AN: Thanks again to my beta Grey Raven 09 for his assistance!
Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to Worm. If I did, I would be FAR more productive.
Please enjoy and let me know what you think in a review if you feel like it!
I waited until I was a few blocks away from Miss Militia before stopping in another alley and pulling out my phone again. Shutting my eyes I took a few deep breaths before grimacing and making the call. This was going to bite me in the ass so bad…
"I knew you'd call soon enough Taylor," my father said before the phone had even finished finished ringing. I could hear his smile through the line. Focus, Taylor, focus.
"You said that you have contacts in the PRT. I assume you have a general idea of what happened last night?" I replied.
He was quiet for a brief moment then he made a noise that could generously be considered a mewl of agreement. "If you are referring to how you've managed to get Panacea working under you, yes, I'm aware."
I managed not to snarl though it was a close thing. "She's not working under me, she's my friend. Look, can you make the PRT leave us alone for a few days or not? Just long enough for Amy to cool down for a bit."
He chuckled. "You know I can't guarantee anything, Taylor. However, if you can keep your new teammate under control, I'll make certain that the PRT abides by a live and let live policy for the moment. I'll also email you the emancipation documents that Amelia will need if she wishes to continue healing at hospitals without attachment to a team with adult supervision."
I was quiet for several seconds before reluctantly muttering, "Thanks."
"You realize, of course, I'm going to bring up this favor at some point, right?"
"If it gives us room to breathe for the moment…I can deal with that. This is tiny in the grand scheme of this city anyway." I hated owing him, especially when I had done so well avoiding his notice for this long, but Amy needed time to unwind and I needed time to figure out what the hell I was going to do about my life now. I could live with the consequences of a small deal with the devil.
"This is true." He was silent and I almost hung up, though he spoke up again before I had a chance to pull the phone from my ear. "Let me know if you need anything else. I know it doesn't seem like it, but you are my daughter, Taylor. I do still care for you."
"Funny, I have a hard time believing that, Father. Thanks for the favor." I didn't wait for him to hang up this time - I hung up myself.
Pushing off from the wall, I jogged back towards my new lair. I felt dirty. How many more deals was I going to have to make with Coil just to make ends meet? How many more compromises was I going to be forced into? My dad was right about one thing, this city was broken, and it was a plague on everyone who lived in it. I was going to have to try to fix it.
First step was the gangs.
But before that, I needed to make my new home liveable. I slowed my jog and sighed, grabbing for the phone again. "This workout is so shot," I muttered to myself pulling up Madison's number. As her phone rang, I ran through a list of things that we would need and grimaced. Finally, she picked up and my grimace widened, god I really was going to be asking one of my former bullies for help getting clothes and furniture…what the hell had the world come to?
"Taylor? Why aren't you sleeping? You just left like three hours ago."
"Long night, long morning. I'll sleep later. I can't get back to my house right now so I need clothes. So does Amy. Can you do some clothes shopping for us and bring something by? Some food too? Also I need to know just how much power use you can hide regarding the factory. We're going to be using it a lot more than expected."
Madison was silent for a few moments then I heard a hum like her computer booting up in the background. "Hmm, honestly, I can probably make the factory disappear from the company records easily enough. It'll look like we sold it to a subsidiary, and between the two sets of data nobody will ever realize where the action records are let alone where the electrical bill is going. No one audits the little companies in Brockton Bay, because everyone knows that if you do, you could annoy the gangs by accident. While we don't have any holdings in their territory, the audit people don't know that for sure. Give me til noon and I can make you disappear. If you ever leave though, let me know so that I can give my dad his factory back."
I pulled the phone away from my ear and stared at it for a moment. Shaking my head I said, "Seriously, what the hell where you doing with those two bitches? If you're that good with a computer you should have your own clique or at least be smart enough to stay away from Sophia."
"Sophia was…not what I expected," Madison sighed. "I thought she was a jock, not a psychopath. I don't know how to deal with psychopaths. Do you need anything else at the moment?"
"Don't suppose you can mail order us some more furniture? Like a real bed?"
She snorted. "Sorry, I need actual money for that. I don't have seed funds for that, Taylor. If you can direct me to some cash though, sure." She paused and continued on very slowly, "Though…if you really need it…I might be able to…direct something your way if I - "
Crap, she was talking about hacking one of stores and sending some of their deliveries to us - to me - wasn't she? God, when she talked about doing anything to make things up to me last night she had really meant it. How was I collecting mentally broken people? Including myself, this was what, three people in six hours? That must be some kind of record. "Don't. I'll figure something out, Madison."
"If you're sure…"
"I'm sure. Just take us off the grid and get us the clothes and food. I'll text you our sizes in a few minutes."
"Okay. Taylor, I…thank you for trusting me with this."
"Madison…" I rubbed at my temples and groaned. "Madison, don't go overboard. Just, don't be creepy about this and we can keep trying to work at the new slate thing."
"Got it. I'll be over later with the clothes and food."
Putting the phone away, I turned the final block and was met with a rather amusing sight in front of me. Amy was on the street jumping after what looked like a large butterfly as it flew away from her down the street. She missed her grab and it winged away as Amy jumped again, and missed again. She grunted as she fell on the street and the butterfly flew off down the road towards the nicer section of town. It was too far outside my range to grab so I just shrugged and walked over to Amy to help her up instead.
As I got close however, she turned her head and saw me, her face going pale and she jumped to her feet hands waving in front of her. "Taylor, you're back! You're back fast! Oh, um, everything's fine. Everything's perfect! Nothing's wrong at all! How was your run?"
Narrowing my eyes, I glanced from Amy towards where the butterfly had disappeared too. I tried to send a few clusters after it, but I hadn't gotten a good enough look at the thing besides 'large butterfly' to really be able to track it through the swarm. It would be like hunting for a needle in a stack of needles. "Eventful. Tell you about it inside. Everything is perfect here huh?"
"Absolutely perfect. Nothing wrong. I've got everything under control."
"Uh huh." I still kept trying to look for the butterfly though none of my critters nearby reported anything. Damn. Sighing, I turned back to Amy. Well, if it had been worth hunting down, she'd have told me. Hopefully.
"Look! I made you a bug!" Amy shouted and ran into the factory. I tried hard not roll my eyes at her declaration. I had gotten that impression fairly clearly Amy. Following along dutifully, I closed the door behind us and trooped up the stairs. As soon as we got near the office I felt the new critter and my steps faltered.
She…really made me a bug. Holy crap. That had to be the single sweetest - and possibly creepiest - thing anyone had ever done for me before. I stepped into the office while still examining the bug through my power. Amy was holding it up in both hands as if it was the Holy Grail and smiling at me.
The thing looked like some sort of souped up Hercules beetle combined with a wasp and given bladed legs. It was like the wet-dream of one of those game designers from Earth Aleph. The bug was big, probably a little smaller than the size of Amy's palm, basically the size of a rat, though the three top blades from the Hercules beetle base gave it a more impressive forward girth. It had wings on its back much like the beetle, only larger. My power was telling me that it's exoskeleton was massively beefed up, as well as being reinforced with a rudimentary endoskeleton as well. In fact…"Amy, can this thing survive being shot?"
Her grin grew wider. "It's too small to survive, but it can take a shot. The bullet will still penetrate, but all the energy will be gone. From small caliber rounds at least. If you cover yourself with these, even without the spider-silk suit, the worst you'd get from being shot at by an assault rifle is just some bruising. Anything larger though would probably still penetrate, and it wouldn't do to get too used to using them as a shield." And with a dramatic flourish she presented it to me. "I call him a bladebug! He can breed really rapidly so you can jump his numbers up too. You'll have to push him to do that though because I manually suppressed the mating urge. He doesn't reproduce unless you force him to. At least…he shouldn't."
"Yeah, we need to work on your naming, but I can see why you call him that," I murmured. The front two legs were mostly just sharpened blades like on his head. The back four legs were more traditional legs though their central mass were sharpened enough to be used as weapons as well. And it had a sharp stinger too. The stinger didn't have venom, though it also didn't separate like with some bees' stingers and it could be used like another knife. "Damn, Amy, this thing is awesome!"
"You really like him? You're not just saying that?" her voice was soft and she was looking at the floor as I shifted my focus from the bug to the girl.
Smiling, I took control of the bladebug and had him fly off to the side as I wrapped her into rib-cracking hug. "I love him! Thank you, Amy."
"You're welcome," she whispered, leaning her head against my shoulder.
The bladebug did a nice little celebratory lap around the two of us as I kept squeezing my friend. I had a new bug for the swarm, an awesome new bug for the swarm.
"Hello Hive/Queen, this is Lisapedia, you're on with New Name Pending. Please note this call may be recorded for blackmail purposes. How can I help you today?" the speaker in my phone chirped snarkily as I held it between me and Amy.
I gaped at the small screen for several seconds before I could bring my to reply with a strangled, "Seriously?"
"It's early, I'm stressed, and I've been running in circles trying to answer a question with bad data. Cut me some slack. What do you want Taylor?"
I looked at Amy and she just shrugged. Shaking my head I decided to let the weirdness of the morning continue unmolested. "A few things actually, if you're still interested in proving that we can work together. You know, considering how my identity is rather blown to hell now."
There was no hesitation as Lisa immediately replied. "I'm interested. And concerning your identity, well I heard the nine o'clock news is running a piece on it, 'shortest lived secret identity'."
"Fuck you, Lisa," I snipped back at her though there wasn't any heat in it. How had I moved from frightened as a puppy about my secret identity to joking about it with a villain in less than a week? "Gah! First off, I'm partnered up with Amy Dallon now. She - "
"Ah. Well that fills in a few blanks. Let me guess. You guys have new digs and need to fill it up with ill gotten gains but don't feel comfortable doing so yourself, so you're asking the villain if she can use her own funds to purchase it 'legitimately' for you?" Lisa's question was more of a statement than I was comfortable with. And she was very close to the mark too. What even was her power?
"Pretty close, yeah," I sighed. "I really would prefer it to be legal if possible, but I'm not going to ask questions. Like you said, you're a villain."
"What do you need?"
"A bed, an armchair, a dresser, a desk, a few lamps, microwave, fridge. Amy anything else?"
"Terrariums too if you can't get those from your home."
I shook me head. "I never kept those at home. They're in abandoned buildings all throughout my radius. We're fine on that front."
"Oh. Well, that's all I can think of at the moment if you had your friend getting the clothes and food."
"Madison isn't my friend. She's…I don't know what she is, a minion perhaps. But yes, she's getting that stuff."
"Wait, Madison?" Lisa interjected. "Madison Clements? SpecificProtagonist? You know THAT Madison? How'd you manage to get your groupie as your minion already? Ick! Also, geez, small world. I'll message her to see if she's bringing you over one of her old rigs too, knowing her she probably already already is, but if not I'll add it to the list. Send me the address and I'll arrange a drop off for later."
I groaned and held my head in my free hand. "I didn't realize that was Madison's screen name. Of course my bully has to be a creepy pervert too."
"Seriously, Taylor you're too easy to tease. It's a coping thing, don't read into it too much. Her online personality is divorced from her offline one. I help her out online occasionally. You said there was more that you had for me?"
Nodding I gave the thumbs up to Amy and she took over. "I'm almost certain I know who my biological father is, but most of my knowledge is from a letter and research with coinciding dates. Plus one conversation that was mostly yelling as I left home after the bank job your team pulled." There was an uncomfortable silence for a few moments at that.
"Taylor did convey my apologies right?"
"Right. Well forgive me, but I'm not going to say it again. We were in the middle of a job."
Amy gritted her teeth and squeezed my arm though she let up after a second. "I know, and as long as you don't do it again I'm not going to hold it against you. As I was saying, I THINK I know who my dad is. But I'm not entirely sure and I couldn't bring myself to ask Aunt Sarah before things came to a head last night. I also have no idea who my mother is at all. You're supposed to be good at figuring things out right? We want you to figure out for sure the names of my parents."
Lisa sighed. "Your dad should be fairly easy. Him I can guarantee. I'm almost certain I know who he is already, I just need to get the proof for you. Your mom is harder. I can't make any guarantees. My power doesn't work like that. I need a starting point and if your dad was smart he'll have wiped the records pretty thoroughly."
I pulled the phone back towards me. "Just do what you can. We're not my dad; we don't expect miracles. She just wants closure, Lisa."
"Yeah, that I understand. I'll see what I can find. Taylor, about the bank job…your dad had an ulterior motive. I'm trying to figure out what it was. The bank wasn't the real hit that day. I think we were a distraction. If you're going to try working around him - or, god forbid, making a deal with with him - be careful. He has plans moving a few layers deep at all times. He doesn't always mess with my powers, but when he does it knocks me out cold. The day of the bank was one of them and this morning was another. Be careful."
Ice settled in the pit of my stomach at that. What the hell was I doing trying to play in the big leagues? "Thanks for the warning. We'll be in touch."
Hanging up I turned back to Amy. She just laid a hand on my shoulder and the bladebug soared down to rest on her hand. Forcing a smile I patted her arm.
We decided to stay in the office after that. Both of us had apparently had too much excitement for the day, despite it having just barely started. Instead, I flipped the TV on, closed the bed back up into a couch and introduced Amy to the wonders of daytime television. The soap operas were all ones I had seen and none were interesting, though thankfully there was a movie playing on one of the cable channels that was pretty good. So we sat down to watch Aliens. A bit of screaming later and I had one glaring brunette with a death grip on my arm as I smirked at her.
"How have you never seen this?"
"My family didn't watch horror movies much," she grumbled as a commercial played. "And I'm starting to see why."
"Just think of all the inspiration you could get from this movie," I teased her. "Imagine a xenomorph going up against Lung! Or setting the chestburster against one of the Endbringers? I'd love to see…Actually I take that back. Nevermind. That's a really bad idea. Forget I ever said that. Please don't set a chestburster inside an Endbringer. The Aliens are bad enough when they have humans and dogs as the base. With an Endbringer as a base? Yeah. Just no."
"They kill dogs too in this movie?!" Amy looked absolutely horrified at that thought and I felt bad for the urge to laugh.
"No." She calmed down though I couldn't resist the small grin that spread as I continued. "That's in Alien 3."
"We're not watching that one."
"Whatever you say, Amy."
"Is this one almost over?"
"You still have to see that Alien Queen."
Amy turned to look at me as the movie started up again. I ignored her for almost a solid minute. She finally had to poke me in the side of the head before I raised an eyebrow at her. "There's a mother?"
"It's badass. Seriously. Totally awesome. Probably should've won. If you think the sequels are canon it kinda did. That's even more awesome."
"Taylor. That's scary to an insane degree," Amy stated completely deadpan.
"And now you see why I think spiders and wasps are cool. Watch the movie Amy."
"I hate you," Amy groaned as she settled back down into the couch and twisted to stare glumly at the screen again.
A few more screams later and I was smirking as Amy reluctantly conceded that yes, the Xenomorph Queen was badass, and yes, Ripley had been both smart and lucky in beating it. Overall, I counted it as a win.
The movie was just finishing up as I took note of someone approaching the factory through my patrols. Redirecting the flies a bit closer for a better visual, I smiled as I got a good look at Madison. She had a large backpack on that seemed to be stuffed to the gills as well as several large shopping bags that were bigger than she was. How she had managed to get all the way here from wherever she had started without falling over was a mystery for the ages.
"Madison is here with the clothes and food. Let's go rescue our erstwhile minion before she falls and can't get up."
"You'll understand when you see her." I stood and led the way down to the main floor opening the door for Madison just as she reached the factory proper. The smile she beamed at me as she walked in was radiant. I was just reaching for her to grab some of the bags when she apparently slipped on the lip of the door and tumbled through. Half the bags flew towards Amy, while the rest were sent skidding into the factory. Madison herself wound up on her knees in front of me with her head fairly close to my feet. Unable to resist, I pushed up my glasses and crossed my arms. "You know, Madison, while I don't require your suplicating worship, if you really feel the need, I suppose I can make an exception once or twice. If it makes you feel better that is."
Madison's face blushed a tomato red and she hurriedly pushed herself back to her feet. "I almost made it the whole it way from the bus without falling. This close, I was this close!"
Rolling my eyes I dusted off her backpack and helped grab some of the bags as the three of us trooped back upstairs. "Seriously, you okay?"
"Fine, just embarrassed. I brought you a computer too. I wasn't sure what type of desktop they had here so I thought you could use one of my older laptops. It's about a year out of date, but it runs fine, unless you want to use it for games or something. If you do, I'd have to get you a different rig."
"Yeah, we're just going to be using it to look things up and maybe play some movies. Thanks for the clothes," I said starting to shift through the things she had brought and move them into piles in different corners.
"And the food!" Amy commented tearing into a bag of candy. "I was starving."
"That's not the best for you Amy…" I muttered.
"I can change it into stuff that is biologically good for me if I really want to before I actually swallow it. I generally don't because it's gross to do that to junk food, but I can if I need to."
Madison looked at the small piles of clothes that I was building and frowned. "Um, Taylor, where are you going to put all this stuff? I know you said not to get you more furniture, but you kind of need it."
"Got it covered. We're expecting another delivery at some point today."
"Oh. I guess that works then." Madison cupped her hands together and sort of swayed back and forth momentarily. She nodded and turned to the door. "Uh, I guess I'll just go then. Let me know if you need anything else."
I stopped my unpacking and looked at her slumped back. Grunting, I had a few bugs line up in front of Madison and form a hand waving her off. Curse me and my bleeding heart. "Madison, wait. Do you want to stay and watch a few movies with us?"
She sucked in a breath and looked at me with wide eyes. "You want me to stay?"
"Well you're my minion now. You have to do minion things. You've already fetched me things. Now you get to help me introduce my friend to pop culture that her family has sadly deprived her of. Sit." She smiled again and rushed to take a seat on the couch next to Amy.
As Madison curled her legs up under her and stole some of Amy's snacks while the next movie started up, I found myself wondering how in the hell this girl had ever managed to ingratiate herself with someone like Sophia Hess. How was she not eaten alive?
Shaking my head at the two as they fought over one of the candy bars, I leaned back on the couch, barely noticing as my head drifted to the side to rest against Amy's shoulder. The music on the TV swelled though I barely even heard it as my eyes drifted closed.
"Taylor! Taylor, wake up! You need to move Taylor, I need to shift the couch and I can't move it while you are sleeping on it."
"Huh? Wha," I slurred, blinking as I dimly registered the hand on my shoulder and the voice in my ear.
"You should just jolt her." Why did that voice sound familiar?
"You be quiet."
"If I'm the one saying it, you know she wants it. Maybe she wants a bit of sass too."
"I said be quiet! You're creepy!"
"You know, you're practically like my creator in some ways, if you squint, so…what does that say about you?"
"Taylor, please wake up. Hive is being weird and creeping me out."
That was apparently what I needed to push my brain into action. My eyes popped open and I saw Amy standing over me with Hive in the corner of the room. My construct waved, the bladebug forming the core of one of its fingers. Its weird smile front and center on its face as it smirked at me. "Yo, wakey wakey. Delivery is here. I can help move the furniture if you want."
I tried for several replies, failing each time. Finally, I turned to Amy and gestured with empty hands towards Hive.
"Madison left about a half-hour ago. She had to get home for dinner. Hive formed a few minutes back, just after Lisa called to say that we should get the delivery soon. I…think you heard and it formed to…help."
"Its…you're bugs! You can't hold weight like that!"
"I can if Amy reinforces a few more of my critters like Mr. Pokey here," Hive said waving her bladebug finger towards us. "Come on, you know you want to experiment a bit more."
Amy looked between me and Hive. She frowned and half stood up as she shifted towards it. "I was thinking about how I could beef up the spiders to make them able to support loads better…you'd be grounded more though."
"Could you increase the silk production too? Gives me more options for takedowns without hurting people if I can wrap them up faster and stronger."
I held up a hand. "I'm sorry, are you conversing with my power?"
"Looks that way," Amy muttered. "I'll need to use the flies as base organic material for the modifications and I'm not touching the roaches. Not right now. They're…gross."
"They're really not, but sure, I'll let Taylor work on you for that. Just the spiders are fine." Hive shifted its composition and all of the non-spiders seemed to flow out of the construct and disperse around the factory leaving just a conglomerate of spiders and the single bladebug plus a small mass of flies lumped in the stomach region. It looked even less like a person now. And looking at it with my power was even stranger than normal since spiders weren't meant to grip like that. Even when they were organized that was just wrong.
Amy apparently disagreed since she moved towards Hive and held out her hand. Despite my concern, I admit, it was fascinating to be able to see the changes happen in real time. The spiders didn't change visibly all that much besides bulk up a bit. Internally though, they gained a rudimentary endoskeleton like the bladebug as well as extra spinnerets and new glands to help with the silk production. They nearly tripled in weight though the extra pseudo-muscle-things that fit onto the new skeleton that Amy gave them more than made up for it. By the time she was done, I wouldn't be surprised if they really could help us move the stuff around the office.
"Amy," I said.
"Yeah," she replied stepping back from Hive with a small nod.
"That's really impressive. But next time you want to work on my swarm, please don't talk to Hive about it without talking to me first. Hive might be my subscious, but I'm the one who should have control of the swarm. Not the construct. Okay? Talking to my power about my power is…it's just wrong. There are limits, Amy."
Amy licked her lips and turned back to me. "Right. I just wanted help. Sorry."
"It's okay. We're still getting to know each other and figure out our limits. This is apparently one of mine. In extremes it's fine. But if there is time, talk to me, not Hive. Cool?"
"Cool," Amy replied nodding vigorously.
"Awesome." I stood and glared over her shoulder. "And you. Stop looking smug. I would've thought of that eventually."
"Technically you did think of that."
"Hardee har har. Move the damn couch, Hive."
"As you command, Mistress," it said bowing with an overly embellished flourish.
Between the three of us, we managed to shift everything to one side, or out of the office entirely, just in time for the new things to arrive. The dresser was the perfect size and the lamps did a fantastic job of lighting up the place. How Lisa had gotten everything just right was a mystery for another day, though not one I particularly cared to put high on the priority list.
I was more inclined to berate her for her apparent continued need to troll me. She had sent a Queen size bed.
Amy and I heated up our dinners in the new microwave, watched one final movie and curled up on the new bed. While it was still a bit smaller than I had hoped, it was, at least, gloriously comfy. Especially compared to my old bed and the pullout couch.
"I…About what I had said the other day. About my sister…Do you think I'm horrible for feeling that way about her for so long?"
I rolled over and locked gazes with the brunette brushing a stray lock of hair out of her eyes. "For one thing, Amy, you said yourself, you never really had a choice. I would be a pretty horrible friend if I thought you were a bad person for something you couldn't control."
"When you put it like that it sounds like I'm being stupid for worrying," Amy murmured.
I chuckled. "You are. My dad is running a gang that controls a decent chunk of the city and is apparently aiming to control the rest as well. Compared to that, what's a bit of adopted sibling accidentally forced love?"
Amy frowned and shook her head as best she could while lying down. "You're not responsible for his actions, Taylor."
"I know. But I still feel like I should have seen what he was becoming a long time ago and been able to help stop him before he got so far along this path. Compared to me, you're fine Amy. Besides, you walked away, right?"
"Yeah," she said softly. Then she smiled and said it again, louder and stronger, "Yeah! I did! I walked away. I chose to leave. I chose to leave her! I can keep walking away and I can choose where I go from here. I walk my own path."
"Yes you do. We both do." I shifted closer on the bed and pulled her into a hug which she eagerly returned, squeezing my ribs almost hard enough to bruise. "We got this, everything is going to be fine."
Fanfic Rec: 'Carae Scientia' by Atrium Carceris. A Taylor/Lisa (basically my Holy Grail of Worm pairs of which badly needs more love…) on SpaceBattles. An excellent, long oneshot that explores what happens if Taylor randomly meets and starts hanging out with Lisa before ever going out as a hero. Eventually Taylor decides on her own to help Lisa with Coil by joining the Undersiders and realizing that she 'likes' Lisa and both mutually deciding they are willing to give it a go. Again, VERY excellent, especially if you are a fan of this ship!