An SI Worm fanfic
1) This story is set in the Wormverse, which is owned by Wildbow. Thanks for letting me use it.
2) I will follow canon as closely as I can. If I find something that canon does not cover, then I will make stuff up. If canon then refutes me, then I will revise. Do not bother me with fanon; corrections require citations.
3) I welcome criticism of my works, but if you tell me that something is wrong, I also expect an explanation of what is wrong, and a suggestion of how to fix it. Note that I do not promise to follow any given suggestion. Posting negative reviews using an anonymous account is a good way to get said reviews deleted.
I lounged on the couch, my laptop in front of me. I used a tab to flick open the Worm Resources Thread, to double-check a data point, then I went back to planning the new fic. It was going to be a fix fic, of course; I enjoyed writing those most of all.
My first Worm fic had used an OC to handle most of the alterations to canon; since then, with my other fics, I had gone with changes in continuity to alter matters. A thread on SI characters caught my eye, and I thought about it. Someone based on me; fat, forty-plus ... what could someone like me hope to accomplish in the Wormverse?
I thought of one of my more recent fics, where the main character had been slung back in time, losing her powers in the process, but in possession of a great deal of 'future' knowledge. Knowledge, properly applied, is power.
Perhaps one of the staff at Winslow? Taylor could definitely use a friend there. Take some of the heat off of her, make the bullies leave her alone.
I considered making over one of the canon characters; Gladly, maybe, or Quinlan. But both of those showed up in plot too much to be easily replaced.
A substitute teacher, maybe? I could do that.
But then, a conversation with a friend online put me on the right track.
If I wrote my self-insert character as having the same occupation as myself - that is, security guard - he would have a ready-made excuse to be at Winslow. The last detail fell into place.
I opened a new Word file and started typing. First, the title of the fic. And then the opening paragraphs.
Principal Blackwell read the email again and frowned.
Per the recent Taylor Hebert locker incident, a security guard will be stationed at Winslow High during the hours of ...
Absently, she sent an acknowledgement, letting her employers know that she'd read their damn stupid email. She wanted to mail them back, to tell them that she didn't need some flat-footed rent-a-cop roaming the hallways of her school, but she knew it would do no good.
Idly, she recalled a joke. "Teachers would be able to get a lot more done, if it wasn't for all the students.". Running Winslow High was a lot like that; the school would run rather more smoothly if it wasn't for all those square-peg students, stubbornly refusing to fit into the round holes that had been neatly set aside for them.
Students like Taylor Hebert; if she had just had the decency to fit in like everyone else, then the whole locker incident would never have happened. Winslow would never have made the papers, and she would not have had to kowtow to an enraged Danny Hebert. Paying for his daughter's hospital bills had put quite a dent in the school's budget for the year; another factor that militated against getting in a security guard ...
I stopped and re-read what I had typed, and then frowned; Blackwell was coming across as just a little too heartless and calculating. If I let the story continue in this vein, she would end up punishing Taylor for the sheer audacity of complaining about being bullied. I decided to revise it, rein it in a little.
Later.It was late; I was getting tired. Leaning back, I let my eyelids drift shut for just a moment.
This happened on occasion. Not quite sleepy enough to drift off, not quite awake enough to stay alert. I would ease back and forth between sleep and wakening states, and occasionally type a few sentences into the story. Sometimes I would even doze for a little bit and dream that I'd typed far more than I really had. Then I would be faced with trying to remember how the story had gone in my dream, and try to recreate it.
Opening my eyes again, I started creating the character that I was going to insert into the story. Michael Allen. Veteran security officer.I paused, pondering. Licensed for concealed carry?
On balance, I didn't like the idea, but then, this was America and a world where conflict was somewhat more likely than the when/where that I lived in. Yeah, okay. Concealed carry.
A thought struck me, and I did a bit of quick research. The original author had never specified precisely where Brockton Bay was, but there was a Brockton in Massachusetts, and so I used that state as a test case. And I came up against a hard block; Massachusetts CCW laws had a definitive ban against concealed firearms inside school grounds. So, he has a concealed carry permit, but he doesn't carry inside Winslow. I can work with that.
I typed a few more lines, setting the story up, then let my eyelids drift closed again. Maybe I should shut this down for the evening and go to bed ...
I opened my eyes again, to the rasping buzz of my alarm clock.
What the hell? I didn't set my alarm clock. What the hell time is it, anyway?
I forced my eyes open, stared at the bright green numbers on the face of the alarm clock.
It took me a few moments to register what I was looking at.
One: it was five thirty in the morning. I do not get up at five thirty in the morning. This is a physical impossibility.
Two: My alarm clock has red numbers, not green. This was not my alarm clock.
Three: Not my bedroom. I do not keep sports posters on my bedroom wall. Plus, the furniture was all wrong.
I frowned, trying to make sense of it all. Did I go out? Crash at someone else's place?
I shook my head. I couldn't see it. I only go out on Mondays and Tuesdays, and then only to friends' places. And I'm always capable of driving back afterward.
Sitting up in bed, I stared at the sports poster. And it began to dawn on me that it wasn't a sports poster. I turned on the bedside light and directed the beam at the poster.
That was people in costume, not in sports gear. And as I began to register details, verbal descriptions began to click into place.
Tall woman, black hair, black and grey costume, ruined tower on front of costume, long cape.
Armoured man, blue and silver, visor covering eyes, carrying a polearm.
Young woman, blue bodysuit with silver circuitry pattern.
I began to shake; I stood up, the alarm clock still blaring, forgotten. Leaning closer, I stared at the poster. Was this some fan thing? People dressed up in costumes from the story? Or a CGI thing? Had someone made a movie about this and no-one told me?
If it was CGI, then it was the best I'd ever seen. Absolutely photo-realistic. And if it was people in costumes, they wore them well. Like they were born to it.
I pointed at the characters and spoke out loud, as if I could dispel the haze over my thoughts that way.
"Armsmaster, Alexandria, Legend, Battery ... that must be Assault ... Eidolon? Huh. That's probably Velocity then ..." At the end of the row, a dark-skinned woman bearing a heavily modified assault rifle, stars-and-stripes scarf across her face. "Definitely Miss Militia."
I sat down on the bed again, the wind going out of me.
"What the fuck," I said out loud, "is going on?"
One hot shower later, it was still refusing to make sense to me. Pulling on a bathrobe and slippers – it was cold! – I wandered out into a living room, still half-expecting to see the back end of a movie set, or people leaping out to spring the most elaborate April Fools prank I had ever seen.
Nothing of the sort happened. It was an ordinary living room. Except that, looking at it carefully, it was a living room that I would live in. Things were where I would put them. I could believe that I lived here.
Except that I had never seen this place before in my life.
Moments later, as I ate cereal at the small table, I reassessed that view. I had never seen this place before ... but I knew where everything was. Because it was where I would put it.
The cereal was a brand I had never seen before, but it was close enough to what I usually ate to not give me problems. I dumped the bowl in the sink, rinsed it, and looked around.
On the fridge was a schedule sheet. A roster. A name.
And under it, the location for work.
Winslow High School.
I sat down again.
"No. No fucking way."
I'd dreamed typing up stories before. But I'd never dreamed my way into the story.
First time for everything, I guess.
Then I looked at the start time. Today. Seven thirty.
"Okay," I said out loud. "Time to shape up or ship out. Do I treat this as a dream, and see how weird it can get, or do I act like I'm in the story, and do my best to help Taylor out?"
Put that way, I didn't really have a choice. There were people in Worm that I really thought got a bad deal out of things. Taylor was first in line, of course, but there were others. And if I could help them, even in a dream, that would make for an awesome story to write once I woke up.
Shape up it is, then.
Ten minutes later, I was uniforming up. There was far more paraphernalia than I was used to; pepper spray, stun gun, cuffs ... Christ, was I going into a war zone, or a high school?
Then I remembered Winslow from the story. Oh, right. Yeah.
The scariest bit was putting on the stab vest. People get shanked at Winslow.
I made damn sure that stab vest was properly secured.
The other thing on the fridge was a letter. It informed me that I was starting at Winslow on April the eighth, of the year two thousand and eleven.
Which, my watch assured me, was today.
April eight. April eight. That date nagged at me. It was significant, somehow.
I'd figure it out later. I left the apartment.
As I rode the early-morning bus through Brockton Bay, I had to admire the sheer attention to detail that my subconscious was capable of. I recognised landmarks I'd read about within the story, but only by context; the buildings looked nothing like I'd envisaged them, nor even like the cover photo on the story.
It had taken me a bit to figure out the bus lines, but I worked it out eventually. I found Winslow on the map, and located the right bus line. It looked like I was on time for a seven thirty start.
I hated being late for work, even in a dream.
As I settled back into my seat, I pondered the meaning of the date. April eight. It meant something, I was sure ... but what? There was something that I was missing.
I was interrupted in my reverie by a collective gasp from the others in the bus. Looking up, I saw a slender white-clad feminine form whip by; I had just enough time to register blonde hair and a fluttering skirt before she was gone.
This dream involved superheroes. Somehow I had temporarily forgotten that.
"Was that Glory Girl?" I asked the guy next to me.
"Sure was," he confirmed, then looked at me oddly. "You're acting like you've never seen her before."
"New in town," I said hastily. "Seeing her on the news is different to seeing her for real."
"I guess," he agreed, then he offered his hand. "Gerry's the name. What brings you to the 'Bay?"
I shook it. He had calloused hands and a strong grip. "Michael. Work." Using two fingers, I tapped the patch on the sleeve of my uniform. "Babysitting kids at a high school." With a roll of my eyes, I added, "Joy."
He chuckled and slapped me on the shoulder. "Good luck. Tase the little bastards if they give you any trouble."
I grinned at him. "Two spare batteries. I came prepared."
He laughed out loud.
"So what do you do?" I asked, the ice now broken. It was in my best interests to find out as much as possible about Brockton Bay, or rather, the version of it that my dream was creating. Somewhere along the line, I realised, I had made the decision to treat everything as if it were real.
"Dock worker," he replied, and with his build I could believe it. "When there's work, of course."
"A bit slack at the moment, huh?" I asked, sympathy in my tone.
"Only for the last bloody ten years," he said morosely, and I heard the faintest trace of an Irish accent. "I mean, Hebert does his best, but when there's no work, there's no bloody work."
I nodded. "And that's God's honest truth," I agreed.That would be Danny Hebert. Taylor's dad.
God, it's weird to hear his name in casual conversation. Like he's a real person.
"Man might as well get bloody work with a supervillain," Gerry groused. "At least they're hiring."
I raised an eyebrow. "Supervillains, huh?" I asked. "That pay well?"
He shrugged. "So I hear."
"Yeah," I replied. "But what's the dental plan like?" I mimed punching myself in the jaw.
He nodded ruefully. "Yeah, you got a point there," he agreed. "I might keep looking for legitimate work for a bit longer."
I looked up as the bus pulled to a stop. "Whoops, this is my stop," I said. "Good luck with finding work, Gerry. And hold out for that dental plan."
He got up to let me out into the aisle. "I'll do that, Mike. And watch your back with those rugrats."
I got off the bus and watched it drive away, then turned to walk into Winslow High School.
As I walked into the parking lot out front of the school, a woman about my age, skinny and with dirty blonde hair, came to meet me. Mentally I flicked through my file of descriptions of Winslow staff. It wasn't an exhaustive list; two women and two men had actually been described in the story. This woman fitted the basic description of the school principal.
"Ms Blackwell?" I asked as she approached me.
She nodded curtly. "You're Allen. The security guard."
"That's me," I agreed. I extended my hand, and after a moment, she shook it.
She looked me over critically. "I always thought you security guards came with equipment belts."
I nodded. "I arrived on the bus. I thought it would be better to carry my gear in my bag." I indicated the backpack I had over my shoulder. "Causes less problems that way."
"But you will be carrying it around the school," she observed.
"Yes, ma'am, I will," I agreed.
"Do you have a gun?" she asked. "Because we don't allow those in the school."
I shook my head. "I'm licensed to carry, of course, but I do know about that. So I didn't bring it."
"What do you have to defend yourself with then?" she asked sharply. She was definitely being antagonistic; I began to wonder if it had been such a good idea to write her like that. And then I wondered if she was like that because I had written her that way, or because that was the way I read her personality from the story.
"Pepper spray, a stun gun and a baton," I answered, pulling my belt out of the bag and buckling it on. "Also, cuffs, in case someone needs to be restrained for the police."
"You've been trained in the responsible use of all these?" she asked sharply.
"I have all the required licences," I responded. I hoped I did; it felt like the right answer.
"I hope so, for your sake," she said darkly. "If the school gets sued by anyone because of the way you treated their children, we will be passing the costs on to you."
And if that's not a way of saying "keep out of the way and don't cause waves", I don't know what is, I thought.
"I prefer to talk before taking physical action, ma'am," I said blandly. "I also carry a voice recorder. So if there's any dispute about what was said when, it can be settled on the spot."
She gave me a hard stare, but did not seem to be able to think of any more objections. "Hmm," she said. "Well, I'll get you set up. Most of the faculty should be in by now."
"Ladies and gentlemen," announced Principal Blackwell. "I would like you to meet our new security guard, Mr Allen." She introduced the faculty, and I did my best to remember the names. I shook hands where offered, nodded and smiled where not.
Quinlan I picked out by eye, Gladly and Mrs Knott I did not. Once again, their faces were at odds with what I had envisaged. Gladly grinned broadly as he shook my hand, trying for the 'good old boy' vibe. Quinlan had a handshake like a wet fish, with a faint tremor. Mrs Knott shook my hand like a man, with a nice firm grip, but not overdoing it like Gladly.
I cleared my throat; everyone quieted.
"I'm pleased to meet you all," I said. "I won't remember all your names at first, but give me a few days and I'll know you." I looked around at the group. "This is my first time working at a school like this, and I'm probably your first experience of a school security officer, so I'm willing to work at it until we reach an understanding. I don't want to go stepping on any toes." I paused. "Thank you."
There was a general murmur that I took for agreement; I turned to Principal Blackwell.
"Is there anything else we need to do before I start?" I asked her.
She frowned. "Not that I can think of. If there's nothing else …" Turning on her heel, she walked out of the room, heading for her office.
I followed along, waiting until she paused at her office door. "Do I get master keys?" I knew I did; it was specified in the letter on my fridge.
She frowned more deeply. "I'm not sure about that …"
"Do you have master keys?" I pressed as she unlocked the door.
"Yes, but they're generally spares for the janitor …"
"And now I need them," I pointed out. "If I need to go find the janitor every time I have to investigate some strange occurrence, this will drastically reduce my ability to do my job."
"Fine," she snapped. Entering the office, she reached into a drawer and almost threw me a bunch of keys. Most were unlabelled; I guessed that this was because the janitor knew them all.
"Sign out book?" I prompted.
Grudgingly, she pulled a book from the drawer, and I signed the keys into my custody. Then I hooked them on to my belt.
"Thank you, Principal Blackwell," I said politely. "I'll get out of your hair now."
I didn't quite catch her reply, but I don't think it was very polite. I exited her office, carefully closing the door behind me.
My first order of business was to get the layout of the school. It was all one building, with multiple levels, so I was understandably concerned about being able to find my way around. Worse, they hadn't supplied me with a map of the school, so I was forced to use dead reckoning.
Turning a corridor, making a bet with myself that the cafeteria lay ahead, I encountered Mr Gladly. He smiled broadly when he saw me.
"Allen, right?" he asked. "Got a first name?"
"It's Michael," I told him. "But if you don't mind, I'd prefer to use Allen. That way, we don't send the kids the wrong message."
"Hey," he said. "I just tell 'em to call me Mr G. They eat it up. A teacher they can relate to, you know? They love me."
I know one that doesn't, I thought but didn't say. And I had to say that his attitude was starting to grate on me a little as well.
"Not in this job to be liked," I said, but with a half-smile to take the sting out of it. "I just want to do it right, make sure everyone gets home at the end of the day."
He held up his hands in mock surrender. "Hey, chill, man," he said, raising his eyebrows. "You always this intense?"
I looked at him curiously, head tilted to one side. "I don't see it as intensity," I told him. "I see it as choosing to do the job right the first time, every time. I've been doing this for ten years. I've seen it done badly. Sometimes I've screwed up. But I've seen it done well, too. I prefer to get it right." I paused. "Actually, you can help me out here."
"Yeah?" he asked, his enthusiasm back. "Trouble finding your way around?"
"A little," I admitted, "but I'm getting there. What I'm after is the names of any trouble students. People I'd be advised to keep an eye on. People getting bullied, might need an eye kept on them, make sure people aren't making trouble for them. Places where trouble usually starts. Things like that. You've been here longer than I have; you'd have a better idea than me, right?"
I didn't miss the wary look in his eye.
"Huh," he said. "You know, I'd have to go to the principal before I gave you the names of any 'troublemakers'," he gave the word air quotes, "but I guess I can point you out a few people, once classes start."
I nodded. "Anything that would be useful, I'd appreciate." I paused, giving him room to say something, but he didn't bite.
"Well," he said, "I'd better get my classroom ready for the first class. The kids will be showing up any time now."
"Just one more thing," I said, following him down the hall. "I read about an incident this January. Someone got locked in a locker?"
He quickened his pace. "We dealt with that matter," he said over his shoulder. "It's over and done."
"Ah, so the guilty parties were caught and punished?" I asked, moving faster myself.
"You'll have to talk to the principal about that," he said, almost breaking into a run.
I slowed to a walk, watching him hurry away.
Interesting, I thought. He knows they failed her. Knows they're still failing her. But he doesn't want to face up to it.
It was something to think about.
The students arrived in dribs and drabs as their parents dropped them off, and in large groups as the buses arrived and departed. I managed to find my way back to the front of the building, and watched them arrive. There were quite a few startled glances my way, and I nodded to those who made eye contact with me, but no-one spoke to me, and I didn't talk either.
It wasn't hard to pick out Emma Barnes and her coterie; red haired, striking good looks, and a figure that did not belong on a fifteen year old. Madison was several inches shorter, rather petite, and cute in a way that had appealed to me in my younger years. Sophia was slender and slightly above average height, with black hair and dark skin.
She was also the first 'cape' I had encountered since this whole episode started; I wasn't counting the sighting of Glory Girl. It was intriguing; looking at her, I saw an athletic fifteen year old. But she was also a superhero, of sorts.
I took care not to stare at her, moving past the trio, nodding to Emma when her eyes met mine, I kept my eyes front. Which was a good thing, because a tall skinny girl stumbled into my path; if I hadn't been looking, I would have knocked her over.
"Whoops," I said, propping on the spot. "Sorry."
"My fault," she muttered, and ducked past me. She was carrying a heavy-looking bag, and she didn't go to a locker, unlike everyone else there. I had a momentary impression of round-lensed glasses, long dark curly hair …
Holy shit, I thought. That was her. Taylor Hebert. I just met Taylor Hebert.
I wanted to go after her, tell her that she had a friend in this school. Tell her that there was someone on her side now.
But I didn't.
I had a job to do here, at Winslow. Duties to perform. And taking care of Taylor Hebert, helping her, was only a small part of that job. A very important part, yes. But still only a small part.
Taking a deep breath, I went about my rounds.
But my thoughts did not stray far from Taylor Hebert.
I was sure that we would meet again.
End of Introduction