Shell 4.3

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Alec, surprisingly, was the one to break the nerve-wracking silence. “Let me put it this way.  When you got your powers, were you having a good day?”

I didn’t have to think long. “No.”

“Would I be really off the mark if I guessed you were having the worst day of your life, when you got your powers?”

“Second worst,” I replied quietly, “It’s like that for everyone?”

“Just about.  The only ones who get off easy are the second generation capes.  The kids of people who have powers.”

Lisa leaned forward, putting her elbows on the table, “So if you needed another reason to think Glory Girl is a privileged bitch, look no further.”

“Why?” I asked, “Why do we go through that?”

“It’s called the trigger event,” Lisa answered me, “Researchers theorize that for every person with powers out there, there’s one to five people with the potential for powers, who haven’t met the conditions necessary for a trigger event.  You need to be pushed to the edge.  Fight or flight responses pushed to their limits, further than the limits, even.  Then your powers start to emerge.”

“Basically,” Alec said, “For your powers to manifest, you’re going to have to have something really shitty happen to you.”

“Which may help to explain why the villains outnumber the heroes two to one,” Lisa pointed out, “Or why third world countries have the highest densities of people with powers.  Not capes, but a lot of people with powers.”

“But people who have parents with powers?”

“They don’t need nearly as intense an event to make their powers show up.  Glory Girl got her powers by getting fouled while playing basketball in gym class.  She mentioned it in a few interviews she gave.”

“So you basically asked us to share the details on the worst moments of our lives,” Alec said, before taking another bite of his burger.

“Sorry,” I replied.

“It’s okay,” Brian reassured me, “It’s one of those things you only really hear about from other capes, and you only know us.  Maybe you’d hear more about trigger events if you took a university class in parahuman studies, but I doubt you’d get the full picture there.  Kind of have to go through it yourself.”

Lisa reached over and mussed up my hair, “Don’t worry about it.”

Why had I brought up origins?  It would have eventually have been my turn, and I would’ve had to share my own story.

Maybe I’d wanted to.

“Lisa said you guys were talking about me, talking about how you thought I was having a hard time, speculating on what it was,” I managed to say, “I dunno, I think a part of me wants to talk about it so you aren’t coming to the wrong conclusions.  Talk about when I got my powers.  But I don’t know that I can get into it without ruining the mood.”

“You already ruined the mood, dork.”  This from Alec.

Brian punched him in the arm, making him yelp.  Glaring at Brian, Alec grudgingly added, “Which means there’s no reason not to, I guess.”

“Go for it,” Lisa prodded me.

“It’s not an amazing story,” I said, “But I need to say something before I start.  I already said it to Lisa.  The people I’m talking about… I don’t want you to take revenge on them on my behalf or anything.  I need to be sure you won’t.”

“You want to get revenge yourself?” Alec asked.

I found myself at a bit of a loss for words.  I couldn’t really explain why I didn’t want them interfering, “I don’t really know.  I think… I guess I feel that if you guys jumped in and beat them up or humiliated them or made them tearfully apologize, I wouldn’t feel like I’d dealt with things myself.  There wouldn’t be any closure.”

“So whatever we hear, we don’t act on it,” Brian clarified.


“It’s your prerogative,” he said, taking a deep-fried zucchini off of Lisa’s plate and biting it in half.  She pushed her plate closer to him.

“Whatever,” Alec said.

I took a few seconds to get a few bites of my bacon cheeseburger and composed my thoughts before I began.

“There’s three girls at school that had… have been making my life pretty goddamn miserable.  Doing pretty much everything they could think of to make school suck, humiliate me, hurt me.  Each of the three had their individual approach, and for a good while, it was like they were trying to outdo each other in how creative or mean they could get.”

My heart was pounding as I looked up from my plate to check the expressions on the others’ faces.  This is who I am, I thought.  This is where I’m coming from.  When they heard about the real me, without whatever notions or ideas they’d gotten into their heads about me or how capable I was, how would they react?

“It went on for almost a year and a half before things quieted down.  Last year, around November, they… I dunno.  It was like they got bored.  The pranks got tamer, then stopped altogether.  The taunts stopped, and so did most of the hate mail.  They ignored me, left me alone.

“I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.  But I made a friend, one of the girls who had sometimes joined in on the taunting came to me and apologized.  Not one of the major bullies, more like a friend of a friend of the bullies, I guess.  She asked me if I wanted to hang out.  I was too gun-shy, told her no, but it got so we were talking before and after classes and eating lunch together.  Her approaching me and befriending me was one of the big reasons I could think the harassment was ending.  I never really let my guard down around her, but she was pretty cool about it.

“And for most of November and the two weeks of classes before Christmas break, nothing.  They were leaving me alone.  I was able to relax.”

I sighed, “That ended the day I came back from the winter break.  I knew, instinctually, that they were playing me, that they were waiting before they pulled their next stunt, so it had more impact.  I didn’t think they’d be so patient about it.  I went to my locker, and well, they’d obviously raided the bins from the girls bathrooms or something, because they’d piled used pads and tampons into my locker.  Almost filled it.”

“Ew,” Alec interjected, putting down his food, “I was eating here.”

“Sorry,” I looked down at my plate, poked at a piece of bacon, “I can stop, it’s cool.”

“Finish now,” Brian ordered me, if you can say he was ordering me gently.  He glared at Alec.

I swallowed, feeling a flush creeping across my face, “It was pretty obvious that they had done it before the school closed for Christmas, by the smell alone.  I bent over to throw up, right there in a crowded hallway, everyone watching.  Before I could recover or stop losing my breakfast, someone grabbed me by the hair, hard enough it hurt, and shoved me into the locker.”  It had been Sophia, I was almost positive: She was the most physically aggressive of the three.  But these guys didn’t need to know her name.

Why had I brought this up?  I was regretting it already.  I looked at the others, but I couldn’t read their expressions.

I couldn’t leave the story unfinished, after getting this far, as much as I really wanted to. “They shut the locker and put the lock on it.  I was trapped in there, with this rancid smell and puke, barely able to move, it was so full.  All I could think was that someone had been willing to get their hands that dirty to fuck with me, but of all the students that had seen me get shoved in the locker, nobody was getting a janitor or teacher to let me out.

“I panicked, freaked out.  My mind went someplace else, and it found the bugs there.  Not that I knew what they were, at that point.  I didn’t have a sense of proportion, and with all the info my power was giving me then, my brain didn’t know how to process it all.  As far as I knew, all around me, in the walls of the school, in the corners, and crawling around the filthy interior of the locker, there were thousands of these twitchy, alien, distorted things that were each shoving every tiny detail about their bodies and their fucked up biology into my head.

I sighed, “It’s hard to explain what it’s like, having a new sense open up, but you can’t understand it all.  Every sound that they heard was bounced back to me at a hundred times the volume, with the pitch and everything else all screwed up as if they wanted to make it as unpleasant and painful to listen to as possible.  Even what they were seeing, it’s like having my eyes open after being in the dark for a long time, but the eyes weren’t attached to my body, and what they were seeing was like looking into a really dingy, grimy kaleidoscope.  Thousands of them.  And I didn’t know how to turn any of it off.”

“Damn,” Lisa said.

“When someone finally let me out, I came out fighting.  Biting, scratching, kicking.  Screaming incoherently.  Probably putting on a good show for all the kids that had come out of their classrooms to watch.  The teachers tried to deal with the situation, paramedics eventually came and I don’t remember much after that.

“I figured out what my power was at the hospital, while they observed me, which helped ground me, make me feel sane again.  Bugs are a lot easier to wrap your head around, when you realize they’re bugs.  After a week, maybe, I was able to shut some of it out.  My dad got some money from the school.  Enough to pay the bills for the hospital stay and a little extra.  He was talking about suing the bullies, but no witnesses were really talking and the lawyer said it wasn’t going to be successful without hard evidence to identify the responsible.  We didn’t have the money for it, if it wasn’t going to be a sure thing.  I never wound up telling my dad about the main group of bullies.  Maybe I should have, I dunno.”

“I’m sorry,” Lisa put her hand on my shoulder.  I felt grateful that she wasn’t pulling away or laughing.  It was the first time I’d ever really talked about it, and I wasn’t sure I could’ve dealt if she had.

“Wait, this thing with those girls is still going on?” Alec asked me.

I shrugged, “Basically.  I went back after being in the hospital, and things were as bad as they ever were.  My so called friend wasn’t making eye contact or speaking to me, and they didn’t even go easy on me after seeing my, uh, episode.”

“Why don’t you use your power?”  Alec asked, “It doesn’t even have to be that big.  A bug in their lunch, maybe a bee sting on the tip of their nose or on their lips.”

“I’m not going to use my power on them.”

“But they’re making you miserable!” Alec protested.

I frowned, “All the more reason not to.  It wouldn’t be hard to guess who was doing it if someone started using powers to mess with them.”

“Seriously?” Alec leaned back in his seat, folding his arms, “Look, you and I haven’t talked all that much, maybe we don’t know each other all that well, but, um, you’re not stupid.  Are you honestly telling me you’re incapable of finding a subtle way to get back at them?”

I looked to Lisa and Brian, feeling a little backed into a corner, “A little help?”

Lisa smiled, but said nothing.  Brian shrugged and considered for a few moments before telling me, “I’m kind of inclined to agree with Alec.”

“Okay, fine,” I admitted, “It’s crossed my mind.  I’ve considered doing something that couldn’t be traced to me, like giving them lice.  But you guys remember how I went off on Bitch after she set her dogs on me.”

“A bit of repressed anger,” Lisa said, still smiling.

“It’s the same with these guys.  You know what happens if I do something like give them crabs?  They wind up miserable, annoyed, and they take it out on me.”

“Oh man,” Alec laughed, “Crabs.  You need to do that every time we go up against another cape.  Can you imagine?”

“I’d rather not,” I made a face.  Alec’s dogged tenaciousness thus far in the conversation was giving me the impression he would be hard to convince without a good reason, so I fudged the truth a little as I told him, “While I’m controlling them, I see everything my bugs see, feel everything they feel, pretty much.  I don’t want to make a regular thing of having my bugs crawl all over sweaty crotches.”


“The point I’m trying to make, if you’ll stop changing the subject, is that these girls would probably take their misery out on me, even if they didn’t know I was doing it.  I don’t trust myself to keep from retaliating, upping the ante.  You saw what happened with me and Rachel, the first time we met.  Things would escalate, I’d take things too far eventually.  Secret identity blown, or getting someone seriously hurt, like Lung was, only without the regeneration.”

“I don’t get how you can sit there and take it,” Alec said, “Get revenge, or get one of us to get revenge for you.  Go to someone for help.”

“None of those things is an option,” I said, with enough emphasis that I hoped my statement carried some finality, “There’s too much chance for things to go out of control if I take things into my own hands or have you guys do it for me.  As far as going to someone for help, I don’t trust the system.  Not after the court case, not after talking to some of my teachers.  If it was that easy, I would have dealt with it already.”

Lisa leaned forward, “Tell me it wouldn’t be awesome if we kidnapped their leader, pulled a hood over her head, dragged her into a van and dropped her off in the woods at midnight, ten miles out of town, with nothing but her skivvies.”

I smiled at the mental image, but I shook my head as I said, “That’s exactly what I’m talking about.  It’s going too far.”

“They shoved you into the grossest locker ever and locked the door!” Alec looked at me like I was trying to argue the earth was square.

“Leaving her in the middle of nowhere without any clothes on is practically inviting her to be molested by the first trucker to see her,” I pointed out.

“Fine,” Alec rolled his eyes, “So we tone it down some.  Drop her off with no shoes, no cell phone, no wallet, no spare change, nothing she could use to negotiate her way home.  Make her hike it.”

“That would still be risking getting her assaulted,” I sighed, “Pretty girl walking down the side of the road at night?”

“They’ve assaulted you!”

“It’s a little different.”

“The only difference I see is that they deserve it and you didn’t.  I mean, I’m not smart like you guys are, so maybe I’m missing something.”

I shook my head, “You’re not missing anything, Alec.  We’re looking at this from two very different perspectives.  I don’t really believe in that whole ‘eye for an eye’ business.”

I was beginning to feel like I was getting control of the conversation again.  Then Alec dropped his bombshell.

“Then why the fuck are you a supervillain?”

“Escape.”  The word left my mouth almost immediately, before I’d had a chance to even think about what it meant.  I couldn’t have taken the time to think before speaking, or they might have known something was up.  Lisa almost certainly would have.

A few tense moments passed, and I chanced a look at Lisa and Brian.  Lisa was watching the dialogue, a small smile on her face, her chin resting on her palm.  Brian was kind of inscrutable, arms folded in front of him, no real expression on his face.

I explained, “I can deal with real life, if I can leave it behind for this.  Kicking ass, making a name for myself, hanging out with friends.  Having fun.”

It kind of surprised me, but I realized what I was saying was true, so I didn’t even need to worry about tipping Lisa off.  A second later, I realized I might have been a little presumptuous.  “I mean, assuming that we are frien-”

“If you finish that sentence,” Lisa warned me, “I’m going to slap you across the head.”

I felt the heat of a flush in my cheeks and ears.

“Yes, Taylor, we’re friends,” Brian said, “And we appreciate, or at least, I appreciate that you trusted us enough to share your story.”

I wasn’t sure what to say in response to that.  The fact that he’d heard it and didn’t give me a hard time, it meant a hell of a lot to me.  Only Alec was really getting on my case about it, and he wasn’t doing it in a mean spirited way.

Brian frowned.  “Don’t suppose either of you are going to share your stories?”

Alec shook his head and stretched his arms above his head before resting them on his full stomach, his silence answer enough.

Lisa, for her part, grinned and said, “Sorry.  I like you guys, but I’m going to need a few drinks before I share that particular tidbit, and I’m not legal to drink for a few years yet.”

“Doesn’t seem fair that Taylor’s the only one sharing,” Brian pointed out.

“I- I didn’t tell my story because I expected you guys to reciprocate,” I hurried to add, “Really, it’s fine.”

“You’re volunteering, then?” Lisa asked Brian, ignoring my protests.

Brian nodded, “Yeah, I guess I am.”


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71 thoughts on “Shell 4.3

  1. I still vote for the lice… and I consider this a copyright infringement 🙂 I think they get the ‘bully dynamics’ wrong.
    I like the origin and trigger stuff. Now I want to hear TT’s origin. The only part I didn’t like was how easy it was. I can’t imagine something like that happening without their mind really being messed with.

    • Can you clarify on the ‘how easy it was’ bit? Also, not sure I follow your line of thought on the bully dynamics.

      Also, no copyright infringement. I beat you to it :). See Chapter 2.4, 3rd to last paragraph.

    • I know this is old, but… Scabies, the mites that do that are HORRIFYING. And the best part? Untraceable in a any shape or form, since it can be transferred by simply touching any fabric that was touched by someone infected, said fabric and every piece of cloth has to be BURNED, those fucked are resilient!

  2. We’re just looking at this from two very different perspectives. I just don’t believe in that whole ‘eye for an eye’ business.”
    These two ‘justs’s don’t go together well, and I, for one, don’t even get her logic. But maybe I’m too much into ‘reconciliation’.

    • Fixed the extra ‘just’.

      As an aside, at one point before I’d gotten the serial going online, I put what I’d written so far through a program to analyze what I’d written for words, phrases or idioms I used too often. ‘Just’ topped the list by far.

      I’ve been watching for it but that one slipped through, darnit.

      *Edit* Ok, a lot slipped through. I went through the chapter and cut out a bunch. Recently elected to rewrite what I had written for this chapter & the rest of this arc, didn’t like where it was going, so I wound up doing a lot of last minute work on it. For this chapter, at least, I didn’t get to do my usual process of editing and revising.

      • Did you write it yourself, or did you find it somewhere? If the latter, what is the name? If the former, assuming you used Google N-Grams, any good libraries that you know of?

      • I’m curious; is this program available online? Or is it a custom/commercial deal?
        (Also kinda bummed that my first comment has nothing to do with the story itself, but eh. Rereading bits and pieces. Continually reminded that my stab at a superhero web serial in 2010 was several orders of magnitude inferior to the mighty Worm, and that I really need to get to correcting that at some point.)

  3. “How easy it was…”

    Well, I, for one, love origin stories that aren’t just ‘what was the trigger’, but ‘what was the physiological/emotional/mental reaction to the first inklings of power.” Some powers are mere continuations of what we already have: such as ‘I can run really, really fast’ in which case we merely have a learning curve for ‘what it means when you break the sound barrier’ etc., plus the whole emotional curve of ‘what it means to be a super’.

    However in this case you have a completely new ‘power’… you have the ‘eyes and ears etc. from millions of bugs’ sensory input, and the ‘we will obey you’ sensory output. Even if it was just one bug this would, for most of us, be completely overwhelming. But, for her, well, its a lot all at once.

    I disagree, completely, with the ‘sweaty crotches’ statement. At least, I can’t figure out how to reconcile it with the ‘reality’ of the book. First of all, without getting too crude, the condition/envioronment that she would find most of her bugs in right when she connects with them would put ‘sweaty crotches’ into the ‘heaven’ slot in comparison. Indeed, all of the kind of lice she would connect with would *already* be in that position.

    Secondly, with eyes that work like the bugs, ears etc. that work like the bugs, scale etc. the ‘sweaty crotch’ would just be ‘big pink environment with occasional tall black stalks’… ie an environment fully acceptable to the bug, and not at all recognizable from the ‘human’ perspective except by a good deal of piecing together of clues.

    • Taylor’s power is fairly nuanced, and I guess I haven’t really elaborated enough on that aspect of things. I tweaked the sweaty crotches part of the chapter just a tiny bit, and will strive to explain a little better in a later chapter. Long story short, Taylor’s sensory input from the bugs is vastly different depending on whether she’s giving them a general ‘find your way to me’ impulse or whether she’s focused enough on them individually to have them navigating their way into somebody’s underpants. In the former case, she’s drawn her bugs in while really stressed (such as when Bitch attacked her) without really noticing she was doing it. Things are that thin, that easy to block out.

      You said “not at all recognizable from the ‘human’ perspective except by a good deal of piecing together of clues.” – Except she’s got a helluvalot of clues. Even fuzzy, blurry clues add up to a pretty strong mental picture when you’ve got enough of them. When there’s also context, with Taylor knowing in advance what her bugs are doing, there’s going to be (even if Taylor doesn’t really want to) a framing of those clues in a particular way.

      • Well, I guess we’ll just have to look at this one differently. As a nurse I know something about sensory impressions from normally disgusting areas. She deals with flies…. enough said 🙂

  4. “Bully Dynamics”
    Well, of course, only you can tell us what is actually motivating these particular bullies. they seem odd even on their face, so maybe there is something special going on.

    But, it seems to me, bullies tend to get motivated by power and prestige. Bullying someone else gives you power over them and anyone else that is intimidated by the situation. Bullying can give you prestige… you must be better, stronger, etc. than the person you are bullying, so you must be ‘someone’.

    This second motivation is obviously threatened by the ‘lice’. Indeed a girl worried enough about her prestige would feign sickness before she would come to school with something so socially debilitating.

    As for ‘power’ that is less clear, but it takes a lot of energy to keep up with one’s own problems, energy that can’t be applied to creating problems for someone else.

    On a side note, why isn’t she at least using the ‘I have a bug on you so I know where you are’ trick?

    • Regarding the tracking bugs thing, it’s likely just a general rule she has set on herself to not use her powers in any capacity outside cape-related stuff. Sure just tracking the trio is innocent enough but it could escalate pretty easily (“I already have a bug on them, why not have it annoy them a bit? Buzz in their ear randomly? Sting them once? Sting again? Etc.”).

  5. Great chapter.
    I wonder if she would have found the same camaradrie she’s getting with the Outsiders if she’d joined the DART program? that really was the obvious thing for her to do, but I can buy why she didn’t – With all the bad experiences she has had with high school finding that again among superpowered kids would be too much to bear. I don’t think she would (the DART kids seemed pretty decent) but she doesn’t know that.

    • Undersiders & the Wards, but yes.

      Thanks, by the way, for the review on the web fiction guide, Fiona. Made my day. A lot of people appear to respect your opinion, because a ton of people flocked to Worm after reading the review. Blew my old record for # of views in a day out of the water (more than doubling it).

      • Woot! So glad if I got others reading this great story.
        Oops…sorry about the name mixups (where did I get DART???) – I’m glad you figured out what I meant 🙂

    • Huh, me too. Some super warped time and jumped from Chapter 4.3 to 4.6 in the RSS feed. Or maybe Brian didn’t want anyone to see his story and drew a dark cloud over it.

  6. My bad. I was rewriting a later chapter and clicked ‘update’ instead of ‘schedule’. Took it off the site within 10 seconds, but those (two) individuals who’ve subscribed to the site apparently got it via. emails.

  7. So embarrassing/inconvenient.

    Maybe I’ll take the story in another direction so my most ardent commentators/reviewers don’t know what’s coming next. 😀

  8. Don’t worry about it! Mistakes happen. 🙂

    I stopped reading and checked the chapter header when the first couple sentences didn’t make sense. So nothing really got spoiled for me.
    I’ve always been OCD about reading stuff in order, especially long serial fiction like this.

  9. I still say the actual scene of the origin would be better than hearing about it secondhand, even knowing that it was awful. The core strength of this story is in the emotional connection to the narrating protagonist, so seeing the most emotional moments of her life and how she learned to use her powers would just deepen that audience connection, from my standpoint anyway.

    However, I can see how it would be a risky move to start pre-powers and figure out a hook for readers to get them invested in the story before the powers emerged. That beginning of a story can be the trickiest to write, I struggle with that sometimes myself.

  10. Found this a few days ago (I think it was mentioned on grrlpowercomic) and now you have a new reader.
    Not being of english speaking origin, I don’t use the word often. Maybe I used it in written form about 3 times this year: This is AWESAME.
    And at this point I very much enjoy the calmness of this in-story hours as much as I enjoyed the action. While I have to admit that the action was more impressive, action stories IMHO need calm moments of hope before the reader gets another whopping 😀

    Thoughts so far…
    I cannot get rid of the strong impression that Tatletale may know more about Taylor’s motives (or the motives behind her secret motives or what Tailor believes her motives are) than Tailor herself does. Someone who set up Panacea and Glory Girl like that just should know – otherwise I’d suspect I underestimate her. I’ll see…

    (I go by a different name in other places but when I wanted to use it here, something suddenly wanted me to log in into my Gravatar account, by that screaming “Heeeere fishy fishy!” into my virtual ears, so I rather made up another email account just quick. Ahem.)

      • Heh thanks 🙂
        Well, I tend to comment sparsely but this being what it is, I just may get over that habit 😛

        And here’s a question: I noticed that some paragraphs on this page (and even more on the next page) e.g. ““When someone finally let me out, … and I don’t remember much after that.” have a starting double quote but not an ending one, while the next paragraph has another starting one – is this on purpose? It looks unfamiliar to me but it could be that I’m just not used to certain details in English fiction writings – as I get most of the translated to German. 🙂

        (Gosh… these “well”s and “just”s are so tempting!)

        • Rule of English is that if you have a paragraph start with a double quote but not closing:

          Mr. A said, “…


          The second paragraph is just a continuation of what the speaker in the first paragraph was saying.

          • It’s something you see more often in monologues or speeches, with the paragraph break informally giving you the same sort of pause where someone else would be jumping in to respond (except they don’t because it’s a speech or monologue). Here, it’s mainly in Taylor’s long description of her past.

  11. Not sure if this is technically incorrect but one of those haves sounds a little redundant. “It would have eventually have been my turn, and I would’ve had to share my own story.”

  12. > As far as I knew, all around me, in the walls of the school, in the corners, and crawling around the filthy interior of the locker, there were thousands of these twitchy, alien, distorted things that were each shoving every tiny detail about their bodies and their fucked up biology into my head.

    You’re missing an ending quote on this paragraph. The next paragraph doesn’t start with dialogue, so you’re not covered by the multi-paragraph single-speaker exception.

  13. Good story with interesting powers used in a clever way.

    The problem is the main character is just not believable and it throws out my suspension of disbelief every time I have to read the mental gymnastics you have to put her through to justify why a strong highly intelligent person makes no effort whatsoever to improve her life at school.

    This is a girl that handles violent conflict and the possibility of death and serious injury with a coolness and intelligence that would put experienced soldiers to shame, just that makes her extraordinary never mind her powers.

    The other thing is the way the consequences and dubious morality of utterly terrorising a building full of people was glossed over especially by the otherwise highly intelligent main protagonist.

    • There are spoilers for the point in the story where you’re at (includes spoilers up to arc 8), but I did a reddit post here, in response to someone’s complaints along the same line (The recorder bit I reference is in reply to the guy insisting she could have/should have bought a tape recorder to record the bullies).

      There’s more exploration of the subject/mindset later in the story.

      Don’t let ‘intelligent’ automatically equate ‘good decisions’ or ‘flawless perspective’.

      • A lot of people seem to comment on this, so I wanted to add my two cents: I completely buy Taylor’s attitude toward school and refusal to use her powers. Firstly, because she’s long since gotten into the habit of trying to avoid her bullies rather than oppose them, and that sort of habit can be very strong. Secondly, because regardless of the truth, it seems believable that she doesn’t think she can really improve the situation long-term. Finally, her strong focus on maintaining her secret ID makes sense given her current undercover status, the strength of her focus on becoming a superhero, and her general compartmentalization of her life. As for the idea of having the Undersiders help her…that would probably be humiliating. It might be worth it long-term, but that doesn’t mean she’ll be perceptive enough to know that or mature enough to set her embarrassment aside. Taylor is used to thinking of herself as being alone, especially when it comes to school. Those who view themselves as loners rarely ask for help, even if they know they should.

        • Also, she’s already letting them get really close to her. If she’s serious about turning them in, using them to get revenge on the bullies would add insult to injury.

  14. Just wanted to say, since nobody else has pointed it out yet: nice subtle characterisation with “Second worst”. I’m liking forward to finding out a bit more about what happened to Taylor’s mum at some point. Well… “liking forward” might not be quite the right phrase, but… you know what I mean.

  15. “But I don’t know that I can get into it without ruining the mood” –> that ‘that’ feels like it should be a ‘whether’ or ‘if’ or something

  16. I totally get where Taylor is coming from, when she is highly apprehensive about confronting her bullies. At least, I’ve seen that kind of thought process in someone I know. Once you start down the path of thinking that confrontation may not be a good idea a couple of times, it’s hard to get out of the rut and say “No! Enough is enough. This is where I draw the line and start hatching plans to destroy the rest of their lives, because they seem to want to destroy mine.”
    Sometimes when I talk to this friend I’ve seen this trait in, I ask her what has her so troubled, and she just says that I’m not a part of that world, so she’d like to not discuss it with me. Because discussing it with me would bring those two worlds together and she can’t stand being in that fight-or-flight state all the time.
    I dunno what’s right, but in both her case and Taylor’s, I counsel some kind of smart and open confrontation, rather than just passively trying to “forget about it for a while”. Of course, though, I’m re-reading Worm, and I know that Taylor keeps her word about her decisions in these kinds of things. But 😀 😀 😀

  17. So I’ve been thinking. Anyone else ever wonder what Worm would be like if it were done in the style of a Golden or Silver age superhero story? Heck I can imagine just the ways Taylor’s origin would be different.

    Golden Age- She’d be a wealthy socialite who’s father is a famous egyptologist who is given her powers by a dying egyptian priestess to combat evil in the modern world.

    Silver Age- She’d be a lot like Peter Parker, pre powers. She’d probably get them from falling into a vat of radioactive insect pheromones or something like that.

    Worm would be a contraversial darker and edgier modern reboot.

  18. >“Oh man,” Alec laughed, “Crabs. You need to do that every time we go up against another cape. Can you imagine?”
    Three words: Superheroically. Transmitted. Diseases.

  19. On my first read here. I’ve had starting this story on the back burner for more than a year, since it got recommended at HPMOR.

    I’m liking it so far, although the info-dumps can get a little too conspicuous at times. I’m guessing that is because this is going to be a super plot driven story though.

    Gotta say, if it was me Emma would already be dead.

      • To expand, second chances are a good idea in general and I would support a moderate punishment if she did it to someone else (i.e. not death), but if something of this scale happened to me I would not hold back in the slightest. Hypocritical maybe, but if reading this story has taught me anything so far it’s that it has made me realise that I value personal revenge highly. Beyond the point of reason, and I’m typically a very reasonable person.

  20. Sigh… I might be alone on this but I still can’t help but think her “turn the other cheek” attitude is a weakness, not a strength. I can tell you right now, if i had her powers, and someone did that to me, they’d pay for it. I also don’t think this would make me a bad person. There’s a limit to the goody goody act and then it just becomes sad. I’m other words, Alec/Alex is right. Only a bug in the sandwich is nothing. Lyme disease, to start.

    • It is a kind of weakness in her case, I don’t think it is a christian ‘turn the other cheek’ philosophy. I think it is more, just get through the day until a time comes I never have to be around these folk ever again.

      I was younger than her when I was subjected to teasing and bullying. It took a change of school systems and moving to a different state before I realized things didn’t have to be this way. I distinctly remember an incident where a fellow thought it would be funny to backswing a baseball bat into my scrotum. I fell to the ground in tears, screaming in pain. Somehow, despite a crowded hallway and much laughter, no one saw the event. (right, no one)

      Sometime later, we were both in the vice principal’s office. My parent wasn’t called. His parents were not called. He got two days of in school suspension. Which meant he still came to school but had to be in a room with other juvenile delinquints that were already his friends. Sometime later in that same day, I saw him laughing and smiling with that same vice-principal. I felt so very alone and betrayed.

      As a mature adult, or even as a more socialized child, I would have handled this situation so much better. As I was, I walled myself away and tried to make myself less of a target. Not realizing that outcasts from social groups are always the best targets.

      I really get Taylor’s thought processes. I have had no issues seeing these compartmentalizations of her life and motivations of thought.

  21. Finally they questioned her why she’s a supervillan. I was getting annoyed how they assumed Taylor was one even though she never acted like it or had the personality of one. Great moment in the chapter.

  22. Huh so assumption on her best friend betraying for finding out her powers was wrong.
    Second guess is guy she liked liked Taylor.

  23. I guess trigger events aren’t the only thing that girl capes can have multiples of, that guy capes cannot. : P

    • Em… No? Unless this is meant only as a joking remark and not really in any serious light, perhaps it was described weirdly, all parahumans go through only one Triggering Event. Well, the reason I am saying this mostly is because I find myself at a lose for what divined you to make this joke.

  24. wow. so not only is GG a sadistic and cruel bitch but she lives on Easy mode. also I live with bugs in my house we have a rule as long as you’re not bothering us aka on the floor or nearby us you won’t get sprayed with Raid. for the last two days a spider has been on the wall next to the bathroom door at eye-level. it didn’t move until yesterday. Taylor just needs to do that BS and her bullies will breath in Raid subtly poisoning them and making them smell of chemicals.

    • Yeah, living with bugs isn’t so bad depending on the type. My grandparents have a bunkhouse, where my siblings and I usually sleep, and it’s totally infested with spiders. Which is awesome to me: I have never once been bitten by a mosquito in there. It helps we don’t really have poisonous spiders; I just shake out my sleeping bag and lift my pillow to make sure I don’t accidentally crush one, because that would be gross and terrifying (and I’d feel bad for it).

  25. You know, Alec, revenge only works as a deterrent if they know you did it. Infesting them with some obscure disgusting parasites that make them too sick to keep up the bullying is the only thing that would have any effect while maybe not be traced to the bug-controlling supervillain, and even you would probably realize that’s going too far.

    Speaking as someone who once drowned a classmate’s desk in chemical vanilla scent in a perfect crime, there’s no profit in just making people mysteriously miserable even if they’re bullies.

  26. She is so annoying. She shouldn´t attack with insects obviously, but things like kidnapping would be quite nice.

  27. Nf sne nf V xarj, nyy nebhaq zr, va gur jnyyf bs gur fpubby, va gur pbearef, naq penjyvat nebhaq gur svygul vagrevbe bs gur ybpxre, gurer jrer gubhfnaqf bs gurfr gjvgpul, nyvra, qvfgbegrq guvatf gung jrer rnpu fubivat rirel gval qrgnvy nobhg gurve obqvrf naq gurve shpxrq hc ovbybtl vagb zl urnq.

    Abcr, ohg bar bs gurz fubirq vg’f obql naq shpxrq-hc ovbybtl vagb lbhe urnq. Be V’z ernqvat gbb zhpu vagb guvf.

    (That was ROT13, the Wildbow fandom’s unofficial spoiler cipher. Don’t decipher this comment unless you’ve finished Worm.)

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