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Weaver and Jinx [Worm AU]

Discussion in 'User Fiction' started by JMHthe3rd, Apr 23, 2015.

  1. Threadmark: Index
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2015
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  2. Threadmark: Chapter One
    Chapter One
    I had a stalker.

    I first saw her a week ago. I'd been at my locker, looking over my shoulder for the usual trouble, when I caught her watching me from down the crowded hallway. She was tiny, not even five feet tall, and had milk chocolate skin, short, thick dreadlocks and a round, little face that made her look too young for high school. She wore horn-rim glasses over her sad puppy-dog eyes.

    She didn't approach me. She didn't say anything. She just stared, looking away when I made eye contact. At first I thought this was a prelude to more of the trio's shit, but it didn't even take a second glance to tell this girl wouldn't fit in with that clique.

    She wasn't quite dressed like a homeless person, but if the popular girls were to make fun of her, that's where they'd start. Her green army jacket was about two sizes too big and wrinkled enough that it looked like she stashed it at home between sofa cushions. Her black cargo pants were torn and worn, but in a way that spoke of poverty, not style. I guessed she was a new transfer, and that she saw in me a fellow outcast. Soon enough, others would warn her to keep her distance. Making friends with me was hazardous to one's social standing.

    By the time I left for class, she was finally walking away, limping slightly as she favored her left leg.

    I saw her at least once a day after that. She never said anything to me or anyone else for that matter. We didn't share classes, so I wasn't even sure what grade she was in. Sometimes I'd see her at the school entrance, sometimes by the bus stop. Whenever I saw her, she was looking at me.

    Yesterday morning, in the hall, Sophia and Emma were being their usual bitchy selves.

    "Holy shit! That zit is nasty!" said Sophia loudly enough for others to turn my way. She shoved me in the shoulder, forcing me look at her. "Don't you wash your face?" she asked.

    "It looks like herpes," Emma explained, speaking as though I wasn't there. "She probably got it from all that shit in her locker. Isn't that sad? She's never even kissed a boy and she's already damaged goods."

    I sighed and leaned against the wall, waiting for them to leave. By a classroom door I spotted the strange girl. She was glaring at us, which I guessed meant she wasn't a fan of bullies. I did my part by not looking at her directly: the last thing she wanted was to get in the trio's sights.

    After they left, I glanced at her. She had her head down as Emma and Sophia passed by, but it was obvious she was still staring at them.

    "What the fuck are you looking at?" Sophia demanded and then pretended to lunge at the girl, making her flinch and drop her backpack. Sophia and Emma went on their way laughing.

    I had to do something. I walked over. I was so much taller that I had to look down to talk to her.

    "You should keep away from me," I said. "You don't want to deal with this shit."

    She avoided my eyes, staring instead into the space beside me.

    "I've . . . I've heard about . . ." She trailed off and began again. "Why do you put up with it? Why don't you stop them?"

    I had to laugh. "Stop them? How? The school always sides with them over me. I can't win."

    She met my eyes for just a moment and looked away. "That's bullshit," she muttered.

    "No shit." I picked up her backpack, stuffed the textbooks and notebooks back in and held it out to her. "What's your name?" I asked.

    "Maribel."

    "Maribel, just stay away from me, okay?" I said. "It's for your own good."

    Reluctantly, she gripped the backpack with her left hand and then, after a moment's hesitation, reached up with her right. The sleeve of her army coat was long enough that at first I didn't realize there was no right hand, just a prosthetic hook. She used it to zip the bag close.

    I'm embarrassed to admit I stared. Maribel gave me a sad look and limped away.

    That soured what turned out to be an already crappy day. It would have been nice to have a friend, or just someone to talk to about stuff. The bitches would never allow it, though. I reassured myself that I did the right thing. A handicapped, possibly autistic girl was going to get picked on enough as it was. There was no need to get splashed from the buckets of shit being dumped on me.

    And I had to look at the bigger picture. I was going to be a hero. None of this mattered.

    That had been yesterday. Now, I was sitting in a bathroom stall eating my brown bag lunch. The room had been empty when I locked myself in, but Maribel must have trailed me and waited outside until the others left. I could tell it was her by her slight limp. I'd been keeping my feet up so she couldn't spot me below the partitions, but her worn black shoes stopped right outside my stall door.

    "I know you're in there," she said. "I . . . I need talk to you."

    Anything I said would only encourage her, so I remained silent.

    "T . . . Taylor. I know. I know about . . .You know what I'm talking about."

    Oh, shit.

    I felt a coldness in my guts. How could she know? I never controlled my bugs when others could see. I told myself not to panic. She may have been talking about the locker or something, though everyone in Winslow knew about that.

    Just then, the bathroom door banged opened. I could make out giggling.

    "Hey, it's that weird girl," I heard Madison say.

    Another girl laughed. "Three guesses where Hebert is." That was Sophia.

    Fuck me.

    "No . . . wait, she's . . . she's not here," Maribel tried.

    "Why are you following her around?" I heard Emma ask. "Don't you know she's a loser? Are you a loser too?"

    They stepped closer. Maribel's shoes backed out of view from under the partition.

    "Of course she's a loser," Sophia said. "Look at that little hook. And her gimpy leg. She's weak. Pathetic."

    "Worst. Pirate. Ever," said Madison.

    I saw Sophia's sneakers rush by. I heard Maribel hit the floor and cry out.

    "Leave her alone!" I said. I dropped the last bite of my pita wrap to the floor and rushed to pop the lock on the door. I pushed. It wouldn't budge.

    "Sophia! That's so mean!" Emma said with mock concern. She was just outside the door and must have been holding it shut.

    "Hey, you saw it," said Sophia. "She tripped. It's not my fault she's a cripple."

    I pushed against the door again. I kicked it. It opened about an inch and slammed shut.

    "Jesus, wait your turn, Taylor," Emma said. "We haven't forgotten about you."

    "Stay away from me!" Maribel cried, her voice trembling. "I'll tell the principal!"

    The trio laughed.

    "Blackwell doesn't listen to losers," said Emma. "Isn't that right, Taylor? Hold her down."

    I heard the twist and fizz of bottles being opened, followed by the gurgle of poured liquid. Maribel began to whimper.

    "Oh, my God! She's crying!" Madison said with glee.

    "Let's steal her hook!" Emma suggested.

    I braced my feet against the base of the toilet and used my shoulder as a battering ram. I pushed, straining my legs. Blood roared in my ears. It hurt, but the door gave way and I barged through, barely stopping myself from spilling onto the floor. Emma had stumbled backwards into the wall. I snarled at her, and for a moment she looked afraid.

    This was very dramatic, very empowering, but Madison was already facing me, a big orange soda bottle in her hands. She squeezed and splashed the drink in my eyes. My glasses took the brunt of it, but it still burned.

    "Fuck!" I screamed and threw a fist blindly. I think I may have knocked Madison in the side of the head, but the three were already running towards the washroom door, laughing. A tossed bottle smacked me in the face. By the time I wiped my eyes, it was just me and Maribel.

    Her dreadlocks were dripping wet. Her green army coat was soaked dark purple and orange. One of them had unzipped her backpack, and peering inside I saw at least half a bottle of what smelled like cranberry juice had been dumped all over her books. Maribel was trembling, her left hand rubbing her right knee. Her eyes were red from tears.

    This was too much. The buzzing at the edge of my consciousness threatened to swarm the bathroom with thousands of bugs, and I had clench my fist and take a deep breath in order to calm them down. Finally, I held out my hand to Maribel and gently pulled her to her feet. She stumbled at first, but I kept an arm around her back until it looked like she could stand on her own.

    "Are you all right?" I asked. When she didn't say anything, but only glared at the bathroom door, I added, "I'm sorry. You probably should--"

    "I used to think she was cool," Maribel said.

    That threw me off. "Wait, what? Who?"

    "Shadow Stalker," Maribel said. She sniffed and wiped at her nose. "Sophia. She's Shadow Stalker."

    "Really?" I said flatly, not quite hiding the doubt in my voice. Well, whether Maribel was delusional or not, she didn't deserve what had happened to her. I went to the counter and rolled out two fistfuls of paper towels. I handed one to her. The other I used to wipe my face and glasses.

    Maribel shrugged as she wiped her glasses. She then padded at her hair.

    "Probably," she said. "She has Shadow Stalker's powers, anyway."

    I felt an unease. With the trio's surprise juice attack, I'd nearly forgotten what Maribel had said about knowing something.

    "How do you know this?" I asked.

    "I can sense powers. Even with my eyes closed." Grinning slightly, she leaned towards me and whispered, "It's the same way I know you can control bugs."

    So there it was. That cold dread in my guts returned, though I don't think I could say I was actually afraid.

    "Ah," I said lamely, my mind reeling from the revelation. Sophia was Shadow Stalker. Former vigilante turned Ward. That explained . . . everything. Fuck you, Winslow. Fuck you, PRT.

    "That's not all I can do," she said. "Reach out to your bugs. As far as you can."

    I didn't really have to. I didn't have to consciously think about them, they were just there in my mind, waiting. But I focused on them, controlling and sensing through every one of the millions of bugs in the school and the surrounding area . . .

    The bugs farthest away vanished first, followed by the ones next farthest, and then the wall of darkness drew in closer and closer. My power's two and a half block range was suddenly and quickly shrinking. After a few seconds, I controlled nothing except my own body. It was like a light had gone out of my head.

    I automatically stepped away from her. Was this permanent? I was scared to ask. "Wh--what did you . . . ?"

    She seemed to be barely paying attention as she wiped at her stained coat. "Don't worry. I can bring it back. I can also do this."

    And then the bugs were back. And then there were more bugs. And more. I don't know how much her power magnified my range, but it was too much. I grabbed my head. I may have cried out, and I ambled forward and fell against the sink counter top. It wasn't as bad as the sensory overload in the locker, but it still hurt my poor brain.

    The range dialed back to maybe a little above normal. I became aware that Maribel was hugging me around the waist.

    "I'msorryI'msorryI'msorryI'msorry!" She was on the verge of crying again. "I just wanted to show off. I was stupid. I should have warned you. Are you all right? Please say you're all right!"

    "I'm all right," I said. I pushed myself up from the counter. I had a splitting headache, but it was fading fast. "So . . . you're a trump?" I asked.

    She pulled away, her hook snagging on my brown hooded sweatshirt, and nodded. "Yeah, and I was sort of wondering if . . . well, if we could be friends."
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2015
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  3. Threadmark: Chapter Two
    Chapter Two
    "They knew," I said, mostly to myself.

    We were in an alley behind the school. We'd decided to skip since after everything that happened in the bathroom it's not like either of us would be paying attention anyway. Maribel was still shaken, and for me the fact that Sophia was Shadow Stalker was still sinking in. We just needed time to vent.

    "They knew who she was," I continued. "They knew what she was doing. And they covered it up."

    "The school probably gets money for having a Ward enrolled," Maribel replied animatedly. She was pacing in a circle, angrily waving her hand and hook as she spoke. "And for the PRT, Shadow Stalker is good PR. An antihero-turned-hero success story. If it got out she's a psychopath, they'll look bad."

    "So they make sure it doesn't get out," I said. I was beginning to feel sick. I hadn't wanted to join the Wards, but I'd respected them. Not anymore, though.

    The juice had left Maribel's hair looking like black sticky seaweed. She peeled a dread from her cheek and said, "Or they keep their eyes closed. Make sure they don't see anything they don't want to see. That's how those bitches can get away with shit like shoving you in that locker." She hesitated, as if she were about to say something but changed her mind. Finally, she asked, "Why didn't you use your powers on them? If I were you, I'd give them brown recluse makeovers."

    I shook my head. "That's going too far. And it'd be too obvious. It wouldn't be hard to figure out who was behind it."

    "Okay, okay. How about something that looks more natural and isn't permanent, like give them lice or crabs or something?"

    "Then they'd just be miserable, and they'd take it out on me." I sighed. "But no, the real reason is I don't trust myself not to keep escalating things. I want to be better than them, not sink to their level."

    Though she seemed to have grown more comfortable around me over the last few minutes, I noticed she still had an odd aversion to eye contact, preferring to talk while giving me quick glances and looking away. Not now, though. She stared up at me with stark frustration. She'd experienced a taste of the shit I'd gone through over the last year and a half, and the injustice of them continuing to get away with it was galling.

    "But now that you know Sophia's Shadow Stalker . . . ?" she prompted hopefully.

    "I don't know," I answered. And I didn't want to talk about it now. Besides, this alleyway wasn't as private as I would have liked.

    "You want to come to my house?" I asked. "I want to show you something."

    "Sure," she said, her face lighting with a grin. She probably guessed what it was.

    As we left the campus, she said, "You know, I have a Shadow Stalker action figure. As soon as I get home, it's going in the microwave."

    That made me laugh, and she giggled, adding, "And if we ever see Shadow Stalker fighting the ABB or E-Eighty-Eight or whatever, I can't promise I won't nope her. Then we can watch her get her ass kicked."

    I gave that a chuckle too, though I hoped she was only joking. As much as I hated Sophia, I didn't want her seriously injured or killed. In a perfect world, she'd be sent to juvenile detention, but the chances of that seemed more remote than ever.

    We took the first bus that headed in the general direction of home. I couldn't help but notice the stares that came her way from the other passengers. The paper towels hadn't been enough to wipe all the mess from her hair and coat--not to mention the ruined contents of her backpack. I felt guilty, and I guess I wanted to make it up to her. After all, what the trio did had originally been intended for me. At least I could keep the flies off her.

    We didn't speak much on the ride over, mostly because we couldn't talk about what we wanted while others were in earshot. But even after the bus stopped a block from my house and we got off, Maribel didn't start any small talk. Her anticipation, her eagerness, was palpable, and I could guess this was as big a deal for her as if was for me.

    I can't remember where I heard this, but someone once said you should take a negative and turn it into a positive. That wasn't too hard to do with today's events: the bitches did their usual bitchy things, but now I had a friend. And she was a trump.

    I could already see there would be issues, however. I had to slow my pace a couple of times while we were on the sidewalk, to allow her catch up. As a hero, I expected to do a lot of running, and even without her limp, she had short legs. But I figured we could work around this. Her power was too useful to not bring along.

    We went around and entered through the backdoor. As we passed the kitchen, Maribel said, "You have a nice house."

    "Thanks," I said. Was it? I guess that depended on your frame of reference. "But I don't think you'll say that when you see the basement," I added with a smile.

    I opened the door and we went down the steps. Here, the walls and floor were concrete, and the ceiling was exposed boards and electrical cords. At the old coal chute I removed a screw and tugged away the square wooden panel with peeling white paint. I pulled out the hidden gym bag and showed her what was inside.

    She knelt with her right leg propped stiffly to the side and ran her fingers over the smooth fabric.

    "Where did you get this?" she asked quietly.

    "I made it. Well, my black widows did. I've tested it: it's flexible, lightweight and really durable. The armor is scavenged insect exoskeletons."

    In the basement's dull light, her dark eyes gleamed with an excitement that I found contagious.

    "Spider silk and bug bits!" she cried. "That is so awesome! Are you going to be a hero or villain? I'm guessing hero. That's cool. Can I come along? I mean . . . do you want a partner? I know I'm not fast and I won't be much good in a fight, but . . ."

    "Fuck, yes, I want you on my team," I said, laughing. "You can amp my range and no-sell any cape we come across. With a power like that, you don't need to be throwing punches."

    "Have you gone out yet?" she asked.

    "I've been wanting to," I said. "Maybe we could do it this weekend. Like a test run."

    She nodded. "I'd like that. Do your parents know?"

    "My dad doesn't. My mom died three years ago." I was going to leave it at that, but clarified, "Car accident."

    For a few moments, Maribel just stared at the light from one of the basement windows. She looked spaced out and winced a little.

    "My mom died in a car accident too. It was last September, during Hurricane Leslie. It hit Boston really bad, and me and my mom were . . ." She trailed off, but she then took a deep breath and went on, "Anyway, that's how I got this hook. And my powers. I felt that when it happened, like something going into my head. At the time I just thought I was crazy. I didn't know I had powers until a few weeks later. I was in physical therapy when the nurses said they had a surprise for me. They wheeled me into this big room there was Parian, making rag dolls dance for all the kids in the hospital. I was in a bad mood and I remember thinking, I don't need a fucking puppet show. I need Panacea! And then . . . I could sense her powers, see them in my head. All Parian's little dolls fell to the floor, then, and Parian stumbled. Even with her porcelain mask I could tell she was afraid. Everyone else looked either worried or confused. And I felt bad for her, because she was just trying to make the kids happy. And then . . . just like that the puppets rose up and began moving--and so did everyone's clothes the window drapes. Even heavier things like lamps and chairs levitated. It didn't take long for me to figure it out, and so I dialed her back to normal. Everyone chalked it up to Parian having an off day."

    She turned back to me and asked, "How did you get your powers?"

    "The locker," I said. "You've probably already heard the details."

    "Oh, sorry," she said. "Maybe that's the way people get powers: by having something really shitty happen to them."

    "Maybe," I said. I wondered if mine was worth it. Despite how horrible it had been, despite the insanity that came with their manifestation and the nightmares that followed, I decided it was. I was glad I was a parahuman. But for Maribel, the price had to be too high.

    We went outside and tested her range. She dampened my powers and I slowly stepped down the sidewalk away from her. Four houses down, about sixty or seventy yards, I could begin to again the sense the bugs around me. Past the fifth house, I was back to normal. I had her amp me up--slowly, this time. It felt . . . good, but in a dizzy, euphoric way. I've never done drugs, but it was what I imagined snorting a line of coke would feel like. I don't know how far my range reached, but I could sense the crustaceans in the bay, and that was well past a mile out. Her amping seemed to have messed with my fine control, though, because it was hard to focus on any bug in particular. The details felt vague.

    "Let's only amp when I need it," I told her. "I can use it gather up super-swarms, but for things like surveillance I'm going to need practice."

    "Sure, we can do that anytime you want," she said.

    I smiled. I found her desperate, eager-to-please attitude a little off-putting, but she needed a friend as much as I did. Still, I wasn't used to this, having gone for so long without anyone to talk to besides my dad.

    As we returned to the house, I planned my words and asked, "Did you need to take a shower? I mean, with all the juice and stuff. I can throw your clothes in the wash. And if you want, you can spend the night here. Or even the whole weekend. My dad won't mind."

    She said yes, as I'd assumed she would, and called her grandmother to tell her. I wasn't sure if our bathroom had what she needed. Didn't black people use special products when they washed their hair? Or was I being racist? I guess what we had must have worked because when she came out her short dreadlocks looked clean and dry.

    While her clothes were in the dryer, she wore one of our bathrobes, which was so big on her she had to hold up the bottom so as to not trip as she walked. The effort was graceless since she only had one hand and wasn't wearing her hook, so we spent most of that time sitting on the couch watching cartoons. And that was what we were doing when my dad came home.

    "Please don't mention Emma," I whispered before he came through the front door. "She used to be my best friend, and my dad . . . he doesn't know what she's like now."

    She nodded, though I could see that bothered her.

    My dad was almost embarrassingly pleased to meet her. He even mentioned I hadn't had anyone over "since Emma," and then asked me how she was. Maribel winced on my behalf.

    Still, it wasn't nearly as awkward as it could have been. We gave him a half-truths version of how we met, mentioning the bullies and how I'd caught them bothering her. He ordered us pizza, and when she got dressed he managed not to stare too badly at her hook.

    He asked her about herself, and when she mentioned the hurricane he didn't press her for more. Brockton Bay had gotten a lot of wind and rain from Leslie, but we'd seen on the news the devastation in Boston. It wasn't as bad as the one that hit New Orleans had been, but for a while our city had a fair share of refugees.

    After dinner, Maribel and I retreated to my room. I showed her my notebook and translated for her the cipher. My list of potential names and my power test results interested her, but from her yawns I could tell she was growing tired.

    "We can do this tomorrow," I said. "We'll buy some supplies at the market. And see if we can't make you a costume."

    I gave her an unused toothbrush I found, and she changed into her gym shorts and one of my t-shirts. It had short sleeves, and for the first time I saw the scarred, round stump of her right arm which ended about halfway past her elbow. Though the shirt was big enough on her that it looked more like a knee-length dress, it still hugged her figure enough for me to see she was a pretty girl, amputee or not, and had more curves than I'd ever have. That army coat she always wore wasn't very flattering, but I guessed she had her insecurities. Not that I had room to talk.

    Just like I'd done back when Emma used to stay over, I gave Maribel my bed while for myself I unrolled an old sleeping bag on the floor. In the 'nightlight' of my computer monitor, I saw Maribel lay her head on one pillow and hug her arms around another, spooning it. She looked down at me, making the effort to meet my eyes.

    "Emma's the redhead, right?" she asked, keeping her voice low.

    "Yeah, and I've always wanted to know why she betrayed me, why she was obsessed with making my life hell . . . and now that I know it was because she wanted to impress her new sociopath cape friend, I feel cheated." Just thinking about it made my body tense with anger. I felt like crying. But was I missing something? I paused and added, "That's what it had to have been, right? I mean, Emma has to know who Sophia is; otherwise nothing makes sense."

    "Some people are just shit," Maribel said. "Me and my brother used to be really close. Now he's with Empire Eighty-Eight."

    She must have seen my confusion because she amended, "Half-brother. He was always getting into trouble, even before the hurricane. After we moved here, he began hanging out with new friends and going on about how he was glad mom was dead because she was a race traitor. He even told me I should never have been born. He moved out a couple months ago. I guess he's not my brother anymore."

    "Wow," I said. "That's . . . that's terrible."

    "But not everyone's like that. I'm glad I met you, Taylor. I think we're going to be good friends."

    A lump grew in my throat. Even if my eyes were a little wet, I doubted she could see that in the darkness. "I think we will too, Maribel. And thank you."

    For a while, I just lay there, planning for tomorrow. Today was a good day, I decided before I finally fell asleep.
    ***

    Note: At DeviantD's mention of Dr. Hutchison from Rocco's Modern Life (a show I haven't watched in twenty years), I've now officially changed Maribel's last name from Jones to Hutchison. Thanks for reminding me of that.
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2015
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  4. Threadmark: Chapter Three (Interlude: Maribel)
    Chapter Three
    (Interlude: Maribel)
    Maribel awoke with her face snuggled in a pillow. It took a few moments to remember where she was. On the floor, Taylor's sleeping bag was empty, and she couldn't sense her anywhere in the house or nearby.

    Taylor hadn't ditched her. She wouldn't. The idea was silly.

    Maribel pulled the white sock over her stump and from the nightstand took her prosthetic hook and slid it on. As she did every morning, she flexed the mechanism of the pincers. When she stood and stretched, her right knee and shoulder cracked with pain. She wrapped on the leg brace, tugging the Velcro tight. In the bathroom, she took her Paxil, and then used her hook to brush her teeth. She felt a little bit of pride that she didn't drop the toothbrush once.

    She walked down the stairs and smelled the bacon and toast before she saw Mr. Hebert--or Danny, as he insisted she call him--sitting at the kitchen table.

    "Hi there, Maribel. Pull up a seat. We saved you a plate. There's some leftover pizza in the fridge. Taylor's on her morning run. She'll be back in a few minutes."

    Maribel knew she shouldn't feel left out, but it still kind of stung.

    Before the hurricane, when Maribel had a mom, a brother and friends, she used to be pretty good at small-talk. It didn't come quite as naturally now, but she wanted to make the effort.

    Danny was a gawky-looking scarecrow of a man that always seemed worried. Despite or maybe even because of that, Maribel liked him. He was a lot like his daughter and was a nice dad. Maribel's dad had been someone she'd seen a few times, and that was years ago. Some of her mother's boyfriends had been kind enough, but they had come and gone.

    "Thanks for having me over, Danny," she said between bites of toast.

    "Oh, you can come over as much as you like. I'm glad Taylor has a friend again. You probably know more about the bullies than I do, but they've been giving her some real trouble. Back in January, they . . . Well, I won't go into it . . ."

    "I know about the locker," she said.

    Danny looked down and nodded. "The school promised they'd watch out for her after that, but if the bullies are bothering you, they're not doing enough." He sighed. "Maybe I should call Alan--that's Emma's dad, he's a lawyer--and see if he can't put pressure on them. Maybe Emma can keep an eye out for you two. She and Taylor were as close as sisters a couple of years ago, but I think they drifted apart. It happens. I think you'd like her, though."

    Well, Danny may have been a nice dad, but he was also an oblivious idiot. She considered telling him the truth but didn't want to lose Taylor's trust. And besides, she had a feeling Danny's ignorance was largely willing.

    Fortunately, Taylor returned before things got more awkward.

    They both got ready to leave. Maribel wore the same clothes as yesterday, which she tended to do anyway. At least they were clean.

    The walk to the market was longer than her knee was comfortable with, though she didn't want to look weak in front of Taylor. It was bad enough Taylor was obviously taking things slow so Maribel wouldn't lag behind. This gave them more time to talk, however, and that soon turned to cape names,

    "How about 'Hive Queen'?" Maribel asked. "Because, you know, you're a queen bee or whatever."

    "Well, it's not necessarily villainous," Taylor conceded, "but it sounds kind of ostentatious, doesn't it?"

    "You're a superhero."

    "But I'm just starting out. That name sounds like it belongs to someone who's already established themselves."

    "How about just, 'Hive' then? Later, you can give yourself a promotion."

    "Maybe. I'll think on it. How about you?"

    Maribel had thought on this too, but trump names were kind of tricky. "'Karma'?" she ventured. "Because I buff the good guys and nerf the bad?"

    Taylor frowned and looked her over. "It's not what I'd pick for you, but . . . I don't know what I'd pick for you. I'm sorry. I'm terrible at coming up with names."

    Maribel shrugged. "We both are. I guess we can just let the public name us, but we might get stuck with something stupid."

    "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Taylor said.

    Maribel had grown inured to the ache in her knee by the time they reached the market, a massive bazaar that sold every kind of ware imaginable. In Boston, she'd go to places like this every weekend, but in the few months she'd been in Brockton Bay, she'd come here only handful of times with her grandma. With its labyrinthine crowds and constant background chatter, she found she was no longer her old self and felt anxious and vulnerable.

    Because of that, she kept on her army coat, even though it was warm. As a compromise, however, she left it unbuttoned, displaying her Erykah Badu t-shirt--the one her mom had bought her. Her hand and hook she hid in her pockets.

    What she always did when encountering new crowds was use her powers to scan for parahumans. Panacea lived in Brockton Bay, and Maribel could always hope to come across her. She knew what she'd do if she did: limp around and look sad. She hated pity-stares, but if she was going to get one, it may as well be from someone who could do something about it.

    But the only capes she detected were some sort of deductive thinker, a master body-controller, and a shaker who could generate fields of sensory-dampening blackness. That last one could have been Grue of the Undersiders, though if it was, his Wiki page didn't do his powers justice. She searched for sight of them among the masses of Saturday morning shoppers, but they were already out of range.

    Taylor bought some straps for her costume, and Maribel spent most of what little she had on a can of pepper spray. She'd told Taylor she had more money than she really did, but the lie was a benign one. No cash? No credit card? It didn't matter: Maribel would get what she needed.

    They passed a stall selling woodwind instruments, and Maribel stopped when she saw a saxophone. It was an Alto Yamaha, student model. She wasn't really admiring--it was too painful for that--just staring and remembering.

    "I used to play," Maribel said. "Afterwards . . . my old school said they could get me a custom sax, one that could be played one-handed. But then I moved here. I doubt Winslow would be willing to foot the bill."

    Taylor sighed. "Even if they did, it'd just be another thing for the trio to fuck with. Last year, they stole my flute--my mother's flute--right out of my locker. I don't even want to know what they did with it."

    Maribel looked up at Taylor's thin face, the broad mouth tight with anger. When Taylor spoke of the bitches, she always paradoxically seemed resolute while at the same time defeated. It was heartbreaking.

    "I'm sorry," Maribel said, gently squeezing Taylor's hand. She hoped the gesture wasn't too weird.

    They went on. Maribel waited until they out of everyone's earshot before saying, "You should tell your dad. Tell him everything."

    "Everything?" Taylor asked, raising an eyebrow. "Like that I'm a cape?"

    "Yeah. And about the bitches. You act like they're always going to win and you're always going to lose. But it doesn't have to be that way."

    Taylor barked a bitter laugh. "You say that, and you know Sophia is a Ward. She's protected. What the fuck can my dad do? And besides, I have no proof. I've written down everything they've done since September, but they could say I just made all that up. It'd be my word against their's. The only thing that would happen would be we'd lose everything to legal fees." She gave Maribel a shrewd look. "Have you told your grandmother you have powers?"

    "Yes," she said, noting Taylor expected a no. "But I don't think she believes me. It's hard to show off trump powers if there's no cape around." That, and Maribel had just been released from a psychiatric ward when she told her. No need to bring that up, though.

    Taylor stopped at a rickety bookseller's stall and rifled through an old cardboard box filled with worn paperbacks. It looked like science fiction and fantasy stuff. Maribel wasn't much of a reader, though, and so decided this was as good an opportunity as it was going to get to do her shopping.

    "I have somethings I need to do," she said. "Just wait here. It won't take more than a few minutes, and . . . it's kind of a surprise."

    That Taylor's eyes narrowed showed she found this a little suspicious, but then she probably told herself Maribel was just going to get her a gift. Which was true. Sort of.

    They agreed to meet at Fugly Bob's in a half hour, which was more than enough time. As she lost herself in the crowd, she hoped Taylor wasn't using bugs to spy on her.

    Along the edge of the market were a number of real brick-and-mortar businesses, mostly corporate chains. Maribel chose a convenience store and dug through a trashcan out of sight of the front doors. It smelled of rotten milk and spilled soda, but she soon found an intact receipt listing a number of pricey items. Its date was yesterday. Good.

    There was that old saying: "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime." Maribel's mom had taught her many things, and though she was gone and Maribel missed her, what she had learned from her still remained.

    She had loved their shopping trips together. Mom would distract the employees with some loud but trivial complaint while Maribel would slink along the medicine aisle, methodically sweeping the shelves of their name brand allergy and antacid pills. That stuff sold like hot cakes at the flea market.

    Maribel was no longer fast or nimble, but she knew what to do.

    She peeked through the window and waited until the front cashier disappeared down a corner before entering through the automatic doors. The most expensive things on the receipt were shavers and high-end hairstyle products. It didn't take long to collect them. After making sure she wasn't seen, she used her hook to scrape off the security stickers and jimmy open the anti-theft locks. Her shoulder burned by the time she was done, making her acutely aware of the screws and pins that held the shattered joint together. She stuffed the loot in her army coat, made sure the coast was clear and sneaked out of the store.

    A minute later, she re-entered and boldly limped up to the customer service desk.

    Any manager with two brain cells to rub together would throw her out or even call the police, but this fat, middle-aged woman obviously didn't give a shit she was being scammed. Corporate policy stated that if you had the receipt and the items, you could return them, and that was that.

    The lady looked sympathetically when she saw Maribel's hook. "I'm afraid I can only give you store credit, sweetie."

    Maribel smiled, eyeing the goods beneath the glass counter. "That'll be fine."

    She ended up buying a tiny plug-in camera, a burner phone, two radio headsets and two pairs of cheap binoculars. On her way out, she filched a packaged rain slicker and a wide-brimmed black hat. Not badass like Taylor's, but it was a costume.

    She was a little ways out of the store when she detected the cape. The powers involved spacial distortion, which meant it was Vista. Maribel scanned the crowd in the direction her senses told her until she spotted the pretty blond girl. The Ward was younger than Maribel, maybe about twelve, and was strolling along with a canvas shopping bag while she ate a corn dog.

    A few days before, Maribel would have been thrilled to see her, just as she'd been when she first saw Sophia at Winslow.

    Even before Shadow Stalker had joined the Wards, Maribel had almost obsessively followed her career on the PHO forum. Shadow Stalker: the edgy lone-wolf antihero cleaning up Brockton Bay. Sophia certainly had looked the part, with her fierce panther-like face, long straight black hair and a slender athletic body Maribel wished she had. But then Maribel had heard things, and she had watched. The truth had been crushing.

    For all Maribel knew, they were all like that. Did Vista torture kittens? Was Gallant a rapist? If the corruption ran that deep, the Wards were just a house of cards waiting for that one little gust of nightmare PR to blow them away.

    Nothing that dramatic was likely to happen, but at the very least Maribel could take down Sophia. That's what friends were for.

    She found Taylor sitting at a booth at Fugly Bobs, a rundown looking fast food joint overlooking the beach. While munching on cheeze-fries, Maribel showed Taylor what she'd 'bought.'

    Taylor had only pecked at her burger, but then she didn't look like she ate very much. She fiddled with the flip phone Maribel had given her and looked vaguely disappointed.

    "Is . . . is the surprise you were talking about? I mean, it's nice. Thank you. I guess I do need--"

    Maribel laughed. "No, that's not it. You'll just have to wait. But don't worry. I know you'll like it."
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2015
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  5. Love this. Maribel is all kinds of adorable, and it's good to see Taylor with a friend who's seen firsthand what she's going through.
     
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  6. I know it's not this Maribel's description, but I can't help but picture her as Maribel Hearn

    Also, Watched.
     
  7. When I saw the thread title, my mind immediately here and my reaction was :o. I don't know whether to be happy or disappointed because of that.

    Anyhow... interesting premise. Looking forward to more.
     
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  8. Huh, so given that Maribel is a trump, I'm guessing she didn't trigger in the accident, but at the puppet show itself, in which case, did she ping off Parian? Also, is no one else concerned that maybe Maribel teaming up with Taylor isn't actually a good thing? She apparently has recently gotten out of a psych ward, for what, we don't know, and she has no problems with stealing.

    Now, I could understand overlooking the petty theft because times are tough and the Bay is a shithole, but from the sounds of it her mother was either a small time conwoman or a habitual shoplifter, and she passed some of that on to her daughter. I don't know, maybe Worm stories just have me conditioned to wait for the other shoe to drop.
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2015
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  9. You're not the only one.

    This should be interesting.
     
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  10. gatewaewanderer

    gatewaewanderer Wandering Fool

    Location:
    East Coast, USA
    Heh. I don't play League of Legends, tried DotA 2 for a while, but didn't stick with it. Instead, I saw the name Jinx and thought, "Huh. Teen Titans cartoon xover?" Which turned out to be wrong, but I'm liking it so far.

    But why do I get the feeling there are some seeds for major nastiness in this setup? If Taylor still tries for going undercover, figuring that nailing the Undersiders' boss would give her the credit write her own ticket, then Maribel / (who I'm guessing may end up with the hero / villain name 'Jinx,') could easily end up being one of the most dangerous villains to have ever started out in Brockton Bay. The thread name might argue against that, but some of the hints I've seen of Maribel's overall attitude still make think there's something bad down the road for her and everyone around her. Have to wait and see I suppose...
     
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  11. Yeah. It definitely is a willing ignorance of what his daughter is going through. That "father" is worth less than the dirt underneath the boots of those that hang.

    Great update. I really look forward to the trio getting their due. I think there's a lot of potential for Jinx here - I would enjoy seeing Taylor fulfilling her potential instead of kowtowing to the bureaucracy just because of a precog.
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2015
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  12. I'm not a Danny fan, but I don't think you're giving him quite enough credit. First of all, he honestly cares about Taylor which puts him ahead of an unfortunate number of other fathers. Secondly, while he is oblivious enough to miss (or ignore) major warning Bullied Victim signs, Taylor hasn't gone out of her way to keep him in the loop either.

    So yeah, definitely not father of the year, but he could be worse. Not quite dirt on the bottom of ones shoe.
     
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  13. Well, drat, i was going for "Hearn"
     
  14. Watched for dawwww.
     
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  15. There is no if and or buts about it. I'd turn SS powers off and sit back and watch her try that predator routine on her enemies when she can't sneak attack. Yeah that's really satisfying and sweet.

    Exactly what she deserves.
     
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  16. hellgodsrus

    hellgodsrus I feel like I could paint the whole town red!

    Good to see this around. I remember the original snip from way back when, so it's good it's getting continued.

    ...I just realised Maribel could probably Khepri Taylor in a reversible and totally non brain damaging way. And Maribel would be ridiculous come the final fight...

    Yup, watching this.
     
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  17. Damn. The power of friendship. But in a good way. I had a few tears in my eyes.

    Maybe because I've been in a PMMM kick but this kind of made me think of that. Girls with powers, bonds of friendship, struggling while they are ultimately doomed from the start. Though I doubt this will become a five man/girl group, the idea still stuck :p
     
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  18. You managed to give Maribell the most depressing backstory in all of Worm, except for (obviously) Bonesaw. Congratulations. E88 brother indeed.
     
  19. Black Noise

    Black Noise Curious

    Location:
    About 1AU from Sol
    I don't know, Miss Militia is way up there, Regent or those New Wave sisters got it bad too and I doubt other Triggers are much better. The main differences are that Maribel got crippled and her powers suck for immediate confidence.

    Maribel's story does bring to mind one micro horror-story: “I wonder if the devils tell you right away when you get to Hell, or if it’s more effective for them to let you figure it out yourself. And whether it’s just a coincidence that I had that horrible vivid dream about crashing my car, the night before I lost my job, ended up on the streets and started going blind.”

    I do like it that she's surviving it. Broken but haven't given up.

    Shame SS ruined the wards' image, could probably arrange something with Panacea if they just gave them a chance. Worm being Worm, that's unlikely.

    Have to compliment the story and characterisation so far; you've captured the bullying and general helplessness feel from early canon pretty well, and Maribel is just an adorable bundle of too-clever-by-half dysfunction.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2015
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  20. I really like this bit. Classic Taylor, won't do a thing for herself but if you hurt someone she feels she has to protect there's no stopping her.

    Nice to see Emma get a small glimpse of that.
     
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  21. Wow you're an idiot if you think kids can't hide things like this from their parents, it's practically a freaking trope.
     
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  22. You wouldn't be implying anything, would you?
     
  23. Yeah, Maribel's trigger story suffers from a bit from having an unreliable narrator. She's not exactly lying, just confused as to when she actually triggered. The part with:

    may have been her mistaking trauma-induced hallucinations/mental illness with triggering. After all, it's unlikely weeks could have passed without a parahuman coming within ~100 yards of her. So, the puppet show is the likely trigger event (perhaps as a final disappointment that nudges her over the threshold). Also, there's a reason her grandmother's so skeptical of her having powers. Think, "girl who cried wolf."

    It's not a major part of the story, but later chapters will go into more detail.

    Her E88 half-brother may be a racist asshole, but his grievances against his mother aren't entirely without merit.

    Taylor may have kept him out of the loop, but after the locker he should have gone straight into Papa Bear Mode. Instead he became Papa Ostrich and stuck his head in the sand. This is where I think he really drops the ball.

    I mean, that locker was not a prank. It was outright assault. It could very easily have killed her.

    To emphasize:
    1. Students at Winslow assault Taylor, nearly kill her.
    2. They remain uncaught.
    3. The school makes empty promises.
    4. Empty promises are empty.
    5. Danny lets Taylor return to Winslow.
    6. There's nothing stopping those same students from shoving her in the locker again.
    If Taylor returned and she gets lockered again (and this time it's on a Friday evening and she's trapped there over the weekend) . . . a good part of the blame would lay on Danny's head. He should have expected it to happen. Hell, he should have done everything in his power to keep Taylor out of that school. Winslow was trying to kill her.

    So, while he's not the worst dad, he was pretty ineffectual.

    Maribel had the same idea:

     
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  24. Thank you for writing it out so clearly.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2015
  25. I second that. I always felt there was something wrong with the canon depiction of Danny, and that's what it was.

    Considering how little additional time Skitter spent in Winslow, post-locker, having Danny be protective and trying to get her out of there would have affected the overall story not one bit, but... ah well. Could've been better written, there.
     
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