This will be my first Worm fic as well and I've been tossing around the idea with my beta for a while, so I have some fairly detailed plans on where it's going to go. Fair warning, it will probably not be consistent with lore items revealed in Ward as I haven't gotten around to reading that one yet; though almost everything in Worm itself is fair game!
I'm going to try cross-posting this story on Ao3 as well as SpaceBattles. My username for Ao3 is the same, for SB it's 'Slider214'.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to Worm. If I did, I would be FAR more productive.
Please enjoy and let me know what you think in a review if you feel like it!
I shuffled from foot to foot as I rifled through my purse. "Um, you can go ahead," I mumbled to the freckle-faced, brunette behind me.
"You've let five people go ahead already," the girl replied narrowing her eyes at me.
I fidgeted, grimacing as I held up my bag and tried not to meet her eyes. Looking inconspicuous was apparently a lot harder than I had expected. Maybe I should've come in costume. This was stupid. This was so, so stupid. I wasn't ready for this. I was recon, I was supposed to be recon and intel. I needed a team. What the hell was I doing at a bank in civilian clothes in the middle of the day alone trying to stop a robbery! A robbery that I wasn't even sure of the exact time of!
"I know, I know, I'm really sorry. I thought I had the check from my grandmother, but I can't find it! I don't know where else I could have put it, and I just don't want to lose my place in line by dropping out entirely to go to the bathroom and search everywhere!" Oh god that was pathetic. Was I always this bad at lying? I thought I had gotten pretty good at lying over the past few months. It was practically necessary to survive at home these days after all.
The girl sighed and rubbed at the bridge of her nose. "Look, let me get my stuff deposited then I'll see if I can help you find your check. You don't want to be stuck here for another twenty minutes. People will start calling the PRT thinking you're a villain or something. A stupid villain."
I felt my face heat up as I nodded back at her. "Th-thanks." This was not what I needed. Not. At. All. While I let the blush creep up over my face in response to her 'stupid' comment, privately I pushed the majority of my emotions into my swarm. They were keeping watch in the rafters and in the corners and in the shadows, and they were mine. I'd found, a while ago, that I could shift a lot of my emotional issues over to them when things got bad. It helped to keep me calm most days and it helped to keep me mostly focused on the rest. Like now, when I needed to figure out how to get this Good Samaritan to back off and let me keep my lookout. Maybe I could have one of the bees sting her and then –
The doors flew inward, smashing against the walls with a crash strong enough to shatter the glass. "Everyone stay down and no one gets hurt!" a gruff shout echoed into the room just before a wave of darkness flowed into the bank atrium right on the heels of the mini explosion. I tackled the brunette to the floor as my swarm marked the four people running inside through the darkness. A few bugs for each, not many, nothing anyone would notice, but enough to keep track.
I'd done my homework. There wasn't much on the Undersiders – their profiles were mostly stubs – but there was enough. Grue liked to use darkness to cover the Undersiders' jobs and that darkness made it near impossible to see, or apparently hear, anything. Impossible for anyone but me since I didn't rely on sight or hearing. I relying on a different sense altogether. "Stay here!" I hissed to the girl. I had no idea if she could hear me, I could barely hear myself in this dead zone. Man, PHO really undersold how creepy Grue could be! If he wasn't risking innocents like this I'd be almost impressed with the guy. Darkness generation doesn't sound fancy on paper, but this was pretty good and very useful. It gave me some ideas on how to use my own swarm if I ever got it large enough one day.
I carefully got to my feet and edged towards the teller's counter. The one with the scepter – Regent – was tying up the bank workers on the other side. From what my swarm was relaying it seemed like the darkness ended near the counter. That made sense. They'd want to be able to see where they were stealing from after all.
A complication. Nothing I couldn't work around. The butch girl – Hellhound – was at the back of the bank along with Grue. It was just me, Regent and the blonde in the catsuit. That had to be Tattletale. Nobody on PHO knew exactly what her power was, just that it wasn't physical, but it was hard hitting. She was dangerous. She was also not carrying a scepter with a taser in it. I didn't want to use my entire swarm, not yet. Not unless I had to. They took too long to build up. I had to try this the sneaky way first. Let Taylor be the hero here, not some new cape.
I couldn't afford to reveal myself like that. Not yet. Not until I had backing and support. Or at least one friend to help. I needed a team before I could come onto the scene. Coming out right now, alone, would be tantamount to suicide. The ABB would never have me since I wasn't Asian, I refused to join the resident Nazis, I'd rather die than let the Merchants take me, the PRT and their Wards could go fuck themselves with a rusty spoon…New Wave wasn't even on the table. They'd make me reveal myself and I couldn't do that under any circumstances. Never. No one could know who I was for real under my mask. No one could know that Taylor Hebert had powers. The day the world found out that Taylor had powers was the day that Taylor died. One way or another.
Though if this went really south, as long as my face and powers weren't put together, I could always try to meet up with Parian and see if I could get a job with her. She made dresses; I could weave her dresses out of spider silk. We'd be awesome together…that was helping people too…right?
Shaking my head, I pulled back some of my emotions from the swarm and refocused. I needed to get back in the moment. That was the danger of shunting too much away, it could lead to my main consciousness focusing on the wrong portion of the problem. I could multitask like no one's business, but I still had a primary task…usually. At least I had gotten to the edge of the darkness effect while woolgathering. Grabbing the pepper spray from my purse I placed one hand on the counter and vaulted over it. Landing on the other side, I held up the can and managed to tag Regent's eyeholes on the first spritz.
"Arrg! What the hell you crazy bitch!" the prince swung his scepter frantically towards me, but the bug I had at the top gave me enough notice of the direction he was going that I was able to fall back out of the way of his arc. It went wide and he smashed it into the side of the counter top. I sprang forward again and tackled him to the ground. "Get the hell off of me!"
I ignored his yell and drove my elbow into his stomach rolling free as he wheezed and tried to weakly swing the scepter towards my face again. Coming up to my feet I grinned momentarily. Maybe this wouldn't be quite so hard after all. Now I just had to take out Tattletale, drop back into the darkness and wait for Grue and Hellhound to pass by and I could knock them out too.
That plan died a fiery death as soon as my mind caught up with my swarmsense. My eyes tracked up and I swallowed hard at the sight of the two larger members glaring at me from the doorway to the back rooms. Grue had his arms crossed and Hellhound was cracking her knuckles with a growl issuing from her throat. "What part of stay down and you won't get hurt did you not understand?" Grue asked, the mask and the darkness giving his voice an odd reverb effect that would have been very disconcerting. If I couldn't do the same trick myself through my swarm at least.
"You rob from the gangs, not the people. What the hell are you doing here?" I hissed. "People are going to get hurt!"
"Like me," Regent whined from the ground a few feet away.
"Shut up, Regent," Tattletale said walking up from the computer she had claimed a few spaces down the line. "Grue, Bitch, deal with the vault, I got this."
"But the runt attacked us," Hellhound spat glaring at me. I met her eyes and bared my teeth right back at her.
"Wards will be here in five minutes. Get the damn vault open." The two larger Undersiders turned and stalked back into the bank. I caught sight of what might have been a Rottweiler in the as well and set some of my swarm onto it before focusing on Tattletale. "So, you wanted to play hero huh? Brave for someone without powers. Or maybe you do have powers and you just are scared to show them off."
I kept my face impassive and tried to offload more of my emotions into the swarm. "You like to talk. PHO agrees on that. You're going to get someone hurt by being here."
"Maybe. It's kinda what villains do." She cocked her head to the side, her blond hair falling in a wave around her shoulder and a grin spread over her face. "But I guess you'd know all about that wouldn't you?"
"What the fuck are you talking about?"
Tattletale tapped the side of her head. "Here's a little secret for you, girl. I'm psychic. And you, you are the daughter of a villain." I sucked in a breath, some of my control over the swarm slipping and my rage bleeding back into me along with some of the terror I felt whenever I was walking home these days. For an instant I froze, still as one of my mantises.
"Ahhhhhhhhh!" a wild scream echoed in the small atrium as the freckle-faced girl from the line surged forth from the side of the counter, a fire extinguisher in her hand. She swung it wide and nearly managed to deck Tattletale, though the blonde danced backwards before it connected.
I hadn't even noticed her coming. Dammit, I had made this mistake before! I knew I should've marked everyone. My swarm was large enough to do it. Why was I falling back into old habits? That was going to be fixed right the hell now! With barely a thought, flies descended from the ceiling and surged over everyone remaining in the darkness, taking wing again as soon as everyone was appropriately tagged. I shook myself and tried to push away the panic welling up, only managing a portion of it, but it was enough to get me moving again.
Not one to let an opportunity go, I tried to follow up on the opening the brunette had left and darted in bringing my pepper spray up even as I brought a few bugs down to surreptitiously sting Tattletale on the back of the neck. No venom, but that should be enough to jolt her forward into the spray.
Instead, the girl somehow managed to slip right between the two of us and danced right up next to Regent, rubbing at her neck. She grinned at me. "So, bugs huh? I can see why you'd want to keep that under wraps. Not the most PR friendly power."
"Shut up!" I growled more of my emotions slipping back in. Dammit this was not a good time. I knew I had a time limit on how long I could keep the shunt up, but I needed to stay focused! "You're the one robbing a bank in the middle of the day!"
"And so far, you're the only one who's actually hurt anyone here, did you realize that? No. Well maybe you should take a moment to consider that. All we're doing is running off with some insured money, we're not even taking people's jewelry. You're going around macing people, hitting them and setting attack bugs on them. Not very sporting Little Miss Villain. You don't even have the decency to do it in costume."
Her words hit me like a slap in the face. She was right, after a fashion. I was the only person who had hurt people. Was I just like him? But…no. No. That was what Tattletale did. She got in your head. She fucked with you until up was down and down was gold. I should've taken her out first.
"You're one to talk!" the girl next to me shouted. She brandished her fire extinguisher with a scowl. "Your group is no better than the Merchants! Just because you don't look like drugged up psychos doesn't make you any less accountable for the psychological damage you're doing by holding these people hostage!"
Tattletale grabbed her heart. "Oh Panacea, I'm hurt!" My head whipped around and my mouth dropped open as I goggled at the brunette for a moment. I'd tackled Panacea to the floor?! "I mean, really, the Merchants? You could've at least compared me to the E88 or the ABB. Actually, on second thought, I take that back, only the ABB. I'd rather be compared to a druggie than a neo-Nazi. But I digress," she was grinning again. I considered bringing more bugs down, but I didn't want to give her more confirmation that she was right about me. I could still salvage this if I was careful about it.
After all, this was not quite a worst-case scenario, but it was close. "If Panacea is here, you know her sister is coming too!" I shouted. "Get the hell out of here right now!"
Tattletale grinned wider. "Grue's darkness blocks cell reception honey. Glory Girl doesn't even know we're here. But we're not talking about GG, now, we're talking about you and Amy here and how you two are like peas in a pod."
"I'm giving you to the count of five," I growled.
"We both know you won't do much. You're too scared to show me I'm right even though you already have and just didn't realize you screwed up a few moments ago with that big move. How about you Amy? You can stop me pretty easily. You just have to break a few of your rules. Prove to Carol that you are the little monster she thinks of you as. Prove that you are your father's daughter. Daddy's Little Villain. All it would take is to make a single little pathogen, one superbug to either kill me or knock me out. Only, you haven't touched me yet, so you'd have to tailor it to go after the whole of the room and that would just leave you awake or alive now wouldn't it? You could even blame it on one us if you wanted. Or the new girl here. One of us lost control and that was that. Except Carol would know, she's always been watching you, waiting for the proof, waiting to know she was right and you weren't worth taking in, you weren't worth sheltering. All she needs is that one, little, nugget. But you aren't going to give her that here today, because you're just as scared as Miss – " Tattletale broke off mid-rant and a look of horror crossed her features as she stared at me. "No fucking way…Fuck me…"
I glanced to my side to see how Panacea – Amy? – was handling the fire extinguisher and had to suppress a gasp as I saw her shaking like a leaf beside me. Her skin was pale and her fingers were clenched around the extinguisher so tight they had gone white. "Okay, fine. Fuck this. I'm done. Stand down now, Tattletale."
"Look, I think we may have gotten off on the wrong foot here," Tattletale said backing up and holding her hands up as if to ward me off. I stalked forward and ignored the loud crashing rend behind me. "Like you said, I don't want to be here. But we all take orders from someone right? I didn't have a choice! Everything I just said was to make sure we had time to get out. We'll leave, okay, we'll leave. We're leaving now. Grue! Bitch! Time to go!"
"Not done here!"
"TIME TO GO! NOW!"
The other two surged out of the back of the bank, the Rottweiler was nowhere to be found but they had replaced the dog with a mutant monster thing half as large as a small car. It broke a large portion of the doorway as it muscled its way out and into the room proper. Grue had already stopped to grab the unconscious Regent and throw him on the back of the dog-thing before looking between me, Panac-Amy, and Tattletale. "Fuck."
"Glory Girl is probably inbound with the Wards. Time! To! Go!" Tattletale urged. She hopped onto the back of the creature as it grew large enough to fit the four Undersiders. Looking briefly to me, the blonde grimaced and nodded her head. Grue renewed the shroud of his darkness in the atrium and before I could do more than throw a few more bugs on each of them, the thieves were bounding away. I tracked them for almost two blocks before they dropped out of my range and I finally relaxed. The darkness had started to bleed away by then too.
Turning to Amy, I found her sitting on the floor, back against the counter and arms curled around the fire extinguisher. "Hey, hey are you okay?"
"No, not even close to it," she hiccupped out in between heaving lungfuls of air. She seemed to rouse a bit as her gaze focused in on me and her eyes widened, the fire extinguisher dropping out of her suddenly limp hold. "Cover your face!"
"The darkness is fading away! I felt the bugs come down from the ceiling; everyone must have!" Amy shook her head and grabbed for my hands squeezing them tightly as I just continued to stare at her. "You and I are the only two people who fought back. Everyone knows I'm Panacea. It doesn't take a genius to realize you're the new cape. Cover yourself! Now!"
My own gaze widened and I gasped. Her words slamming into me like a truck as the last of my emotional shunting slipped it's bounds and flew back to me from the swarm. I fell backwards onto my ass and squeezed my eyes shut. All of my fliers surged down to me in an instant covering me head to toe. It had the nice side effect of concealing the tears leaking down my face from the other girl. This wasn't how the day was supposed to go. I was supposed to be able to get in, get out, with nobody the wiser. No one was supposed to know there was a new cape in town. No one was supposed to know that I was even here! And now, not only did Tattletale see me without a mask, Panacea did as well, I might be on security cameras, and god only knows how many of the bank patrons would remember the curly, black haired girl that vanished after holding up the line five times just before the villains held up the place!
I curled up into a ball on the floor, the bugs shifting to new positions maintaining the covering layer as I desperately tried to reach for the shunt again and found only my own thoughts in its place. First priority when I got home: work on improving the emotional control. It wasn't nearly a long enough duration. I needed it indefinitely. I could handle being a robot. I couldn't handle being a teenage girl when on a job. This wasn't going to work out long term. Especially without a group to support me. I really needed to go talk with Parian. I wasn't cut out for this at all. I hadn't even come in costume!
"Hey, hey it's okay, it's going to be okay," a soft voice cut through my raging thoughts and a hand threaded through my swarm to rest on my shoulder. Amy. It had to be Amy. I could barely focus on what she was saying, it was just too much. "Look, I can…I might be able to help you calm down. Do you…do you want me to help you calm down? I'm sorry, I don't even know your name."
"T-Taylor," I mumbled just loud enough to reach her as she leant over me. My eyes were still screwed shut though I could see well enough through my swarmsense. "I can't…It's…I can't…I pushed too much away for too long. I can't focus. I can't breathe. I can't…Help…"
She was quiet for a moment and her hand shifted to touch my neck. "I think you're having a panic attack…I don't like doing this to people, but considering where we are, and that people are starting to stare; I guess you did give me permission. This is going to feel weird. I'm going to mess with your chemical balances for a second to see if I can break the panic attack."
I bit my lip and nodded. My eyes shot open the next instant as she did something to me and the world jumped back into focus around me. The sheer terror of people finding out who I was, it was still there but it wasn't beating me around the head anymore and I could deal with the fallout now if there was fallout. Slowly I sat up, Amy's hand still on my neck. "Thanks. That's a lot better."
"You were mostly calm during the robbery. What happened just now?"
"Um, it's complicated, I'd rather not say here..." I mumbled suddenly very aware that there were still quite a lot of people only twenty feet away from us.
"Oh, right...Sorry, I forget sometimes that not everyone is open to the public like New Wave. I need to keep my hand here for another minute or two. Your adrenal glands and hormones are still going haywire."
"That's okay," I nodded. "Um, about what Tattletale said before...About my father...I know that New Wave is supposed to be really open with things and you basically just confirmed that, but I'm not. I'm really, really, really not. PLEASE, don't say anything. I really need you not to say anything." It was probably a good thing that Amy was still holding a tight lease on my emotions since that probably would've sent me spiraling again until I could offload a bit into the swarm.
Amy got very quiet and I felt her fingers on my neck tense to the point that her nails were digging into my skin. In a voice soft enough I probably wouldn't have picked it up without the extra oomph from my swarm, she murmured, "You're not the only one with villain parent issues."
Before I had a chance to respond, the Glory Girl flew through the shattered remnants of the bank and into the atrium. She paused for a second before her gaze alighted on Amy and me. Rolling her eyes and setting down to the floor, the blonde walked forward towards us. "Man, Ames, you can't even go to the bank without getting into trouble? So who's your new girlfriend? She a new recruit for New Wave? The Wards? The Protectorate? A captured villain?"
I blushed though, thankfully, the bugs covered the evidence. Amy had no such luck. "Vicky, shut up. I'm just helping her calm down."
"Uh huh. And that's why you were nearly face to face when I flew in huh?" She grinned and hugged her arms around herself making kissing noises. "Come on Ames, admit it! You're seducing the new girl to poach her before the Wards snap her up! I heard ALLL about it outside."
"Vicky! Stop!" Amy's blush had left and in its place was an angry blotch of red spots. The difference was subtle, but considering I tended to have the later dusting my across my own face nearly all of the time for the first month that I had my powers I knew how to spot it.
"It's cool," Glory Girl said, dropping her arms but not losing the grin. "I can't blame you for trying. Not that I would do it. You know I don't bat for that team. I doubt I'd be able to pretend long enough to make it convincing. So how about it new girl? Has my sister convinced you to join up yet? From the rumors outside, you have some promise. I mean, the Undersiders tore out of here like a bat out of hell. Vista is outside still scratching her head at how fast they left. And no money too! Like wow! So you joining up?"
Amy's free hand clenched into a fist and her teeth bared for an instant before her entire demeanor seemed to drop off into a near emotionless catatonia. It was almost like how I got when I was fully submerged in the swarm. Now I understood why I could be so disconcerting at school when I bothered to show up…"I don't even know why I ever started to like you." Amy's voice was so quiet, even with the swarm I had to struggle to make out the words. She shook her head and stared at me. This time, her words were clearly meant to be heard, "T-Bug girl. I'm going to take my hand off now. Are you okay for the moment?"
I searched for my shunt and nearly cried in relief as I could reach for it again. "Yeah. I'm cool. Even if I start freaking out again, I got it handled on my end."
"Okay." She pulled away from me and stood up dusting off her jeans and turning fully to her sister. The clarity of the world faded slightly though I didn't devolve back into a new panic attack and I didn't have to offload anything. I made another mental note on my powers checklist: pushing the shunt until overload, overloaded the returned sensations too. Good to know.
"Glory Girl, please wait outside, I'll be there in a moment."
Glory Girl shrugged and nodded. "Sure, whatever. Nice to meet you new girl. Let me know when you come up with a name. We can go on patrols or something together even if you don't decide to join."
I nodded and waved at her as she flew back out the doors. She didn't have to know that I had very little intention of keeping that date. However…maybe that wasn't the worst idea. I did need backup after all. I was supposed to be the recon. Today had taught me that pretty clearly.
Her sister had barely left the bank before Amy turned to me and shoved a piece of paper into my hand. I stared down at it in confusion and looked back up at the freckle-faced girl in front of me. "My PHO handle and my phone number. We need to talk. About…things. Parents things. And I want to know what the hell is going on with your emotions. That's not normal and it's not healthy. We need to talk."
"Considering how you were breaking down before my freak out, I don't think you're one to lecture me about being emotionally healthy," I said frowning. "But yeah, agreed. I'll contact you later."
"Good. I need to…I'm not actually sure what I need to do. I need to think. Get home safe." She pulled her shoulders up as straight as they could go and turned to march out through the doors.
I waited for a count of ten, then I drew up the swarm and tightened it around myself as I dashed outside. As I slipped away into the crowd, I dispersed the bugs and walked away, just another teenager wandering past yet another crime scene in Brockton Bay.
AN: Thanks to my beta Grey Raven 09.
Fanfic Rec: 'It Gets Worse' by ack1308. Taylor gets luck powers. EVERY VILLAIN HAS A VERY BAD DAY afterwards! This fic is BEYOND hilarious, I can't overstate how funny and awesome this story is. Taylor basically just fucks up everyone who even looks at her funny and sets things up days in advance to remove every major threat while casually setting up Eidolon and Amy with dates in the meantime too. Seriously, if you like Worm at all, you need to read this fic immediately.