"It's actually kinda cool how much subliminal messaging can help" I mutter to myself as I type away at my piece of shit laptop. My first attempt at a Worm story, based on the sixth version of the Worm CYOA, rapidly forming as I hammer away at the keys with the wanton abandon of a writer with sudden motivation and muse.
As I go about typing on the word document I feel a brief shift in, like I moved but I didn't, and a flicker in the lighting. Two little things that set me weirdly on edge. I don't even get a chance to make a confused remark about it before-
"FUDGE!" I shout and groan as I fall shoulder first into a hard surface. Growling to myself I ignore the pain as usual while trying to figure out where in the hell I am and what just happened. Taking deep breaths I center myself and mentally tell my shoulder to stop freaking hurting, then I take a moment to actually look around.
Grungy, the best word I could use to describe the back alley I'm in. I can see several disgusting stains all over the ground and floor, the scent of human waste filling the air, and a worrying shade of rusty brown in a splatter pattern on the wall. Very quickly I stand up scrambling to my feet, feeling something solid and cold next to me as I slap my hands on the ground to push myself up.
Looking at the ground, dreading that I somehow found a murder weapon, I'm pleasantly surprised to find a metal briefcase on the ground. If I'm going to blackout hitman I'm at least going to look professional about it.
Ignoring my murder fantasies and ideas of grandeur in the most violent of professions I look around for anyone who might unalive me should I touch the case, keeping my ears open for anything that would give me a hint about being taken care of.
One heartbeat, two heartbeats, three. Nothing happens even as I lean ever closer to the very out of place, immaculately clean briefcase. Finally I decide to bite the bullet, perhaps literally, as I squat down in front of the briefcase and open it. Inside I see only two things, a vial of some metallic, semi-transparent liquid and a simple folded piece of notebook paper with the little bits of paper on the side still, telling me that it was just ripped from a notebook.
It takes me all of 3 nanoseconds to go 'note first' as I very much do not want to mess with the vial until I at least know what's in it. No touchy.
Reaching for the piece of notebook paper I notice a symbol on the briefcase, previously hidden by the handle. A heavily tilted Omega symbol, or something that could be mistaken for a weirdly stylized 'C'.
I stop reaching immediately, pulling my hand back as though it were about to be burned as I understand that symbol. 'FREAKING CAULDRON!? WORM?!' I shout in my own head, not wanting to alert anyone to my presence or future knowledge. Though considering I haven't been assimilated into Cauldron or had my mind raped by The Simurgh I'm going to go with the logical conclusion that I'm a blindspot. I immediately take some very deep breaths in an effort to calm down from the implications of what's going on.
There aren't a lot of places that you could find old dried blood stains still splattered across a wall in my own world, and Cauldron sending a vial to my world for me just doesn't make any sense. As far as I'm aware I'd be the only Parahuman.
"So the likely conclusion is that I was somehow transported to the Wormverse, most likely off the efforts I'd put into the CYOA… it's kinda sad that that's actually the most likely conclusion other than some absolute trolls of kidnappers." I mutter to myself, talking out loud helping me keep my thoughts in order.
My eyes flick back to the symbol on the briefcase, the vial, and the piece of paper. The implications are both and horrifying. Especially considering this might not actually BE one of my CYOA builds. I only made two that involved Cauldron vials, one of them making me an Endbringer and the other making me into a massive of incredibly efficient cells.
"Do I take the risk?" I ask myself as I reach my still outstretched hand toward the paper. Everything I'd ever wanted, power, adventure, freedom, could be right here in front of me, or it could be my damnation and end, quite literally considering Cauldron vials can kill the people who drink them.
With a gulp I take the folded piece of paper I read through the words on it, trying to burn them into my memory as I take them in. In flowing and perfectly done print it tells me everything they believe I need to know.
We'll be in touch. For our generosity we expect 4 favors in return to be called on at a later date.
Short and to the point. Sounds about on the money for them, though it does tell me that this is in fact one of my CYOA's, since that's the name I came up with for that shard, though I also gave it the backstory of being the Thinker entity's version of Crawler's shard.
'I guess they wouldn't know that part huh?' I think to myself as I look down at the vial of thick metallic but also semi transparent liquid.
Okay now I just have to decide if I want to actually take this, knowing it turns me into a sentient ball of cellular soup until I can figure out how to actually control my powers. Granted I can get pretty dang powerful after that but still.
I actually think it over for a few minutes until I come to the sudden and horrifying realization that until I get some power to send me home I can't actually leave this god forsaken world.
I immediately reach for the vial and pull out the little rubber cork inside it. It smells absolutely putrid but desperate times and all. I tilt my head back and ignore the slimy, way too thick liquid as it crawls down my throat, just closing my eyes and downing the putrid substance as quick as I can.
"Glech" I dry heave as I desperately try and get the feeling of it traveling down my esophagus out of my head. With nothing better to do I cork the vial again and put it back in the case. The note I'll keep in my pockets for now. Now I need to figure out what I'm actually going to do with my-
"why am I falling?"
I come face to floor with the alley as my legs just stop responding to my input. My fingers feel icy and my legs feel like both dead weights and as though they're not actually there. I'm sweating, I can feel it, but I can smell blood, and my vision is going in and out of focus. I can feel myself pulling in air but I don't actually feel like I'm breathing. My heart is pounding so hard but it feels like it's moving side to side instead of actually pulsing. It's hitting my lungs and bouncing off my ribs. "gah ha ha ha" I pant as I feel myself falling apart, no, my cells ripping themselves and each other apart.
And then there was them, two beings made of spiraling and shifting fractals of light and energy and matter all in one form that moved in and out of each other. I saw shards of these beings cast off as they came plummeting to Earth, aiming for people. I saw the enormity of what must be a cell to these massive beings, and I saw the one that came barreling towards me. I saw one massive shard of the being hurtling straight towards me and I could only lay there and accept
When I finally wake up next I gasp for a massive breath of air that doesn't actually go anywhere. Like I sucked it in but it just went inside me, not to a set of lungs or anything. In fact when I sucked the air in it wasn't from one area. I felt my whole body kinda shift to pull air inside me. The air I've taken in doesn't even seem to do anything, just set there inside me. None of my cells are taking advantage of it.
As I take a more probing look at this phenomenon I'm suddenly assaulted with information, no actual names for the biological systems that are presented to me, just explanations of their purpose and methodology. Like this organ that would work to produce a pressurized chamber of nitrogen allowing for some radical cooling ability. Nothing to the level of liquid nitrogen but enough that I could easily freeze ocean water or put out some very hot flames.
Pulling myself out of the assault of biological adaptations and abilities I start taking a look at some of the changes my body went through. I won't say I was particularly attached to my form but I did like who I was.
Immediately upon diving in, and easily brushing aside the influx of biological systems and information, I start to look at what my new Case 53 body can do. First off, I have no organs. My entire anatomy is seemingly made of a single form of cell, though this cell seems able to do just about anything. My cells are communicating, sharing information in a system I eventually figure out is sending magnetic and electromagnetic bursts between cells. And they're all my brain now, which is likely why I'm not in shock and am able to brush a massive bombardment of information.
Each of these cells, these little microscopic pieces of myself have about 1/100th the computational power of my previous brain. I have trillions of these cells. Of course I can't think thousands of times faster because that's just not how the information sharing works but I'm definitely seeing some improvement in cognitive function and multitasking.
Again I have to pull myself away from diving too deep into my new form just because I need to get things done before someone finds me. All it takes is one gang member with a phone to call about an obvious Cape 53 and I'll have at least one gang on my ass within minutes.
So let's figure out how to move.
Any moment now.
You ever realize how hard it is to move when you think about moving instead of just moving? Now crank that up to 12 because I don't have the same physical abilities to move that I've had for the past 20 something years of my life.
Releasing the air I'd trapped inside myself earlier in my personal form of a sigh I start thinking about methods of locomotion. Predictably my power pops up with tons of premade formats for movement that I don't think would actually be applicable to me until I give myself actual muscles and skeletal structures.
In short I'm going to have to rebuild an entire body one piece at a time based on the premade templates that my power presents unless I learn enough about biology in a mechanical sense in the next few minutes to make a body with actual thought put into it.
'AHHHH!' I shout inside my own… head(?), as I currently lack a mouth to do externally.
'NO POWER I DON'T WANT TEMPLATES FOR MOUTHS THAT CAN SHOUT AT 300 DECIBELS…. Right now at least.'
'Okay, so my powers work on the principle of being able to understand any carbon based biology I come into contact with, including my own. So there's actually another way of getting out of this annoying mess. I need to bring a creature around, most likely a rat or cat or something, to touch me and then use the information I'll get from that brief contact to make a body for myself, most likely massive as I'm not sure how to shave off mass at this point or if I even can.' I say in an internal monologue that's actually getting annoying at this point. First I need something to attract my would be biological springboard.
I could do pheromones but that wouldn't really be viable as I only have technical knowledge of biology to work with, I can't actually tell what anything actually is. I'm almost wishing I had picked a Scion shard for my powers but that would have made it so much harder to complete my plans without my shard snitching on me.
Before I can think more on the matter a fly lands on me. Honestly I'm surprised it took this long. Immediately upon it landing on me my power gives me an in depth look at it's cellular anatomy, again from a technical standpoint. Fascinating information, but more importantly it gives me something to compare the information I have against.
I can't turn myself into a fly or any variant of one. I'm much too large and I just wouldn't be able to support my own weight with the systems a fly has in place. Even using adaptations from the compendium my power gives me would leave me as a very obvious, very large insect, and that's not even considering what Taylor's power would think of me in a form like that. Honestly maybe I should embrace my squishy body and dive into the sewer. Despite it being incredibly gross I couldn't actually get any diseases from being down there, and if I really wanted to I could start collecting data from waste matter. Heck, though they're not supposed to most women flush their tampons.
Yeah honestly that sounds like a much better idea. I'll be able to get DNA structures for humans from all the biological waste and likely more rats down there anyway. I might be able to emulate Rodent King from the CYOA if I can figure out some kind of ranged communication/control system, something already in my plans. All I need for that is Leet, Uber will be useful for learning more technical knowledge of biology, and just about anything else too.
Taking a moment to focus I try diving into what I am now thinking of as The Compendium, the complete compilation of all the biological systems the two Entities have encountered or theorized. There's actually a large amount of theory in here, fairly refined too. Might bear weight to my buddy's idea that only the Warrior isn't creative, because he didn't need to be.
Anyway a quick jaunt through some more simple locomotive systems gets me things like slugs and snail like feet that really just wiggle around in a specific pattern. It's simple enough that I can actually emulate that with my current body.
'huh, so I'm also amorphous' I think to myself, feeling my body shift and bob around as I shift my weight.
It's not actually hard for me to find a manhole cover some 300 feet away from me, literally across the street. One because they're fairly common in any city and two because I have incredible senses right now. My most external layers of cells are gauge all the ambient radiation, humidity, heat, scents, and sounds, compiling those into an intuitive mapping of the world around me.
I can tell it's night from the distinct lack of heat or typical solar radiations, like ultraviolet. There's still some radiation but it's incredibly minuscule to what should be there, likely the moon. Beyond that I can actually hear everything around me, because my entire cell network also functions much like an ear drum. I have perfect directional hearing and though it's quite a bit more powerful than I'm used to I can easily understand the information.
Honestly I could go on and on about my adaptations into the perfect omnicellular being but that sounds annoying, instead I'm going to just jump in the sewer.
Leveraging a bit of what could be generously considered an arm under the manhole cover I'm easily able to lift it up. I'm immediately assaulted by the foul odor of the sewer system. I don't gag, because I physically can't without a digestive system, and because my mind just doesn't have the instinct to do so anymore. I know it's disgusting but I don't have to deal with the consequences of it.
Wrapping my amorphous but still very strong 'arms' around the rungs of the inbuilt ladder system I start pulling myself down into the sewers, spawning another 'arm' to close the manhole behind me.
Splashing down into the water I actually shiver my body more out of habit or perceived disgust rather than actually being worried about anything. The water running through the system is a little cold according to my cells but they're already burning energy to warm me up. Huh, apparently my cells absorb and convert varying forms of energy to use instead of calories or fats. Interesting.
Anyway with the few short seconds I've been in the sewer I've already come into contact with quite a few different DNA samples, and 6 syringes. Disgusting though helpful as I'm pretty sure if I were to digest some of the samples inside them I could learn the chemical makeup of quite a few drugs. I wonder how that could be used as a passive improvement to my biology.
'Ha! passive meth injections to make my body even stronger. I love it.' I laugh to myself at the absurdity of the idea while still just kinda setting there in the water. The current is flowing towards me and thus I don't actually have to do anything acquire more samples.
In fact I think I'll just set here for a bit, gather a massive library of different DNA samples and see how much I can mix and match those. Maybe even play with my power for a bit.
it's a little too easy for me to just drift off with experimentation and information I'm acquiring about my own body and the DNA I'm pulling in, definitely gonna have to watch for that. Thankfully my full body cell brain can multitask insanely well. Not to Taylor/ Queen Administrator standards but much better than the average person.
I don't have any kind of chronometer to tell how long I've been setting in the same spot, though now that I'm thinking about it that wouldn't actually be hard to set up. Let me see.
'Get this couple cells to send a signal to each other at a very specific interval, exactly one second for this one, one minute for this one, one hour for this one, and 24 hours for this one. There, that should do it.' a quick bit of introspective cell work and I've set up at least a basic system for telling time. I'll probably have to adjust the Seconds one considering I only have it counting to 100 at this point but at worst my math will be a few minutes off over the course of a day.
Anyway! I've gathered a lot of DNA signatures, most of the same ones multiple times, and I am perfectly confident I can actually make myself a human form, perhaps even one close to my previous human self.
I scour the Compendium and my new DNA sample library to begin mixing and matching DNA sequences, finding what I like, what they do, converting that into human words, and finally building a form for myself. I'll likely keep my super cell whole body brain thing, just because it's amazing, and upgrade my human body to the ridiculous limits I can without having any of them presented to the world.
I feel my amorphous body shift and change as I go from a literal lump to a humanoid shape. I try to keep to my original form, just because I don't really need or want to look any different. 6'3", wavy brown hair that I no longer need to brush ever 9 minutes, stocky build but not fat this time, a good spread of my muscular system though with improved muscles. Obviously gonna need all my sensory organs but I think I'll keep the ability for my skin to give me a large area sense, just tone it down a bit.
Honestly without a mirror I don't think I look half bad. Probably dipping into the uncanny valley something fierce but I'm also a naked, physically fit man standing waist deep in sewer so anyone who sees me would probably call the cops anyway.
I haven't actually gotten any samples of clothing materials yet which is a little weird to me. A kid flushing a sock or someone flushing cash, which is made of cotton, would have been enough for me to make myself some clothes but I got none of that. So I'll either have to steal some, find some I can touch and copy the form of, or run around naked for a bit. Not a lot of good options.
Shrugging my shoulders, oh how I missed that, I start wading through the water. "I have legs again!"I exclaim excitedly while pulling myself out of the murky water. With but I thought I absorb the water and waste residue on me. I know I know, sounds disgusting, but without suddenly implementing some kind of air jet system throughout my entire body through my pores I would have had to deal with it being on me for a while.
"That's cool man." someone says from behind me, a noticeable drawl in his voice. Immediately I spin around coming to face to toaster with a living pile of trash. 'oh… Mush. Didn't think I'd see him down here. How did I not notice him?' I question myself while being supplied with the answer.
He blends in really well. Seriously, the man is covered in garbage and filth most of the time, he smells exactly the same as the area down here, and his heartbeat and heat signatures are covered by how much trash there is in the way. In any other environment he'd stick out so hard it'd be insane.
"what?" I ask, hoping to keep conversation going long enough for me to decide my next move. Working with the Merchants could be useful to me, especially if I can fight Squealer and Skidmark. I'm not for any of that Squealer did nothing wrong shit, but her power is useful and I could convert some of her designs to Biotech I would never have to worry about locomotion deficiencies ever again. In fact that would be a terrific help with some of the underwater exploration I need to do. Electric eels, mantis shrimp, basically any mollusk, all things I need to touch for some of my more entertaining abilities and upgrades.
"It's cool you got your legs back man. I saw ya do it and I was like, go him. Not all of us can get our bodies back but I'm glad you did." Mush replies, obviously drugged out of his mind. Honestly it makes me feel a little bad. I've been a Case 53 for less than a day and then immediately turn around to get a better body than my original form, right in front of him apparently. Sure he's a villain who causes destruction and at least is an accessory to drugging people out of their minds to make them minions for his gang, but he's still a person who got perhaps the worst power in all of Worm.
Anyway, since I only feel a little empathy for the guy I have no qualms with invading and either destroying or overtaking the criminal organization he's a part of. They weren't the first ones on my list but the Merchants are annoying and I don't like the idea of people drugging others to get them addicted and forcibly recruit them into their druggy army.
"Thanks man. Hey you know where I can get some pants? Maybe something to eat. I have no idea what's going on or where I am or anything really." there, play up the case 53 shtick, get some sympathy, invade Merchants, profit.
"oh yeah man, I got some buddies who can help you out. Follow me dude." Mush says before the mound of living trash rises up and begins lumbering in a specific direction. Oh man I love it when things work out well. Hopefully things continue being this simple.