Imago 21.2

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Atlas started to falter.  Compared to humans and other animals, bugs didn’t quite have the same ability to push themselves past the breaking point.  Most bugs were small, and their bodies were hyperefficient, condensed down to the essential elements.  If a bug needed to be able to leap, to lunge or to fly, it maintained a certain capacity and it didn’t generally go beyond that.  It wasn’t absolute, but I’d found it was a definite trend.

In brief, there wasn’t really a hundred-and-ten-percent.  When Atlas started demonstrating fatigue and difficulty in carrying me, I wasted no time in setting him down on the ground.

I ran my hand along the giant beetle’s shell while Tattletale and Rachel caught up.

“Problem?” Tattletale asked.

“No,” I said.  “Yes.  Can I catch a ride on a dog?”

“Yeah,” Rachel said.  She whistled, loud and sharp enough that I flinched, and swept her finger in my direction.  One of her dogs took the cue and approached me.

“What’s wrong with Atlas?” Tattletale asked.

“He’s wearing out,” I said.  My voice sounded flat.  “During the Echidna fight, I saw how quickly he was getting tired, and I chalked it up to the fact that he hadn’t eaten properly while separated from me… but I’ve been realizing that it’s more than that.  I haven’t figured out the perfect diet to give him absolutely everything he needs, and I’m only barely managing to maintain an equilibrium.  Every time he gets hurt, every time he gets tired, there’s general wear and tear I can’t compensate for.”

“I’m sorry,” Tattletale said.

“That’s the way things go, isn’t it?  Nothing works a hundred percent right.”

“I suppose you’re right,” she said.  “I have to wonder, when you named him, what was the idea behind calling him Atlas?”

“My mom raised me as a reader,” I said.  “He’s a giant-sized Hercules beetle, and the only name-upgrade I could think of from Hercules was the titan Atlas.”

“The titan who bears the weight of the world on his shoulders.  Apropos.”

I shrugged.

“And like his master, he’s having trouble with his burden?”

“I’m really not in the mood for the Tattletale psychoanalysis.”  I climbed onto the dog’s back.  It wasn’t one I knew well, and moved away from me as I climbed up its side, making the process more awkward.  Rachel made sound that was almost a bark, almost an ‘ah!’, and the animal went still.

“Maybe it’s not exactly what you want, but what if it can help?”  Tattletale asked.

“My issues aren’t ones that can be fixed with words,” I said.  “Unless you have any insights to offer about Tagg, a way to make this world suddenly make sense, or a way to make people stop being such assholes, such morons, then I’m not sure I want to hear it.”

“He got to you.”

“No,” I said, shaking my head.  “Nothing he said-”

“But he got to you, even if you ignore everything he said.”

“Armsmaster,” I said.  “Kaiser.  Purity.  Miss Militia.  Piggot.  Dragon… a bunch of others I can’t even be bothered to think of.  Why is it so hard to find someone who’s willing to cooperate?  To find someone that’s on the same page as me?  They keep making these calls I just can’t understand, sometimes unfathomable, stupid calls, and things keep falling apart.”

“They probably look at you and wonder why you can’t fall in line with their perception of the way things should go.”

I shook my head.  “It’s not like that.”

Tattletale didn’t interject or argue.

I struggled to find the words.  “…What I’m talking about, ideas like keeping the peace, keeping people safe, making sure that everyone’s safe, it’s… they’re not complicated.  This is basic stuff.  If we can’t get the fundamentals right, then how are we supposed to handle the more complicated stuff, like keeping this city running, or stopping war from breaking out?”

“If we could all handle the fundamental stuff, the larger issues wouldn’t exist.”

“No, he… there’s no way it makes any sense, whether you’re talking fundamentals or larger scale.  He attacked a school to, how did he say it, to give me a bloody nose?”

“It’s probably more complicated than that.  You know as well as anyone that we put on a mask and play a role when dealing with our enemies.  He was playing up a certain attitude because he knew it was the only way to get to you.”

“Why did he have to ‘get to me’?”

“You attacked him.”

“I mean, why did it even have to get to that point?  They weren’t as aggressive with Kaiser and Purity, when unpowered members of Empire Eighty-Eight were dragging people from their homes.  They didn’t act on this scale when the ABB was dealing in hard drugs and ambushing people on the street to tell them that because of where their parents were born, that they had to be soldiers, prostitutes or pay money every month in tribute.  They were doing that to middle schoolers.”

“You took over a city.”

“How is that worse?  How does that even compare to those other guys?”

“It doesn’t compare,” Tattletale said.  She hopped down from Bentley’s back.  She paced between Rachel and I, thumbs hooked into her belt.  Rachel stared at me, her expression unreadable, her mask dangling around her neck by a strap.  Tattletale continued, “Not really.  But it means a world of difference to them.  They have to care about appearances.”

“Maintaining appearances is so important that they have to attack a school?  Break the unwritten rules?”

“I could go on a whole spiel about the unwritten rules.  But that’s not important.  For people like Tagg and Piggot, it’s cape business, and they’re not quite part of that.  And yeah, appearances are worth putting kids at risk, for what they’re facing.  Things are just calming down here-”

Rachel snorted.

“-But they’re only picking up for the PRT.  They’re running scared, hemorrhaging members.  They’re falling apart, and they’re big enough in the grand scheme of things that we don’t even know the repercussions if this keeps going on.  Every team that fights the Endbringers relies on the Protectorate for information, for backup, equipment and even periodic training.  But even beyond that, beyond the capes, there are hundreds of millions of people around the world who are watching the Protectorate, looking to them for reassurance.  Our perspectives and feelings are barely a factor in the face of those hundreds of millions of watching eyes.”

Barely a factor.”

Tattletale shrugged.  “They put on a brave face, they put a tenacious fucker in office here, and they gear up to take a bite out of us.  They don’t want to win.  Not completely, not all at once.  They need us, because they don’t have the capes to dedicate to protecting this territory, not even with the possibility that the portal becomes something big.  They aim to take you out, destabilize us, and maybe then they hope to focus on the other bad guys.  The Teeth, the Fallen, anyone else who shows up and doesn’t play by the rules.  They do something to assure the world that they’re still relevant, and they keep the balance, all with a minimum of resources expended.”

“And in doing that, they fuck with the rules, and they attack a high school.”

“Are you really surprised that they broke the rules?  We have, Piggot did, when she wanted to drop bombs on us while letting us act as decoys for bigger threats.  The rules are only useful so long as they protect the status quo, and Brockton Bay bent the status quo over backwards and fucked it a long time ago.”

“And the school?”

“Dinah,” she said.  “They had some basic, hard numbers saying that you wouldn’t do something disastrous, and they have PR to clean up the mess afterwards.  I suspect there’ll be something in the news early tomorrow.  They’ll say you were an undeniable threat, they’ll twist things around, fudge the truth or outright lie, and they’ll suppress anything that contradicts that line.  After that, they’ll have Tagg and the local heroes keep looking to take a bite out of us, do some damage they can put on camera, for the benefit of the hundreds of millions of watching eyes, and they’ll keep at us until they do.  He was being honest about that much.”

I clenched my fist.  I didn’t want to think about Dinah.

“Sorry,” she said.  “But it’s better you know this in advance, so it doesn’t blindside you when the news-”

“Rachel,” I interrupted Tattletale.

“What?”  Rachel asked.  Her eyes hadn’t left me.

“Can I borrow this dog?  I’ll look after him.”

“He needs to eat.  Can you get him back to me by tomorrow morning?”

“I asked Tattletale to ship dog food to every headquarters, the same kinds you feed your dogs, just in case,” I said.  “Not tomorrow morning, but I’ll make sure he eats.”

Tattletale frowned, “Skitter, we need to talk about-”

“I got the gist of it,” I said.  “Did you ship the food?”


I looked to Rachel, “I’ll walk him, make sure he has food and water.”

“No need for a walk,” Rachel said.  “Boston terriers don’t need more than one a day.”

“Okay,” I said.

“I’ll come for him tomorrow afternoon,” she said.  As an afterthought, she said, “His name is Radley.”

“Thank you,” I said.

No questions, no pressure, no explanations.  It was just Rachel, stepping outside of her comfort zone and trusting one of her dogs to someone.  It helped more than everything Tattletale had said put together.

Not that that was saying much.

“Let’s go, Radley.”

Radley hesitated to obey.  I half-expected Rachel to urge him forward, but she didn’t say a thing, apparently content to let me take charge.

I was glad when he started running, glad on so many levels.

Moving felt good.  It wasn’t me running, my feet pounding on the ground, but feeling Radley’s muscles shift beneath me, feeling the impacts of his feet on the ground, jolting through my body to the point that I had to clench my teeth to keep from biting my tongue, it was good.

I’d always liked the sensation of the wind in my hair.  It was cleansing, soothing, if not relaxing.  It was cool, when the air around me was warm and humid.

I shifted position, holding on with only one hand, and pulled off my mask with the other. The world was blurry, I didn’t have the extra hand to don my glasses, but I could feel the wind in my face now.  I shut my eyes, trusting to Radley and my swarm-sense to navigate the streets.

But where was I supposed to go?

I wanted to see Dinah, knew it was the last place I should go.  I already knew the answers, already knew that the conclusion was a foregone one.  Didn’t want to think about it, just like I didn’t want to think about those two pieces of paper she’d left in the car before we’d parted ways.  I was actively trying not to think about them, as a matter of fact.

Dinah had left me two messages, and I had little doubt that she’d done it that way for a reason.  To meet her now, it would go against that, it would put me in the heroes’ sights,  and it would crystallize things I didn’t even want to think about into a single discussion.

My dad?  No.  There was nothing to say, no signal that would work.  If he was even there, I wasn’t sure I wanted to see the media around his place, or the Protectorate, the reminder that I hadn’t just abandoned him, but that my very existence was inconveniencing him.

I steered Radley around a corner, hauling on one of the chains.  I wasn’t really strong enough to make him turn his head, but Rachel had trained him to respond to slight cues, and it seemed his personality was more cooperative than not.  If he’d been stubborn, he could have chosen to run up until Bitch’s power wore off.  Not that I really minded.

“Good boy,” I said.

What was I supposed to do?  I didn’t have any hobbies.  For one and a half years, I’d just been trying to get by, managing with school, reading, surfing the web aimlessly.  Once my powers had manifested, my hobby had been preparing for the idea that I’d go out as a superhero.  I’d had only this and my day-to-day life as Taylor since then, and only one of those things had survived the day.

We ran with no destination, until Radley had foam flecking the corner of his mouth, and the meat of his back started shifting position in a way that suggested he was shrinking.

At my instruction, Radley slowed to a walk, then a complete stop.  I slid off his back.  Holding the chain, I led him in a walk.  It served to help me work the kinks out of my arms and legs, and it let Radley cool down after the run, flesh sloughing away around him.  Atlas followed, flying above us.

I wanted to see Brian, didn’t want to continue our discussion from earlier.

I itched to deal with one of my enemies, to ride off to battle and do something about the Teeth or the Fallen, but I didn’t trust that I’d be focused enough to tackle the situation and fight at my best.

I couldn’t imagine I’d be focused after a good night’s sleep, either.

Radley couldn’t walk any more, and I waited while the last of his body sloughed away, gathering up the chains.  It made for a surprising amount of weight, especially when it was all coiled up into a single length.

One chain had a collar on it.  I found Radley’s real body in the fluid-filled sac that  encased him, and punctured it to get my hands on him.  I managed to attach the collar, and clipped one end of a chain to it.  I gave Atlas some of the chain, and lifted the remainder over my head, shouldering the burden.

Without Atlas or Radley to carry me, I faced a long walk, even if I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go.

Time to think, without any outside forces to interject.

Damn Tagg.  I hated that my conversation with him was among the most recent, the one that I couldn’t help but dwell on.

Where the hell had Radley and I even gone?  What was even close by, here?  Captain’s hill?  The woods?  The upper end of Grue’s territory?  What would even motivate me to come this way?

I kept walking.  Part of it was that I couldn’t bring myself to go back to my territory, to answer the questions of my underlings.  Another part of it was that I knew I’d wake up after a fitful night’s sleep, and I would resume being Skitter.  I would be Skitter with anyone and everyone I interacted with for a long time.

My confused thoughts crystallized into a realization when I found a short stone wall topped by an iron grille railing, sharp points spearing toward the sky, protecting the inhabitants of the property.

I scooped up Radley with one arm and scaled the wall.

The ground was soft, thick with bugs.  The area was dense with trees, once young, now overgrown.  The air was cooler here, thanks to the shade the trees had offered during the day and the wind that blew down from the surrounding hills.

I took a seat on the grass.

“Oh boy,” I said, “Where do I even begin?”

Radley seemed to think I was talking to him.  He approached and nudged me with his nose.  I scratched behind his ears, gently.  I’d altered the armor of my gloves, and they ended more in points.  Radley seemed to like it, pushing against my fingertips, his eyes half-closing.

“I guess I should say I’m sorry it’s been so long, mom,” I said, still scratching Radley.

The headstone, naturally, didn’t respond.  There were only the words:

Annette Rose Hebert
She taught something precious to each of us

“It’s… it’s sort of humiliating, to think about everything in context.  I get this knot in my chest, right up near my collarbone, when I think about getting into everything, about filling you in and catching you up on the past few months.  It’s almost harder than it’d be to explain to dad, and I never even managed to do that.”

Silence lingered.  We were remote enough that there weren’t even the sounds of the city.  Oblivion, as clean as it might be in Grue’s darkness.

“I guess things have kind of turned upside down.  That whole superhero thing I told you about, before?  It… really didn’t work out.”

I laughed a little, a small sound, humorless.

Radley climbed into my lap and turned around until he was nestled in place.

“And it’s like… if I even started to tell you everything that went on, all of the stuff that dad’s probably finding out about?  Stuff maybe worse than what I was saying to intimidate Dragon and Defiant, on the cell phone videos that made it to the news?  I don’t think I could manage it.  It’s- how did I even get to this point?  I did horrible things, stuff that makes me feel three feet tall when I just imagine telling you or dad about it, and the stupid thing is I’m not sure what I would’ve done different if I had to do it all over again.

“So where do I begin?  How do I even frame it all?  Everything’s flipped around.  I’m not alone anymore.  I have maybe a hundred and fifty people working for me, some people who trust me with their lives, others who owe me their lives.  I’ve got Lisa and Brian.  Rachel.  There’s Alec and Aisha too, but I’m not as close to them.  We’ve, uh, we’ve been through a lot.  Life and death stuff.  On television, in the movies and in books, you sort of get the impression that you make it past the one big hurdle, and you’re bound together by circumstance.  It happened a lot in the books you read to me at night.  Not so much in reality.

“Except getting through the crisis doesn’t mean we’re all together forever, without our issues.  We’re close.  We’re closer, in the aftermath of it all, but I’m not sure where Brian and I stand.  Right now, when I’m maybe feeling lower than I have in forever, I don’t even feel like I can talk to them.”

My swarm detected someone traveling the grounds.  I glanced over in that direction, saw the dim glow of a flashlight.  It didn’t turn my way, and in a minute, he was gone.  A caretaker of the grounds.  Groundskeeper?  Whichever.

“Brian wants to address the problem, Lisa wants to understand it.  I’d go to Rachel, will probably go to Rachel, but I don’t know that I can really talk about any of this with her.  I don’t know if she has any real conception of what I lost, today.  I don’t want to suggest you’re the last person I’d turn to, but I think the real reason I came here was because I wasn’t sure where else to go, to have someone to listen.”

I sighed.  Radley echoed me, doing the same, supine in my lap, eyes closed.

“Um.  I’ve gone from an insignificant nobody to someone that’s being talked about all over the world.  I didn’t even really mean to, but I kind of wound up taking over a city.  It needed doing, so I did it, and we can’t give up the job because others would step in to take over, and they wouldn’t be as fair to the locals, I don’t think.  Tattle- Lisa was saying she thinks the authorities are holding back because they need us here.  They don’t like us, they don’t like me, but we’re a fixture, now.  So here I am, and governments on the other side of the planet are probably discussing contingency scenarios and the possibility of bad guys taking over their towns.  I’m on the news, and I’m all over the internet, and I guess even your name’s come up.  Dad’s too.”

I pulled my mask from where I’d tucked it into my belt and turned it over.  I held it up so it was facing the headstone.

“I guess I should get around to saying it outright.  I’m a supervillain.  Crime lord of Brockton Bay.  It’s not as bad as it sounds.  Or maybe it’s worse.  I’ve saved lives.  Fought Leviathan, fought the Slaughterhouse Nine and Echidna.  I’ve also taken a life.  Fought the heroes, and hurt people who probably didn’t deserve it, just to make a point.”

I had to stop there.  I sighed, then turned to stare out over the unlit graveyard and the city beyond the short walls.

“This whole thing, I didn’t really ask for any of it.  I made myself into this… entity, just to get by.  I’ll probably have to keep doing it.  I tried to avoid hurting people out of anger, but that sounds pretty feeble when I look at what I’ve done.  A little while back, there was this guy who was dying.  One of the Merchants.  The man had taken a boy away from his sister and did some shitty stuff in general.  Hurt people.  I left him there to die, and part of the reason I did it was because I knew I needed to be harder, to reassure myself that I could kill another man when the time came.  Which I did.

“I told myself I was doing that to save a little girl.  I don’t even know why I made it as big a deal as I did.  Saving Dinah.  Some of it might have been because I was trying to do what was right, and because I wasn’t sure anyone else would be able to do anything about it.  But the more I think on it, the more I think I was trying to make up for the bad stuff I’d already done.”

There were a fresh set of flowers in the small, narrow vase at the base of the headstone.  I picked it up and studied it.  Had my dad paid a visit earlier in the evening?

“She turned on me, you know,” I said.  “The girl I saved.  And I think I sort of know why she did it.  I understand the rationale.  I don’t even blame her.”

I fished the two little notes from my belt.  I’d crumpled and flattened them out so many times they were little better than tissue paper.  I hadn’t wanted to read them, but I hadn’t been able to throw them away, either.

“Shit,” I muttered.  “What gets me, more than anything, is the injustice of it all.  There’s no karmic retribution, no reward for good deeds or punishments for the bad.  It’s almost the opposite.  It might explain why the Protectorate’s in such rough shape.

“I do horrible things, kill a man, and I can’t even bring myself to feel bad about it.  I scared innocents, did property damage, attacked good heroes who were trying to protect the city and the shitty heroes who were doing the job for selfish reasons, and I get rewarded.  Power, prestige, respect.”

I straightened out the notes so they were each flat, being careful not to tear them.

“And I save a girl from the clutches of an evil, scheming crime lord, and this is my reward.”

I held out the papers for the tombstone.  Two squares of paper.  Each had a number in the upper left corner, circled, to indicate the order the notes should be read in.  Two words for the first note, two and a half for the second.

1.  Cut ties.

2.  I’m sorry.

“Let me tell you, mom.  If there are two and a half words you don’t want to hear from a person who can see the future, those words are ‘I’m sorry’.  It’s terrifying.  She gave me instructions, and I didn’t follow them.  I knew, I almost did it, several times over, but I didn’t make the call.  I didn’t leave dad.  So maybe that’s why she forced my hand by going to the authorities and telling them to out me.”

I took my time folding up the notes, tucking them into my belt.

“I guess this next bit must be important, if she was willing to do this to me after everything I did for her.  Maybe it’s for the greater good.  Maybe it gives me the greatest chance at surviving what comes next.”

I tensed as the groundskeeper with the flashlight appeared again.  The flashlight turned my way, but he didn’t seem to notice me.

“She says she’s sorry, and it’s like… I’m not mad at her.  I don’t blame her, because she’s just one piece of a bigger picture, and she’s a pawn in it all, just like me.  It’s everything that’s fucked up, isn’t it?  The whole dynamic where wrongs get rewarded and right gets punished, some of the good guys turning out to be worse than the worst of the bad, the sheer lack of cooperation, when there’s not just one apocalypse coming, but two.  The Endbringers and this thing with Jack Slash.”

I sighed.

“I’ve spent far too much time looking at these notes, wondering why she wrote them, interpreting them, and considering the worst case scenarios.  I’ve thought about it until I started thinking in circles.  I keep coming back to different facets of the same idea.”

I could imagine her there.  My mom, standing in front of me, a physical presence.  All of her gentleness and warmth.  Her silent, quiet disapproval.  Her brilliance, which she couldn’t share with me right now.

I felt a sort of relief.  Being able to talk it out, it helped clarify my thoughts where I’d felt so lost, before.  I was feeling more direction, now.  I could see a goal, something to aim for.  I didn’t like it, but I’d known from the moment I read Dinah’s notes that I wouldn’t like the outcome.

“I’ve got to be heartless, I think,” I said, and my voice was barely above a whisper.  I was aware of the groundskeeper approaching, but I didn’t move.  “I know you and dad won’t approve of this, but Dinah seems to think I have a bigger role to play in what comes next, and maybe I won’t be in the right position, in the right place at the right time, if I don’t do it.”

Radley stirred, reacting to the noise of the groundskeeper’s footsteps.  I held his collar to keep him from attacking.

I moved Radley, stood and faced the groundskeeper.  I could see the whites of his eyes in the gloom, even through the glare of the flashlight.  He was older, round-faced, with a potbelly, his hair a bit too long.

His look was wary.  The girl in a black body suit complete with gray body armor, in the company of a small dog, sitting by a grave.

“I’m sorry to intrude,” I said.  “I’ll leave.”

He peered at me, then glanced at my mom’s headstone.  “You’re visiting?”

“My mother.”

“Not causing any trouble?”

I shook my head.

“I won’t begrudge you that, so long as you don’t cause any trouble or leave any mess.  You clean up after that dog.”

I nodded again, silent.  I didn’t have bags, but I had bugs.

His expression softened a touch.  “You need anything?  I’ll be making some tea before I get another walk in later tonight, but I could brew a spot of coffee if you think you’ll be sitting out here for a bit.”

I felt tears in the corners of my eyes.  Odd, that they hadn’t appeared earlier.

“Tea would be…” I struggled to find the word.  I almost said lovely, but it sounded wrong.  “Tea, please, if it’s no trouble.”

“I’ll bring out a cup.”

“And paper?”  I blurted out the words.

“I only have printer paper, I think.”

“That’s fine.”

“How many pages?”

I opened my mouth to say, but I had no idea.

Again, a gentle expression that I didn’t deserve crossed his face.  “I’ll bring you a good amount.  You bring the leftover back to my office when you return the teacup.”

“Thank you,” I told him.

It was a little while before he arrived with the tea, the paper and a pen.  I didn’t speak to my mother’s headstone in the meantime, and even after the groundskeeper stopped by, I couldn’t find anything to say.

I wrote; twelve pages, front and back.  It wasn’t a fast process.  Two hours passed before the groundskeeper did another patrol of the grounds.  I wasn’t sure if it was his job or a thing he did because he had nothing else to do, but he finished up and retired in a little house a little ways up the hill, turning in for the night.

My hand was cramping and I had a stitch in my neck by the time I’d decided I was finished.  Too many hours spent writing with the paper pressed against the armor on my leg, considering how to phrase things, knowing that there was no perfect way to say it.

I penned the final words:

I love you, dad.  I’m sorry

I removed the flower from the vase, and laid it at the foot of the headstone.  I rolled up the paper and slid it into the vase, then placed it upside-down so the rain wouldn’t filter inside.  My dad would be the only one to see it.  If someone like the groundskeeper investigated, I didn’t particularly mind.

I stood, stretching.  Radley wagged his tail at me, excited to be moving again.  He was a happy, easygoing little guy.  Had Rachel sent him with me with his personality in mind?

I thought about saying something more to my mom, but the illusion had been shattered.  I’d made a decision, and it wasn’t one I’d been prepared to make when I’d left the PRT headquarters.  Talking had helped to clarify my thoughts.  I didn’t feel as lost as I had, nor as frustrated.  I’d been able to pen out an explanation for my dad.  Not as long or as in-depth as he deserved, perhaps, but an explanation.

“Thanks for hearing me out,” I said, acutely aware that she wasn’t there, that she wasn’t listening.  “I’m going to be busy, so it’ll probably be a while before I drop by again.  Sorry.”

I walked away with a lump in my throat, my head held high, and a direction in mind.

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368 thoughts on “Imago 21.2

  1. Was very nearly late, and it would’ve been my fault. Forgot to schedule it for 00:01am, so it would’ve gone up at 8:37am instead. The horror.

    Hope you enjoy. If you’re up to it, a vote on topwebfiction would be excellent.

    Have a good weekend, guys. Three updates next week (thoughts on the Thurs update being a regular chapter?)

    • I am always in favor of more of the regular storyline, if you are up to them.

      Also: Damn good chapter. Though I was surprised the groundskeeper didn’t recognize her–must not watch TV much.

      • Eventually.

        Only hurdles are getting a good edit, finding the time to rewrite sections and finding the time to navigate the various hurdles of getting it out and on digital bookshelves.

        • FWIW, I’d buy this as a paper book. I will not buy eBooks, because the editing is usually crappy, the author makes less, and they charge *more* for most of them than the paper editions. The reading experience is usually pretty crappy for eBooks as well, and I say this as someone who worked on creating the iPad and several Android based book readers.

          I probably understand if you didn’t want to go that route, since it requires you to edit the story line to climactic boundaries that correspond to book endings. The typical requirements by a publisher for a first time author of a novel are 110,000 words; you might get away with less for a TOR book, if they published it instead.

        • I’ve been reading this non-stop for a couple weeks. I really really really really hope this gets published. As a “real” book. Heck, I’d even buy a hard cover.
          If you’re still checking the comments I’d love to hear if you’ve made any progress on that front.

            • And here I am, yet another month later. Going strong.

              Every time it’s mentioned on reddit there’s always a call for a book release, too. A huge part of why I started reading it to begin with.

              • Me too. I have read a lot of books, but worm is better than anything i have ever read before. It is simply amazing!

              • I also got here from Reddit, and I think Worm is the most engaging, most entertaining piece of fiction I’ve ever read. I only recently read Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, and I thought it would be a long time before I found something else that measured up to that same standard, but I think Worm takes the cake.

              • Agreed this is the greatest story I’ve read so far. I would love to be able to support Wildbow and get him the regcontion he deserves. Also I know it will never happen but I would love to see Worm adapted to a tv show or comic book. If it was done with real effort and talent put into it and respect for the source material I think it would be amazing.

            • I won’t say Worm is the best story I’ve ever read, but it is definitely on the same level as the best. (My other favorites include the Dresden Files, The Tower of God (a webtoon), and pretty much any book by Brandon Sanderson). Worm is one of the greats. So glad I found it.

    • I’d prefer a regular chapter to an interlude at the moment. Taylor’s situation is really interesting to me right now. Of course if the interlude featured the Ward’s reactions to Taylor’s being outted that would be awesome.

      • Yeah, the mid-chapter interludes bug me a bit. They interrupt the flow of the story.

        The interludes are all interesting in their own rights, even the Witness one, but it’s a bit annoying when they come after a…section? page? which bordered a high-intensity moment.

    • Years later, here I am crossing this point in what will probably be the first of many re-reads, and I have one small (?) request. I would really like it to read Taylor’s letter to her dad. I’d like to read how she explains, justifies and owns up to her actions towards her dad, who she has felt guilty of lying to since arc 1.

      I hope I’m not the only one who thinks this, but with the readership you’ve justifiably built up over the years, I don’t expect I am either.

      I can’t wait for the sequel, and for the eventual book release(s)

      Godspeed, Wildbow, godspeed

  2. First, or second. Whatever. AWESOME CHAPTER WILDBOW.

    …I feel like a douche. *actually goes to read it*

  3. and now we move on from “what’s on dinah’s notes?” to “what’s in the letters!”

    still kinda bummed she felt she couldn’t accept any help from her friends, but at least she managed to vent somehow. yay?

    • Chances are it’s the story of how she ended up “Skitter, Leader of the Undersiders and Crime Lord of Brockton Bay”. She couldn’t tell him in person nor could she bring herself to speak it out loud to her mother, but she decided to write it out as a way of explaining that it wasn’t Danny’s fault.

      • In my mind the letters are just a printed version of Worm, exactly as written by Wildbow (I think Literary Agent Hypothesis is the trope for this?).

        Yes I know there is no way that could fit on 24 pages, or even 240 pages.

    • I don’t think we need to see the letters — it’s probably just elaborating on the things that she admitted to doing as Skitter so Danny could understand them in context.

      It felt right that she couldn’t accept help from her friends. It was Taylor that was wounded, not Skitter, and Taylor’s connections were to her mother and father.

      • Additionally, the difference between twelve pages of recap and four and a half sentences of accurate predictions is that no one wants to see the former, and the ltter is worth it’s weight in gold.

          • True, but even so…I’m glad about anything that (even if artificially) stretches the story. As long as it is related to the main story, nothing you could ever write will make me skip chapters let alone stop reading at all. Keep in mind that once you’ve established something like the Worm universe, there is little you can do to permanently drive readers away.

    • you know cut ties could easily mean to cut ties to the undersiders as well , maybe she gives herself up . I mean Tattletale did mention the PRT would likely pull back from harrassing the undersiders if they were able to take out skitter and how valuable the PRT is for things like training and such for end bringer attacks … we keep seeing the bird cage popping up .

      and it would be amusing to me if the PRT couldn’t take her down or capture her but one day she just wanders over and gives herself up .

      • I actually thought the cut ties line meant to them as well. But it just doesn’t vibe as well unless it is a “staying with them will lead to your downfall” type deal.

      • adding on to that you know dinahs earlier prediction of the PRT capturing Taylor if they did certain things like reveal her identity in a public place could still come true if taylor suddenly gave herself up because her secret ID is gone , she’s a bit unbalanced at the moment , the note says to cut ties and Tattletale mentioning how the PRT is falling apart due to the undersiders and how vital the PRT is .

      • Dinah knew what Taylor would think it meant when reading them, understand the truth of it, even if she didn’t give a more detailed explanation. If she meant the Undersiders, she would have mentioned them- Not her father, who she knew Taylor couldn’t separate herself from normally.

  4. I liked it. I thought the last installment felt a little off, but the tone there made this chapter better.

  5. That was really, really good. Not higher than third place in my favorite-Worm-chapters list, but it was special — and it gives me hope for Skitter, because it gives her closure for her life as Taylor.

    The chrysalis is shed, and the exoskeleton of the imago is hardening. Enemies of the Undersiders, tremble!

    (p.s. I see that I was totally wrong about Dinah’s notes, that I was probably wrong about Dinah being coerced, and that the people who said Dinah was lying about her predictions were right — I’m guessing she was giving odds on Skitter shedding her identity as Taylor rather than Skitter being captured.)

          • The feels. All the feels.

            Okay, no, seriously: there’s an emotional depth to them, and resolution of something hanging overhead, that means a lot to me. Taylor put on her costume to help people, and spent months going farther and farther into the heart of the supervillain world … and in 20.5, she wins because that thing that she wanted from the start, that emotional core to her reasoning, shone through in everything she did. And Brian went through one of the most horrible experiences that any human being could, an experience he had no real way to handle, to work through … and once again, Taylor’s centeredness, her compassion, her capacity to help came through to make things better.

            Like Razorsmile said, I’m not a fan of ultra-violence. I cheer when Skitter wins a fight because of what she fights for. And if she can win big without fighting, I cheer the harder for it, because victory isn’t in the monsters being beaten down and dying, but in decent people standing up and thriving.

        • Those are your favorites? You’re really not big on action and ultra-violence, are you? :p

          Not that there’s anything wrong with that; those are definitely two of the most emotionally moving chapters in the entire series.

          • I hate violence, actually. If I could snap my fingers and stop anyone from being broken — physically or mentally — ever again, I would. Characters like DIrector Tagg, Glory Girl, Emma, who revel in the destruction of their opponents, I find completely unsympathetic and wrong-headed, because like I said to Rika Covenant, victory is in good people thriving, not baddies dying.

            So when it comes to fights, my favorites are Skitter driving off Mannequin to protect her people in 12.6 and 12.7, defeating Coil’s ambushes in 16.11-12, and breaking Echidna in half in 19.6 — in a large part because in all three cases her motives were inherently noble — but all three of those fall behind Skitter in 12.5 warning hundreds of people that Shatterbird’s song was coming while en route to her dad’s house. And despite the relative weakness of the writing in those chapters in Hive, in spite of the fact that she was a lot weaker as a fighter and less badass as a person, I rate the fights against Oni Lee and Lung there above her curb-stomping of Prism and Triumph and intimidation of Mayor Christner in Colony — because in the one she was trying to stop two murderers from racking up their body counts, and in the other she was terrifying a relatively-innocent man into submission.

    • I don’t know that we need to assume Dinah was lying.

      We’ve already seen one instance (the first time we saw Dinah) in which Dinah’s original prediction was invalidated because the fact that she made the prediction itself introduced another variable (Taylor’s awareness of her condition).

      My guess would be that the odds of Skitter being captured were based on a substantial probability that she would choose not to fight. However, once she learned that the PRT was using Dinah, that possibility disappeared.

    • How far you down to on the TVTropes related stuff, Packbat?

      I was working nearer the bottom, but there were some that required their own Web Original pages that I didn’t bother with.

  6. I usually just lurk around through the comments but I had to come out of the shadows to just say how beautifully this chapter just tied everything up. Two months ago, I discovered Worm and read through the backlog voraciously. Now, I wait up until midnight on update days for the next segment. Wildbow, I appreciate all the work you do. It’s amazing.

      • Apologies if I already wrote this, but I hail from tvtropes (though I don’t have an account). And this was before the page got revamped, so I can’t imagine how many hits you must be getting from it now. Anyway, just a word of warning: you do realize what happens when you leave your first review on this site, right?

      • The way I discovered Worm is probably an odd one. One of the players in a forum game I’ve been running on Giant in the Playground posted a link to it in the out-of-character thread a couple months ago, mentioning that he was thinking about running a game set in a similar world. I think everyone in that game ended up reading through the archives pretty soon thereafter.

      • I tripped and fell into the wormverse via LoN and Google. I like super hero literature, and comic books/graphic novels are much to short.

      • Don’t know if I ever said, but it was via word of mouth — a member of my D&D group. (Amusingly, the guy who told him found it via TV Tropes.)

      • Tvtropes, on the Fanfic Recs for Web Originals, though if recollection serves I saw it shortly before on ‘Bad Powers, Good People’.

      • From a friend. He probably got it from TV tropes. Once i started reading i caught up in about 36h. I am a fast reader and if i pick up a book i tend to let go when it is done.

      • I originally found out about Worm on the thread about it on DLP, but I thought it didn’t look interesting. I then made the mistake of mentioning that on the DLP IRC channel and I was then convinced to come here and read this.

        2 days later I woke up and remembered that I had to go do things outside of reading awesome.

          • I’ll go ahead and back them up here. I’m channel founder of #parahumans and we’re all parahumans there 🙂 I came into the story late in the game, everyone else had already finished it and I decided to read. There have been some slow points where I just wanted to skip it, but never did. I’ve read every word and I have enjoyed it. I’m hard to impress, but you have done a great job doing so. By concensus, I would like to extend to you an invitation to #parahumans, anyone that wants to join. DLP is a fantastic site and the community at large is well developed and intelligent and down for discussion. Wildbow, in particular, we’re a community of artists and writers and value quality above all.

          • @Rika, Right now, we’re only about 8-10 regular people over in #parahumans. You can also register on the boards, 🙂

      • I came here by way of an advert I saw in conjunction with a webcomic I had been trying to read at the time; long story short, I was looking for something to read and… I found it! Just not the thing I was expecting but this has been a FAR better read than anything I could have found on my own.

      • Finished reading Shadowjack’s “Where I Watch” of Sailor Moon over at the forums, started looking around in to see if there was anything else in the “Other Media” section to read, stumbled into the thread on Worm out of idle curiosity. Spent the rest of that weekend reading through the archives. This was back in late February; I think 19.4 went up during my archive binge.

      • TVtropes after avoiding it. The name Worm threw me off. IT was on the Web Originals page I believe. Not exactly sure.

        I was an idiot. I’ve made up for though by wanting to get a major news station to recognize you! I’LL DO IT SOMEHOW!

          • Gecko, I know you delight in breaking convention as much as possible. But seriously, can we please avoid politics? Not what I come here for.

          • Politics has nothing to do with it. They just aren’t a real news station. Any organizational entity that resorts to scaremongering and blunt force conversation to push views towards the view they want (Exhibit A: ), you are no longer a news outlet, you’re a propaganda machine (which, once again, doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with politics). The fact that you immediately reacted as if it was a political thing speaks more for yourself than anything else, Mr. John Galt.

      • I found a mention of it on the ‘What You Are in the Dark’ page. Specifically, the bit about Taylor stopping Leviathan from hurting the civilians in the bunker despite no one else noticing.

        • Actually, people DID notice… but they referred to the instance as “A hero saved us”. Which I think is quite prophetic. Skitter is becoming a fine anti-hero. To sorta-quote Batman, ‘She’s the hero Brockton Bay needs, and the one it deserves’.

          • Yeah, but the general public via media only knows it as “a hero”. PR damage control and all that, I assume.

          • @Rika Covenant: I don’t think “the general public via media” knows anything — they stopped doing big speeches about the individual heroism of those involved in Endbringer-fights a while ago because of the whole “are we seriously going to praise Stalin for fighting Hitler” aspect and the whole “are we seriously going to just not mention that Stalin helped fight Hitler” aspect, and I could imagine that the same effect put a damper on news-channel discussion of the matter.

            I’m guessing someone in the shelter saw that it was Skitter, and that’s where the kid from the cafeteria heard, but the fact never made it onto Parahumans Online.

          • Hmm, I remember it being mentioned that it was known in general that it was a hero that saved them, in the reports that that news bastard was getting from the kids… I’ll have to re-read the chapter.

          • @Rika Covenant: Did a search for “shelter” — six pages of hits, but only four relevant chapters:

            Extermination 8.5: where the deed was done.
            Prey 14.7: Tattletale mentions having heard the story, attributed to Skitter.
            Interlude 19 (Bonus #2): White Fairy, one of the major Parahumans Online forumites providing on-the-ground reports on conditions in Brockton Bay and helping people in the city, was in the shelter with her boyfriend — says “One of the heroes” bailed them out.
            Chrysalis 20.5: One of the kids who helped Taylor escape from Dragon and Defiant heard that she was the one at the shelter.

          • I think it was also related to that. It was around the tome you first posted the chibis, or maybe drunkfu’s running skitter picture.
            Or possibly a Baader-Meinhof complex type ofa thing. So i may be a tvtropes or even a couple of other sites i was on at the time that i finally clicked through.

          • Well fist bumps for you too Peter o 🙂 I like to think is some small way, goofy fan art helps draw in a new reader or two (I tried editing and adding to TV tropes but its so boring to me ) so i think i’ll stick with drawing goofy fan art with links to the stories as my way of helping to spread the word 🙂

      • I came this way after seeing Worm mentioned on both “Bad Powers, Good People” and “Worm That Walks”. Opened the page for Worm then was hooked ever since.

      • You were recommended quite a few times in the ‘Mechanics of In Flight forum’ in the recommended stories thread. I remember you posting there as well. I wasn’t particularly interested when it was brought up, but now that exams started, I delved right into it in the past two days. Great stuff!

      • Rather crabwise (Is that really a word? So awesome!).
        The author of
        asked about good superhero-stories in a facebook-post, and someone linked him to Worm. I had thad post open in a Firefox-tab for quite some time until I decided to take a closer look at all the suggestions. Worm was the fist of those I checked out, and I fear the rest won’t be nearly as good 🙂

      • A few months later, I came from two places.  First, a link was posted on a small forum I frequent.  There’s a couple other people here from there as well.  I also saw the author of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality recommend it.

        And then I was bored one day and looking for something to read.  It’s sucked up way too much of my life since.

      • And much much later… I honestly don’t remember. I think it had something to do with the mspaintadventures forums. Maybe in the thread comparing Homestuck’s length to other works. I didn’t start reading it right away and actually looked through the spoiler-containing timeline because I was certain I would never read it due to its intimidating length. Luckily I did eventually decide to start reading and also luckily I forgot almost everything on the timeline.

    • *Comes out in a big white suit to the tune of “Minnie the Moocher”*

      Folks, here’s a story bout Rook the Reader,
      He’s come out to declare he’s a big Worm eater,
      He thinks it’s truly amazing,
      Now its praises he’ll sing,

      Hidey hidey hidey hi!
      Heedy heedy heedy hee!

      He messed around with a girl named Skitter,
      He loved her, but she was bitter,
      She took him down to Chinatown,
      She showed him how to kick some ass around,

      Hidey hidey hidey hi!
      Heedy heedy heedy hee!

      He had a comment praising Wildbow,
      And the start of his readership WB wanted to know,
      To give Wildbow what’s deserved, we’d gladly steal,
      Like a diamond car with a platinum wheel.

      Lody lody lody loy!

      He was welcomed as usual by Psycho Gecko,
      Who caused the headaches driving WB loco,
      “Welcome to the comments,” Gecko said,
      “Now try to keep from losing your head.

      Hidy hidy hidy hi!

      Poor Rook, poor Rook, poor Rook

  7. Since appearances matter so much to the Protectorate & the PRT as institutions, maybe the new S.O.P for the Undersiders is to defeat hostile capes and publicly (live news crews and all) handing them over to the PRT HQ to break public perception of any competency within government institutions?

      • skitter and her amazing friends …im looking forward to regent , imp and tattletale giving public service announcements at the end of every episode.

        • Topic:
          In: Boards ► Places ► America ►Brockton Bay Discussion (Public Board)
          Tattletale (Original Poster) (Verified Cape) (Undersiders)
          Posted on July 4th:

          This is a Brockton Bay Public Service Announcement:-

          One of the more common causes of death in Brockton Bay is Suicide (suicide with a capital S), this definition includes not only self-initiated suicides but also those actions that are guaranteed beyond a doubt to result in another being killing the suicidal person in question.

          Methods of committing Suicide:

          1. Shouting “Come and get some!” in the middle of a Capefight, whilst wearing costume without powers, counts as Suicide.

          2. Running a dog fighting ring will bring about a fairly quick Suicide.

          3. Running a puppy mill will render Suicide slow.

          4. Walking into the Boardwalk and announcing that you are not an arachnophobe or some-other-such-nonsense works every time.

          5. Going up to a girl-cape, leering and proclaiming; “I likes a girl with spirit!” is extremely ill-advised, even if, strictly speaking, you’re left alive afterwards to ponder the wisdom of your actions, having just slid down the learning curve…

          6. Attempting to apply the Marquis of Fantailler rules of pugilism in an actual fight with a Ground Zero Survivor, is a very effective method of Suicide.

          7. Swimming in the Boat Graveyard is Suicide.

          8. Attempting to swindle, cheat, rob, or otherwise deceive or harm anyone in Brockton Bay is a Suicide. Those who survive are best advised to not complain…

          9. There are many laws in Brockton bay but only One Rule “Don’t Fuck with the Undersiders.” Attempting otherwise is Suicide.

          • -Walking into the Mended Drum and announcing that your name is ‘Vincent the Invulnerable’ or some-other-such-nonsense works every time.

            -Calling a Nac Mac Feegle ‘a fairy’ will bring about a fairly quick Suicide.

            -Shouting “All Gods are bastards!” in the middle of a thunderstorm, whilst wearing copper armour, counts as Suicide.

            -Going up to a Witch, werewolf, vampire or Susan Sto Helit, leering, and proclaiming; “I likes a girl with spirit!” is extremely ill-advised, even if, strictly speaking, you’re left alive afterwards to ponder the wisdom of your actions, having just slid down the learning curve…

            -Unlicensed theft is Suicide. So too is unlicensed assassination, unlicensed fooling and unlicensed ‘needlework’.

            -Attempting to apply the Marquis of Fantailler rules of pugilism in an actual fight, is a very effective method of Suicide.

            -Standing between the parades on Battle of Koom Valley Day/Troll New Year is Suicide, (unless you happen to be Capt. Carrot Ironfoundersson of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch.)

            -Swimming in the River Ankh is suicide.

            -Fishing in the River Ankh is also suicide. If Harry King doesn’t get you for violating his sole right to “waterborne salvage”, your catch will be ornery enough to express an opinion about it.

            -Calling a dwarf “short stuff,” will either result in Suicide, or a sudden lack of leg below the knees.

            -Referring to trolls as “stupid rocks” is also a sure-fire way to commit Suicide, as is looking elvish in the presence of dwarves or trolls.

          • -Becoming the Director of the PRT in Brockton Bay will for the moment, be called Suicide… until a proper name can be invented.

          • -Kidnapping Dinah is Suicide. She can even tell you how.

            -Saying “Meh, I could take her” about Skitter is Suicide unless you are an Endbringer

            -Sending a dragon after Skitter is Suicide. As is being a dragon after Skitter.

            -Trying to push more drugs on Imp is Suicide. It’ll even look like it.

            -Wearing an Orkin man suit in Brockton Bay is unfashionable Suicide and you will be unfashionably late.

            -Using a series of strings to make a department store mannequin appear to attack someone in Skitter’s territory should only be attempted by the Suicidally depressed

            -Dropping a mountain of kittens on Bitch is very funny and Suicide unless you are Psycho Gecko

            -Making fun of Skitter for being a bullied teen girl is Suicide and we eagerly await it.

            -Making fun of Skitter in high school is also Suicide, we wish.

  8. Very quiet, very nice. relaxed almost, its very good it feels like she is being Taylor for a little while. This chapter serves as a really good breather after the last one. The last one felt haphazard, chaotic, like taylor was being pushed over the edge, she was fully Skitter in the last chapter.

    Thank you for this chapter wildbow it reads well and illustrates the contrast between taylor and skitter, especially the end where she says it will be a while before she drops by again. That seems to me to be a very oblique/subtle reference to how she will be Skitter full time for a while.

    Also are you foreshadowing? Is the next time Skitter visits her mom going to be on a more permanent basis?

  9. Oh wow. This is probably one of the most emotional updates we’ve had. I’ve always been a sucker for someone talking to a person’s grave.

    Really amazing.

    • I went through a surprising number of drafts in writing this chapter, to the point that I was biting my nails at the 6pm mark, with the chapter less than half-done. For reference, I usually try to have 1k words done in advance, writing the rest from 12pm-10pm, or I write from 9am-11pm. Usually wind up with 4-8k words.

      When you’re that far behind it takes some courage/madness to take a break. But I went for a dog walk, made some food, and came back with the idea in mind. Just needed to step away and get more focused on Taylor’s headspace than on the needs of the story.

      And then, I’ll admit, while facing one of my more perilous time crunches, I wound up suddenly being unable to see the words because I was tearing up some, cussing out loud.

      • You know, Wildbow, it almost sounds like you did exactly what Taylor did: go for a walk and do mindless tasks to get into the right mindset for what you had to do. Just wondering, how much of Taylor’s personality or life comes from you or your experiences? How about other characters? Do you identify with any one of them personally?

        Sorry for the “interview-y” questions. Just a curious mind wanting to know your process.

        • Taylor’s experiences with school mirror my own in some ways. More than those family members who read tend to think, I suspect. The bullying I faced wasn’t nearly so brutal, but I faced an additional hurdle in that I was a physically disabled kid. At one point in grade ten I realized over a month had passed with me not even opening my mouth in school. Not to answer questions (no teachers asked), not to talk to anyone (nobody to talk to), none of that. My primary/middle school was right next door to the high school, so there were quite a few students who were in virtually every class I had from kindergarten to grade ten, and they were the same kids who, when a girl tried to open a conversation with me in a typing class, told her not to talk to me or she’d automatically get stuck with the ‘freak’ label by association. That was more of the sort of bullying I dealt with while attending school, very persistent and subtle enough that I wasn’t even fully aware of what had been gong on until years had passed and I looked on it in retrospect. It’s not something that would translate well to a story, but I took the ‘write what you know’ idea forward, and I was struggling to find a starting point for Taylor’s story, and that’s what I drew on.

          To elaborate on my experience, I didn’t see the point in going to school, so I stopped going partway through grade ten. Nobody caught on, there were maybe one or two phone calls home, I deleted the messages. Report cards came out, I got caught. Attended a few weeks in grade eleven, stopped going, got caught at the end of that. The scene where Danny confronts Taylor by locking her in the kitchen was inspired by a book on dealing with out of control teens that my mother bought & I read, she didn’t. (I wasn’t out of control in the conventional sense – when I skipped school, I didn’t do much more than watch TV, read and write). The idea of that scene was a vivid one from early on.

          There’s a lot of me in Taylor, but I think that’s inevitable, with a work of this length and this depth (not to sound smug and say it’s deep, only the amount that went into it). But she’s a very different, distinct person. I think the other Undersiders have definite fragments of me in them as well, parts of my psyche taken as standalone things and turned into central pillars of each character’s personality.

          • I’ll also add that I find it amusing how Taylor’s rise to prominence/getting recognition sort of mirrored my own. There’ve been a few lesser parallels between the story and my own experience, there.

            • …I don’t follow. Am I missing something? I don’t think that you’ve been descending any slippery slope as you gained power, for instance, unless you count how you have made Brockton Bay consistently a crappier place to be from Leviathan to Echidna.

          • Yes, to put it another way…”Oh dear, someone might think we are freaks! Hold up, let me find my give a damn…oh no, it’s up my ass! I can’t give a damn!”

          • Like Rika said we all love you Wildbow. You’ve given the world a great piece of literature. I wish I could get a major news station to look at your story. FOX, CNN whoever.

          • High school is a bad place, and I could rant for forever and a day on the many reasons why, as I’m sure many others here could, too.. I’m sorry you had to go through that, but I hope you like your life more now.

          • It’s fascinating to me that you mention being physically disabled.

            My partner is disabled, and I have both crippling mental health issues and am a transgender woman. It’s been an eye opening experience to see the overlaps in discrimination that these groups all experience, partly first hand and partly through the lens of my relationship.

            I suspect that part of why your writing resonates with me is your grasp of what being on the wrong end of society’s stick feels like.

            I got a similar vibe — with a very different tone — out of Seanan Mcguire’s Velveteen stories.

            Anyway. Thank you — again — for sharing your writing with us. This chapter felt really grounded in Taylor’s character, and was a welcome calm in the ever-strengthening storm that is Brockton Bay.

          • Thank you for sharing that. I know I’m still a few years later on reading this story, and learning about all of the enlightening and inspiring behind-the-scene details you provide in the comments, but reading this really meant a lot to me on a personal level too.

            Worm in general means a lot more to me than I ever thought it would, more than I have the words to properly describe, and I’m still only ~70% through it!

  10. This chapter’s going to be hell on my dreams when I go to sleep. Not because of scary, creepy stuff. The emotion is just so raw, so thick; we probably just got a new Tearjerker entry on Tvtropes here. We finally see what Dinah wrote, and it only makes things worse. Everything Taylor says here, everything she thinks, mirrors what we readers have been thinking ourselves. It magnifies just how bad things have gotten.

    Honestly, this is perhaps the chapter that best defines the themes and tones of Worm as a whole. While it is only the second chapter of an arc, it probably could fit as an ending of one; I don’t know how well the story could mood shift into the next scene, presumably a fight, without some mood whiplash. But I’m not Wildbow, who’s much more talented and insightful than I; we’ll see how things go next Tuesday.

    • Fuck fate.

      She’s already beaten the odds of rescuing Dinah and of escaping Dragon and Defiant.

      If something she does winds up with her dead, then it proves Dinah can be wrong about the end of the world. If it doesn’t, then it proves she doesn’t need to do what Dinah thinks she should in order to get there or be prepared for it.

      And if she’s going to be dragged down that particular path anyway, there’s no reason she can’t fight it for her own satisfaction.

  11. I’m fine with a regular chapter on Thursday. I don’t think anyone would mind.

    This was a nice chapter. Nice to have a little closure, especially the letter she wrote to Danny.

    Now that I know what the notes are, I don’t think there’s much reason not to have included them at the end of the Echidna arc.

    • It would have wiser us up to that something big was abut to happen. This way, it came it of nowhere.

      • I think this was the perfect time to reveal them, as the papers were obviously important, but we didn’t know what they meant or who they would influence. Now we know, and there isn’t any comfort as the time where they would have been important to know what they said has passed. And they are still vague enough that we don’t know dinah’s true intentions.

      • The reveal of the notes was perfect here. Their shortness contributed to the poignancy, too. I just think that this chapter, along with the attack on PRT headquarters, may have been better at the end of Chrysalis, as I mentioned before. However, I don’t know what future scenes will come, so I could be wrong. Trust in the author, then.

        • There is too much conclusiveness in this chapter, too much shedding the chrysalis, for it to be an appropriate chapter for there. this is truly Taylor breaking free of her self-imposed shell and growing as a person- Having been forced to, yes, but still.

  12. Didn’t really think of Tattletale’s angle that the PRT need them. They are too shorthanded and the city is probably better off with the Undersiders in charge as opposed to another group without their rules of engagement. So Dinah might have done what she did to improve the chances of saving the world at the cost of Skitter becoming hardened for lack of a better word. She is choosing to be ruthless, which is kind of scary if you think about what she could theoretically do. I keep thinking about how the PRT didn’t realize how dangerous the Skitter clones were and how much Taylor does hold back. The merchants also didn’t realize who they were dealing with, and I am looking forward to seeing what dark age anti-hero Skitter can do. Because the list of the Teeth’s powers don’t really work as a counter to a giant swarm of bugs, and the fallen never realized how easily she could have dealt with them. I’m hoping for a new name for herself as part of her new identity. I can see Dinah looking at the numbers and seeing them change drastically after she leaves the grave.

  13. I …. don’t quite know what to say about this one. On the one hand, we see Taylor’s thoughts on all this. On the other hand, she seems to be lubing the slippery slope again.

    • Fuck the slippery slope! Kill Tagg, kill Cauldron! Turn their heads into goddamn pancakes!

      That is if its okay with daddy, Ill have to see how Danny reacts before I get on board with Skitter becoming a homicidal maniac.

      • There’s a lot she can do given the knowledge that she WILL be at Armageddon.

        Think of it like the movie Big Fish. In the guy’s story, he knows how he dies, so he knows that nothing in between that he might do is going to kill him. In his case, he goes on to do heroic and exciting things.

        • I can’t wait to see what she intends to do. She wants to send a message of power, and maybe one of morality. She can take down the Fallen/The Teeth, break out some capes from the asylum, release some secrets of the PRT, and maybe go show she is someone not to be fucked with.

        • There are no guarentees. Remember that she looked into the future where they gave Noelle to Crawler. They ALL terminated. Just because she sees one future at one time doesn’t mean it stays relevant. Choicesare made, changes in the world over just a few minutes and an hour later asking the exact same question can lead to completely different results- As we saw with Skitter getting out of the school unmolested.

          • Well, one reason why there may be no guarantees is we don’t know if alternate earths factor into Dinah’s predictions. Maybe she knew they would try a portal, but perhaps not about the worlds it would link to, or outside interference from other dimensions like Cauldron can provide.

            Her power, from what we saw of it, seemed to be looking at possible future earths without seeing the futures of alternate earths that may possibly interact with this one. For all we know, the portal creates a huge blind spot for her.

          • I get the impression that any time she states potential numbers she changes the possibilities of the future.

            you know there is a 94% chance of getting caught.
            you also know that 99% if you fight.

            you now know the best option is a non-violent solution.

            its also been stated that thinkers and precogs powers interfere with each other. So other precogs working their influence can negatively impact the accuracy of predictions.

            finally i will offer that all of the endbringers are a blind spot for precogs. otherwise pretty much every precog ever would be focused on trying to predict where the endbringers attack next, and what the best possible attack pattern would be.

          • Actually, they’ve been able to predict where an Endbringer will show up loosely just by looking at strife hotspots, and they do have advance warning- Just not days in advance. That’s the main problem with the Endbringers- they come to the locations of the greatest strife.

            ….Wait a sec. If they go to the location of greatest strife, then maybe, just maybe, they’re just trying to end fighting and war as we know it; Once things escalate to a certain point, they deem it impossible to resolve and step in to stop it. Since most conflicts occur when parahumans are involved… They could also be something along the line of Earth’s antibodies, excising a gangrenous wound; It could even go as far as seeng the deaths of Cauldron parahumans as a good thing because it frees the captive passengers as well. Where did the concept that passengers being drawn to those in a trigger event situation come from, anyways? It could just as well be that the passenger tries to heal the mental anguish, and the wounded mind traps it….

            So much wild guessing above. x3 I love it.

  14. We’re all in this together; An essay on the similarities between Skitter and Harry Tuttle.
    Brazil, and a world gone mad with apathy.
    I don’t know if you’ve seen Brazil. Chances are fairly bad- It’s not exactly an incredibly well known movie, but it’s one of the most strikingly dark things I’ve ever watched. Appropriately enough, it was released in 1985. Imagine 1984, but with nobody willing to take responsibility. British Bureaucracy, gone to the darkest possible places. And yet, there are moments of beauty and heroism.
    Harry Tuttle. Motive force of the plot, terrorist first class. Rogue pipe repairman. He first appears in the movie by aiding the hero, fixing his pipes quickly, efficiently, armed with a gun, sneaking in under cover of night, hiding from Central Service’s pipe repairmen, who are more interested in rooting out corruption and scabs than in doing work.
    The main character saves Tuttle from them with some quick bureaucratic paper-slinging, and is thanked by Harry, who proceeds to prepare to leave, remarking ‘We’re all in this together’, before leaving on a zipline, with an inspiring operatic horn number.
    Harry Tuttle does some questionable stuff, even outside of the trippier sequences near the end. And there’s not a happy ending in it for our hero, though that’s not Tuttle’s fault. But the movie’s plot is started off when the wrong person is brought in, due to an insect falling into a typewriter and causing the wrong person to be brought in. It’s nobody’s fault directly, but there were many, many bureaucrats who could’ve taken the time to realize something was wrong. And that is the theme of Brazil. That when people do not do bad things, but allow bad things to happen, it is a more monstrous system than any number of bad people could make.
    The connection to Worm.
    There is a similar feeling, in many ways, in Worm. When the institution becomes more important than the Ideal, things fall to pieces. Those who would seek to do good become the criminals, because they don’t submit to the bureaucracy. Those who try to do good within the system all-too-often find themselves becoming dependent upon the system, becoming attached, becoming enslaved by it. And so, they become a part of the continuing cycle of disgust.
    Worm could say it herself. ‘We’re all in this together.’ Every human being who wants to see the human race keep going, whether they’re powered, or not. They’re all in this together. Even the criminals, even the murderers, even the gigantic assholes, because they don’t want things to stop, because at worst, they’re parasites, and they depend on the continued health of the civilization to keep going. The Slaughterhouse Nine, the Endbringers, all the creatures that are content to see humanity end, they’re the enemy to every living creature.
    The truce is a farce. The truce lasts only as long as a given endbringer attack; But what is the point of that? The war isn’t /won/ after the Endbringers are driven off. It’s not a truce, an armistice, it’s barely even a ceasefire, it’s just a preparation to attack again. The Endbringers aren’t going to stop, and they need to be stopped. But everyone treats it as a temporary event, and jumps back into the cops and robbers state of mind, not considering that the villain they send to the birdcage might save their life the next time an Endbringer comes around.
    Trigger Events and Depression
    Why do people who have trigger events become villains? It’s not just because they’ve gone through a deeply traumatic event. That doesn’t explain their rage against the world. Think about what a trigger event usually has to be. A sense of supreme helplessness. This is the feeling that has reigned in every trigger event that one could care to think of, there being something /wrong/ that they can’t do /anything to fix/.
    Take a personality like that, suddenly given great power. And then tell them that the law is watching them, and that the moment they screw up, they’re going to the Birdcage. Look at the innocent people who want to do good, who actually do good, like Canary, and Amy, and what happened to them. They were given no chance. The reason that people who trigger naturally become villains is because Cauldron doesn’t trust them.
    Helplessness is a deep element of depression. The Pit of Despair, Learned Helplessness, famous psychological experiments involving doing deeply unpleasant things to animals, they show us that when you can’t do anything, you become depressed. Clinical depression is a serious thing- and what’s terrifying is that human beings and other social animals are naturally predisposed to attacking and lashing out at those who show signs of depression, furthering that. It’s natural human results. But we’re all in this together.
    So, what do the ones who are depressed but functional enough to do something about it do? They use their power. And because the law makes no place for them; Because the law only increases the feelings of depressed despair; they go outside the law.
    This is the great beauty of human nature. Depression breeds a certain strength in some people, because someone who can survive through helplessness, through the mind itself turning against you and torturing you mercilessly, can become terrifyingly effective. I wouldn’t be surprised if a number of villains show certain signs of bipolar or borderline personality disorders; The kind of depressive state that would create a sense of helplessness, and the kind of manic phases that would result in flurries of activity and focus. But again, the beauty. When a society becomes stagnant, with a powerful force in control in this way, it breeds people with the wounded strength to fight this system. Each person who stands up and fights inspires those who see them. It doesn’t matter if they fail, because they were just one person; And enough people will be inspired that it tends to grow. The more oppressive a situation is, the more revolt there will be, and as it grows, it becomes powerful enough to spark a revolution. Worst comes to worst, meet the new boss, same as the old boss. But sometimes, the people at the lead of the revolution are Good Enough. And they do something magnificent. They change the world.
    Maybe the world is going to end. But maybe what replaces it won’t be so bad. Maybe we’ll lose the war but win in the long term. There’s nothing saying the world isn’t going to have a lot of deaths. But maybe, just maybe, those deaths will mean something. Maybe it won’t be the end.
    And you know who can survive? The ones who have spent every day of their lives tortured as bad as that. The ones who know what despair feels like, and who can soldier on through it anyway. The villains. The helpless ones. The ones who know that just because you feel helpless, doesn’t mean you truly are.

        • In response to the post just below;

          Indeed. Silly me for writing that one in Word, rather than pure stream of consciousness! Posting it again would frankly be way too space-consuming; So instead, here’s a pastebin with the thing properly formatted.

          • It’s something I’ve had to deal with before on here too. Because of how the comment box works, I find it is easier for editing to write in Word. Your posts basically look like my serious, in-depth ones, but still quite a bit bigger. Heck, even a humorous one of mine got someone refusing to read it because the spaces were all messed up, so I figured I’d say a little something.

            Wouldn’t be surprised if you’re one of those writing college papers on the story.

          • I’ve always enjoyed writing essays and small research papers. Hell, i went so far as to develop my own country on paper to make a point to my poli-sci teacher. had a constitution and everything. even a writ of declaration of identity.

            I no longer do it because there is very little use for essays and research papers in practical application.

    • Slight tip, not sure if you type these up in Word, but WordPress doesn’t react to any doublespace formatting.

      It may increase the size even more, but making sure the appropriate spaces are there will make these essays more easily digestible on our end.

  15. God. I really do hope we see Danny again, so we can see his reaction at the very least. According to normal narrative “rules” this should be the last we see him mentioned, but we all know thar normal narrative rules don’t mean shit in Worm.

    Funny how Dinah doesn’t specify who she could cut ties with, but I hope it doesn’t matter and my “precogs don’t know jack” attitude is vindicated.

    Hey, I wonder how far Taggs dehumanization tactics would get if this found its way into papers.

    • I made a vow not to post any typo correction comments after the acres of such starting the comments section of last chapter. A vow which proved meaningless when I didn’t see any typos in this one. 😉

  16. Good chapter. I like it.

    Reading her outburst at Lisa, I can’t help but wonder: Masters usually are somewhat altered mentally by their trigger event. Could it be that Taylor is compelled to see humanity akin to an insect state? That, even though she rationally knows it’s different, she feels humans really should get along, beyond even what a normal idealistic person would think; subconsciously expects humans to cooperate, and that that compounds the feeling of, let’s call it overstated ‘betrayal’, by humanity? Or is that ‘only’ the last remains of the idealism of a heartbroken teenager shattering against the world?

    • Ok, some more thoughts:

      Poor Taylor. Just as she thought she had escaped all that high-school-image-pecking-order-bullshit, there it is again.

      Also, parts of this chapter kind of remind me of a song. The frst line goes like this:
      “Any dolt with half a brain can see that humankind has gone insane.”

    • Doesn’t work. Some insects are eusocial, sure, like ants and bees. But there are also solitary hunters, like dragonflies and mantises.

      And the list of lifestyles gets even broader when you consider that at minimum she has control over anything in Arthropoda and Annelida.

      • I’m pretty sure it’s anything within the Protostome Clade at the very least. She’s been shown to control Ecdysozoa and Platyzoa; we know the latter because she detected the heartworms in one of Bitch’s dogs, and the former from her control over various arthropods. The only one that I can’t think of a strict definite example would be Lophotrochozoa, which is odd considering the surplus of worms of various kinds in the phylum; Mostly it’s members of Arthropoda that make a big appearance in one form or another. Just going by the name of the web serial, however, one can assume that annelids and their cousins in Lophotrochozoa would also count, but just haven’t really had a chance to shine due to their nature.

      • Yes, but humans, seen through a skewed perspective fixated on insects/arthropods/protostomes, would resemble eusocial insects more closely than any of the solitary ones. Thus a mind fixated on insects/… would try to apply eusocial behavior to humans, not solitary one.

    • It’s like when she walked out of her school with the not-hostages and noted that they were sorta acting collectively, but not in synch or efficiently.

  17. Taylor realizes she’s racing down the slippery slope, and she realizes she needs to, and she’s going to. She’s really grown up. I’m impressed.

    So we finally see the note. Glad we got Taylor’s opinon, because I’m notnsureni could have realized myself how terrifying it would be to. Just got through a disaster, and receives instructions to leave behind what grounds her, and receives an ominous warning. She wasn’t kidding about that karma is weird thing. And also, don’t want to repeat myself, but once again, this strikes eerie parallels to wicked, because the main character sings a song basically saying that no matter what good deeds she does, they’re always punished, so to hell with it. If you don’t mind me asking, have you ever seen the show or read it, wildbow?

    Overall, a very soothing chapter. After the action packed, and then high drama past few arks, this is a chance to look back and try to find where to go. I really enjoyed it. And also, considering the poor woman was fated to never appear from the start, glad at least her grave got some screen time. 🙂 …okay, that came out more morbid than I intended. Actually, a few parts I found some kind of dark humor in, too, like telling her mother,” I didn’t even really mean to, but I kind of wound up taking over a city”, or “I’m a supervillain. Crime lord of Brockton Bay. It’s not as bad as it sounds”. Does she even realize how ridiculous that probably sound? Anyway, thanks for the wonderful chapter, as usual, and looking forward to Tuesday, as usual.

  18. Mr Hebert this is Frank. Can you stop by the office next time you drop off flowers please. I would like to talk to you for jest a moment.

    • Director Tagg, you were right. We got a hit on that bug we disguised as a vase on her mother’s grave. There’s a wealth of information there we can exploit. We’re getting to her, sir.


      • A competent PRT that makes excellent tactical choices, a good use of resources, and shows restraint? Get real, you have a better chance of Sophia becoming a good guy. I was going to say when pigs fly, but I cant be sure if Blasto or another cape did that for laugh.

      • He should’ve been petting a cat. So i’ll just leave this here…..

        Douchetagg said as he laughed evilly and stroked his pet cat, Gertrude.

      • That’s actually something that real life law enforcement agencies have been known to do. Though it’s usually for unsolved crimes. In this case I can’t see the point. They hardly need more evidence.

  19. Dinah’s Betrayal

    Dinah is in a unique position of awareness. She knows the probabilities of actions, and she knows what’s likely to happen in response to those.

    What if the reason Dinah suggested this wasn’t because it was the best way to capture Skitter, but because it was the best way for her to help Taylor let go of herself? It’s painful to change yourself, especially in such a powerful way, but by removing her secret from her father, from the world, Dinah’s torn the bandage off. One of Taylor’s primary psychological weaknesses has now been uncovered… And at a time when things are about as stable as they’re likely to be for a /long/ time. Taylor is centered, no longer suicidal, is growing more confident as a leader, there are no major S-class threats out for their heads for the first goddamn time in months, and the city’s heroes are in a desperately unstable position.

    Dinah knows how valuable she is. She knows Taylor knows how valuable she is. And Taylor was willing to give her back to her parents, to turn her back on that information. She did not do something that could be justified as ‘for the greater good’. But that means that Dinah can be free to make her own decisions, and make them effectively, since she can see the future shift as she makes her plans.

    I think what she was doing here is something that needed to be done, that hurts Taylor in the short-term, at the time when she can most afford to get hurt, and when she can learn the most from this.

    • If that’s true, then Dinah qualifies for the Omniscient Morality License trope. Too bad, though, since I can see a future scene where Taylor meets Dinah, and Taylor says that, while she understands what happened, she still hates Dinah for what she did, almost like a reverse of that scene with Parian when she joined.

      • I think that Taylor is more soft-hearted than that. Has she ever come across as truly hating someone? That’s a really strong emotion.

        Betrayed is a better word for it, particularly because you can rebuild trust that has been betrayed. I doubt Dinah was happy about doing it, either. And remember that Dinah is all about percentages. She can’t do the OM License thing, because she’s not omniscient- She knows the percentage of likelihood of a certain answer, so she can skew the odds, but she can’t guarantee you that so-and-so will do such-and-such; merely how to maximize the likelihood that they do. This makes her somewhat more untrustworthy, since she can be- not quite wrong, but misleading- and it means that I think Taylor can find it in her to forgive her, because it means that in all likelihood, this was a difficult decision for Dinah; to take such a chance. And she didn’t make it because she had a guarantee of the outcome.

    • I hope Dinah realizes that allowing chance and odds to dictate your actions is exactly what Coil did and what the PRT would do. That methodology leads to stagnation, moral compromise, and cowardice.

      I really hope Taylor says “fuck that shit” to the suggestion to cut ties. I don’t think Danny would let a chance of something horrible happening stop him from trying to pull his family back together.

      • I’m sure she does. She can give the best advice she can, but let’s face it; The nature of a hero- a true hero, the sort of person who accomplishes great things which Taylor IS- is to be someone who defies odds. Who does what others would deem, at the least, highly improbable. Perhaps Taylor is being told to cut ties because they will hurt to lose, but perhaps the fact that they would hurt to lose will keep her from losing them. Maybe the advice to cut ties will make her cling all the more tightly to them. We can’t trust what Dinah says, necessarily; we can only trust in the hope that she’s trying to do the best she can for the one person in the world who was willing to help her, and treat her as an ends, not a means.

        We don’t know much about Dinah. We have no confirmation of why she did what she did. That’s the thing about a precog- their advice often only makes sense in retrospect, or at best, at the very moment you need it to make sense.

    • Here’s the thing about Dinah’s powers: she’s playing the odds.

      I mean, sure, she can see all the outcomes, not just the likely ones, but the people she’s giving her predictions to are working on the *most likely outcomes*.

      Taylor wasn’t captured by the PRT, even though it was most likely she would be.

      Can Dinah see the actual future or “just” probabilities? Did she know Taylor would escape, even though it was unlikely? Or did she just know it was likely she would be caught? Did she know what Taylor escaping would cause to happen, even if it was really unlikely?

      This is actually kind of important.

      Regardless of how exactly Dinah’s powers work, Taylor has beat the odds at least that one time. Maybe she can do it again, and avert the almost, but not entirely, inevitable destruction of the world.

      You know what they say — million to one chances work out, nine times out of ten. (Or something like that — been too long since I brushed up on my Pratchett)

  20. I’m not an especially emotional person, not in response to writing or to film–I didn’t cry for Bambi’s mom, Mufasa, or Fred Weasley–and yet, even though I don’t know what precisely was said in the letter to her dad, my eyes are much wetter than I recall them being a few minutes earlier.

    Dammit Wildbow.

          • Everybody has tears.

            I doubt anyone blames you for your eyes watering due to this chapter. And anyone who would pick on a crying person deserves to have a fist with barbed wire wrapped around it shoved into their sphincter, then to be lifted up and rotated 63 degrees along a random axis, then dropped.

            If I sound a little dry, it’s because I’ve been interacting with Legion and EDI some in Mass Effect.

      • P.G.: That *might* not be a good idea. Sometimes, things should be let alone.

        That being said, I missed the date of your ascension to official comment-welcomer, so if you could link that for posterity?

        Or not.

        • I don’t remember either. Wish I’d been doing it sooner. While it can be a little on the frustrating side to welcome one person and have another 5 announce they just caught up, it’s also been good practice. Since I’ve “officially” been welcoming people, no two have been the same I don’t think.

          • I believe I more or less officially instated you in that position with your welcome of me, and remarking that I got welcomed by you, and people then taking that as a cue to start provoking you for introductions more. o.o

          • It seems like it’s been longer than that. Seeing as people may pop up for a time or two and then go silent, I tend to wait until the person says it is their first time commenting. I’m better about remembering names when they’re something like “Mazzon” or “Rika Covenant” or “Pinkhair” or “Frozen Chicken” to name a few, but eventually the numbers overwhelm.

            At least the whole lot of you aren’t running around here as “Tom” or “Dick” or “Harry”.

          • You most certainly were doing it before me, but it was around when I joined that I noticed a surge in the number of commenters and thus your services as comments-section welcomer.

    • I did the same thing Sage. If Worm was a TV series or a movie this is the part where people would tear up.

  21. Amazing chapter. It was nice to have something peaceful after all the chaos going on. And honestly I’m now really waiting for Dinah to show up again. I’m still unsure of that girl’s though processes, but then again she would still be recovering from those drugs Coil had her on. What do you guys think about Dinah’s predictions and her motives behind them? Because i dont have a clue.

    • I think Dinah wants to save the world. She saw that Skitter WILL be there, and she wants to do whatever she can to give her the best chance. Thus she her identity is outed, she is hardened, and decides to be heartless in her efforts. I think she cares very deeply for Taylor. Taylor saved her, comforted her, and reunited her instead of using her. Hence why she takes the time to I’m sorry to her. For the next interlude, I kind of want a bunch of mini-interludes that describe how the other characters see Skitter. Clockblocker seems to feel strongly about her, Flechette seemed scared of her, and who knows about Danny.

      • If we get an actual interlude on Thursday rather than another regular chapter, I definitely want to see that- the everyone’s-reaction-to-this, to sort out where everyone stands more or less, and how they feel. Especially Emma’s reaction.

        • Emma is probably locked in her bedrrom with the strondger anti bug spray that she couls find in hand and terrified of any new noise in the house.
          And she should really, really leave Brokton Bay as fast as possible.

          • I really want a follow-up on Emma and her dad now. I mean, we were denied all the sweet and juicy revenge.

            I had a thought, earlier tonight, about the situation where bad people should get what’s coming to them but the good people being too good to do so.

            Emma, your enemies are too much better than you to give you what you deserve.

            Luckily, karma’s not above employing someone from the dark side on occasion. I don’t think that’ll happen here, but a guy can dream.

            A guy can dream.


            Nope, I was a vampire trying to stop ghosts from bringing the Ghostbusters back to life to slay us vampires. And then I fought them with a flaming sword while taunting them with the song “Hellfire” from Hunchback of Notre Dame (real dream I’ve had). Better luck next time.

  22. I want to take this moment to say how much I appreciate wildbow’s writing. Don’t get me wrong, I love the story and the character and the worldbuilding, and all of that is part of the writing in a way that can’t be meaningfully disentangled. But I’m going to try anyway. The writing, the actual choosing of words and putting them down to paper seems to be blessed with the sort of craftsmanship that I aspire to.

    I’ve said before how much I enjoy the feeling of immediacy there is in the connection between Taylor’s emotional state and story events. Or perhaps, to render the phrase more complex; her emotional state, events in the world, her perception of these events, her responses, and their consequences. When I read, I feel like I get to see that all happening in real time. (I don’t, but that illusion is something I value tremendously.)

    And a big part of what makes that happen for me is in the way you use your words. When she lands Atlas at the beginning of the chapter, she “wasted no time in setting him down on the ground”. There is so much conveyed here. She *sets him down*, as one might set a teacup down on a table (or a headstone). It doesn’t say she lands Atlas, as I did, she doesn’t speak of steering or maneuvering. Moreover, she doesn’t talk about herself. She’s bringing herself to the ground, as well as Atlas, that’s very clear, but the words on the page don’t ever acknowledge that directly.

    So when she’s thinking (and not even thinking very directly) about the logistics of transportation and movement, her awareness is larger than human; there is a space that she is aware of and she puts things in their places within that space as she can. She’s moving pieces on a board and her particular position in it is only a part of the information about that configuration. In the case of Atlas’ exhaustion, her own position is not even the most immediately relevant piece of information.

    If you wanted to sit us down and explain this oddness in her perception to us, I’d probably be interested but only because I’m already invested in the story (and because I’m a huge geek when it comes to the nuts-and-bolts mechanics of fictional worlds and fictional minds). So instead, you convey this information by having her think of *setting Atlas down*.

    And maybe I’m reading too much into a choice of words here. I doubt it. Maybe you aren’t aware you’re doing it. I doubt that too. But whether it’s instinct or an obsessive attention to detail or some linear combination of the two, this sort of passive, implicit consistency and narrative density in your writing is *all over the place*.

    The example I chose to harp on here happened seven sentences into this chapter. I can’t go more than seven sentences through any of the volumes you’ve written without finding another vein to mine somewhere in your writing. I know this is a long comment, but I’m not going to apologize until I exceed one Mr. Gecko’s verbosity.

    I love your story, and I love your writing, and I hope you derive at least as much pleasure from it as I do. You deserve that and more.

    • Well written description of what I was talking about when I spoke of the writing actually taking me into the character, not just reading their story in my review! Thank you for putting to words that nebulous sort of feeling that I could never quite express properly.

  23. I find myself in the same boat as Rook. In fact, I made a profile just so I could post this reply.

    I stumbled upon Worm on tvtropes this past November (particularly, The Fettered page), and I have been hooked ever since. I love the story, how intense and emotional it gets. The world of Worm is so crazy and fantastical, but at the same time, it’s so REAL. It’s something that’s kept me coming back for every update, these characters aren’t your run of the mill ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’, they’re PEOPLE. Great in some ways, but massively screwed up in many others. All very relate-able and understandable.

    This chapter though……this was beautiful.

    I’ve done some work in story writing, and considering it’s the focal point of career I’m getting into, I’ll be doing it for quite some time. Worm has become a great inspiration to further my own projects.

    Hell, maybe I’ll eventually put up some of my own work eventually.

    Thanks for the great story.

    • Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelcome, Anjodu, to the Worm comments section, your place for all things slimy and wriggly. Here’s your seat right here in the dark, mind the nightcrawlers. Now that we’re at an intermission, feel free to head up to the concession stand for some Wormfood and bugjuice. They carry plenty of butterfly for your popcorn. If you need to take any pillbugs, now’s the time. Sorry, no seafood, so you’ll have to go elsewhere for silverfish.

      Hold up a tick, you mite want to examine your zipper because your dragonfly is down. Don’t want there to bee a scene if you head out around the ladybugs, who are all here with their ants. Most of them are rather prudish WASPs, though the army ants got in with a discount. Of course, late at night it gets so quiet around here you can hear crickets, but they don’t mind you passing the time with a little grasshopper.

      Sorry to bug you, just my way of bringing people into the fold.

  24. “…The rules are only useful so long as they protect the status quo, and Brockton Bay bent the status quo over backwards and fucked it a long time ago.”

    New favourite quote.

  25. I had another dream about Worm last night.

    Instead of a regular update, wildbow had used all of the donation money so far to fund a feature film of the entire next arc. From what I remember, it was pretty sweet. Taylor’s voice was a little higher than I would have thought, though.

    I feel like the story is about to get darker again. Pretty soon, it’ll be darker than black.

    • I’m leery of a movie adaptation. It seems as though PRT personnel are responsible for such, based on their faithfulness to the source material. World War Z and Wanted come to mind.

      I can only assume it is malicious, because taking a popular work and then changing it to make it resonate with a lot of people makes no sense. If it needed to be made popular, it wouldn’t need to be made a movie.

        • So that’s how someone could spit out a piece of crap like movie versions of Wanted and World War Z.

          I mean, hell, World War Z writes itself. The movie would just cut between the interviewer doing his interviews with different subjects in their different areas. Use the narration that talks about the setting to lead into a new interview if it has it. A lot of different main characters, so it could even be ensemble if they had that bug up their asses. But either way, the interviews become flashbacks narrated by the subject.

          Nope, gotta make it all about Brad Pitt with fast zombies for some damn reason.

          As for Wanted, get the guy who did Dredd.

          • As for Wanted, get the guy who brought it up as an adaptation and throw him out the window for suggesting that they legitimatize that piece of fuck comic with a mainstream acknowledgement.

            I’d say that I’d prefer a comic adaptation, but then I have an image of what Mark “Rape n’ Thai ladyboys” Millar would do to the story and I’m compelled to pour bleach in my eyes.

          • I seriously /just/ had a discussion over the WWZ trailer and how disgusted I am with the inability of people to stick with a faithful book-to-movie adaptation. If Worm gets made into a movie (series of movies) the director better be veeeery anal about how exact the details are.

  26. MY feels! You’ve killed them Wildbow! 😥 Man Poor Taylor… save herself she would need to cut herself off from all her friends and family! Her going to her moms grave was so sad……in a movie I could totally she her mom’s ‘ghost’ standing behind her and putting a hand on Taylor’s shoulder.

    I would next want to see her talking to her dad about this. THAT would be a major tearjerker. Cutting all ties with him would make even the most stoic Worm Reader weep. Or as other have said, several mini-interludes showing how people look at and think of Taylor.

    All in all this will be one of my favorite chapters, Wildbow. Almost wish Taylor had the power to talk to the dead……wait….could Taylors mom still be alive in the Travelers original universe? I’m really curious about that all of a sudden. o.o

      • Wha…..*looks at the tags* Well I’ll be damned. Still want to know if Taylors mom could possibly still be alive in the Travelers universe.

          • Nah. The gravestone is her mom. She triggered during the car accident and turned into a rock. They added on the name, dates and epitaph by applying layers of plaster and then carving into that.

          • Dun dun dun!

            Taylor’s Mom triggered, gaining shapeshifting powers at the time of her death. Her body was hurt but instinctively kept herself alive but with low vitals and a mangled body. She was buried after the crash, where she regained consciousness, having healed herself with her powers. She clawed her way up from the grave, frightening an old groundskeeper to death. She placed his body in the coffin and took over his lonely life of watching over the graves. Due to the brain damage and her moving parts and pieces around, it took her a long time to regain her memory, so long that the world had moved on and it seemed like coming into her family’s life again would cause more harm than good.

            So she watched from afar, occasionally throwing the odds a little more into Taylor’s favor.

  27. Here it comes, the sound of drums. Can’t wait to see Taylor to go full villain. Dance right over that moral event horizon, sweet thang.

    • Nah, more like full Batman.

      The hero Brockton needs, not the one it deserves.

      …well, okay, probably the one it deserves too.

      • Wait, Batman’s not a villain? The billionaire who beats up poor people to assuage his parental abandonment issues? I’m confuzzled.

        • The guy who leaves mass murderers alive out of some really stupid idea that they might be redeemed, despite them constantly escaping and showing not even the slightest remorse? For the greater good my ass.

          • Honestly, I think this aspect is unfairly laid at Batman’s feet. It’s completely appropriate that someone who wears the mantle of hero not act as judge, jury and executioner.

            IMO, the real blame lies upon the justice system that keeps letting these people escape.

            It’s not appropriate for Batman to shoot the Joker dead. It would be entirely reasonable for Gotham to put him to death once he’s caught (although I am not personally a fan of the death penalty IRL).

            At the very least, put him somewhere he doesn’t escape every twenty minutes!

            I sometimes wonder if Bruce might have a bigger effect on crime by having Wayne Industries take over the prison contract for the city and actually doing the job *properly*.

  28. For all that the tone and content of this chapter is a massive downer, it leaves me optimistic. Taylor needed this, not just some sort of closure with the tatters of her old life, but a frank admission to herself that not only has she done a heel turn but she did it a long time back and has since gone balls deep in villainy. So to speak.

    In a better world, Taylor wouldn’t have missed the good options to try to fix things from within the system.. but then, in a better world, Taylor would have been faced with problems that could credibly be fixed from within the system before Armageddon.

    So the system wants a fight, huh? Has big words about how it’s just the way things are, and history will grind away all that opposes it? Well, there’s an answer for that too. You’ve got a glass jaw, Uncle Sam, and you wheeze like a dying smoker. You want to trade body blows? You’re rotten on the inside, you’ll fold first.

    What’s the common wisdom on villainmoot truces anyways, over as soon as everyone leaves the premises? Over at the dawn of the next day? If Taylor acts fast she could kill some of the Teeth in their sleep. Or perhaps capture them.. crucify them against the hull of a boat in the graveyard or some such. Gotta speak their language, use them to communicate to the rest of the subhuman trash that uncivilized conduct is no longer accepted in Brockton Bay.

    • “communicate to the rest of the subhuman trash that uncivilized conduct is no longer accepted in Brockton Bay.”

      Not sure how uncivil conduct is meant to communicate this.

  29. I’d like to extend a massive thank-you to everyone who’s rated Worm on Webfictionguide. Worm is now the most popular (not 100% sure what that means: I think it’s an amalgym of # & value of ratings) and the highest rated story on the site. It blows my mind, and I’m really grateful you guys have gone the extra mile to sign up to the site & rate (and especially grateful to those who reviewed).

    While you wait for the next chapter, perhaps check out other great serials that are listed there; I think webfiction has a lot of promise, and I kind of hope to see it get more traction in general. 😀

    • I’ve finally managed to make an account on WFG. Looking at all the other reviews for Worm, I realize I don’t have anything to say about it that hasn’t been said already. I’ll work on coming up with something, and hopefully post it within a few days.

      Also, it must be pretty cool to have a bunch of readers who are helpful enough that you can just say “Hey guys, I’d love it if some of you did this.” and we run off and do it. If only you could drop off some of your day to day tasks on us, so you can get more free time (to write). If you requested someone’s home address so you could mail them your dirty dishes and laundry, I bet someone would do it. No guarantee they wouldn’t keep some of it to sell on Ebay in case you get famous though.

          • …I now have a mental image of Wildbow taking his dog for a walk, earbuds in and head bobbing to the tune even while waving at people on the other side of the street, coming home, making a meal (I’m thinking something simple… Boiled potatoes- possibly mashed- and gravy, with steamed broccoli and cauliflower with a light cheese sauce, accompanied by a medium-rare porkchop or two, perhaps?) then sat down and starting to write away with a fresh mindset… all while wearing only a banana hammock. A black one, specifically, because it’s sleek and stylish. X3 Thank you, Scrambles.

          • Oh, come on, pleeeeeease? You could do the whole cast in like, beach/swimsuit attire. with a chibi Wildbow in the corner, wearing a black banana hammock, iPod, and walking a dog while whistling, on the beach. 😀

  30. – I see what you did there with the Atlas metaphor, by the way :p
    – groundskeeper anyone special? Probably not, just a friendly bystander.
    – shit is about to get real, for real.

    • If I were a little classier, I’d just leave those references up for other people to get and notice on their own. Except I get impatient when they don’t, and point them out myself.

      • It honestly hadn’t occurred to me to mention the allusion in comments. I thought it was a neat detail, but too obvious to be worth talking about. I have a bad habit of forgetting that all the junk that litters my mind isn’t shared by everybody else.

        • It hadn’t occurred to me either, for much the same reason. Of course, now I feel as though I’ve been talked down to a bit. Isn’t it a little insecure to ensure every single one of your readers gets a reference?

          • Meant to respond to Wildbow. Now it looks like I’m inducting Castronaut into some secret society of snobs. “Wasn’t it silly of Wildbow to explain that to the plebs, chap?”

          • It didn’t feel like talking down to me. Granted, the explanation for Atlas’s name could have been better, such as Skitter just going through her thought processes the day of the naming. But that’s just my opinion.

            We never got around to doing a readership demographics poll, but judging by the comments, readers are likely to at least have a cursory education in literature and writing. Or just a knowledge of trivia via TvTropes. Either way, we’ll probably get a lot of the references; we just may not mention them much here.

          • I don’t particularly feel talked down to… For one thing, the way the subject was brought up in-story is perfectly reasonable, and actually a pretty neat way to peek at the Lisa-Taylor interactions. It’s hard to doubt that both of them are fully aware of the allusion.

            Moreover, I’d liken it a bit to Shakespeare, or Pixar, or really any number of talented storytellers; it’s a passage that is functional and has the ability to entertain across different levels of education. That sort of making sure that people get references is especially useful any time you want something to be accessible to a broad audience.

            Which isn’t to say that it’s impossible to talk down to people while trying to make things accessible. I just don’t think that’s really what Wildbow has done here.

      • Er… Am I alone in remembering that this was mentioned directly when Atlas was first named? “My beetle needed a name. Had to have a better way of referring to it. A hercules beetle, but bigger, a giant. I thought about Hercules, about the myth; Hercules had borrowed the burden of the giant who carried the world. Atlas.”
        That spelt it out right there… I’d be more curious why you brought it up like that again, but this time it was Lisa asking, and she might not have made the connection immediately. After all, we see Atlas far more than she does, and we are privy to Skitter’s thoughts, outside a hot zone. It’s only understandable that when it’s brought up originally, a quick nod to the name, but the underlying reason is left unquestioned, until a calmer time, as noted here;

        “…I shook my head and glanced over to where the clouds was glowing orange with the reflected flames. ‘Nothing I could do. Too much fire, it cancels out my power, and it’s dangerous for Atlas.’

        ‘Atlas. I like that.’ …” quoted from the same section of Prey, 14.6, a few paragraphs down.

        Trust me, we notice. We just don’t comment all the time on the things that make us smile as we get the reference. 😉

      • Well, speaking as the dumb one in attendance, I hadn’t actually caught the reference about him being a Hercules beetle. I just thought mount -> heavy burden -> Atlas, plus the general theme of strength. So I’m happy you spelled it out here. 😛

  31. Welp, looks like I finally caught up. I’ve been devoting my evenings, lunch breaks and train rides to this for several solid weeks. I’ve commented a few times since then, I think, but I’ll just repeat that Worm is just fantastic, definitely in my personal top 10 bits of fiction. For what it’s worth, I found it via word-of-mouth from my sister, who found it via Tvtropes wiki-walk.

    I was glad to read that Wildbow is OK with fanfiction, because I’ve had a growing temptation to write some. I have to admit that I’ve spent a fair bit of free time thinking up my own capes, teams and plotlines, and/or worrying that my stuff doesn’t mesh/ compare with Wildbow’s brilliant worldbuilding.

    Anyway, time to come down from my binge and settle in for the wait. This is going to be like Girl Genius all over again, isn’t it? 😛

          • As the Vord are insects in all but name, I think she’d be able to control them. In a direct confrontation though, the Vord Queen would otherwise tear Skitter apart since she has that freakishly fast speed going for her, and overall is just so much stronger physically as well. I think turning her own horde against her would put the Vord Queen into a state of utter confusion though, so depending on whether Skitter can make use of that to perform an opening surprise move and get checkmate in the first few moves, I think the Vord Queen would, sadly, win… Unless the Vord Queen herself is vulnerable to being co-opted, in which case… No more need for bug breeding programs, is there? :3

      • He would be in my username too, but it looked too long and clunky.

        I can’t be the only one who immediately thought of that book/movie when they read Weld’s classification rhyme.

        That, or “Mover, shaker, candlestick maker” =P

    • Ah, I missed your catching up. Time for you to get welcomed. Oh yeah, I’m gonna welcome you so hard, your grandkids are going to feel happy about it! They’re going to call you up and go “Dear grandpa/grandma…I feel so happy all of a sudden. And yet, I have this sudden desire to scrub my brain out. Does this have anything to do with the time you read that awesome web serial written by former Prime Minister Wildbow?”

      And you’ll go “Well, little Timantha and Samothy, it does indeed. I was just a sprout myself, at least in my picture, when I caught all the way up. And back in those days, Wildbow’s comments were overrun by an evil but incredibly handsome supervillain from another dimension. We learned much from him, including the art of cheese-related warfare, and that pink goes well with giant homicidal, chainsaw-wielding robots. Truly, it was a utopia. He had taken it upon himself to greet people who got caught up. Alas, they say we fell out of contact after the great Dildoing in 2053. We were all taken aback at the news.”

      Might as well get to some fanfiction. At this point in the story, even without knowing about the apocalypse’s resolution, we know enough that you should be able to get something put together without having it invalidated by later revelations. Hopefully.

      Welcome to the commetns, TinkerTailor

      • Thanks for taking on the onerous task of welcoming me, PG =P

        And yeah, any hypothetical fanfic I wrote would steer clear of the overarching apocalypse/cauldron/passengers/multiverse plotlines. It would feel weird writing about that, to say the least, especially since Wildbow is basically One Of Us as opposed to some largely distant author/studio.

        • Yeah. Plus, sometimes you and Wildbow inadvertently run across the same ideas.

          I know that after Mannequin, I can’t really use what I originally envisioned as Man-Opener as a Wormverse fic character without making some changes to him. Mine was a large suit, like a small mech, with solid white armor, no head, digitigrade legs, and arms that ended in Fallout 3-style auto axes, with the pilot being held low in the torso. His arms would be outside the armor proper, but he’d be wearing a jumpsuit kind of outfit with light armoring on them, so he could potentially hold a gun, or type, or grab something.

          Originally he was going to be a scientist who was making headway on stronger materials through regular science before some catastrophe happened where heroes either couldn’t or didn’t respond fast enough to save his wife, prompting his trigger event into a tinker who was even better in his field of study. The same event would also cost him the use of his legs, thus a friend of his who was a medical doctor would reluctantly keep his secret as sought out heroes who crossed lines or didn’t do enough to help people as he felt they should.

          Can’t use him like that. There’s been a few times like that with Wildbow where I’ve been like “Well, there goes that idea without looking like I’m copying.” Despite the fact that Wildbow’s got a Blue and Orange Sense of Humor as far as I’m concerned, our thoughts are eerily similar at times.

  32. Hey Wildbow, I’ve been meaning to ask how well known Atlas is to civilians in brockton bay. Seems like civies might not realize skitter has an atlas to ride on.
    Truly skitter rides on the shoulders of giants.

  33. Hullo,
    and now I’m finally up to date. Took me eight days (started on 6th, finished yesterday) to read all the story parts. Didn’t venture into the comments though.

    Granted, it was and is a ride. The last time I had such a reading spree (or felt the need to keep reading because of the suspense) was on Homestuck, and that was tentatively close on the same time scale.

    Now I only need to disentangle from the depressing headspace Worm put me in. Drowning in chocolate ice cream with sprinkles might help. Incidentally, never read that phrase (headspace) before, but it is apt.

    On a side note, wildbow, you don’t have a flattr, do you? Reading such an expansive universe, enjoying it, makes me want to pay the author back in some way, and donating feels wrong. I could go on a spiel about flattr, but… no, one ought to make up their mind on their own. I like the idea.

    Be that as it may, I liked what I read. Though lengthy (700k+ words?) it is very engaging and subversive, in a sense. One point of critique: the anniversary bonus after the Infestation arc was… well… exhausting? It’s hard to put, because I didn’t look at the table of contents except for getting a guess at the length of an arc, how many chapters it contained, and thusly when current storyline threads might be finished somewhat, but the Infestation interludes made me feel anxious about when the regular chapters would continue. Mind, this is not meant as a put down in regards to the interludes, but rather the pacing, I guess? Taking such a long time (in regards to reading material) for the next story chapter, especially since I knew there’d be a lot of other stuff still coming, created a kind of anxiety for when it finally would continue.
    Mayhaps this wasn’t the case for those reading regularly at the time, but this was what it felt like for me after the fact. It would have felt more natural to intersperse the Interludes with the regular chapters, though that would have been countering their descriptor of “interlude” between arcs.

    • *walks out in a pink dress with a blonde pigtail wig on, huge lollipop in hand*

      More than a million words, actually. Yes, that means you just read something longer than War and Peace.

      Welcome to the comments, comickry. Your long Worm nightmare is at an end. At least until the next chapter, which should be horribly, soul-crushingly dark. I think that’s how it goes. Every cathartic chapter followed soon after by one that makes people die a little bit inside.

      Probably no more harmful than a serving of fried chicken in terms of how much inside it makes you die.

      The difference is that you can inhale all of Worm in 8 days, but to inhale 8 days straight of fried chicken would leave you sweating grease. So yeah, better idea to stick with that ice cream. Might I suggest a chocolate milkshake with Nutter Butter broken up and mixed in? Like Regent’s new DVD series, it’s barely legal.

      The comments tend to help with the headspace, by the way. Give us enough time and you’ll manage Max headspace.

      *curtsies, avoiding the 21 thrown pie salute tossed over his head at you*

    • I have to say that reading through the archives as I did I felt some of the same anxiety, though greatly dampened because any materiel I read on the Wormverse is something to slake my thirst for more great literary art upon.

      This is why I have suggested that when it comes time to turn Worm into a book series that the interludes get their own anthology novel or novels, so as to keep the small snippets separated from the main story arcs. Multiple novels would allow for them to be released as encyclopediac additions to each book, most likely as a cheaper paperback sold as a pair deal (say 50% off the price of the second if you buy them together, sort of concept) in an initial printing run.

    • I don’t have a flattr, I’m afraid.

      On the topic of the interlude week(s), I did let people know in the comments, well ahead of time. For people who were following along at the time, it was an update every day for a week, while regular chapters were/are being released on a 2-3 a week schedule (depending on donations). Chronologically, I don’t feel it was a problem. Pacing-wise? Very possible there was some issue there.

      Pacing’s a very very hard thing to get right in a serial, when you’re managing two entirely different groups: the people who are reading all at once and the people who are reading as the chapters are released.

      • It was completely a pacing issue in my eyes, as minor as it was, but even then it was more because I wanted to know more about the main story NOW (at the time). x3 I think I’d feel the same way regardless of consuming it in an archive binge vs. in a day-to-day situation, simply because the story is so engrossing you just want MORE. I know I felt the same way when I tried to read the short stories anthology for the Dresden Files, as well as the small number of Ciaphas Cain short stories, between volumes- I just itched to get back to reading the novel I was reading prior, or to grab the next volume if I was just recently done and continue reading the main characters’ exploits.

        Chronologically, that was a great placement for it, and I really like how it lead into where we really did need to know more about Noelle and the rest of the Travellers, so we could sympathise and understand their motivations beyond just being this mysterious group of villains with hearts- Which worked because they were not the main focus of the story in any way until then.

      • No flattr is a pity :/

        @ Gecko, thanks for the pies! They tasted delicious and well rounded. One for each arc, I presume?

        Anyway, I was wondering in regards to the Earth Aleph and Bet, the latter compared favourable and unfavourably in certain aspects. Two curious points struck me:
        One, how Bet is supposed to be more intense, with higher mountains and deeper rifts. I’m wondering if that was meant physical or metaphorical. The former seems less likely, since the deviation point is supposed to be in the range of 3+ decades past and differences being mostly attributed to the higher percentage of capes and subsequent changes in durability of of building, politics and general outlook on life. It’s probably an amalgam of both physical and metaphorical, I think.
        Two, the action almost exclusively takes place in Bet. Predisposition in naming conventions in general leads me to believe Haywire, the cape responsible for that (permanent?) dimensional portal originates from Aleph. The casual mention of it during conversation on both universes implies, well… I don’t know, really. He was mentioned, without need for clarification, so he’s probably unique (as most past deviation capes with the possible exception of Scion are), but it somehow bugs me. The naming thing makes me think he’s an Aleph cape. But the way he(she?) comes up in conversation on Bet makes me think he’s a Bet cape. So… what is it, actually? Aleph, Bet, Both, perhaps another one (Omega)?

        And lastly a minor nitpick: It’s the fault of the media “Scion” caught on as the name, right? Because if a Russian question is answered with a word, what makes them think that’s his name? They assumed he answered the question in English? That’s honestly odd. I can see the media jump to that conclusion, because the cape naming convention seems to be locked to an actual word, not a name, especially since I assume he said that word after there were other capes roaming the planet. Still odd, though.

  34. Oops, accidentally posted on the second latest post…

    Hm. So, at the suggestion of a friend (who seems to be quite active in the comments down here), I’ve just spent the last week and a half reading through the entire archives. Now here I was, cruising through the story and I appear to have hit the end with all the grace of a car smashing into a brick wall. I’m going to refrain from commenting on the storyline for now (and this’ll probably one of the few times you’ll actually hear from me), but I just wanted to say… I like it. Good job.

    Just chalk this up to one more fan, I guess.

    • > So, at the suggestion of a friend (who seems to be quite active in the comments down here), I’ve just spent the last week and a half reading through the entire archives.

      Are any of the other active commenters scouring their brains trying to remember if there was anyone they pointed at Worm a week and a half ago? 😉

      Glad you’re enjoying it.

      • Well, it was more of over a month ago, and I’ve only just gotten around to it recently. And trust me, the person who referred me will definitely recognise me. I just feel like being suspenseful and keeping you all in the dark until they decide to get around to replying.

    • FUDDLE!
      Took you long enough >.>
      It irks me how often people are all “Yeah, it’s awesome, gotcha. I’ll get around to it…at some point.” Totally worth it, like I said.
      Glad you caught up, now I will perpetually annoy you with my Worm fangirling since you know what the hell I’m talking about now. ^_^

      Oh, via word of mouth, we should have like a couple dozen more people heading here from me. Eventually…. the pussies.

      • I recommend manga, fanfiction, web comics, Worm…I can count on a few fingers the number of time it has worked. I may have just convinced someone to read it, but they don’t seem that enthusiastic, as it required bribing/striking a deal. Hopefully, we’ll see them in a month or so, and they can revel in the glory that is being a Worm fan and welcomed by PG.

        • It’s frustrating as an author, as well. You have friends and family who express interest, who act excited for your sake, but for every ten that ask for the URL, only one will comment at all on the subject.

          And when it’s a fairly big part of your life – thirty to forty five hours a week you’re dedicating to something, not counting time spent dwelling on storylines – that gets frustrating. I’ve heard of authors who have wives that don’t even read their stuff.

          • Sometimes it may be for the best, considering the dark content. Perhaps it is better that your wife does not see all your internal devils.
            I faced the same problem with a few of my own texts and got to this conclusion.
            Well, nobody around here speak enough English to have fun reading such a lengthy text, so, from my part you will get few new readers.

          • I can definitely understand that. But, even though I don’t even write this, when I read through the comments and see someone mention how much they enjoy/relate to the writing, I tend to take a more “well, their loss” type of mindset. As long as one person can enjoy the world that you’ve made, I think that makes up for the dozens who are too preoccupied to care.

          • I am recommending it to everyone i can.

            one person has already read the whole thing.
            another has shown interest, but i think you may actually put out content faster than they read(this isnt a bad thing).
            and a few others.

          • I recommended it to a friend but had to stop due to how dark the beginning was. She just wouldn’t continue, but she did try it first.

          • I think the only person I’ve recommended it to who hasn’t gone on to read it has been my roommate. There’ve been four or five other people that I can remember who actually did read through it at my suggestion, though, so I’m not too annoyed by my roomie’s lack of taste.

            On a more relevant note, I’ve actually always found it weird when my friends and family start becoming fans of my writing. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like I can write deeper and more personal stuff when it’s only being read by people who don’t know me well. There’s a comforting shield in anonymity, there, even if they know your name and basically everything else about you.

            Admittedly, the whole “friend turning into a fan” thing only happened once, so I may be blowing it out of proportion. All my other friends still know I’m a talentless hack.

          • I suppose if I were just a regular guy in a regular world, I wouldn’t let my family read the stuff I write. Especially if I lived in a slightly-rural part of the South, smack dab in the Bible Belt. That’s why I would always keep a hungry cat and a quill pen around. Nom da plume, as they say.

          • i’ve suggested it to two people. the first, my sister, has an enormous backlog of other fics i’ve recommended to her and she hasn’t even gotten through those yet…

            the other wants me to try again later and remind him whenever worm finishes. he absolutely hates incomplete works ^^;;

        • I have to admit, I was kinda like that at first. My sister recommended Worm to me, and I basically said “Oh, sounds cool, I might read it later”… and then didn’t bother for a few weeks.

          In the end, she sent me a chapter on its own, saying “hey, check out this cool monster description” (this was the interlude where Mannequin attacked Armsmaster). I read it without context and thought it was good, which piqued my interest enough that next time I had a train ride I loaded up a few chapters to read. I was pretty much hooked after the first chapter, so… that’ll teach me not to ignore recommendations, I guess.

    • I have, myself, full confidence that if all keep promoting, if no grouping of people is neglected, and if the best writing is made, as it is being made, we shall prove ourselves even more able to grow our readership and commentatoriat, to ride out the storm of the upcoming Apocalypse, and to outlive the original run of the story as a community, if necessary for years, if necessary with our current numbers. At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of His Wildbow’s Government-every Wormling of them. That is the will of the Comments and the forums. The Worm and Comments, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. Even though large tracts of the Internet and many old and famous memes have fall or may fall into the grip of oblivion and all the odious fickleness of people, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in the forums, we shall fight on Webfiction and Top Web Fiction, we shall promote with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall promote our story, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the Cheezburgers, and on the Newgrounds, we shall fight off the spam and the bots, we shall fight off the trolls; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this serial or a large part of it were subjugated and deleted, then our influence beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the Maggot fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in Wildbow’s good time, the Real World, with all its publishing might, steps forth to the rescue and liberation of the old.

      Welcome to the crew, Fuddlebob

  35. Well, Wildbow, thanks for making me cry. Having the loss of someone as close to me as Taylor’s Mom would be to her still fresh in my heart, the tiny little part in there about the tears when the groundskeeper offered kindness unbidden set me off in a way that very little else can. It’s those small kindnesses when you least expect it that touch you the most after a loss.

    And great chapter overall. I haven’t read the comments at all, but if ANYONE complains that this was all talk and introspection and no action, please tell ’em to go play with some of Psycho Gecko’s toys. Over and over, you never cease to amaze me, Wildbow.



  36. i have just realized that I have lost a week reading this story after finding it. How have I lived without it all my life.

  37. This was…nice. Touching. Sad.

    It’s nice to have a break from the insanity of the past several chapters…well, a break from pretty much everything since Leviathan, inclusive. The conversation with Taylor’s mother was touching, though sad. The realization of what’s ahead? Sad. Frank being so kind to the infamed supervillain visiting her dead mother? Nice and touching.

    I approve of this chapter, this idea.

  38. You’d think the Protectorate would have sent in a full sized attack team to capture all the Undersiders by now. A shame Weld isn’t with them any more, he could take on the entire group by himself.

    I’m finally losing sympathy for our protagonist (whether this spells the beginning of the end of my interest in the story remains to be seen, but the lack of nice things happening doesn’t help). I’m thinking Taylor should either turn herself in or put her team under the Protectorate. It’s better for all concerned and if Taylor was still good it’s what she’d do.

    I’m also curious how the government of the Bay works now. Do the Undersiders have control of the police? Are they trying to be the police? What does it really mean to say someone has taken over a city apart from the statement about people’s perceptions?

  39. Awww therapy dog! Way to go Rachel! Smart move indeed. Dogs fix everything 🙂

    I love the comment that they took over the city because “it needed doing.” That’s totally right but it’s simply hilarious thinking about a group of teenagers looking at something and basically just saying “nope, that’s gotta go.”

    This chapter was incredibly heartbreaking by the way. Atlas is essentially dying. Taylor is dead inside. The PRT are complete dicks. Her friends really can’t help. She’s sitting alone in a cold dark cemetery. Heartbreaking.

    The groundskeeper was awesome though. I love seeing kind people like this pop up in stories every once in a while.

  40. I can’t even describe the emotions going through me right now. Jesus christ, everything about her situation feels so real, these characters a so fleshed out.


    Seriously, I could relate to Taylor too much. Too much. Her situation is quite similar with mine, with a few changes here and there. But not saying that I’ll do what Taylor do. She’s braver, and above all has The Undersiders. I don’t have anything like The Undersiders, so maybe that’s why I’m still stuck at the same place. More trouble but nothing resolved, Morevoer I had no goal, but my thoughts kept circling in disarray.

    I am very glad I started reading Worm. It’s what I’m looking for. I want to give a big gift for wildbow but I could only manage a virtual, big, bear hug for now.

    And I’m quite satisfied that I’m able to rant. Hell yeah.

  42. This is a little pedantic but it distracted me for the rest of the chapter, I noticed that “I’m sorry” is explained as being two and a half words? What? Its non-contracted form “I am sorry” would be three words but “I’m sorry” is two, no? I might forgive a 16 year old for making that mistake but not if their mom was an English professor.

  43. Well this was disconcerting. I’m not quite sure why, but the following section had me checking whether it was a Gecko re-write:

    “” every time he gets tired, there’s general wear and tear I can’t compensate for.”

    “I’m sorry,” Tattletale said.

    “That’s the way things go, isn’t it? Nothing works a hundred percent right.”

    “I suppose you’re right,” she said. “I have to wonder, when you named him, what was the idea behind calling him Atlas?”

    “My mom raised me as a reader,” I said. “He’s a giant-sized Hercules beetle, and the only name-upgrade I could think of from Hercules was the titan Atlas.”

    “The titan who bears the weight of the world on his shoulders. Apropos.”

    I shrugged.

    “And like his master, he’s having trouble with his burden?”

    “I’m really not in the mood for the Tattletale psychoanalysis.” I climbed onto the dog’s back. It wasn’t one I knew well, and moved away from me as I climbed up its side, making the process more awkward. Rachel made sound that was almost a bark, almost an ‘ah!’, and the animal went still.

    “Maybe it’s not exactly what you want, but what if it can help?” Tattletale asked.

    “My issues aren’t ones that can be fixed with words,” I said. “Unless you have any insights to offer about Tagg, a way to make this world suddenly make sense, or a way to make people stop being such assholes, such morons, then I’m not sure I want to hear it.”

    “He got to you.”

    “No,” I said, shaking my head. “Nothing he said-”

    “But he got to you, even if you ignore everything he said.”

    “Armsmaster,” I said. “Kaiser. Purity. Miss Militia. Piggot. Dragon… a bunch of others I can’t even be bothered to think of. Why is it so hard to find someone who’s willing to cooperate? To find someone that’s on the same page as me? They keep making these calls I just can’t understand, sometimes unfathomable, stupid calls, and things keep falling apart.”

    “They probably look at you and wonder why you can’t fall in line with their perception of the way things should go.”

    I shook my head. “It’s not like that.”

    Tattletale didn’t interject or argue.

    I struggled to find the words. “…What I’m talking about””.

  44. This was… moving. I’m not ashamed to say I teared up. I am so emotionally connected to the characters in this wonderful story, and I felt heartbroken right alongside Taylor.

    I haven’t commented more than once if I can recall, but I wanted to take the time to commend you on your work. This story is not one I will soon forget! If you’re curious, I stumbled across Worm through my older brother and have been hooked since. I recommend it to friends at every opportunity because I love supporting great artists. I’m dreading the point when I read the last word, but I’ll be sudre to check out your other work!

  45. On my third re-read, still an amazing story. Are we any closer to a physical book or are we just fucked

  46. Goddammit. It’s been forever since I’ve last cried over a story, I don’t even remember the last time I cried over a *written* one, and this made me cry.

    Fucking Wildbow.

    Thanks for the chapter and story, this has been a really enjoyable ride so far. Your writing has a rare, powerful grip to it, making it very hard to stop at all. (fuck you for that btw, making me fucking addicted to this.)

  47. Also, goddamit @ Tattletale – and Parian – being straight. I have the biggest crush on TT, and then you go and RUIN IT AND CRUSH ALL MY DREAMS!!!!!1!11!eleven

    fuk u widlbow, playing with our hearts 😦

  48. I had just finished reading the chapter, and this song came on on my playlist. Seems so perfect. Contact (Final Transmission).

  49. I absolutely adore characters like that groundskeeper who are Good People in that smallest of ways when it matters so much. Also my little cold heart just snapped at this chapter if it’s possible to snap even more from this serial. Is that wildbow’s power now

  50. All my respect goes to Groundskeeper Frank K. Earnest. (K for Kind, maybe?) Anyway, did anyone notice that the most epic part of this chapter was:

    “I didn’t have bags, but I had bugs.”

  51. Really I’m surprised that Lisa hadn’t thought of this, getting samples of Atlas’ waste and having it checked for what he needs, it may not be perfect but it would be better than what he has been getting to eat.

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