Buzz 7.3

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I was nervous, returning to Bitch’s spot with lunch in hand.  It wasn’t just that I’d left her alone with an uncontrollable beast composed almost entirely of fangs, nails, bone and muscle.  It was that it was lunchtime.

Between countless run-ins with the bullies, getting in contact with the Undersiders and the bank robbery, it felt like stuff seemed to go down around noon.

I was relieved when I got back and there wasn’t any carnage.  A dozen or so dogs greeted me, many poking their noses into the paper bag I held.  I navigated my way through them to Bitch, who was sitting on a pallet of concrete blocks by the open back wall.  Sirius was lying beside her with his head on her lap.

“Food?” I offered.

She reached down, so I got a chicken souvlaki wrap and a coke out of the bag and handed them up to her.

As she peeled the paper away from one end of the wrap, I found myself a spot to sit on a part of the wall where it was incomplete or damaged.  The weather had worn at the concrete blocks, and some greenery had managed to grow in the cracks, making for a not entirely uncomfortable seat.  Outside, behind the building, there was a field of uncut grass surrounded by chain link fence.  As they lost interest in the food, dogs wandered out there, chasing one another or baiting others into playing, trampling that long grass flat enough that we could see them.  The view of their playing was accompanied by a soundtrack of endless barks and snarls.

A white dog with a nub of a tail and chestnut colored patches on its body and over its ears approached me, sitting to stare at me as I took my first bite of my wrap.

I swallowed, and I told the dog,  “No.  This is too good to share, and it probably wouldn’t be good for you anyways.”

The dog cocked its head quizzically.

“You are awfully pretty, though,” I told it.

I heard a scoffing noise from Bitch’s direction.  I turned her way just in time to see her glance away.


“You should never own a dog.”

That was fairly harsh, especially coming from her.  “What are you basing this on?”

“Most dog owners are retards, and the most retarded are the ones who pick a dog because it’s cute, or because its pretty, without knowing anything about the breed, the temperament, the dog’s needs.”

I sighed, “Fuck off, Rache.  I can say it’s a pretty dog without saying I’m going to take it home.”

“Whatever,” she didn’t take her eyes off the dogs in the back field.

“No, don’t brush me off.  You want to start something, fine.  But if you do, you gotta hear what I have to say.  Listen to what I have to say.  Acknowledge me, damn it.”

She turned to glance at me.  She wasn’t frowning or glaring, but her gaze was so dispassionate it made me uncomfortable.

“Come on, you know me pretty well.  All the others describe me as careful and cautious, though I’m not entirely sure why.  Do you really think I’d pick something as important as a dog, a new addition to my family, without researching, first?”

She didn’t reply.  Instead, she turned her attention back to the dogs outside.

“Right,” I said.  “I wouldn’t.”

I didn’t press things any further.  We finished our wraps, I dug one piece of the foil-wrapped baklava out of the bag, set it down on the paper from my wrap and bunched up the foil around the remainder to throw up to Bitch.  When I was done eating my dessert and licking my fingers clean, I hopped down from my seat on the wall, found a ball and started throwing it for the dogs.

“Here,” Bitch told me.  I turned around, and she handed me the blue stick that had been jutting out of the zipper of the backpack.  It was plastic, molded to have a handle with finger-holds on one end and a cup on the other.  As a dog brought the ball to me, I experimentally pressed the cupped end down on it, and the ball snapped into place.

When I whipped it forward, the ball went flying, five times as far than it had when I’d used my hand.  Most of the dogs stampeded after it, racing to be the first to grab it or chasing after the ones in the lead.

It was nice, enjoying the sunshine, playing with the dogs, having no responsibilities or pressures for the moment.

I turned to look over my shoulder.  “Can you tell me about some of them?  The dogs?”

Bitch frowned, but she didn’t refuse me.  “This is Sirius.  He was bought as a puppy for some twelve year old, then grew too big and unruly to stay in the house.  He was caged outside and ignored, his nails grew too long, and he wound up with an infection in his foot.  They decided it was easier to leave him at a shelter than pay for medical care.  Since he wasn’t trained or socialized, he came off too wild and excitable to get adopted.  I got him in the week he was due to get put down.”

“That’s fucked up,” I looked at Sirius, who was sleeping.  “How do you know the story?”

“I know some people that volunteer at shelters, from when I used to.  They let me know if there’s a dog that deserves a second chance.  Not that many don’t.”


“The one you were talking to a few minutes ago is Bullet.  She’s the smartest in the group.  Her breed craves exercise, they’re meant to run around all day with hunters… except she was used as a beta to warm dogs up for one of the dogfighting rings around here and her shoulder was torn up pretty badly.  Even with the shoulder healed as well as it’s gonna get, it hurts too much for her to run as much as she needs.”

I spotted Bullet in the crowd.  Sure enough, she was lagging behind the rest.  I thought maybe she was favoring one leg.

“If your power heals, why doesn’t it help her?  Or Angelica’s eye and ear?”

Bitch shrugged.  “Lisa said it has something to do with me making a ‘blueprint’.  It’s babble to me.  All I know is that it doesn’t help older health problems.  It gets rid of disease and cancer, and parasites, and most damage they take when they’re big.  That’s all.”

“I think I get it,” I told her.  I looked at Bullet, who had stopped running and was sitting in the middle of the field, watching others run.  “Do they all have stories like that?”


“Damn,” I felt a pang of sympathy for the animals.

The herd of dogs returned to me, and a shaggy dog dropped the ball at my feet.

“Good dog,” I told it.  I threw the ball, aiming to get it near Bullet, and the herd of dogs rushed off again, with more than a few excited barks.

Bitch and I weren’t conversing, but neither of us were conversation people.  I was too socially clumsy to maintain small talk for any length of time, and Bitch was… well, she was Bitch.  So we sat, minutes passed between each exchange of dialogue, and it somehow didn’t bother me.  It was letting me pick and choose what I was talking about very carefully.

“It’s too bad dogs can’t have trigger events,” Bitch mused aloud.  “If they did, some people might think twice.”

I could have argued the details, pointed out that most people weren’t aware of the ins and outs of trigger events, I could have argued that some things could get worse if dogs could get powers.  It didn’t feel necessary.

“Yeah,” I agreed.

That was the extent of that dialogue.  We enjoyed another long silence and the dogs competed with one another to fetch the ball.

The sound of a breaking bottle and very human shouts disturbed our peace.

“These guys again,” Bitch snarled, moving Sirius’ head from her lap and hopping down from her seat on the pile of concrete blocks.  The black lab turned his head to watch as she stalked towards the front of the building.  Bitch whistled for her dogs and Brutus, Judas and Angelica rushed to her side.

“What’s going on?” I called after her, moving to follow.

“Stay inside,” she told me.

I did as she asked, but that didn’t mean I didn’t try to get closer, to get a better picture of what was going on.  I approached one of the boarded up windows at the front of the building and peeked through a gap in the plywood.

Bitch had her dogs standing around her, and she stood opposite a group of seven or so people.  They ranged from thirtyish to twelve in age.  It wasn’t hard to figure out who they identified with.  Half of the guys were blond or dyed blond, and the others had shaved heads.   The youngest was a twelve-ish girl who’d taken a razor to her scalp, too, leaving only her bangs and the hair hanging around her ears and the back of her neck.  The detail that confirmed my suspicions of their affiliation was the number eighty-three that I saw etched on one of the guys’ t-shirts in permanent marker.

The white supremacists loved codes in numbers.  If you were suspicious about whether a number was one of their codes, the number eight was a good clue, since it cropped up a lot.  The eight referred to the 8th letter of the alphabet, H; Eighty-eight stood for H.H. or ‘Heil Hitler’, while eighteen pointed to Adolf Hitler in the same way.  The eighty-three wasn’t one I’d seen before, but I knew it would have stood for H.C… Heil something.  Heil Christ?

In any case, these numbers had been a way to keep one’s racist feelings on the down low, around those that weren’t already affiliated, until Kaiser’s predecessor formed Empire Eighty-Eight here in Brockton Bay.  The move had pushed an ultimatum on the more secretive racists in the area, forcing them to either join the aggressive, active group in the public eye or retreat further into hiding.   It had also drawn crowds of the more diehard white supremacists from the surrounding regions to Brockton Bay.  When people with powers, Kaiser included, started to congregate in the group, Brockton Bay became something of a magnet for those sorts.  One of the bigger collections of racists above the bible belt.  Quite possibly the biggest congregation of racist supervillains.

The day Empire Eighty-Eight had gotten its name hadn’t been a good day for our city.

A guy, thirty or so, was holding a carton of empty beer bottles.  He held one by the neck, tossed it into the air and caught it again, then whipped it in Bitch’s direction.  I flinched more than she did as it shattered explosively against the front of the door.

“We told you to get of here,” he sneered at her.

“I was here first.”

“Doesn’t matter.  We’re claiming this neighborhood, and that barking is driving me up the fucking wall.”

“You’ve said so before.  Try earplugs.”

He grabbed another bottle and threw it, hard.  Bitch had to lean out of the way this time, to keep it from hitting her shoulder.

“Can’t do business wearing earplugs, you dumb whore,” the man put his hand on the head of the partially bald girl, who made a face at Bitch.

“Then don’t do business.  I don’t care.”

He reached for another bottle, then stopped.  A slow smile crossed his face as he looked to a teenage boy that was standing just beside the bald girl,  “Thing about something as goddamn irritating as that barking, is it gets us talking about how we could deal with it.  Tom, here, had my favorite suggestion.  He said we could soak hot dogs in antifreeze and throw ’em into the field back there.  Whaddya say?”

Fuck. I looked around the inside of the building for something I could use as a mask, but there wasn’t anything.  Why hadn’t I brought my costume?  The situation was a hair away from devolving into a bloodbath, and my civilian identity was plain to see.  I couldn’t even work from inside the building, without risking that someone might have heard about my power or how I operated, and come in after me.

I could only see Bitch from behind, but I saw her turn her head to evaluate the group.  Maybe sizing up how long it would take her dogs to murder them all.

“If you were going to do that,” she said, “You would have done it before now, and I’d kill you for it.  Either you’re too scared to really do something about it, which you should be, or Kaiser told you hands off.”

It was the last attitude I would’ve expected from her.  Bitch, being level-headed?

The man with the bottles sneered, “Nah.  See, we heard that howling earlier.  So did some of our neighbors.  Kaiser did tell us to play nice, but way I figure it, if we tell Kaiser you started this shit, and he asks around to check our story, he’s gonna hear there was howling before there was fighting.”

“You know who I am,” Bitch threatened them, “You know my abilities.  You’re really going to fuck with me, here?  With my dogs around?  Really?”

I heard, rather than saw, the sound of a gun cocking.  The teenage boy, who I identified as Tom, raised a gun in Bitch’s direction.

“Still think you’re tough?” the man mocked Bitch, “Guns are the great equalizer, y’know?  My son here wants a place in the Empire, and to do that, he’s gotta earn his stripes.  Killing you would be a good way to go about it, I’m thinking.”

I didn’t wait to hear the rest of the dialogue.  There was no way this wasn’t going to come to violence, now.  I pulled off my shoes, then ran in my sock feet across the concrete floor, keeping as low as I could.  I found the knife that Bitch had used to open the bags of dog food, then stuck it in my back pocket.  Still nothing I could see that would work as a mask.  I wasn’t even wearing a sweatshirt or enough extra layers to use a piece of my clothing for a mask.  It had been too warm a day.

Which left me one very unpleasant option.

I exerted my power, and was glad to find that the grassy field and the half built building had a fair supply of bugs to work with.  Grasshoppers migrated my way, and I emptied a wasp nest that nestled in the wall above the unfinished second floor.  Blackflies that had been enjoying the copious amounts of dog waste flew my way, and innumerable ants and spiders formed the remainder of the swarm.

All together, they streamed my way to gather on my skin, crawling up my legs and torso, some turning downward to cover my arms.  As one, they covered every inch of my body, even creating a mass over my mouth and glasses to obscure everything.  It didn’t tickle as much as I thought it might, but I did shudder.

I’d need a shower after this.  Ten showers.  And I’d pay to use a gym or pool or something, so I didn’t have to endure the craptacular shower at the loft while I scrubbed my skin raw.  Ninety percent of my rationale for designing a costume that covered my entire body was for this exact reason, damn it.

Why hadn’t I brought my costume?  Why?

I flinched at the deafening roar of a gunshot.  Waited with my breath held, until I heard the murmur of conversation at the door again, Bitch’s voice.  A warning shot?

I grabbed my cell phone from my pocket and sent a text out, selecting Brian, Lisa and Alec as the recipients:

Half a dozen skinheads here.  At least one gun.  Need backup.

My phone vibrated with a reply a few seconds later. Brian:

Omw.  was headin home.  will take minute.

No immediate reply from the other two.  My phone displayed the time as 1:38.  Close enough to lunch for me to mark it as a continuation of the trend.  I was going to develop an anxiety disorder over this.  I texted him directions, informing him to look for the building with the crane.

Enough bugs had gathered to cover me, with plenty to spare.  I’d wanted to be absolutely sure I was covered, so I piled them on top of one another, several layers deep.  It was stifling.  I was forced to breathe through my nose, and my vision was obscured by the bugs that had collected on my glasses.   More than that, it was hot in the midst of the dense swarm.  Still, I was happier enduring it than risking being identified.

I looked out the nearest boarded up window that I could see through, and saw that the group hadn’t moved.  The man with the bottles said something, but I couldn’t make it out.  My leaving to grab the knife and send the texts had carried me out of earshot.

I ran back to the front door, keeping to the same half-crouch as before, to ensure nobody saw me through the gaps in the boards on the windows.  I pulled my shoes back on, straightened, took a deep breath, and opened the door.

“Jesus fuck!” a twenty-something skinhead cursed as I moved to Bitch’s side.  I had a vague sense of what I must have looked like – a tower of swarming insects with vague human definition to it, giving the loose shape of a head, with vague indents in the ‘face’ where my eyes were.

Even Bitch’s eyes widened a fraction as she saw me.

“The hell?” she muttered.

I stayed quiet, keeping my attention on their group.

Bottle man looked me over, then spoke in a low voice, “Tom, was it?  Would you do the honors and deal with this amateur horror show?”

The teenage boy, turned the handgun my way, pointed at chest level.  He smirked and grinned, “My pleasure.”

The scene with Bakuda and her minions hadn’t been so different.  Only difference was, Tom didn’t hesitate a second when it came to pulling the trigger.

The sheer force of the gunshot left me reeling, and it hadn’t even hit me.

I had dropped to a crouch as I stepped outside, leaving most of the bugs where they were above me.  Some had fallen down, but the overall structure had remained more or less stable, each of the bugs gripping one another and spreading out enough to fill in the gap of the vacated head and chest area.

From what my bugs had experienced, I knew the shot had passed only inches above my head, around the center of my chest.  The swarm down where I crouched was denser, to support the structure above them, so I couldn’t see through them as easily.  I could only wait with my breath held, hope that the bugs offered me enough cover to hide my real self.

“The fuck?” Tom spoke.  I moved the bugs in front of my eyes so I could get a partial look at him, and saw him backing away, gun still raised.

I’d borrowed a trick from Grue, and figured it only made sense to borrow one from Tattletale, too.

When I spoke, I hissed the words, and at the same time, I had every bug in the swarm make noise: buzzing, chirping and droning in time with my words, doing everything I could to sound less human.  “Guns are not going to work when my body is like this.”

Putting my hands on the ground, bringing the upright mass of bugs with me, I crawled forward a step.  I saw almost everyone in their group move away.  Only the man with the bottles remained where he was, and he used one outstretched arm to keep Tom from retreating as well.

My ploy was working.  As Tattletale had done with Glory Girl and Panacea, then again with Bakuda, I could sell the idea I had powers I didn’t to mislead and misdirect.

“Shoot, boy!”  The man tightened his grip Tom’s shoulder.

The teenager obeyed, firing thrice more into the swarm, aiming too high to hit me.  Two more shots struck where my chest would have been.  The third passed through my fake ‘head’.

Tom, his eyes wide in alarm, decided to change targets.  He swung his arm to my right to point his handgun at Bitch.

I lunged forward, drawing the knife and swinging it in one motion.  I stabbed Tom in the thigh, as Bitch simultaneously evaded to one side.  Through a combination of my attack, Tom having to adjust his aim and Bitch’s movements, the shot went astray.

As Tom fell over, I collapsed the swarm on top of him.  Avoiding touching him directly, I pulled the gun from his hand, retrieved my knife, and stabbed the point of the knife down on his palm to eliminate any possibility of him retaliating or grabbing for his weapon.

On an impulse, I drew the knife across his forehead.  According to Brian, cuts to the forehead were rarely serious, but they bled enough to look like they were.  It was a fact that people that staged fights often played up, and a technique boxers used to blind their opponents with blood in the eyes.

I left some of my bugs on and around Tom as I moved away from him.  He screamed frantically and struggled to crawl away.

It was more brutal an approach than I might have liked, but as I interpreted it, any effect I generated by injuring him like this, would hopefully prevent others from joining the fight, and would lead to less people getting hurt in the long run.  I didn’t like Kaiser’s followers, I had zero respect for them, but I didn’t want to see them torn apart by Bitch’s dogs.

“This territory is ours,” Bitch growled at them, as people backed away.  Brutus, Judas and Angelica were larger now, their skin split with bloody spikes of bone sticking out of the gaps.  “Leave.”

“Kaiser will hear about this!” the bottle man shouted.

“Leave!” Bitch shouted.

Tom, still mindless with pain and fear, jumped at that command.  He tried to pull himself to his feet and failed, falling to the ground again with a ragged scream.  When he reached out, imploring his friends for help, the skin of his hands and face were almost completely covered in bugs and blood.  It did a lot to help spook the rest into a retreat.  Most of them fled.

The bottle man cautiously moved forward to Tom’s side.  I didn’t move from where I stood/crouched as he bent down to help Tom stand and limp away.

“Fuck,” Bitch muttered.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I hope I didn’t do anything wrong by stepping in.”

She shook her head.

“I mean, maybe if I hadn’t come out, it wouldn’t have gotten violent.”

“He was working up the courage to shoot me,” she spoke.  “It’s fine.”

“What are you going to do?”


“I mean, they’re going to come again.  Maybe soon.  Depending on what they say or who they complain to, there might be people with powers the next time around.”

“I’ll manage.”

“I know this is your space, I think it’s perfect, but maybe you should consider moving somewhere-”

She gave me a hard look.  “Do you want to get hit today?”

I shut my mouth.

“I’m going inside to pick up the shit.  You can help, or you can go back.  Doesn’t matter to me.”

I looked over my shoulder in the direction the skinheads had retreated.

“I’ll help,” I decided aloud. “I said I would, and you might need backup if they decide to come back in force.”  Besides, I’d texted Brian to come, and he’d need a proper recap of what had gone on.

She only whistled twice for her dogs to follow her back inside, glancing back to see they were still following.  She looked at me, and I wasn’t entirely sure, but I thought maybe she didn’t look as angry as she usually did.

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62 thoughts on “Buzz 7.3

  1. I quite enjoyed the chapter. It was also nice to see Taylor’s power be used as an effective tool for psychological warfare, invoking the “arachnid” response. Anything that viscerally creepy is much harder to combat effectively.

    Also cool to see that Taylor herself is not immune to being creeped out by the bugs, despite her unique perspective on them.

  2. Gawddoggit, King, this is turnin’ into a slobberknocker! The Racist has been busted wide open! Boomer Sooner, he’s bleeding like a stuck pig. I don’t know if any championship belt is worth this much pain and suffering! His buddies got him to the back, but he avoided that pinfall by the skin of his…well…head.

    Looks like Bitch may wind up coming around to Coil’s offer if it means a possible turf war with the skinheads. The Undersiders don’t have any henchmen, minions, thugs, or even goons on their payroll. This would be a good time to get some, as bad as the economy is. Should be some leftovers from the ABB, and there’s always a few people standing on the side of the road in horrible costumes holding up signs saying “Will Hench for Food”

    Oh, and now Taylor needs to figure out a way for the bugs to buzz out something that sounds like “Our name is Legion, for we are many.” She reminded me a little bit of that bug demon thing from the movie version of Constantine. Made up of bugs, one hand is a crab, he has to toss the whole thing out into traffic so cars hit enough of the bugs to beat it down too small to fight anymore.

    Damn racists. Kill em all, let dog sort them out.

  3. This chapter made me feel pretty bad for Bitch. Even with all the things that went wrong, this is probably in Bitch’s top 3 most successful human interactions since she got her powers.

  4. One query. Hookwolf is mentioned once, but only once and has no effect on the fight. A typo?

    Second. open bleeding wounds and blackflies called from dogshit. I really hope his friends get Tom some proper medical care.

    • The Hookwolf bit ~was~ a leftover from a previous version. My bad.

      I’d originally had him in this chapter, but when I went to write the next chapter, where he, Taylor & Bitch really duked it out, I found it just didn’t work. Couldn’t do the guy justice & still keep a good flow of events I had in mind for this arc, his presence felt forced (and admittedly was forced), and the way the fight was introduced/played out wasn’t all that different from previous encounters between Taylor and villains. He’ll show up soon, but this wasn’t the place for him.

  5. Bang, Powie, Zap! Is how this installment made me feel. I knew as soon as she looked around for a mask she didn’t have that she would be doing this. I agree it was nice to see she isn’t completely blase about how bugs crawl all over her. 😀 I enjoyed the continued bonding between the two as well.

  6. Cool, more bonding 😉

    I am a little surprised, actually, at the combination of Supers and racism. It sort of seems like getting a super power would sort of put the whole ‘skin color’ thing into a whole ‘trivial’ category. Indeed I would expect a whole different category to crop up, ala X-men, that of ‘super vs normal’; and to overwhelm any other issues.

    • I think that’s the most common route, I don’t necessarily think it’s the most verisimilitudinous scenario.

      I hesitate to elaborate on my own approach, because I’d rather let my readers draw their own conclusions on that front.

      • A lot depends, of course, on whether ‘super’ is hereditary… which, if I recall, you seem to imply. Both hereditary and happening more and more often. The bizarre thing (if the word can apply to a super story) is how each of the powers is different. Makes for a better story, I suppose, but rather illogical.

      • Personally, I’m kind of bored with the “supers are the new [insert minority group here]” approach. That’s why I don’t use it in my own serial, and why I like the approach here.

        I don’t know how Wildbow justified it, but in mine I set up the history such that supers using their powers in a “good” way are generally admired (and associated with the government to a degree), and that people are intimidated enough by powers that they let heroes and law enforcement take care of the “villains.” Plus, people with powers are well known, but not common.

        I tend to go with the assumption that if you almost never meet a super, all the more “normal” social divisions (race, gender, etc…) will be more important in society. Plus, I’m inclined to think that even with supers, gender, ethnicity, and sexuality would be important issues. They’d just have to add a new one to the list.

      • My setting’s history is touched on in the first interlude, in the ‘documentary’.

        But generally, it’s very similar – except for the fact that (I believe) powers in my setting are more common. Not dramatically so.

    • Another reason that anti-black racism (and homophobia, and anti-Semitism, and xenophobia of all kinds) is likely to continue being a going concern: the first superpowered individuals only appeared thirty years ago. Nearly everyone over the age of ten in this world was raised by people who grew up before there were parahumans. I literally cannot imagine a cultural phenomenon as ingrained as racism being eliminated that quickly.

      • And it’s not like a new form of bigotry appearing causes old ones to die out, in any case. Anti-Semitism has far older roots in European culture than racism against black people but the latter hardly eliminated the former.

    • Racism isn’t rational to start with. Nothing is going to put it into a ‘trivial’ category, I think–it’s just a garden variety of “us” vs “them” that’s endemic to humanity.

      BTW wildbow, I’m first-time reading and leaving comments as I do, so they’re all naive responses to the plot so far, for what that’s worth.

  7. “If your power heals, why doesn’t it help herr?” Has an extra r, which ironically goes well with the skinheads.

    I really enjoyed Skeeter’s Swarm Mode. It would be pretty neat if they started calling it that on that Supers forum 😀

    I think that it makes perfect sense for the powers to be individualized. They are brought about through certain psychological triggers and seems to be based on their feelings at the time.

    • based on what powers we’ve seen in action so far, and as i think Tattletale remarked in one chapter, powers in this world may as well be supernatural since they throw the laws of physics right out the window. bending space, stopping time, making metal just grow out of nowhere, changing the size and mass of objects and animals in blatant defiance of conservation laws, accelerating arbitrary masses with a touch and no obvious power source for the kinetic energy… people in this universe may not think of it all as magic, but as far as any regular understanding of how the universe works goes, it is.

      it’s not even a tiny bit obscure, not like how any use of faster-than-light travel instantly makes a scifi story “soft” SF because FTL signalling violates causation as we understand it; these powers are blatantly obviously supernatural. which is okay, it makes for a good story, but any characters in-story that think it’s regularly natural had better be able to explain much trickier issues than the Manton effect first.

      • For sure. I mean, Taylor actively wonders about some of this stuff – so the reality-breaking stuff is brought up; it’s something people (and not just Taylor) are conscious of & are wondering about in-setting.

      • To be fair, there’s a bit of that wierd “WTF” kinda thing in regular science as well, like about gravity, or how black holes can just disappear, or about a layer around the sun hotter than the sun itself. I personally wonder why Saturn sounds like it wants to eat my soul. I just prefer to think of it as “Science! It’s not explained…yet.”

        (PS, the sounds of planets can be quite comforting…or your worst nightmare. Either way, it’s more like converting signals or something into sound, since the lack of molecules in space means sound doesn’t really travel there, better explained by the movie Alien as “In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream.”)

    • No reason they can’t be genetic AND supernatural. Powers in the Wormverse seem to work a bit like DC’s ‘metagene’. Having a metagene gives you the potential for superpowers. But exactly what powers a given person gets seems to be influenced both by their temperament (“hotheads” getting flame powers) and the nature of the trigger event (someone caught in a nuclear blast gaining the ability to transmute elements). DC does seem to play it as “kids tend to inherit their parents powers” but it doesn’t need to be handled that way. It could just as easily be purely the potential to gain powers that is passed on genetically and, judging from Heartbreaker and Regent, that seems to be the way the Wormverse plays it…

  8. More presure to join one of the sides.
    If empire 88 come in force against Bitch, and this will happen, the Undersiders will need Coil´s help.
    Empire 88 may prefer to ask another kind of retribution from them, but it will be hard to keep neutral anyway.

  9. I wouldn’t put it past Coil to have set up the turf tussle to help push Rache into joining him… On the other hand, Occam’s Razor applies pretty well so it could simply be what it appears The timing is just rather convenient.

    • Taylor’s costume uses spider silk for many of the same reasons outlined in that article (as mentioned in chapters 1.2 and 4.4).

      I had no plans for a forum, but I could be pushed to add one.

  10. “We finished our wraps, I dug the half the foil-wrapped baklava out of the bag, set it down on the paper from my wrap and bunched up the foil around the remainder to throw up to Bitch.”

    I think there’s an extra “the” before “half the foil-wrapped baklava”.

  11. Missing word in the sentence “We told you to get of here.”

    Not much else to say… I’m enjoying this [chapter/arc/story] and the plot developments contained therein 🙂

  12. Definitely like this chapter – it’s cool to see more of what makes Bitch tick. And I find myself wondering – if pressed, with E88 closing in, just how many dogs could she pump up at one time? Finding out could prove extremely unpleasant for that pack of racists. Imagine trying to ambush her, messing up…and a minute later a pack of uber-dogs comes bolting out of the building ready to tear you apart.

  13. Not sure why I am unhappy with the confrontation part of this chapter. Taylor spent a lot of time goofing around after it was obvious there was a problem. Would her decoy trick really work, as close as they were? Is Bitch really going to stand there and let them shoot at her?

    • Even if she’s used to battle, I don’t think the chances of her running away and avoiding bullets is high. The other alternative is to use her dogs. But those take a while, and the underlings would definitely not give her or the dogs the light of day for their gradual transformation to complete. Also, we all know she cares for her dogs – Brutus, Angelica, and Judas (i think thats the name), especially so.

      It’s very possible for her dogs and herself to have avoided everything, but who or what can ensure that the underlings wouldn’t bust inside the Bitch’s dog-keeping building without getting her dogs severely injured? Nothing, really, because she has the dogs’ original forn underneath the transformation to worry about. The thinner the layer of meat, muscles, and bone, the weaker, slower, and more susceptible they are. Also, if the underlings did get inside that building, at least a couple of the dogs in there would be TOAST. That, for the dog-loving/caring Bitch would be extremely undesirable.

      So although Taylor’s involvement was extremely dangerous and heavily dependent on not slipping up on her acting skills/appearance, it ended pretty well, disregarding the damage done to the people of the Empire. I wonder how Kaiser will react.

  14. I’m kind of confused as to why Skitter isn’t closer to her bugs. Bitch’s power that allows her to physically manipulate specific animals (dogs), which forces her to develop psychological and emotional attachment to them. Skitter’s power allows her to psychologically manipulate specific animals (bugs), but she has virtually no emotional attachment to them whatsoever. I mean, she got completely freaked out when they touched her, even though I would have assumed she be relatively used to it by now. I suppose the way she interacts with them leads her to thinking of the bugs as a purely information-based source to draw upon, rather than living creatures she has the ability to control. That would make sense, given their “small minds” as Taylor describes her power in a previous chapter. Even so, she isn’t the least concerned when a large amount of them “perish” (another thing… when the bugs die, she doesn’t come right out and say “they died” or “they were killed” – she merely states “they perished”, which implies that she herself is distanced from the bugs, removed enough from their sphere of life that she’s indifferent). So maybe there is something wrong with her, like Bitch, but more subtle? Maybe as her power grows stronger, she becomes more indifferent, less emotional, (more insect-like?) by just a fraction? Tattletale said that there wasn’t anything wrong with her, but we all know Tattletale screws up a lot…
    On the subject of Tattletale, what is her main agenda? When talking with with Coil, her desires weren’t mentioned. We know Bitch wants her dogs taken care of, Grue had some prior personal arrangement, Alec wanted to become better than his father, Skitter wanted to clean up the city (greater good, etc.), but Tattletale’s wants were never even addressed. What’s going on there??

    • dogs/wolves are family mostly. bugs have more of a hive queen+disposable worker/soldiers thing going.
      also bitch’s dogs have a much larger time investment than skitter’s bugs

      • and of course dogs are much more of a thing than bugs…more sympathetic, more aware, more obviously alive. bugs mostly seem like machines and tiny alien ones at that.

        also she’d never be able to use the things if she was going to anthropomorphize them, they’re too fragile she’d have significant losses even when being careful.

        i could see her having a couple favorites if they were especially useful, rare, resource intensive(like having to breed the widows)or if this one wasp seemed to make it out of all her fights in a given time period but even then it’d only live about a week anyway and she knows they haven’t got much mind to speak of. it’d probably be more like always retrieving a lucky arrow than a pet.(she doesn’t even keep terrariums, just scoops them up off the street when needed)

    • Remember that Bitch actually has to train her dogs, she has no direct control over them. In fact, the only thing her power does to help her control them is to make her think like them, which is a very good way to build an attachment. Skitter, on the other hand, has complete control over her bugs. They’re far more like puppets than companions. Throw in the fact that the dogs are less numerous, more intelligent, and more charismatic… and it’s really unsurprising.

    • About the emotional attachment thing. Bugs are just truly different from dogs. According to the standard perspective, bugs aren’t that adorable, or organisms to fawn over with care. Additionally, people tend to have an aversion to bugs, and many think of them as disgusting. Since Taylor hold the standards in said perspective, it’s not unusual for her to not feel much emotional attachment to her bugs. Although, if I was in her situation I think I probably would have had some thoughts of sadness and pity.

  15. i’m not sure Taylor realizes how close she just got to dying. you never ever step in front of a gun, even if it’s not directed exactly at you. she’s only alive because a teenage boy didn’t miss. i would not have taken those odds if i were her. what if he panicked and started shooting everywhere? what if he tried to shoot at her legs? stupid and risky, and i’d expect her to be shaking after, or at least for Brian to berate her over it.

  16. Woo! Go team!
    I think it’s really interesting that Bitch handles her enemies a lot more effectively than her friends. Knowing the difference between an empty threat and a real one, but not the difference between an invasion of privacy and an attempt at understanding, are definitely signs of a more realistic and complex neurodivergence than most stories choose to portray even when they do tackle the subject. I would recommend one or two chapters of Taylor dealing with Bitch over at least a dozen stories whose neurodivergent characters Hear Voices or Can’t Process Social Interaction or Have Imaginary Friends or Have Exactly One Interest.

  17. Why didn’t she just send in her swarm while she stayed inside? We wouldn’t have gotten to see the cool new trick but it makes way more sense.

    • She does consider that when she’s looking for a mask, thinking they might know how her power worked and come looking for her; and I suppose her attack with the knife wouldn’t have worked… but she still should have done that. Maybe she wasn’t thinking straight?

      • Except thats incredibly idiotic when she doesnt even need to use a swarm at all. Is she ever thinking straight? My theory is is that when she gained her powers she became a lot more unhinged than she even realizes

  18. “my vision was obscured by the bugs that had collected on my glasses”, followed by “the loose shape of a head, with vague indents in the ‘face’ where my eyes were.”
    I’d been thinking of reporting this apparent inconsistency till I got to the ‘swarm mode’ bit: nice subtle foreshadowing.

  19. 83 means Heil Christ?!? How dare they?! Those bastards have no right to call themselves Christians!

  20. Ok why does she keep thinking she has to use a super swarm of bugs? THERE BLOODY BUGS YOU TWIT, you dont have to use a billion of them to be BLOODY effective. She doesnt even have to use a mask or anything, and bugs have one thing about them thats really special… they… are…SMALL. 7 of the right bugs can topple kingdoms and stop some idiotic wannabes who dont know whats good for them in a heart beat. DAMMIT DOESNT SHE FREAKING LEARN. No every situation doesnt need everything she can throw or her to even be present. AUGH she is so annoying that it takes her forever to freaking learn. When will sheunderstand that her greatest strength is that she doesnt even need to be there to make a difference. For literally every mission they’ve been on she didnt even actually need to be present to matter but noooooooo she has to be there for some trumped up stupid reason to make the scene more action packed or some bs. The bank fight is the best example in fact. The bugs could’ve been brought in the van and she could have acted as one of her own damned hostages and never even had to reveal herself. Dammit she is annoying sometimes for not even once considering some very very simple things. Like honestly who needs a damn swarm every damn time?

    • I see where you’re perspective is coming from, but those kingdom-toppling bugs are not commonplace. It mentioned that she only had trivial bugs like wasps, ants, and grasshoppers or cockroaches at her disposal.

      So yes, to deal with them in one move, bringing out the swarm would ensure a sufficient amount of attack power against the ARMED Empire underlings.

      Further, didn’t you see what she thought? Since the Empire is well-aware of her existence in the Underside, and generally aware of her powers, if she hid and swarms came after the group, the underlings might bust into the building and spot her.

      They don’t even need to deal physical damage to Taylor. All they need to do is see her, and fit the puzzle pieces together regarding her identity. Killing the witnesses is clearly not an option because they belong to the Empire. Doing so, in otherwords, would make Kaiser’s strong members and all of his underlings of the Empire have a legitimate reason for decimating Underside. Additionally, they would probably have Kaiser’s approval – if that happens, then those of the Empire would NOT be punished for attacking Underside, so nothing, other than the power of Underside, would hold them back. Taylor’s team, I must emphasize, is only 4-6 members strong, even when including herself.

      Also, with Taylor’s experience in sabotage, if there was a convenient area where she could stay out of sight, and have a good view of the two sides while ensuring that she would not be found, of course, she would have settled there. However, even if there was such a place that she didn’t consider, the situation did not slow for her convenience. It was fast-pace, and could have easily ended with either Bitch or her dogs getting shot, with injuries on both sides.

      Honestly, even if Taylor’s decision was not the most efficient way of dealing with the situation, she prevented any casualties, and beneficially deceived the underlings of the Empire by making her powers seem stronger than they currently are.

      One final in-case argument. Injury was bound to happen. The Empire underlings probably weren’t ones to squirm and run at only the sight of Taylor’s swarm, as seen by their stubborness in this chapter, so I don’t see injuring the Empire underlings would be too antagonistic, since, logically speaking, they were the ones that ATTACKED first, and with
      firm intentions of doing so. I don’t think I need to explain the reasons why the intentions were clear as day.

  21. Bitch is like a ultra hard-level otome game character, with only one or a couple bad decisions to ruin the relationship completely (and get the “Bad Ending”, if she was a such a character). Loving this story!

  22. Something about Taylor’s interactions with Bitch always comes off as really awkward and insincere to me, particularly when she (Taylor, that is) tries to match Bitch’s aggression. I know she means well, but it just feels kinda goofy. It’s sorta like a lily white guy going up to a black person and talking with poorly imitated ebonics about how much he likes (insert thing stereotypically associated with black people).

  23. ” I knew the shot had passed only inches above my head, around the center of my chest. ”
    Wait… is she now on all fours?
    Ahhh I get it now.

    Why did she not just generate this bug mass and did control them from the inside of the building?
    And I hate that she does not kill those fuckers.

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