I impatiently tapped the end of my pencil against my notebook, staring up at the clock and willing it to go faster. Yet, with each passing second, I swore that the damned thing was getting slower. I sucked in a deep breath and tore my gaze away from that taunting circle; I had waited weeks so far, I could wait a few more minutes.
My attention was returned to my notebook where I continued sketching in the margins instead of listening to the teacher drone on and on. I wasn't what you would call 'artistically gifted', and chicken scratch looked good compared to what I could sketch. But I had often been told I had a big imagination and I had put it to work to keep myself occupied until the blessed bell of release.
The hardest part (in my experience anyway) about being a burgeoning cape, aside from keeping it a secret, was coming up with a good name and costume. Especially when you had a power as weird and esoteric as mine. Everything I had come up with so far was creepily intimate in the name department and in the costume department I was just as lost.
That was why I was so excited to get out of class. My work had finally come to fruition and even if I didn't have a name or costume, I would finally have something that stood as proof that I was a cape. A superhero with powers of their own, to do what I could to help my hometown, maybe even the world.
I shook my head.
Delusions of grandeur were nice and all, but reality stated that I was still stuck in late period math class until the bell rang. There was one positive at least that I could hold onto. Math class was one of my few classes where I didn't have to worry about Sophia or her cronies coming after me. Small victories I suppose, but a victory nonetheless.
As my mine turned from impatient to giddy to sour, the clock finally struck midnight and the bell let out a beautiful chime. I nearly jumped out of my seat as the entire class began to disperse.
"Remember, there's a quiz sometime next week, so study." Mr. Quinlan said. "Not all of you can breeze through Math like Taylor, it requires actual effort."
I flushed and tried to ignore the hateful glares sent my way. Math came easy to me as a minor side effect of my powers. The truth was I wasn't good at mathematics, at all. But if I rephrased the problems as a solution for my power, it suddenly came to me in a flash of insight. It certainly made it easier for me to keep my grades up even when I hadn't actually studied for any of my classes in weeks. Hopefully after today, that would change. Either for the better or the worse.
There wasn't a need for me to go to my locker today, so I slung my backpack over my shoulder and followed the crowds out into the hall, ignoring the occasional shove and elbow in the ribs. Someone tried knocking my glasses off, but that was an old trick and I slapped their hand away like it was second nature. I was in too good of a mood to let the usual rabble of Winslow spoil it.
As long as I avoided Sophia, my day would just about be perfect.
Of course, as soon as I thought about her, I saw the familiar dark skin girl appear at the far end of the hallway to my right. We locked eyes for a brief moment, and she strode toward me with purpose. Her little toady, Madison trailed behind her like a lost puppy. I sighed and started walking for the exit.
I'd tried dozens of times to outrun the terrible twosome, but when you're the local school track star, catching an awkward and gangly cape wasn't much of a challenge. Months of morning runs had shaped me into a much better runner than when Sophia had begun her campaign of terror, but she had a natural knack for it that I just couldn't compete with.
Instead I tried my usual tactic of disappearing into the crowd, which worked about half the time. The yelling and cursing of the students made it impossible for me to hear any footsteps behind me, and if I spared a glance over my shoulder, they'd pick me out in a heartbeat. That left me with the only option of trudging forward, eyes focused on the ground, and clinging to hope that she'd miss me in the confusion.
My hopes were dashed when a not so friendly arm draped across my shoulder from my right. Sophia was notably shorter than me, thanks to my freakish height, so she had to reach up to do it. I sighed and didn't give her the satisfaction of looking at her. A quick glance to my left confirmed that Madison was covering that side, squishing me between them both.
"So Taylor," Madison started, "Off to the hospital again? It's great that you know you have a problem, but no amount of surgery is going to fix that face of yours you know."
"Madison," Sophia chided, "We all know the real reason Taylor goes there. It's so she can make out with her loser friend. You know sleeping beauty was a fairytale, right Hebert? No amount of smooching is going to wake up Emmy."
I took in a deep breath, and looked Sophia straight in the face, but didn't say a word. Sophia was pretty in a short and spunky kind of way, I guess, and she looked very comfortable with that lazy smirk on her face. I wanted to punch it off, but past experience told me that was a very bad idea. So I just stared at her as we walked instead, until her smirk was replaced with annoyance.
"If you're getting funny ideas Hebert, think again. Unlike you, I have standards." She punctuated her statement by shoving me into Madison, who snorted and shoved me back.
I kept focused on Sophia's face and said, "Sorry. It's just… I was looking for any sign of intelligent life. But all I see is a stupid bitch."
Time stopped for a moment as the words left my mouth and I realized my mistake. Sophia's face flashed from shock, to indignation, and then to pure unfiltered rage. Terrible, terrible mistake.
"You're fucking dead Hebert!"
My feet were smarter than the rest of me, I was already running by the time Sophia lunged for my neck. I shoved through the crowd, side stepping between groups, pushing others out of the way, as a very angry trackstar bulldozed after me, screaming expletives.
While I made peace with myself and prepared for my inevitable death, a small part of me delighted in the fact that Sophia could dish it out but apparently couldn't take it. Funny how that worked. Shame it wasn't going to save my from my wrath, that was up entirely to me.
I shoved my way through a couple of wannabe gangbangers, ignoring their startled curses and saw the exit dead ahead. I took a chance and spared one frantic look behind me and saw students parting like an ocean. There was a second or two before Sophia was on me and then I was doomed.
So instead of taking the predictable exit and continuing our chase, I darted to the right down one of the halls, aiming for the back exit instead. Hopefully, Sophia would be so laser focused on chasing me, she wouldn't think to look for me until it was too late.
Sophia did eventually find me, despite my best efforts. However, by the time she did, I was sitting comfortable on one of the city buses, waving happily at her from my seat while she fumed in the school parking lot. I laughed like an idiot and sank back into my seat with a content sigh. It wasn't often that I managed to pull one over on Sophia, and it was a glorious feeling.
I glanced over at the empty seat beside me, and my smile faded. A lonely hole reopened in my heart and I felt my good mood start to evaporate. I didn't like thinking about what happened to my friend, what happened to Emma. It hurt to think about and hurt to admit that, as dumb as the insult was, Sophia was probably right. Emma was never coming back.
Moisture gathered at my eyes, and I took off my glasses to wipe at them. I'd come to terms with what happened. It hurt, but there wasn't anything I could do about it. Not yet anyway.
I settled into my seat and gazed out the window at the street, reorganizing my thoughts. For the past few weeks I'd been making excuses for why I was coming home later than usual. Staying at school to study, visiting Emma in the hospital, or talking with the Dallons. My excuses seemed to have worked for now, but it was only a matter of time before I was found out.
So, my hope was that my little project was finally finished and I wouldn't need to hide the truth anymore. Thinking about that helped clear the dark clouds crowding my thoughts. I reached for my backpack and fished out my dad's old work laptop. It had been ancient even when he first bought it, and the time since then had done nothing to speed it up and I spent a good chunk of my ride just waiting for it to boot up.
While I did well in my programming basics class, I was far from an expert programmer and had done little to improve or modify the laptop when it had fallen into my possession. Instead I used it to store my plans and designs. About a year's worth of note taking and experimenting were stored in that ancient hard drive, hidden and scattered in such a way that if someone stumbled on one file, they wouldn't be able to make heads or tales of it.
There was nothing to add to my existing plans, and I had looked them over so many times I practically had them memorized. But my excitement was returning and I had to double check them just to be safe. If my calculations were correct, if my literal years of testing and experimenting in secret were right, and if no one had stumbled upon it, today my project would be complete. So many if's, so many ways this could all go wrong and come crashing down on me.
A pothole in the road jolted me from my study and I looked out the window. The scenery had drastically changed; Winslow wasn't in the wealthiest part of town, not by a long shot, but there was a colossal difference between the shady buildings and businesses that surrounded my high school and the shitty rundown district that was the main docks.
Which of course, meant my stop was coming soon. This was as far as buses and taxis would go, I'd have to walk from there. Which was fine by me, I had slowly mapped out the safest routes of the docks over the years; which areas belonged to which gangs, where the more dangerous homeless villages were located, what buildings were structurally stable and which ones were not. I could weave in and out to my 'lab' in a half hour and no one would even know I was there.
I probably confused the shit out of the poor bus driver, as I was trying and failing to hide my giddiness as I bounced down the stairs out onto the street. Okay, deep breath Taylor. Skipping through the most dangerous part of town high on pixie sticks was a fast track to downtown mugging, which was typically seen as a bad thing. I certainly had no desire to repeat that again.
So, I gathered myself and walked down the street at a much more controlled pace, ducking my head and pulling my hood up to hide my face. Brockton Bay had good weather for where it was located, but the air still bit at my face and I puffed out bits of steam with every breath. I focused on following the path, mentally tracking where I was on the map.
Like clockwork, it took me thirty minutes to reach my lab. I had to climb over a rusted old fence, crawl under the decaying ruins of an abandoned warehouse, and duck behind cars that were more rust than steel, but I made it on time.
My 'lab' was hidden off one of the old docks, specifically an abandoned old private yacht. When the shipping industry had died in Brockton, this particular yacht had been beached on its side, and nature had done the rest. The bow pointed west toward downtown, and its starboard side had caved in some time ago, creating a natural cavern filled with calm water. Inside, the temperature was always warmer than it was outside, especially after I had setup shop.
I carefully eased open the makeshift door I had installed in the hole; I had spent a month or so dragging scrap wood and metal to its side to reinforce it. It wouldn't do to have my own lab collapse in on me while I was working.
Once inside, I went straight for the old generator and spent a few minutes tugging fruitlessly on the starter chord until it let out a belch and rumbled to life. A few old work lamps struggled to life as the generator brought my lab online.
The innards of the yacht had been stripped by looters, time, and nature, leaving the forward bow basically a hollow shell. With some hard work and a lot of elbow grease, I had cleared the remaining debris, or used it to flatten the rough sand into something I could actually work with. A good half of my lab was dominated by calm ocean water, that I had 'dammed' off.
It wasn't really a dam, more a collection of rocks and sheets of scrap metal I'd used to slow the flow of water even further. When I had found this yacht, I had been ecstatic. The hidden nature of it combined with the relatively stable environment had made it the perfect environment for me to start growing my first project. My attempts at home had ended in complete failure, showing me that I had needed more space if I wanted to make any real progress, and turning our basement into an indoor swimming pool wasn't really an option.
So my little yacht did a damn good job filling in instead.
I smiled at my pun and set my bag on the (of course) makeshift workbench. The number of things in my lab that weren't scavenged could literally be counted on one hand. But, beggars couldn't be choosers, and I wasn't feeling particularly choosy anyway.
"Right then, time to get to work" I said as I hooked my laptop up to the temperature monitors I had stationed around the pool. It would take a minute for it to start filtering in readings, so I wandered to the pool's edge, chemical kit in hand, and started taking samples. The chemical composition was the most important part. Temperature and water tranquility were important too, but as long as the composition stayed true, I could work with that.
Also, admittedly, I was hoping my little project might come up to look at me. That little project, of course, was why I had been so careful about my work, about making sure no one knew. I was a tinker, which would already put a target on my back, but to make matters worse, I was a biological tinker. There were only three in the world I could think of off the top of my head, and two of them were considered some of the worst monsters in human history.
So obviously, I was being careful. The good news to anyone that worried I would be the next Bonesaw, is that my ability to manipulate micro-organisms was… nonexistent. I had looked into it for a while, but I either lacked the tools or abilities to make anything on the small scale. Large scale was where it was at, and the incubation process was long.
My little project, once I had modified my lab to my liking, had taken a solid month of slow, painstaking effort to grow and keep alive. The chemicals, which I had fastened from common household supplies (Sidenote, its terrifying the things you can find in the average home) supplied my project with all the nutrients it needed to grow and survive. But it needed constant monitoring, or else it would stop growing or… or…
I dropped my measuring tools into the water as cold dread gripped my heart in an iron vice. A familiar shadow resided at the edge of the pool, and it wasn't moving.
It wasn't moving!
That shadow had darted around its pool for months, curious and extremely receptive to outside stimulus, especially as it grew from a tiny tadpole into a larger more substantial form. And now it was dead still, unmoving.
"No, no no no!" I yelled and rushed over to the other side of the pool. I debated jumping in, and immediately squashed the idea. A splash here or there would be fine, but I had learned that prolonged exposure could lead to serious burns and minor deformations. I was lucky it had only been on the top of my hand; it had taken days for those proto-scales to flake off.
I rushed back to my work bench and grabbed the old makeshift catch pole I had kept for emergencies like this. In my rush, I kicked over one of the tripod lamps and sent it crashing into the pool. There was a sound of breaking glass and the short zap of a circuit shorting out. Light exploded over the pool, little arcs of lightning that spread from one end to another in an instant, and died just as fast. The generator coughed and died, and I was deprived of all light save for that from my laptop.
"Fuck! Fucking fuckity fuck fuck!" I cursed and banged a fist on the workbench. Stupid, stupid! Months of work down the drain in an instant, because of my stupid panic!
I slapped the heel of my hand against my forehead several times in frustration and stamped my foot on the ground, "Fuck!"
With that final declaration, I leaned against the wall and slid to the ground. Assuming I hadn't managed to fry the generator, I might be able to recover from this. It would take time, I could restart and… and…
I let my head rock back where it hit the wall with a soft bang. Who was I kidding, I had put so much time and effort into this project, in an effort to have something worthwhile to show the Protectorate. Now though, it was clear that I should have just gone to them from the start.
The Protectorate, the local government sponsored super team, had programs for teenaged capes like myself, the Wards. I had considered joining them when my powers first manifested, but life had been… complicated, at the time. And by the time it felt uncomplicated, I had spent enough time at Winslow that the schools lack of action toward Sophia had made me gun shy of any groups of authority.
So I had decided to work in secret instead, with the hope of building a reputation to use as a bargaining chip when I joined. It had seemed like a decent idea at the time. Now it seemed like I would've been better off just biting the bullet.
I covered my face with my hands and resisted the urge to scream into them.
Good thing, or I might not have heard the sound of sloshing water. I jerked my head up and peered into the darkness. The faint light of my laptop barely illuminated the my lab, but it was enough that I could see something dragging itself out of the pool.
Oh my god.
Oh my god oh my god!
I quashed my excitement, and leaned forward. The shape shifted, rising up on two legs, before falling forward onto its hands and knees. It hadn't seemed to notice me yet, or was too distracted by life outside of the pool to care.
It let out a series of wet coughs, and I heard the wet sound of vomit. I wrinkled my nose, but said nothing. I didn't trust my voice, didn't trust myself to start screaming with delight, to put voice to my excitement.
The shape shook a long triangular head and then turned towards me; sorry, towards my laptop, the only source of light aside from the cracks in the door. Slowly, it started moving towards me, moving with the steady uneven gait of a biped on all fours. It stopped just outside the light and straightened, as if noticing me for the first time.
I made an effort not to smile, as I had read somewhere that some animals took it as a sign of aggression. Admittedly, dropping a lamppost into its home wasn't exactly an olive branch of peace, but I wasn't going to dig myself any deeper.
Instead, I spoke slowly and carefully; this was a part I had practiced a lot.
"Hello. Can you understand me?" Its head twitched to the side, and the shape moved closer, close enough that I could finally see my creation in all of its slimy glory.
It was covered head to toe in shiny blue scales that started out as an almost pale white along its stomach and thighs and grew progressively darker until it was almost black along its black. It held itself in a naturally hunched posture and was probably about five feet tall if it was standing. It had three fingers and a thumb, and four toed dinosaur-like feet; it rested on its toes similar to a lot of animals. A long tail, nearly as long as it was tall, sprouted from its spine and waved gently back and forth. Finally an angular head with two large orange eyes topped its body, and a long orange crest rose and fell in time with its breathing, which still sounded slow and unsure.
At my words, my project cocked it's head to the side and blinked. It opened and closed its jaws several times, clacking small needle-like teeth together. And to my complete surprise, it actually spoke!
"Under...stand...me?" it repeated in a slithering tongue.
I couldn't help it, a smile split my face and my entire body trembled with excitement. "Yes! Understand. Can you understand me?"
It blinked its large eyes, then narrowed them in thought. "Under...stand. Perceive meaning. Interpret, view. This… is understand?"
If there was a fly in my lab, it would've flown into my open mouth. This was way, way beyond what I had expected. I had expected a sort of organic machine. Something that was alive and intelligent in the most basic ways, but this…
Hindsight was twenty twenty of course, and scouring my mind for what little info on Nilbog I could find made it obvious I should have seen this coming. It was one thing though, to know that my creation would be intelligent, it was another thing entirely to be confronted with this knowledge in the form of a human shaped (and oddly adorable) lizardman...boy?
My project definitely had a more boyish shape to its musculature, and even the long claws on its fingers and the rippling muscle under its scales did nothing to detract from how adorable it was.
No, not it.
I had referred to my creation as 'the project' and 'it' for most of my time working specifically in case something went wrong. So that I wouldn't feel emotionally attached if it died in development or someone found and ruined my lab. But now the fruits of my labor stood crouched before me, alive and well. Calling my creation and it was wrong.
I nodded slowly at his...her… question. "Yes, my words. You can understand them?"
It imitated my nod like a child watching their mother which was… kind of accurate? Oh, oh god. Did this make me a mom? I'd put in months of labor, checked on it every day, even had a scare before it broke free of the water-
Nope! I refused to entertain that thought for the moment.
My focus remained fixed on my creation. It clicked its tongue and nodded with a bit more confidence. "Understand, yes. I… I understand." It paused and considered that as if it was only now aware that it was alive.
I scooted forward and crossed my legs, "Well, that's good then. Do you know what good means?"
"That which is... right?" it asked.
"Close enough for now." I said. "Do you… know who I am?"
It cocked its head to the side again, "Yes. The face in the water, the watcher, the feeder, the teacher. You are… the creator."
"That's right." I said, smiling again, "I made you."
It's head cocked in the opposite direction, and it plopped itself down with no grace in imitation of me. "Why?"
My smile dropped. "Why what?"
"Why make me? Why am I… why was I made." it corrected.
Five minutes old and it was already questioning the nature of its existence. Unlike god, I was actually going to answer my creation. My smile returned and I slowly put a hand on it's shoulder. It looked at my hand then at me, and repeated the gesture. I suppressed a laugh, and ignored the claws lightly digging into my back.
"I made you, my little friend, because I think you can do good. This place, my home, there are a lot of things in it that are not good. They're bad. So I made you, to help me do good. I am working on a plan, a great plan, and you are going to help me complete it."
I realized, sheepishly, that this was a bit grandiose, and hastily added, "I-if you want to of course."
My creation clicked its tongue and nodded its head, "Yes, I will help. I will do good. I will complete the great plan."
I released its shoulder and casually wiped the slime off on the dirt. My creation was still covered in its afterbirth. Blegh.
"Then here's the first step, and one of the most important." I said, once I'd wiped the goop off. "What do you want to be called, and, um… does gender apply to you or…?"
My creation scratched its chin with a claw, "I am… I am…"
It looked at me, then at itself, then at me again, "I am not female. I must be male. I am male."
I was not sure if I should be flattered or insulted by that.
"Okay, good. What should I call you then?"
He stopped to ponder, looking up at the innards of the yacht. Though I had cleared the boat the best I could of insects and other parasites that might have ruined my project, many still called the upper levels home.
"The bugs that chirp. What are they called, creator?" it asked.
I quirked my lips, "You mean the crickets?"
"Yes, those. I like their noises, they were soothing as I grew. And tasty."
So he didn't just get his nutrients from the chemicals, he was sneaking seconds. Not even born and he was already sneaking snacks, the little cheat.
"Is that what you want me to call you then?"
He nodded, "Yes. Call me Kri'Ket."
I must have spent hours talking to Kri'ket in my lab. He was ferociously curious, asking me questions ranging from the mundane to the fantastical. None of this seemed to slow him down in the slightest and only fueled his curiosity. If I'd had the time, I would have sat there all day, just answering his questions.
Unfortunately, reality interfered and I came to an unfortunate realization. There was no way in hell I was going to leave Kri'ket alone in the lab while I went home to a comfy bed. I had of course intended to bring him home eventually, but realizing how smart and aware he was drove the point home. I couldn't abandon him simply for convenience. I was going to be a good creator and caretaker, and Kri'ket would come home with me.
I was absolutely convinced this was going to blow up in my face somehow.
I kept old sheets and tarps in my lab to cover up my equipment and found another use for them in makeshift clothes for Kri'ket. They would not last at all under serious scrutiny, but I hoped they'd be enough to hide his reptilian hide from any casual observers.
The good news was, as curious as he was, Kri'ket was a very obedient little lizard. When I told him to keep quiet and to himself, he did exactly as ordered and followed me as close as he could without making me stumble. It made me wonder exactly how much free will the little guy had. Was he following my orders because he knew I had made him, or because it was programmed into him. I had created him to be a servant, someone to follow my orders loyally. That had been the intent when I first made him, though I still wasn't sure how I 'programmed' him using common chemicals, as it made no sense.
It was, as the internet often said: Powers were bullshit.
Night was falling when we finally made it home, sneaking in through the neighborhood backyards instead of risking the streets. Through sheer luck, no one noticed the five foot tall lizard trailing me, but I was not willing to push my luck any farther. We scaled the fence and I helped him down as silently as I could.
My home was in a neighborhood that sat firmly in between the poorer and richer parts of town, as firmly middle class as you could be in Brockton Bay. Most of the buildings were in decent shape, though they all showed signs of wear and tear in some way or another. My house was no exception, the paint peeling and the front deck stuck with an annoyingly wobbly front step.
But it was home, familiar and welcome territory, and I was happy to be back.
As we approached, I turned back to Kri'ket and held a finger to my lips. "Be very quiet okay? I'm going to sneak you to my room, and then figure out how to explain you. Don't make a sound otherwise. Understand?"
He nodded once and I smiled; he was a good anthropomorphic lizard.
I slowly opened the back door, wincing at the faint creaking. Thankfully, I could hear the tv running in the living room, which meant they were distracted. I gestured for Kri'ket to follow, and lead him inside. A quick point up at the stairs was all the direction he needed, and he slowly began to creep up towards them.
Then the door slammed shut behind us and we both jumped.
"Taylor Anne Hebert, I hope you have a good explanation for this young lady."
Damn it, so close.
I slowly turned around to face my reflection. My mother was a good inch or two taller than me, a tall willowy woman with long dark curly hair, like mine. Unlike me, she lacked any and all of my awkwardness and had a sort of slender beauty to her, even as lines of age were starting to cross her face.
Lines that were very apparent on her face, as an expression of worry and silent disapproval painted itself for me to see. I flinched and ducked my head.
"Hi mom, I'm home." I said lamely.
Mom took her glasses off and pinched her nose, "Taylor, I've been very patient these past few weeks. I've bought the excuses, the bald-faced lies with good faith - yes, I know you were lying to me young lady, I hope you didn't think I would buy the same couple of excuses for literally months. I know its been a very intense couple of years but please, can you just be honest with me?"
When she put her glasses on, she finally seemed to notice that I had brought a friend home. Her expression turned into one of curiosity, "And who's this?"
I reached behind me, grabbed Kri'ket by the shoulder, and brought him to stand beside me, while pulling the makeshift hood down. My moms eyes tripled in size behind her glasses and I laughed weakly.
"So, funny story, that. Remember how you were always telling me to make new friends?"
A/N: So, you ever have a moment where you hit writers block so hard you wind up starting an entirely new story to get over it? That's basically what happened here. Funny thing is, I'd been debating how I wanted to do a Warhammer Fantasy/Worm crossover for ages now, ranging from dropping a Bretonnian Knight into Brockton to throwing Taylor at WHF Post Gold Morning in the body of a Dark Elf. This idea came to me when I was playing a lizardman campaign and I thought 'Ya know, Lizardmen would fit Worm perfectly as a byproduct of bio-tinker powers'. Thus, the Greatest Plan was born.
Of course, I am still working on my other stories, slowly but surely. I just needed to vent my excess creative thoughts somewhere else. I don't have an update schedule planned yet and don't plan on sharing one until I feel I can reliably stick to one for more than two weeks. For now, I will update when I have the will and the way.
Now then, just a few minor details I want clear for clarity's sake: Yes, this is an AU as much as it is a crossover. While there are some elements that line up with canon, there are a lot that don't. This was mostly done so that this story wasn't bound by the usual stations of canon, allowing it to go in different directions and so I could focus a little more on the smaller scale, which imo, is where Worm and Worm fics shine. Additionally, while this story will have its serious moments, by nature of the premise, its also going to be a bit goofy. So if you're looking for a dark gritty humorless fic, this story probably won't be for you.
With all that out of the way though, I hope you all enjoyed the start of the Greatest Plan, and that everyone is safe and sound in these insane times we live in. Have a wonderful rest of your day, ciao!