Mutation 1.01

Disclaimer: Don't own Worm.

This story starts at the end of Arc 6.09, after Coil makes his offer to the Undersiders and Lisa picks Taylor up from her house. Note that the major divergence in this setting from canon is that Coil never managed to recruit the Travelers, and so none of the Travelers came to Brockton Bay.

The argument with my dad still rung in my ears. I replayed every line over and over in my head, but I just felt hollow, physically and emotionally, from the long night that I had. Everything from attacking the party, meeting with Coil and his proposal, and the confrontation at my house had left me absolutely shattered.

I left Lisa behind a while ago, instead opting to walk aimlessly around the docks for a bit. Lisa wanted to help, but I couldn't stand to go back to the hideout and face everyone. I needed sometime to myself, to sort things out.

I'm a supervillain, I thought softly. I'd been a supervillain before, sure, but then I'd always classified myself as superhero undercover as a supervillain. That lie was over now. No excuse now. I made the choice to burn the letter. I'm a supervillain now.

The strange thing was that the idea wasn't so outrageous anymore. I had seen both sides of capes; and it wasn't so sure about which one I belonged on. Being a villain wasn't good but it wasn't necessarily evil either. The ABB had nearly torn the city apart, and sooner or later there'd be another gang and the cycle would continue.

The more I thought about, the more attractive Coil's plan seemed. If there was only one established group in charge of the crime, you could control it. You could stop the collateral and all the maniacs. Maybe a villain, a restrained and pragmatic villain, could do more to help Brockton Bay than the heroes ever could.

And Coil was relying on us. The mercenaries and the money could only go so far. He needed the Undersiders to take control. Perhaps Coil could recruit other supervillains given time, but who else would care as much people who had a stake in the city?

If there was going to be a criminal warlord conquering Brockton Bay, I wanted it to be me.

I was walking down towards the far end of the docks, towards the Boat Graveyard. Brockton's Bay shipping industry had dried up years ago, leaving nothing but a tattered skeleton and a decaying infrastructure. Leaving men like my dad and a dwindling Dockworker's Association. There was so much potential in Brockton Bay that was rotting away because there was no one in a position of power who was invested enough to turn things around.

My hands clenched, feeling the determination boil inside me. I hadn't even realised I made the decision until I felt my pace quicken.

No more half measures. I'm a supervillain now, I thought slowly, and I'm going to own that.

The surrounding bugs responded to my mood almost instinctively. I walked straight towards one of the deserted warehouses, easily kicking open the door. The lock had been broken years ago. The Merchants routinely used the empty warehouses, or they were often filled with homeless. The one I chose was empty, but I could still sense some vagrants lying in a nearby alley.

I needed bugs. That was my power. Other capes could fly into a fight at a moment's notice, but I needed more preparation and planning. Insects were my weapons, and it was time to stockpile my arsenal.

Within minutes, I was gathering every insect in a three block radius, sorting through the swarm of black shapes that trickled towards the warehouse. I didn't want to obsess over my dad anymore, so instead I focused my attention on something I could do.

There were ants, spiders, flies, moths, bees, wasps, mosquitoes, centipedes, worms, and dozens more. I even gathered the ones I didn't normally use, like the snails and slugs, just because I could. Within minutes, the whole warehouse filled to the brim with a buzzing black cloud so dense I couldn't even see through it, and a rippling carpet of bugs skittering and sliding over each other.

The homeless men outside quickly shifted away when they saw the stream of bugs gathering. The swarm looked like something out of an apocalypse. I grinned as the possibilities hit me.

What I really needed was a place where I could store and breed my bugs, so I had a swarm in reserve for the times I really needed it. Constantly relying on whatever insects were in the vicinity around just wasn't good enough. Not anymore.

And I could breed them, I realised suddenly. Why not mass-produce all the useful bugs I need? I had done something similar with black widow spiders, but suddenly I was thinking on a much, much bigger scale.

At once, I got to work. I closed my eyes and suddenly dived into the surrounding swarm. I ordered the spiders to climb the walls and ceilings and start to weave, while the ants organised into armies, setting up hives all over the floor and digging into the ground. The bees and wasps started to build honeycombs of honey and pulp, while the other bugs formed a supply chain, feeding the insects as they worked.

No matter how many individual tasks I focused on, I never reached my limit. I could micromanage every single bug in a swarm of a hundred thousand. I dived in deeper than I ever had, escaping all my problems until I was a consciousness made out of a huge swarm.

This is going to be my lair, I decided suddenly. I felt like a kid making a treehouse. It was pure escapism, but I didn't care. I could imagine the warehouse reinforced with silk armour and honeycomb walls. The ants and worms could build a labyrinth of tunnels. This warehouse could become one huge terrarium. A fortress of bugs.

I need breeding chambers. I could factory farm insects. Why not produce silk by the wagonload? I felt a rush as the possibilities hit me. Sure, I might never be able to punch through a wall, but there was no other cape that could do this either. My powers worked on a different scale, and I wanted to see how far that could go.

Let's see how fast a million dedicated bugs could work, then.

I was too entranced by a thousand tasks to even notice the time ticking by. Within hours, I had an infrastructure. I had an administration of a million bugs that just kept on getting larger.

I'm going to need food. Lots of food, otherwise the swarm will collapse in on itself. The supply chain of self-sacrificing insects couldn't support this many for very long. Still, a truckload of raw proteins and starch would do it – no need for anything fancy. I could talk to Coil about arranging deliveries, he had resources.

I'll also need electric heaters, for when it gets cold. I'll have to maintain a little microclimate in here, particularly as the breeding starts. Reinforce and insulate the walls with silk and honeycomb to keep the heat in.

The possibilities were endless. Right now, one of my biggest weaknesses were just how squishy my bugs were. Both Armsmaster and Lung had proven how easy it was to destroy a swarm of bugs. I could change that; I could selectively breed insects and mass produce the strongest, biggest, toughest insects. Maybe normally it would take generations, yet if I boosted their reproductive cycles and controlled the breeding pools…

I wondered briefly how big I could actually make the spiders. Why not? I mused. Humans had been selectively breeding everything from dogs, horses and livestock for centuries, and with my powers I could do it more efficiently than anyone

Inspiration struck. But why stop there? There were more dangerous insects in the world. Brockton Bay had a zoo, and that zoo had an insect exhibition, which I really wanted to go visit there. There were some seriously big insects available. I could imagine goliath birdeater tarantulas, tarantula hawk wasps, horse crabs, bullet ants, Asian giant hornets…

Oh, and scorpions. That thought made me chuckle. The things that I could do with scorpions…

I couldn't stop the grin spreading across my face. Suddenly, I wanted an internet connection so I could google 'world's largest arachnids'.

There were bug enthusiasts and exotic bug farms out there. Large quantities of rare insects could be delivered. It might take some time, but I really wanted to push myself. Let's see what my powers can do.

After all, I'm a supervillain, I thought with just a hint of pride. From now on, there was no holding back.

It was noon by the time I finally left the warehouse. I took out my phone and dialled a number quickly. It was answered on the first ring.

"Yes?" Coil answered calmly.

"Coil, this is Skitter," I replied bluntly. There was no greeting required. "I can't speak for the others, but I've reconsidered what I want from you."

"Please tell."

"The dock industry gets a second boon. You repair the ferry, you get the docks renovated. You clear out the Boat Graveyard. Give the city a future again. Not in five years, not in a decade, now."

There was a brief pause. "…That's an expensive demand," Coil said slowly.

"I'll be worth it, I promise," I said firmly, my voice hard. "I think that the city needs order before it can get better and you might the best man for the job, so I'm in."

"I'm glad to hear you say that."

"Thank you." I paused. "But right now… I've got a shopping list that I want to talk to you about…"


It was a long week, but mostly quiet. The offer of working with Coil was on everyone's minds. Bitch said no at first, but then I went to her, helped with her dogs, and slowly she came around. Bitch was hardly a friendly person, but she didn't seem quite so angry at me after I helped her deal with a couple of Empire Eighty-Eight thugs that came around. Or maybe she just started to appreciate that Coil could help keep her dogs much safer.

A week after we crashed the fundraiser, we had our first job. It was an easy mission; more to remind the city that we were still operating more than anything. We all knew that the capes would be gunning for us hard after the stunt we pulled at the party, so we kept it quiet - a raid on an Empire Eighty-Eight stash house.

Everything went like clockwork. Bitch's dog stormed through the building, while my bugs were quick to cut down any thug still standing. Tattletale and Regent cleared out the money, and Grue ran interference. As we were leaving, we glimpsed Hookwolf trying to chase after us, but a blanket of darkness and we were gone before he could even get close. There were no big fights, no high-stakes; just a few bug-bitten thugs, a duffel bag of cash, and a lot of very pissed-off racists.

"Nice haul," Grue commented, looking at the money. "Quick and easy."

"Well, things are going to get bigger," Tattletale commented. "Coil wants us to start entering the big leagues now. The Empire Eighty-Eight is struggling, and we've got to take them out. We've got to be the big hitters in Coil's grand scheme."

"Good luck with that," I muttered. The Empire Eighty-Eight was still the biggest organisation of neo-Nazis in America. They had the largest number of capes in the city. The Empire had been operating for decades, and had never been defeated. Held back, stunted, yes – but never defeated.

Lisa took off her mask and glanced at me, as if reading my mind. "About that…" she muttered sheepishly. "Coil has been talking to me about recruiting more. Right now, we're still the biggest team he has. He's got lots of mercenaries and some independent capes, but he wants a larger, united team to help take the city. He's been pushing me a bit to think about recruiting more."

Bitch scowled, stomping into the room. "I don't want anyone else joining."

I rubbed my chin. "I don't know," I mused. We were massively outmatched at the moment, even considering Coil's mercenaries. "…It couldn't hurt to bring in some more manpower."

Regent made a face. "It means splitting the money more ways."

"But it also means we could take on bigger jobs," Grue conceded. "How many extra Undersiders is he thinking about?"

"At least two, I think."

We dropped onto the chairs to talk about it, chatting amicably. Alec and Rachel were both against, Lisa was for, while Brian and I were debating it. Eventually, we decided to have a vote on it later, and settled down as Regent ordered pizza.

"Hey Taylor," Brian said suddenly, glancing at me curiously. "Today, with your swarm… was it just me or did those insects seem… well… bigger?"

I grinned. After a week of intensive breeding, the biggest spiders I had were now about three times as large as normal spiders. Not monstrously large, admittedly, but definitely noticeable. Three times as large and still getting bigger, I added mentally.

"Yep, I'm getting there. I've been breeding certain bugs for size," I explained. It turned out you could breed insects a hell of a lot faster once you manually adjusted their breeding cycles a bit. "I've got a system set up in my lair, and I've been taking the swarm through the sewers whenever we need a mission. Easier that way."

I decided not to mention the scorpions or the exotic bugs I had been integrating into my swarm. I'd leave that one as a surprise.

"Huh," Brian commented. "But what about when you're not at your lair… doesn't the swarm, umm, go wild?"

I shook my head. "If I give all the bugs very precise tasks to do, then they keep on doing them until I tell them not to." I had set up the breeding pools so they were just about autonomous now. It was all pheromones and simple instructions, really. Insects were very simple creatures, and they worked just as cogs in a machine. "Like when I was unconscious and the bugs just repeated the last order I gave them constantly. I've it got it kind of like that."

Lisa looked at me curiously but didn't say anything. "How many are you breeding?" Alec asked curiously.

"A few," I admitted. Multi-tasking Thinker abilities were a god-send. I could breed different strains of insects for every trait from size to venom potency. Even while my prestige lines were producing more bugs, I still had plenty of offshoots for my day-to-day swarm. "I started off with a dozen breeding pools. Now I'm managing… um… one thousand, two hundred and fifty-four different strains."

Alec blinked. "Damn, dork," Alec whistled. "You really need to get laid."

I rolling my eyes and punched him on the shoulder roughly, forcefully keeping myself from blushing as I noticed Lisa's not-quite-so subtle nudges towards Brian. Thankfully, everyone else ignored the comment.

"You know, I've got to see this lair of yours sometime," Brian mused. "But don't you get lots of problems with the gangs out in that edge of the city like that?"

I thought about the abandoned warehouse. The warehouse that was literally filled to the brim with mutant versions of nearly every known creepy-crawly ever, with walls reinforced with spider-silk and patrolled autonomously by unnaturally territorial swarms of giants wasps.

"No," I said meekly. "Nobody really bothers me that much."


The next morning, I woke with my morning routine. Inspect the breeding pools, manually readjust where needed, and reset the cycle. In the same way that people had bred wolves to become everything from Chihuahuas to Great Danes, I was doing the same thing with insects. Only I could do it a lot faster.

The system I had spent the week working on was more or less autonomous now, to be honest. I had effectively reprogrammed the hives to self-regulate; the individual bugs followed the simple set of tasks I'd given them, but in a coordinated swarm of thousands, that added up to an increasingly complex set of behaviour.

I was so busy with my bugs that I barely even noticed the strong winds gathering outside. It was only when I felt the ground rumble through my bugs that I realised something was happening. Soon, the whole street was trembling like an earthquake. There were no windows in the warehouse, but as I left I saw that it was raining outside, with immense, pitch black clouds looming in the distance. I felt the swarm stir as the bugs realised instinctively the same thing I had; something was wrong.

I had set up a TV in my lair, along with a bed and a few other human essentials, but there was no signal. No reception on my phone either. Frowning, I threw on my costume and left urgently. The whole city felt ominously tense as the out-of-season storm rolled over us. My stomach clenched.

When I reached the Undersiders' hideout, I knew instinctively what was happening. Lisa answered the door before I even knocked, and the glint in her eyes confirmed it.

"Leviathan," I muttered breathlessly. I said the name like a curse.

Lisa nodded. "Where?" I asked.

"Boston," she answered simply. "It's bad."


She nodded in agreement. "Yeah. Fuck."


The rest of the day and the next morning was as a silent as the grave. Boston wasn't exactly nearby, but it was close enough that we were getting the fringe effects of Leviathan's storm. Unless things went Japan-level bad, Brockton Bay should be alright, but there was absolutely nothing we could do to help.

Perhaps we should have rushed to help. If Boston had been closer, we probably would have. The Protectorate did recruit the supervillains in the area to stand with them, but this time they didn't have much warning and I could understand that nobody thought to extend an invitation to the Undersiders during the panicked defence. We were just a small-time villain group a city away, and probably wouldn't be so useful anyways. At one point, though, we even debated driving to Boston straight away, but, honestly, then we were just more likely to get caught up in the tidal waves and wouldn't get close enough to do any good, anyways. Still, just doing nothing was absolutely agonising. Eventually, I had to retire for the night as the lack of news was driving me insane.

The Undersiders knocked on my lair early next morning. They looked nervously at the huge billows of silk sheets and hives swarming with insects, but I led them towards the back, towards the 'human quarters' of my lair.

"How bad did it go?" I asked with a sigh. The air was tense.

Coil's information network, and thus Tattletale, got the news faster than anyone. "Pretty damn bad," Lisa admitted. "One of the worst causalities yet. Scion turned up way too late and Boston has been lost. As in: pretty much totally wiped off the map, along with a big chunk of the East Coast."

I sighed softly. "Damn." How many people had been slaughtered in the tidal waves? "What happened?"

"They managed to get a pretty good city-wide evacuation done, at least," Lisa explained. "But something went wrong when the capes were fighting back Leviathan. The information is hazy at the minute, but it seems like Leviathan unearthed something during the attack. It was going fairly ok until that, but Leviathan was heading straight towards some building in Boston, and then, well, something was released."


"Nobody's quite sure, exactly," Tattletale admitted. "Best description right now; a monster, one that was sent into a frenzy and started attacking the capes pretty much indiscriminately. The capes were caught completely off-guard, and, as if that wasn't bad enough, then the clones started to appear."

My eyes widened. "Clones?"

Lisa raised her hands. "I don't know; I'm just relaying what I was told. I don't know what it was, but some monster appeared in the attack, and the monster started to produce clones. Clones of the defending capes. Dozens of them, reproducing madly, all of which then tried to murder their doppelgangers. It got, um, pretty bad."

"So there was some weird, powerful mutant parahuman hiding out in Boston, and then Leviathan came and let it loose," Brian concluded.

"Best anyone can tell, yeah," Lisa admitted. "The PRT was caught as much by surprise as anyone. The death toll hasn't come back yet, but it's high. I mean, over fifty-percent high. The capes were so busy trying to deal with the clones that Leviathan managed to build up enough steam to sink the city. By the time Scion finally arrived, Leviathan was winding down anyways and the whole city was underwater."

"What happened to… that clone-producing monster?" I asked worriedly.

"I'm told that Leviathan killed it eventually," Lisa explained grimly. "Not so sure about all the clones, mind. Some of the clones likely survived, and, if rumours are to be believed, there are Alexandria and Eidolon clones among them."

I would have sworn, but the swear words just didn't seem enough. Alec sunk into his chair with a sigh. "Well, I need a drink," he muttered despondently, raising his hand in an invisible toast. "Au revoir, Boston…"

"There were relatively few civilian casualties," Brian noted, with a grimace. "It could have been worse."

"Yeah," Alec agreed. "It could have been us."

Nobody said anything for a while after that. The Endbringer attacks were always devastating, and never stopped being devastating despite the frequency. There was absolutely nothing to do though, and instead we just milled around in solemn silence.

It was nearly five minutes before Lisa spoke again. "There's something we're going to have to think about, mind," she said finally. "Right now, the PRT is going to be licking their wounds for a while. They'll be a moment of quiet, in honour of the truce, but after that people are going to be making their move."

I frowned. "The Empire Eighty-Eight," I said simply.

"The Protectorate were the only ones that could really stop them, and they're going to be busy," Lisa explained. "With ABB gone, the Empire Eighty-Eight is going to be making a big push for the city."

"So we're the ones that are going to have to stop them," Brian muttered with a sigh. "We need to take the city."

"Don't worry," Alec muttered sarcastically. "We're only outnumbered three-to-one. I'm sure it's going to be an absolute piece of cake fighting against the army of super-powered neo-Nazis."

"And there are other concerns," Lisa continued dryly. "With Boston devastated, there are now hundreds of thousands refugees with nowhere to go. Where do you think there'll be heading?"

I raised my eyebrow. "Here?"

"Brockton Bay is the closest major city to Boston," Lisa commented. "I bet you good money that in a week this city is going to be flooded with more refugees than we can handle. And with those, there are going to be the remaining villains coming with them."

I tried to recall the Boston gangs. There were the Ambassadors, the Fallen, the Teeth, and after that I lost track. I would have to check the wiki for the other players, but I could distinctly remember names like Blasto, Accord, Topsy and Butcher

"All of those guys, desperately trying to carve some territory back…" Brian muttered with a grimace. "Yeah, that could get pretty bad."

"There's an opportunity here too, though," Lisa muttered slowly, scratching her chin. "Think of it how a guy like Coil would see it. This city is going to be filled with refugees. Sure, there's going to be crime and chaos, but that also means new business, and development. There are going to be government grants for renovation coming in, and anybody who gets in quick could grab a big slice. I don't think that Coil is going to be backing off on his plan at all – he's going to go all in."

"That's a pretty cold way of looking at a tragedy," I muttered, not quite under my breath.

"Maybe," Lisa conceded. "But right now we've got an advantage, and I want to use it. All of the established gangs in Brockton Bay have a head start over any newcomers. We've got Empire Eighty-Eight as the big hurdle, but their infrastructure is bleeding. Only other contenders are Faultline's Crew and the Merchants, but Faultline won't be interested in taking the city and the Merchants would never be able to hold it. On the other hand, we've got a reliable shadow backer, a proven track-record, and a growing reputation. We could do it."

My hands clenched under the table. I'm a supervillain now, I reminded myself softly. All in. "Ok," I muttered. "So what's our play?"

"We go for the head," Lisa said firmly. "We take down Kaiser, and then the Empire Eighty-Eight will fracture."

There was a quiet pause. Eyes glanced towards Brian, and he nodded slightly. Alec sighed. "Ah screw it," Alec announced, rolling his eyes. "I never wanted to live forever anyways."

"And we're going to have to bring in more members," Brian decided with a groan. "We're going to need some real firepower here."

"How about a Tinker then?" I suggested. "I'm sick of everyone else having one except us. We could use a Tinker on our team."

Lisa chuckled under her breath, rolling her eyes. I looked at her. "What?" I demanded. "It's true – a Tinker would round out our group nicely."

"Well, yeah, but..." She paused. "…You really haven't figured it out yet, have you?" Lisa sighed.


"Taylor…" Lisa said slowly. "… You are a Tinker."

I blinked. Lisa rubbed her forehead and motioned to the roof of the warehouse; where there were giant spiders' skittering along huge looms of silk.

"I'm not a Tinker," I muttered dumbly.

"Really? Alright then, I want you to explain how your breeding pools are set up," Lisa challenged, folding her arms with a self-satisfied smirk. "I want you to explain, in detail, just how you managed to set up the hives as they are so everything works autonomously."

I opened my mouth, and then stopped. I could visualise it easily – it was like a giant web of independent agents, all moving individually, with every strand of the web diverging and splitting until it formed the result I wanted. Every web represented a trait I want to exaggerate, and the insects would filter through the sequence, gradually becoming bigger, stronger and more aggressive. Still, trying to vocalise something like that… I just couldn't. It was like trying to explain a work of art more than anything.

Lisa's smirk widened. She wasn't a telepath but sometimes it was hard to tell. "You can't describe it because a Tinker's work is more like art rather than science. They gain the intuitive knowledge of what to do, and that's very hard to describe, especially for someone just learning the basics," she explained. "You, dear Taylor, are a Tinker."

"But… but…" I looked at her like she was stupid. She returned the look. "… in that case, what do I actually make?"

"Well, duh, bugs, of course. Look at you – you're sitting in a factory designed to produce mutant bugs! You're doing the exact same thing with bugs that, say, Blasto does with plants," she motioned widely to my lair. "Intuitive knowledge of bug anatomy, behaviour and science – even if you're only just learning how to apply it. You're a Tinker, and your speciality is bugs."

I hesitated. "But I'm a Master," I protested.

Lisa shrugged. "It's pretty common for capes to fall into multiple categories," she said simply. "If I had to rate you now, I'd say you are a… hmm… Master 8… Thinker 3… and Tinker 4."

I didn't know how to reply to that. I was struggling to process it. The other Undersiders were staring at me. There was a shadow of smile on Brian's face. Rachel looked slightly confused. Alec just looked towards Lisa, then back at me, and then around my lair.

Alec shook his head slowly. "Fucking Tinkers, man…"

Author Notes:

Got to admit, I totally didn't intend to write this. It wasn't planned, but I've been having trouble continuing my other stories, and I've had Worm on my mind. I wrote two and a half chapters of this story really easily more to get back into the flow of writing than anything else, but I did enjoy writing it and I like the concept.

Any feedback is much appreciated, thanks a lot for reading :)