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Fanfic / Bird

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Mimi and Elle were my friends, and saving friends was what heroes did. I wasn't going to let my friends die. I'd look after them. Picture done by JiinseyDesigns
"Nobody likes it here. About one in every five doctors might be here to help the patients, the rest are here to study the patients.
But you know what? You need this, we all need this. We have to try. It’s not going to be easy, it's not going to be pleasant. It's not going to be fun, or about making friends; or even, hell, escaping—though all of those might happen. Who knows?
Being here is about one thing, and it’s the most important thing of all: ‘‘getting better’’ ."

Bird is a Worm fanfic by Racheakt. Original drafts began on the Spacebattles forums in 2015, with the story proper following suit in 2017.

In addition, the author has posted notes addressing some plot points and world-building that are not directly engaged in-story.

Where many Worm fanfictions are about spectacle and others are about some kind of proxy revenge, Bird takes a more nuanced perspective. The story contrasts many of the themes in Worm. In place of physical and authoritative threats, there are a series of emotional and mental threats. Where Worm was about ever-increasing spectacle, Bird is about subtlety.

The result is the contrast between an Action Flick and a Psychological Thriller.

It can be found at AO3, the SpaceBattles forums, and

As of 2019 it was officially folded in with another project and renamed The Precipice, and is no longer updating.

Warning: Full story provides spoilers for Worm.

This series provides examples of:

  • A Friend in Need: A defining characteristic of Taylor is her willingness to reach out to some of the less agreeable patients at Alchemilla. Mimi, in particular, badly injures her when her power rages out of control, and is confused and touched when Taylor doesn't take it personally.
    "Usually, when I burn someone, they, they never want anything to do with me any more."
  • Adorable Abomination: Sveta is a sweet, likable, and — more importantly — sane young woman. She is also a mass of murderous tentacles she can only control some of the time. Alchemilla is full of people with problems they can't help, and many of them are insane, but Sveta might be the standout example due to her immense physical mutations. This fic as a whole runs on themes of inversion, and as such, people with horrible pasts and/or appearances are more likely to be nice and sweet.
  • After-Action Healing Drama: Arc three opens with a Taylor resting in the infirmary, she has to rest and recuperate following her narrow escape from Hatchetface.
  • The Alcatraz: Of a sort. Alchemilla originally filled a role similar to the Birdcage. It still has some of the trappings (and specialized equipment).
    • The high security: special containment wing plays this more straight, home to a roster of incredibly dangerous, mentally unstable parahumans. How dangerous? The first one we see is Hatchet Face and worse yet it's implied he isn't the worst of them.
  • All Therapists Are Muggles: As mandated by the PRT. All staff are PRT, and thus have no powers.
  • Alternate Universe Fic: As mentioned in the summary, based around a general theme of emotional and mental threats, but with a secondary theme of reversal, where many canon roles and characters are inverted in some way. Danny is dead, Emma and Taylor are still friends, Eden survived, not Scion. The Triumvirate are powerswaps of other canon characters taken up to eleven, and the Slaughterhouse Nine are lead by an adult Bonesaw, with Jack taking her role from canon.
  • Animal-Themed Superbeing: Feral is loosely themed along the lines of a wolf or cat, with claws, great strength, enhanced senses, and a healing factor.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: How Taylor's powers work.
  • Ax-Crazy: There are a few examples of this trope, but not as many as one would expect. See Insane Equals Violent below for more clarity.
  • Backstory: Mimi and Elle's canon past in the asylum for parahumans is invoked as the setting for Bird.
  • Bad Powers, Good People: Many powers are frightening, or unsuited to use around people. Mimi is a standout example, but many parahumans at Alchemilla qualify.
  • Barefoot Loon: Taylor has no proper shoes for the first several chapters. Due to the setting, it is possible that the staff are trying to limit possible weapons and/or suicide implements available to the patients.
  • Bedlam House: Zig-zagging. Alchemilla is a Shout-Out to Silent Hill, but its depiction is largely that of an institution trying to do its best and running into the ever-present issues of staffing and funding, therapy groups and psychologists are present and well-meaning, and most of the inmates are decent people in a bad situation. On the other hand... the lower levels are used as a prison for various superpowered nightmares and creations, and containment is none-too-good, much of the institutional factors are ineffectual at best, and many of the patients probably would have been better suited for the Birdcage.
  • Blessed with Suck: This as an ongoing theme in this fic; whether it's Mimi, or Elle, or Charnel, or Sveta. In fact, one could argue that every patient in Alchemilla falls into this to some degree.
  • Bookworm: One of the few activities Taylor can regularly indulge in, exacerbated by her power removing her need to sleep.
  • Break the Cutie: Taylor, and everyone at Alchemilla has a troubled history.
  • Cast Full of Crazy: The sections that take place in Alchemilla are this, as it is an insane asylum for Parahumans it is Justified.
  • Character Tics: Mimi hugs her arms to herself and rubs her arms whenever she's nervous or guilty.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Landers Minder: Taylor usually falls into a role like this. Mimi, Elle, and Taylor end up forming a violent, spacy, and sane trio as a result.
  • Creepy Doll: At least two. Charnel is implied to be a victim of a Tinker who made dolls from people, while Quilt is a Case-53 and no-one is entirely sure what Marionette is.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Most of the patients at Alchemilla in one form or another.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • Danny Hebert was still alive by the start of canon, here he died two years before the start of the story.
    • Legend in canon lives all the way to the sequel, here he dies years before the start of the story.
  • Defusing the Tyke-Bomb: This trope is featured heavily in Taylor's efforts to make friends in Alchemilla asylum. She starts with Burnscar and works from there. It helps that her powers allow her to perceive the true natures of charaters that might seem too violent or dangerous to be worth the effort otherwise.
  • Dysfunction Junction: The asylum as a whole, and Taylor comes into contact with many choice examples.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: most of arc two was rewritten from scratch when the author realized that severe structural errors had been made, resulting in a drastically different story to be told.
  • Empty Shell: Charnel is largely viewed this way by Alchemilla's inhabitants. It's revealed that her passivity and physical augmentations were the result of a Tinker experimenting on her.
  • Emotional Powers: Mimi is a stand-out example, but many parahumans in and outside the asylum have an element of this.
    • Ingénue has a particularly strong element of this as well, in that she falls in love with anyone she uses her powers on.
  • Epiphanic Prison: Invoked interestingly in this fic, a long-running theme of inversion of the source material's motif of physical and authoritive threats means that ultimately most patients at Alchemilla are kept there by their own fears and insecurities. As superpowered humans that are mostly voluntarily institutionalised, the majority can leave at any time they choose. Part of Taylor's journey is realizing she has to, both to protect her friends who can't leave voluntarily and to grow herself.
  • Eye Scream: Taylor's newly gained powers caused her to stab a nurse in the eye with a pen.
  • Exhausted Eye Bags: Mimi.
  • Fertile Feet: Elle often leaves behind flowers and grass as she walks.
  • Fisher King: Elle/Labyrinth's powers works loosely along these rules.
  • Friend to Psychos: Taylor is a benevolent Type III- mostly owing to the fact her power gives her hints of the true natures of several patients.
    • Doctors Yamada and Selmy also tend towards this behavior, Taylor gets it from them.
  • From Bad to Worse
  • Go Among Mad People: Deconstructed and played with.
  • Heroic Seductress: Interestingly enough, this version of Ingénue.
  • Imagination-Based Superpower: Elle's worlds are comprised of any structures or landmarks she can imagine and construct in her mind.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Played with. While many patients are dangerous, the danger has no direct correlation to insanity and not all the patients are actually insane. Many simply possess powers with negative repercussions, or powers that are extremely dangerous. Sveta is a choice example, as she is very violent, but perfectly sane, as it is entirely her power's doing. Burnscar is somewhat less violent, but also has mental and emotional problems to match.
  • Kaiju: The Endbringers.
  • Kindhearted Simpleton: Cidersong. He's not dangerous, but he's strongly implied to be Autistic, and his residence in Alchemilla is mostly to protect him from people who would try to abuse him for his powers.
  • Lack of Empathy: Mimi's powers cause a condition very like this. Has been compared to escapism and a drug.
  • Laughing Mad: Comes up occasionally with some patients.
  • Loony Friends Improve Your Personality: "The pain was still there, but so far away. It could not paralyze me. I wasn't going to let my friends die. I'd look after them."
  • Man Bites Man: Taylor does this in the panic and confusion of the fight in the sunroom.
  • Medicate the Medium
  • Mood Whiplash: Taylor tries to bond with the Case 53s by joining them for a livestream of Peat and Fen. At first it seems like it will be a lighthearted bonding experience, with the stream featuring a cartoon opening and Feral gushing over Peat's adorable preteen antics... Until the camera pans to reveal both kids were horrifically injured by the Fallen and only survived due to Haven's intervention. The group does not take it well.
  • My God, What Have I Done?
  • Named by the Adaptation:
    • In this story Labyrinth and Burnscar’s full names are Elle Brown and Mimi Harris respectively.
    • Professor Haywire‘s full name is Samuel Hayden.
  • The Nose Knows: Feral has a powerful sense of smell (in addition to nightvision and several other minor powers). Her sense of smell is specifically described as much stronger than a bloodhound's, and is powerful enough to serve as a mild empath sense and lie detector. It's enough to count as a minor Thinker power.
  • The Ophelia: Elle.
  • Original Flavor
  • Personality Powers: There is an element of this as a running theme. The relevance and impact varies from parahuman to parahuman.
  • Physical Scars, Psychological Scars: Mimi has cigarette burns on her cheeks and ladders of cuts up her arms.
  • Psychoactive Powers: Elle/Labyrinth's powers have a strong element of this, Mimi's powers have the opposite effect.
  • Power Incontinence: Sveta's is probably the stand-out example, but could be applied to largely every character in the asylum to some degree.
  • The Power of Friendship: One of the central themes of Bird is that people are more than their flaws. Taylor's perspective always hints at more under the surface, beyond any violent outbursts, or inability to talk. Her willingness to look past sometimes glaring difficulties and cultivate the good she sees is what gathers her the True Companions her friends all become.
    "Mimi and Elle were my friends, and saving friends was what heroes did. I wasn't going to let my friends die. I'd look after them."
  • Pyromaniac: Burnscar.
  • Reluctant Psycho: Mimi (Burnscar) is actually a really sweet girl, who hates what her power does to her passionately. The problem is that she has very little control of it...
  • Retired Monster: Maser, who was formerly an infamous supervillain, now enjoying his retirement in Alchemilla.
    • Professor Haywire might also count, as he voluntarily took up residence in High Security and provides the facility with tinkertech in exchange for the heroes' protection.
  • Run or Die: Taylor and Mimi are confronted by a parahuman that causes them to lose their powers- they are unarmed and, in Taylor's case, injured teenagers. The parahuman is Hatchetface a Hero Killer in canon.
  • Shout-Out
  • Spared By Adaptation:
    • In canon Annette Hebert died two years before the start of the story, here she is still alive.
    • Hero is still alive, while in canon he was murdered years before the start of canon.
    • In canon Allfather and Iron Rain died before the start of the story, here they’re still alive.
    • In canon Peat and Fen were murdered by The Fallen, here they were saved by Haven.
    • In Interlude - Lafayette we find out that Professor Haywire is still alive, while in canon he was long dead by the start of the story.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Feral is much taller than most of the characters at Alchemilla, very brawny, and an accomplished hero in the Protectorate. To be clear, she's tall enough to pick up her adopted father, Doctor Selmy, and spin him around like he's a child.
  • Suddenly Shouting: Mimi, when she starts mood swinging.
  • Talkative Loon: Numerous, with note of the babbling man in the asylum library, whose dialogue is mostly veiled references to the Entities and the Cycle.
  • Tom the Dark Lord: The Horde, Professor Haywire's Evil Twin created as a byproduct of his gruesome experiments on his alternate selves is a powerful supervillain incarcerated in Alchemilla's high security area. He's apparently so powerful Professor Haywire, who is speculated to be on Hero's level willingly let himself get locked up for the extra protection of superheroes from him. His real name? Kevin, apparently.
  • Weirdness Magnet: Taylor sure runs into a lot of interesting people...
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Numerous examples. The way powers have warped their bearers is a running theme, and while most of them aren't as volatile as Burnscar's, very few characters are exempt. Not even Taylor. Taylor is initially very hesitant to use her powers in fear of this trope, in effort to avert this in herself.