Disclaimer: I don't own Worm, I just read it. You should read it too, it's online and it's free and it's good. In fact, probably read it before you read this. Go ahead, I'll wait the month or so it'll take to get caught up.
Other Disclaimer: This is my first piece of fan fiction, or any sort of narrative writing, so tips, complaints, or especially compliments are welcome in the review section!
Tales from the Time Skip, Part One:
"I think," Grue said, cutting into the argument between Menja and Crusader, "that this means that we will not be reaching an agreement anytime soon."
It was virtually the first thing he'd said the whole meeting. Beforehand, he and the rest of the Undersiders had met and agreed that, given his skin color, it would be best if he did little of the actual talking, instead letting Tattletale take over on that front. Brian had contented himself with sitting at the head of the table, looking menacing. He knew he cut an imposing figure. The darkness creeping out of his costume helped with that, and also helped to obscure his skin: the better to facilitate the meeting, considering the two other groups at the table.
It had been a longshot from the beginning, all the more surprising since Bitch had been the one to suggest it. They needed strong allies who would be subservient to them, and the Undersiders knew firsthand how deadly Empire Eighty-Eight could be. Bitch had brought the two remnant factions to his attention, noting that their leader (Brian thought she had been going to say "Alpha" before she cut herself off and substituted the other word) had been killed in the Leviathan attack, they had been divided, and the Nine had absconded with one of the two factions' other leaders, while Tattletale observed that the Pure had recently suffered some other devastating loss, judging by the low-profile capture of Theo Anders that Lisa had dug up in some convoluted Tattletale fashion. Bitch figured that they, with their own bruise-filled memories about the Undersiders, would make perfect candidates for minionhood.
Despite the fact that Rachel didn't seem to grasp the fundamentals behind racism, the rest of the group had all agreed that it was worth a try, and arranged a meet on neutral territory. The meet served two purposes: to extend an offer to work under the Undersiders, or to deliver an ultimatum if they refused. Coil's fate had shown the folly of trying to rule everything in the city, but Grue fully intended that Brockton Bay's crime scene belong to the Undersiders alone. "Join or die" was the theme, here.
And so the top brass of Fenrir's Chosen and the Pure had sat down at a table in an abandoned warehouse with the Undersiders; Brian silent at the head of the table, Tattletale at his left, Regent at his right, Parian and Bitch beside them, and Imp (he hoped) stalking around under the influence of her power. It wouldn't do to have her in plain sight for the same reason as Brian: taunting two already hostile groups of white supremacists with an offer of subservience to a group led by a black man would be similar to throwing blood in a tank full of sharks. And Leviathan.
On one side of the table, next to Bitch, sat Menja, who seemed to have assumed de facto control over the Chosen after Hookwolf's departure. She had been quite vocal, unlike the other two leaders. With her sat Cricket, Storm Tiger, Othala and Victor. Brian had been suspicious at the absence of Rune, wondering if her absence had been due to finding an object heavy enough to drop on the warehouse from a height if negotiations went sour, but Tattletale had reassured him with a whisper at the beginning of the meeting that she was "babysitting" the Chosen's footsoldiers.
The other side of the table, equally outspoken, sat Crusader, Night, and Fog. Crusader had been by far the most vocal, with Night and Fog both dispassionately undercutting whatever point a Chosen tried to make. They seemed to have little interest in the meeting, however, and their attention wandered.
Directly across from Brian sat Purity. The Undersiders had purposely not left a chair at the opposite end of the table, wanting the connotation that they held the power here to be as blatant as possible. Crusader had merely grabbed the chair farthest from Brian on his side of the table, dragged it to the foot of the table, and held it for Purity, pushing it back when she sat. She had stayed like that the entire meeting, mirroring Brian's pose with steepled fingers obscuring the lower part of her face. The only thing she contributed to the discussion was the glare from her power, casting greater shadows than a floodlight would have and rendering totally redundant the halogen lighting that the Undersiders had used their new influence over the city's electronic development to have hooked up in an area that would not have had power even days ago. Grue had no illusions about her: though the Pure had the fewest members in the room, they had by far the most raw firepower. Her light's only real opposition was his own darkness, shrouding him and making his already murky silhouette appear totally distorted with the contrast.
"I am forced to agree," Menja said, folding her arms from where they had been on Storm Tiger's shoulders, holding him back from attacking Crusader. "This meeting was entirely pointless, and I can think of much better things that could have been done with the evening. I agreed to attend because Kaiser respected you and your group and I, in turn, respected him. It appears to have been a waste of time. Nothing has changed from when we walked in here."
"Now that's just not true," Tattletale cut in smoothly. "I, for one, have learned a great deal." She flashed a cheeky smile to remind everyone that no matter how closely they held their cards, she would be able to ferret out their secrets more efficiently with every moment she spent in their presence. It was time to give the stick to the previous offer's carrot: the ultimatum.
Before she could say anything more, however, Purity unfolded her hands, and opened her mouth to speak. Brian tensed. He knew that she had some play ready, that her group was uniquely powered to escape if she brought the entire warehouse down on them. He let his darkness expand just enough to cover him while he reached for the gun stashed under the table-
"That's right! I think we've all learned something today," said Imp appearing behind Fog with something large clutched to her chest. "I know from all the veiled insults you've been tossing at my brother that we just don't see eye to eye on some things, but-" and here she flashed a bright smile that went perfectly with her sudden and unusually enthusiastic appearance "-maybe we don't need to in order to get along!"
She threw part of what she was holding across the table, at Regent, who caught it too smoothly to have been as blindsided at this sudden development as the rest of the group were. What were they planning...? Brian wondered, noticing that the two bundles appeared to be multicolored felt.
"You know, you're right, Imp," said Regent, as he stuffed his hand into the bundle, then held it upright by the hand within. It was only when he grasped the short, slim black stick connected to a felt hand that Brian pieced together what they were holding with a dull sense of dread. A poorly made puppet, likely constructed out of clothes too ruined by the Endbringer attack. "It seems like most everyone in this room is... racist! Even me!"
"Me too," replied Imp, moving the mouth on her puppet much like Regent had. Her practiced response only gave Brian's muted sense of horror additional fuel. They'd practiced. "I guess we're both a little bit racist."
"Admitting it is not an easy thing to do..." Regent chimed in, totally off pitch. They began trading lines as everyone else froze, unable to understand what was happening.
"But I guess it's true!"
"Between me and you, I think,"
"Everyone's a little bit racist, sometiiiiiimes/ Doesn't mean we go around committing hate criiiiiiimes!" They chorused together.
"'Cept you guys!" interjected Regent, his sweeping arm taking in the two white supremacist groups. As if that was a signal, both groups looked to their leaders, who appeared to be too gobsmacked to give direction.
"Look around and you will find/ No one's really colorblind!/ Maybe it's a fact we all should faaaaaaace! Everyone makes judgments..." They sang on, seemingly oblivious to the general discord they were creating. Bentley, the only dog Rachel had brought, was noticeably bigger, though Bitch herself had not moved. Bentley himself merely lay on the ground, paws over his ears, in obvious protest to their lack of skill. "Based on race!"
"Now," Imp continued in a conversational tone, circling the table behind Purity to stand beside Regent, behind the Chosen, "Not big judgments, like who to hire or who to buy a newspaper from-"
"Nah." said Regent, his chipper grin in contrast to his apathetic tone.
"No, just little judgments like thinking that Mexican solo heroes should learn to speak goddamn English!" Imp finished triumphantly, while Regent agreed in the same tone: "Right!"
Victor stood abruptly, and walked out the door without a word. Othala, after biting her lip and looking searchingly at Menja for a moment, followed quickly on her heels. Crusader watched them go, before interrupting the musical. "What the fuck are you guys-"
"Everyone's a little bit racist, todaaaaaay!" He was cut off by the next verse. "Everyone's a little bit racist, OK! Ethnic jokes might be uncouth/ but you laugh because they're based on truth!" Cricket was the next out of the room, tugging on Menja's hand urgently. Grue spared her a moment of pity: No matter her crimes, nobody deserved to experience what was currently happening with enhanced hearing. Their departure was a signal to the rest, and the door was briefly flooded as the remnants of the once-proud Empire Eighty-Eight fled in defeat, a total rout. If it weren't for literally everything else about the circumstances, Grue would be almost approving. "Don't take them as personal attaaaaaaaacks!/ Everyone enjoys them-" here they did a small spin in place in time with some beat existing only in their heads- "So relax!"
"All right, stop me if you've heard this one," said Imp, gesturing with her puppet's arm. "There's a plane going down and there's only one parachute..."
"Did you know about this?" Brian whispered to Lisa, his voice reaching only her before it was swallowed up by the monologue being delivered by Imp.
"No!" said Tattletale defensively. "Even I still have some dignity left."
"Why don't I believe you?" asked Brian.
"Well," Tattletale whispered to Brian, "At least they got rid of everyone without a fight. I seriously didn't believe we could pull that off."
"Almost everyone." Bitch had apparently heard. She nodded to the last non-Undersider in the group, still in his seat. Storm Tiger was happily watching the show, tapping his toes and bobbing his head to the rhythm.
Brian sighed. "I doubt he'll be pleased if we interrupt. We'll drop him off after they're done... I just wish they put this kind of effort into something constructive. Or... I guess anything other than this, really." The others all nodded, even Parian, who had been watching with a kind of horrified fascination. She chimed in "I can't help but think that this wouldn't have happened if Skitter had been here." The others nodded again, more glumly this time, as the first musical in Brockton Bay since the Leviathan attack, and the worst in its history, wrapped up.
"Everyone's a little bit racist, it's trueeeeeeee!/ But everyone is just about as racist as yooooooou! If we all could just admit/ That we're all racist a little bit/ And everyone stopped being so PC!
"May! Be! We! Could! Live! In! Harmonyyyyyyyyyy!"