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Convolution (Worm x Starcraft)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by evildice, Jan 12, 2015.

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  1. Threadmarks: Index
    evildice

    evildice (Verified d4)

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    Convolution - Zerg Taylor

    Disclaimer: This is merely a fanwork. I do not own either Worm or StarCraft. Blizzard and Wildbow, thank you for letting me play with your toys.

    Chapter 0.0 - Prologue

    Once upon a time, in an unclean school, there was a particularly unclean locker. Within that locker, a young lady gained an interesting superpower. The sensory feedback from that superpower caused the power to self-enhance, per its design, but something went wrong. Instead of merely augmenting her original power, she gained access to something older. Something deeper. Something Primal.

    ~ °w° ~​

    Table of Contents
    Prologue
    - you are here

    (Sufficient Velocity)
    Fangs - 0.1 | 0.2 | 0.3 | 0.4 | 0.5 | 0.6
    Interlude 1.0 c, d
    Background Info - Some History (Taylor's report on Brockton Bay); Maps (including Taylor's house)

    (Questionable Questing)
    Fangs - 0.1 | 0.2 | 0.3 | 0.4 | 0.5 | 0.6
    Interlude 1.0 c, d
    Background Info - Some History (Taylor's report on Brockton Bay); Maps (including Taylor's house)


    ~ °w° ~​
    Omake
    - Vibrating with Excitement
    - Something's Fishy
    - Eve of Soulful Darkness
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2015
    ward201, Mei Mei, kalistira and 17 others like this.
  2. Threadmarks: Fangs 0.1
    evildice

    evildice (Verified d4)

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    Chapter 0.1 - Fangs

    2011/01/05, late morning

    I was pretty sure hospital food wasn’t supposed to taste this good. Maybe I was just that hungry.

    "That is total bullshit! We are not pfffing urp whiff," gulp, "with whatever they’re trying to do!" My desperate complaining and consuming were an imperfect harmony.

    "Finish chewing, kiddo." My father was sitting on the corner of my hospital bed. As he spoke, he looked from the school’s lawyer to me and forced a smile.

    "Mr. Hebert, perhaps we could step outside and discuss this as adults?" I could practically see the insincerity dripping off the weaselly lawyer’s words. It wasn’t enough to kill my appetite.

    "No, you leave!" I punctuated that pronouncement with the clatter of metal on porcelain as I fed myself another forkful of meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

    The suited weasel ignored me. "Mr. Hebert, a hospital stay can be expensive. Let the school cover that expense. The most important thing here is your daughter’s health."

    My father’s voice was soft as scissors shearing cloth. "Why? What do you want from us?"

    I guess this was the direction that the lawyer had wanted to steer the conversation. He actually rubbed his hands together, one over the other, in true rodent fashion. Wait, were weasels even rodents? Whatever. I angrily pushed some soggy peas and carrot cubes into the remaining lump of mashed potatoes and ate a forkful of the uncannily appetizing amalgam.

    "The school is investigating this incident. They want assurance that they can carry out their investigation without outside interference, and without the kind of publicity that would ruin their ability to investigate fairly."

    "Immvrsffgh frrrly?!" My incredulity demanded vocalization. My father looked over at me, eyebrows raised, and I held up one finger on my left hand, asking him to wait while I chewed and swallowed. "Investigate fairly. No. They never did that before. Why would they start doing that now?"

    My father’s gaze sharpened. "What do you mean, Taylor?"

    "This isn’t the first time they d-did something." My voice caught. My vision was a little blurry, and I hated it. I hated this feeling of being almost about to cry. It had become too familiar over the last eighteen months. "I didn’t tell you before. I d-didn’t want you to know."

    "Oh, Taylor." The sympathy in his voice pushed me over the edge. A tear ran down my cheek, fell onto the banana in my hand. I fought off the tears by taking an angry, savage bite. It tasted amazing.

    "We’d like some time alone, Mister ... ?"

    "Anderson. Jared Anderson." I resolved to name my next pet weasel Jared, even though I’d never had a pet. "Here’s my card, I’ll leave the paperwork on the nightstand here."

    I stared poison fangs at his back as he walked to the door. I took another bite of the banana, the incredibly delicious banana. I chewed. I sniffled. Mr. Anderson turned, gave us a fake smile, and pulled the door shut behind him.

    "Taylor."

    "I’m s-sorry dad." Sniffle. Bite. Rip. Chew.

    "Taylor, you’re eating the peel."

    "Whrf?" I gulped down the flavorful yet stringy peel. "Huh."

    ~ °w° ~​

    I managed to convince Dad that I didn’t need to stay in the hospital longer than our Emergency Room coverage allowed. It was still too damn expensive, pardon his French, but it wasn’t going to bankrupt us. It certainly helped that my visible injuries seemed to have been healed overnight, and I didn’t feel bad physically. They let me go with two pill bottles: one for painkillers, one for antibiotics.

    Me going home meant Dad didn’t need to sign Jared’s stupid weasel papers, which was good, because it turns out "indemnify" is a very scary word. The bad part was that, since I’d spilled the beans, he forced me to tell him about the past eighteen months. That Emma had turned on me, that I didn’t know why, about her new friends Sophia and Madison, about the school faculty’s persistent and probably deliberate case of convenient blindness and deafness.

    The drive home had been the quiet kind of tense.

    Once we were home, I brought down my abuse diary, the notebook in which I’d recorded each day’s trials and humiliations. Dad flipped through it, stopped at a page somewhere near the beginning, and read for a minute. I went to grab some granola bars for the drive.

    "This is some ugly stuff, Taylor."

    "Yeah."

    "Is it all this bad?"

    "It, um," I took a breath, let it out, "yeah, pretty much."

    "Christ. I’ll read through this tonight."

    "Okay."

    "Alright. Let’s get going. Medical records, your notebook, is that everything?"

    "I think so."

    "Don’t forget your gloves."

    "Got ‘em."

    Sufficiently bundled against the brisk January afternoon, we left to meet with the Brockton Bay Police Department.

    ~ °w° ~​

    Detective Conrad Blair was nice. The british accent surprised me a bit, coming from a black man who lived in New England, but it probably shouldn’t have. Brockton Bay seemed to collect all types of people.

    "Thank you for coming down to the station to meet with us, Mr. Hebert, Miss Hebert. Right this way."

    The interview room had donuts, oranges, some packets of nuts, an assortment of beverage choices, and Officer Christina Brady. She was an older woman with tan skin and brown hair. She stood as we came in.

    "It’s a pleasure to meet you." Her accent was faint and more local.

    "Right then. I understand you’re here to report an assault. Here’s what we do in these cases." Detective Blair outlined the steps of the investigation. Since there were faculty witnesses and an emergency report, he said, they were planning on visiting us at the hospital or at home.

    He spoke to both of us, but Dad handled most of the answers since he had been awake for the hospital parts, and since I was eating the delicious orange.

    "Normally at this point we’d ask you if we could take evidentiary photos of your injuries, just to lock down the chain of custody, but Miss Hebert appears to have received healing already?" Such a crisp, professional accent.

    "Yes," my father answered, "she was lucky enough to get healed last night. I was asleep, so I’m not sure when, exactly, or which healer." He looked over at me, his expression warm. "Not like it matters. I’m just so relieved to see her healthy again."

    "If we both slept through it, then it was probably Panacea or Medicine Ball. Not that drum guy."

    "Heh, too true. Not the drum guy."

    "You really stayed all night, Dad?"

    "Of course, kiddo." He looked at me, then briefly flicked down to the pile of orange peels in front of me. When he looked back at me, his eyes held mild concern.

    "Do you know," I addressed the detective, "is it normal to be constantly hungry after you get power-healed?"

    "It can do, yes. Might depend on the specifics of the injury."

    "She’s been eating non-stop since she woke up this morning." Dad sounded almost apologetic.

    "Probably nothing, but you might want to check New Wave’s website," Officer Brady offered, "Can’t hurt to check, right?"

    "Right then. That pretty much covers the recorded facts of the assault. Now we come to the part where we take your testimony. We’re going to ask you to go through what happened, what you saw, and what you suspect or can infer. We are going to record this, and watch it again later, because any detail might be important. If you forget something or there's something you're not sure about, just say. Every detail might be important."

    I leaned hard, my shoulder into Dad’s. He reached an arm around my shoulders.

    I told them everything I remembered about the locker, and then we talked a bit about the previous year and a half. I showed them the notebook, my abuse diary. They weren’t interested in my theories about why Emma might have suddenly changed my friendship status, but they were very interested in the dates when I’d tried to get help from Winslow’s faculty. It took just over an hour, and I almost cried twice.

    Detective Blair took the hospital photos and my notebook to photocopy them as evidence, and my father went with him.

    When they were gone, Officer Brady spoke to me; hesitant, apologetic almost. "Taylor, I just need you to know, I’m required to ask you all this."

    "Okay?"

    "It’s about the injuries. I’m required to ask you if any of them might have been caused by a family member."

    "What? No! Dad would never, just, just no."

    "That’s what I figured. You and your pa seem pretty close."

    "Since Mom died, we’re kinda, uh," I ended up floundering and gave her a complicated shrug.

    "Well, just so you know, if you ever need someone to talk to, I’m here. We’re all here." She slid me her card. Her name was hand-written on the back with a scribbly smiley face.

    "Thanks."

    Dad and Detective Blair came back in, and the officers talked to Dad about the next meeting while I crunched through a number of wonderfully salty almonds.

    ~ °w° ~​

    As soon as we got home, Dad sat down on the living room couch and started reading my abuse diary.

    I didn’t know if it was a side-effect of the healing or the near-death experience, or maybe just the relief of finally coming clean to Dad about the bullying, but I still felt oddly detached. Now that I’d done everything immediately necessary, it felt like I was somehow drifting, floating, unanchored. Or like falling through the air, or like the end of a dream. Like I’m back in swimming class, holding my breath and waiting for the signal to exhale. Like I’m mesmerized by a soap bubble, admiring its swiftly tilting patterns, and just waiting for it to pop in my face.

    I put that feeling aside and went downstairs, to make tea for Dad. I refilled the teakettle and put it on one of the front burners, click click click fwoosh. That task done, I sat down at the kitchen table to wait.

    Our kitchen was not a showcase of all the most modern conveniences. Our cabinets had mismatched handles, where one after another they’d been replaced. The counters were worn through in patches, where you could see the layers of veneer and the dark whatever it was that lay underneath. Some kind of early wood composite, probably. Our house was already sixteen years old, and like a lot of the so-called "boom houses", it was showing its age. The paint and carpets were wearing through, the tiles and siding were chipped, some of our windows didn’t open easily or at all, and according to a report on TV last month up to 45% of all prefabricated modular frames were veined with nearly invisible stress fractures. Sitting here, thinking about time’s erosion of our home, I could almost smell the musty mildew, almost hear the skittering vermin around and below me.

    For all that I loved our home, sometimes I hated how artificial it was, how fragile.

    The teakettle sputtered once, twice, then its thin, reedy whistle began building towards a shriek, derailing my train of thought. I turned off the burner and got down the teapot, scalding it twice with the boiling water like Mom used to do. Another one of her habits which I emulated fondly, wistfully, and a bit sadly.

    I put a tea bag in the teapot and poured in the hot water, then carried the teapot and a mug out to Dad.

    "Hey Dad."

    "Hey, kiddo." His brow unfurrowed rapidly, an attempt to disguise how anxious he’d looked a moment ago. It was instinctive on his part, I guessed, to shield me from seeing him worrying, even though I’d been the one who wrote what he was worrying about.

    I set the teapot down on a magazine, an issue of Better Home and Garden from a few months ago. The cover was already scored with the rings of previous beverages.

    "Dad, how do I tell when a habit stops being Mom’s habit, and starts being mine?"

    He chewed it over in his mind. "Just like anything of hers, I think it’s yours whenever you want it."

    It was just like him. Cautious and careless, sweet and useless… and able to make me feel better.

    "Thanks, Dad." I stood there. A wisp of steam rose as the tea continued to brew.

    He gave me a helpless smile. "I can’t read it with you watching over me. Did you make a drink for yourself?" Nod. "We have emergency ice-cream if you need it." Mom’s coping mechanism, frozen into our vocabulary. I shook my head. "Well, go ahead and find something to do for a few hours. You can use the computer, I’ll be out here."

    "I’ll make us sandwiches for dinner."

    "That sounds great."

    ~ °w° ~​

    Thinking about Dad downstairs, reading my abuse diary, made it really, really difficult to concentrate on anything. I tiptoed downstairs for a snack every so often, always trying not to be noticed, always certain I'd failed. Being self-conscious didn't do much for my stealth capability.

    I couldn't concentrate enough to read upstairs, and the fact that I'd been hospitalized on the first day of school meant no homework had found me yet, so I brought the computer upstairs to surf around in bed.

    New Wave FAQ!

    Q: Does Parahuman healing cause hunger?
    A: Sometimes it does! There are two major reasons why Panacea's healing may induce hunger:
    • Major tissue replacement. If you lost a limb or a major organ, it's very likely you'll need to eat to replace lost mass.
    • Minor metabolic enhancement. Sometimes the best cure is simply to accelerate your metabolism and allow your body to naturally repair itself. In these cases, you will be hungry because your metabolic rate is faster.
    Unless you are on a diet for a specific medical reason, it is recommended that you eat when hungry for at least two weeks following a either of the above. Talk to your doctor for more specific advice!
    Huh. I wondered which of those applied to me. Still, it made be feel a bit better about all the snacking I'd been doing.

    I slurped off the last delicious frosty bits of the popsicle, and then crunched down on the popsicle stick, grinding the outer calcium slivers while sucking out the fatty — wait. That's not how popsicles worked.

    Haltingly, I raised my hand, and saw that I was holding half of a broken drumstick bone.


    To: panacea@newwave.hero
    Subject: Eating Weird Stuff???

    Hi Panacea, first off I wanted to say thank you for healing me last night. I think it was you. I had my PHAD out but I never expected anyone would help me. So thank you!

    My question is, all day I've been hungry, and now I'm eating weird stuff. I ate a raw frozen drumstick but didn't even notice until I was already chewing the bone up. The FAQ you guys have up didn't say anything about eating weird stuff, just about sometimes being more hungry. It's not bad or anything, right?

    Anyway if eating weird stuff is the price for healing then it's way cheap. Just want to be sure. Thanks again, Taylor

    Message sent. I felt relief at getting that off my chest. I looked over at the bone. It had actually tasted pretty good. I picked up the remaining half and resumed crunching.

    Searching PHO gave nothing useful: "eating weird stuff", "diet after healing", "change in hunger", nada. All I found were some Case 53 discussions.

    At least the Case 53 discussions were interesting.

    ~ °w° ~​

    When I went back downstairs three hours later, the lights were off. Dad’s sandwich was on the coffee table, untouched.

    Next to it was a small notepad, open, with half a page of scribbles. Dad’s notes on the abuse diary, I guessed. I avoided looking at the words too closely.

    Next to that sat an empty glass, one of the short ones Dad used for bourbon. I smelled it. Yep. On my way to the sink, I poured the last drop onto my tongue. It tasted sweet, in a prickly sort of way.

    I ate Dad's abandoned sandwich, holding it in one hand while getting the rest of the dishes rinsed off with the other. I flipped on the dishwasher, trudged upstairs, and flopped down on my bed.

    Times like this, I pondered, were when I really missed having a best friend. Maybe if I had someone to talk to, someone to tell about all the absurdities piling up, maybe then I'd be able to get perspective on them, fit the weird stuff back into reality. Or at least have someone to laugh at it with. But of course, if I had a friend or two, my troubles wouldn't have even started piling up. It was an uncomfortable cycle of thought, leading nowhere pleasant.

    The distant hum of the dishwasher soothed me to sleep.

    ~ °w° ~​

    In my dream, a marshmallow spider intruded upon my lovely green goldfish pond utopia.

    I reached for it, but it skittered away, and I was walking nightmare slow.

    Flailing, falling, I somehow reached it.

    Put it in my mouth.

    Mmm, the marshmallow spider was satisfying in a way none of the other food had been. It fed a new part of me, a dream part I guessed.

    My stomach gurgled.

    I drifted into a deeper slumber.

    ~ °w° ~​

    I woke up like a shot, leaped out of bed. That was a mistake. The dull pain I'd felt suddenly spiked. My guts were on fire, and the room spun. Nausea? Something I'd eaten?

    I vomited all over my bed, a thick gray paste, and one huge chunk of-- no, it was moving.

    One huge centipede?

    I jumped back. It ooched forward, one inch, two, looking at me with its six glowing silver eyes.

    "Gleep?"

    "Aaaaarh!"

    I screamed in an entirely undignified way and fled to the bathroom.

    "Taylor? You okay?"

    Dad's footsteps thumped in the hallway. I had no way to explain this. I panicked, wishing I could disappear.

    I disappeared.

    "Taylor?"

    I could see the bathroom. I could see Dad, in the bathroom. He was looking all over, but he couldn't see me at all.

    He left the bathroom. He would check my room next. My room with the centipede.

    I could see him in my room, even though there ought to be walls in the way. He was looking down at the centipede with sorrow.

    "Taylor, my god. I never, I mean, I thought it would be me. Never you. My god."

    My curiosity overcame my desire to disappear and I faded back into reality. There was a mirror right there, and this time I wasn't too freaked out to notice how cool it looked. I was still in the bathroom.

    I could still see Dad in my bedroom. He was looking down at ... no way. Now he was sitting on the bed, reaching towards me, but it wasn't me. I was seeing from the centipede's eyes.

    "It was your mother's favorite story. I had nightmares, but I never... god."

    I walked in behind him.

    "Dad?"

    He jumped.

    "Taylor!? You didn't turn into Gregor Samsa?"

    "Dad, I think I'm a parahuman."

    ~ °w° ~​

    Author's Notes: In this story, the first day of classes after xmas break was a Tuesday (2011-01-04). Narration starts in the hospital on Wednesday morning (2011-01-05).

    Taylor gains regeneration as part of the Zerg package. Thus she's awake and aware when the school lawyer attempts his weasel-fu on Danny, and she doesn't need a week of hospital care, and so Danny doesn't sign the settlement papers. Butterflies have begun.
     
  3. Threadmarks: Fangs 0.2
    evildice

    evildice (Verified d4)

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    Chapter 0.2 - Fangs

    2011/01/06, morning

    Dad’s eyes were wide like hard-boiled eggs as I unfolded from the wall.

    "See? I can disappear and come back."

    "There’s something on your lip." He touched the side of his mouth. I reached up and pulled out — a hair? No, too thick. Jointed. Insect leg?

    I popped it in my mouth. Tasted like the spider from my dream. "Maybe I ate a spider while I was asleep? Anyway, even while I was in hidden in the bathroom, I could see you in here!"

    "You can see through the, uh, the thing? And don’t eat spiders."

    I sat down on the grey sludge covering my bed and stroked my surprisingly warm, leathery centipede. It had bony ridges protruding from its segments. I scratched behind one of them.

    "Whoosa good centipede monster?"

    "Gleep?"

    "This is surreal. Can you control it? Move it around?"

    "So far it just kind of inchworms around randomly, see, like that."

    Dad smacked both cheeks with his palms, then looked deliberately at the creature, daring it to still be there. He sighed. "I’m going to shower and make breakfast. Can you try to clean up this grey stuff?"

    "I’ll try."

    Dad grunted and thumped off. I tried scratching the little monster under its chin, but I couldn’t find a chin.

    "You’re not going to be any help at all, are you?"

    "Gleeeeep."

    I sighed and stood up, my hand rubbing the little monster’s general head segments. "That’s super cute but I kind of wish you were something more, I dunno, actively useful."

    And that’s when the centipede monster curled up into a mottled green-grey chrysalis, veined with the same color of silver-grey as the sludge. The veins pulsed like a heart-beat.

    ~ °w° ~​

    The kitchen was unusually boisterous.

    "I leave you alone for five minutes, and now there's two of them!"

    "I'm sorry!"

    "Eep! Eeeep!" The pair of little spider / chicken / lizard things were jumping around the kitchen like over-caffeinated puppies. Wait, did caffeine kill dogs? Whatever. These little guys were basically big puppy size, maybe fifteen pounds each.

    "Are you sure they're safe?"

    "So far!"

    "Kekeke!" The slightly larger, less feathery one jumped out of the way as Dad approached the table with a plate piled high with eggs, toast, and sausages. Their bodies were a little over a foot long, but they could jump several feet.

    "Is that thing laughing at me?"

    "I don't know!"

    "Eee, eee, eeeeeee!" They keened at me, stopping my fork in mid-bite. Apparently being a hyperactive spider / chicken / lizard thing was hungry work.

    "What do they eat?"

    "Raw stuff, maybe? Like a cat?"

    "They eat cats!?" Dad was holding his plate above his head, dancing as the little monsters took turns jumping up his legs.

    "No, I mean how cats — you know what, I'll do it." I stomped over to the fridge.

    "Kekekekeke!"

    "Hey, no! That's my breakfast! That, you, that was my breakfast."

    My eggs and sausages were gone. My shoulders slumped in defeat. The little monsters looked up at me from atop the kitchen table, and their toothy little egg-and-sausage-speckled mouths sure looked like they were grinning.

    Dad decided to eat his breakfast while standing, holding his plate in one hand, high enough that the little monsters couldn't get at it even if they jumped off the table. Which they did.

    "Dad, people used to eat raw eggs for health reasons, right?"

    "I ca' coof yuf morf —"

    I cut off his kindness to allow him to chew and swallow. "No, it's fine, I want to test something."

    A raw egg, in a brown speckled shell that was characteristic of New England, or so the commercials told me. I held it for a moment, then popped it in my mouth, whole, and bit down on the shel and savored the flavors. Every drop, every shard, every molecule was delicious.

    "Mmmmm!" — crunch, crunch, gulp — "Maybe I eat like a cat now, too?"

    "That's, uh, hum. How do I say this. It's a relief to know you can handle your own lunch."

    "But it's weird. I'm weird."

    "You're not weird. You're perfect. Powers are weird."

    "What are we going to do?"

    "I am going to get dressed and go to work. I've got two days of catchup. You are going to stay home, get some rest, not let your little monsters wreck the house, and do some research on cape, uh, options. We can talk about your powers when I get home tonight."

    "Can you also call the school and get my homework? And find out how much time off I can get?"

    "Yes. And in return, you will remember to take your medicine." He read my quizzical look correctly, and continued in exasperation. "The pills you got from the hospital yesterday, remember? Were you supposed to take any last night?"

    "Oops."

    "Go take them now."

    I galloped upstairs, trailed by the little jumpers. Yep, take one every twelve hours, so I'd missed last night. I jostled two out of each pill bottle and crunched all four between my teeth. Complex, but tasty. I savored that for a moment before noticing the elephant in the room. Not in the room. Whatever.

    "Hey Dad, come see!"

    "Just a sec!"

    I made my bed and straightened up for the intervening minute or two.

    Thump. Thump. Thump. Khaki pants, white shirt, blue tie. He was adjusting the tie. "Alright, what's the — oh, hey, good work."

    "Ta-dah! It just evaporated! It was mostly gone when I came up here."

    "That's some mighty convenient sludge you've got, kiddo." He ruffled my hair. "Thanks for showing me. I would've worried about the house all day."

    I followed him downstairs.

    "Can you bring home some meat for the monsters?"

    A frown crossed his face. "Meat can be expensive."

    "Oh! It doesn't have to be people-food. Maybe you can get guts and bones and stuff?"

    He shrugged into his parka. "Hum. Probably. I'll stop by a butcher on the way home."

    "Thanks, Dad."

    "Call me if you need anything, don't wreck the house, see you for dinner?"

    "Yup! Bye, Dad."

    Whatever the heck was going on with my weirdo powers, at least Dad seemed to be handling it well.

    ~ °w° ~
    Mini-Interlude (Danny)

    Daniel Hebert reflected that he was not handling this well.

    He stared at his white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel, barely visible in the pre-dawn twilight. He wondered how long he'd been sitting here, in his car, in a blind, paralyzed panic. One minute? Five?

    He tried to take a deep breath and seek out the detachment which had allowed him to retain his competent exterior in stressful situations, maintain his distance from the emotional turmoil that had too often ended with his fists bruised and his life more complicated.

    He couldn't. He couldn't ignore any longer what that emotional detachment had cost him, what his detachment had cost Taylor.

    Now it felt like everything was tumbling down around him. The hospital, the bullying, the ugly truth about Emma, and his own contribution of parental negligence to Taylor's isolation. Throw capes on top of all that, and a cape who makes monsters, and —

    "Can you bring home some meat for the monsters?"
    "Maybe you can get guts and bones and stuff?"


    He stared at his white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel. He wondered how long he'd been sitting here, in his car, in a blind, paralyzed panic. One minute? Five?

    Daniel Hebert reflected that he was not handling this well.

    ~ °w° ~​

    After Dad left, it took him a couple minutes longer than usual before he drove away. Maybe the engine was cold. Maybe the car was just getting old, breaking down like machines always do, in fits and starts.

    "What am I going to do now, hum?" I froze. That sounded like something Dad might say.

    Had I become my parents? Did these little critters count as children for the turn-into-your-parents part of my brain?

    I decided right then to do something un-parent-like.

    "Alright, my beasts. I'm going to take a shower, and you're coming in too."

    I picked up the little one, and dragged the slightly bigger one by its neck frill ridge part. I guess I ought to learn the names of these parts. Well, the parts that had names anyway. I wasn't sure if there were any quadrupeds with secondary limbs coming out of their, uh, shoulders? Hips? Flanks? I made a note to bone up on anatomy.

    The little one nibbled at my shoulder, its claw poking in my nostril. "Your name shall be Nibbler," I intoned with imposing gravitas as I limped up the stairs, dragging the larger one, now turning to face the larger one, "and you," now backing into the bathroom, "you shall be Giggler."

    "Kekekeeee!"

    "Yes, that is why."

    I gently shoved the bathroom door shut with my foot.

    ~ °w° ~​

    The bad news was: I'd need a new shower curtain, a bar of soap, and more toilet paper.

    The good news was: I'd determined that one roll of toilet paper was capable of entertaining two small monsters for nearly ten minutes, and I'd determined that my powers regenerate damage from bone spurs, claws, fangs, exterior mouthparts, and that spike at the end of their extra front legs.

    The weird news was: toothpaste tasted pretty great now, and I think I accidentally swallowed more than is recommended. The monsters could swim, and were pretty happy to splash around in the tub. I thought it was weird that they were licking the sides of the tub, but then they ate my bar of soap, so I guess that explained their interest in the faint rings of soap-scum.

    "If you guys can clean bathrooms, that makes you employable."

    I shooed Giggler away from the toilet.

    It occurred to me that I hadn't yet needed to pee this morning. File that under weird news, maybe.

    It occurred to me that I hadn't yet needed my glasses this morning, either. File that under awesome. An undignified grin split my face.

    I opened the door to let out the steam and, of course, the little monsters took the opportunity to scamper out, escaping from the confines of the bathroom. And then it sounded like they ran downstairs. Fine.

    I wiped off the bathroom mirror with my hand, and started brushing my hair. Usually I had to pick either wearing glasses and dealing with fog, and with the brush hitting my glasses when I went near my ears, or not wearing my glasses and having only the fuzziest idea how I looked.

    But now, I grinned to myself, now I could have the best of both. It was a small luxury, but I'd take it.

    Draaaaaaaagging the comb through my wet hair, able to see every curl. Leaning my head to the side, pulling and jerking the knots, enjoying the utter lack of glasses getting dislodged. Combing through all the way back, and — ow.

    There was something tender at the back of my skull. Something my regeneration didn't fix?

    I carefully felt around, and my fingers encountered three fleshy, dangly protrusions. They were about four inches long, maybe longer, and around as thick as my pinky finger. I was hunched over, my wet hair dangling behind me, looking out of the corner of my eye and I could see they were tinted red, like flushed cheeks or an angry infection, and there were spots of white toward the tips.

    Did capes get super zits? Parapimples? That would be ridiculous.

    Maybe they were like those dangly nubs old people get, skin tabs or whatever. I gave one a twist just in case it came off easily.

    And then I was crumpled on the bathroom floor, and my world was full of blinding purple pain. I think I cracked my head on the lip of the sink on my way down, but it didn't even register at the time. I stayed down for a whole minute at least.

    Ouch. Lesson learned. On shaky legs I stumbled to the linen closet and got another towel to hold the nubs away from my hair.

    Even my fingers were trembling a bit as I carefully separated strands of my hair from the protrusions, padded them gently with the towel, and wrapped the towel around my neck to keep the tender bits safe from the teeth of my comb.

    Deep breath in, out. It came out as a sigh. Of course this small pleasure had to be interrupted by a new inconvenience. Managing the towel was less annoying than handling my glasses had been.

    That settled, I got back to brushing my hair.

    ~ °w° ~​

    "Oh, mo~o~onsters!"

    The day was turning out to be sunny, and I was unusually chipper as I bounced down the stairs, dry and dressed. Giggler was pawing at the front door, like a puppy who wanted a walk. I skipped through the living room, into the kitchen.

    "There's most of a chicken left in the freezer, we can split that, and then I've got a surpri~i~ise for you!"

    Scratch. Scratch.

    I bit into the frozen chicken breast. Ice crunched. Bones snapped. It was fairly tasty.

    "Nibbler! Giggler! You're missing out on second bre~akfast!"

    Scratch. Click. Click.

    The unexpected noise set me on edge. I put down the chicken breast and went back to the front door.

    Giggler was stuck in the front door mail slot, half in and half out. I pulled him back, and got a spike in my hand for my trouble. It was pretty impressive that this big lunk could squeeze even part way through such a small, small, sma—

    Nibbler was smaller than Giggler.

    Nibbler was nowhere to be seen.

    "Shit, shit, shit!"
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2015
  4. Threadmarks: Fangs 0.3
    evildice

    evildice (Verified d4)

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    Chapter 0.3 - Fangs

    2011/01/06, morning

    "Shit, shit, shit!"

    I had to find Nibbler. I had to recover Nibbler. And I had to do it all without revealing my identity.

    Giggler looked up at me. Giggler had been trying to get out, just like Nibbler had. Giggler had been trying to follow Nibbler.

    I had to make sure Giggler didn't run off, too. He needed to be wearing a collar, or hmm, did he even have a neck? Maybe a harness? I fantasized a sleek leather muzzle and leash combo, with straps fitting under the forelegs and over the shoulder arm things, and a big brass ring which would attach to my shiny chain leash. Maybe some bulldog spikes around the neck part.

    A calm, observant, and totally useless part of me noticed that this was the first time in over two years that I'd felt the urge to go shopping for something, and regretted my lack of time and money.

    Okay. Harness, harness. I scrambled. I improvised. I made a mess of the kitchen, but finally the twine and duct tape contraption looked halfway decent. The folded-over tape ought to help avoid chaffing, spread out the strain of the twine, stop the twine from cutting into Giggler's tender green and purple flesh. I hoped it would.

    I gave the leash-twine an experimental tug.

    "Keh? Keh? Ehk."

    The calm, useless part of me wondered why we kept the duct tape in the kitchen.

    I put that thought aside and pieced together a costume. Baggy hoodie sweatshirt, check. Dark scarf, check. Baggy jeans, check. I tried a hat. It was a rain hat. The sides and back distorted my hood. Nope.

    Baseball cap? I think we had a Red Sox cap somewhere, but Dad liked that one, and anyway it was mostly white and red.

    Ski mask? Balaclava? Not with my limited wardrobe.

    I settled on a dark green knit wool cap. It had a cheery red and white pompom on top. Probably a christmas theme. I hid the pompom under the sweatshirt's dark grey hood.

    I looked at myself in the hallway mirror. A bit too villainous, but at least I looked ready. I made a fierce face behind my scarf, narrowed my eyes, held my hand like a claw and slashed downward. Yeah. I could do this.

    ~ °w° ~​

    I was doing this!

    I'd sprinted for the woods, huddling Giggler under one arm, hoping to obscure him from casual view, and it worked! I think. Nobody on my street was yelling and pointing at us. There were no sirens or helicopters closing in.

    Crouching behind a tree, out of sight of the street, I carefully set down Giggler.

    "Can you catch his scent, boy?"

    My little monster gazed up at me, gormlessly, noselessly.

    "Well shit. Uh. Try anyway? Find? Seek?"

    "Ke! Keeeh!"

    "Good boy!" He raced ahead and I chased, trying to keep the twine leash from straining too much, trying not to make too much noise as I crunched through the frozen brown leaves and underbrush.

    If I weren't in such a panic, the calm and useless part of me pondered, running through the frosty woods at dawn while chasing a small creature would be all sorts of fun.

    We raced for a good five minutes.

    In a surprise maneuver, Giggler turned back and leaped, clinging onto my leg then climbing up to my waist and then struggling his way inside my jacket.

    "Ah! Hey! Cold feet! Ah, ah, cold monster! Prickly feet!"

    I hopped around in place, feeling a mix of shock and discomfort, as he wriggled his way around my abdomen. We danced like that for about half a minute, in the early dimness of the frozen woods, before he poked his head out.

    I held his mouth-parts in my fingers, pulling his head back and forth gently. "Were you cold? Were you a cold little monster?"

    "Keh-eeh."

    "Are you ready to come out now?"

    "Kekeke!"

    "Great. Lead on, popsicle toes."

    ~ °w° ~​

    Five minutes later, I looked out from behind the filthy foliage towards the trailer park where Giggler had pulled me. Normally this time of year there wouldn't be much foliage to hide behind, so our wonderful neighbors to the north had dressed up the scrubby bushes which marked the border of the state park. They helpfully contributed plastic bags to emulate leaves, bottles and cans and plastic cups to replace roots and mushrooms, shredded tires to look like fallen tree bark, a used condom to — I decided to not get close enough to even make fun of that. Seriously, eew.

    Was Nibbler really here, in this hygiene-forsaken wasteland of the cheapest, fake-est homes?

    Giggler was straining his harness, pulling with fierce determination.

    I squinted, scanning the mobile homes for any signs of activity. It was still early, not quite 8:AM, but the sun had been up for almost half an hour. These lazy trailer dwellers were probably still asleep, not already at work like Dad.

    Somewhere nearby, an engine sputtered itself awake. I crouched down behind a tree.

    Giggler used the distraction to turn his head, bite the four strands of twine which tethered his harness to my hand, and stab the taut strands with his serrated shoulder-blades.

    The severed twine went limp, and he scampered off eastward along the tree-line.

    I was frozen with fidgety indecision. The engine was still audible, but I couldn't see which car.

    I waited.

    I wished I knew where Giggler had run off. I strained my ears, concentrating on finding any sign of him.

    Predictably, since I was trying to concentrate and trying to hold still and wearing mittens and a hat, I got an itch on the back of my head. Or maybe my para-zits were allergic to wool. Stupid para-zits.

    The engine sound finally started moving away. I guess it had been out of my line of sight the whole time. Whew.

    I picked my way east, towards where I'd seen Giggler last, calling out soft as a stage whisper.

    "Giiigler! Come baaack!"

    Rustle. Rustle. I edged closer to the noises on my insufficiently stealthy tip-toes.

    Was that him? I saw a pile of leaves with a lizardy feathery tail protruding. The tail was twitching back and forth, making rustling noises. I wondered — ooh!

    A scraggly tabby cat was inching towards the feathery tail, far more stealthily than I could manage. I stopped to watch, transfixed by the idea of what was probably about to transpire. The cat had no collar, I noted idly.

    The scrawny stray padded forward, its last steps bounding into a pounce, which ended up as a surprise for only the cat. Alas, poor kitty. Pounce not onto little monsters, for the monsters pounce also onto you.

    They thrashed together for a moment. It was over quickly. Those shoulder-blade things did fast work.

    I kept watching.

    The cat screamed, then stopped thrashing. The cat's blood steamed in the cold morning air. Or maybe its insides steamed. I carefully inched closer.

    As I moved, Giggler turned his head and saw me. His mouth was stained red, and his eyes glinted yellow as they met mine. His toothy mouth closed, and he swallowed, and his whole body twitched. No, writhed. His muscles and bones were shifting under his skin, and his skin was, was, uh. Wow. His skin was growing orange fur.

    His shoulder blades retracted into stationary shoulder spikes.

    His forelimbs, previously relatively unthreatening, were now large and feline. I saw claws extend and retract.

    The orange fur covered his head, his legs, his tail.

    Another set of eyes opened on his head, behind the glowing ones. These eyes looked more normal, except for the vertical slit in the pupil. Woah. Cat's eyes.

    Giggler shuddered one last time, then picked up the still-steaming remains of the tabby and stalked towards me. Its gait was decidedly feline. I was still a bit transfixed as I watched him drop the remains at my feet, then look up at me, then nose the remains closer to me.

    I knelt down, reached a hand down to pick up the offering, and — and suddenly snapped out of my trance, back to cold reality.

    I held the body in my right mitten, hopefully out of view. I furtively checked over my left shoulder, dully resentful of the myriad trailer windows which loomed at me blankly, too close for comfort.

    "Alright," I assured my little tabby monster, nodding, "Okay. But not here."

    I stood and quietly, calmly, innocently sauntered back south through the woods. After a minute I couldn't see any windows, so I squatted down, put the carcass on some brown, frosty leaves, and took off my mittens. My right mitten was crusty with blood. My jeans were spattered, too.

    "Are you cold? Do you need some time in the coat-cave?" I stroked Giggler, whose fur was warm to the touch. Huh.

    I uncoiled my scarf, stuffed it in a pocket. I picked up the tabby's carcass in both hands, ignoring the blood, and held it up to my face. Sniff, sniff. It smelled good. I took a bite. It tasted good. Really good. Almost as good as that marshmallow-spider had tasted. I slurped up warm flesh and organs, crunched bones.

    Did things taste better the fresher they were? Note to self: sushi.

    For the first time since I woke up in the hospital, I felt satiated. I licked my fingers clean. Clean-ish. Hmm. Not actually clean enough to put my mittens back on. Note to self: get handi-wipes to take on my runs out alone in the woods. The quiet woods. The desolate woods with nobody in screaming distance.

    I looked around again, this time a bit furtively. Further notes to self: pepper spray, rape whistle, and a weapon maybe? I'd need training. Maybe a self-defense class, or martial arts? Hmm, need to do more research.

    Right, I was supposed to research cape stuff this morning.

    "Kekheee?" The little guy had been prowling around me while I ate.

    "You're being a good little monster." He seemed to be sticking closer to me since the, uh, since our outdoor breakfast. Even without the leash, he wasn't trying to escape.

    Maybe Nibbler would come back after he'd hunted something? It was a flimsy hope, but I didn't have any leads. I gave my newly furry creature some attention. It did enjoy petting and scratches, and its skin was warm under the fur. The twine harness seemed much tighter than it had been. Fur volume? Or did its frame expand that much when its forelegs bulked up?

    The harness was useless in any case. I scraped the twine against his shoulder spikes until the twine was frayed enough to snap, and removed the remnants. I buckled my mittens together and hung them from a belt-loop on my jeans. I wiped my face off as best I could without a mirror… then looked at Giggler.

    "Why can't I see out of your eyes like I could see out of the centipede?"

    "Kehhhheh?"

    "Well it sure would be convenient, I wish…" A bad taste gathered in the back of my mouth. I spit it out.

    Something green flashed between me and Giggler, then it hit him, and he twitched. I blinked. When I opened my eyes, I could see out of his as well as my own.

    Cradling my suddenly more convenient companion in the crook of my arm, I managed to wipe most of the blood off my face. Giggler's raspy tongue flicked out and scraped off a bit more.

    "Powers are awesome. You are awesome."

    I practically skipped home, with Giggler at my heels.

    ~ °w° ~​

    Sometimes I really hated this stupid city. Even the self-defense courses seemed racially segregated from what I could see online. It was difficult to tell if the all-white ones were actually using Empire double-speak. The martial arts "dojos" were easier, maybe because they were clumsier at double-speak. I knew to avoid the ones which stressed "traditional values" and had only Asian people in the pictures.

    Someone had to know about a gang-free self-defense class, maybe another dockworker with a daughter. I'd have to ask Dad. I gave up and decided to do some system maintenance.

    Mom used to do all our computer stuff, and she had showed how to do me most of the routine tasks which I was now doing. Kernel source update, pick some random library implementation updates — some local, some from far away, always a mix — configure the kernel modules, some optimal but others not, guess about the ones which I didn't actually understand, don't use a predictable random seed, confirm, set the current kernel as backup, confirm again, and away it chugs.

    It made me feel good to do this minor maintenance, this chore which Dad had somehow avoided learning throughout his marriage. Chug, whirr, beep. The library update schema in particular had always fascinated me. Since the first Thinker/Tinker hijack hacks in the early 90's, the computing world had moved really swiftly to a distributed model of development, using open-source operating systems for cheap home PCs like ours. An OS was simple enough to read through, but libraries could be huge and take hours or even days to build, so instead of compiling those locally, what happens is students keep the important ones up to date with standards, and collectively different colleges could provide at least twenty implementations of every library a program could need. That way there was no risk of computer monoculture, so even if some computers were exploited, not all of them could be attacked at the same time.

    As a distributed system, it worked very well: each class of students creating a new branch of code, all the libraries growing separately and competing against each other in fierce competition, the strongest surviving and being the basis for the next generation. It was kind of beautiful, almost organic.

    While our hard drive clicked and whirred, I idly wondered if I'd contribute to that some day, if I'd study computers in college and my code would migrate back to Dad's laptop.

    I went to check my email.


    From: laserdream@newwave.hero
    Subject: Re: Eating Weird Stuff???

    Hi Taylor,

    I'm sorry you were hospitalized.

    Panacea is currently out of the country for winter break. I don't know who healed you, but it sounds like you're experiencing something very abnormal. If you can't find out who provided your treatment, perhaps I could help? Let me know if you're still in Brockton Bay.

    I don't want to alarm you, but there have been cases of villains like Lab Rat exposing innocent people to very abnormal "cures". We haven't received any word of a new villain like that operating in Brockton Bay, so I hope this is just me being paranoid.

    Let me know if your appetite doesn't returned to normal. I'll get in contact with someone who can help, and I can put in a word to Panacea when she returns (but no guarantees there, she's super busy).

    Sincerely, Crystal Pelham (Laserdream)

    Oh wow!


    To: laserdream@newwave.hero
    Subject: Re: Eating Weird Stuff???

    Hi Laserdream OMG!

    It's so nice of you to write me back!
    But I don't think it was a villain, I think I got powers and just regenerated, so please don't contact anyone it's okay.
    Sorry if my email caused you trouble!!!
    And thank you so much for writing me back! -Taylor

    The compiler window beeped at me that it had completed, and I should reboot.

    I hit Send on the email, rebooted dad's laptop, and went to fix some lunch.
     
  5. Threadmarks: Fangs 0.4
    evildice

    evildice (Verified d4)

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    Chapter 0.4 - Fangs

    2011/01/06, almost noon

    Our old phone rang like an alarm bell. It was an authoritative ring: not shrill or feeble like the newer electronic ones. Stately almost, except for the way it made me scamper when I heard it.

    "Hello?"

    "It's me."

    "Hi Dad!"

    I could hear the bunched up wrinkles between his eyebrows. "How are your, um, how is everything?"

    "Good! Mostly good. Uh."

    "Talk to me, kiddo."

    "Okay." I tried to keep the giddiness out of my voice. "I emailed Panacea to say thanks, but then Laserdream wrote me back because Panacea is on vacation and I accidentally told her I have powers and now Laserdream wants to come over and say hi, she can come right from class, can she, is it okay?" Inhale. Deep breath. Exhale.

    "Wow. Wow, um, sure. Sure she can. Do you know when specifically?"

    "Probably after dinner?"

    "Sure."

    "Thanks Dad! Uh."

    "Hey, I know you're nervous, but I'm sure it'll be fine. I'm proud of you for talking to someone."

    "Uh, also." My throat was uncomfortably dry. I should really tell him about Nibbler. "Also I read online that the average American swallows seven spiders a year in her sleep so it's totally normal if I ate one last night."

    "That's interesting, but I've got to get back to work. See you around six?"

    "Uh, okay, love you. Uh."

    "Love you too, kiddo."

    Click.

    Damn it.

    I didn't want to tell him, so I didn't tell him, so I basically just lied to my dad. There was one way to fix that. I'd just have to find Nibbler before Dad got home.


    To: laserdream@newwave.hero
    Subject: Re: Eating Weird Stuff???

    Hi again Laserdream, sorry for the delay. Dad said sure!! I told him might to drop by after dinner. We're on the north side of Paul Revere (house 128), right on the Birch Creek woods. Our phone is 959-555-1261.
    Hope to see you later! Thanks again -Taylor

    I hit Send, then got ready to go out again.

    ~ °w° ~​

    2011/01/06, afternoon

    Jog, jog, stop. Hands on knees, heavy breathing.

    The woods to the east, by the river: no Nibbler.

    Jog, trudge.

    The public park south east of our house, near the bigger apartment units: no Nibbler.

    Trudge, trudge. No sign of Nibbler in the apartment development, either.

    I checked through the alleys and peeked into the dumpsters at the mall west of our house. I called for Nibbler quietly. I didn't go inside, because I didn't want to make trouble by bringing a pet in, and I didn't want to leave him alone outside.

    It was frustrating.

    I opened my mouth and billowed a steamy cloud in front of me. No use worrying about that. I'd do what I could and hope for the best.

    My legs were sore from all the jogging and walking. I trudged my way homeward, making one last stop on the way, at the side door of a prefab home much like my own.

    Knock. Knock.

    "Coming!"

    I heard soft steps on carpet. Step step thump, step step thump, step step thump.

    I took a breath in and addressed the door from my belly, with gusto, to pierce both the door and her hearing difficulty. "Hi Mrs. Santos!"

    A faint voice came from the other side of the door. "Oh it's Taylor, isn't that nice?"

    I heard a chain jangle, and two locks clicking open, and then the side door opened to reveal a wiry gray bun, then below it a wrinkled yet warm face, slightly tanned even in the dead of winter.

    "Sorry to bother you, Mrs. Santos."

    "Oh my, you're no bother, please come in."

    The old woman shuffled back, pulling the side door open as she went.

    I didn't want to make her keep the door open to the cold, but I had to ask first. "Can I bring in a pet? He's, uh, he's kind of a cat."

    "Of course, dear," she assured me, then turned and called into the house, "Karla! Come say hi to Taylor!"

    The reply was faint from distance and carpeting. "Coming Gramma!"

    The Santos' house was pretty much the same layout as ours, just like all the houses in our development, so I could guess that the thump-thump-thump of little bare feet was coming from upstairs. I pulled Giggler into the house by the skin on the back of his neck. He didn't complain much, so I guess he really was kind of a cat. The thumping slowed, that would be a careful descent of the stairs.

    I shut the door behind me and picked up my little monster, supporting him in the crook of my left arm. "Giggler, this is Mrs. Santos. Mrs. Santos, this is Giggler." I used my right hand to make him wave his paw.

    "Oh my, what a big boy you are!" She offered him the back of her hand. He huffed, licked her hand, and decided she wasn't very interesting, I guess, because he shrugged his way out of my grasp and onto the floor. "I'll just get him a saucer of milk. Would you like some nice milk, Giggler?"

    The thumping came to an abrupt halt just out of my line of sight. I saw a wing of raven-dark hair flutter into view, then a single wide, brown eye peeked at me down the hall from around corner that led to their living room.

    "Hi, Karla!" It looked like she was feeling shy. It had been a while since I babysat for her. Maybe longer. I wondered how long it had been. "How old are you?"

    "I'm four!"

    So it had been over a year. Time sure flies. "Wow, you're so big!"

    That emboldened her to stick her whole head around the corner. "You got a kitty?" Giggler was prowling around my feet, paying special attention to the door.

    "Yeah." Kinda. "His name is Giggler." I stepped on the back of one shoe with the other foot, pulling my feet out one by one, as I unzipped my coat.

    "Can I play with him?" Her voice was soft, but it somehow caught Giggler's attention.

    "He's brand new. You have to be careful." I stuffed my mittens into my coat pockets.

    "Is he a baby?"

    Mrs. Santos chuckled from the kitchen. "Oh Karla dear, he's too big to be a baby."

    "He's like a baby. You have to be really gentle and quiet with him, okay?" I wiggled my coat off and hung it by the door.

    "Okay," Karla whispered, and tiptoed closer.

    Giggler had been crouching at my feet, watching her. Now that she was moving closer, he ducked his head and stalked towards her. He wasn't making any noise. I followed behind him, ready to pounce if he tried anything.

    "He looks different from Mr. Fisher's cat," she whispered, looking up at me with her big brown eyes.

    "Maybe he's a different breed?" That seemed to settle her mind.

    She crouched down and held out her hand. "Here kitty kitty," she whispered. Her fingers wiggled.

    Giggler looked up at me. My eyes were wide and unblinking. I fixed him with a very serious gaze, and I nodded at him slowly, solemnly, authoritatively. "Play nice."

    He looked back at Karla, put one of his paws in her outstretched hand.

    She held his paw and shook it. "Hello Mr. Giggler," she whispered very seriously, "My name is Karla."

    Giggler shifted his weight forward, his body moving towards Karla. He licked her thumb. Her other hand reached over his head and stroked his fur away from her. He seemed to like that: his stance relaxed, and he moved closer.

    "Try scratching right behind his ears," I suggested.

    "Okay," she whispered, "Where's his ears?"

    "Sorta right around here. Yeah." Scratch scratch scratch.

    "Kekekeeeh!"

    "He purrs funny," she observed.

    "Yeah, he does. Sometimes I think he's laughing at me."

    "Keeeehkeh."

    "Come to the kitchen, dears, I put out some milk," Mrs. Santos called to us from around the kitchen corner.

    Karla immediately bounced up and thump-thump-thump'd away. "Coming Gramma!" Giggler followed at her heels. Huh.

    She skidded in her socks on the linoleum floor tiles. Giggler leaped, striking Karla just under her arm, and latched onto her with his large, strong forearms. I bounded towards them, my hand out to grab him, but his jaw was already separating and his mouth jerked up to her neck and, oh no, oh no, and he licked her ear.

    Huh.

    I aborted my tackle as gracefully as possible, which wasn't very graceful at all, but at least I was still standing up. The two littler beings were in the process of toppling over. One of them was shrieking with laughter as the other pawed and licked her.

    "What an affectionate cat."

    "I think he likes people?" I kept both of them in sight, and within my arm's reach.

    "Would you like some tea, Taylor?"

    "Oh, uh, sure. Yeah." Giggler had unlatched his separable lower jaw to lick Karla, but he wasn't biting her like Nibbler had done to me. My hand hovered over them like a seagull in the afternoon breeze, looking for a reason to dive. He was pawing her, pushing her head down, but his claws were not extended.

    Huh.

    Well, no reason to tempt fate. I pinched the furry skin at the back of his neck. Neck-ish area, I guess, he was so squat and solid. I slid a hand under his white, furry belly and half-pulled, half lifted him off of her.

    "C'mon. Mrs. Santos put some nice milk out for you."

    As I lifted Giggler, Karla used one arm to help her sit up, and grabbed the cuff of her sleeve into her other hand, which she used to clumsily wipe the monster drool from her face.

    "He's drooly like a big dog."

    "He sure is," I agreed. There was a bowl on the floor, a kind of mottled autumn brown glazed ceramic, a nice pattern I absently noted. There was milk in it. I set Giggler down in front of it.

    "Taylor, could you help me reach the tea?"

    "Of course!" I walked over to the cabinets where Mrs. Santos was standing, pointing. "Which one?"

    "Can you reach the Rooibos?"

    It wasn't all that high. I handed her the box of teabags, smiling the smile of a person who is useful.

    "It's a red tea?"

    "It is. Do you like those, dear?"

    "It smells nice."

    "Red teas are very aromatic."

    "Sounds delish." My gaze returned to Giggler, who was lapping at the milk in the ceramic bowl. His lower jaw was split, perhaps to facilitate better slurping. Karla was standing nearby, staring at him, just like I was.

    "I like to let it steep for four minutes."

    "Mrs. Santos, I was wondering if you could do me a favor."

    "Of course."

    "We had another, uh, pet. Sort of like Giggler but, uh, sort of different. He ran away this morning."

    "Oh dear. Did you call the shelters?"

    "I will. But if they don't have him, I was wondering if you could ask around."

    "Of course I will."

    "And uh, maybe put up a Lost Pet poster at church this weekend?"

    "You should come yourself."

    I sighed. "You know, we're not really, uh."

    She let my unfinished sentence hang for a long moment. "I know, dear, but they're good people. We're a good community."

    I couldn't really refute that, or even look her in the eyes. I looked down at Giggler instead. Karla had just moved around him and squatted down to watch him slurp up close. He sidled his body around the milk bowl, interposing it between her and his prize. She stood up and moved further around.

    Mrs. Santos relented. "Alright, dear, but tell your father that you're both invited to services this Sunday."

    "Thanks. I'll tell him."

    "Now, show me this poster."

    I had drawn a picture. Unfortunately the picture wasn't very good, and double unfortunately I didn't know what he would look like if he changed after he ate, like Giggler had done. I unfolded the paper in my back pocket and showed it to her.

    "Just a moment, I need my glasses." She hobbled off to their living room.

    I put my terrible drawing on the kitchen table and squatted down next to Giggler. He looked up at me, the chin of his inner jaw dripping with milk. I stroked his furry back.

    Karla also looked up at me. "He has lots of teeth."

    "Yeah, he does."

    "Karla, dear? Could you run upstairs and get your crayons and big paper? Taylor needs to make some drawings."

    "Okay Gramma!" Karla shot up, watched by Giggler's two more catlike eyes, and (thump-thump-thump) hurried up the stairs.

    Mrs. Santos was standing in the doorway, wearing her glasses. Her left hand on her cane was shaking. "Taylor, dear, that's not a cat."

    "He's part cat! Kinda."

    Giggler chose this moment to turn towards us and make a whuffly, snuffly sound. It might have been an aborted purr, or perhaps a burp, or maybe even a hairball complaint. Did monsters burp politely to compliment a meal? Was that actually a foreign custom? Whatever.

    "Taylor, what have you brought into my home?"

    "I'm sorry. I, I should go, I'll just go."

    "Taylor Hebert!" I flinched to a halt. I guess all moms automatically learned the Strict Mom Voice. "Are you in some kind of trouble?"

    "No, no, nothing like that. I'm just — I'm worried. About the other one."

    I looked up. Her dark, grandmotherly eyebrows had gone from angry to surprised.

    "There were two. This morning, the other one ran away. I don't know where he is. But I think he might be a danger to someone's pet."

    "You think it might attack pets?"

    "Yeah. And, uh, this is the weird part. After they hunt something, they sort of turn into it. Giggler didn't look like a cat before this morning. Not before he," gulp, "not before he ate one."

    "Where did you get these creatures?"

    "I can't tell you. I'm sorry."

    "Taylor, dear, you know you can trust us."

    "I do trust you! But, but I can't."

    Neither of us spoke for a moment. The kettle whistled into the silence between us.

    "It's winter. Pets will be indoors mostly, but I'll tell the neighbors. There's something which may attack animals."

    I practically sagged with relief. "Thank you." For what you're not saying, what you're not asking. "Thank you so much."

    "About your poster." She was pouring the hot water into a teapot on the counter by the stove, not looking at me. "It should tell people what you just told me. You're not just looking for your lost pet, you're also warning them."

    "Yeah, I was thinking about that, but I'm worried about putting our home phone number on something like that."

    "Could you use someone else's phone number?" She caught my hopeful look. "No, not ours, dear. Someone at animal services? Or the police?"

    "Oh, yeah, that's a good idea. The police have been really nice."

    Out of the corner of Giggler's eye, I caught Karla peeking at us from around the edge of the staircase bannister.

    "Good, so you did already call them. That's our Taylor."

    "Uh."

    "Gramma? I got the paper and crayons."

    "Good girl! Now, sit right up here across from Taylor, and Taylor will hold her pet in her lap, and the two of you can each make a poster for Mr. Giggler's lost brother."

    I picked up my tabby furred monster, who was licking the dregs from the bowl, which I also picked up and put in the sink. I sat down again, and we started drawing.

    When we finished, the crayons were mostly un-eaten.

    Mostly.

    ~ °w° ~​

    2011/01/06, dusk

    We managed to get home before dark, which means before 4:30 because that's how winter is around here: cold, wet, and dark way too early.

    We did a quick circuit around the house, just in case Nibbler had come home, but there was nothing. The frozen chicken leg I'd hung out by the side door was still hanging there, frozen, unbitten. In retrospect, it was a bad idea: frozen things don't smell good, so how would he even know to try eating it?

    Oh well. I stamped the icy dust off my shoes. We went inside. I unbundled.

    The answering machine light was blinking. I hit the playback button. BEEP.

    Hello Mr. Hebert, this is Detective Blair. If possible, we'd like your help to clear up some communication issues we seem to be having with your daughter's school. Best time to reach me is this afternoon before four o'clock, or tomorrow morning after ten AM. Or you can just leave your office number with dispatch and I'll ring you up. Cheers."

    Well that was ominous. I knew the school blew me off, but it sounded like they weren't even cooperating with the cops. BEEP.

    Hey kiddo, just calling to check in. Call me back when you get home.

    Aww. It felt good that Dad was talking to me again. BEEP.

    The last message was about ten seconds of electronic tape hiss, maybe some breathing. Something snapping? More nothing. BEEP.

    Probably just a wrong number. I picked up the phone and called the Dockworker's Union HQ.

    Ring! Ring! "Hello?!"

    "Hey Dad, it's me."

    "Hey kiddo."

    "Sorry I missed your call."

    "Everything okay?"

    "I'm fine, but one of my little creatures ran away. I was looking for him outside. I'm sorry, I should have told you earlier."

    The other end of the line was silent for two breaths. I continued.

    "I looked all around the area, and I talked to the neighbors, and I'm going to start putting up signs but I wanted to talk to you about the phone number because I don't know if we want people calling the house or having our name out there since then everyone would know that we were the ones with, uh, with them. The monsters."

    "We can talk about that when I get home."

    "Can you buy some leashes and collars?"

    "You want to take them for walks?" His disbelief stung a little.

    "The one who didn't run away," but not for lack of trying, I omitted, "became very calm and docile after we went for a run together this morning. I think they need exercise or something."

    "Well, alright." He sounded mollified. "I'll stop at a pet shop. See you around six."

    "Oh and Dad! Laserdream is coming over after class! Don't forget!"

    He sighed a little, but I could hear his smile behind it. "I'll be on my best behavior."

    We said our goodbyes and hung up.

    I puttered around the internet as the sky darkened.

    ~ °w° ~​

    2011/01/06, 6:10 PM

    Dad was late. Not enough to make me worry, but I was worried anyway.

    I felt this tingle, like the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up, but they weren't because I had stupid para-zits there instead, but whatever, this tingle was giving me an increasing sense of foreboding.

    The house was quiet. Too quiet. It was making me feel like I was watching a horror movie, where the music turns all high-tension jittery strings and then suddenly —

    Bing-bong-dong-ding! I must have jumped a foot in the air as our cheap electronic doorbell sang its tinny tune.

    I hurriedly tip-toed to the suddenly threatening front door and peeked through the spy lens thing. Peep hole? Argh, focus Taylor.

    I peeped. Of course I hardly saw anything since the front house light was dark, probably burnt out months ago, but I did see the lens-bulged outline of a non-threatening face. She was a long-haired blond girl wearing red-rimmed glasses and red earmuffs.

    Summoning up my courage, I opened the front door a crack and peered out.

    "Hello?"

    "Hi! Are you Taylor?"

    "Yes, um, Crystal?"

    "Bingo!" she beamed at me, and I swung the door wider.

    "You're early." I tried not to say it like the accusation that it was. I put on a smile. "Come on in."

    "Thanks! I should have called, but I was just so excited to meet you!" She continued beaming at me as she doffed her earmuffs (red), stuffed her scarf (red) into her ski parka (purple), and wiped off her glasses (red plastic under frame) with one of those special fabric glass cleaning cloths (purple). Her blouse was white and purple. At least her jeans were blue. I held out my hands to take her stuff, and hung it up.

    "I didn't know you wore glasses."

    "They're Kents!" She tilted down her head and peered at me over the lens rim, smiling conspiratorially. "I just wear 'em at school to cut down on autograph requests from total strangers."

    It felt weird that someone famous was being nice to me, treating me like an equal who was privy to industry secrets. Weird, but nice. I felt a genuine smile wash over my face. "Can I make you tea or something?"

    "Anything hot would be great. Are you in high school? Let me guess, you're a senior?" She was practically bouncing across the kitchen on the balls of her feet.

    "Just a sophomore," I confided, "We've got tea or Swiss Miss."

    "Hot chocolate please!"

    As I put the kettle on the stove, I felt the tingle begin to itch its way up my spine. I spun around, but the only thing out of place was Crystal's mischievous expression looking down at me. Oh, she was flying.

    "Hmm-hmm! Now that's settled, Taylor, let's talk about powAAAAAAGH!"

    From atop the refrigerator, a furry blur of violence crashed down on my guest.

    "Giggler, no!" It wasn't blind panic only because I could see everything clearly, far too clearly. "Stop!"

    He leaped at her face, both claws extended. The left claw caught her under her chin, digging into the skin of her jaw. The right claw struck at her hairline then dragged down, opening a slash of crimson across her forehead, through her eyebrow, knocked her glasses off and stuck in her eye. He bent his elbows and brought his mouth closer to her screaming mouth and I was too slow, I was not going to reach them, it was all going wrong, oh shit, I had to make him —

    "Stop!"

    I put everything I had into that shout, and amazingly it was enough. Giggler practically threw himself off her.

    "AAAAAAAAAH!"

    I threw myself between them, gripping her shoulder. Half of her face was covered in blood, and I could see some kind of clear fluid leaking from her ruined eye, mixing with the blood.

    This was all wrong, I needed to fix this, I needed to fix her. I wished my powers would help me make things better.

    An uncomfortable liquid fullness rose in my throat. I spat it at her, spat a stream of black liquid directly into her face.

    Something struck me square in the gut, hard, and I flew up at an angle, across the kitchen, and cracked the back of my head on the ceiling of the living room.

    I stumbled back into the kitchen. The kitchen was a mess. Giggler was against the kitchen wall, near the basement door. One of his forelegs was bent wrong, probably broken. I was going to fall down. I pushed and leaned and lurched and managed to fall in front of Giggler. I reached out, there, I could see through his eyes, my hand getting closer. I held onto him, pulled him onto me, whispering, "Ssh, ssh. Stay. Be good."

    "You healed me."

    "I'm so- sorry," I whispered. "I didn't know, I didn't know he would do that." I pulled Giggler's warm furry body to my chest, clutched him close, held him there.

    I looked over at Crystal. There was a red sheen in the air between us: her shield must be up. Her face was smeared with my dark, sticky goop. She was looking at me with two wide eyes, both whole and unpunctured. She was poking at her forehead and wiping the oily goop away with her fingertips.

    "I think," I gasped, still breathless from the gut-punch, "I think I ruined your shirt."

    She looked down at the mottled purple-brown goop dripping down her blouse, then back over at me, and then she started laughing.

    I started laughing, too.

    And that's how Dad found us when he walked in.
     
  6. Threadmarks: Fangs 0.5
    evildice

    evildice (Verified d4)

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    Chapter 0.5 - Fangs

    2011/01/06, evening

    I was lying on my back on the kitchen floor, slumped against the basement door. My right arm was clutching Giggler to me. With my left, I waved weakly and croaked out, "Welcome home Dad. Say hi to Crystal."

    This set off a mildly unladylike guffaw from Crystal. To his credit, Dad didn't drop the grocery bags, but I could see through Giggler's eyes that his eyebrows were up a ways. He closed the side door behind him and walked over to me.

    "I bumped my head," I offered woozily, taking his outstretched hand. When had he put the groceries down? Things were getting away from me. I had to explain, had to get the situation back under control: "It was an accident," I continued. I let him pull me up so I was sitting, leaning against the basement door, and braced myself against the doorframe, against the room's spin. Somehow, I missed the wall, or slipped, and I was slumping down into —

    ~ °w° ~​

    I floated in my lovely green goldfish pond utopia. Pentagonal lily-pads dotted the shining surface above me, tethered to the nourishing depths by sleek green-grey tendrils.

    Far above the surface, a bright golden sun flashed, and the flashes reverberated, rippled in the pond above me, around me, within me. The reverberations meant something.

    The sun flashed again, rays of brilliance swaying with different reverberations. I reached for the meaning, and —

    ~ °w° ~​

    "—lor?"

    I opened my eyes.

    "Taylor?"

    I was on the floor in the kitchen. The golden thing wafting above me was just the ceiling lamp filtering through Crystal's hair, hanging down around her upside-down goop-smeared face as she hovered over me. Literally. Three feet up, presumably to give Dad room to crouch down next to me.

    "Hi," I managed.

    She smiled, and I felt someone squeeze my hand. "Are you alright?"

    "Hey, Dad."

    The ringing sound in my ears stopped. Weird, I hadn't noticed it start.

    "Taylor, look at me." I looked up at her. She floated closer. "Hmm. Pupils are the same size."

    "That's good, right?" Dad sounded worried.

    "So far so good. Taylor, do you feel nauseous?"

    "Not even, I'm starved." I looked at Crystal, her face upside down, hovering in concern. I waved her away with my free hand, shooing her off like a seagull. "Getting up now."

    Crystal smirked as she hovered back a bit and gestured expansively for me to go ahead.

    I lurched, slipped, and went down, banging my knee into the floor. "Ow."

    I held out Giggler, and Dad took him in the crook of an elbow. I tried standing again, leaning on Dad's other hand as he stood up, leaning on the doorframe. This time it worked.

    "Dizziness?" Crystal asked, floating down behind Dad. As she did, Giggler took a half-hearted swipe at her. His claws impacted her shield, sending red flashes across the glowing surface like a lattice of leaf-veins.

    "Stop that," I scolded him, as she jumped back half a step.

    "Do you feel faint or dizzy?" Dad asked, shifting his arm to hold the little beast further from our guest.

    "Not faint. A little — uh, nevermind, not dizzy now."

    "Thank god," he sagged. "She said you might have a concussion."

    "Alright, Taylor, try walking around."

    I took a few steps. "No problems."

    "Spin around once?"

    I twirled on the ball of my left foot, pulled in my arms to go faster, remembering how Emma and I once tried ballet class, before. I stopped myself with a stomp, feeling a bit angry and sad, facing in the same direction as I'd started. Mostly. "Doing that felt stupid, but didn't make me dizzy." Damn, that came out more aggressive than I'd intended.

    Crystal nodded, ignoring my momentary hostility, satisfied at her diagnostic capabilities. "Well, my official heroic opinion as a member of New Wave is that you should totally see your doctor, but cape to cape," she added, landing lightly on her sneaker toes and settling down, "if it was me, I wouldn't bother."

    "Hey, you. On the subject of you. How's your eye?"

    "Totes."

    Dad's eyes were wide. "Did the, uh, the goop, did it hurt your eye?"

    "No sir, your daughter's healing goop fixed my eye," she replied, as her dainty pointer finger wiped a thick strand of the dark substance from her golden eyebrow, "but I could use a towel."

    Dad blinked at me. "You have healing goop?"

    "I'm as surprised as you are."

    "You're so new," Crystal bounced, inexplicably chipper, "it's great. But, hey, towel?"

    Dad and I both turned to look at her. I touched the goop clotting her hair. "It's stickier than the stuff from this morning. Maybe you could shower and stay for dinner and then go home?"

    "Sure," Dad agreed, nodding with proud New England hospitality, "and that would give us time to get her clothes washed and dried."

    "That would be nice," Crystal smiled, fishing in a front pocket for her phone, "let me just drop the 'rents a line."

    "Taylor, would you help Crystal wash up, and take care of the laundry?"

    "Sure," I nodded, walking ahead of her. "Right this way, dear guest."

    "And… sent. Is it safe to leave the little guy with your dad?" She gestured towards the furball with her phone.

    "He's been good around people all day," I assured her, "It's just you he attacked."

    "So you made him, right? He's part of your power?"

    "Right."

    Her phone buzzed. "Hmmmmmmmmm," she pondered, drawing out the sound as she thumbed a reply into her phone, "and I'm the first cape you've met since… ?"

    "Yeah, but he was fine with normal people. Even kids." We were at the stairs. I went up ahead of her.

    "Hmm-hm-hm," she practically sang, "I wonder if he only attacks capes, and if that gets you a Trump ra— oh, oh shit."

    "What's wrong?"

    "There's blood all over the back of your head."

    I turned back to her. "What? No way."

    Her phone buzzed, but she stuck it into her jeans, then reached around and touched my back between my shoulders. When she pulled her hand back, it was slick with red blood.

    "Shit. What do I do?" Alarm washed over me, threatening to become panic.

    "Amy will be back in town tomorrow evening," she reassured me, touching my elbow with her dry hand, "If you don't feel one hundred percent, call me. I'll make sure she sees you."

    "Okay. That sounds okay."

    "You regenerate, right?"

    "Yeah. Yes."

    "Alright. If you feel okay, probably means you are okay."

    Her assurance was calming. "Okay."

    "Right now, you should probably wash that out, and I'll look if there's any damage after we get all the blood off."

    That was a good plan, but my bathroom was too small. I called down the stairs, trying my hardest to sound calm, to sound natural. "Da~ad! I need to wash too! Can we use your bathroom?"

    "Go ahead!"

    ~ °w° ~​

    [​IMG]

    Author's Note: There are no genuine iPhones on Earth Bet, not since Noelle's broke.

    ~ °w° ~​

    I left the bathroom feeling relieved. Wait, that sounds wrong.

    I left the bathroom feeling as though a great weight had been lift— goddamn it.

    I left the bathroom. My hair was damp, but clean of blood. Crystal had reported that my scalp was whole, unblemished, and she helped me inspect the top and back of my head with two mirrors. It was a relief that the damage, while scary, was only temporary.

    Padding softly down the stairs in my bathrobe and bath-slippers, I brought our armful of battle-soiled clothes to the washing machine. While loading the machine, I noticed that some of the goop had gotten on to the arm of my bathrobe. Whatever, I'd wash it tomorrow.

    I could hear my dad's voice in the kitchen.

    "Yes, I understand. I'll talk to them and get back to you. No, thank you very much. Yes. Goodbye." The phone clattered into its hard plastic cradle.

    I heard him sigh.

    Curious, I reached for Giggler's sight. It took me a moment to orient myself to the unfamiliar perspective, then I realized he was back on top of the refrigerator, right where he'd leaped from when he attacked Crystal. He was gazing at Dad.

    A chill slunk down my spine, and my heart raced.

    As if he sensed my anxiety, Giggler lifted his head from his paws sharply, and peered around the room, checking every corner for a threat.

    He didn't consider Dad any kind of threat. That was a relief.

    Apparently my relief was also communicated, and I saw Giggler's perspective lower again, felt his hind-legs slump from a tense crouch to a lazy sprawl.

    Hmm, maybe he wasn't gazing at Dad after all. Maybe he was gazing at the steaks in the pan. The steaks did smell pretty good. I pulled my awareness back to my own body and quietly padded into the kitchen.

    "Hey Dad?"

    He jerked around. "Taylor."

    "I wanted to tell you something." Why was even this so difficult?

    "Is it about the blood on the walls and ceiling?"

    "It got on the ceiling?!"

    He stared at me with a helpless mix of frustration, anxiety and compassion.

    "Yeah. Yeah, it's about the blood. I figured it probably got on the wall and I wanted to tell you about it."

    "Are you okay?"

    "Yes. I'm fine. She examined my whole head upstairs and there's not even a scar."

    He tried to smile. "That's good."

    "I don't know if it's good. It's weird."

    Empathetic pain flinched across his face. I kept talking.

    "Everything's weird, but I'm fine. I feel fine."

    He nodded, and for a second it looked like he wanted to comfort me. I suddenly became self-conscious about the fact that I was just wearing a bathrobe. I sidled towards the living room, towards the stairs.

    "Anyway I just stopped down to start the laundry, I'll let you get back to dinner."

    "See if you can find Crystal some clothes. She's smaller than you, maybe some of your old stuff?"

    "I will."

    ~ °w° ~​

    The three of us sat around the kitchen table. Giggler had been banished to the basement as punishment for predatorily pouncing at our guest's foot as she exited the bathroom, only to ineffectually scrape against her shield. Poor little guy.

    Crystal was better off. The goop turned out to be water-soluble, so she was able to clean up pretty quickly, and that meant the stains on her clothes were probably going to wash out fine as well. Her clothes, along with some of mine, were tumbling around in the washing machine.

    For now, she was wearing an old flannel shirt of mine, which I'd outgrown before it could wear out, along with a pair of my cargo shorts and two of my fuzziest wool socks. It rankled me a bit that she filled my shirt so much better than I could. I tried not to dwell on it.

    It also rankled me that she could so casually fly up and clean my blood off the ceiling.

    I sighed at the unfairness of getting powers which weren't flight, then put the thought aside and went back to debriefing Dad on what we'd learned in the shower, including my newest unexpected physical feature.

    "Can you show me the discoloration?"

    I moved aside the damp curtain of my hair and showed him what had become of my para-zits.

    "See? These where white and smooth this morning, now they're brown and rough."

    "They're hair colored," Crystal offered helpfully.

    "But if they keep growing…"

    "You'll figure it out. How to control your powers, I mean. Show him the other one."

    I steeled myself, then I stood up and lifted my shirt, exposing my abdomen and the brown patch of rough, brown, knobby skin which covered most of my belly.

    "Interesting, right? But the most interesting part is this." Crystal was far more enthusiastic about it than I was. "Mr. Hebert, make a fist, I'm going to zap your arm."

    "Okay." She closed one eye and cocked her head like she were aiming her finger, and fired a thin, red beam at his shoulder. "Ow."

    "Now, watch this." She zapped my belly with a similarly thin beam. It stung and itched a bit. "The fluid layers underneath the rigid surface diffuse the kinetic energy. She barely even felt that!"

    Being treated like a freak show exhibit was annoying. "Okay, show's over, no more zapping." I shoved my shirt down, covering myself.

    Crystal ignored my umbrage, chattering happily at Dad. "I think it might mean Taylor has adaptive regeneration!"

    "That's good, right?"

    "It's fantastic!"

    "It's not! I don't want to look like that, and I can't figure out how to get rid of it."

    She waved off my concerns airily. "You'll figure it out, don't worry." Then she snorted out a giggle. "Actually, have I told you about when Eric got his powers?"

    "Your brother, Shielder?"

    Huh. "Dad. You're a cape geek now?"

    Crystal was annoyingly good at glossing over my interjections. "That's right, Mr. Hebert. He unintentionally shielded himself in the bathroom, and he couldn't let the shield down to get at the doorknob. But the hilarious part was that whatever he was doing in there, he was too embarrassed to let Mom or me fly him out though the window. He was stuck in there for three hours, and he totally missed dinner that night. Finally Dad got fed up and crashed through the wall."

    My sympathy for Shielder expanded threefold.

    "But anyway, my point is that he did learn to control his power, and so will you." She looked at me with such an earnest expression, so confident in her hope.

    I deflated, my scathing retort lost. "Okay. I'll try."

    "Atta girl!"

    My sulky desire to retort scathingly was reignited. Being annoyed made me remember my hunger. "Can we eat already?"
     
  7. Threadmarks: Fangs 0.6
    evildice

    evildice (Verified d4)

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    Chapter 0.6 - Fangs

    2011/01/06, evening

    Dinner had been eaten. It had been chicken and rice with some kind of gravy. It had not been as tasty as I'd hoped, which was weird, since it seemed like everything turned delicious after I … after the hospital. Something nagged at me, a familiar yet familiar memory, faint as the echo of a day-old dream. It was almost but not quite the smell of blood and wow did I not want that memory during dinner.

    Dinner, right. People are talking. A shiver ran up my spine, and my eyes darted around the table, at Crystal and Dad. They were looking at me.

    "Well," Crystal poked my shoulder, "what's your guess?"

    "Uh, forty-two?"

    Dad snorted, smiled a rare smile. "You haven't even read that yet."

    "Alright, fine," Crystal sighed with obvious over dramatization, "I'll shut up about it."

    "The thing you do with the boats was interesting," Dad prompted.

    "It's nothing special."

    "No, seriously. You're helping the economy, helping an industry." He looked at me and moved his head like I was supposed to agree.

    "Dad's in charge of hiring for the Dockworkers Union," I explained.

    "And it's really nice to see a cape helping out with that. Usually capes seem to, well, break things."

    "Sure, but Amy heals people, so what I'm doing is really no big deal," Crystal protested.

    At this point my curiosity got the better of me. "Sorry, I was tuned out, what were we talking about?"

    "Laserdream has a job as a spotter boat."

    "Well, it's basically like I'm a glorified lifeguard, but for research boats instead of the beach, and I have to wear a full diving suit because it's winter."

    "Cool," I offered.

    "It's probably something any flier could do, but they don't because they wouldn't get any lab credit because of secret identities."

    I was about to object, but I couldn't figure out how to get lab credit as a secret identity. I settle for asserting that, "Well, most of the fliers in town are villains or New Wave."

    "Aegis," she countered, mid-forkful, then took the bite.

    "So, uh, what do the boats do?"

    "Research," Dad filled in as Crystal chewed, "They do environmental research about the Bay and the Sound."

    "Oh, that's cool," I conceded.

    "And it's lab credit," Crystal said.

    "College credits are good," Dad asserted blandly, his eyes flickering towards me with careful neutrality.

    "I'll try, okay?" I huffed, then asked Crystal, "So, does your class wetsuit fit your costume colors?"

    "Mmmhah," she excitedly chewed, swallowed, "Yeah, they got me a really good facsimile."

    I felt a certain frustration about a personal competitiveness of which I'd been previously unaware. It was unfamiliar, but it somehow reminded me of the current Emma, and so I pushed it away.

    "That's really cool," I said instead.

    "I know, right?" Crystal enthused, "I'm not sure if you can take college courses yet, but if you do decide to go public, you can probably do something similar, since you've got all this, like, biology stuff."

    She gestured at the basement door. I checked on my Giggler connection: it's dark, it smells pretty nice. Nicer than dinner. Weird.

    "What's the environmental research say?" Dad asked.

    "Aaaaactually," she enthused, "it's super interesting, mainly because of Aleph. My professor says it's an ecological windfall, because we can actually compare against their policy results. Did you know that on Aleph the Grand Banks Atlantic Cod is basically extinct?"

    "You're kidding."

    "Totes for real."

    "How'd they manage that?" Dad asked.

    "Apparently if we'd continued the pace of commercial fishing for even one more decade, we'd be equally screwed," Crystal said, "But over there, the lobsters might be filling the ecological niche."

    "More lobsters, but no cod. Weird."

    "Their oceans are also almost a half an average degree warmer."

    "Is that a lot?" Dad inquired.

    "Last ice age was five average degrees different."

    "Wow." Dad sounded impressed. Honestly I was too, it was nice that we were better than Aleph in even one way, even if it was as dumb and useless way like having cod.

    "Yeah, so like, there's money in figuring out exactly what went differently for us and Aleph."

    "Leviathan is good for fish?" The joke felt flat even to me.

    "Don't even joke about that," Dad chided, his voice soft.

    "So anyway, they send two or three boats out at a time, and I can cover that many, so they don't need any kind of Coast Guard escort if I'm along. Or pace boats, whatever they call them."

    For once, I was grateful for Crystal's apparent ability to paper over any dumb thing I said.

    "Are you majoring in environment, uh, studies?"

    "Marine biology," she beamed at me, "but I've got another year to decide for sure," she noted, glancing at Dad for some reason, setting down her fork on her clean plate.

    "Oh, so that's why you can Baywatch for lab credit."

    Crystal's retort was interrupted by her phone buzzing, and behind her pointed finger the heat fell away from her face as she glanced down.

    "Oops, gotta take this." She smiled apologetically and slid out of her chair, talking into the phone. "Heeeeey, Mom."

    I took the opportunity to clear her place and start scraping leftovers off our plates.

    "Mind if I save the bones and stuff for the monsters?"

    "You can't keep calling them that."

    I sighed. "You're right."

    "Taaaaaaaylor!" Crystal called from the living room, "Mom wants to know how long until the blood and viscera is washed out of my clothes."

    I whispered to dad: "What's viscera?"

    "Guts," he whispered back, looking at me with wide-eyed concern again.

    "Good word," I confided, then shouted back, "Fifteen minutes and there was no viscera!" Then I thought back to the cat in the woods, and quietly added, "… on your clothes. No viscera on your clothes."

    "She says fifteen minutes, so with changing and flying, I'll be home in an hour," Crystal said cheerily into her phone, totally not hearing my addendum, then she paused to listen, tapping the edge of the case. "Yep." Tap tap. "Yes." She looked back at me and dad. "The spotted blue frog with the poofy yellow eyes. Look, I said I'll see you soon."

    Crystal's last reply sounded cross. I half turned to look, ready to make a sympathetic face if decorum required, but she wasn't looking at me at all. She was facing the door, a frosty and humorless but very toothsome smile frozen on her face. Her red finger nail tapped her white teeth. I listened with bated breath, a half-rinsed plate motionless in my grasp.

    The voice on the other end of the line said something, and Crystal's snarky rictus melted into a far less angry expression. "Alright. Love you too Mom!"

    She thumbed her phone inert, then looked over at me.

    "Everything okay?" I asked, feeling a bit lame.

    "Yep, we're good," she said, walking back into the kitchen. "It's just frustrating, they need to trust —" here she froze for almost a whole second, with an ah-ha look at me "— actually that's a thing you guys should totally do. Okay, so, we have some specific codes we use. Not just passwords, that's too easy to fake. Family stuff, which a Stranger or Master wouldn't know, like what stuffed animal was on my bed for most of fourth grade."

    Dad was nodding.

    "Just, uh, make sure you confirm the facts before hand. Victoria almost got containment foamed one time because she forgot which of her kindergarten pets was imaginary."

    That got a chuckle.

    "Anyways, make it something which the people around you won't know if you're lying or not, but your dad will."

    "My first cape trick."

    "Right. Good segue. There are some other tricky cape things I should tell you about."

    ~ °w° ~​

    Crystal was pulling on her nice warm fresh from the dryer clothes. I was standing in the doorway, protesting the stupidity of the unwritten rules.

    "But that's stupid!"

    "It's the way things work."

    "But how can everyone just pretend to not know."

    "I guess it's like those old gangster movies. Everyone knows who the mob boss is, but they can't touch him without evidence, and getting the evidence is expensive."

    "So they just let them…"

    "Yeah, but they also let us. In a way it sucks, but it's also why cape kids mostly survive."

    "But okay, so a villain doesn't personally kill or whatever, but he's got a gang which does sometimes kill people. The gang is under PRT jurisdiction because of the cape leader, and the cape leader pretty much can't be touched because he's personally obeying the cape rules, even though his organization is, uh, is just not."

    "You're quick," Crystal said with approval, "That's basically Brockton Bay in a nutshell."

    "That sucks."

    "Hey, maybe if you make more refrigerator death cats, we can drop them near suspected villain hideouts and just wait to see who runs out with no eyes."

    I nodded, wide-eyed, calculating in my head. "Okay. How many would we need, and how soon?"

    "Earth to Taylor, that was an over-the-top joke intended to evoke humor utilizing the outrage response, you're not supposed to ask about logistics." She flicked my forehead.

    "Ow."

    "But seriously, can you make more death cats?"

    "Probably. Giggler just happened this morning."

    "Okay. You really need to call the PRT about that. They can get nervous about Masters like you. Make an appointment to go in and register as a hero, get the Wards talk, all that stuff."

    "Can they help me train my guys?"

    "I'm sure they have a great class on how to not eat your friend's face."

    My cheeks burned, and my heart thundered in my ears. "I'm so-sorry."

    "Don't worry about it. You're new and it helped us discover your healing goop, which could turn out to be something awesome."

    "B-but—"

    "But next time it'll be Eric or Victoria sparring with you while I fly overwatch." She nodded to herself, looking pleased at that thought.

    "No, I mean that's a good idea, but I mean, it's, uh," sniffle, brave face, "It's been a while since someone called me a friend."

    "Taylor. This is definitely not the last time we do this." She floated over and ruffled my hair. "You have my contact info. I will see you soon."

    I looked up at her. My face was still red. Flying was such bullshit. "Okay."

    "Text me tomorrow, okay? Or email?"

    "Okay."

    "Great. Now I really have to get home. Thank you for dinner, Mr. Hebert!"

    "You're welcome any time, Crystal!"

    "Fly safe!"

    "Always do. G'night!"

    She had turned off her shield before stepping out the back door into the driveway, and then she took off.

    I walked around the house so I could watch her fly away. She started out moving west, over to the shopping area, then stopped completely. She turned on her shield, and then rose up a bit before accelerating north, where I guess she lived. It was only a small misdirection, but it was still interesting to see how the secret world of capes worked on a practical level.

    ~ °w° ~​

    I finished cleaning up the kitchen.

    The house seemed too quiet, I reflected, in the aftermath of hurricane Crystal.

    Just knocking on the pipes, the sputtering whistle of the radiator, scratching at the cellar d— oops, Giggler was still shut down there. I unlatched the cellar door, and he scampered out immediately. I watched him make a circuit of the kitchen, favoring one foreleg, and he was nosing around the living room when he suddenly scampered back to stop me from shutting the door.

    He bounded down the steps, then crouched down on his haunches, staring up at me with his fore claws on the lowest stair. His original non-cat eyes glinted yellow in the darkness.

    Was that rattling growl supposed to be some kind of a purr?

    Carefully, step by step, I tiptoed down into the cellar to see what it was Giggler wanted to show me.

    He had prepared dessert.

    ~ °w° ~​

    Half a mouse, half a cockroach, and half a piquant wriggly centipede later, we made our way upstairs. Well, I made my way, carrying Giggler nestled in my arm, with his head lazily hanging over my shoulder.

    Food was weird, I mused contentedly. The assembled half-eaten carrion gathered by Giggler had been tastier and somehow more filling than the generous portions of chicken and rice Dad had provided.

    I stroked Giggler's orange fur. "Good boy." He did his growly-purr rattle thing all the way up the cellar stairs. I shifted Giggler to my left arm so I could reach the light switch, but the lights were already off.

    The lights had been off the whole time.

    "I can see in the dark!"

    My celebratory pet-scratching was rewarded with a warm "Grrrrr-prrrr."

    I latched the cellar door shut behind us with a click.

    "Taylor?" Dad's voice came from the library.

    "Hey Dad." I shuffled around the corner.

    "We should talk."

    "Sure." I rounded the corner.

    "Good. First, I think we—" He paused, looking at me. "You tired, kiddo?"

    "Just a food coma," I assured him.

    "Alright. Can you call the PRT tonight, or do you want me to do it?"

    "Ugh." I really didn't want to deal with that right now. "Sure. I'll make some tea and then we can call them."

    "Alright. While you make your tea, we can go over the homework I got from your school."

    "Ugh."

    ~ °w° ~​

    Dad had brought a kitchen chair into the office-slash-library, and had plugged our phone into the outlet near the desk. We had dialed he PRT. Dad was leaning in. I was holding the receiver so we could both hear.

    "You have reached the Parahuman Response Team," droned the audibly distorted recording, "To report an emergency, press one or hold on the line. To report a non-emergency crime, press three. To purchase merchandise from our mail-order catalog, press seven. To make an appointment to visit one of our locations, or for tour hours, press eight. If you are a member of the press, you may press nine. For all other business, please press zero now."

    Boop.

    "Hold music? Really?" I held the headset away from my ear disdainfully. It caught Dad's attention.

    "It's the theme from an old cape TV show," Dad reminisced.

    I shook my head, my face blank with lack of recognition.

    "They cancelled it when Hero died."

    "Yeah?"

    "It was on Saturday mornings, I think. I liked that show, what was it called?"

    "Dunno."

    "Must be ten years ago. It never even went into re-runs."

    "Hunh."

    A crackle of static saved me from Dad's nostalgia, and heralded a live operator. "Hello, this is Specialist Larson, what is the nature of your call?" His voice was a comfortable baritone.

    "Uh, hi," I said, pulling the phone back to my ear, "I want to register as a parahuman."

    "Great to hear. Would you like to make an appointment to come on in tomorrow, or would you prefer an officer reach out to you this evening?"

    "One sec." I put my palm over the receiver, and whispered to Dad: "Can you go with me tomorrow?"

    He shook his head, and lip-synced: "Saturday."

    "Hi, uh, how about Saturday?"

    "Perfect," Specialist Larson enthused, "Now, can you tell me a bit about your power, so we can get the appropriate paperwork ready in advance?"

    "Okay, I guess. Uh, I can regenerate." That seemed safe.

    There was some clicking on the line, and then he asked smoothly, "Mind if I ask how you found that out?"

    "I was in the hospital, and then, uh, I got bit."

    "I'm sorry to hear you were in the hospital, miss."

    "S'not your fault. "

    "Any other powers you can tell me about?"

    "I can spit some kind of healing goop."

    "Healing, nice. Anything else?"

    "I can," breathe, delay "I can see pretty well the dark."

    "Must be nice."

    "And, uh," I cleared my throat, looked at Dad. He nodded. "And I made a couple of small creatures. Which are small and harmless. Mostly harmless."

    "How small are we talking?"

    "About as big as a house cat."

    "Do they attack people?"

    "No! No, they seem to hunt small animals." This topic felt safer. "While we were eating dinner, my little guy hunted down a mouse, a cockroach, and a centipede."

    "Sounds like a cat."

    "The one I have here is basically a weird cat."

    Giggler snuffled at me, almost like he knew we were talking about him.

    "But, but the thing is, there were two this morning. One of them ran away and I can't find him."

    "That's troubling." Click, click.

    "I know. I'm worried. He might be freezing somewhere outside." Specialist Larson chuckled, which annoyed me. "No seriously, they don't do well in the cold."

    "These creatures, they're about as big as a cat you said?"

    "Yes."

    "What kind of weapons do they have? How do they attack?"

    "Claws and teeth. Basically the same as a cat." Tick, tick.

    "Alright. Let me see if I've got a full list of your powers. You can heal people, you regenerate, you have enhanced senses, and you create cats."

    "Weird cats, but yes. That's basically right."

    "Good to know. Alright, do you have a cape name that you'd prefer to use?"

    "No."

    "Well then, Cat Girl, we'll look forward to seeing you at eleven o'clock on Saturday morning. If you're under eighteen years of age, we prefer if you are accompanied by your parent or guardian."

    "Wait, is there anything you can to do help look for Ni—, uh, my creature?"

    "I'll put a notice up for agents to keep an eye out, but usually they won't have an opportunity to respond to a non-emergency situation. We might get lucky, but you shouldn't count on it."

    "Okay." Sigh.

    "You can bring your own mask, or one will be provided for you."

    "Thanks. See you Saturday."

    "Goodbye now."

    Click. I slumped.

    Dad tried to cheer me up. "That went well."

    "I guess. Still nerve-wracking."

    "Still you did good. I'm sure you'll do fine on Saturday, too."

    "Thanks, Dad."

    He stood up, picked up the kitchen chair. "Anything else you want to talk about?"

    "Not really." I stood also. "I should probably take a look at the homework."

    "Atta girl."

    Dad never said that. Had he picked that up from Crystal? I felt a brief flash of annoyance, and then a wave of relief. It was such a normal thing to be annoyed about.

    There was a small bounce in my step as I made my way upstairs, cradling my furry little monster.
     
  8. Threadmarks: Background Info
    evildice

    evildice (Verified d4)

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    Background Info

    ~ °w° ~​

    Parahuman Healing Authorization Document

    After one person died because Panacea (or the like) can't heal him without authorization, this form of pre-authorization became quite popular. Most state issued ID cards now have a checkbox, adjacent to the organ donor checkbox, which authorizes any parahuman to heal the subject if the subject is unable to communicate due to injury.

    Many first responder uniforms also have an externally visible slot for a token which signifies parahuman healing authorization.

    For kids who are too young to have a driver's license, some forward-thinking schools put a PHAD line on the back of their school ID.

    For people who want to carry a PHAD but have no relevant ID, or who want a spare PHAD in case their wallet is stolen, there are printable PHAD forms on the internet, and someone on PHO is selling a PHAD keychain.

    Armsmaster: "Hmm, I could probably make a PHAD RFID which would allow for more efficient triage."

    Miss Militia: "That's a good idea. Now we just need more healers."

    Piggot: "Don’t waste time on this. It'll blow over."

    Clockblocker: "You're saying it's just a PHAD?"

    ~ °w° ~​

    The Birth of Brockton Bay
    A Report by Taylor Hebert
    2010-12-06​
    Part One

    Brockton Bay was born almost a year before me. There was a great need for shipping, for a well-connected staging area to move supplies, materials and machinery onto local ships through Long Island Sound, onto trucks and trains. The former cities of Groton and New London were well placed to serve that need. Between the Naval submarine yards to the north and the Coast Guard’s facilities in the south, the area had a decent base for the Navy’s engineers to expand upon.

    I did a report on the topic last year, for Mrs. Higgins’ Social Studies class. Behemoth’s third target had been New York City, and back in 1994 we thought Behemoth was a problem we could solve. We thought rebuilding was a sensible thing to do, so we rebuilt New York City. The United States had been characteristically generous when Iran and Brazil suffered under the Endbringer’s assault, so international aid was bountiful. Not just raw materials, either: the world knew New York as a center of art and culture, so we were receiving statues and sculptures and probably other forms of art which were easier to pack, all destined to decorate and enhance the newly revitalized Big Apple.

    We were one of two cities to build off-shore shipping platforms, the Brockton Float which would eventually become our regional Foreign Trade Zone after the so-called Rebuild Rush waned. (The other major beneficiary of the Rebuild Rush was Perth Amboy down in New Jersey.)

    The town charter of New London had originally incorporated several nearby communities which later split off into separate towns, including Groton across the river. The split happened at some point in the 1700’s, I think before Benedict Arnold tried to burn down New London in the Revolutionary War. Maybe after, due to industrialization. I couldn’t remember. That had been someone else’s report topic.

    Anyway, it wasn’t hard to reintegrate the nearby communities. Groton was practically the same city already, and it was easy to get around with the introduction of the coastal ferry, which connected the coastline communities from Niantic to Stonington. The idea was obvious: if Behemoth was going to attack our landslide infrastructure, we’d just take to the water.

    It seems almost like a comedy in retrospect, but that was before Leviathan made sure the Endbringers got the last laugh.

    Back to Brockton Bay, or The New London-Groton Maritime Development Area as it was called during its construction. How, one might ask, did the name change? You’re in luck, as that was the subject of a middle school history report to which I did listen, since it was being presented by my then-crush Sam Meyer. He never noticed me, then we graduated and he didn’t go to Winslow, the lucky jerk. But I digress.

    The Brockton Platform, which is now also the Brockton Foreign Trade Zone, was an early product of the Tinker now known as Big Rig. The platform was originally named the General Isaac Brock, named after one of the British commanders stationed in Canada who successfully opposed US invasion efforts, which is pretty much the kind of sass you’d expect from a guy who had himself named ‘Big Rig’ on purpose, according to Mrs. Higgins. The Navy realized that their contract stipulated that the letters “Brock” must remain in the platform’s official name in perpetuity, so they papered it over as best they could. The platform was named the Brockton Platform, the water between the platform and the city was named Brockton Bay, and within a year the New London-Groton Maritime Development Area had come to be known as Brockton Bay.

    What the ferry announcers tell tourists is that the Platform is anchored by a ‘big rock’, which on Earth Aleph maps appears is called Race Rock Lighthouse, and then they let the tourists make the natural connection between ‘big rock’ and Brockton.

    On the subject of Aleph maps, the airport on Fisher’s Island was already there, even before the Platform. I can’t imagine that theirs gets nearly as much traffic as ours. They also have golf courses in Groton where we have large poorly lit parks on the east side of the Bay. The street names didn't change much, but their maps show lots of happy little houses where we have larger multi-story buildings.

    ~ °w° ~​

    Part Two: the Decline

    Brockton Bay declined alongside global shipping. Leviathan’s debut marked the decline of worldwide shipping, but not for the reason kids usually think. Leviathan doesn’t particularly attack ships. He attacks ports. The destruction of ports means the destruction of trade routes, the voiding of trade contracts, and instability in markets which lead to a decline in major capital investment in shipping.

    Ironically though the straw that broke Brockton Bay’s back was not related to Leviathan, it was the Simurgh’s attack of London in 2003. The Bay was already having tensions and difficulties in integrating the victims of the 1999 Kyushu attack, so when three London-bound ships were stranded in 2003 by the quarantine of their owners, and one of those ships was scuttled on the orders of an allegedly Simurgh-influenced executive in London, the Bay residents responded with riots and strikes. Owners couldn’t be found for several ships, and dockworkers understandably refused to work on ships that could not provide valid insurance or even promise credible payment for services.

    Some extremist activists allegedly scuttled three more ships, following the example of the Simurgh-infuenced executive. It is usually a bad idea to follow the Simurgh’s lead, though we do defend religious freedom in our great nation, so the Simurgh’s cult is not technically illegal. God bless America.

    Anyway, after the quarantine of London’s main port areas and Canary wharf, shipping in the North Atlantic was reduced, and the other port cities around Brockton Bay were able to handle the new lower capacity. In particular New York and Elizabeth NJ were financial beneficiaries of Brockton Bay’s misfortune.

    Worst of all, the scuttled ships became hazards for the dock area, blocking the entire Groton commercial docking and passenger ferry areas. The regional ferries persist, but mainly as links to the transportation hub on the New London side, and no longer vitalize the Groton side of the Bay at all.

    The government was able to survey enough to allow the naval submarine facility to the north to continue to function, but they stopped short of cleaning up the commercial and passenger facilities.

    With the loss of dockside jobs, integration became problematic among the refugee population, and anti-immigration politics became more widespread.

    In terms of gang activity, which became more dangerous as honest jobs became harder to find, this marked the rise of the Empire Eighty-Eight and the gangs that would become the Azn Bad Boyz. Over the decade from 1999 to the present, the Empire went from a minor footnote to a major power in the Bay, and the ABB related gangs rose in response to protect different Asian immigrant populations.

    Today, the Empire largely prevails across the New London side of the Bay, while the ABB and the Merchants fight over the streets of the Groton side.

    It is estimated that Brockton Bay’s docks could service 70% of the import-export business provided by the Brockton Bay Platform, but today we only service 10% of the Platform’s business. Revitalizing regional employment opportunities would go a long way to restoring the prosperity of the middle class, and enriching the citizens would benefit from the expanded transport options.

    So in conclusion, we should restore the docks which made our great city so populous in the first place. It is expensive but doing nothing is more expensive in the long term.
     
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  9. Threadmarks: Maps and Images
    evildice

    evildice (Verified d4)

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    Background Info

    Ground Floor
    [​IMG]

    Upstairs
    [​IMG]

    This is the nice side of town. It's geographically much more limited, with hills just west of the city limits, and therefore people built up rather than sprawling out. The coast has an "old New England" feel, though, which they keep for tourism purposes.

    [​IMG]

    This is the more working-class side of town, and its fortunes have more visibly decreased since the boom. The New Docks are particularly depressed, though there are a few shops open around the south end to serve U.Conn Avery, and a few shops to the north which serve the more affluent residents of the East Side.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Protectorate HQ, and nearby lighthouse for scale
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Of interest, the New London Ledge Light is the only floating lighthouse in New England, and the BBPHQ is the only floating Protectorate Headquarters. They are located in the same place in this story.


    This is the Race Rock Lighthouse. It's the main anchor point for the Brockton Platform / Foreign Trade Zone float.
    [​IMG]


    Here are the major specific changes from our world:
    - The coastal golf course was plowed under and the New Docks were built. They extend out a bit into the water, but I have not drawn that because I am lazy.
    - The area between the docks and Eastern Point Road were primarily industrial and commercial (shops, restaurants, hotels).
    - The area now controlled by the ABB was significantly built up, but the build up was poorly planned.

    [​IMG]

    Why did the ABB territory become so disproportionately blighted compared to the area around? Greedy developers and a catastrophic lack of urban planning.

    The architects brought in were from the school of Brutalism which features heavily* in Boston, so one of the approved designs featured parking under an "overhanging" habitation, like pictured. These structures do exist and they work fine -- so long as the other side of the street is wide open and well-lit, or so long as both sides of the street exist inside a gated community or the patrolled and secure grounds of a hotel.

    But as 50% of the housing on both sides of the street, on a public street, what they do is rob the street of any street-level witnesses while providing gang members with very convenient caves and shadows. It's far too easy for residents to get cornered in their own "driveways".

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    *) "Brutalism features heavily". Heh.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2015
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  10. Flabbyknight

    Flabbyknight Manic Moon

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    I sure hope Taylor's cat Nibbler is going to be okay.
     
  11. esotericist

    esotericist Getting sticky.

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    Okay, this is delightfully fascinating. I'm always down for a Zerg Taylor.

    Will be keeping an eye out.
     
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  12. TanaNari

    TanaNari Verified Dick

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    You really need to settle on a user name.

    Also: Carpet Like.
     
  13. Threadmarks: Interlude 1.0 (Clockblocker, Danny)
    evildice

    evildice (Verified d4)

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    Interlude 1.0.c - Clockblocker

    2011/01/06, 8:05 PM

    The microwave beeped once, and Dennis held up the book he was reading, covering his face from view. He didn't trust his own composure, and he didn't want to spoil the immanent surprise. He pulled his knees up onto the couch and peeked over edge of the book at Sophia, his eyes flickering over her as she sat at the kitchenette table, her face lit from below by her phone's screen, her foot tapping with anxious energy.

    A siren blared, and she leaped up, standing partially inside the table and chair. Tension stretched her body taut, and Dennis took in every line as she frantically looked for the sirens's source.

    "Warning! Warning!" The artificially female voice was unfamiliar, and soft for all its alarm.

    From the corner of his eye, Dennis saw Chris look up from the padded bench where he was working, and he might have spoken up, but Dennis managed to catch his attention by the method of furiously flapping an arm behind the couch where Sophia couldn't see it.

    "Nuclear lunch detected! Warning! Warning! Nuclear lunch detected!"

    Sophia's foot rematerialized to kick her chair over. "Fucking nerds." Her gaze whipped over at them, her fury almost palpable, and Dennis stopped trying to contain his glee.

    "Your face!" he choked out between his laughter and gasps.

    "Sorry, Stalker." Chris looked apologetic.

    "No, it's my bad," Dennis interjected, his expression sobering somewhat. He wanted to shield Chris from Sophia's wrath, because otherwise Chris wouldn't be willing to help him work on pranks in the future. "I was supposed to disable that, uh, feature."

    "Why the fuck would you even think," she gestured violently, "that a fucking siren is any kind of funny?"

    "My mom wants me to eat better," Dennis said with his best innocent look. "It's just a reminder to myself to not nuke lunch so much."

    "Bullshit," Sophia sneered, but the fire had left her. She snorted at Dennis, then turned back to the microwave to retrieve her meal.

    Chris stood up as she sat down. "I'll disable it now."

    "Good thinking," Dennis said, turning back to his book.

    "I better not fucking wake up to that," Sophia growled, as the door opened with a swoosh, and Aegis walked in.

    "Evening, all. Spending the night on base, Stalker?"

    "What's it to you?"

    Carlos ignored her rancor, answering as though she'd actually given him a civil reply. "I was about to go over this week's batch of reports."

    "Whatever." She turned back to her steaming food.

    "Dennis, Chris? Want to risk paper cuts for some early leadership experience?"

    "You'd make a terrible salesman, 'Los," Dennis said, shaking his head, but he closed his book and walked over to the table.

    "Report time already? I think that's my cue to pack up and go home," Chris said.

    "Get home safe, Chris," Carlos replied, his voice even as ever, without a hint of reproach. Damn big shoes to fill, Dennis thought. Glad it'll be Dean's problem instead of mine. Guess I can throw him a bone.

    Dennis spun a chair around and sat down on it backwards. "What's the damage this week, Chief?" He was close enough now to smell the melted cheese on Sophia's plate. He glanced over. Lasagna, maybe?

    "Here, you tell me." Carols handed Dennis half the stack of reports. His half was nearly a hundred pages, but stapled into twelve discrete chunks. With luck, he wouldn't need more than was on the first page of each chunk.

    They both read for a minute. Flipped paper.

    Sophia chewed nearby.

    "Graffiti, blah… mugging, blah… suspected dealers on a new corner. Huh. We could swing by there."

    "Pin it up on the map, we'll see if we can fit it into a patrol route."

    "Where's the new corner?" Sophia asked, standing up.

    They both stopped shuffling through the papers and just looked at her for a moment.

    "What? I can't show interest in an opportunity to nail scumbags?"

    "No, no, I like when you show an interest."

    "Fuck you, Clock." She carried her plate over to the sink and turned on the water. Dennis watched her back as she scraped the plate a few times.

    "Here's one from your beat, Stalker," Carlos half-shouted. "It's even got your… name…"

    Dennis looked over at his team leader. Carlos was silently, rapidly scanning the document, his mouth uncharacteristically hanging partway open.

    Sophia shut off the water and her plate clanked into the dishwasher.

    "You say something?"

    "Never mind," Carlos rallied, "it's just one of your old reports about some gang activity at Winslow. How'd that get in there." He faked a smile. He never has to fake a smile, Dennis thought.

    Sophia didn't seem to notice. "Hey, that reminds me. My probation is over."

    "Six months already?"

    "Time sure flies when you're having fun."

    "Shut up, Clock."

    "What about it, Stalker?"

    "Let me do something about the gang recruiters." She sounded somewhere between pleading and excited. "Authorize me some use of force."

    "I'll bring it up to the Director."

    At that, her expression flattened. "Fine, whatever." She turned away.

    Dennis watched her hips as she strode towards the Ward individual overnight rooms.

    "Uh, goodnight, guys." Chris was by the door, already wearing his coat and knapsack.

    "Night, Chris."

    Two doors thwacked shut almost simultaneously.



    Interlude 1.0.d - Danny

    2011/01/06, 11:14 PM

    Danny wasn't used to staying up this late, but he wasn't feeling as tired as he usually did in the evening. Probably just nerves from having a cape fight in my kitchen. He snorted at the absurdity. He wondered how much more weirdness his life would need to shoulder.

    Taylor seemed happier, at least: more active, more alive. It had hurt, seeing her nearly cry at the police station, but other than that, she'd been in better spirits than … than she had for the past year and a half, he thought with a sigh. He should have noticed, but he hadn't.

    He had failed his daughter. After Annette left them, he had withdrawn into his own mourning, and she'd supported him more than he had supported her. Emma had been her support, he guessed, until suddenly Emma wasn't, and she had been left with nobody.

    He turned and looked out the library window. Dry white snow-dust flowed across the surface of the street, rippling like sea-foam atop shallow waves, while the barren trees stood firm like pier piles.

    The docks were dead, frozen, lifeless like these trees in mid-winter. And here he was, just growing older, with hardly anything to show for his efforts but the love of a dead woman.

    He chewed over that thought.

    Winter as a metaphor for death, sure, but why does that make me feel nostalgic? Must have been something of Annette. Something she cared about much more than he did, which probably meant literature. Something about this frozen, hideous night had reminded him of — ah.

    He clicked some keys, and after a few minutes, he'd found the poem that was source of his nostalgia.

    That's just like her, he thought.

    He stood up, hands on his hips, and leaned back, stretching. He wasn't going to get anything else done tonight. Definitely time for bed.

    He didn't have the heart to close the browser window before trudging upstairs.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2015
  14. Flabbyknight

    Flabbyknight Manic Moon

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    Nibbler narced on Sophia didn't he. That little bitch.
     
  15. Sheaman3773

    Sheaman3773 (Unverified Writer)

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    "Kekekekeke!"
     
  16. evildice

    evildice (Verified d4)

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    Nibbler is obviously working as a 1920's noir private investigator.

    The client came in. She wasn't showing a lot of leg, but the way she slithered into my office made for quite a show.

    "Can I help you, Miss... ?"

    "Mrs.," she spat at me sharply, "Mrs. Rysk. But you can call me Hilda."

    I could tell already, this was the start of a beautiful relationship.
     
  17. StackedDeck

    StackedDeck It all burns.

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    I think you mean "They" here.

    Otherwise, I liked this. Though I think you're writing a bit too frantically, and I think Taylor acting a bit too hyper, but that may be because she's a Zerg.
     
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  18. Grell23

    Grell23 Getting out there.

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    Zerg Like typing detected?*

    I mean it's less 'In the rear with the gear' and more 'At your throat like a stoat' in terms of buildup so you may have something there.

    Time will tell I guess, I find it neat when bizarre triggers actually mess with peoples heads.

    * As in that's not really all that human is it? "Well no; there's a good reason for that."

    G23
     
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  19. StackedDeck

    StackedDeck It all burns.

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    I actually completely forgot about that. Though I still think the plots moving a bit too fast, but that may be due to personal preference more than anything else.
     
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  20. evildice

    evildice (Verified d4)

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    Thanks!

    Taylor's pre-depression (i.e. pre-Emma-betrayal) personality was that of a hyperactive motor-mouth. She's not quite at that level here, but her psychology is certainly less depressed than she was at this point in canon. (Or most other points in canon, frankly.)

    Her Zerg biology saw her depression as a problem with her biochemistry, and fixed it.


    Abathur: "Depression widespread. Reduces human usefulness."

    Taylor: "Yeah, it's ugly stuff. Not fun at all."

    Abathur: "Propose solution. Can fix weak essence with distribution of happy-fun-infest-juice."

    Taylor: "What would that do?"

    Abathur: "Allow humans to take advantage of Zerg biological innovations. And mumble mumble infestation mumble mumble..."

    Taylor: "Hey, no mumbling! Are you trying to hide some kind of side effect?"

    Abathur: "Side effects may include skin discoloration, tentacle growth, aversion to lemon juice, and subordination of will to the Swarm."

    Taylor: "Uhh..."

    Abathur: "But will be happy. Very productive, very happy."

    Taylor: "You're not much of a fan of free will, are ya?"

    Abathur: "When free, am beast, am unhappy. When subordinate to Queen, have purpose."

    Taylor: "If you're so happy to be my subordinate, then why are you such a pain in my ass?"

    Abathur: "Teachings of Tattletale-organism and Regent-organism."

    Taylor: "That does it. If we do infest anyone, those two are going first."
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2015
  21. Sheaman3773

    Sheaman3773 (Unverified Writer)

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    So I quoted these a while ago and forgot to actually post about them >.>
    Technically this should be Draaaaaaaagging :p
    I haven't gotten the Watsonian reason for this any of the times I've read it, especially since it uses the shoulder blades to actually kill the cat. I thought they only picked the traits that they thought were improvements? (I do know Starcraft up to a point, but that doesn't really include Primal Zerg). Trading shoulder-blades for claws doesn't seem like an equitable trade >.>

    Or am I missing something critical?
     
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  22. evildice

    evildice (Verified d4)

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    Thanks!

    You're not really missing anything major. Note how the eyes worked as you had intuited -- Giggler has four eyes, two of which are his original zergling eyes, two of which are cat-like. So that is a Zerg mechanism which was represented.

    Your assumption that his old shoulder spikes were better weapons than what Giggler has now, though: that's unfounded.

    Primal Zerglings and Primal Ultralisks both have four legs, and attack with their forelimbs, and they're exactly as effective in combat as the basic Swarm versions.

    (The non-basic improved Swarm versions are better, of course.)
     
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  23. Sheaman3773

    Sheaman3773 (Unverified Writer)

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    No problem :) Honestly, I was amused that I even noticed it. That's the kind of thing I tend to gloss over.
    I...am confused about how extra reach without sacrificing balance and stability could be equally effective outside of game mechanics, but I'm sure I can fabricate the appropriate BS about saved resources improving speed and so on :p

    Thanks for the response :)
     
  24. evildice

    evildice (Verified d4)

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    There's a bunch of possible reasons.

    1/ Limited biomass quantity. Maybe focusing on reinforcing the base structures was better at this scale.

    2/ Limited material quality. Maybe the cat-design is the best that could be done with Earthling muscle and skeleton parts.

    3/ Limited adaptation intelligence. Unlike the Swarm, this zergling's adaptations are not directed by an advanced intelligence with a lot of experience. It ate a native, so it adapted based on that native's template.

    4/ Maybe this zergling just felt like being a cat for a while. (Vista: "I can totally relate.")

    5/ Maybe Taylor wanted it to turn into something less weird, and its adaptation was guided by her unconscious will. Of course, that would contradict #3, so both can't be true.

    One or more of the above might be true. Or not.
     
  25. evildice

    evildice (Verified d4)

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    Added an entry to the Maps background info post:

    [​IMG]


    Protectorate HQ, and nearby lighthouse for scale
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Of interest, the New London Ledge Light is the only floating lighthouse in New England, and the BBPHQ is the only floating Protectorate Headquarters. They are located in the same place in this story.


    This is the Race Rock Lighthouse. It's the main anchor point for the Brockton Platform / Foreign Trade Zone float.
    [​IMG]

    New chapter sometime tonight or tomorrow, I hope.
     
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  26. Threadmarks: Fists 1.1
    evildice

    evildice (Verified d4)

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    Chapter 1.1 - Fists

    2011/01/07, morning

    My eyes flashed open in the darkness.

    I awoke without my usual bleary transition, but instead with a crisp and certain knowledge.

    I knew that it was Friday.

    It was Friday, and I had my warm furry pet curled up under my arm, and I didn't have to go to school.

    I glanced down at Giggler, and his four eyes shone back at me. "Did you even sleep? Or did you just… wait?"

    Hunt?

    In shock, I sat up like a bolt, and — "OW!" — and promptly fell out of bed, collapsing from the pain and pressure in my abdomen. Instinctively I started to curl around it, but that only made the feeling worse, like my guts were on fire.

    Oh no, this was just like yesterday morning.

    Hand over my mouth, jaw clamped shut, I threw my door open and stumbled down the hall, down the stairs, and stopped at the front door. I reached for the handle, but stop, damn it, the front lawn was much too visible for this.

    Should I even try going outside? I could just use the basement for— OW! — my guts spasmed, I stopped thinking and lurched for the side door.

    Doorknob. Twist. Nothing. Fuck! Unlock. Doorknob. Yes.

    I nearly fell down the side steps, catching myself before I land on the cracked cement of the driveway. I found my balance against the side of Dad's car, down on one knee, my hand resting on the sedan's chilly door.

    I held back long enough to glance around briefly, and luckily I didn't see anyone. I have no idea what I would have done if I had been observed.

    With relief, I relaxed and the pressure I'd been holding back sluiced out of me. Just like yesterday, I vomited up a centipede thing, and just like yesterday it was accompanied by thick grey-silver sludge, which covered the ground like … well, like firm clay, or soft asphalt, or that springy surface material they ran on at the outdoor track at Arcadia.

    I stood up. Just like yesterday, the pressure and pain was gone afterwards. I rubbed my belly, and felt smooth skin. Hey! The rough patch did go away overnight! I bounced happily on the balls of my feet.

    The sludge felt really good as I bounced. I bounced a few more times. Jumped up, bounced from one foot to the other. Yeah. This is exactly what springy running track material should feel like.

    Would it evaporate like yesterday? I wanted to keep it. It was just so much better than the cracked, crumbling cement slab of our driveway.

    I thought deliberately: I wish I could keep this here, and sure enough I felt a pressure in my mouth from right under my tongue.

    I spat something small, like a seed. The seed sank into the sludge, and the surface rose, blistered, the nearby surface writhing like roots were rapidly growing, like blood was being pumped. I crouched down to observe more closely, but the seed finished doing whatever it was doing, and the writhing stilled. Now there was only a pale green sheen, a sparkling circle across the surface where the seed had landed, shimmering from under the car's chassis like a bike reflector, like a cat's eye.

    I stood up, and paced around the sludge for a few steps. It felt anchored, solid, reliable. Not really sludge-like now that it was anchored.

    I tried lifting the edge of the inch-thick sludge pancake. The springy substance held together, an mat of cohesive yet rubbery stuff that somehow became slippery when I tried to pull it up, but not when I gripped it in place or walked on it. I tried to get my fingers under it. Nope, it was anchored. I could squeeze some fingers under it with ease, but lifting it off the ground was not going to happen without a fight.

    Were those roots? Was it digging into the cracks?

    Even with my enhanced vision, it was difficult to see much under the sludge in the darkness. I moved over to where the light was spilling from the open side door and — shit, and kicked myself, I should have noticed and closed the door. Now the ground floor was going to be freezing.

    I decided I'd look at the sludge when it got lighter out. I picked up my caterpillar thing and hopped up the steps, and — "Ow! Hey! Calm down, you little—" it snapped its body with enough force to hurl itself out of my grasp, flopping back down on the sludge, where it calmly resumed its leisurely ooching inchworm act.

    "Fine, be like that," I scolded it from the steps. It ignored me entirely. "Fine."

    Giggler was pawing at the edge of the sludge. I hook-lifted him under my arm, went inside, and pushed the door shut behind us.

    I sat down on the doormat and leaned against the door, hugging my knees with one arm. I was still in my pajamas, not feeling particularly cold after being outside for a few minutes while wearing nothing practical. I hadn't even thought about it at the time. I'd have to be more careful about that sort of thing if I wanted to keep any kind of secret identity.

    Also, if this was going to be a daily thing, I'd need to find a place for future centipedes. Our driveway was visible from the street. There wasn't much traffic on this end of our community loop, but still I ought to find a better place. I'd look later today, when it got light out.

    Giggler was content to lie on my feet. I scratched the top of his head with my free hand. "I'll have to take you for a walk anyway, won't I? Plus any new guys."

    I picked him up with both hands, and balanced him over my knees, one of his abnormally thick arms lying across each of my legs, our faces eye-to-eye-and-other-eye.

    "Hey, this morning. Right when I woke up. You talked." Two of his eyes blinked at me lazily. I pressed on. "You said something to me, right? You did some kind of communication thing?" His expression remained unhelpfully blank.

    Did I imagine it? Was I so lonely that I had hallucinated my pet talking to me?

    I stood up, unceremoniously dumping Giggler on the floor as my legs unfolded, and went to check my email.

    The browser was open, I guess Dad had been … huh.

    Sonnet 12

    When I do count the clock that tells the time,
    And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
    When I behold the violet past prime,
    And sable curls all silver'd o'er with white;
    When lofty trees I see barren of leaves
    Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
    And summer's green all girded up in sheaves
    Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
    Then of thy beauty do I question make,
    That thou among the wastes of time must go,
    Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
    And die as fast as they see others grow;
    And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence
    Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.

    Well that's morbid.

    I checked for new email. Nothing.

    Oh well. I went upstairs to get one of the books we'd been assigned to read for class.

    ~ °w° ~​

    It was maybe half an hour later that I faintly heard Dad's alarm go off, and then heard him lumber to his shower. The pipes sang softly.

    I folded a dog-ear to mark the page, put the book down, and unfolded from the corner of the couch where I'd been slouching. I went into the kitchen to start getting breakfast ready.

    Kettle burner, on. Pan burner, on.

    I got out a pair of mugs, set the plastic coffee filter cone over Dad's, got the paper filter in, shook a reasonable-looking pile of grounds out of the can, and reflected that tea was much less of a pain to prepare.

    I cut off a chunk of butter, and dropped it in the pan. I broke four eggs into a bowl and mixed them around with a fork, stirring in a splash of milk and some dry herbs. Rosemary, thyme, black pepper. Even dry, their scents made my mouth water.

    Giggler jumped up to the counter. One arm made it over, and he clung with a claw while his back legs scrambled against the cabinet door. I put an arm under him to carry him down, and gave him three of the eggshells to chew on, to keep him occupied on the kitchen floor. I popped the other shell into my mouth, crunching the succulent fragments between my teeth while I snapped a few slices off the frozen loaf of bread in the freezer. I put the frozen bread slices into our aging toaster oven, but didn't turn it on yet.

    Prep done.

    I was about to go get my book from the living room when the high-pitched pipe water sounds cut off, and then a moment later I heard Dad's footsteps through the ceiling. He'd be down within 5 minutes.

    I felt a minor pang of jealousy that, as a guy, he wouldn't have to spend any particular effort on his hair. Not that I'd trade mine, of course, but that was — My thought was interrupted by the kettle's whistle.

    I scalded my tea cup, then put in the bag and filled the cup.

    Dad's coffee was much more involved, of course, since the cone had to remain balanced atop the mug, and ideally you wanted to get every speck of coffee grounds under water, but nobody ever wanted to stir the grounds for some reason, so you just had to pour the water so it soaked all the grounds without overfilling the cone. Or maybe pour twice, sometimes Dad did that, maybe that's why.

    I eyed the clump of dry grounds I'd missed with mild annoyance as they sank, a small tuffet of dry ground holding out against an almost perfectly drenched swamp. The woods behind the house were actually kind of swampy, once spring got here and everything un-froze. I bet they'll be full of interesting creatures, things that swam and crawled and nested and, huh, my mouth was watering. I snapped out of my daydream and got back to making breakfast.

    Butter sizzled in the smooth cast-iron pan as I poured in the eggs.

    After a few minutes of stirring, with the eggs nearly done, I heard Dad's footsteps on the stairs, and pushed the button to turn on the toaster oven.

    "That you, kiddo?" he called down.

    "Breakfast's almost ready," I called back.

    "It's cold down here," he said as he came around the corner, into the living room. He was wearing a t-shirt and blue jeans under his bath robe.

    "It's my fault, I had the door open for a few minutes."

    "Anything wrong?" He sounded puzzled. Of course he did.

    "No, just a- a pet thing. Uh. Powers thing."

    "Anything I can help with?"

    I didn't know how to answer that, so I hesitated, and watched Giggler pace a quick circle around Dad before settling under the kitchen table.

    "Set the table?" I replied, looking up, feeling lame at using such a transparent distraction.

    "I can do that."

    Plates and cutlery clattered, and we sat down to breakfast.

    "Mmm, good eggs," Dad said, after a few bites.

    "Thanks."

    "Did you sleep okay?"

    "Yeah."

    "Glad one of us did. I must have had bad dreams."

    "Yeah?"

    "Yeah, I remember waking up, but not why."

    "That's weird," I offered.

    "Probably just stress."

    "Maybe it's because you were up late reading morbid poems." He just looked at me as he chewed. "You left your browser window open."

    Gulp. "Oh. No, that's not— I was just reminded of something. Something of Annette's."

    My eyes flicked up with interest. "You had a poem? It was like, your song or something?"

    "Nothing so grand," he chuckled. "It was the topic of her first intro lecture when she started teaching. She was all nerves, those days. We must've gone over that lecture fifty times."

    "Why did she like a depressing poem so much?"

    "It's not supposed to be depressing, it's just reality. The human condition."

    "Winter comes and everything sucks and then you die, the end? That's depressing." Thinking about all the lifeless snowy land around us sure seemed depressing. Giggler sympathetically rubbed his side against my shins.

    "I think it's supposed to be about humility. Well, she thought."

    "Like don't be so proud, you're all going to die?"

    "That's also true," he diplomatically equivocated, "but it was more about how people shouldn't use youth and strength and beauty as their identity, because those things fade."

    "And then you die."

    "And then your children take up your burdens."

    "Oh. So the harvest thing wasn't just all death."

    "No, not entirely. The scythe of time is a death metaphor, but the turning of seasons and the thing about the night are cycles. And how human families and generations grow up."

    "That makes sense." I reached down and pulled Giggler up to my lap, so he could eat my leftover eggs. "So like a karmic cycle? Everyone has a role?"

    "Good question. Annette could answer that. All I can do is spoil the end of her lecture for you."

    "Spoil me."

    "Okay." He almost bounced in his chair. It was sweet. "You got the part at the end where he's saying that there's no defense against death except having kids, right?"

    "Right."

    "The secret is that he's flaunting the other kind of immortality, which is his writing, since we're still reading it today."

    "Oh. Huh."

    "It's saying one thing, but the poem itself is contradicting what it says."

    "That's really interesting. But it's wrong." Standing on my lap with his hind-legs, Giggler was licking my plate clean.

    "What do you mean?"

    "You can't have poetic immortality without there being people to read it. But having kids doesn't require poems."

    He raised a finger, but didn't actually say anything, so I pressed my rhetorical advantage.

    "Literature is parasitic on kids."

    His finger fell, but his smile rose, almost bashful. "You are so much your mother's daughter."

    My face felt hot. "Anyway!" The fork clattered on my plate as I set it down with a bit too much force. "You were thinking about Mom last night?"

    Dad's smile waned a bit and his wrinkles waxed. "I was just wondering what she'd say. What she'd tell me to do."

    "You mean about my powers?"

    "I mean about this whole situation."

    Dad held himself still for a few seconds. Giggler fidgeted like he was going to leap away, so I put one hand under his arm and scratched his neck area with the other hand.

    "And, I mean, it's more than that," he continued haltingly. "You know we moved here in '94, after New York?" After New York had been hit by Behemoth.

    "A lot of families moved here then."

    "Right. Okay, Jakarta happened that same year."

    "Okay."

    "It was right after Jakarta that we found out Annette was pregnant. That's part of why we decided to keep you."

    "Wow. That's— wow."

    "It was just so much death. And we felt like we had a chance to bring a new life into the world. So, uh. I think that's why the poem resonated with her. It's something she lived through, defying death like that."

    I was silent for a moment, then held up Giggler in front of my face, moving his arms with my hands as I spoke.

    "Are you telling me this because you feel like a grandfather now?"

    Dad's face turned a very special shade of crimson. "What? No!"

    "Sorry. I shouldn't joke. I'm sorry. I just, I don't know what to say." I released Giggler, who jumped away with feigned indignation.

    "You don't have to say anything."

    Not saying anything is a problem in our family, I didn't say. Instead, I said, "Are you leaving early again today?"

    "Yeah." He glanced at the kitchen clock, then stood up. "I should get going. I'll call you around lunch."

    "Okay. I'll handle the clean up."

    "Oh. The clean up." He sounded distant.

    "The dishes?" I waved my arm a the table.

    "Not your room? It's not, uh, like…"

    "Like?"

    "Like yesterday morning."

    "Oh! No, I made it outside this time."

    "You what?"

    "Before the centipede thing came out, I ran outside." His jaw hung motionless, so I pointed towards the side door to explain. "It's in the driveway."

    He rubbed his forehead.

    "It's okay! Nobody saw me."

    "That's why you had the door open."

    "Yeah."

    "It's there now?"

    I checked the centipede's vision. It was under the car's front axel. "Yeah. And I found a way to keep the sludge."

    He glanced at the kitchen clock again. "We'll talk about it tonight."

    "Okay."
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2015
  27. esotericist

    esotericist Getting sticky.

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    And now Danny has a WHOLE DAY to worry about the implications that Taylor wanted it to stay.
     
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  28. Navrin

    Navrin Experienced.

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    " I folded a dog-ear to mark the page" <Clearly Taylor is a heinous villain. That's what bookmarks are for, Taylor!

    "I felt a minor pang of jealousy that, as a guy, he wouldn't have to spend any particular effort on his hair." <Almost certain that should be envy, not jealousy.
     
  29. evildice

    evildice (Verified d4)

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    "I just went for a walk."

    "You went for an enthusiastic walk."

    "I was going to ask first but you wanted to talk about it later!"

    Taylor is a rebellious teen.

    Annette would be scandalized.

    Jealous: adj Resentful or bitter in rivalry; envious: jealous of the success of others.

    You're right that envy would work; you're wrong because jealousy includes envy.
     
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  30. Navrin

    Navrin Experienced.

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    http://www.diffen.com/difference/Envy_vs_Jealousy
    The main difference between envy and jealousy is that envy is the emotion of coveting what someone else has, while jealousy is the emotion related to fear that something you have will be taken away by someone else.

    Envy means "to bear a grudge toward someone due to coveting what that person has or enjoys." In a milder sense, it means "the longing for something someone else has without any ill will intended toward that person."

    Jealous means "apprehensive or vengeful out of fear of being replaced by someone else." It can also mean "watchful, " "anxiously suspicious, " "zealous, " or "expecting complete devotion." The last is normally applied to God.

    ^ I'd count that definition of "envious" as one of those stupid "people used it incorrectly often enough that we're including the wrong definition" thing, similar to using "literally" as a synonym for "figuratively". Where'd you get that one, anyway?
     
    Sheaman3773 likes this.
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