At least, that had been the plan, before Emma interrupted.

“Funny thing is,” I replied, turning my attention back to my notebook, “You’re the only person today who seemed to notice I was gone.  If you aren’t careful, I might actually think you cared.”  I wasn’t being entirely honest there.  My art teacher had noted my absence, but that was only after I’d reminded her I hadn’t turned in my midterm project.

“People didn’t notice you were gone is because you’re a nobody.  The only reason I paid any attention to it is because you bother me.”

I bother you,” I looked up from my work again, “Wow.”

“Every time I see you, it’s this irritating little reminder of time I wasted being your friend.  You know those embarrassing events in your past that make you cringe when you think back on them?  For me, that’s basically every sleepover, every juvenile conversation, every immature game you dragged me into.”

I smiled, then against my better judgement, I told her, “Right.  I love how you’re implying you’re even remotely more mature than you were then.”

Strange as it sounds, I was actually relieved to have Emma here, getting on my case.  If this was all she was able to do to me today, it meant I probably wouldn’t have to deal with any ‘pranks’ in the immediate future.  What really ratcheted up the anxiety levels was when she ignored me and left me alone.  That was, generally speaking, the calm before the storm.

“Really, Taylor?  Tell me, what are you doing with yourself?  You’re not going to school, you have no friends, I doubt you’re working.  Are you really in a position to call me immature, when I’ve got all that going for me and you just… don’t?”

I laughed loud enough that heads around the classroom turned in my direction.  Emma just blinked, bewildered.  As much as I didn’t want the money,  I was technically twenty five thousand dollars richer than I had been thirty six hours ago.  Twenty five thousand dollars were waiting for me, and Emma was saying she was doing better than me, because she got a few hundred dollars every few weeks to have her picture taken for mall catalogs.

“Fuck you, Emma.”  I said it loud enough for others to hear.  “Get a clue before you try to insult people.”

With that said, I grabbed my stuff and strode out of the classroom.

I knew I was going to pay for that.  For standing up to Emma, for laughing in her face.  It was the sort of thing that would push her to get creative and think about how best to get revenge for that small measure of defiance.

I wasn’t that worried about skipping out of class five minutes early.  If history was any precedent, Mr. Quinlan probably wouldn’t be coming back before class ended.  He routinely left class and just didn’t come back.  Popular guesses among my classmates leaned towards Alzheimers, or even that our geriatric teacher with a sagging gut could be a cape.  I was more inclined to suspect that drugs or a drinking problem were at play.

I felt good.  Better than I’d felt for a long, long while.  Admittedly, there were painful stabs of conscience when I thought too much about the fact that I’d actually participated in a felony, or the way I’d terrorized the hostages.  Could I be blamed if I went out of my way not to dwell on it?

I’d slept like a baby last night, more due to sheer exhaustion than sound conscience, and I woke up to a day that kept surprising me with good news.

Brian had met me on my morning run, and he treated me to coffee and the best muffins I had ever tasted, while we sat on the beach.  Together, we had taken ten minutes to go over the morning papers for news about the robbery.

We hadn’t made the front page for any of the major papers, the first bit of good news.  We made page three of the Bulletin, coming behind a one and a half page story on an Amber Alert and a General Motors advertisement.  Part of the reason we hadn’t attracted all that much attention was probably because the bank was hedging about the amount taken.  While we had escaped with more than forty thousand dollars, the paper was reporting losses of only twelve.  All in all, the story had been more focused on the property damage, most of which was caused by Glory Girl and the Wards, and the fact that the darkness we’d used to cover our escape had stopped all traffic downtown for an hour.  I’d been quietly elated by all of that.  Anything that downplayed the magnitude of the crime I’d helped commit was a good point in my book.

The next mood booster was the fact that I’d gone to school.  It sounded dumb, rating that as an accomplishment when others did it every day, but I had been very close to just not going again.  Having skipped a week of afternoon classes and three days of morning classes, it was dangerously easy to convince myself to just skip one more.  The problem was, that just made the prospect of going to class again that much more stressful, perpetuating the problem.  I’d broken that pattern, and I felt damn good about it.

Okay, so I had to admit things weren’t a hundred percent perfect as far as school went.  I’d talked to my art teacher, and she was giving me until Tuesday to hand my midterm project in, with a 10% deduction to my mark.  I’d also probably lost a few marks in various classes for being absent or not handing in homework assignments.  One or two percent, here and there.

But all in all?  It was a huge relief.  I felt good.

I caught the bus to the Docks, but I didn’t head to the loft.  I made my way up the length of the Boardwalk, until the shops began thinning out and there were longer stretches of beach.  The usual route people took was driving in through a side road outside of town, but for anyone hiking there, you had to take a shortcut through a series of very similar looking fields.  My destination was just far enough away that you’d think you’d maybe missed it.

Officially, it was the Lord Street Market.  But if you lived in Brockton Bay, it was just ‘the market’.

The market was open all week, but most people just rented the stalls on the weekends.  It was fairly cheap, since you could get a stall for fifty to a hundred dollars on a weekday and two hundred and fifty to three hundred on weekends, depending on how busy things were.  The stalls showcased everything from knick-knacks handicrafts put together by crazy cat ladies to overstock from the most expensive shops on the Boardwalk, marked down to ten or twenty five percent of the usual price.  There were ice cream vendors and people selling puppies, there was tourism kitsch and there was a mess of merchandise relating to the local capes.  There were racks of clothing, books, computer stuff and food.  If you lived in the north end of Brockton Bay, you didn’t have a garage sale.  You got a stall at the market.  If you just wanted to go shopping, it was as good as any mall.

I met up with the others at the entrance.  Brian was looking sharp in a dark green sweater and faded jeans.  Lisa was dressed up in a dusky rose dress with gray tights, her hair in a bun with loose strands framing her face.  Alec was wearing a long sleeved shirt and slim fit black denim jeans that really showed how lanky he was.

“You weren’t waiting long?” I asked.

“Forever,” was Alec’s laconic response.

“Five minutes at most,” Brian smiled, “Shall we?”

We ventured into the market, where the best the north end of Brockton Bay had to offer was on display.  The worst of the north end was kept at bay by the same uniformed enforcers that you saw at the Boardwalk.

While Alec stopped at an isolated stall featuring cape merchandise, I commented, “I guess Rachel can’t exactly hang out with us, huh?”

Brian shook his head, “No.  Not in a place like this.  She’s well known enough that she’d catch someone’s eye, and from there, it’s only a short leap to figuring out who the people she’s hanging with are.”

“And if she saw that, she’d go ballistic.”  Lisa pointed to a rotund old woman carrying a fluffy dog in her arms.   It was wearing a teal and pink sweater, and was trembling nervously.  I didn’t know my dog breeds well enough to name it specifically, but it was similar to a miniature poodle.

“What?  The sweater?” I asked.

“The sweater.  The dog being carried.  Rachel would be up in her face, telling that woman it’s not the way a dog should be treated.  Screaming at her, maybe threatening violence, if one of us didn’t step in to handle things.”

“It doesn’t take much, does it?”

“To set her off?  No it doesn’t,” Brian agreed, “But you gradually learn how she thinks, what pushes her buttons, and you can intervene before a situation happens.”

Lisa added, “The big trigger for Rache is mistreatment of dogs.  I think you could kick a toddler in the face, and she wouldn’t flinch.  But if you kicked a dog in front of her, she’d probably kill you on the spot.”

“I’ll, uh, keep that in mind,” I said.  Then, double checking that nobody was in a position to overhear, I figured it was as good a time to ask as any, “Has she killed anyone?”

“She’s wanted for serial murder,” Brian sighed, “It’s inconvenient.”

“If the courts actually gave her a fair trial, if she had a good lawyer, I think she’d get manslaughter at worst, maybe reckless endangerment.  At least for the events that happened then.” Lisa said, her voice pitched low enough that nobody else in the crowd would pick it up, “It happened just after her powers manifested.  She didn’t know how to use her abilities, or what to expect of them, so the dog that she had with her grew into the sort of creature you’ve seen the others become, and because it wasn’t trained, because it had been abused, it went out of control.  Cue the bloodbath.  In the time since then?  Maybe.  I know she’s seriously hurt a lot of people.  But nobody’s died at her hands since we’ve been with her.”

“Makes sense,” I said, distractedly.  So that’s one.  Who was the other murderer in the group?

Alec returned from the stall wearing a Kid Win shirt.

“I like it,” Lisa grinned, “Ironic.”

We continued our roundabout walk through the market.  We were still on the outskirts, so there weren’t many people around us.  Those that were around us weren’t likely to overhear, unless we used words, names or phrases that would catch their attention.

“Where do we go from here?” I asked.

“It’s just a matter of handing the cash over to the boss later tonight.” Brian picked up a pair of sunglasses and tried them on, “He takes it, does what he needs to with the papers, and gets back to us with our pay.  Clean, untraceable.  Once we’ve picked up our share, we kick back for a little while, plan our next job or wait for him to offer us another one.”

I frowned, “We’re putting a lot of trust in him.  We’re giving him a pretty big amount of money, and we’re expecting him to come back and pay us three times that amount?  Plus whatever he feels the papers are worth?  How do we know he’ll follow through?”

“Precedent,” Brian said as he tried on another pair of sunglasses, lowering his head to examine himself in the mirror that was hanging from the side of the stall. “He hasn’t screwed with us yet.  It doesn’t make sense for him to to pull a fast one, when he’s already invested more than that in us.  If we were failing most of our jobs, maybe he’d keep the money to recoup his losses, but we’ve done well.”

“Okay,” I nodded, “I can buy that.”

I felt kind of conflicted about the ‘take it easy and wait’ plan.  On the one hand, taking a break sounded awesome.  The last week had been intense, to put it lightly.  On the other hand, it sort of sucked that we wouldn’t be out there on another job, since I’d be waiting that much longer for a chance on getting more details on the boss.  I’d just have to hope I could find something out tonight.

“Come on,” Tattletale grinned at me, grabbing my wrist, “I’m stealing you.”


“We’re going shopping,” she told me.  Turning to Brian and Alec, she said, “We’ll split up, meet up with you two for dinner?  Unless you want to come with and stand around holding our purses while we try on clothes.”

“You don’t have any purses,” Alec pointed out.

“Figure of speech.  You want to do your own thing or not?”

“Whatever,” Alec said.

“You’re a jerk, Lise,” Brian frowned, “Hogging the new girl to yourself.”

“You get your morning meetings with her, I want to go shopping, cope,” Lisa stuck out her tongue at Brian.

“Alright,” Brian shrugged, “Fugly Bob’s for dinner?”

“Sounds good,” Lisa agreed.  She turned to me, eyebrows quirked.

“I’m down for Fugly Bob’s,” I conceded.

“Don’t spend so much you draw attention,” Brian warned.

We parted ways with the boys, Lisa wrapping her arm around my shoulders and going on about what she wanted to get.  Her enthusiasm was catching, and I found myself smiling.

Murderer.  I had to remind myself.  One of these three was a murderer.

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45 thoughts on “Shell 4.1

  1. she’s spending so much time trying to figure out which of the others have killed; it’s going to turn out Lung didn’t make it, i’m betting.

    • I was thinking that it would be a very nice twist if Taylor turned out to be the other one, but I wasn’t quite sure how she would be one. It seems as if I had forgotten about Lung. This seems to fit the best

      • Except she knows there are two murderers because Armsmaster told her, while explaining why the undercover work was dangerous. He wouldn’t need to warn her about how dangerous it is to be near *herself* without backup.

        • Well Armsmaster was also really mad at her for getting him in trouble, so a subtle dig at her at the same time makes sense.

          • I doubt he’d be that subtle if he wanted to insult her. Now, if he wanted to make her paranoid, it would make sense to inflate the murder counts… assuming he figured she’d either never find out he lied or wouldn’t ever be able to do something about it.

  2. Sigh. Another school chapter. And worried about ‘marks’ too. Silly.

    A bit of a tension problem here, for me anyway. You really seemed to build up this big ‘getting called to the principals office because of skipping class’ thing, and now it just seemed to have fizzled.

    I am anticipating great things from TT here… great revelations and confrontations, so don’t disappoint me 😉

    • I think the “fizzle” here seems reasonable and realistic. In my own public school experience, I started out as a dedicated and diligent student, but those habits fell by the wayside in the last year or two of high school. I had reasons rather different from Taylor’s but I remember that when I first started blowing off assignments and skipping classes, I was rather nervous about what would happen. I was a bit startled to find that most teachers and administrators didn’t really care. I’d never been flagged as a troublemaker so even my more egregious behavior never really got addressed. I also found that I could keep my grades at an acceptable level while continuing to be a poor student.

      I think the trepidation that accompanies breaking a long habit of being a “good kid” or “good student” is very realistically presented. The tension is built up around the issue because *Taylor* builds it up in her mind. It’s makes perfect sense that a girl like Taylor would do this. Perhaps a particularly involved or attentive teacher/counselor/principal would notice and try to talk to Taylor about it, but it’s really not likely that anything will come of it unless Taylor does something really awful. That sort of attention is easy to deflect, and people in the school system are used to seeing students stop performing for any number of personal or social reasons.

      I’m interested to see what will happen next on the school front, because it seems
      a nontrivial possibility that Taylor will in fact do something awful, or that she will fail to successfully deflect the attention of whatever authority figures take interest. If she does arouse suspicions in any quarter, things could quickly get complicated in interesting ways.

  3. Hey Vaughn, I just wanted to apologize. That insult was uncalled for.

    Just so you understand where I was coming from: Wildbow was right about the relevant trope. I’d never heard of it, but “Reed Richards Is Useless” was perfect. The whole point of a well-rounded education is to give the student options.

    As a general rule, we as a society don’t believe in exploiting people just because they have certain talents. Just because somebody is awesome at fixing cars doesn’t mean she has to fix cars for a living. Same thing should apply to supers, as well. As you pointed out, Taylor actually has several possibilities in how to use her powers (by the way, she could probably earn billions in pharmaceuticals) and if she chose to, she could’ve really made a difference in several industries or chosen to completely ignore her gift. However, if she’s uneducated, she probably would never have thought of anything besides becoming a cape.

    As for the school tension: as you would put it, who cares? Her getting in trouble with the principal wouldn’t amount to much, now that she’s chosen to become a cape. The interesting (to me) tension comes from the inner conflict, which is still there.

  4. Ummm.. I’d kind of forgotten about the insult, so, np.

    As for the school tension, you might have misunderstood me, both of you. I wasn’t interested in what was realistic or not, but making a comment about the story flow. I have a friend who wrote this book, which I enjoyed, but he kept bringing up tensions, and then dropping them with a fizz. Now, that may very well happen in real life but, as a story, it has its problems… it defeats the interest that has been building.

    Much better for the story, IMO, to either a)Not bring it up, b) have it result in actual conflict, c) have it come crashing down (no one was actually in the hallway when you had to dash, naked, to your locker) or d)Make it come out really funny.

    Here it almost seemed like the author, himself, forgot he had raised it. From my review of that other book:

    “I am disappointed at the number of times that an issue is raised, only to be limply dropped. At one point we were poised to break into a professors office in search of information about his nefarious activities; only to have the idea dropped, limply, in the next chapter by being told that it was the wrong professor. Breaking into the office of the wrong professor can be funny, dramatic, or tragic. Not doing so because of being casually told that it is the wrong professor is . . . disappointing at best. A current chapter had the hero all worried that he might have to sleep with his sister and his cousin (sleep with as in . . . sleep, awkwardly crammed together as ‘girls’ in one bed . . . the kind of thing one does on sleepovers or at relatives.) However a few sentences later the hero’s sister casually mentions that there are two cots in a closet. Bang . . . tension gone . . . uselessly.”

    (As for the well rounded person, comment, I was not suggesting they not be ‘well rounded’ but that they be infinitely better educated than happens in public school.. I also happen to think that someone who is literally being productive is a much happier ‘well rounded’ person than someone who wastes 12 or 16 or even more years of their life in school.)

    • Hard to comment on the subject, here, as I don’t want to give anything away, but I’ll take a stab at it.

      I don’t want to say I’m an inexperienced writer – I’ve been writing on a regular basis for a decade and a half – but I am new to writing for a broader audience. I’ll also admit that, and I’ll reiterate what I said in the ‘about’ page, that Worm is an experiment on my part. So yeah, I’ll make mistakes here and there, and I’ll try stuff that may fall flat. The incident you keep referring back to (the ‘fizzle’) may be a miscue on my part, where I intended foreshadowing for events at a later date or where I just wanted to set the tone for Taylor’s experience in school. Through that miscue, that misrepresentation, maybe I led a reader to expect something different. Maybe.

      If I didn’t bring it up at all, though, I think it would do Taylor’s character a disservice, because as Catastronaut mentions, Taylor is the sort of person who would be anxious after skipping classes, she is the sort of person who has niggling worries when she knows her marks are dropping. Remember, she’s a teenager, and for teenagers, high school has a way of taking on this emphasized importance. It’s why bullying can be so devastating, to a degree we can’t fully grasp anymore, as adults removed from that close-up perspective.

      Actual conflict may have been a better route, but conflict without things crashing down would probably just wind up as more angst, as you’ve termed it. I wanted to focus more on moving the story along, at that point, get to the point where I was introducing more main characters. Getting bogged down in conflict at that point would have meant Taylor either stressing over it more (the aforementioned angst) or her dealing with consequences (detention?) that distract from the main story.

      Have it come crashing down? I think that would do the story a disservice in the long run, potentially being premature in the grand scheme of things. Though you may not like or particularly relate to the school chapters (or relate to them too deeply/sensitively?), school is a part of Taylor’s life. The dissonance between what she’s expecting and what actually occurs is jarring to you as a reader, but it’s also jarring to Taylor too. Catastronaut’s comments were eerily on target in this department, as far as what I was going for.

      And as for using humor in response to tension… humor is tricky, because everyone has a different sense of what is funny and what isn’t. What has one reader rolling on the floor laughing has another rolling their eyes and stopping mid-read to go check out Reddit. I’m not saying it’s not possible, it definitely is, but it’s generally left to more experienced writers than I. Bad humor sucks. A lot.

      So yeah, call it a flub or a miscue on my part, or a misread on yours. That said, if I went back to it, I don’t know if I’d write it much differently.

    • Looks like it boils down to a matter of taste on this one. Either that, or just a different prognosis for the story. I’m not convinced that tension that was established has actually been dropped. I think it will get raised again, and I don’t mind if the pacing tends to move around (or even away from) plot points in a serial.

  5. Hey, ain’t no professional writers here 🙂 I read a lot, and write a lot, but no best sellers yet 🙂

    I’m not calling it anything yet, just saying I was disappointed. I think, with a little tweaking, the tension could either be resolved here (perhaps along the line of the other commenter, “Wow, all this time I thought the world would come crashing down on my head if I skipped class but..” or even by Tt, “What did you think? Half the school skips all the time!”) or successfully dragged on to later (Perhaps something about funny looks from teachers, I dunno). Humor would be hard to manage with this one… the dashing across the corridor naked one is easier for that.

    I, personally, like it when commentors comment on more rather than less, so I know how people are seeing the story.

  6. However, if she’s uneducated, she probably would never have thought of anything besides becoming a cape.

    Just to clarify again, I wasn’t saying ‘uneducated’, I was saying that they should be educated, which rarely happens in public schools 🙂

    And it is interesting, and very cultural, that you keep going back to the child themselves. Even in our horribly independent society there are a lot more people involved than the child themselves in determining their present activities, and even their future.

    I, personally, think it rather shallow to take someone with a massive gift for healing people and say, “Hey, we don’t really care what you do, you can become a shoe shiner if you want.” What an incredible waste, and not just for society. The person themselves is, IMO, dramatically hurt when they fail to live up to what they have been given.

    In addition, in a society with both supers and normals, the effective and helpful use of powers would go a long way toward helping to relieve some of the huge tensions that would exist. X-men first class really explores some of that tension but, unfortunately, without exploring (much, at least) the huge benefit that the effective use of talent could bring. Just because something is a trope doesn’t mean we have to all follow it blindly…

    • Of course (Though let me say, implying I’m following tropes blindly? Ouch, that stings). But look at things from this angle: The emergence of ‘capes’ is not that different from the electronic age introduction of robotics. Only it’s more dramatic; One cape has the potential to put tens of thousands of people out of work, and they could be people in virtually any field, any discipline. How would society react?

      It’s possible, though I’ll say nothing concrete on the subject, that organizations like those that manage the Wards and the Protectorate may be ~encouraging~ people to become capes, because it’s a relatively safe outlet, in contrast to the potential societal upheaval that could result. If this were the case, then the ‘cape’ programs would be a very good way to have society get used to capes before the government began very slowly introducing key individuals into the workforce, where they can do the most good, both for society and for public relations between cape and civilian.

      What Panacea’s doing, incidentally, isn’t the most profitable way to use her power (rather, she’s not earning much at all), but she ~is~, as it happens, taking the approach where everyone has the same chance to benefit from her services (in Brockton Bay, at least), focusing on the sickest, not the richest. It’s very much in line with the next step of what the government’s plan would be. Hypothetically speaking.

      And there will always be people who take the easiest road, because work is hard… so there will always be villains, even if, as the ‘Cut Lex Luthor a Check’ trope points out, the villain could make more with a legitimate job. So you need a way to police and control those people, or society suffers.

      There’s other reasons, too, which are alluded to in the next chapter, why people may veer away from legitimate employment or more societally efficient applications of their power. And further reason(s) (not hinted at in the next chapter, that I probably won’t get into until the last arcs of ‘book one’.

      What you’ve seen so far is a small aspect of the setting. The tip of the iceberg, so to speak. You’re seeing things through Taylor’s eyes, and though Taylor may be getting a frank introduction to the world of capes and crime, she’s very new to things, and for the most part, she sees what others intend for the public to see. That’ll undoubtedly change at a later point, rest assured.

      • >And further reason(s) (not hinted at in the next chapter, that I probably won’t get into until the last arcs of ‘book one’.

        What’s the end of book one?

    • But just because someone has the potential for doing great things doesn’t mean they should be doing those great things 24/7. IMHO the bit with Panacea a chapter or two back were spot on – she needs to take a break now and then or she’ll just either blow a gasket and go all rogue or she’ll drive herself into the ground (maybe literally, I don’t entirely understand how her powers work).

  7. For the record I don’t get Emma, I don’t think she is written unrealistically or anything I just don’t get people like that. I know that people like this exist but I really don’t understand them. I can see stopping being friends with a person but going out of your way to harass or destroy a person like this who hasn’t actually done anything harmful to you. I don’t get it.

  8. I read broadly and grew up with comics thanks to my father, and I’m also a big movie fan. I think there’s way more variety in stories than “most of them take place in normal schools” — X-men has featured a private school for most of its run, likewise Sky High and Harry Potter. Peter Parker went to high school because half of the drama in that story was how Peter balanced superheroics with his real life, and that was fairly innovative in the 60s.

    Until then most superheroes real lives weren’t tapped for stories, they were window dressing. Peter agonizing over girls was as important to Spidey stories as the villains, whereas no one really cares what story Clark Kent worked on at the Planet that week, who he fought in costume was more important (and usually ended up being the story he wrote, so it was redundant to cover his “real life” because it supported his superheroics.)

    So I think it comes down to what suits a story’s needs — Peter Parker was an ordinary guy trying to deal with an extraordinary situation, and ordinary meant high school to start with. Mutants have to hide from society, so the X-men had their own school. Jim Zoetewey’s Legion of Nothing explores different angles — his main characters went to high school and recently joined the government’s private university program. But other characters live in walled, secure facilities, or communes, or go to private school. Each writer comes up with different solutions.

    But the key to why they come up with what they do is character. Taylor in this story has an outsider perspective, and a bizarre, uncoventional power. The plot development of her attachment to the Undersiders makes sense as an emotional arc — and the bullying in high school led her to being attracted to other outsiders. One story choice influences the future possibilities. If she had a private tutor she would never have been bullied and may never have been tempted to join such a group — she would perhaps be more conservative about her relationships, or more positive. That’s the power of choice.

  9. So to jump in on this one way late: the pacing in a web serial is completely different from the pacing of an e-book. Serials tend to bring up things that won’t be resolved for hundreds of thousands of words, and just..let them hang there. This can work because the reader can be expected to look back at the archives for any tensions they’ve forgotten. Also, a web serial can expect to stay near the front of the reader’s mind, as they’re checking in as often as once or twice a week. An e-book is read, and then forgotten about for an entire year or more, until book 2 in the series comes out. Setting up this school tension and then leaving it for 3 books wouldn’t really work. But I think it’s fine in a work of serial fiction. Also, it’s way easier to search the archives of serial fiction than it is to search previous books in a series. Lastly, most authors of serial fiction don’t seem to have, or need, a predefined end point in mind. So it can be to their advantage to create lots and lots and lots of plot hooks, because they can always come back to them in seven hundred thousand words. The author of a book really doesn’t have that freedom, because a book needs to end every hundred thousand words or so. I could give examples, but I’m really not comfortable linking to another web serial in the comments of this web serial; it feels kind of like a shabby thing to do.

    • Or don’t. Personal preference, really.

      “(the reason why) People didn’t notice you were gone | is because you’re a nobody.”

  10. “So that’s one. Who was the other murderer in the group?
    Alec returned from the stall wearing a Kid Win shirt.”

    Nice. Bonus points if it’s also ironic in some way I still haven’t thought of.

  11. it hurts me inside how hellhound is the clearest underdog in all of this. the whole “would go ballistic if it happened to a dog” thing was a nice way of going about giving her character, especially because people without interest in psychology wouldn’t really understand it. so far, our protag is just turning out to be a major hypocritical ass :*(
    maybe it’s just the west coast liberal mentality that’s making me sympathize with hellhound, though. she’s definitely a ridiculous nutcase that needs to be put down, but you’d think her team, if no one else, would be a little more sympathetic. or taylor, for that matter.

    • It’s rather difficult to have sympathy for someone who keeps endangering you with recklessness and is a complete jerk about it. Backstory or no backstory, these guys are not the greatest moral models, and so it seems very realistic that, even knowing Rachel’s backstory, they can’t muster the effort to be particularly kind to her. Someone trying to be moral might manage it. These people are not. “Bug” might be trying to be moral, but Rachel also tried to maim her. That’s not easily forgiven.

      Yes, Rachel needs more sympathy. But I really doubt she’s gonna get it in-character. And out-of-character… well, she’s still a jerk. Bug is at least vacillating, which makes her interesting. Rachel has made her choices and, as far as I can tell, isn’t developing much as a character. Consequently, she’s less interesting.

  12. Regent’s power and Grue’s skill (and codename) point them out as likely candidates for the second killer in the group.
    Consequently I’m suspicious of Tattletale, for no other reason than how unsuspicious she is.
    Mystery stories are tricky- there’s what’s likely based on evidence alone, and then there’s what’s likely based on the expectations the story builds up in the readers and the knowledge of how fun it is as a writer to smash them.

  13. Dammit! I am falling for these kids just like Taylor is! And it’s great that she’s finally standing up to that fucking bitch, Emma. I really don’t want to see Taylor become a good guy and betray her new crew. So excited to keep reading!

  14. Wow she went to school again…seriously she is really gutsy,continuing to skip school is way more easy,coming back like that is something i Never succeded back then(yeah i lived a situation like her)

    • I wish I could skip…i’m stuck because the one thing that my shit school DOES do is take attendance. Drugs? No big deal. homophobic slurs? “kids being kids.” but SKIPPING? Parent phone call. I have a 3.5 from freshman to junior year, I don’t give a damn about my grades anymore! Just let me have my 3 As 2 Ds and a C! I hate this goddamn school. This school: you can get high in the bathroom but can’t skip class or be late.

      • A lot of high schools are run as glorified day care centers; they care about maintaining order (or at least the appearance of order) more than they do education. Just hold out until university, and things get noticeably better (assuming you avoid “party schools”, presumably). The courses are taught by people who research the subjects professionally, and thus both understand the subjects and are genuinely interested in them. The other students are there because they want to learn something, not because they’re required to be, and are a lot more likely to act like adults (especially after freshman year when a lot of the bad ones drop out or switch to easy majors). And you can avoid any assholes pretty easily, especially if you get an off-campus apartment so you don’t need to worry about being assigned bad roommates. I don’t want to oversell it, since I’m sure universities vary, and every place will have its own flaws, but it’s a far cry from the pointless hell that high school is.

  15. Suggestions:

    – «everything from knick-knacks handicrafts put together by crazy cat ladies to overstock from the most expensive shops» — Missing “to” after “knick-knacks”
    – «“She’s wanted for serial murder,” Brian sighed, “It’s inconvenient.”» — Second comma should be period.
    – «words, names or phrases» — A serial comma would be welcome here

  16. If we are only taking the powers involved I would wager that it was Regent that’s the other “murderer”. Just learning his power and accidentally sends someone into a cardiac arrest. It’s seems the most likely scenario.

  17. Ah, yes.
    Remembering.these details is.hard, isn’, Taylor?

    Rereading and.enjoying nevery bit.except.madison

  18. “It doesn’t make sense for him to to pull a fast one”

    Put two “to”s there

    Just wanted to help find some typos!

  19. I bet the other murderer is Tattletale. She is so freaking powerful. Basically omniscient. And she has no hesitation to do what she needs to. She’s gotta be super experienced in this stuff.

  20. That “don´t abuse powers” for revenge is just shit.
    Just use your fucking powers to give them some hospital time!

    • Oh, okay, I get it after seeing some of your comments now. You are reading this like its a comic book. Some people have values and morals. Some actions have consequences you might not be seeing as well. A new villain has just been reported to the local heroes. Do you really think they would overlook the case where a bunch of girls in a highschool and specifically just some of the girls were attacked by a bunch of insects at random?

  21. You like to use “person that” instead of “person who”. Minor grammatical error.

    “Those that were around us weren’t likely to overhear, unless we used words, names or phrases that would catch their attention.”

    Corrected to:
    “Those WHO were around us weren’t likely to overhear, unless we used words, names or phrases that would catch their attention.”

  22. “Znxrf frafr,” V fnvq, qvfgenpgrqyl. Fb gung’f bar. Jub jnf gur bgure zheqrere va gur tebhc?
    Nyrp erghearq sebz gur fgnyy jrnevat n Xvq Jva fuveg.

    Vagragvbany sberfunqbjvat, be nz V ernqvat gbb zhpu vagb vg?
    (For those not in the know, that’s ROT13, the unofficial Wildbow fandom spoiler cipher. Don’t decipher if you don’t want to be spoiled.)

  23. It’s utterly irrelevant, but it just occurred to me how funny it would be for Taylor to prank Emma by putting five thousand dollars in her locker. Maybe hint to let her know who did it, though I doubt Emma’s mind will hesitate to go there on its own. Just give her a pile of money as an utterly inexplicable, frightening message of “I have power that you don’t know to leverage against you”.

    Maybe don’t do it soon after the bank robbery though.

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