C'est La Vie (Worm/MtG) #06.3

A/N: It's curious how my writing can change after bingeing other media, whether it is film or literature. For example, I got around to watching Good Omens and I noticed remarkable levels of dry sarcasm finding its way into this snip… that's something else, actually, this thing is supposed to be a snip? Who am I, Wildbow? This is a chapter. Though, actually calling it such would require that I revise my index and sorting schema and that would just be a pain in the ass.

Well, this was a chapter, then I broke off this first section so I could stop worrying over it.

Rachel: "Puppies come in many forms."

Many thanks to Evil Atlas for helping with the editing process.

The stars were brilliant points of white in the night sky when I was roused. Slowly, a lazy dream of a figure flitting through the trees and undergrowth, chasing after hanging morsels of food, faded. I awoke to find Artur staring down at me with rifle in hand, his sharp features twisted into a look of consternation, and an unexpected visitor below us.

As my thoughts cleared I realized that the rifle was probably connected to the presence of the visitor presently… licking clean our rice pot. Well.

"Yes?" I asked, blinking up at Artur through gummed eyes.

His eyes flicked to the side, past the catwalk railing to the ground below, then back and his jaw tightened into a hard line. "Is there something you want to tell me?"

Rolling onto my side, I leveraged myself up and looked to the ground to see the raptor down below, looking up at us from beside our cook pot with grains of white rice clinging to its snout.

Peering down at the raptor, it looked back for a few seconds more before it ducked back down and kept licking at the bowl of rice. The pot banged around from its efforts, almost like a dog trying to get every molecule of food from its bowl and bringing it to a polished sheen in the attempt.

If not for Artur's fingers drumming against the grip of his rifle would have been a more amusing sight.

"I'm surprised you didn't just shoot it," I said more casually then I felt, considering the circumstances.

"I did try, you stopped me."

That brought me up short. "I stopped you?"

If he took offense at my incredulity Artur didnt comment on it, instead not taking his eyes off the raptor as he raised his trigger hand. There was a clearly visible red welt on the meat between the thumb and forefinger. "When it showed up you made one of your bodies and told me not to shoot it. You were enthusiastic when I tried to anyway."

"So not for lack of trying then," I said, concealing my growing concern with the levity.

He just snorted but didn't look away, didn't back down. A vein pulsed to life in the side of his neck, and a small jumping spider touching his neck found his pulse racing.

Way too tightly wound, though, I couldn't really blame him.

Still, what he said nagged at me; I was the one to let it in? That shouldn't have been possible.

My swarm acted on the last instruction I gave them, that didn't change save for the rare occasion where my passenger reverted them to a previous instruction set that suited the situation. It had been that way for years. Yet, it seemed that's exactly what had happened, and now that I was thinking about it, the raptor being here at all was something that shouldn't have been possible.

Since waking up on this island I'd been maintaining a defensive perimeter with my swarm whenever I went to sleep, nothing in and nothing out; I'd have had to let it in. And Artur's hand, if he was telling the truth, was proof enough for me that I had reacted to him.

"I want to know why," he said.

"Why?" Now wasn't that ambiguous question. Why what? Why was it alive? Why had I seemingly let it in while I was asleep? Or perhaps, I suspected, why had I unconsciously stopped him from shooting something that had killed his entire team and almost killed him? He didn't bother clarifying himself though.

I sighed and sat up, Artur moving over to give me room. How to put it? Technically, I didn't need to explain anything to him, but that wasn't going to work if I wanted to maintain a working relationship. Not with this.

Sitting forward I leaned against the railing and watched the raptor for a few moments, watched how it squatted, rather as a chicken would, and held the pot in place with muscular forearms and foreclaws while it kept licking.

"Well, it's been following us like a stray for the past week and—"

"Was it trying to get close," he interjected, tone harsh.

I half turned my head to catch his gaze out of the corner of my eye. "I'm not an idiot, if it had been doing that I'd have done something about it. Now, are you going to interrupt me again or can I finish explaining?"

He looked away first and shaking my head I rested my chin on the railing. "It wasn't hunting us, just staying near the edge of my range," I continued, as if I hadn't been interrupted. "Before that though I found it at the veterinary complex the first night we were there. I was reading through the files on the animals and spotted it moving through the jungle. It was trying to catch a mother opossum. It could barely stand though, let alone hunt. Pretty sure it was running a fever as well."

"So, you decided to help it because you felt sorry for it?"

"I decided to help it because the 'compies were crowding around it when it stopped to rest and I wasn't going to leave it to get eaten alive," I snapped back. "But, I also wanted to perform a bit of power testing with a live subject that wasn't a rat or my own insects."

With an absent hand gesture, a ring of turbulent water spun out when I raised my prosthetic for presentation.

"And that one down there," I nodded to the raptor, "just happened to have a nice infected bullet wound in its haunch and I wanted to find out whether or not my water could safely be used in a medical situation. I had the idea that I could staunch wounds or maybe set a broken bone with it, I could use it for invasive treatment. The thing that I didn't know though was whether or not there would be any unintended side effects, whether from the Blue being put inside someone's body or if there was something else that might happen. I just didn't know and I wasn't going to expect you to volunteer. So I went with the next best thing."

"The raptor."


He nodded slowly, relaxing a bit. "And what did you do?"

"The bullet wound wasn't a through and through, it left a cavity and that was what had gotten infected. I managed to extract the bullet, remove all the debris stuck in it, and clean out the infection. I gave it a fighting chance, fed it, and left it at that."

"You could have killed it afterward," Artur said quietly, "it and its pack hunted us— hunted you." But even as the words left his mouth I could tell there was little energy behind them.

"If I killed everything that attacked me I would have depopulated my school within days after gaining my powers. But yes," I conceded, "I could have and I didn't. Don't take that for me being soft on it though. If it had tried again that would have been the last thing it did."

Leaning over I grabbed my canteen from the head of my bedroll and took a sip, cleared my throat and put it back.

"As things stood though, it was actually cooperative for the procedure after I subdued it and stopped resisting. It might have just been tired, but I think it was able to understand what I was doing. You said it yourself, they're smart."

"So your treatment worked."

"It worked, just don't go getting yourself shot. I doubt your immune system can hold a candle to the wildlife here and your antibiotics won't last long. I'm working on that though."

"Very well, but why still feed it afterward? Why not scare it off following us for you to feed it?" He stopped, blinked, "You figure out something more than just cleaning wounds?"

"Thanks to the raptor, yeah. For the feeding though, that didn't start until our second stay at the veterinary building."

I pulled a leg under me, twisted, cracked my back. "While we were there I kept it at arm's length by feeding whatever rats, birds and other vermin I could scrounge up."

"Then it started following us," Artur concluded.

"No, it ate the whiptail's remains, then it started following us and keeping an eye on it I noticed its movements improving by the day. It's not immediate, but the effect isn't anything to scoff at." I gestured down to the raptor, "Just look at it, does it move like something that had a hole in its leg less than a week ago?"

Staring at the dinosaur for almost a minute he eventually shook his head. "Where was it shot?"

"Left haunch, near where the thigh joins with its body," I said and pointed to the spot, directing him to the puckered and pink scar tissue that now filled the hole left by its gunshot wound. "At first it was only moving a little easier, but now that little mark is all that's left of the bullet wound. That is why I stopped you from shooting it. Well, unconsciously stopped you"

He leaned forward, eyes on the raptor, the frustration shifting to an intense focus. "So you think eating the spider healed it?"

"Oh, I know it was the Green that healed it." I thought for a moment, "When I enlarge my bugs, the Green serves fills in the gaps as the but expands, but over time that gets filled in by normal flesh and chitin. I want to say this is a similar effect, but whether it is due to being able to slowly absorb the energy through digestion, or some other mechanism, I can't say yet."

I had some ideas, of course, but until we got back to the veterinary complex and I could plug in the microscopes taken from the Lab, I couldn't know for sure. Depending on the exact function of the enlargement process I could wind up giving myself cancer if I tried repeating what the raptor did. Then there was the fact that the healing had seemed to be targeted rather than broad-reaching, had it been stress-induced or something else entirely, how that had functioned I had no idea.

I turned to look at Artur, to gauge his reaction. "So you understand why I might have a vested interest in it?"

Before sighing and lowering the but of his rifle until it rested against the floor. "I want another ounce and you can take watch for the rest of the night."

"...That's it?" He nodded and I snorted. "How very mercenary of you," I said drolly. I was already giving him half of the 'treasure' and he wanted more? Ok. If that was what it took to keep it from becoming a problem. "Fine."

He nodded, sighed, and looked down at the raptor before turning away.

I frowned. I honestly couldn't tell for sure if he was still upset about the whole thing or not. On a whim, I voiced as such to him and half turning he shrugged.

"Does it matter if I am," he said, voice tired, and in a way that was worse than if he had been upset.

Turning away he took a few steps toward his bedroll before stopping and turning back again. "By the way, for something that you control unconsciously, your bugs can be pretty active when you're asleep. I just figured you didn't actually sleep. I'm surprised that it's your imagination I've been seeing and not you." Without elaborating further he walked down the catwalk to the fuel tank and laid down. Though, before he tucked in, I made out the faint rattle of pills hitting plastic; something he hadn't gone to since the first days we'd been working together.

He had definitely gotten better at managing his outward expressions it seemed. That gnawed at me, but even so, his words came back to me: what did he mean by what I've been doing while asleep?

I turned back to the raptor as he settled in for the night.

My swarm was active while I was asleep? What was that supposed to mean?

Well, Passenger?