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All Alone [Worm AU]

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Ack, Jun 13, 2015.

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  1. Threadmarks: Index
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Events in the alley go badly wrong ...

    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.



    Alone, alone, all all alone,
    Alone on a wide, wide sea.
    And never a saint took pity on
    My soul in agony.
    - from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

    Index
    Part One: Loss (below)
    Part Two: Perspectives
    Part Three: All in the Name
    Part Four: Bad Decisions
    Part Five: It All Goes Wrong
    Part Six: The Consequences of Failure

    Omake: Futures
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2018
  2. Threadmarks: Part One: Loss
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    All Alone

    Part One: Loss

    Freezeframe.

    A blue and white globe, with hints of green and brown, slowly turning in the void. Earth, or at least a version thereof. This particular version, known as 'Earth Bet' to its inhabitants, is situated on the far slope of the probability curve, home to strange and unusual happenings. Infected by multidimensional spacegoing parasites, it is Patient Zero for a local outbreak of parahuman activity.

    Zoom in.

    On its moon, a partly finished base lies desolate and abandoned, the erstwhile architect no longer of a mind or will to complete it. In orbit, a white multi-winged figure like a fractured snowflake; even those with telescopes do not look too closely. Closer to the surface, a golden figure, white-clad, saviour and destroyer in one, does good for want of a better purpose.

    Zoom in.

    This nation is relatively new on the scene, although the same cannot be said for the continent upon which it was founded. Since land became distinct from ocean, billions of years past, its component parts have formed jigsaw pieces of larger landmasses, broken apart and reformed endlessly by the relentless forces of continental drift. It is only relatively recently that it has come together as it is now, emerging from the encroaching waters of the world-ocean, and shrugging off the last of the northward-retreating glaciers.

    And yet, with humanity inhabiting it for thousands of years and giving it no single encompassing name, it took imperialistic invaders from a distant island empire to conquer it and give it that name. Then, mere decades later, a war with the mother country gave it another name, which it has borne for an absurdly short span of its total history; the United States of America.

    Zoom in.

    In the northeastern corner of this nation, where the states are tiny and jostle for elbow room, lie six of the thirteen original states, immortalised upon the flag in blood-red stripes. These six are collectively known as New England; two are indeed named after the regions in far-away England from which those who originally settled them hailed. One is New York, famous – or perhaps infamous – for being home to one of the largest, busiest cities in the world. The other is New Hampshire.

    Zoom in.

    Upon the meagre stretch of coastline allotted to New Hampshire lies a city not quite like any other. For reasons lost to history, its name is Brockton Bay, rather than the more prosaic Portsmouth, posited once upon a time by nostalgic Englishmen. For a city of its modest population – just over three hundred thousand at last census – it is home to a startlingly large number of parahumans. In fact, with more than fifty known local capes, and more than a few unknown, the Brockton Bay metropolitan area is home to the seventh highest concentration of capes per capita in the continental United States.

    Unfortunately, there are more villains than heroes in Brockton Bay, and have been for quite some time. This gives rise to villain-led gangs, who often act with impunity in broad daylight. Sometimes, this leads to tragic consequences.

    Zoom in.

    A through-way, somewhere between a narrow street and a wide alleyway. A dumpster at one end, lacking wheels. Butted up against the dumpster, an expensive-looking car; last year's model. At the other end of the alley, blocking the way, a white van. Crouched on the roof of the car, a dark-cloaked figure. Between the car and the van, several people.

    All but one of these people wear the colours of the ABB, a local Asian-centric gang. It is headed by a parahuman called Lung, which means Dragon in his mother's tongue.

    Focus.

    The one exception is female, caucasian, teenage, red-haired. Her name is Emma. Up until a few moments ago, she was happy, safe, secure, riding in her father's car. Now, she is kneeling on rough asphalt, surrounded by hostile, sneering teenage criminals. One of them, also a girl, is wearing her jacket, and is tracing the tip of a knife over her face. Emma's mouth is full of her own hair; she has been told by the girl that she must eat the hair and then choose which part of her face is to be mutilated.

    She has just seen the cloaked figure, a girl, couched on top of the car. Watching, not acting. Not helping her. She is pleading with her eyes, not able to understand why the girl on top of the car isn't moving, isn't coming to her aid.

    Focus.

    The vigilante crouches on the car roof. Her name is Sophia. None of the gang members have seen her yet; they are concentrating on their victim. She relishes the moment which is yet to come, when they see her, realise the danger they are in. The terror they will feel. Fear of her, the predator.

    She stares at the redhead, looking for a sign of defiance, of struggle. If the girl fights back, then she will intervene before this goes too far. The girl will have earned her reprieve by proving that she's not a victim. Shadow Stalker has no time for victims.

    Focus.

    The Asian girl is called Yan. She likes the jacket; it's much better than any of her other clothes. And this girl, this rich white bitch, was just wearing it around, like an accessory. She doesn't appreciate it. She doesn't deserve it.

    Yan is working herself into a righteous anger, so that she can do what she needs to do. She's not much older than this girl, if she's any older at all, and she's tired of being treated like a plaything by the men, tired of being nothing more than their whore. She's made it clear before now that she wants to be a proper member, and this is her chance.

    So if she has to carve on the girl a bit, make her into an object lesson as to why you don't come into ABB territory without paying toll – although the phrase 'object lesson' isn't really a part of her vocabulary – then that's what she's going to do.

    Not that she's got any intention of killing her, of course. Just the face. Fuck her over a bit, just like life's fucked Yan over up till now. And if it means she gets to wear the colours for real, to earn the respect that a proper ABB member deserves, then fuck this bitch. A small part of her is wondering, as she watches the redhead try to chew on her own hair, what part of her face she'll choose to sacrifice.

    Focus.

    In the car, a frantic father is held at bay by grinning ABB members, as they rifle the glove compartment for whatever they can loot. They don't know about the cloaked figure atop the car either. They will soon learn.

    Face-down in the passenger footwell of the car, unheeded and unnoticed, a discarded mobile phone has been connected to the 9-1-1 network for some moments now. From the noises she has heard, the operator has decided that something is badly wrong. She has dispatched police and emergency services. They will arrive far too late.

    Action.

    The first thing that happens is that the gang member holding Emma's right arm notices that she is staring fixedly toward the car. He looks in that direction and sees the cloaked figure of the vigilante on the roof of the car. Beginning to shout a warning, he loosens his grip on Emma's arm.

    Reacting without thinking, Emma jerks her arm free of his hands, and viciously elbows him in the testicles. He screams in pain and shoves her away from him.

    Unfortunately for her, another gang member is holding her left arm, so she can't go that way. She can only pivot forward. Yan was tracing the point of the knife over Emma's jawline as she tried to swallow the mouthful of hair, and is taken by surprise; the knife slides into Emma's throat with very little resistance indeed.

    Emma doesn't even feel it at first; the knife is so sharp that the cut nerves barely react. But then Yan panics – I didn't want to kill her! - and tries to pull it out again, causing farther damage. Emma pulls away, twisting her neck, and the knife blade slices out through her carotid artery.

    Blood sprays out, spattering over Yan and her jacket both; her knife arm is red from wrist to shoulder. Released by the second gang member, Emma slumps backward, her hands coming up to try to stem the flow of blood.

    Focus.

    Shadow Stalker comes off the car in a delayed reaction. She sees the redheaded girl falling, blood spraying, and she is incensed. A crossbow bolt whickers through the air, strikes the back of the neck of the girl holding the knife. That girl opens her mouth with a puzzled expression, allowing a sharp metal tongue to protrude from between her lips, before she drops to her knees and flops lifelessly to one side.

    Focus.

    Emma, lying on the ground, watches the fight, even as blood pumps from between her fingers and her sight grows dim. She does not know the vigilante's name, and now she never will. But she moves so gracefully, so smoothly, delivering brutal blows and slashing her foes with hand-held arrows. Emma wants to cheer her on, but she can't breathe, can't do anything. Her hands are falling away from the horrific wound in her throat.

    Focus.

    The last of the ABB gang members is down, either dead, dying or unconscious. Sophia approaches the redhead. She's lying in a huge pool of her own blood, so it's not hard to understand that she's either dead or not far off it. Sophia crouches, and takes hold of one of the girl's hands, squeezes it. Imagines that she feels a response, sees a flicker in the dimming eyes.

    I'm sorry,” she says softly. “I should have done something sooner. I'm sorry.”

    She can't think of anything else to say. This girl was a fighter, and Sophia failed her. It's not a feeling she likes.

    When she stands up, the redhead's eyes are still open, but the blood has ceased to pump from her throat; the girl is dead. Leaning forward, she passes her hand over the girl's eyes, closing them for the last time.

    You were a fighter,” she murmurs. It is her highest accolade.

    Focus.

    By the time Alan Barnes climbs out of the car, looking around dazedly, he finds that he is late to the party. The members of the group that attacked them are strewn around, sporting ghastly injuries. He ignores them, stumbles to where Emma is lying crumpled on the ground. Her eyes are closed; there is blood all over her front.

    Emma!” he croaks. “Wake up!” Perhaps she is only unconscious. “Emma, please wake up.” He shakes her again.

    Focus.

    When the police and ambulance arrive on scene, he is still shaking her, and pleading for her to wake up. When they break the news that she is dead, has been dead for some time, he has to be restrained.

    Every single ABB member in the alleyway is dead; forensic examination suggests that Shadow Stalker is responsible for at least half the corpses, as they have been killed with crossbow arrows. This information is duly passed on to the PRT.

    Focus.

    When Shadow Stalker gets home, she carefully peels her glove off. The blood of the red-haired girl, the fighter who died in front of her, is still on it. She sits, looking at it, for a long time.

    Guilt is not something that she is used to feeling, and so when her mother calls her down for dinner, she shrugs it off, washes the blood from the glove, and puts it away with the rest of her costume.

    <><>​

    In every movie Taylor had ever watched with a funeral scene, it was at least a cloudy day, usually rainy. Funerals were gloomy, sad affairs, and the weather reflected this. A bright, cheerful day with bright sunshine and birds singing from every tree was not what she considered to be that sort of day, and yet, this was the day that they were burying Emma.

    She walked toward the gravesite, wearing the same black dress that she had worn for her mother's funeral, just a year previously. The ache in her heart was back, the same familiar bone-deep hurt that comes from losing someone close and irreplaceable. Her father walked alongside her, his lanky frame somehow making his black suit look cheap and shabby. She held his hand; he squeezed it encouragingly.

    Emma's other friends had attended, as had their parents. Alan Barnes was there, looking somehow shrunken, reduced. On either side of him were his wife, Zoe, and his daughter Anne. His arms were about them, and they seemed to be supporting him as much as he was supporting them.

    Danny approached Alan, and they shook hands. Taylor didn't know Anne very well, but she offered a few words of sympathy. Zoe was crying, had been crying all morning from the looks of it, but then, so too had Taylor. Taylor and Zoe did not need to speak to each other; each knew without words how the other felt. They hugged, each comforting the other. More tears flowed.

    “I – I thought you were at nature camp,” Alan Barnes said to Taylor.

    “I was,” she replied. “When I heard, I got Dad to come and pick me up.”

    He shook his head. “You didn't have to do that.”

    Tears were flowing down her cheeks again. “Yes, I did. It's Emma.”

    He folded her in his arms, a strong bear-hug; she held him in return. “Thank you for coming.”

    The hearse approached, picking its way between the gravestones on the path set out for it. When it came to a halt, the rear door hinged upward, and the coffin rolled out a little way.

    Taylor stepped back, but Alan Barnes gestured to her and Danny. “Come on.”

    “But we're not -” began Danny hesitantly.

    “You are now,” Alan told him firmly, more firmly than he would have been capable of, twelve hours previously. “You made the effort to be here, and you're as much family as anyone but Zoe and Anne and me are. Come on.”

    And so, Taylor found herself in the position of carrying her best friend's coffin to the grave. Alan and Danny took the front positions, Taylor was herself opposite Anne, and Zoe was opposite a friend of Emma's, called Diane. It wasn't a physically difficult task, as the weight was split between six people, four of them adults, but it brought the reality home to her; Emma is dead. She's in this coffin. We're going to bury her.

    Carefully, they placed the coffin on the straps over the six foot deep hole, then stepped back. Taylor's hand found Danny's again, and they stood like that as the priest approached the grave. He said the words that were said at occasions like this. Taylor tuned him out, as she had noticed someone standing off a way, half-behind a tree, but definitely watching the service. She couldn't see who it was, but she didn't think that she knew them.

    Once the words had been spoken, the blessings had been given, Taylor stepped forward and threw a handful of rose petals on to the coffin as it slowly descended into the grave. Danny did likewise, scooping them from the bowl that was being passed around. The final blessings were given, and people started to drift away.

    Alan approached Danny once more. “We're having a memorial at our house. You're welcome to come.” Please come, his eyes begged.

    Danny nodded. “Of course we will.”

    Briefly, the two men hugged. There was nothing unmanly about it; they were both strong men who had undergone travail, and if one man cannot hug another man for comfort, then there is something wrong with the world.

    “Taylor and I'll be staying just a little while,” Danny ventured, gesturing in a particular direction.

    “Oh, of course,” Alan replied, understanding perfectly. He took a deep breath. “Is it okay if … if we come along?”

    “Of course, of course,” Danny agreed. “We've … we've got flowers in the car.”

    So they backtracked to the car and got the flowers out, and made the trek to where Taylor's mother had been interred the year before. The flowers in the vase were dead, and Taylor removed them, then filled the vase with water from a bottle before Danny placed the fresh flowers in it.

    “Red gardenias, her favourite,” murmured Alan. Taylor nodded, tearing up all over again.

    Taylor and Danny stood, side by side, silently communing with whatever they recalled of Annette Rose Hebert, while Alan Barnes stood with his wife and remaining child, off to the side.

    And then Alan went to his knees and began to speak. “Anne-Rose, we were friends before you passed. My Emma's dead, but you probably know this by now. So if you could find her for me, for us, and show her the way, I'd …” He paused to swallow a lump in his throat. “You were almost as much a mother to her as Zoe was. Be a mother for her, now that she's away from us. Please.”

    He couldn't speak any more, as he broke down bawling. Anne went to her knees beside him, and Zoe on the other side. Taylor was holding her father and crying just as hard; the tears leaking on to her shoulder told her that he wasn't holding his tears back either.

    Eventually, the tears dried up, and Alan stood up with his wife and daughter. He shook hands with Danny one more time, while Taylor hugged Zoe and then Anne. Danny hugged Zoe, and then the five of them walked back through the cemetery to where the few cars still awaited.

    Just as she got into her father's car, Taylor looked around, but the silent watcher was nowhere to be seen.


    End of Part One

    Part Two
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2015
  3. AylorAivo

    AylorAivo Versed in the lewd.

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    Well. I suppose this is a more realistic depiction of what happens if you fight back against a group of violent gang members.

    Judging by the cast list on FF.net this is going to mainly focus on SS and her guilt? I honestly hope she ends up a better person for this.

    I also hope that Danny gets his act together for Taylor as a second death so soon after the first is likely to hit her hard, maybe even harder than what happened initially in cannon.
    At least for a while anyway, she'll probably recover from it better than the 2+year campaign.
     
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  4. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Thus highlighting to Sophia just how stupid her philosophy is.

    We shall see. Without Emma to egg her on, she can hardly turn out a worse person.

    Yeah, well, Taylor loses Emma either way. In canon, however, she kept on coming back to torment her.
     
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  5. AylorAivo

    AylorAivo Versed in the lewd.

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    Hence the 'for a while', possibly just 'for the rest of the summer holiday' when Emma hadn't started bullying her yet and was just ignoring/avoiding her.

    I can't help but think "your best friend is dead" would be worse than "your best friend isn't speaking to you right now". Especially just after your mother died.
     
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  6. doomlord9

    doomlord9 Experienced.

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    The initial bite would be worse but that wound would heal unlike the crusade waged against her in canon, keeping the wounds in her mind fresh and open.

    It'll take awhile to get better but she wouldn't have the crippling self-doubt and depression giving her the willingness to ignore anything that happens to her because deep down she doesn't care what happens to herself.

    She'll have a few new issues but unless Danny and the Barnes' completely drop the ball she could come out of this ok.

    .....Yeah, she's completely screwed...
     
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  7. AylorAivo

    AylorAivo Versed in the lewd.

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    Exactly, hence the 'I hope Danny gets his act together' comment.
     
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  8. GladiusLucix

    GladiusLucix I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    I'm hoping that Taylor and Sophia meet at Emma's grave at some point, maybe after Sophia's done some soul searching and figured out how much bullshit her "don't save them unless they fight back" thing is.
     
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  9. pepperjack

    pepperjack A Variety of Cheese

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    Accurate funeral.

    Perhaps a minor point, but this bothered me. It implies that all thirteen original states were in New England, instead of strewn up and down nearly the entire length of the east coast. (I say "nearly" because, well, Florida.)


    I'm very much interested in where this is going.
     
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  10. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Thanks. Been there.

    Really? <Google> Huh. Did not realise that. (Note being American, and all). Will revise.

    We shall see.
     
  11. Threadmarks: Part Two: Perspectives
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    All Alone

    Part Two: Perspectives


    The Vigilante


    I frowned as I held the small pair of binoculars to my eyes. I didn't understand the impulse that had me out here, in the cemetery, watching the funeral of a girl whom I had never gotten to know, who had never even spoken to me. I had tried to put it out of my mind, tried to go on. But late at night, when I closed my eyes, hers looked back at me, the light dying out of them as her fingers twitched in mine.

    At the time, I had thought that she was acknowledging my words, accepting my apology. But what if she'd wanted to blame me for what happened to her? What if she died believing that I'd failed her?

    I didn't like that, not at all. She had been a fighter; she had fought back, despite the odds, despite having no powers, and she had died as a direct result. I had waited until she fought back; I had not acted until then. I could have acted first, could have taken out the girl with the knife, could have saved her. But I had wanted to see if she was a fighter, if she was worth saving.

    And she had been. But I hadn't been able to save her. By waiting, I may have had some small responsibility for the fact that she was now dead.

    Had I killed her? I didn't know. I didn't even know how to find out. I couldn't go back and change matters. For that matter, I didn't even know what I was doing here, at the funeral. But ever since I saw the obituary notice in the paper, recognised the face, found out her name, I had known that I needed to be here, to observe, to do her the respect of turning up. Recognising the fact that Emma Barnes had lived and died, and that I had had something to do with the latter.

    I focused the binoculars, frowning again; this time, it was because of something I had seen. Emma's father was easy to pick out; a big man with red hair. Her older sister, likewise; her hair was more auburn than actually red, but her face had some of Emma's bone structure. Her mother; brunette, pretty enough to have contributed to Emma's striking looks.

    But there were others, not related to the family as far I could tell; no congruence of features. The girl, tall and skinny with a long, serious face, hugged Emma's mother, and then her father.

    There was something there. These people, father and daughter, stood by the Barnes family as the hearse approached. And then they helped carry the coffin to the grave itself. They're definitely close.

    I thought about it, as the people began to disperse. Emma would have been about this girl's age. If they were friends, then maybe I could find out from her what Emma had really been like, if her fighting back was just a fluke, or if she really had been that strong.

    As they went back toward the cars, I drifted from tree to tree, hoping to get close enough to get a good look at a licence plate. But then they retrieved something from one of the cars, and moved back into the cemetery; I had to duck behind a gravestone so they wouldn't see me.

    Earlier, the skinny girl had looked my way, and I thought she'd made me. But she'd neither pointed me out nor done anything about me, so I shelved the idea and kept watching. However, I was a lot more careful as I ghosted after them toward wherever they were going.

    They congregated around another gravestone; the girl and her father replaced some flowers in a vase, and Emma's father looked as though he were praying. I wished that I'd spent the time to learn how to lip-read; binoculars can only tell you so much.

    When they were gone, I went and checked out the gravestone. The name on it was Annette Rose Hebert, and she had died the year before. The birth and death dates put her at just about the right age to have a teenage daughter, so now I had a name to go on with.

    <><>​

    The Best Friend's Father

    I pulled the car to a halt and set the parking brake. Turning to Taylor, I put my hand on hers. She looked at me, her eyes still red-rimmed. Emma's death, coming so soon after she had been talking on the phone to her on that fateful afternoon, had really hit her hard. Almost as hard as Anne-Rose's death had hit her, I imagined. Probably as hard as her mother's passing had hit me.

    “You okay?” I asked.

    She took a deep, shuddering breath. “Not really,” she admitted. “It just … it just didn't seem real, you know? Like with Mom. Not until the burial.”

    I nodded. Oh yes, I know that one. “It never does, not until you can't ignore it any more.”

    She stared at me, her eyes huge and tragic behind her glasses. “When does it stop, Dad? When does it stop hurting?”

    Popping my seatbelt, I gathered her into a hug; she sniffled into my shoulder. “It just … fades,” I replied inadequately. “Eventually, you find yourself just … living again.” Not that I could talk; after Anne-Rose, I went totally to pieces. It was Emma and her family who took care of Taylor after I ceased to function as a person, until Alan had some stern words with me.

    Emma and her family.

    Oh god, who's going to help Taylor through this?


    I felt utterly unsuited for the task. When it came to dealing with grief, I had not made a good showing. I had folded like cheap tissue paper.

    “Emma was just … there.” She sniffled again. “She was always there.”

    I knew exactly how she felt. “Look, if you don't want to … I can tell Alan that you're not feeling well … “

    I could tell the exact moment when she decided hell with it, I feel like crap but I'll do it anyway. Her shoulders straightened, and she sat up in her seat and adjusted her glasses. “No. Emma would, for me.”

    That had the sound of a mantra. If Emma can do this, then I can do this. I didn't begrudge her it; if it helped her get through the day, if it kept her memory of her best friend alive, then I had absolutely no problem with it. “Yeah, kiddo, she probably would.”

    That earned me a watery smile; we got out of the car and locked the doors. Even in Alan's area of town, you didn't tempt fate. There were enough cars here that we had to walk a little way. Taylor's hand crept into mine, and we walked side by side; I adjusted my pace to hers.

    As we came up to the front gate, there were people standing on the porch whom I vaguely recognised. Taylor's steps slowed, and her grip on my hand tightened. We paused at the gate. “You okay?” I asked quietly.

    <><>​

    The Best Friend

    He'd asked me that before. “No,” I answered honestly. “I don't know if I can do this.”

    Concern was evident in his eyes. “We'll just say hello, make our excuses and leave. We don't have to stay if you don't feel like it.”

    Emma would.

    The thought straightened my spine; I took a deep breath. “Let's go in.”

    I felt rather than saw his brief, surprised glance, but then I reached out and opened the front gate. We went up the path and climbed the steps; the front door was open. Dad nodded to the people on the porch; they nodded back, murmured solicitations. I doubted they even knew who I was; friends of Mr Barnes, no doubt, showing up to prove they cared. Which they didn't, not really, but that was how it was done. Everyone pretended, everyone knew they were pretending, and they pretended they didn't know.

    We entered the house, and all of a sudden, I was reminded. All around me, it seemed, there were greatly enlarged photographs of Emma. Riding her first bicycle, blowing out the candles on a birthday cake, nervously astride a horse for the first time. Looking around, I saw her life in pictures; for quite a few of them, I had been there, and I remembered the occasion. Sometimes, I was even in the photo. One or two of the others, I had taken myself. That put a catch in my throat; they've used my photos to remember Emma by.

    The largest photo, taken at her middle school graduation party, showed her vibrantly alive, ready to take on the world. It sat on its own little table, flanked by vases holding extravagant bunches of flowers. I knew, as Dad did, that it had originally been a double photo, with me in the frame as well; in fact, the hand on her shoulder was mine. I wasn't upset at the Barneses for cropping it to show Emma alone; after all, I was not the one being memorialised. Besides, it was a really great photo of her. If only I could focus on it without my eyes beginning to swim in tears.

    “Hi.” It was Mr Barnes. He handed Dad and me plastic cups. “Thanks for coming over.”

    It was almost as though he was talking about a Saturday afternoon get together in the back yard … I looked at his face, saw his eyes. No, he wasn't thinking like that at all. I knew the pain in his eyes; I had seen it in mine, in the mirror, all too often. First Mom, and now Emma. I had seen it in Dad, too, after Mom died. Mr Barnes was only barely holding it together.

    “Thanks.” I took the cup, sipped at it. Fruit cordial. Emma would have made a smartass comment about it not tasting like any natural fruit in existence.

    All of a sudden, it tasted sour in my mouth. There was bile in the back of my throat. I placed the cup unsteadily on the table. “Can I … can I be excused?”

    “Of course,” Mr Barnes told me. I didn't look at him or Dad, but I felt their concerned gazes on me as I climbed the stairs, as hastily as I dared.

    When I got to the bathroom, I didn't throw up, but from the feel of it, it was a near thing. After a while, I got up from where I was kneeling before the toilet and splashed water on my face. A couple of handfuls of water eased the queasy feeling in my throat, and I put my glasses back on. Looking in the mirror, I decided that if I ever wanted to make the pale Goth scene, I was in there with a chance. My face looked almost gaunt, and my cheekbones had never been more prominent.

    Not that I wanted prominent cheekbones. I just wanted my best friend back.

    Wandering from the bathroom, I found myself pushing open Emma's bedroom door. On the threshold, I hesitated just for a moment, then I steeled myself and stepped inside.

    They hadn't touched a thing, as far as I could tell. Her bed was even partially unmade, from the last time she had slept in it. The room had that very slightly musty smell, as of a place that has been undisturbed for a few days. I paused; they had taken some things. A couple of the stuffed animals that normally had pride of place on the shelf above her bed, a picture of me that normally rested on her dresser, her prized Alexandria action figure, the one that I had always coveted, all gone.

    She must have been buried with them, I figured. I wished that I had gotten back earlier, in time to attend the church service, time to get a gift for her myself, to put in her coffin. I found myself tearing up all over again, and I sat down on the bed. Here, in this room, she was far more present than when her coffin was being lowered into the cold ground. I half-expected her to open the door and walk in with a comment about how she could improve my wardrobe so much if I'd just let her try.

    Kicking off my sandals, I rolled on to the bed, pulled the covers over me. I had slept in this bed almost as much as in the bed in the spare room. In this bed, Emma and I had watched movies and read books and eaten snacks (and been chewed out for leaving crumbs in the bed) and clung to each other as thunderstorms rattled the windowpanes outside.

    I was here now, and she wasn't. I had never felt so lonely in all my life.

    Softly, I began to cry all over again, my tears soaking into the pillow.

    <><>​

    The Vigilante

    I don't normally worry about doing the detective thing, but I'm not stupid, and I can use a computer. The library had them, so I got online and set about looking up Annette Hebert. It wasn't even difficult; almost immediately, I had a hit on a newspaper article, dated August of two thousand and eight. A woman by the name of Annette Rose Hebert had been out driving when she had gone off the road and crashed; single car accident. It was thought that she had been texting on her phone at the time. She was survived by her husband Daniel and her daughter Taylor.

    I looked at the photo given; a tall, slender woman, with long curly hair. Thinking back to the skinny girl at the graveside, I could easily see her in this woman. That settled it; I knew who these people were. I could find them. If Taylor had been Emma's friend, then I wanted to talk to her.

    Now all I had to do was figure out what I wanted to say.

    <><>​

    The Sister

    I paused at the top of the stairs; I had been about to go to the bathroom and freshen up, but then I heard muffled sobbing, and saw that Emma's door was open. Dad hadn't been able to go in there after … well, after. Mom had had to venture in herself, to get those things that Emma had loved the most, and she had shut the door firmly afterward. I didn't know why she hadn't locked it; maybe it was so we didn't lock Emma's memory away from us or something.

    There was no real mystery about who it was; I went to the door and pushed it all the way open. Taylor was lying in Emma's bed, covers pulled over herself, curled up into a sobbing ball. I kind of understood; as sisters, Emma and I had always been reasonably close, but nothing like the friendship she had with Taylor.

    I had never gotten to know Taylor really well myself; she was a few years younger than me, and she was first and foremost Emma's friend, but we'd chatted on more than one occasion, and she had always struck me as a bright and cheerful spirit. Of course, when talking with Taylor, one had to work hard to get a word in edgewise, but she was so enthusiastic and bubbly that it wasn't hard to forgive her that. And her chatter was never brainless or air-headed; she was smart.

    Thinking back, Taylor had been good for Emma; she didn't idolise her, didn't worship the ground she walked on. She gave Emma the truth straight up, always. She kept Emma's feet on the ground, where others would have told her whatever she wanted to hear. Of course, Emma was also good for Taylor; being a bit of a loner and a bookworm, Taylor could quite easily have squirrelled herself away in a quiet corner far more often than she did, were it not for my sister and her ability to get Taylor outside and having fun.

    I was already feeling the hole in my life where Emma used to be; I could only begin to guess how hard it was on Taylor, this coming so soon after she lost her mother.

    Entering the room was like parting an invisible spider-web, or breaking the surface of a pool of still water. Everything on the other side looked subtly different. This room was Emma's, and her personality was stamped upon every inch of it.

    Walking over to the bed, I sat down and put my hand on where the covers mounded up over Taylor's shoulder. All I could really see of her was the spill of her hair on the pillow, where the covers had been pulled over her head. Slowly, I pulled the covers back; she kept crying, and I rubbed her shoulder gently. Human contact; we all need it, whether we know it or not.

    When she had run down for the moment, she turned her head and looked up at me. “I'm sorry,” she whispered.

    “What for?” I asked gently. “This was your space as much as Emma's. I know she wouldn't begrudge you this.”

    “Yeah, but I should have asked permission.”

    I shrugged. “Permission given. I dunno that I ever saw you as a little sister exactly – one was bad enough – but I know Mom and Dad considered you almost that close.”

    She pushed the covers back farther and sat up, rubbing her eyes. “Thanks,” she murmured. “I always thought you were kind of cool. I never had a big sister. I hope we weren't too annoying to you.”

    I had to smile, though this was a day where smiles were rare. “You were both kind of bratty, but it was a cute kind of bratty, so I never had much of a problem with it.” I put an arm around her and hugged her to me; she leaned in, and we sat for a few moments, content to ignore the outside world, drawing comfort from the contact.

    Then a thought struck me, and I let her go. “Come on, I've got something for you.”

    Pulling her feet from under the covers, she looked at me curiously. “What?”

    I grinned, feeling good that I was able to do so. “You'll see.”

    <><>​

    The Best Friend

    Slipping my feet back into my sandals, I followed Anne to her room; when I hesitated on the threshold, she gestured me inside. “That first night,” she explained, “I went into her room. I knew Mom and Dad would want to put stuff in her coffin, the stuff that she loved. But there was something that I knew she would have wanted you to have. So I took it from her room first.”

    I blinked; this was the first time that I had been invited into Anne's room; the first time that I had been there, outside of pranks played by Emma and myself upon her. Bratty, indeed.

    “What is it?” I asked, still a little muzzy from my crying.

    “This.” Opening her wardrobe, she reached up to the top shelf and took down something, and handed it to me. It was the Alexandria action figure, the one that I had assumed had been buried with Emma.

    I stared at it. “I can't take this.” I tried to hand it back.

    She shook her head. “No. I know how much she loved it, and how much you wanted it. How over the moon you were when she let you borrow it for a week, and how you brought it back without a scratch. How you played tricks on her with everything else she owned, but never that. As her big sister, and yours by proxy, I'm making an executive decision. Take it. It's yours now. Take good care of it.”

    I stared at the plastic figurine nestling in my hands. “I will. I promise.” Abruptly, I hugged her fiercely. “Thank you. Thanks for being here. Thanks for talking to me.”

    She held me close; despite the fact that I was a few years younger than her, I was almost her height. “That's okay, brat. Thanks for being Emma's best friend. Thanks for always being there for her.”

    We stood there, holding each other, for a long time. In my hand was clutched the Alexandria figure; it wasn't valuable, or even particularly rare, but between Emma and I, it had fought a hundred imaginary superhero battles. Even now I could see Emma, her face alight, swooping the plastic hero into battles she inevitably won, though they be hard-fought against nigh-impossible odds.

    It was a part of everything that Emma had meant to me, the basis of a thousand happy memories. It was worth more than gold to me.

    I even knew where I was going to put it when I got home.

    Right next to Mom's flute.


    End of Part Two

    Part Three
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2017
    Myriad, zuopumila, Wolfant and 57 others like this.
  12. pepperjack

    pepperjack A Variety of Cheese

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    Don't worry, I'm sure there's plenty of Americans that don't realize it either. I just happen to live in one of them.

    ...er, one of the original thirteen states, that is. Not one of the Americans. That would be awkward.

    aaaaugh

    I make jokes to avoid acknowledging what this story is doing to me.
     
  13. john doe

    john doe Not too sore, are you?

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    Poor Taylor is not going to recover for a while. The death of Emma so soon after her mother. She will probably keep using the Emma would do it thing to convince herself to actually go out cause otherwise with how Danny deals with Grief in cannon I don't see her getting help.
     
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  14. AylorAivo

    AylorAivo Versed in the lewd.

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    I like the way the viewpoint characters are introduced by their relationship to Emma, I also like how Sofia's failure to save Emma is eating away at her but she's still aproaching things in a pretty creepy way.
    That said the strong style of this chapter contrasts with the much more normal 2nd half of the 1st chapter and the (also very stylised but very different) pseudo-cameray first part.
    Not really sure if that's a critism or a comment, but either way I can hardly wait for more.
     
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  15. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Yeah, with the first part of the first chapter, I was trying to convey perspective, giving a thumbnail view of the Wormverse. I envisaged it as a kind of movie introduction, maybe with voice-over for each shift in viewpoint. And so I tried to write it to capture that feel.
     
  16. Dr. Mercurious

    Dr. Mercurious Not too sore, are you?

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    Very nice! Just curious; it doesn't look like there's plans for a Taylor trigger here...
     
  17. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    This is Brockton Bay, in the Wormverse. There's more than one way to trigger ...
     
  18. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Non-canon omake: "Futures"


    Emma opens her eyes and looks around. "Where am I?" she asks dazedly.

    Alexandria, seated in her father's favourite armchair, looks up from the book she is reading. "You're dreaming," she tells Emma concisely.

    "Oh," she responds, belatedly noticing that 'Alexandria' actually has articulated joints. The fact that her prized action figure has entered her dreams and is now talking to her does not bother her as much as it might have. This is, after all, a dream. "Uh ... so, what's this dream about? Is Behemoth going to jump out of my closet?"

    Alexandria shakes her head. "No. This dream's about you and Taylor."

    Emma realises that Taylor is sleeping beside her, snoring softly. "What about her?" she asks quietly. "Please don't tell me that we're a lesbian couple, because that's just ew. Even with Taylor."

    Alexandria chuckles. "No, but it is about your relationship with her. You need to make a decision."

    "A decision about what?"

    The far wall becomes a movie screen, split in two. Both begin playing a movie, but Emma finds that she can follow both.

    "In a few days, Taylor's mom will be killed in a car accident," Alexandria's voice emerges from the darkness. "She will need you more than ever."

    "That's terrible," Emma gasps. "Can't we warn her?"

    There's a chuckle. "This is a dream. You won't remember this at all. Or believe it if you do."

    "Oh."

    "Now, this is a year from now."

    The movies play on. Emma sees herself in a narrow street, surrounded by ABB gang members. In both, she fights back. In one, her throat is slashed and she dies in a pool of her own blood. In the other, she is saved by the cloaked vigilante.

    "I think I like that one - " she begins, but is hushed by Alexandria. The movies roll on.

    In one, she gets a beautiful funeral. She is remembered with loving affection. Taylor suffers from her loss, but bears up under it. Life goes on.

    In the other, she joins forces with the vigilante to torment Taylor. For more than a year they do this, culminating in a locker full of -

    "Oh god, stop it! I can't watch any more!"

    Beside her, Taylor mumbles in her sleep and rolls over. Emma stares at the images frozen on the screen.

    They vanish. Alexandria is still seated in the armchair.

    "I can't - I can't change anything else?"

    A shake of the head. "No. You may only choose between those two futures."

    "And I won't remember."

    "That's true."

    "And in one I die, and in the other I'm an utter bitch who betrays her best friend."

    "Something of that sort, yes."

    Emma takes a deep breath, and makes her choice. It's surprisingly easy.

    What the hell, she tells herself, it's only a dream.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2015
  19. Makahl

    Makahl Know what you're doing yet?

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  20. thelegendarysupernerd

    thelegendarysupernerd Getting sticky.

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    Damn you Ack. I say that with the highest respect possible. I didn't need to feel like this this early in the morning.
     
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  21. Siggimondo

    Siggimondo Voter

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    I have no words. They simply refuse to cooperate with me. Speechless.
     
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  22. Adyen

    Adyen Experienced.

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    I do.

    If this was canon, I would be exploding over it with dislike due to what I feel this omake does. :(
     
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  23. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    I'm not sure if this is a 'good' or 'bad' reaction :p
     
  24. Adyen

    Adyen Experienced.

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    It's a 'negative' reaction.

    While it's good as an omake just to get feels, if it's part of your story it basically cheapens her death because she just picked something out of a dream that she doesn't believe will have any meaning IRL.
     
  25. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Well, it's non canon. So it didn't happen in story.
     
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  26. Adyen

    Adyen Experienced.

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    I know, which is why I pointed out that I know.
     
  27. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    This could get very meta :p
     
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  28. Adyen

    Adyen Experienced.

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    Has someone written Deadpool/Worm with Taylor being able to look through the 4th wall yet?
     
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  29. Siggimondo

    Siggimondo Voter

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    Not as far as I know, but now that you've mentioned it on the Internet it's pretty much just a matter of time.
     
    Adyen likes this.
  30. Muroshi9

    Muroshi9 I'm so ronery So ronery So ronery and sadly arone

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