Characters: Worm Undersiders
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At the beginning of the story, the Undersiders are an up-and-coming supervillain team based in the Docks
of Brockton Bay, known — barely — for their ability to avoid capture or defeat. However, the fact that they (mostly) continue
to avoid capture and defeat in the face of a long series of escalating threats leads their name becoming more widely known, particularly when they and the Travelers effectively take over Brockton Bay.
The initial members of the team are Grue, Bitch/Hellhound, Regent, and Tattletale; over the course of the story, they recruit Skitter, Imp, Parian, and Flechette (who changes her name to Foil); the character entries of the latter two may be found in the "Misc. Superheroes and Rogues" folder of the Others page and the "The Wards (Others)" folder of the Sponsored Heroes page, respectively.
Tropes for the group as a whole
- Badass Crew: The Undersiders became this somewhere between attacking the PRT headquarters and chasing after Siberian.
- Band of Brothers: After all of the fights and terrors they have faced, The Undersiders have become this.
- Classical Anti-Hero: Taylor. She started out as a heroic mole until she was betrayed by Armsmaster. Even as a "villain", she has an almost unbreakable moral code and tries to help everyone she can.
- Famed in Story: The Undersiders and the Travelers attain this status after the Slaughterhouse Nine arc when they take over the city, as pointed out in 18.3 by Clockblocker.
- Five Man/Bad Band: The Undersiders fit both perfectly, thanks to the varied moral spectrum of the team too. Though Skitter and Grue eventually switch roles.
- Friendly Neighborhood Gangster: Skitter and Tattletale become this when they get their territories, with Skitter handing out relief supplies, defending her subjects against other villains, organizing reconstruction and generally behaving like one of the more beneficent feudal barons; while Tattletale runs her entire territory from a relief shelter, taking no overt control and running things from behind the scenes. Grue and Imp mostly limit themselves to driving off other villains while Regent uses his power to take over the existing gangs himself and Bitch quickly drives almost everyone out of her territory.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: They start out as a small, low-end group of villains in a relatively small town. By the end of the story, they're sitting on Cauldron's planning sessions to fight Scion, as equals with the Protectorate, the Guild, and the Thanda, among other global-scale heavy-hitters.
- A Hero To His Hometown: In the wake of all they did to protect the people of Brockton Bay from the Merchants and the Slaughterhouse Nine, the Undersiders — and Skitter especially — become a local institution.
- Man of the City: The Undersiders acquire this role for the city of Brockton Bay after it's badly damaged by Leviathan, first claiming territory and driving off the supervillains that are less friendly to the populace (drug dealers, neo-nazis, and serial killers) and then funding the city's revitalization with their illegally gained money, as well as providing smuggled supplies where government supplies fall short. When the city is about to be condemned, they convince the mayor to campaign against it in Washington by invading his home and threatening his family. Later, they create the first stable gateway to an alternate world in order to bring revenue to the city and revitalize it.
- Men Are the Expendable Gender: Both male members of the group die, but none of females despite outnumbering the former.
- Nineties Anti-Hero: Imp and Rachel. Both are a deconstruction of the usual type.
- Noble Demon: Because of the way the Undersiders tend to focus their efforts on taking down other criminals and villains in the wake of Leviathan, at least some of the Undersiders acquire this reputation.
- Nominal Hero: Rachel looks like this on the surface, but that's a case of Blue and Orange Morality, and she does try hard to conform to the human norm. Regent, however, most definitely qualifies.
- Pragmatic Hero: Grue, and maybe Tattletale (her Knight in Sour Armor status does not really help to define her one way or the other).
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: When they were originally formed, they were pretty much just a group of random no-name supervillains recruited to form a team by a mysterious benefactor and sticking together because, well, money. Over time, their connection grows to be a lot more than that.
- Supervillain Lair: At the time Taylor joins the team, they have a base on the second floor of an abandoned factory in the Docks. After they spread out to claim territory for the team benefactor, Coil, each member gets their own base.
- The Team Benefactor/Mysterious Employer: The team's initially-anonymous boss, revealed eventually to be Coil, a local recruiter of mercenaries, supplies the team with equipment and financial support in exchange for doing his jobs.
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: One of the unspoken rules that the Undersiders follow.
Taylor Hebert (Skitter/Weaver/Khepri)
My taking hostages like this? It had been my idea, so help me. As horrible as it was, it had been necessary. The worst case scenario was some regular schmuck in the bank pulling some stunt and getting themselves or others hurt or killed. I couldn't let that happen, if I was in a position to help it. If it meant keeping them quiet and out of the way, I was willing to terrorize them.
The main protagonist of the novel, Taylor is a relatively-tall, rail-thin 15 year old girl from Brockton Bay with long, dark curly hair. She gained the ability to detect and control a wide variety of bugs and bug-like creatures (including insects, spiders, earthworms, and crustaceans) after being Stuffed into a Locker full of used tampons and pads
. In something of a heroic equivalent of Revenge by Proxy
against the bullies at her school (Winslow High), she sets out to become a superhero, but ends up joining the Undersiders instead
. Following the end of the Slaughterhouse Nine arc and the death of Coil
, she becomes the leader of the group. After the deaths of Alexandria and Director Tagg, she defects to the PRT with the new codename Weaver.
Her costume consists of a black-and-grey bodysuit made out of spider silk with armor panels made out of shells and exoskeletons augmented with more silk. Her mask has sections of armor imitating mandibles covering her jaw and dull yellow lenses (taken from a pair of goggles) that incorporate lenses from a spare pair of glasses. Her mask leaves the back of her head uncovered and her hair free to fly behind her.According to Scion, her power is the result of receiving the severely-weakened "administrator" shard, which grants her both the power to control insects and eventually humans. She is shot and seemingly killed by Contessa at the end of Speck 30.7, but is later revealed to be alive in a sealed off Earth with her father.
Classification: Master 5; Thinker 1spoiler
- A-Cup Angst: Taylor's not happy with her lack of boobs, curves or any real femininity. (This is among the reasons she keeps her hair long.)
- Action Survivor: A major contributor to Skitter's badass reputation in the face of her weak-sounding power is her ability to think up ways to come out ahead against extremely powerful and dangerous foes. Trickster outright states that she seems to thrive the more impossible the fight is.
- An Arm and a Leg:
- Ends up having Lung burn off her arm in Venom 29.8 after getting it accidentally crushed by Garrote.
- She loses her hand a bit more permanently later.
- Animal Eye Spy: Skitter can do this with the insects she controls, but it takes some time for her to get a handle on sight and sound.
- Anti-Villain: Between her heroic intentions, her heroic actions, and her unwillingness to cause permanent harm to people, Skitter clearly falls somewhere between Well Intentioned and In Name Only.
- Apologetic Attacker: She apologizes to Triumph several times for the severity of the beatdown she gave him.
- Arachnid Appearance and Attire: The armor panels of her costume are designed to evoke (and partly made out of) exoskeletons.
- The Atoner: This is mostly her character arc after she joins the Wards. While she has some difficulty changing her attitude and her methods, she claims to want to honestly change.
- Badass Cape: After getting part of her original costume burned during a fight with the Slaughterhouse Nine, Taylor fits a small cape over her shoulders and covers it with poisonous insects.
- Bad Powers, Good People: Taylor manages to be heroic and merciful despite the offensive use of her power creating the possibility of anaphylactic shock (bee stings), comas (black widow spiders), tissue necrosis (brown recluse spiders) or death (all of the above).
- As of Chrysalis 20.1, Skitter now has the use of bullet ants, which are capable of causing 24 hours worth of pain.
- This trope is directly referenced after she defects and becomes Weaver, specifically by the Glenn, the Protectorate's PR guy. Can't fault a person for being Genre Savvy despite his choice of... butterflies???
- Becoming the Mask: Taylor, as a villain. She was originally just pretending.
- Bee Bee Gun: Skitter controls all arthropods (Insects, arachnids, and crustaceans), including bees, and is more than happy to use them offensively.
- Benevolent Boss: When Skitter finds herself recruiting minions, she makes a point of being kind and generous to them, listening to their problems, and caring about their well-being. Between this and her demonstrated ability to solve said problems, she ends up with over sixty followers living in her territory by Part 16.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Taylor really hates to hurt people and is by far the nicest of the Undersiders. She is also extremely vicious, and quite terrifying when she fights. Look at what she did to Lung, the Merchants, Valefor, Tagg, and Alexandria.
- Big Brother Is Watching: Taylor's power lets her sense things through her bugs across a radius of three city blocks or more. As a result, she is able to track everything that is happening in her territory.
- Big Creepy-Crawlies: Her giant beetle mount, Atlas.
- Blessed with Suck: The Deadly Upgrade that lets her fight Scion on an even footing also kicks her passenger's conflict-generating function into overdrive, slowly overwriting her personality and turning her into a cold-hearted, calculating monster as it eats away at her brain, despite her best attempts to stop it.
- Boom, Headshot/Double Tap: Contessa shoots her in the back of the head twice in Speck 30.7, though it's revealed that it was to save her life, not end it.
- Brought Down to Normal: In the final Interlude, it's revealed that Contessa brought her in to have power-sealing surgery after incapacitating her. Given that her powers had gone into overdrive and were slowly killing her whilst overwriting her personality, though, it's hard to see the 'down' bit.
- Boxing Lessons for Superman: Shortly after gaining her powers, Taylor set out to develop her strength and endurance, took a first-aid course, and researched spiders and insects.
- But He Sounds Handsome: In 16.7, Taylor tries to make excuses for the villains taking over the town — of which Skitter is one.
- Can't Believe I Said That: In Tangle 6.2 and 6.3, when she's assembling furniture with Brian. An especially prominent example:
Relax. You're allowed to breathe. [Taylor laughs nervously
] You okay? Taylor
]: What was I supposed to say? Admit I didn't know how to deal with being around a good looking guy? Taylor
]: I get nervous when I'm close to people. I think, you know, maybe I have bad breath, or maybe I have B.O., and I wouldn't be able to tell, because it's mine, so I hold my breath like that to be safe. I dunno. Taylor
]: Bravo, Taylor. Bravo.
I imagined the slowest, most sarcastic of slow claps.
Talking about bad breath and B.O. was totally
the way to go. One of those brilliant moments that would have me cringing every time I remembered it in the next few years or decades, I was sure.
- Character Tics: Grue notes that she likes bending herself at weird angles in his Interlude.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: Skitter is almost incapable of not helping people, given the opportunity.
- Combat Pragmatist: Deconstructed - the fact that she's so willing to go for the throat in fights plays merry hell with her reputation, causing the good guys to prioritise her as a threat even over more ostensibly evil characters.
- Commonality Connection: One of the reasons she goes to such lengths to befriend Rachel is because they were both betrayed and abused by people they trusted and those in authority. (The other is that Rachel wouldn't be likely to have many friends otherwise.)
- Conflicting Loyalty: Taylor struggles to make a call between doing what's right or exposing the only people who have ever accepted or been nice to her.
- Cool Mask: Skitter's mask has yellow bulbous eyes and hard mandibles like an insect's at her mouth.
- Crush Blush: Taylor suffers this quite badly in Tangle 6.3 when she's assembling furniture with Brian — at one point she even references the High-Pressure Emotion and Lustful Melt tropes in the narration.
- Determinator: As is repeatedly demonstrated, beginning when she fights through the pain inflicted by one of Bakuda's bombs to pull out her knife and chop off the toes with Bakuda's bomb-controlling devices. She later hypothesizes that this resulted in a long term benefit for her in the form of an insanely-high pain tolerance:
I think it messed with my head, as far as my perception of pain. I found out what it's really like to feel pain, real ten-out-of-ten pain. A part of me knew it was too much to be true, and other stuff's affected me more because I knew it was tied with something real.
- The Dreaded: After what she did to Lung, The Merchants, and Dragon, she is considered quote, "one of the scariest motherfuckers in town." By the end of the story, this has been upgraded to 'one of the scariest motherfuckers in the multiverse'.
- Discard and Draw: Courtesy of Panacea's modifications, Taylor loses most of her range, but gains the ability to control people. Then the whole "range" thing becomes irrelevant when she starts thinking with portals....
- Disproportionate Retribution: In Colony 15.1, against Barker. She feels guilty afterwards, but sees it as necessary to maintain her image.
- Eating Lunch Alone: In the first chapter, we discover that for the past several weeks, she has locked herself in an empty stall in the girl's bathroom to eat lunch where the bullies won't find her.
- Eleventh Hour Superpower: Invoked. Taylor has Panacea tamper with her brain to try to remove the restrictions on her power, which cuts down her range and fine control, but allows her power to effect everything instead of being limited to bugs.
- Excuse Me While I Multitask: This is one of her Required Secondary Powers, allowing her to give specific orders to individual bugs in her swarm simultaneously. In Speck, she even out-multitasks an almost-fully-unchained Dragon, who is literally an AI running on massively parallel hardware.
- Flash Step: Though she can't actually do this, she appears to be able to do it while in her swarm. Thanks to the swarm-sense, she automatically knows where everyone is around her, and she can move out of someone's reach by having her swarm suddenly gather around her, masking her movements and letting her "reappear" a short distance away. And the creepiest part is that Taylor doesn't even realize she's doing this.
- Forced Into Evil: Your mileage may vary as to how necessary her crueler acts are, but for the most part she's trying to fix an increasingly horrific world however she can. She does terrible things to protect the future, but there's no denying that without her, humanity would have been completely slaughtered.
- Former Friend of Alpha Bitch: Said Alpha Bitch being Emma Barnes (see Characters.Worm Others).
- Freaky Fashion, Mild Mind: Taylor, dresses in a black and grey costume made of Black Widow spidersilk and armor plates with yellow lenses for eyes, and later uses her bug control powers to use bugs as a mask. She was assumed to be a villain from her first time out in costume, and many characters find her disturbing, intimidating, and an overall badass (though her actions while in costume certainly help those views along). Seeing things from her point of view, she's bluffing or has practical reasons for such a costume (Black Widow dragline silk is as strong as steel and much tougher). She's just an awkward and insecure teenage girl who's had a tough time.
- Friendless Background: The chief reason that Taylor stays with the Undersiders is that she had exactly one ally — her dad — for the year and a half before she met them.
- Friend to Bugs: While initially Taylor finds bugs as creepy as most 15-year-olds would, the intensity of her first months in costume working with bugs on a daily basis leaves her finding their presence comforting, instead.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Taylor begins the story as a 15-year-old girl who is viciously bullied, and very insecure about herself.While she is still a good person at heart, she becomes a legitimately scary villain with a reputation for destruction following in her wake. Later in her career, she controls a massive group of parahumans with her mind, and can extend that control to anyone on any world at will, making her one of the scariest parahumans alive.
- Gibberish of Love: In Tangle 6.2 and 6.3, Taylor feels like she's suffering this quite badly.
- Good Costume Switch: Receives a new blue-grey costume when she sides with the new PRT.
- Good Is Not Soft: Skitter's generosity to people in her territory is seen as a sign of weakness until her fight with Mannequin demonstrates this trope. Of course, anyone paying attention to her exploits would have known she was no pushover after her second fight with Lung — the one where she cut out his eyes.
- Grew a Spine: Kicking truly massive amounts of ass in her role as Skitter does quite a lot for Taylor's ability to assert herself.
- Half The Woman She Used To Be: Taylor gets nearly cut in half by Scion in Extinction 27.5, and only survives thanks to Lab Rat's Emergency Transformation.
- The Heart: Of the Undersiders. Tattletale remarked how quickly she grew close to the rest of her teammates by helping and supporting them any way she could. It is telling how Regent went out of his way to take revenge on someone who hurt her, and how close Bitch has become with her.
- Heart Is an Awesome Power: Although Taylor's power doesn't sound too impressive compared to most major capes, she keeps coming up with creative ways to apply her abilities, and by doing so has taken down opponents more powerful than herself, up to and including Alexandria.spoiler
- Heroic Self-Deprecation: Taylor is constantly emphasizing her failings and deprecating her successes. One running example is her insistence that she is not good at dealing with people in spite of all evidence to the contrary.
- Hero with Bad Publicity: Taylor tends to perceive herself as this. In Chrysalis 20.5, she discovers she was at least partly mistaken when a hundred students side with her over the Protectorate.
- Horrifying Hero: Skitter is scary as hell to fight even when she holds back. When she doesn't hold back she can slowly flay you alive with her bugs, have them burrow through your eyes, and even try to slip bugs inside the body to cause internal damage.
- How Do I Shot Web?: It takes time for Skitter to develop the ability to use the sight and hearing of her insects, or to control Atlas.
- Huge Schoolgirl: At fifteen, Taylor is already 5'8" — taller than most girls at her school.
- Hypocrisy Nod: During a fight with Scion , Taylor tries to help apply first aid to one of Bitch's dog's instead of another cape who's dying not far away. She looks at this situation and realizes that despite all her attempts to justify it, she admits that she's just being selfish, arrogant and above all a hypocrite because she's more afraid of losing her team and herself in the process then an actual person dying.
- I Miss Mom: Taylor misses her mother desperately, mentioning at one point that many of the things she did as Skitter were trying to patch the emotional hole left by her mom's death. To the point that one of her very last actions in the story is track down an alternate universe counterpart of her mom.
- Indy Ploy: Skitter tries to have plans in advance, but as both Tattletale and Grue point out, she is amazing at improvising when unexpected circumstances arise — both negative and positive. The fight against the ABB in the Hive arc illustrates this talent multiple ways; the clearest example being in 5.7 when she capitalizes on the accidental discovery that Oni Lee brings the bugs with him during his teleports to turn a dangerous situation around.
- Jumped at the Call: The idea of being a superhero was what kept Taylor going for three months after her trigger event. In fact, all that stopped her from going out immediately was the limits of her power and her own cautious nature.
- Keeping Secrets Sucks: Taylor found trying to hide her heroic intentions from the Undersiders (particularly Tattletale) a great source of stress.
- Loss of Identity: After having her brain altered by Panacea, Taylor suffers rapid mental deterioration that erodes her faculties, her memories, and eventually her sense of self.
- Made of Iron: Skitter demonstrates this on several occasions:
- In the fight against Mannequin, she spends over two minutes sparring with one of the most nimble and deadly killers on the planet — and is still able to drop a One-Liner at the end of the fight.
- After Flechette embeds a dart in her shoulder blade, Skitter arranges to have field medic Brooks use some spare dentist's tools to cut it out. While using her power to fly out bug clones to several of her subordinates so she can continue working — because hey, local anesthetic will do just fine, and she may as well not waste time.
- In a period well under twenty-four hours, starting at the last mayoral debate, Skitter is caught in an explosion that blinds her, shot, trapped in a burning building, dropped out the window of said burning building, kicked in the chest, shot again, and then thrown into a fight with what is probably the fifth-most-dangerous creature on the planet having had no opportunity to rest in the meantime. Her reaction?
Whatever warped disease Noelle had dumped into me to weaken me and leave me unable to fight back after I'd been vomited out was steadily wearing off. That was only a part of the overarching problems, though, and I still felt drained. My stamina was pretty rock bottom, and the recent fight hadn't helped. I was hungry, thirsty, and I wanted to crash for fifteen or thirty minutes.
- In fact, this last example includes a built-in control case: as she walks away, Tattletale guides her to a hero who can sort-of heal her by sort-of transferring her wounds to him. When he does so, it results in him yelping "She's fucking blind!?", collapsing in a coughing fit from yelling, collapsing in another coughing fit from just speaking, and needing two people supporting him to move afterwards.
- Not even getting split in half by Scion is enough to stop her completely.
- And not too long after being healed from the above she has her hand and arm crushed. Her reaction: thinking "I just got a new one".
- Meaningful Rename: Twice: first, when defecting from the Undersiders, to Weaver; second, after the mission against Jack Slash failed to prevent Scion's apocalypse, to Taylor.
- And again, albeit by others, to Khepri after getting her shard jailbroken.
- The Minion Master: Taylor can exert complete mental control over most invertebrate (e.g. insects, arachnids, crustaceans) within range of her power. note
- Misapplied Phlebotinum: One of Taylor's repeated sources of frustration is running into people like Panacea and Genesis with incredible powers whose full potential they never even touch.
- Missing Mom: Annette Rose Hebert died two and a half years before the story began, killed in a car crash while on the cell phone.
- The Mole: Taylor's reason for joining the Undersiders. She decides not to betray the group after figuring out that the so-called heroes aren't much better.
- Moral Myopia: Her primary flaw. While she doesn't claim that what she does is inherently good, nor does she really act on her long list of grudges, she does tend to judge the motives of actions against herself and her friends much more harshly than her own. She's right as often as not, but it does drive her away from the superheroes when Armsmaster loses it.
- Multi-Armed Multitasking: Skitter can perform a truly absurd number of simultaneous tasks with her insects.
- Mundane Utility: Skitter is highly inventive when it comes to using powers for unexpected purposes — three obvious examples:
- In Plague 12.1, using her power to help clear out a rat infestation in a set of neighboring houses.
- In Monarch 16.4, using Shatterbird's power for transportation.
- In Chrysalis 20.1, using her power to bring her toothbrush, toothpaste, and hairbrush to hand during her morning ablutions.
- My God, What Have I Done?:
- Necessarily Evil: Taylor is not the only example of this in the series but is certainly the most clear cut. Initially purely a mole among her villainous friends, she comes to view villainy as the best way to achieve her entirely selfless goals.
- Nerves of Steel: When you list the actual situations she has been in, Taylor has amazing self-control. Not everybody would be nearly so calm about taking on the Slaughterhouse Nine or chasing a freaking Endbringer.
- Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: Taylor has one of the strongest moral codes in the entire story, and just wants to help people. However, due to her attire, allies, powers, and vicious combat style, people often think otherwise.
- Not So Different:
- On several occasions, Taylor finds herself imitating the strategies of her antagonists, much to her discomfiture.
- When Taylor is talking to Shadow Stalker in the immediate aftermath of Scion beginning his rampage, Shadow Stalker characterizes Taylor as being a copy of herself.
- Official Couple: Taylor and Brian as of Interlude 15 (Donation Bonus #2). But they've broken up by the Cockroaches arc.
- Obviously Evil: Taylor falls victim to this while attempting to be a hero. She doesn't realize in time that having bug powers and wearing a distinctly evil looking costume is not sending the intended message of hero.
- Organic Technology: Atlas is much like a scaled-up version of a Hercules beetle, but it doesn't have any of the instincts that natural animals have.
- Poor Communication Kills: In 19.2, Skitter explicitly recalls and sets out to defy this trope when talking to Weld and Miss Militia about Calvert.
- Power Incontinence: Taylor will sometimes instinctively start drawing insects to herself, particularly when she's feeling threatened, but she usually has enough self-control to countermand the orders when needed (although she didn't when she was half-unconscious from being caught in one of Bakuda's explosions). Later on, while in prison after surrendering to the PRT, she encounters a problem where the power is effectively "on" all the time and she's constantly aware of every insect within her range, and has to consciously resist controlling them due to prison rules against power use. When, over time, the things her power will do without any conscious instruction grow more and more sophisticated, Taylor begins to worry that her 'passenger' is beginning to take control of her actions.
- Taken Up to Eleven in Speck when She loses her ability to speak, read, and understand because of the modifications Panacea made to her power. In Speck 30.7, its implied that her shard has either influenced her to the point where she can no longer think like a human, or that it has taken her over entirely. Also, she can't turn off her control power, any human within 16 feet of her will automatically be overwritten.
- Replacement Goldfish: Taylor becomes one for Lisa, who had failed to prevent her brother's suicide.
- Required Secondary Powers: Taylor's ability to control potentially billions of insects individually makes her the best multitasker on the planet.
- Samaritan Syndrome: Skitter won't stop pushing herself when there's things she believes need doing, much to Grue's dismay.
- She Who Fights Monsters: In order to stop The End of the World as We Know It, Taylor hardens herself and loses herself, becoming The Unfettered in her pursuit of killing Jack Slash before he can end the world—and fails.
- Shrinking Violet: Taylor began the story as one because of the bullying campaign, but her exploits as Skitter lead her to grow a spine.
- Shrouded in Myth: Taylor gets it literally from the first night she dons a costume. Admittedly she brings some of her wildly inaccurate reputation on herself and eventually starts doing it on purpose to inflate her credibility. Her recklessly heroic nature doesn't help either.
- So What Do We Do Now?: In the final chapter, it turns out that Contessa DePowered and placed Taylor on Earth Aleph with her father. She's not sure if it was a reward for stopping Scion or Cruel Mercy for destroying Cauldron.
My life is over, for all intents and purposes. No matter how hard I try from here on out, I'll never do anything one ten-thousandth as important as what I was doing before.
- Stealth Hi/Bye: In Interlude 14, no-one notices Skitter's arrival until she is already standing behind Yan. (Skitter mentions in an earlier chapter that her soft-soled shoes make it easy for her to sneak up on people.)
- Super Intelligence: As a number of readers have pointed out, the amount of information Taylor deals with when she controls her insects is well beyond what an unaided human mind can process.
- After her power is jailbroken this is massively scaled up. In the final battle she's very effectively controlling billions of insects, and hundreds of other parahumans with vastly diverse powers, including many precogs and a clairvoyant that lets her see everything happening on every possible Earth, and using interdimensional portals to keep them all technically within 16ft of her the entire time. "Super" seems an understatement.
- Supervillain Lair: When the Undersiders spread out to claim territory around the city, Skitter sets up her home base to include a room with walls of terrariums (set up with lights and lids controlled by a hidden switch she can activate with a beetle) and a Cool Chair for her to do a Slouch of Villainy in.
- The Swarm: Skitter frequently uses her ability to command truly massive numbers of insects to make these.
- Swiss Army Superpower: Over the course of the few months since she gained her powers, she continuously comes up with new ways to use her power, such as by coating insects with petroleum jelly and then capsaicin to be able to use them like pepper spray.
- Underestimating Badassery:
- At first glance Skitter looks like a skinny girl in a creepy costume with a weak power of controlling bugs. Lung, Armsmaster, and Mannequin really should have taken her seriously, and the Merchants didn't know what hit them.
- Even those people who realize just how dangerous a skinny girl in a creepy costume with the power of controlling bugs can be are prone to seeing her through the lens of her viciousness in a fight and completely miss her ability to analyze a situation on the fly.
The family's testimony suggests [Trickster
breaking the "don't go after a cape's family" rule] wasn't deliberate. Skitter informed Trickster
partway through [that Rory Christner
But we can assume she found out beforehand. Unless you're going to suggest she figured it out on her own? Weld: No. It makes sense. I suspect Tattletale could find out something like that.
- The Unmasking: As of the Chrysalis arc, Skitter's identity as Taylor Hebert is known to the world at large.
- Unreliable Narrator: When she's within range of Imp's power, though the readers can usually figure out what's going on. The worst case was the first time the two were out in costume together, before the readers knew who Imp was and what her power is.
- While trapped in Bonesaw's agnosia fog.
- All of Speck, as the upgrade tears her mind apart.
- Utility Belt: Taylor's utility compartment, where she stashes necessary items and weapons in the armor panel that covers her back. In 18.3, Miss Militia takes a look at the contents, during which we see:
- A handgun (Trickster's spare).
- A piece of spider silk.
- Pepper spray.
- A changepurse, containing cotton swabs (to muffle the noise), needles, smelling salts, and change.
- A collapsible baton.
- Technical Pacifist: While Taylor is unquestionably a brutal and terrifying combatant, on her own she opts to terrify, injure, or contain — not torture, cripple, or kill. That said, the exact definition of "cripple" depends on how strong a Healing Factor a given opponent has....
- Think Nothing of It: Skitter often has this reaction to being praised or thanked. (A particularly keen example comes when she brings Dinah home.)
- Villain Protagonist: She slowly becomes this over the course of the first half of the story.
- Voice of the Legion: Skitter learns to do something like this using massed swarms of different kinds of bugs. It gets to the point where she doesn't even notice she's doing it... around the same time she becomes completely okay with having her bugs crawling all over her body.
- With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Upon getting her shard jailbroken in the Speck arc, Taylor slowly starts losing control of her mind. Up until Speck 30.6 when Scion is defeated, she manages to avoid going completely insane only via Heroic Willpower.
- The Worm That Walks:
- Taylor makes herself look like this by surrounding herself with insects when she is caught in a fight without her costume on. This not only disguises her but also intimidates her opponents with a giant, creepy-looking humanoid insect swarm.
- On other occasions, Skitter creates humanoid figures out of worms, either as decoys or full-fledged assailants.
- Would Hurt a Child: In Sting 26.6 she shoots Aster Anders, a toddler — both as a Mercy Kill and because there was a chance that she would cause the end of the world.
- You Fight Like a Cow: Taylor admits that she really isn't any good at superhero banter.
Brian Laborn (Grue)
It was a little disquieting to hear Brian methodically describing how to break a human being. I saw him as a nice guy, if I ignored his career choice.
The first leader of the Undersiders, Grue is a 17-year-old black man who got into crime in order to have the financial independence needed to take over the guardianship of his sister Aisha from their drug addict mom as soon as he turned 18. According to the Parahumans Online wiki at the beginning of the story, his power is simple darkness generation — a factoid he added himself, so that his opponents would be caught off-guard by the way it blocks hearing and touch as well. The darkness seems to affect some superpowers as well, and after his second trigger event, it allows some Power Copying
The darkness also seems to eliminate his bodily odors, as Brutus notes.
His costume is basically motorcycle leathers and a helmet designed to be wreathed by his smoke when he uses his power. His first helmet is a stylized skull, done in black; his second a demonic face. Is revealed to have died on the oil rig fighting Scion.
Classification: Shaker; Trump
Lisa Wilbourn/Sarah Livsey (Tattletale)
"Oh honey, now who's being stupid? I've got the most powerful weapon of all," Tattletale purred, smiling wickedly, "Information."
A pretty seventeen year old girl with dark blonde hair and mysterious origins, Lisa possesses a power that is essentially Bat Deduction
— she can extrapolate an incredible wealth of inference from the least soupçon of data. It's not perfectly reliable, however — if she pushes it too far from too little data, she can end up very, very wrong, and even under less extreme circumstances a lack of information can mean her guesses are significantly off. As a member of the team, she usually primarily provides intel, such as analysis of the powers of their opposition, but she has used her power to Break Them by Talking
on more than one occasion.
Her costume consists of a skintight black-and-lavender outfit and a mask that hides her freckles and disguises the lines of her face. She also makes a point of loosing her hair only while in disguise.
Classification: Thinker 7
- Asexuality: Tattletale doesn't get any enjoyment out of sex due to her powers giving her a sensory overload.
- Alpha Bitch: Tattletale/Lisa is explicitly beautiful and has manipulation as a superpower. However despite her very bitchy tendencies towards the world at large she lacks any crowd to be in with and is a loyal friend to Taylor from their first meeting. What little is known of her backstory would suggest that she probably used to be either this played straight, or something similar before something unpleasant triggered her superpower and drove her to flee her wealthy home.
- Awesomeness by Analysis: When analyzing someone or something, she needs to have some information about the target to begin with, and her power fills in the gaps in her knowledge, allowing her to crack computer passwords, profile people around her, and make predictions about the most likely outcome of a given situation, among other things. She's very accurate, although not infallible. In the few instances where she makes mistakes, she messes up pretty big. Also, she can become mentally overloaded if she tries to take in and analyze too much information all at once.
- Berserk Button: Insulting her intelligence. Though being Tattletale, she responds by coldly and methodically verbally eviscerating the person who insulted her.
- Break Them by Talking: Due to her power, Tattletale is an absolute master at this. It doesn't matter who you are, if you can hear her, she will get to you. At one point Taylor sees her doing this and thinks that if she'd wanted to, Tattletale could have been a cult leader that made Heartbreaker look amateurish.
- Cheshire Cat Grin: Perpetually, even — being as she is often up to something.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Tattletale got her powers due to stress from her older brother committing suicide, and left after her parents decided to use her for her powers.
- Explaining Your Power to the Enemy: Tattletale exploits this trope by inventing a succession of misleadingly false explanations, starting with a claim that she reads minds — something impossible in this setting — to intimidate anyone in front of her.
- Exposition Fairy: Has the ability to do this on any foe.
- Everybody Knew Already: Tattletale knew that Taylor was intending to be a superhero before they even met.
- Glasgow Grin: Jack Slash slices through her cheek when she has the temerity to spill the beans on Cherish's plan. It's not actually a smile.
- Failure Knight: The reason she befriends Taylor is to try to make up for her failure to prevent her brother's suicide.
- Hollywood Hacking: Actually justified due to Tattletale's power. She can almost instantly deduce passwords and codes, she doesn't even need to hack.
- Nerves of Steel: One of the reasons Tattletale is so ferociously effective is that she doesn't let pain, injury, or threat to life and limb stop her from using her smarts, her superpower, and her vulpine grin to break down any obstacle in front of her.
- The Omniscient: Lisa/Tattletale's power, generally speaking. It's not perfect or all-encompassing, leading to occasional cases where she's Not So Omniscient After All.
- Secretly Wealthy: The Livseys are apparently well-to-do (although, as a supervillain, Tattletale isn't exactly pinched for funds).
- Sherlock Scan: Lisa's power makes her really good at this, and she can apply this kind of analysis to just about anything, not just people.
- Shipper on Deck: She was a major factor in getting Brian and Taylor together.
- The Smart Guy: Tattletale explicitly describes her role in the group as "Ops" (although she does a lot of intelligence work as well). She goes in the field rather than simply acting as Mission Control because, first, Bitch insisted that everyone fight when Tattletale originally joined the team, and second, firsthand observation enhances what she can do with her power.
- Youthful Freckles: When she's not wearing her mask.
Rachel Lindt (Bitch/Hellhound)
"I don't think you realize how badly you fucked yourself. You. Shot. My. Dog."
A sixteen year old unlucky foster child who gained the power to grant short-term Power Upgrading Deformations
to dogs, and who ended up on the streets fighting and fleeing superheroes for two years afterwards. Her total inability to pick up on human social cues and the fact that she is a known criminal even in her civilian identity has left her isolated from almost everyone she has ever met.
Given that her identity is publicly known, she usually doesn't bother with a sophisticated costume. When Taylor first meets her, she is wearing a dollar-store rottweiler mask. Taylor's description based on her picture on the Parahumans Online wiki page
is that "[she has] a squarish, blunt-featured face with thick eyebrows"; she has a mop of blonde hair and a muscular build.
She chose the codename "Bitch" for herself; "Hellhound" is just what the heroes refer to her as.
Classification: Master; Striker(?)
- Angry Guard Dog: She acts like this to pretty much everyone who tries to enter her territory.
- Attack! Attack! Attack!: How Bitch generally deals with threats. Backfires for her in Monarch 16.4, when Dragon throws a suit at her that repairs itself whenever it gets badly damaged.
- The Beastmaster: Unlike Taylor, however, Bitch can't mentally control the dogs she transforms, so she trains them to respond to whistles and specific verbal commands.
- Beneath the Mask: Bitch's Interlude shows that she cares more about fitting in with her teammates then she lets on.
- Berserk Button: Mistreatment of dogs.
- Book Dumb: Thanks to her childhood, she is functionally illiterate and ignorant about most things that don't relate directly to dogs.
- Canis Major: Her power turns dogs and other canids into giants.
- Et Tu, Brute?: She does not take the news that Taylor was initially planning to betray the Undersiders well at all.
- Friendless Background: Even before her trigger event, Rachel had no friends, going straight from Parental Neglect to Parental Abandonment and then into the Department of Child Disservices. Her time as a member of the Undersiders is as close to having normal interpersonal relationships as she has ever been.
- Friends with Benefits: Apparently develops this sort of relationship with Biter.
- Fuzz Therapy: After Character Development, starts loaning her dogs to troubled capes and also gives the orphaned kids in Skitter's territory some puppy time.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: She's very quick to anger.
- Hates Small Talk: Again, a corollary of her handicap, she's not very talkative.
- Justified Criminal: The death of Bitch's foster family was an accident. If she had a good lawyer she probably would have gotten manslaughter, but there was probably very little chance of her being given a fair trail. Rather than go to a parahuman detention center for teens and be institutionalized, she went on the run. Not knowing how to read, interact with people, or having any other skills she had to resort to crime to survive and needed to be the meanest thing around to protect herself.
- No Social Skills: Even discounting the factors mentioned in Not Good with People, she never had any particular opportunity to learn.
- Not Good with People: Bitch's Canine Companion Hulking Out powers affect her mind so that she thinks and perceives social interactions like a dog instead of a human. This also makes her unable to grasp tone, expressions and several other key aspects of human interaction. She is very good with dogs, but with humans she is less so. than friendly. Taylor might be the closest thing to a friend she has ever had.
- Pet the Dog: In 15.1, when Bitch adopts out two of her dogs to one of her minions.
- Sarcasm-Blind: Another corollary of her handicap is that she's poor at understanding sarcasm.
- Secret Public Identity: The one person in the Undersiders to have one.
- Taught by Experience: Bitch gained her combat skills from spending several years fleeing agents of the PRT.
- Wicked Stepmother: Bitch's abusive stepmother was directly responsible for her trigger event when she tried to drown her puppy as punishment.
Alec/Jean-Paul Vasil (Regent/Hijack)
"I dunno if I care all that much, but it's the sort of thing I'll do because it feels like I should. Dunno. There's also the fact that you're dangerous, and you've outlived your usefulness, so... unless you can give me a convincing reason."
"Not that convincing."
A sixteen year old kid, pretty, with black curls and light blue eyes. The son of Niko Vasil i.e. Heartbreaker, a major supervillain in Montreal, who escaped his father, changed his name and tactics, and
joined the Undersiders. He carries a scepter with a taser in it as his hand-to-hand weapon, but his power allows him to manipulate the bodies of other people, causing muscle cramps which force people to trip or stumble, a subset of his actual ability with full-scale People Puppetry
. Is amiable but sociopathic, probably as a consequence of his upbringing.
Besides his staff, he wears a white mask, a silver coronet, a ruffled white shirt, and skintight leggings tucked into knee-high boots. The mask and shirt contain padding designed to camouflage the lines of his body.
Classification: Master 7(?)
- Bi the Way: Regent mentions that he had slept with himself as various boys and girls by the time he was a teenager in Interlude 10 (the non-bonus one).
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Regent could potentially surpass his father Heartbreaker, but he happens to be far too lazy to bother.
- Cain and Abel: With Cherish. Although its less 'Good vs Evil' and more 'Sociopathic Anti-Hero vs Complete Monster'
- Carry a Big Stick: Uses a scepter with a taser installed as a weapon.
- Catch Phrase: Regent is fond of "Seriously?"
- Deadpan Snarker: Particularly when he's bantering with Imp.
- Famous Last Words: “Hey Shitcrumb! Easy-”
- Freudian Excuse: A very good one; Heartbreaker's abuse using his powers seems to have killed his ability to feel emotions, including empathy. He seems at least somewhat aware of this.
- Heroic Sacrifice: During the Behemoth fight, to save Imp's life.
- Hidden Depths: It's made clear in his interlude and his conversations with Cherish that he's aware there's something wrong with him and that he isn't entirely happy about about it, and the thought of becoming like his father seems to disturb him. Then there's his Heroic Sacrifice.
- Justified Criminal: Regent became what he is because of his father. Though he ran away, he knows he would never be trusted by the authorities due to what his father made him do, and how scary his power is to people. Having never gone to school, he had to commit crimes to survive.
- Killed Mid-Sentence: Behemoth zaps him right in the middle of his distraction attempt.
- Man in White: Is often seen wearing white.
- People Puppets: Can create these.
- Pretty Boy: Is explicitly described as such in his civilian guise.
- The Sociopath: Tattletale's power describes him as this, and his actions bear it out-though he's a somewhat more realistic portrayal than most examples of the trope.
- Token Evil Teammate: Is the most amoral of the Undersiders, though he does appear to have some loyalty to the group.
- Troll: Loves to screw with people's heads.
Aisha Laborn (Imp)
Flechette was loading for a third shot when a girl in black clothing with a horned demon mask and black scarf struck her weapon with a fire axe, splitting the metallic string and knocking it from her hand.
The girl with the horns was on our side, wait— I could almost remember her. Some relation to Grue.
Then it slipped from my recollection, and I was distracted by the fact that Flechette was disarmed, her weapon broken. How had that happened?
Brian's younger sister. Four years younger than Brian, and already beautiful (and larger-chested than Taylor
) despite her questionable fashion sense
. Her brother told her he was a cape before the story started, and she deduced from that his identity and membership in the Undersiders; she had her trigger event sometime within a few weeks of the Leviathan attack and subsequently joined the team. Has the power to hide within a Perception Filter
- Ascended Extra: For the first couple of arcs she appears in after her trigger even she's the least prominent of the Undersiders, not counting Parian. She steadily increases in prominence after the Time Skip, to the point where she's one of the five characters who get an epilogue chapter.
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: She mentions in Interlude 13.5 that she couldn't sit still or concentrate in school.
- Delinquent Hair: Part of her generally-trashy style as of Tangle 6.3 is a Skunk Stripe with a stripe of purple in it.
- The Gadfly: Imp seems to have made it her life's mission to annoy as many people as humanly possible.
- Gaslighting: She uses this as a method of driving undesirables out of the territory she shares with Grue.
- If You Ever Do Anything To Hurt Him: Has this view of Skitter concerning her relationship with Grue.
- Knife Nut: Imp's personal weapon of choice, which she uses in tandem with her powers to make a deadly combination.
- Little Miss Snarker: Especially when she's bantering with Regent.
- No Social Skills: Being raised by a neglectful, drug-addict mother hasn't left her with a lot of social graces.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome:
- During the Time Skip, Imp murdered Heartbreaker and adopted his kids.
- In 30.6, we learn that her power allows her to follow Taylor in her sphere of influence without becoming one of her tools. She was holding her hand the whole time, and murmuring encouragement, even after Taylor lost the ability to understand her.
- Perception Filter: Imp's power seems to work this way, to the point of making people forget she was ever there in the first place. As a downside, she has to consciously make herself visible to others.
- Plucky Comic Relief: It's not her only purpose, but a lot of the the humor in the latter half of the story comes from her irreverent attitude and complete disrespect for authority.
- The Power of Legacy: After Taylor disappears, presumed dead, at the end of the Scion War, Imp takes it upon herself (and a few of the Heartbroken) to make sure that Taylor's remains untarnished.
- Rummage Sale Reject: When Taylor meets her, she is wearing a microscopic strapless top and ripped denim shorts over neon green fishnet leggings.
- Slashed Throat: Her favored method of killing when she has to.
- Sophisticated as Hell: Following the Time Skip, Imp has become notably more knowledgeable, such as making several references to classical literature, but she's as crude and tactless as ever.
- Stealth Hi/Bye: Her power is naturally suited to this.
- Supervillain Lair: Shared with Grue.
Bitch's dogs (Brutus, Judas, Angelica, Bentley, Bastard)
A number of dogs owned by Bitch. Brutus is a rottweiler or chiefly-rottweiler mutt, Judas is a German Shepard, Angelica is a hairless terrier, missing an ear and an eye, and Bastard is a wolf pup given to Bitch by Siberian.
- Heart Drive: Whenever Bitch transforms her dogs, their true bodies are placed in a sec inside their shell bodies.
- Made of Iron: While transformed the dogs are capable of even surviving direct lightning bolt strikes from Behemoth.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Brutus, Judas, Sirius and several others are killed by Leviathan saving Skitter.
Hercules beetle created by Panacea and modified by Grue
for Skitter's personal use. Can fly.
Minions of the Undersiders
As the Undersiders begin to claim territory in the wake of the Leviathan attack, some members — Skitter, Tattletale, and Regent, particularly — begin to recruit or hire followers.
A redhead with dreadlocks who was just finishing her college degree when Leviathan attacked and destroyed her family home. Was in the crowd when Skitter distributed her first truckload of supplies, and found herself asking Skitter for help finding her brother, who had disappeared during an attack by the Merchants on the church they were staying at. She and Charlotte joined Skitter's crew after the mission, and Sierra in particular ends up as her chief lieutenant. Quits sometime in the wake of the Slaughterhouse Nine attack. Brought back in by Tattletale to take control of a large swath of properties owned by the Undersiders in Brockton Bay.
- Action Survivor: She's managed to keep herself and a lot of others alive in quite terrifying circumstances, despite her lack of training or powers.
- Number Two: She falls into taking this position in Skitter's territory for a while.
- Slowly Slipping Into Evil: In Interlude 14, Sierra's narration mentions her fear that Skitter would start assigning her more dangerous and morally ambiguous jobs over time, as per this trope. Except it never happens.
A dark-haired girl, student at Winslow High before Leviathan attacked, and one of the many silent witnesses to Taylor being stuffed in the locker full of squick
. She was rescued from one of the Merchant's events
thanks to a flaring-up of Skitter's Chronic Hero Syndrome
, and figured out that Taylor and Lisa were capes when they reacted to Scrub's trigger event the same way that Skidmark's crowd did. She, like Sierra, joined Skitter's crew in the aftermath, but ended up working primarily as a caretaker for orphaned children. By July, she is posting regularly as "Char" on the Parahumans Online forum.
- He Knows Too Much: Part of Charlotte's motivation for not leaving is concerns that she will be targeted for having connected Skitter and Tattletale to their civilian identities.
- Shameful Strip: What Charlotte was being submitted to before she was rescued.
- Yiddish as a Second Language: The reason she gave for not wanting to leave Brockton Bay is that her zaydee — grandpa — refused to leave.
Another of Tattletale's minions. A woman and former child soldier
A supervillain assigned to work for Bitch by Coil. An inch or two shorter than Skitter and not particularly physically imposing. His power involve exhaling puffs of smoke he can manipulate the properties of — usually to cause them to detonate with thunderclap force.
- Breath Weapon: His main power is to exhale clouds of smoke which then detonate.
- Bullying a Dragon: You'd think that a man might think twice before yelling "Whore" at a female supervillain and making a thunderclap explosion in her face right in front of her employees while a guest at her base. This seems like the kind of act that could result in said supervillain not even bothering to telescope her baton before she slams it into your jaw, kicks your chair out from under you, and sends capsicum-coated insects into your nose and mouth. Why, I imagine your boss — who isn't all that enamored with you to begin with — might not even bother making a fuss over her doing that to you, should you opt to be that stupid.
Another supervillain assigned to work for Bitch by Coil. Tall, over six feet, with teeth filed to points, a bear-trap—style band of metal around his lower jaw, and spiked gloves. His power allows him to enlarge parts of his body — hit harder, bite through larger things, etc.
A first-year vet student before the Leviathan attack who originally took the job to pay for her boyfriend's hospital care, and continued in the position after said boyfriend broke up with her for lack of anything better to do.
Jay, Sugita, and Yan
Three former members of the Azn Bad Boys. They signed up with Skitter after she beat Mannequin, but were subsequently fired for attacking Sierra, Charlotte, and the kids at Skitter's headquarters. The character tags list them as Shaggy, Accent, and Nosering, respectively.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: Their belief in this is reflected on both the occasion of their employment and the occasion of the termination thereof.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Their attack on Emma led to her abandoning and bullying Taylor, which led to her trigger event and the events of the story.]
- Too Dumb to Live: Three former employees of the Unstoppable Rage Humanoid Abomination Lung — also known as the guy whose eyes Skitter carved out — and they try to attack Skitter's second-in-command and take over her base while she's out.
One of Skitter's minions. The same man who helped her with Mannequin's head
during the fight in the factory. Number Two to Skitter after Sierra leaves.
A group of related families who end up joining Skitter's gang en masse
after she defeats Mannequin
. Over time, they become Skitter's main foot soldiers.
A mixed-race teenage girl (probably around fourteen years old) with blue eyes, brown skin and coarse brown hair. Volunteered to join Bitch's gang because she thinks Bitch is awesome
— enthusiastic about being able to work for her and thrilled when Bitch offers her praise.
A young orphan taken in by Skitter as one of the people under her protection. Has numerous screaming, wailing, nightmares often while sleepwalking with the stress of things that happened to him while living in Brockton Bay after Leviathan. It's later discovered that Taylor's passenger matured and reproduced, splitting off a piece of itself into Aidan. After the timeskip he has recently had a trigger event and finds he can control birds similar to how Taylor controls insects.