Parasite 10.6

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The residual foam on my glove made my hand sticky as I reached into the compartment at my back and grabbed my baton.  It took me two tries to get my thumb onto the button so I could whip it out to its full length.

I strode towards Bitch, weapon in hand.  Tattletale hurried to catch up to me, turning to keep an uneasy eye on the ongoing fight with the Protectorate.

“Hey, Skitter!” Tattletale grabbed my shoulder.

I whirled to face her, hand clenching my baton.  I could see the change in her expression as some piece fell in place for her.

Shit,” she swore, “Hey, listen-”

She didn’t get a chance to finish.  White smoke billowed around us.  My first thought was that our adversaries were using some sort of bug spray.

The way today was going, it would be just my luck.

I held my breath and hurried out of the cloud, Tattletale following, and searched for the source.  Assault was taking on Regent and Imp, while Grue and Shadow Stalker were dealing with Battery and Weld.  Bitch and her dogs, on the other hand, were facing down Triumph.  Not the matchup I would have chosen, taking on the guy with the sonic shout using dogs with sensitive hearing.

I almost went after Bitch right then and there, but self-preservation won out over any desire for retribution.  As Tattletale and I made our way around the cloud, I spotted Miss Militia.

A black-green energy crackled in her hand, and she lobbed a grenade my way.  I scrambled back, only for it to turn out to be another canister of smoke, billowing out between Miss Militia and me.

Why the smoke?

The bees I had in the smoke were acting funny.  I was surprised to find out why.  I’d known that beekeepers used smoke to pacify the bees before collecting the honey.  My assumption had been that it acted as a tranquilizer, putting them to sleep.  In reality, it was forcing them to revert to instinctual behavior.  It made them want to eat and feed and to flee.  For those near enclosed spaces or even the corners of walls or the foundations of buildings, it made them adjust their wingbeats to divert the flows of oxygen.

If she’d been intending to use the smoke to screw with my insects, she’d underestimated my power.  I canceled out the instincts and sent the bugs through the smoke, blind, feeling out for her.  I found her running towards us, through the smoke.

“She’s coming!” I shouted.

In retrospect, that was a mistake.

Much as I might have warned Tattletale and the others, I’d also informed Miss Militia on my location.  I turned to run, but she was already raising her gun to fire with an ear-shattering crack.

From the way it cut past my bugs, and the wake of disturbed air the pellets left behind them I could only guess she’d just grazed me with a shotgun.  I collapsed sideways to the ground, and the pain came a heartbeat later, radiating over half of my upper body, from my shoulder to my right butt cheek.  I was guessing it was nonlethal ammunition – it could well have been lethal, for the sheer degree of hurt it delivered, if my costume had prevented it from penetrating.

Before she could shoot again, I directed my bugs to her hands and eyes, hoping to incapacitate her.  I still had a small few of the capsaicin-loaded bugs, and sent them all her way.

As hard as it was to see in the smoke, there was still faint light.  That light disappeared the instant Grue used his power.

Miss Militia was staggering and reeling as her hands and face lit up with stings and burns.  The gun wasn’t in her hands anymore, which meant we weren’t at risk of getting shot.  I sent more bugs across to the other members of the Protectorate, to try to disable them.

Tattletale fumbled around and found me in the darkness, clasped her hand around the same hand I held the baton with, and helped me to my feet.  She gave me her support as we limped away.  Nothing seemed to be broken, judging by what I felt.

The darkness disappeared after we’d traveled across the street.  Grue greeted us.  “Dragon?”

“Kaput, thanks to Tattletale,” I spoke.

He looked back the way we’d come, “Damn that smoke.  Listen, Tattletale, head down this street, wait for us.  Skitter and I are going back in to find and retrieve the others.”

I supposed that would be another benefit of using the smoke.  If you didn’t expect to be able to see, then it didn’t hurt to deny your enemy that same privilege.  Miss Militia had been thinking about this.  If her team wasn’t so sparse on members, she could have done a lot more damage.

“My bugs are telling me they’re over there, there and there,” I pointed in the direction of our teammates.  “That’s all I can do for you.  I kind of got shot, not sure I’m up to running around.”

His head snapped around to face me, “Shot?”

“I’m okay, it was nonlethal.  I think,” I assured him, “Go!”

He did, glancing over his shoulder to look at me before disappearing back into the midst of the darkness.

Tattletale and I made our escape.  We got three blocks away before we found a spot to hide.  Tattletale got out her phone and began sending messages, presumably to Grue and Coil.

Our hiding place was the lobby of an apartment building.  Boards had been placed over the windows, and there were signs that some people had camped out here, not long ago.  It was otherwise similar to Grue’s apartment complex.  Less tidy, obviously.

“You okay?” Tattletale asked me.

“That question seems to come up a lot.”

“I’m sorry.  I knew the gun would inevitably overheat, and what little I could read off of Dragon told me she’d deal with that above anything else.  I didn’t think you’d be stuck there, too.”

“No.  Your gun thing there saved my skin.  The real problem was…” I trailed off.  I still had the baton in my hand – the residual containment foam meant I’d probably have to peel the glove away from the weapon.  I clenched the weapon tight.

We sat in silence for nearly ten minutes before the rest arrived as a massed group.  Shadow Stalker was limping, and two of the dogs were their normal size, draped across Bentley’s back, but everyone was more or less intact.

Bitch’s eyes widened fractionally as she saw me.

I was already standing, barely feeling the hurt from where I’d been grazed.  Blood pounded in my ears, and I could feel the buzz of my insects.

“How-” she started.  I didn’t let her finish.  My baton held in both hands, I struck her in the upper thigh.  When she didn’t fall, I let go of the baton and backhanded her.  She toppled, and protests and shouts echoed around me.

It hurt.  Damn it, I’d never really hit someone with my hands before.  I wondered if I’d managed to break something.

There were still bugs on some of my teammates.  I could sense them approaching, Grue and Imp moving to stop me.  I ducked out of the way of their hands before they could grab me, and then held up my baton, menacing them.  I cast a momentary glance towards Shadow Stalker, then augmented my voice with the buzzing and chirping of my swarm, “Don’t.”

“What the hell are you doing!?” Grue roared.

“Ask her,” my response was barely above a growl.

Grue glanced down at Bitch, who was rubbing her chin, opening her jaw wide, as if testing it.

I dropped down to a crouch so quickly that my knee slammed into the ground.  I grabbed the upper end of the baton and pulled it over Bitch’s head, forcing the bar between her teeth, pulling back hard.

Grue moved to stop me once more, and I shook my head.  He hesitated, then stopped.

Bentley was pacing towards me, snarling at the attack on his owner.  I met his gaze with my own, unflinching, and he didn’t lunge to attack, maybe because he didn’t want to hurt his master in the process.  I didn’t break eye contact with the dog as I spoke with the swarm buzzing in accompaniment, “Regent, this isn’t for Shadow Stalker’s ears.”

“Got it,” Regent spoke.  Shadow Stalker moved to the bench by the elevators, sat down, and buried her face in her arms, covering her ears.  Regent informed me, “She can’t hear much of anything, now.”

“Bitch,” I pulled on the bar, eliciting more struggling from Bitch, “Just tried to fuck me over in the fight with Dragon.  Shoved me into the foam.”

Bitch made a muffled noise, then jabbed me in the side, where I’d been grazed by Miss Militia’s shotgun.  It hurt, and in the interest of keeping her from doing it again, I shifted my position so I could force Bitch onto her back against the ground, her head pinned down by my baton.  She could still hit me and jab me, but my shins could take a lot more abuse than her jaw could.  I belatedly realized I’d taken my eyes off Bentley, but he didn’t maul me.  When I looked up, I saw Tattletale had a grip on his chains.

“You’re a coward, Rachel,” I spoke, “You just did the very same thing you hate me for almost doing.  You stabbed me in the back.  You fucked over your own teammate.”

She mumbled something around the bar.  The look in her eyes made me seriously worry she would kill me when I let her go.

“I’m in a position to hurt you now, and I’m pissed enough to do it,” I spoke, my voice low.  “But I won’t.  This vendetta against me ends, now.  You got your shot at me, you fucked it up.  If you’re still mad at me, you fucking better cope, got it!?”

She snarled out two muffled words.  I suspected they were rude.

When I spoke next, I bent low and whispered the words for her and her alone, “When you’re tossing and turning and trying to sleep, remembering what I did and said here and getting pissed off about it?  Remember that you were the weak one.  You embarrassed yourself, fucked up, you were the weakling, the wuss who couldn’t even confront me face to face.  And knowing you like I do?  I’m betting it’s going to gnaw at you.  That’s as much a punishment as I could inflict, I think.  That’s on you, not me.

“You said it yourself, a while back.  It’s a mistake to underestimate me.  You want another shot at it, it had better be really damn good.  Because if it isn’t, I’m going to survive, I’m going to get away.  And then I might break your jaw for real.  For starters.”

I stood, removing the baton from her mouth and stepping away, to give her room to stand.  Leaning against the wall, I pressed the button and collapsed the baton into the handle.  I stared at her.

Working her jaw, she stood and glared at me.  She either didn’t have a response for me, or she did and her jaw hurt too much for her to try giving it.  None of the others were jumping into the middle of this.

In the face of the silence, I offered one final comment, “I think I’ve already covered what happens if you want to continue this vendetta.  Now I’m going to offer you a deal.  Number three, I think, and my deals with you are usually pretty fair, if I may say so myself.”

Her eyes narrowed.

“I fucked up, you fucked up, whatever.  Insult for insult, blow for blow, I’d like to think we’re even.  So now I’m going to trust you to have my back.  I’m going to put myself in more situations where you have a prime chance at fucking me over, backstabbing me, catching me at my most vulnerable.  Because we can’t function as a team any other way.

“I’m going to treat you like a damned teammate, Rachel, but I’ll go one step further.  You think you can put this behind you and satisfy yourself with what you tried to pull earlier tonight?  Cool.  Because if you’re willing, I’ll come with you to help take care of your dogs.  I’ll bring fucking lunch, if you want it.  That’s the deal I’m offering you, pissed as I am right now.  I’ll be your damn friend.”

She looked away, down at the ground, scowling.

“Take it or leave it.”

She decided to leave it, apparently.  Bitch stomped away, slamming the door the moment Bentley passed through it, leaving the rest of us standing there in the rubbish-strewn apartment building.

Grue sighed audibly and looked over our group, “We’d better go.  We should decide what we’re going to do with Shadow Stalker, now.”

“We could keep her,” Imp spoke.

Regent shook his head, “Nope.  There are drawbacks to this, and one of them is that I lose control of anyone I’m controlling while I sleep.  Better to get rid of her on my terms than have her trying to shoot me in the throat while I take a nap.”

“And it’s kind of fucked up,” I spoke.

“I thought you were all-in,” Regent said.

“I am.  But that doesn’t mean I’m an idiot,” I retorted.  “This kind of mind control-”

“Body control,” Regent interrupted, his tone bored, “Her mind still belongs to her.”

“Semantics.  This kind of mind control is pretty high up there on the scale of fucked upness.  People are going to respond to that.  It might be the nudge they need to start responding to us with lethal force.  Think of how different tonight would have played out if Dragon and Miss Militia hadn’t held back.”

“Sure,” he shrugged.  “Whatever.  I don’t know why you’re arguing with me.  I agree, we should get rid of her.”

“What did you do, back in the old days?” Tattletale asked.

“Kept three people I used regularly, with my sister’s help.  But this is fine.  Look, watch.”

Shadow Stalker stood, lowering her hands and arms from around her head, and walked over to the door.  She faced Regent.

“I’m letting you go,” he spoke.

And then he did.  She dropped to all fours on the ground, grunting.  A second later, she was loading her bolt, spinning to point her crossbow at him.  She stopped before firing.

“There’s a catch,” he spoke. “My power?  Once I’ve figured someone out?  It’s a lot easier to control them, after.  Any time you come near me, I can do this.  I can use my power and retake control in the blink of an eye.”

He had her raise her crossbow and point it at her temple.  It was a tranquilizer dart, but the meaning seemed pretty damn clear.

“Next time I get control?  I’m keeping you for a full day.  Maybe two, if I feel like pulling an all-nighter.  And here’s the funny part,” there was no humor in his voice, “I’m going to do it even if I’m in civilian clothes, if my power tells me you’re in range.  You won’t even know when it’s coming.  You’re now a liability to the Wards, and you won’t ever know when or where I’m going to get control again…

“Unless you leave.  Skip town.  Join another team.”

She nodded, slowly.  The movement was jerky, which was peculiar.  Was he giving her limited control of her own movements?

“Now let’s walk you off to the other end of the city before I release you.  I don’t think you’re quite stupid enough to try and follow us, but I think my teammates would be more comfortable if they were sure.”

Shadow Stalker turned and walked through the door.

Regent looked at us, shrugged.  “Good enough?”

“She might be mad enough to come after someone else in our group, but yeah.  Good,” Grue said.  “Let’s go deliver the stuff.”

We didn’t meet Coil in the underground base, and the people surrounding him weren’t all the same uniformed mercenaries that had made up his entourage in our prior meetings.  The meeting place was at the south end of the Docks, near the border to the downtown area, and it was closer in appearance to the refurbished, ramshackle building where I’d reunited with the Undersiders than anything else.

The building was an old quadruplex, and it had been reinforced with metal panels, sandbags and plastic sheeting to keep the interior crisp and dry, much as the other building had.  Small rooms with bunk beds filled half of the lower level, with a bathroom, kitchen and living room taking up the rest.

Finding the lower level empty, we headed to the second floor and found an open space supported by two metal pillars.  There were a half-dozen mercenaries with Coil, as well as a collection of people who looked like they had come from every walk of life.  Teenagers, professionals, and two guys that might have been capes – one thin, short guy with brown skin and a tattoo around his mouth, depicting a mess of sharp teeth penetrating the skin of his cheeks and lips.  The other was burlier, shirtless, and wore a rusty, old fashioned looking mechanical rigging around his hands, with a bear-trap jaw plate.  The frame seemed set up to hold metal claws around his fingertips while allowing his hands the full range of motion.   He had a spiked collar of much the same style.

Coil sat in a black leather armchair, with a laptop set on the table beside him.  Dinah was there, too.  She sat at the base of the chair, on a cushion just beside Coil’s feet, picking at the threads of her white dress with a dazed single-mindedness that told me she had probably received her ‘candy’ pretty recently.

“Undersiders.  Tattletale informed me you were successful, despite complications.  May I see it?”

Tattletale stepped forward and handed Coil the USB thumbstick.  He plugged it into the laptop, then turned the computer so the middle-aged man to his left could type away.

“Data’s corrupted, sir.  Looks like the download was interrupted at the ninety-seven percent mark.”

“Can you fill in the blanks?” Coil asked him.

“Probably.  Will take some time.  There’s encryption.  Good encryption.  Maybe a few days, with the full team working on it?”

“Most likely it is Dragon’s work,” Coil spoke. “Let’s assume it’ll take a week, minimum.  Perhaps Tattletale will be able to assist.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Priority number one, I want the data on the Slaughterhouse Nine.”

I felt a chill, but didn’t say anything.  Was he intending to hire them?  It would be a huge mistake in my book, if he was.

Regent asked the question for me, “The Slaughterhouse Nine?”

“At least some of their members have been seen in town, preying on the locals, disrupting recovery efforts.  The recent chaos makes the city a playground for them,” Coil spoke.  “One of my teams is bound to run up against them soon.”

“How likely is it?” Tattletale asked.  She tilted her head in Dinah’s direction.  “Can you ask her?”

“I suppose.”  Coil put his hand on Dinah’s head, stroked her hair, then slid his hand down the side of her face until he could place his fingertips under her chin, raise her head to look at him, “Pet?”

It was disturbingly intimate in a way I’d rather not think about.  No, not intimate.  That was the wrong word for the impression I was getting.  Possessive.  I looked away.

“Yes?” Dinah asked.

“Likelihood that one of my groups encounters the Slaughterhouse Nine?”


He moved to take the laptop, and the middle-aged man stepped back to let him.  He typed for a few seconds, then turned it around so Dinah could see.  It was a gallery of images.

“Bonesaw.” he spoke.  The girl on the screen looked barely older than Dinah, maybe the same age as Aisha.  The image showed her wide-eyed, a spray of dried blood painted her face at a diagonal.

“Shatterbird.”  A dark-haired, brown-skinned woman with a helmet covering the upper half of her face, in a beak shape.  I was reminded of Iron Falcon, the boy I’d tried to help, who’d died in the Endbringer attack.  From what I’d read, Shatterbird usually used her power as the Nine arrived in a city, to maximize panic and terror.  I supposed they were flying under the radar for now.  Fuck, I’d have to do something about my costume, just in case.

“Crawler.”  No portrait, this time.  It was a still from a surveillance camera, a misshapen silhouette, not even humanoid, in a shadowy area.  I’d come across stories about him when I’d been researching possible superhero names for myself.  Not pretty.

“Mannequin.”  Another long-distance shot.  The figure was standing by Bonesaw in the photograph, with other hulking figures within the shadows of the background.  He stood almost twice her height, and he looked artificial.  His body was in pieces, each section wrapped in a hard shell of ceramic or plastic or white-painted metal – I couldn’t be sure.  His joints were a mix of loose chains and ball joints.  A Tinker with a body-modification fetish.  I couldn’t say how much of the transformation was his own power and how much was Bonesaw’s work.

“The Siberian.”  A woman, naked from head to toe, her body painted in alternating stripes of jet black and snow white.  She had gone up against the Triumvirate – Legend, Alexandria and Eidolon – on a dozen occasions, and she was still around to talk about it.  Or around, at least.  From what I’d read, she didn’t talk.

“Burnscar.” Younger, maybe an older teenager or a young-looking twenty-something.  She looked almost normal, with her dark hair badly cut, but then I saw the vertical row of cigarette burns marking each of her cheeks, and a faint glow to her eyes.

“Hatchet Face.”  This was one I hadn’t even heard of.  The man didn’t wear a mask, and his head was shaved.  He looked like he had been beaten, burned and just plain abused so often that his face was as much scar tissue than flesh, and he didn’t look like he’d been handsome to begin with.

“Jack Slash.”  Jack looked like someone on the attractive side of average, his dark hair cut short and styled with gel.  His beard and moustache were immaculately trimmed so that each had a serrated edge, and his shirt was wrinkled, only half buttoned so his hairless upper chest showed.  He had kind of a Johnny Depp look to him, though he had more of a widow’s peak, a longer face and lighter eyes.  Good looking, if you looked past the fact that he was a mass murderer.  He held a small kitchen knife in the photo.

There were parahumans who were fucked up before powers entered the picture, like Bitch, and there were parahumans who became monsters after they got their powers, like Bakuda.  Then there were the really dangerous ones, the people who had probably been monsters before powers were even on the table, and then they got worse.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, you had Bonesaw, who was like some kind of artist, as psychopaths went.  The sort of person that drew other lunatics to her, just because they wanted to see what she would do next.  Even that wouldn’t normally work as a dynamic, but as I understood it, Jack somehow managed to play them off one another and keep the group more or less intact.  He was familiar enough with the psychology of his group and just plain charismatic enough to keep them from killing one another.

Which wasn’t to say they didn’t.  There were only eight members in their group at present, and the turnover rate was pretty damn high, because they had a tendency towards recklessness, infighting and showy displays.  They thought nothing of descending on an elementary school, just because they could.  When the heroes came for them, they came with lethal force.

“Mmm,” Dinah said.

“What is it, pet?” Coil murmured.

“It’s him.”


She pointed at the screen, at Jack Slash.  “Him.”

“You’re going to have to explain it to us, pet.  What about him?”

“He’s the one who makes everyone die.”

I shivered.  What?

“Everyone here?”

Dinah shook her head, her hair flying out to either side.  “Everyone.  I don’t understand.  Can’t explain.”

“Try,” he urged her.

“Sometimes it’s in two years.  Sometimes it’s in eight.  Sometimes in between.  But if he’s alive, something happens, and everyone on Earth starts to die.  Not that everyone doesn’t die anyways but they die really fast when that something happens, all one after another, and in a year almost everyone is dead.  So I said everyone, if that makes sense and a few live but they die pretty soon after anyways and-“

“Shh, pet.  I think we understand what you’re saying.  Quiet now, unless you think of something important.  We need to consider this.”

Silence reigned for a few long seconds.  You could have heard a pin drop.

“His power isn’t all that, I don’t think,” Grue spoke, slowly, as if considering the words as he spoke.  “Space warping effect, so any blades he’s holding have an edge that extends a horrendously long distance, all with the optimal force behind the swing.  Swings his knife, cuts through an entire crowd.  Doesn’t make sense that he’d be able to murder everyone on Earth.”

“Unless he somehow cuts the planet in half,” Tattletale mused.

That was disquieting.

“No,” Dinah spoke.  “He doesn’t.”

“I think we need more numbers if we’re to understand this, pet.  What is the likelihood that he succeeds in this?  To one decimal point.”

“Eighty three point four percent.”

“You said if he’s alive.  What if we killed him?  Now?  To one decimal point.  If I use my power.”

“Thirty one point two percent chance someone kills him before he leaves the city, if you use your power.  It doesn’t happen until fifteen years from now, if you do.”

“So it still happens?” Coil asked.

“Yes.  Always happens.”

Tattletale spoke up, “He’s the catalyst for something else, then.”

“Is it always successful, pet?  This something that kills everyone on Earth?”

She shook her head, “Not always, not all the way.  Sometimes more people live.  Sometimes hundreds, sometimes thousands, sometimes billions.  But millions or billions always die when it happens.”

“If I were to send the Travellers?  How likely would they be to kill him?”

“My head hurts.”

“Please, pet, this is important.  To one decimal point.”

“Twenty two point six percent.  Thirty point nine percent chance some of them die.”

“And the Undersiders?”

“Eleven point nine percent chance they succeed.  Fifty five point four percent chance they die if they fight those people.”

Coil sighed, then straightened.  He looked at the middle-aged man, handed him the computer, “I strongly recommend you get what information you can on the group.  Any detail in the PRT records could be invaluable.  Lose sleep if you have to.”

The man took the laptop, swallowed, and then offered a quick bob of his head.  The others in the assembled group around Coil looked just as alarmed by what they’d overheard.

“We should contact the local heroes,” Grue spoke.  “Let them know what’s up.”

Coil nodded, slowly, “I’ll look into it.  That said, I think the numbers illustrate one thing.  You are not equipped to fight that group.  If you encounter them, you-“

“Sixty percent,” Dinah muttered.

“Sixty percent, pet?”

“Sixty percent chance the Undersiders encounter some of those people.”

Coil turned to look at us.  “So you’re likely to encounter them.  When that happens, you run.  Cede any territory, abandon any job.  I would rather you were alive than successful in a job.”

“Got it,” Grue spoke.

“In the meantime, we move on to the next phase of my plan,” Coil spoke.  “You may be wondering about this location, how it is similar to the new headquarters I provided you.  I have outfitted these areas to be your stations, points from which you will operate, work to seize and keep territory.  I have several more.  If you’re amenable, I would have each of you take one of these stations for yourself.  Grue, this would be your station, shared with Imp, which I assume is alright?”

Grue looked around, “Big place and a lot of beds for two people.”

“More on that later.  Rest assured, I can provide staff, help.  I expect you’ll wish to find and recruit people of your own.  Contact me about funds – I will ensure that anyone you hire is paid well.”

Grue nodded.

“Regent?  Your territory is near Grue’s, close to the water.”

Regent nodded.

“Bitch is absent?”

“Interpersonal stuff,” Grue replied.  “She’ll be back.”

“A shame.  Your other headquarters, where I moved your collective belongings, that will be her station.  Barker and Biter here showed up for the Endbringer fight, and I got in contact with them.  They, alongside these three young individuals,” he gestured to the two parahumans, and three college-aged kids who looked rather intimidated, “Will work under her.  Barker and Biter profess to be fearless, and should have little difficulty managing the dogs, even when Bitch’s abilities are at work.  The men and the young lady I’ve provided have some degree of training in veterinary medicine or handling dogs.  Let her know this.  She is free to accept them or refuse them as she sees fit.”

Grue looked over the five people who would be Bitch’s henchmen, nodded.

“Tattletale, I’ve set up quarters near Lord Street, in one of the ABB’s old locations.  I assume your teammates will want to be in contact, and this area is both accessible, and it can reach any other area readily.  The area is already furnished with computers, and you’ll find staff there, people who are capable at gathering information, be it from media, computers or the streets.  You’ll also find a small force of mercenaries that I’ve assigned to you, so you can act on that information where you see fit.”


“Skitter, I have set up quarters near the south end of the Boardwalk.  Reconstruction and repair work is still ongoing there, but if you will be patient, it may well be one of the more lucrative locations when things are up and running again.”

I nodded.  That wouldn’t be far from my old home, close to our old hideout.  Did that mean something?  Did he know who I was, or had Tattletale suggested it?  I felt uneasy about that.

“Regent, Grue, Imp and Skitter, I realize I have not detailed any employees to you to begin with.  I leave it to you to start this task for yourself, to decide what you need and how you intend to operate.  Once you have decided this for yourselves, let me know, and I will endeavor to help you fill in the blanks in your individual operations.

“As you leave, you’ll receive emails on the locations of your individual headquarters.  For the time being, all I require from you, for now, is that you establish order and assume some measure of control over your territories.”

There were nods all around.

“Your payment for tonight’s job will be in your accounts shortly, with a bonus for the obstacles you faced.  Any questions?  Any topics you would like to raise for discussion?”

“A few questions, but I figure I’ll see what’s up with this new role we’re taking,” Grue replied, “Then I’ll ask them.”


“I’ve got something I’d like to talk to you about,” I spoke, augmenting my voice with the swarm’s noises to mask it.  “In private.”

“Yes.  That’s fine, I was hoping to have a private conversation with you anyways.  Anyone?  Anything else before we part ways?”

Nobody had anything further to say.  Grue and the others turned to leave, and the crowd around Coil followed them soon after.  One of Bitch’s henchmen – Barker, was it? – leered at me as he passed, dug his hand into his groin in some sort of scratch or a lewd gesture.

Lovely.  He’d get along great with Bitch.

When the group had left the room, I could hear noises downstairs, as they moved about the house.  Or maybe it was Grue, checking his new place.  I was left alone with Coil and Dinah.

I wasn’t sure I liked that our group was being split up like this.  The timing seemed bad.  I’d sort of been hoping I could repair the divide, and that would be hard if we were each in our own territories, doing our own things.

I’d cross that bridge when I came to it.

“I heard about the incident at the hospital, following the Endbringer attack.”

I nodded.

“Tattletale told me that you know I was fully informed about your true nature.”


“Did she explain how?”

I shook my head.  She’d told me about his power in confidence.

“Well, I suppose I may share that detail at some point in the future.  You understand my desire to keep certain things private?”

“Yeah, no.  I get it.  It makes sense, it’s smart.”

“Mmm,” he murmured.  He turned to his pet, stroked her head like one might with a dog or a cat.  She stared down at her dress, picked at a thread that was sticking out, stretching it out long.  The thread snapped, and she let it drift from her hand to the ground.  Then she started picking at another.  Coil interrupted my observations, “So.  You wished to discuss something?”

“Yeah.  I’ve made a decision.”

“Do tell.”

“Before, back in the limousine, you asked me what I wanted out of all this, what I desired from my deal with you.”


“I asked you to fix the city, you told me you planned on doing that anyways, that I should ask for something else.”

“And you’ve decided.”

“Yeah,” I took a deep breath.  “Dinah.  Your… pet.”

“You want me to release her.  I’m afraid-“

I hurried to cut him off, “No.”

He stopped, tilted his head slightly.

I swallowed, felt an ugly feeling in my gut, “I know she’s invaluable to you.  I know how useful her talent is, and the lengths you went to in getting ahold of them.  I don’t like it, but I get it.”

He didn’t respond.  He just stared at me, his mask lacking eye holes, just black cloth stretched over eye sockets.

“I… All I’m asking is that you let her go when you’ve done it.  When you take this city, when you succeed in your plan, you release her to go home to her family.  If you do that, I’ll work for you.  I’ll try harder than anyone, to get this city under your control, and then I’ll work for you for as long as you’ll have me, afterward.”

“I’m afraid, Skitter, that this deal doesn’t quite balance out.  I intend no offense, but my initial impression is that my pet is far more valuable to me than you are.”

No.  My heart sank.

“But I can accept it,” he spoke.  “Provided you prove to me that your talents are worth losing hers.  I admit, the active assistance you can provide might prove more useful when the city is firmly in my grasp, when I have less to be concerned about in terms of day-to-day operations.”

I nodded, numbly.

“Anything else?”

I shook my head, then turned to leave, wordlessly.

When I went downstairs, Tattletale and Regent were already gone.  Maybe they were checking out their new places.  Grue and Imp were in the ‘living room’, opening crates of stuff to see the supplies they had available.

I wasn’t up to talking to them, or explaining the recent conversation.

Leaving the building without a word, I sloshed through the water.  I realized my fists were clenched, and my glove was sticking to itself, thanks to the residual containment foam.  Annoying.  I wondered if I could scrub it off.

When I peeled my fingers away from the glove, I realized my hand was shaking.

I took a deep breath, to calm my nerves.  I could do this.  Whatever I had to do, I was going to help that girl.

Last Chapter                                                                                                Next Chapter

76 thoughts on “Parasite 10.6

  1. mistake I think..’ I can providing staff, help’.. doesn’t make sense..
    but otherwise ….. finally we find out what her big decision was and although it would have been cool if she went screw everyone and saved Dinah it probably wouldn’t have been realistic. This decision was really realistic. Its nice to see a main character who isn’t always super strong. Also, Bitch got what she deserved and Taylor was a complete badass..tis lovely seeing this side of her sometimes.

  2. I doubt that she will be able to help this girl in such a way.
    Coil may have some honor, but I really do not know how far it goes.
    Nice fight, wonder what bitch will do now.

  3. Given the low profile- and for them, ONLY nailing some people to some buildings is pretty low profile- it could be that the Nine are looking for their ninth member. Recruiting.

    I thought Skitter handled Bitch pretty well. Not so sure about what she did with Coil. Seems somewhat premature- but it could of course just be because she thinks Coil is expecting it.

  4. Taylor has issues. I’m not going to suggest that her actions about Dinah are out of character or bad writing, people make stupid decisions all the time, especially if they’re as messed up as she is. Taylor’s plan is morally wrong and unlikely to succeed. As far as resue attempts go, it’s likely to fail in so many ways and is going to f**** up Taylor’s life and hope of not being a criminal even if she suceeded.

  5. “if my costume had prevented it from penetrating.” should be “hadn’t” I think.

    I really hope Taylor’s thought her plan thru a bit further than she’s letting on to Coil. It looks like it’s bound to screw up otherwise.

    So, each of the Undersiders is getting minions to run criminal operations in some teritory? That’s going to be a serious temptation to Imp at least. Be interesting to see what they do with them.

  6. At least grue’s there to rein her in. What’s rule no. 1 little sis? Do Not Sleep With The Henchmen.

    Speaking of which, its nice to see bitch has people like her.

  7. Slaughterhouse Nine. What a group.

    I see we have a Bird, a psychokinetic like Carrie, a tall inhuman-looking fellow of unknown origin(is he unnaturally Slender, perhaps?), a slasher like from Friday the 13th or Hatchet, a mysterious crawling creature that watches you from the darkness(I hope he doesn’t know how to use a Rake), and an American psycho.

    Don’t go out tonight, it’s bound to take your life.

    There’s a bad moon on the rise.


    That aside, this is an interesting situation. Dividing the team up to control different portions of the city. Individuals with experience in the city who are motivated to maintain control and in deep with the operations who are comfortable with the level of conflict around put in command of different areas and expected to act independently with their own forces.

    War time.

    No more guerrilla style tactics as criminals by utilizing a few groups of powerful individuals all bunched up to take advantage of spread out enemy forces. Amusing. As Sun Tzu says, strive to be like water, which flows to the low areas. Take advantage of an enemy’s weakness and hit them there. So Coil spreads out his forces at a time when opposing forces are at their weakest, after the city was flooded and attacked.

    Money isn’t a problem for him, nor are supplies. His opposition is bringing in relief supplies daily, which can be easily intercepted.

    Coil has a chance to become an integral part of the city in the way that the Yakuza are in Japan, and may be capable of creating a scenario like the Kowloon Walled City where the city stays out of any kind of government control.

    There’s just one flaw…

    *He clings to Coil’s boot* Come on, please? We really need Nude Wednesdays for morale purposes! Can you honestly think of any better way to spend hump day? *Gets kicked enthusiastically by Coil* How about bikini Sundays, for tanning purposes? You can wear a one piece if you’d rather not have a skimpy top. I have this one pink and white polka dot twopiece that’ll knock your socks off. *Starts getting attacked by henchmen wielding socks full of coins, soon forced to let go.*

    No fair! Can I at least start up an ice cream shop here? I can?

    *grins evilly, thinking back to a plan he detailed once*


  8. Argh Taylor get yourself a damn genetic tinker if there exists something like that, I already thought that since a long time and now Coil offers personel and it does not even cross her mind sigh.
    I mean if she can control everything with a sufficient primitive nervous system as it sems so far the most obvious way to raise her effectiveness is to get stronger lifeforms and in case you do not want these to disturb the ecosystem,make them run on the biological equvialent of rocketfuel so they simple starve to death in case they leave Taylors care.
    Sigh or atleast import some darwin bark spiders and build yourself a tropical greenhouse,.

    • Well, Grue said that he’ll hold off on personnel requests until he takes a look at his accommodations, and Skitter might do the same. I kind of hope she does, (further) descent into villainy or not.

  9. I just wanted to tell you that I really, really like your story. I discovered it a few days ago and read it in several late night archive binges and now am eagerly awaiting more. The quality of your story is on par with some of the commercial stuff out there and better than some of the stuff in the Amazon ebook bargain bin. You really should consider, once you are done, to split this up into good sized books, make the first one free and sell the rest for a dollar or two on some place with low entry barriers like Amazon Kindle Market.

    As for what is currently going on in the story, I expect things to get a lot of worse for pretty much anyone involved. If the Endbringer fight had such huge casualties I can only imagine what sort of a mess this current end of the world scenario will be. At the very least it might get our heroine closer to her original wish of being a superhero, if she helps out.

    More short term she is going to have to put up want adds “Experienced criminal with entomology degree wanted must be both loyal and ethical.” Or perhaps something more feasible.

    For Shadow Stalker I hope she leaves gets help and eventually in the run up to a cataclysmic fight has to team up with Skitter, tries to apologize and then learns exactly why Skitter dislikes her so much.

    Keep up the good work.

    • When you’re talking about the late night binges on a work you just discovered, you’re definitely talking my language, haha. Done that myself with some stories/novels/shows/games. So it means a lot to hear that. Thank you.

      I do intend to publish Worm. Not positive on the route I’m going to go, but yeah. I’d love to go with a method that sees a print book, but that’s purely a vanity thing on my part (I’d love to have such a book on my shelf and be able to say I wrote it) and there’s a few hurdles with wordcount & breakpoints that would be harder to get past.

      The idea of releasing the first book for free is interesting. I say that because I know that if I were to divide the book, I might divide it so that the first ‘book’ ended at the end of Arc 4 (after defeating Bakuda), which would put the word count at 70,000…. short for a book. Going too much later, though, feels like I’m cutting the story short in the middle of something. I’ve been debating adding an incentive/bonus material so that people who have actually read my story onlnie might want to buy it for reasons other than thanking me. Something like ‘Guts and Glory’, a 30k-50k word arc based around Glory Girl and Panacea. Or something based around our second-favorite Tinker, Armsmaster, casting more light on him.

      That’d require me to find the time to write a side arc, though, and I’d want to make it good, keep it tied into the main story. Tricky business. The easier route might be to release the shorter book 1 for free, as an incentive to buy what follows. Hmm.

      Dunno if I can comment on the other stuff without spoiling/misleading/whatever, so I’ll stay mum for now. Thanks for reading, hope to see you in the comments section in the future.

      • why not just make short books from every arc…shorter than your average book longer than say a manga/graphic novel/short story… its not the norm but that doesn’t mean it can’t work. So instead of having 3 long books which is typical you have 10 short ones. The cliff hangers and the interest in plot development alone would encourage people to keep buying/getting the next books..that’s my opinion anyway. Who knows maybe this could become a new way of publishing books. Smaller books are easier to carry, quicker to read and it may be cheaper for some people to buy small books one at a time or they could just buy it all together as a set. Also by publishing it as a short book you can test the waters in a wider market of readers. I know some people that publish short stories to see how they do and if people are interested enough they continue publishing… I think I just really think you should publish since I really enjoy this series and I’ve told other people about it and they agree…

      • What afifakhan2001 is suggesting is actually what “Ubersoft” is planning to do. He’s intending to publish on a monthly basis, much like a comic.

        Is that a good idea? No clue.

        Personally, I’m planning to divide things into roughly 90K chunks, and publish that way.

        • From an inventory management perspective, as it were – I really hope wildbow doesn’t break it up into too many books. I read ridiculously fast, and thus have a truly absurd number of ebooks to keep track of; I tend to buy omnibus editions of everything just so I don’t have to check the internet for the order of the books in the series, or remember to redownload all fifteen books before going out of town, or whatever. There’s a balance to be struck between attractive pricing (omnibus may be cheaper in the long run, but it’s easier to get people to shell out $0.99 per installment until they’re hooked) and reader convenience, but at least physical restrictions aren’t in play any more.

      • 70k words is not unreasonable for an Amazon eBook if it’s priced appropriately (usually around $2-4) It’s *definitely* a reasonable size for $0.🙂.

      • I’m reading afifakhan2001’s suggestion as “like the Animorphs books” — release each arc as a short “book”, and maybe gather up groups of arcs into storyline-sized “omnibus editions”. Then you could (assuming e-publishing) release the first appropriate unit for free, and charge for the following ones.

        (Of course, that’s slightly undermined by everything still being available for free here. I appreciate it obviously, but it makes it harder for you to make money off it. But you’ve presumably thought of a way around that, even if it’s just tighter editing.)

        • I understand that Wildbow’s goal is to do a comprehensive rewrite. I’m not sure how far along he is in his goal but he seems to be an even better writer nowadays so it should be brilliant when it’s done.

  10. I’ll just leave this here….

    I had fun doing the first Skitter fanart and thought I might work my way through the other characters if I can find easier ways of digging up their descriptions, and I had a fairly good mental image of Grue I thought I’d take a wack at.

    Loved the addition! I agree that having Skitter asking Coil to release her after his plans were finished are way more realistic (at least more so than a daring rescue against a guy who creates alternate realities and has his own organized army). And that girl has to have a spirit of iron with all the pain and suffering she’s gone through, to not just throw all her ideals to the ground and say “screw it”. She’s like the spiritual successor of Batman in the body of one of his enemies daughters or something. Except texting killed her mom, and not robbers… maybe she’ll organize an underground war against texting while driving, one day. And after the big reveal of the identity of the Shadow Stalker girl (who I assumed would go insane after being controlled for so long, with her personality), I started thinking how much it would make sense for Skitters father to be a retired villain of some kind, and the wife to have been a hit by someone.

    The above comment about the Slaughter House 9 being there also to recruit someone was an interesting thought… especially with how Skitter might be getting a bit of a reputation as a freakazoid with her insect powers and habit of hacking pieces out of people like Lung.

    Anyway, keep up the great work!

  11. It seems like Taylor just got on a slippery slope. It also seems like she’s becoming a bit of a badass, if I may say so. If she can use Coil’s resources to acquire more powerful bugs, so to speak, she could be quite a formidable anti-villain. Or is it antihero? Time will tell. We’ll see if “all-in” includes lethal force.

    I can’t imagine her avoiding killing anyone for long, though, as word will probably get around. Then again, if anyone could avoid killing someone, it’d be Taylor, as her power can be psychologically devastating. Ditto with Regent (in terms of psychological impact), as we just saw. I can see him just finding the most powerful person in a particular group, arranging for them to be kidnapped, and then using them to kill the rest of the group. Rinse and repeat, if he’s so inclined.

    Then the criminals run to where Bitch is and get mauled by stray dogs that have suddenly turned into monsters. The survivors have to choose between swarms of bugs, a girl who knows way more than she should, and whatever the hell Imp and Grue end up doing. Coil’s plan could well prove highly effective.

  12. I haven’t had much time to comment lately, but good chapter as always, Wildbow.

    I am a little bit perplexed by Coil’s decision to split up the team and give each member a territory. Not only does having homogeneous teams (Tattletale’s Badass Normal mercenaries, Bitch’s canine squad, etc.) reduce their versatility, it seems like Peter Principle in action: the Undersiders are very good at what they do (sneaking into places and then fighting their way out, usually), so they are getting promoted and assigned to do something else (control territories and command minions), which requires a very different set of talents and skills. In other words, not every good soldier makes a good caporegime. Tattletale and Grue would probably manage well, and Skitter will learn to quickly, especially if she requisitions a good consigliere, but Regent would probably rather play video games, and Bitch is Bitch.

    A big part of me hopes that Taylor does embrace her new job (all the while telling herself that she is just doing it to help the city and save Dinah), and starts spending her ill-gotten gains and requisitioning personnel and equipment to make her life more comfortable and her powers more effective, if nothing else because the girl deserves a break. Also, it would be fun to see what sort of a lair she could build for herself and what minions she could hire.

    Incidentally, she used the buzzing to mask her voice again in this chapter. Does she always do it when dealing with relative strangers, was she trying to be more intimidating in front of Coil and the newbies, or is it becoming a habit?

    “Regent, Grue, Imp and Skitter” is missing a serial comma after “Imp”.

    • At the very least, she can do something to look after her dad and try to help out his guys if possible.

    • I have to disagree, at least a little, with the suggestion that the promotion of the Undersiders is an instance of the Peter Principle in play. One thing to consider is that while being a good enforcer/criminal is sufficient to establish competence at leading and organizing such people, it is certainly reasonable to assume that the capacity to be a good criminal at the street level is a necessary prerequisite. That said, given only this necessary but insufficient sort of confirmation, it’s still a gamble to enact such a promotion.

      Too bad Coil doesn’t have any way of calculating the odds on such a gamble. Oh, perhaps he does. Well, even so, success in leadership is vague enough that precise numbers may not be so useful. What he really needs is a way to assess longer-term consequences of handing such power over to the Undersiders. It’s not like he can have it both ways, promoting them and not promoting them, to see which works out better. Right?

      • Good points, especially about the probability girl. On the other hand, Coil can only keep track of two realities at once, so he will only be privy to the immediate consequences of splitting up Undersiders before he has to commit to a path and split on some other dilemma.

        At the same time, I am not so sure that being a good Soldier is a necessary condition for being a good Caporegime. Case in point, Tattletale: without muscle, she is just a girl with a gun, who happens to be unusually good at anticipating what her opponents will do, so even on the proverbial battlefield, her optimal role is of a coordinator, and if she has to be a Soldier, something has already gone very wrong.

        So, I wonder if there is an ulterior motive here, implementing a Divide and Rule strategy to keep the Undersiders from potentially challenging him, and to surround each Undersider with minions whose first loyalty will be to Coil and not to the other Undersiders.

        Anyway, it just sunk in that Skitter made Caporegime in a crime syndicate at 15, after a (rather eventful) month as a Soldier. Talk about an overachiever!😉

        Actually, here’s another random thought about Coil’s use of Dinah. It seems to be harder for Dinah to get the probability down to a higher precision, yet Coil keeps asking her to give three digits of precision, even for decisions that seem to only require one, if the decision threshold is greater than 0.9 or less than 0.1. Is it because he can’t ask the same question twice, so if the answer does turn out to be something that would be rounded to 0 or 1, he can’t ask for a follow-up? Or, is he just bad at decision theory? Ideally, he would decide on a decision threshold, and then ask Dinah if the probability is higher or lower than that. That’s only 1 bit of information (sort of), which is equivalent to asking for 1/3 of a digit. (Just to be clear, I am talking about fractions, not percents, so “one digit” means essentially rounding to the nearest 10%.)

        • I think it is the other way around. He asks her to limit herself to 5 significant digits because otherwise her power might compel her to rattle off irrational numbers. Perhaps he’s found that 5 sig figs is enough to keep her from hurting herself too badly by cutting off her power before she’s finished reciting the actual value, while still being a small enough string that he can comfortably round off without losing his train of thought. Alternately, he could be an asshole who intentionally triggers her headaches to keep her hooked on the ‘candy’. Or maybe both? Both is good. A happy balance between villainy and utility.

          I get the impression, though, that poor Dinah is–at least for now–a slave to her power, rather than gifted with it. Otherwise, she might have been a bit harder for Coil to abduct, and a lot harder to keep.

      • When I say that any caporegime (to use your term) ought to have the capacity to be a good street-level criminal, I’m not saying that it ought to be a good idea for a potential caporegime to be used as such. In fact, almost by definition, people who can lead and organize criminal activities are “wasted” in a position like that, so far as Coil’s concerned.

        That said, any caporegime ought to *have the capacity* to perform effectively at the street level, which Tattletale certainly does, on numerous occasions. If Tattletale had been unable to contribute on the field as part of the Undersiders despite the “just a girl with a gun” limitation, then it would suggest at the very least an inability to take best advantage of her powers.

      • Fair enough. I am still not sure it’s that straightforward, though I would never question Tattletale’s badasstitude.

        One interesting motive for Coil to organize things this way is parahuman solidarity. He is trying to set himself up as a parahuman ruling over a city populated primarily by ordinary humans. My sense is that, at least in North America, there is a strong undercurrent of fear of parahumans taking over. Indeed, one likely reason that Canary (or whoever was the rogue with the compelling voice) got sent to the Birdcage for her first offense that was an accident, while captured supervillains are often given a second chance without an unmasking, is that her power is directly conducive to manipulating public opinion on a grand scale and acquiring political power. Scion, for all his might, could not just tell a city or a country to vote for him in an election or an army to march and have them be compelled to do it. Canary could.

        Coil is making that fear come true, and if it provokes a response, he needs the top of his chain of command to all be parahumans, who would not be able to save themselves from an anti-parahuman backlash by betraying him. However, he only has a limited number of parahumans at his command, so he doesn’t have a choice but to spread them out as Capos.

  13. One minor criticism I have of this chapter is that only a few of the Slaughterhouse Nine got their powers described. I think that the readers should “know” everything that Taylor knows about them. Perhaps in the Cast tab?

    • Perhaps an aura of mystery surrounding them so that exact details aren’t always known by the general public? I don’t mean a literal aura, I just mean that all the rumors and assumptions collide in such a way that you can’t know for sure.

      Not so sure their powers need to be in Cast already. We will have to see.

      • The thing is, we are not general public. We already know a lot more about he superhero community than the general public, and unless there is value in suspense and surprise with respect to this specific question, which there shouldn’t be unless the information is not available to Taylor since her actions would incorporate what information she does have, why shouldn’t we know?

        Perhaps a Parahumans wiki?

  14. Psycho killers. ques ques se. fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa. Better run run run run run run run away!!!

    Touchy subject in a different way. Many misconceptions about mental illness that are the result of or incorporated into depictions of so-called psychopath types. Technically speaking, just being a psychopath, or even one with powers, doesn’t mean you’re going to go and start taking people apart with a cheesegrater. Just more likely. Regular people also go and do a lot of that crazy stuff all the time. To once again talk out of my butt (or as a bad speller on the internet would call it “Ur anus”) it could be difficult to differentiate between the actions of a psychopath and those of someone who was carrying out a sufficiently despicable order if all we looked at was bodycount, horror, selectivity of victims, and gore involved.

    But maybe it’s not psychopathy. It’s just normal for a bunch of various effects we associate with insanity to be tossed together into one person who does really bad things and call them a psycho. Obviously, some people have those, but not everybody who goes crazy hears voices or feels like someone else’s intestines are trying to escape from their tyrannical body and its dictatorial brain.

    Throw in the fact that most people are presented as a psycho with no look at the cause, because there is always a cause to it, and you just have some two dimensional crazy man who snapped one day.

    Now, now, some people might accuse me of hypocrisy there, but I assure you that I, Psychopomp Gecko, am merely advising some caution while also picking at a detail I dislike if I were to do a deep intellectual analysis of something. I don’t have reason yet, I think, to think Wildbow’s going to try and imitate Saw or Hostel just to show that the crazies really are crazy.

    PS, You might want to avoid going the Mortal Kombat route of having every other person decapitated. A man in tight pants with super powers just can’t pull it off. The French could, but they’ve always been stylish.

  15. Okay I amit I was distracted for the last couple weeks and haven’t been reading this. Sorry.
    Well, I just spent the last 2 days reading the last 2 arcs.
    I got to say they were amazing!
    And I am going to take a guess and say the world ending event is going to be a war of parahumans vs humans. Don’t respond to that! Please don’t confirm or denie it it is just a guess.
    Well, I look foward to reading more.

  16. “Not the matchup I would have chosen, taking on the guy with the sonic shout using dogs with sensitive hearing.”
    Sonic shout eh? I guess not every ticket wins in the power lottery. In fact last I checked, NOT having a sonic shout was a disability.

    Further reading on the topic:

    And yes, that latter one is there for the very purpose of showing I’m quite aware I’m being anal here.

    And yes, I’m quite aware I just did the same thing.

      • Leave as is. The sentence is understandable in its context.
        If you try to make every sentence exact in its meaning you will end with: A sonic shout capable of transporting enough energy to topple of a building if said building was built using …
        Or: Capable of somehow emitting longitudinal waves of pressure in a range of frequencies from 100 to 15000 Hz, intensity from 1 to 30 KJ/m^2.
        Even when teaching quantum mechanics sometimes we must use the flexibility of the language instead of giving a complete definition of all.

        • 1.5, I think, she mentions she had the option but didn’t take physics (but she still knows she couldn’t jump off a building with the bugs helping her float).

  17. I’m taking forever to go through this but I wanted to comment to tell you how much I’m enjoying this. I feel somewhat disappointed in Taylor but her reasons for doing everything are well thought out. I look forward to being surprised by the next arc.

    • I’m glad you’re enjoying.

      Not surprised you’re taking a while to get through it. As of the last time I checked, Worm amounted to 9-13 full length novels. 🙂

  18. I haven’t gotten back to the point I was at when I started reading Worm, but I think Parasite is where I’d start the series. Beginning with Taylor being introduced as an aspiring hero who intended to betray her teammates – but switched sides – is a good curiosity hook. It seems best to start by diving right into her core motivation with Coil and Dinah, and the emergence of the S9, as well as beginning with the team dynamics that really start everything off. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’d rework the previous material a bit and turn it into a prequel.

    Nothing I’ve read in it has struck me as particularly important to know for where I started from, and hasn’t added a whole lot of content that I feel warrants reading the rest of it along the way as a vehicle to get to the S9 arc. What I mean to say is that the story seems to stand alone from here on out – the previous content is like getting breadsticks with a pizza. It’s nice to have and you’ll want to dig into it later, but the pizza is what you paid for, and the breadsticks don’t make the pizza better – even if it makes the order you placed a better thing.

    • I see what you mean. I’m reading 10.1 with the idea of starting there in mind, and yeah — there’s a few events that you wouldn’t have seen, people like Lung whom you wouldn’t know about, but it’s a good chapter for getting a new reader up to speed.

    • Just to be clear: I like the place it starts, and I like everything in the first nine arcs, and I wouldn’t refactor the story to start here … but in the same way that the author of Schlock Mercenary has told new readers to try starting at Book 3 or Book 10 rather than the absolute beginning, new readers of Worm who aren’t picky about getting the whole story and want to skip ahead a bit could start at Arc 10.

    • Personally I disagree. For me that slow burn where we got to know the characters and the series gradually escalated is very important to fully appreciating where we are now.

      You could possibly argue that nothing from the first nine chapters is critical information-wise. But this point in the story matters to us so much because we journeyed with the protagonists in getting here. I don’t think I would care half as much if the story had started at this point (which isn’t to say it wouldn’t still have been interesting).

      The space to do that sort of slow burn and gradually draw the reader deeper and deeper is one of the beauties of the web series format and it’s great to see that used so skilfully and effectively here.

  19. So I was just watching a Johnny Depp movie before I came by to continue my re-read. It is really sad that I can totally see Jack in that lunatic of an actor. Can’t believe I missed that on my first read-through of Worm.
    [spoiler removed.]

    • I edited your comment to remove a spoiler. Doing something like saying “there’s a twist ending” is a spoiler in and of itself (this isn’t what oblivion6 said, but it still illustrates my general point), and we mustn’t upset the new reader’s reading experience.

  20. Hey in this chapter the alternate end of world count is eight years. Later i believe it becomes 15 or 16 years did the prediction change or is that an oversight?

    • Fifteen years is given as the maximum time in which it would occur in this chapter as well. They just have to kill Jack first.

  21. I think the creepiest thing about Coil so far, is that he has to tell a henchman that it is acceptable to lose sleep over something, with the obvious implication that knowing that there was an 83% chance of total human extermination wouldn’t do that already. It seems like if they could convince the Protectorate of how important it was, even someone as tough as one of the Slaughterhouse 9 wouldn’t be able to survive. If only he was a normal villain, they might be able to convince him to kill himself to save the world, but if he’s one of the really nasty ones he would probably just get a good laugh out of it.

  22. >If her team wasn’t so sparse on members, she could have done a lot more damage.


    >“Bonesaw.” he spoke.

    Grammatically and stylistically incorrect. Try a comma.

    Fucking Taylor. Coil could give you pretty much anything, and you settle for this? Goddamn, girl, his pet can easily be considered collateral, and her situation isn’t that bad anyway.

    Fucking Taylor.

    >>>>>>>>>You are posting comments too quickly. Slow down.


    • Or, of course, “more scar tissue than flesh”. I imagine you changed between these two options but forgot to change one word.

  23. “I still had the baton in my hand – the residual containment foam meant I’d probably have to peel the glove away from the weapon.”

    “When [Bitch] didn’t fall, I let go of the baton and backhanded her.”

    Isn’t this a logical error? Taylor spent like ten minutes sitting around doing nothing, she should mention it if she manages to peel the baton off her glove.

  24. And if that wasn’t bad enough, you had Bonesaw, who was like some kind of artist, as psychopaths went. The sort of person that drew other lunatics to her, just because they wanted to see what she would do next.

    UVYNEVBHF va uvaqfvtug.

    • Nyfb nzhfvat: Znaardhva vf qrfpevorq nf “n Gvaxre jvgu n obql zbqvsvpngvba srgvfu.” Na haqrefgnaqnoyr zvfgnxr, tvira uvf nccrnenapr, ohg shaal orpnhfr vg ernyyl vf n tbbq qrfpevcgvba… bs gur crefba ur’f cubgbtencurq arkg gb.

  25. Huh. The current S9 are tagged in this chapter. That’s interesting, considering that they come up in discussion only briefly- one paragraph each about them as individuals, and that split between physical description and vague references to their exploits- and don’t actually appear. Very interesting when you compare it to Extermination, and all the people who do appear in those chapters but don’t get tagged. (Particularly notable is Shielder’s tag- despite his key roles in certain Extermination chapters, and the fact that his tag was established previously on his appearance in Buzz, he isn’t tagged in Extermination at all.)
    It’s a very small thing, and barely connected to the actual literary work, but I always get curious about the nuts and bolts.

  26. The Slaughterhouse Nine. It’s interesting to try and figure out how a doomsday could occur through the actions of one person, although I suppose it didn’t specifically mention that his actions alone cause the world to keel over, just that by him existing, everyone dies. One has to wonder if this might become a moment when Taylor has to sacrifice a bit of herself for the greater good, a setup for her to kill. She popped Lung’s eyes out to stop his rampage, although she knew he was going to regenerate; I wouldn’t put it past her to kill, if she could convince herself she was in the right for it.

    Dragon saying she would be in touch really seems like the sort of thing that needs to be told to the rest of the Undersiders, or at the very least Tattletale. They just agreed to try trusting her again, and if they find out about Taylor talking to the enemy, I’m hard pressed to believe they’d give her a third chance, regardless of circumstances.

    Onward to the next chapter!

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