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Fanfic / Nemesis Fanfic
aka: Nemesis

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Nemesis is a Worm fanfic where an unusual scenario is explored: Emma Barnes becoming a hero while Taylor is forced to become her Arch-Enemy supervillain.

The point of divergence from Canon is Taylor not triggering in the locker incident and Emma's entire family dying in a car accident.

It was June 2011, and Emma Barnes was the queen bee of her high school, mercilessly tormenting her lessers. But it wasn't enough. She wanted powers. She wanted to be a superhero, lording over not just her school but her city. When her whole family died in a car crash, she thought it was her chance. But she didn't trigger, and when her friend Sophia – AKA the superhero Shadow Stalker – told her that she probably couldn't, she flipped out. They fought. And then she found Cauldron, offering superpowers in a little silver vial. She jumped at the chance. But she had a little money left over after buying her vial, and she knew exactly what to do with it.

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It was June 2011, and Taylor Hebert was out of hope. After two years of bullying, she knew she had no way out, no hope of escape, not with her grades or her family's poor finances. Until one day, a portal appeared in her home, bearing a strange woman with an offer: powers. But the woman asked for one thing in exchange: she would have to be a supervillain, the nemesis to her worst enemy's superhero alter ego. And she wasn't supposed to win, not with her weak vial and the rules of the program stacked against her. But that wasn't going to stop her from trying for her one last chance.

Because, who said the villain had to lose?

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Nemesis has examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptational Heroism: Cauldron appears to be somewhat more benevolent than their canon counterpart. At the very least, Doctor Mother acts quite maternal towards Taylor, giving her the motivation to prove Emma wrong and encouraging her as she evolves.
  • Anti-Villain: Taylor is only a villain because she has to, and as she's become a humor villain, the Protectorate has to be careful around her.
  • Arch-Enemy: Emma and Taylor. Unlike the usual, this is Enforced by Emma, who wants Taylor to be her Arch-Enemy just so she can have an excuse to beat her.
  • Batman Gambit: Taylor's plan to destroy Emma would fail miserably if Emma was a decent person, and cannot be foiled by Emma as long as she wants to make Taylor suffer. Taylor knows very well Emma is an unstable sadist, so there's no risk whatsoever.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Bumblebee is a harmless, goofy bee-themed joke by choice. Given a reason she can crush almost any opponent with little risk to herself.
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    • This is actually part of what the Protectorate teaches its people about joke villains: they look harmless, but that does not mean they are harmless.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Emma is this. Face to the Wards, she is companionable and nice. She's actually a grade-A Alpha Bitch.
  • Catholic School Girls Rule: Implied by Jess and her interest in seeing Taylor's Immaculata uniform.
  • Create Your Own Villain: This is literally what Cauldron offers through the Nemesis program. Emma decides to sponsor Taylor so she will become her villain.
  • Cuteness Proximity: Taylor milks the adorableness of her giant bumblebees for maximum effect.
  • Determinator: Taylor, as per canon. The Cauldron doctor points out that she passed her determination tests by running until she could literally not walk - although she says they should have suspected that when Taylor continued even after every other test said she should not have done it.
  • Everyone Has Standards: For all that they conspire to create new parahumans, one thing Cauldron will never do is to dose someone without their full consent, and if they contact someone to offer them powers they will not lie to them about information - either they tell them or they state why they can't tell them.
    • Similarly, the Nemesis contract puts limits on the crimes the nemesis can be forced to carry out: actions like murder, as well as anything that could be directly tied up to the nemesis' civilian identity, are completely forbidden.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Emma can't even conceive the possibility that other people would be appalled with her for using potentially lethal force against Bumblebee, and is in fact surprised when people take Bumblebee's side. For example, after her attacks cause Bumblebee to fall from a height on some bushes, possibly suffering a concussion and potentially killing her, she is surprised that Piggot and the others (and the general public) are raising a stink about it, because she didn't even hit Bumblebee.
    • She's also unable to comprehend how Taylor's mind works. When she learns that Taylor is Bumblebee, she thinks that Taylor will die of shame because of how she dresses - not realizing that, unlike Emma, Taylor can handle looking ridiculous when it suits her purpose.
  • Exact Words: The Nemesis contract establishes a set of clauses that both sides must follow to the letter - and not beyond.
    • Taylor has to fight against Emma seven times during the ten weeks following her villain career - but that does not mean that she has to lose any of those times, nor remain a villain past those ten weeks.
    • Similarly, nothing prevents her from becoming a Humor villain so Emma looks a lot worse, no matter what she does.
    • Cauldron is obligated to tell Emma about Taylor's abilities as shown during initial testing, but not new information gained later: this means Emma doesn't learn critical information that demonstrates Taylor is far more powerful than Emma believes.
    • This, however, applies both ways, as Emma can exploit a loophole where only Taylor is obligated to be at the fight, so she requests a fight at an hour both of them will be at school, meaning that either Taylor misses the fight (with the loss of contract) or she misses school.
  • Excuse Me While I Multitask: Taylor's Required Secondary Powers allow her to control thousands of insects, individually and collectively, at the same time - as well as copies of her body.
  • Genre Savvy: The PRT is well aware of the unique problems that come from dealing with a humor villain, and hold a briefing on proper ways to handle them after Bumblebee debuts.
    • If they actually try to beat her, even when she's in the middle of a crime, they look like the bad guys.
    • Most humor villains are far, far, far more capable and dangerous than they let on, and the worst possible thing you could do is give them a reason to stop holding back.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Emma selected Taylor's vial because she thought it would be hilarious to see her becoming a giant insect. Instead, Taylor gained the power to transform into swarms of any kind of insect - and to control and absorb other insects, as well as transforming them into copies of herself.
  • Good Feels Good: Emma joined the Wards for reasons that ranged from selfish to immoral, but unlike her civilian life where her popularity is based in her Alpha Bitch tendencies, as a Ward she can receive gratitude and adoration for doing things that actually help others.
  • Harmless Villain: Humor villains are villains that set out to make other people laugh, not harm anyone and cause little damage. The Protectorate has to be careful around them, because giving them a beating earns them bad PR, but losing to them only brings them ridicule.
  • Healing Factor: Transforming into an insect cloud and back instantly heals Taylor of any injury she has suffered.
  • Hero with an F in Good: Emma only wanted to become a hero because she wanted to lord over everyone else in the city.
  • Ignored Epiphany: Emma decides, after a talk with Sophia, that attacking Bumblebee as she did during the robbery at the art museum is precisely what she must not do, in order to not fall into her trap. Then she learns that Taylor has changed schools to Immaculata (thus preventing her from continuing her school bullying) and promptly decides she needs a fight where she can punch Bumblebee.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Taylor still ends up as an insect-controlling villain, and wears an uniform made out of spider silk.
  • Irony: Canon Taylor initially spied on the Undersiders to bring that information to the Protectorate. Bumblebee Taylor starts to spy on the Protectorate to bring that information to the Undersiders.
  • Large Ham: Taylor, as the humor villain Bumblebee.
  • Lethal Joke Character: Humor villains are normally Harmless Villains that do not attack people and love to make others laugh at their antics. The Protectorate steps lightly around them because (a) humor villains are potential PR bombs that can explode in their face if not treated carefully and (b) one mistake could turn them into incredibly terrifying villains.
  • Me's a Crowd: Taylor can use her power to create copies of her body that are also her, because her secondary power allows her to be any and all of them at the same time. This, for example, allows her to train her Large Ham antics, establish alibis for herself and train in hand-to-hand combat.
  • The Minion Master: Taylor decides to hide the full extent of her powers and pretends she simply controls bumblebees and can merge them to form larger minions.
  • Morton's Fork:
    • Taylor initially believes that whether she takes Cauldron's offer or not, Emma will win. If she accepts and becomes a villain she will likely have a much weaker power and will be crushed by Emma. If she refuses and stays unpowered her life seems to be a dead end due to Emma. Fortunately, the Cauldron doctor convinces her to Take a Third Option.
    • Taylor becoming a Humor villain allows her to push Emma into this: if Emma wins a fight, the public hates her because she's beating a funny Harmless Villain, but if she loses, then she becomes the object of ridicule for losing to a Harmless Villain. Emma could find a way to win without harming Taylor, but her state of mind is such that she is unable to accept anything other than destroying Taylor as an acceptable outcome.
  • Mundane Utility:
    • Taylor uses her ability to duplicate herself to train in hand-to-hand fighting - after all, this way she can train attack and defense at the same time.
    • She also forks multiple clones to speed up transcription work when she's spying on the PRT for Tattletale.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Word of God is that Sophia feels this because she believes Emma triggered after the fight they had over triggers.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Emma intended to use the Nemesis program as another way to crush Taylor. Instead, Taylor gets out of her deep funk and becomes motivated into finding a summer job, making new friends - and training so she can ruin Emma's superhero career by turning her into a laughingstock.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Taylor acts like a scatterbrained, naïve girl while playing Bumblebee, when she's actually a smart girl with good tactical/strategic planning ability, a well-developed control over her powers and what might possibly be the most efficient parallel processor ever in her brain.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Few people know how it happened exactly, but the Undersiders managed to get rid of Coil and took over his criminal empire.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: For Taylor, being Bumblebee is something akin to a job - thanks to the Nemesis contract, she gets cash for carrying out certain acts.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Emma. She's a Sociopathic "Hero" With An F In Good that wants to crush Taylor as an extension of her previous bullying of her and has no trouble trapping Sophia into a toxic relationship by making her believe she caused Emma's trigger.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: What settles Taylor's choice on her alter ego is how adorable and harmless an enlarged bumblebee looks. She does however make sure to edit out the stingers.
  • Sexier Alter Ego: Bumblebee serves as this for Taylor. Taylor wears concealing clothes compared to Bumblebee's mini-skirt, lack of sleeves, and plunging neckline. She also cleans up her skin, gives it a tan, and has a padded brassiere so her cleavage looks more impressive.
  • Shapeshifter Baggage: Taylor can change into insects of any type, number and size, but she cannot increase the mass of insects beyond her actual weight. Fortunately, when she leaves Cauldron, she discovers she can control and absorb other insects around her, giving her an incredibly high limit of mass.
  • Ship Tease: There's definitely some teasing between Taylor and her friend Jess.
  • Slave to PR: The PRT and Protectorate. They both give a lot of leeway to Joke/Humor villains and have special rules about how to handle them. If the Heroes beat them into the ground, they looks like the "bad guys", and if they lose it's completely humiliating. If they push a villain who's been sandbagging too far, they can also effectively create a far worse problem.
  • Sociopathic Hero: For a value of "hero". When Emma's family died, one of her thoughts was that she would finally trigger and become a parahuman. She also shows a marked interest in having Taylor as her Arch-Enemy only so she can have another way to beat her down.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence: Emma is so sure about her future victory against Taylor that she doesn't follow Cauldron's suggestions to study her power, she hangs up on her Cauldron contact before she can tell her about Taylor's abilities, and constantly underestimates how powerful Taylor actually is.
  • Sweet Tooth: Taylor's first villainous act is to go to an ice cream parlor and steal the money in the cash register, a lemon cookie ice cream cone and a half-full tub of orange ice cream for her bees - which are still technically her.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Emma is literally unable to conceive the possibility that Taylor is powerful and potentially dangerous. Taylor knows this and uses it against her.
  • Villains Out Shopping: Taylor's second outing as Bumblebee has her and her bumblebees play around with a Fris-Bee, along with those people who join in the fun - which includes Gallant.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Invoked and Inverted all as a part of Taylor's plan. She deliberately sets herself up as a beloved public figure...who happens to be beloved for being a villain. Joke/Humor villains are also treated with kid gloves by the PRT, who don't want bad PR or to make the villain escalate, and Taylor exploits this to her best ability.
  • World of Pun: If there's a "bee" pun to make, Bumblebee not only knows it - she is already planning on how and when to use it.

Alternative Title(s): Nemesis

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