Doing the wrong things for the right reasons.
Quotes of the work
Armsmaster: You gonna fight me?
Skitter: I’m a good guy.
Armsmaster: You don’t look like one.
—Skitter's first meeting with Armsmaster.link
I panicked, freaked out. My mind went someplace else, and it found the bugs there. Not that I knew what they were, at that point. I didn't have a sense of proportion, and with all the info my power was giving me then, my brain didn't know how to process it all. As far as I knew, all around me, in the walls of the school, in the corners, and crawling around the filthy interior of the locker, there were thousands of these twitchy, alien, distorted things that were each shoving every tiny detail about their bodies and their fucked up biology into my head.
It's hard to explain what it's like, having a new sense open up, but you can't understand it all. Every sound that they heard was bounced back to me at a hundred times the volume, with the pitch and everything else all screwed up as if they wanted to make it as unpleasant and painful to listen to as possible. Even what they were seeing, it's like having my eyes open after being in the dark for a long time, but the eyes weren't attached to my body, and what they were seeing was like looking into a really dingy, grimy kaleidoscope. Thousands of them. And I didn't know how to turn any of it off.
—Taylor explaining her own trigger event in Shell 4.3
Don't underestimate me.
—Skitter, right before she carves out the eyes of a villain that has fought off entire teams of heroes.link
Running forward, he swung the club at the swarm like he was trying to hit a home run. The head was scattered, dashed to pieces, and he laughed again.
Until the rest of the swarm dog piled him. Then he started screaming.
"Motherfucker." Even without intending to do it, I used my swarm to carry my voice. His head craned around, as if to look at the swarming bugs who had just, for all intents and purposes, spoken. Eventually his 'face' turned back to me.
"I have no idea how the fuck I'm going to do it," my voice was a low snarl, barely recognizable as my own beneath my anger and the noises of the swarm. "But I'm going to make you regret that."
—Skitter, responding to a villain who just murdered some of her people and is the perfect counter to her power.link
I almost laughed, and some of my humor must have translated in a mental direction to my bugs, because they started making a noise that wasn't speech. I stopped them. It wouldn't have sounded much like laughter anyways. "All of the above? None of the above? Does it matter? Some of us wear the villain label with pride, because they want to rebel against the norms, because it's a harder, more rewarding road to travel, or because being a 'hero' often means so very little. But few people really want to see themselves as being bad or evil, whatever label they wear. I've done things I regret, I've done things I'm proud of, and I've walked the roads in between. The sliding scale is a fantasy. There's no simple answers."
—Skitter's response to a hero who asks her where she sees herself on the line between good and evil, between heroes and villains link
Whatever else Shadow Stalker might think of the bug girl, how the girl was creepy, a freak, she had to admit Skitter had demonstrated enough viciousness to date that she could almost respect the girl as a fellow predator.
Battery: What’s your agenda?
Skitter: Do I have to have one?
Battery: Yes. Your kind always has an agenda.
Skitter: Maybe I'm unique.
Battery: No, knowing what you tried to pull with pretending to be a villain? Or pretending to be a hero that's pretending to be a villain? You're more likely to have some scheme at play than anyone else.
A figure stood behind Yan. Her costume was barely recognizable — she wore a short cape of tattered black cloth over her body armor, a skintight black suit beneath that, and there were folds of black cloth draped around her legs like a dress or a robe. The entire fabric seemed to ripple and move. It took Sierra a second to realize it was crawling with a carpet of insects.
The disconcerting part was the girl's face, or lack thereof. Her expression was masked behind a shifting mass of bugs that moved in and out of her hairline. Sierra couldn't even tell where the bugs ended and the scalp began, as the small black bodies crawled into and onto the black curls. There was a hint of something like glass where Skitter's eyes were, but the bugs ventured far enough over her eyelids and around the frames that nothing was visible in the way of goggles, glasses or skin.
Flechette: And then Skitter waltzes in and... it's like, she slithers right past your defenses.
Yamada: How's that?
Flechette: I can't even put it into words. You run into her, and you can't even look straight at her without feeling your skin crawl. Like when someone's got something wrong with their eye and your own eye starts watering... only with her it's because of the bugs.
Flechette: And then she talks, and she sounds so idealistic, and naive. I don't know how you sound idealistic and naive with a swarm of cockroaches and bees crawling over your face, but she does. And so you let your guard down. And then she starts making sense. And that was the point where Sab- where Parian started lapping it up.
Scapegoat: I was perfectly happy, Being able to tell myself that hey, the news is blowing things out of proportion. There's no way Brockton Bay is as scary as they're making it out to be. Dragon suits get sent in and are promptly forced out, but really, the mayor's telling Washington it's safe enough. The media got something wrong, or they're making little problems sound bigger than they are. See the piles of dead bodies where this girl—
Scapegoat: Where Echidna spat out clones. Okay. I can live with that. An unusual power and strong parahuman. Could be an exaggeration. See the destruction, the ruined buildings and the streets that still haven't drained a hundred percent. More or less what I expected from the news. The girl with the mutant dogs? Bug girl? Still manageable. But she opens her mouth, [points at Tattletale] and pop goes my bubble of happy self-delusion.
Tecton: You want to tear a hole in reality?
Tattletale: I do.
“It’s kind of neat in terms of the big picture,” Emma said, ignoring Sophia. “It’s like, the future hasn’t looked this bright in a while. There’s promise, if this rumor about an open interdimensional portal is for real. Multiple portals, if you believe the really out-there rumors. Escape routes, resources, work. And Brockton Bay is at the center of it all.”
“And, more than that, it’s like, if we’re talking about hope, about the future, who’s more iconic for all that than kids? You know, that line about how kids are the future? Heroes too, they’re icons of hope too. And put those things together, you get Arcadia High. Winslow High’s gone, and there’s not quite enough students, so they’re herding us all together.”
“So, it’s like, all this hope, you’ve got Brockton Bay at the center of it all. And at the center of Brockton Bay’s hope, it’s Arcadia High. And at the center of that? You’ve got the heroes and the winners. I fully intend to be the latter. In a way, it’s like being queen of the world.”
“The popular kid in high school?”
“In the high school,” Emma said. She shrugged. “It’s one way of looking at it.”
Emma smirked. “Someone’s grumpy.”
“It’s sad because you’re making a fool of yourself, you’re missing a key detail.”
Sophia shrugged. “Better if you find out for yourself. I won’t spoon-feed you.”
Emma couldn’t tell herself she’d be back. To stick around and be loyal now would betray every reason she’d given herself for dropping Taylor as a friend. Taylor had been a wet blanket, a loser. Sophia was no better, now.
It was ironic, but Sophia had proven herself to be more prey than predator, in the very philosophy she’d espoused.
As they approached, Emma could see Taylor helping her dad unload a box from what looked to be a new or newly washed car. He said something and she laughed.
The casual display of emotion was startling. It was equally startling when, in the moment Emma’s dad slowed the car down, Taylor’s head turned, her eyes falling on them, her head and upper body turning to follow them as they passed.
She didn’t even resemble the person Emma had known way back then, not the girl who’d approached her house after coming back from camp, and not the girl who’d been drenched in juice. The lines of her cheekbones and chin were more defined, her skin baked to a light tan by the sun, her long black curls grown a touch wild by long exposure to wind. Light muscles stood out on her arms as she held a box, her dad standing back to direct.
Even her clothes. She wasn’t hiding under a hood and long sleeves. A trace of her stomach was exposed between the bottom of her yellow tank top and the top of her jeans. The frayed cuffs were rolled up at the bottom, around new running shoes, and neither Taylor nor her dad seemed to be paying any attention to the knife that was sheathed at her back.
It surprised Emma, all the little clues coming together to point to one fact; that Taylor had stayed. She’d stayed, and she’d come out of it okay. Judging by the new car, the shoes and her clothes, the Heberts were doing better for money than they had been the last time Emma had run into either of them. Were they early beneficiaries of Brockton Bay’s upswing in fortune?
It unsettled her, and she had a hard time putting her finger on why.
It didn’t hit her until they’d reached their new house, a recollection of something Sophia had said.
On this violent, brutish little planet of ours, it’s the survivors who wind up the strongest ones of all.
If you’re lucky, Imp slits your throat with you none the wiser, or Regent has one of your underlings stab you in the back, and you go quick. If you’re unlucky, Bitch’s dogs tear you to shreds, and it’s a long, drawn out, painful process. If you’re very unlucky, you get the worst of both worlds, and you deal with me.
—Skitter explaining to three other groups of villains why they shouldn't mess with the Undersiders in Interlude 20
Weeks or months ago, I might have had a hard time wearing that confidence the way Jack did. The history, the long sequence of events and conflicts where we’d come out ahead in our respective teams, it could just as easily be a burden, the accumulated weight of the various precedents we’d set, but we’d made it into our armor, something to make our enemies hesitate at a critical juncture.
Clockblocker: You kicked their asses with butterflies.
Weaver: I cheated. The butterflies are superficial, decorative.
Clockblocker: No, no, no. If anyone asks, you kicked their asses with butterflies.
—Clockblocker being the best hero in Drone 23.1
"We know what you're about," Glenn said. He touched his keyboard, then typed out what I presumed was a password. A second passed, "Look."
He spun his monitor around.
It was me, entering the PRT office in Brockton Bay. A video feed from a surveillance camera.
It was me, crawling through a window. That would be from the night I retaliated against Tagg. Odd, seeing how the bugs moved in coordination with me. When I turned my head in the video, the orientation of every bug in the swarm changed in the same moment.
All around me, PRT employees were howling in pain, their cries silenced by the lack of an audio feed. Either the camera hadn't picked it up, or Glenn had muted it. They thrashed. One reached for me, for the me on the screen, and I could see how I moved out of the way without even glancing at him. The swarm concealed me at the same time, briefly obscuring the Skitter in the video from both the man on the ground and the security camera. When it parted, she had shifted two or three feet to the left. A simple step to one side in the half-second she couldn't be seen, but it misled the eyes.
And I couldn't remember doing it. I'd never consciously added the trick to my repertoire.
"If you told me that girl was a member of the Slaughterhouse Nine," Glenn said, "I wouldn't have batted an eyelash."
—Glenn Chambers explaining why they're putting restrictions on Weaver in Drone 23.3
One structure among several hundred thousand still stood, and our adversary was wounded, though undiminished. Our ranks had been thinned in the most violent ways possible, through fire and lightning and a roar that could render organs to mush. We weren't stronger than we'd been at the start of all of this. I couldn't even say that the weak had been thinned out, or that we’d been united through hardship or loss. Behemoth had picked off some of the strongest of us, and the trust between our factions was thin at best, with some eyeing the Yŕngbǎn, others watching Satyrical's contingent. We were just less.
"Hold the line," Exalt called out. Other capes translated for him, echoing his words with only a few seconds of delay, in four or five different languages. "We defend until the ones inside can be evacuated, and then we leave. There's nothing left to protect here."
A thin heroism, but that was heroic, wasn't it? Protecting the wounded, defending the ones who'd put everything on the line to stop this monster.
If this was all a kind of microcosm for the world at large, that small heroism had to count for something. I wanted it to so badly I ached for it.
Behemoth roared, and the last engagement opened.
—The ending of Crushed 24.5
Chevalier pulled his sword from the ground, swayed, and very fell over.
Defiant caught him.
Old friend, Chevalier thought, though he didn't have the breath to speak.
Anyone else might have spoken up, told him he didn't have to do this, that it was madness.
Defiant was silent, supporting Chevalier, helping him right himself. Defiant understood this much. The need, the drive.
Chevalier took his first step with Defiant's help. The second was only partially supported. The third was on his own.
Slowly, the crowd took up a cheer, a cry of victory from everyone with the breath to spare.
As noise returned to the landscape, the stilling effects of Scion’s light fading, Chevalier closed his eyes, listening. With the noise of the helicopters and distant fires mingling with the shouts and hollers of joy from the defending capes, he imagined he could hear the whole world cheering alongside them.
Interlude 24, after Behemoth's destruction
Doctor Mother: It's been some time since I lost sleep because of a heavy conscience.
Taylor: I know what that's like, I've walked down that road. Maybe not so ugly a road, but I've gone that route. All the way along, I told myself it sucked, but I wouldn't do it differently. I did everything I did for a reason. Except now, having reached the point I was working towards, I finally do regret it all. The last two years, the way I treated my teammates, leaving the Undersiders... I'd change it all in a heartbeat.
Extinction 27.2, when Taylor finally acknowledges just how bad she had gotten.
"But I've dealt with worse. If it comes down to it, if this is all I have to worry about, I can maybe deal. I could maybe learn to be okay."
Quotes about the work
You know, I was talking about Worm to a group of people on Sunday (just about forty-eight hours ago, in fact), and mentioned how the protagonist — who had the power to control bugs and spiders and such — had her first fight against a man who could produce fire out of thin air, had a healing factor, and, as he fought, got bigger, stronger, and more heavily armored, eventually to the point of becoming a dragon.
One of them replied to the effect that that was a way stronger power.
"Meh, I could take her."
Running Gag in the comments section, about the initial reaction of every one of Skitter's enemies. Ever.
(After The Nine have attacked the nursery of an hospital.)
PsychoGecko: Now, now, let's not jump to conclusions here. We don't know for a fact that this wasn't a case of self defense. Those babies might have been asking for it. One of them might have smuggled a Walther PPK in its diaper to cap an unsuspecting nurse, and then Jack Slash saw it and decided to act heroically. Or Siberian figured it was as good a time as any to try eating a baby. Hell, if you she downed the diaper too then you might as well sell that video off for another Jackass movie. Maybe they'll put it just after the part where someone blows a horse.
Tieshaunn: Thanks for all those wonderful pictures in my head. better be careful the next time you go to sleep...
PsychoGecko: Slept like a dead baby.
TheAnt: It was implied that they took a few alive, at least to me. Knowing Bonesaw, that is not a good thing.
PsychoGecko: Must need [the materials to build] more spiders.
Tieshaunn: DAMMIT, WHY WON'T YOU STOP!?
PsychoGecko: I bet Siberian likes veal.
—A sample from the comments section to Interlude 16 (Donation Bonus #2): Full of normal people. note
To be fair, almost none of the capes should be able to exist. Just because the endbringers are able to tell reality to fuck off a little bit harder doesn't justify persecuting them!
—mc2rpg in the comments section to Interlude 19 (Donation Bonus #1)note
Principled people in Worm? That IS suspicious.
I’d really like to dispute that. I really would =/
—Discussion on Chrysalis 20.1
Innomine: Hey Wildbow, what are our chances of getting a non-interlude chapter on saturday?
Wildbow: Interlude Sat, maybe Tues too
Wildbow: Just because I need a break from the main story
saintsant: You're a bad person, Wildbow.
Wildbow: and your tears of frustration sustain me.
—Wildbow responding to fans after a serious cliffhanger.
razorsmile: ... The fuck just happened?
No One in Particular: Amen.
keyonte0: Our little Taylor's becoming a god. *sniffle* They grow up so fast!
"Taylor bullied the apocalypse to death."
—-roughly 1/4 of the comments as of 30.6