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Something broke inside me, the last vestiges of any way of making sense of all this washing away.
I couldn't let him do that again. I couldn't just lie there and let her put the knife to me again—to just watch her cut off pieces of me one at a time. Even if they let me live past this, I wouldn't have really survived. I couldn't let that happen again; I would rather kill myself.

Quicken is an Alternate Universe For Want of a Nail Worm fanfic by Luolang, with some elements borrowed from the Highlander franchise.

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The attack in the alley goes differently. Emma Barnes loses a part of herself in the process — and gains something else in exchange. Torn out of familiar surroundings, she's forced to navigate a world filled with violence and strife, where the line between right and wrong is as thin as the edge of a sword...

It can be found on the Sufficient Velocity forums (link), SpaceBattles.com (link), and on FF.net (link).

Compare and contrast with other For Want of a Nail Worm fics like Atonement or Intrepid where a character became more heroic due to a canon event going differently.


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Tropes:

  • Adaptational Badass: In the original story, Emma was a powerless, cowardly girl. Here she’s a regenerator parahuman capable of detecting other parahumans and stealing their powers and memories after killing them, and prone to go berserker.
  • Adaptational Heroism: In the original story Emma was a bully. Here she’s an Anti-Hero. She picked a fight with several Empire 88 grunts because they were beating someone up and forced an enforcer to leave Lisa alone.
  • Anti-Hero: Emma’s fighting style is brutal and gory and she kills a lot of people. Said people are thugs, gangsters, rapists and Nazis who want to kill her, rape her or sell her into slavery because she is too white, she isn’t white enough, she’s a woman or she’s in the wrong place in the wrong time.
    Screw this.
    I was done with words. I was tired of being tossed from one struggle to the next. I was done listening to them and their useless voices. Yan, Lao, the Empire thugs from earlier, Cricket, these Empire thugs—it was just a blur of monsters wearing human faces. I was done hearing them talk, make justifications for their depravity. I was done watching them continue to breathe. I was just done.
    They thought I couldn't hurt them? We'd see.
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  • Apathetic Citizens: Invoked. When Emma shooed away an enforcer that was harassing Lisa, Lisa was grateful because a lot of people saw her and just walked by. And Emma didn't.
  • Back from the Dead: Emma triggers right before dying, and her powers bring her back to life… nine months later.
  • Bad Powers, Good People: Emma is an Anti-Hero, and repeatedly lampshades how her powers, especially the ability to gain the powers of capes she's killed, are more fit for a beast than a person, the kind of power that would be associated with the Slaughterhouse Nine, and to use it to its full potential would make her be seen as a monster.
  • Berserk Button: Lisa is a nice, kind girl most of the time, but don’t ever pry into her past, or she’ll use her power to pry into your head.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: NOPE. Emma is missing her nose from the first chapter on. It’s the only part of her not covered by her Healing Factor, for some reason.
  • The Berserker: Emma's fighting style is extremely savage and brutal because she's trying to survive and her enemies are dangerous and merciless. As per Word of God:
    The way Emma's fighting style can currently be described here is simply unrestrained violence. She's fighting without limitations and without human dignity and considerations in mind. In reality, people don't jump right away to gouging out other people's eyeballs or ripping off body parts with their teeth. They can get to that point, but people hesitate before diving into that. It's a similar reason as to why it's easier — mentally — to kill someone with a gun as opposed to stabbing them to death with a knife or choking them.
  • Berserker Tears: Emma cries and screams while she’s killing Yan.
    I beat her chest with my fists, still tasting blood in mouth. I sobbed, tears streaming down my face. "You bitch! Why did you people have to do this? How could you do this to me?"
    I bowed my head, blubbering and crying uselessly for a few moments. Then I shrieked and raised the knife before I slammed it home into her chest. Bone creaked and cracked, as the knife pierced through her sternum. Yan convulsed, drawing a gasping breath as her back arched from the blow. I pulled out the knife, a spray of blood following it, and I stabbed down again. I was still crying, cursing her as I stabbed her again, and again, and again, each blow weaker than the last. Her chest stopped rising after the fourth blow.
  • Blood Knight: Hookwolf and his comrades, Cricket and Stormtiger live for fighting.
  • Brainy Brunette: Taylor is a brown-haired, fifteen-year-old bookworm. In her first appearance she quotes a line of Hamlet.
  • Broken Bird:
    • Emma was an average, carefree teenager… then she was assaulted and nearly raped. From that point on, she’s determined to survive not matter what and doing whatever it takes because no one else will help her.
    • When she finally meets her best friend, it’s implied that Taylor has gone through this as well after losing her mother and Emma in a very short lapse of time. She looks more adult, grimmer and more physically fit.
  • Broken Tears: Taylor embraces Emma after hearing her story. Emma bursts into tears.
    I was stunned, unable to react, simply allowing myself to be held. My eyes grew hot and a low moan escaped my throat. I tried to stop myself, but I felt so tired—not in body, but perhaps in spirit. I began bawling, putting my arms around Taylor, releasing myself to the tears. There was no dignity or restraint: it was the sort of crying an infant or a toddler might produce. I felt as though the tears would tear out gouges down my cheeks and I cried and cried. I don’t think I had ever cried this hard before.
  • Bully Hunter: When Emma suspects that Taylor is being bullied, she is NOT amused.
  • Buried Alive: Variant. Emma was dead when she was buried, but she came back from the dead when she was lying in her coffin.
  • Bystander Syndrome: Everyone else who noticed Lisa getting dragged behind the store by the enforcer ignored it. Not Emma.
  • Captain Obvious: When Emma goes berserker and starts head butting, gouging eyes and biting noses off, one of the ABB thugs exclaims:
    "Holy shit, she's gone crazy!"
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Lisa dropped one after figuring out that Emma had come back from the dead.
    That's – fuck, it's just fucking – how the fucking fuck could that fucking… what the fuck, that's fucking fucked!
  • Combat Pragmatist: Emma doesn't care for fighting fairly. She cares for surviving and knows that she’s completely outmatched against monsters, so she fights extremely dirty and never holds back. And since she has super-regeneration… she’s perfectly willing to bite her own tongue off and spit it out and on the eyes of an enemy.
    I knew what I had to do. She was making the same mistake the ABB thugs made in the alley. They treated me like another person when I had been fighting, as if I was concerned with protecting my body first and foremost, as if I wasn't willing to do anything it took to win. This wasn't some fucking prize fight. This was combat.
  • Cooldown Hug:
    • When Taylor and Emma meet again in chapter 8, Emma hugs her, rests her head against her friends’ shoulder and cries.
    • In chapter 9, after Emma has told her tale and she’s babbling about being a completely different person and being fucked up, Taylor tells her shut up and embraces her until she relaxes.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Averted. After defeating Cricket, Emma thinks that they’re NOT are going to become friends later on.
    This wasn't some Saturday morning cartoon; we weren't going to come to some kind of mutual understanding, enter as enemies, leave as friends. She had given her best to see me dead. It was always going to come down to either me or her.
  • Determinator: Emma becomes this after dying and being reborn because giving up got her noseless and dead. When she realized she was buried alive, she broke her coffin and then she dug her way out of her grave out of sheer stubbornness and despair.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Emma decided to demonstrate her Healing Factor to Taylor by cutting a huge gash in her arm without any real warning or explanation.
  • Disappeared Dad: When Emma dug her way out of her own grave, she looked for her family, but her parents had left the city several months ago.
  • Dual Wielding: Cricket -and later Emma- used two kamas simultaneously.
  • Exact Words: When Hookwolf interrogated an ABB thug, he promised that he wouldn’t kill him if he talked. And he didn’t kill him. Stormtiger did.
    "I – I won, didn't I? I won the game! You said you weren't going to kill me!"
    "I'm not," Hookwolf said distantly, still thinking about what Jürgen had said. "He is."
  • Fiery Redhead: Emma becomes very hotheaded and short-tempered.
  • First Episode Resurrection: Emma died in the first episode, and resurrected in the beginning of the second one.
  • For Want of a Nail: The point of divergence is the attack in the alley. Emma doesn’t try to fight back and Shadow Stalker doesn’t save her. Then Emma fights back and triggers.
  • Good Thing You Can Heal: Emma takes advantage of her Healing Factor when utilizing her The Berserker fighting style, deliberately taking blows to gain openings.
  • Healing Factor: Emma is a regenerator capable of healing even from fatal wounds, and takes full advantage of this in battle. Oddly, her nose is the only part of her that doesn't regenerate.
  • Hell Is That Noise: When Emma goes nuts, she screams. Her scream sounds so scary and inhuman than her assailants step back.
    A switch was suddenly flipped inside me. Something primal and inarticulate tore its way out of my throat, a sound I could have never imagined that I could make.
  • High-Pressure Blood: It happens a lot when Emma fights. It’s justified because she aims for the arteries.
  • Hypocrisy Nod: Lisa doesn't like when people delve into her past... something she does the whole time. She freely admits that she's an hypocrite.
    Lisa: I don’t like it when people try to pry into my past. And I reacted badly for that.
    Emma: So, instead you pry into other people’s business instead?
    Lisa: (grinning) Never said I wasn’t a hypocrite.
  • I Lied: When Emma reminds Lao that he promised that he'd let her go, he shrugs and says that he lied.
    Emma: Y-y-you promised. You s-s-said that – that you would let me go after – after she was done.
    Lao: Guess I lied, ginger.
  • Ironic Echo: When the ABB thugs captured her, Emma said: "Please – please, don't! Not my face! I'll do anything, please just let me go!" Later on, when she’s about to kill Yan, the ABB thug tells those exact words.
  • Irony:
    • Emma lampshades how Cricket, a neo-Nazi cape, uses Asian weapons.
    • Emma was killed by the ABB, but after killing Cricket she is mistaken by a member for a new ABB cape.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Taylor became this to Emma as soon as the red-haired girl ran into her.
    After a minute or so passed, we stepped out of the hug. I chuckled a little as I wiped away my tears. Finally, after everything that had happened, I had found someone that I could lean on, someone I knew that had my back and a small smile came to me. I drank in her appearance, glad to see her familiar form once more.
    I hadn’t found Mom, Dad, or Anne. They weren’t even in the same city anymore, let alone the same state. I had thought I would have been all alone here, with no one familiar to reach out to, that I’d be stuck by myself with whoever or whatever I was now.
    But, just when I had been ready to give up any hope, just when I was resigned to being alone, I had found Taylor. She had always been dependable like that.
  • Missing Mom: Taylor’s mother is dead. Her death comes into play when Emma tries to prove her identity.
  • Mugging the Monster: Right after she’s dug her way out of her own grave, four neo-Nazis attack Emma, intending to rape her. She killed them all.
  • The Needless: Emma doesn't get tired, and she doesn't need to sleep or breathe.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Emma saves a man from a couple of E88 skinheads. He turns out to be an ABB member, and they take her to be one as well, leading to a gang war between them and the E88.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: When Emma is looking for her sister, she goes to her college. Unfortunately a RA refused to let her see Anne or tell her if her sister was even there.
  • Off with His Head!: When Emma defeats Cricket, she beheads her.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When Danny gets angry as he mentions that Taylor was hospitalized after a bullying incident, Emma is shocked and a bit frightened because he's the mellowest person she's ever known.
    I was startled to see his face reddening with what looked like intense rage, a fury comparable with what I had displayed before, with all the shit I had dealt with. It passed almost instantly, but it had surprised me all the same. Mr. Hebert was the most mellow, low-key person I had ever known. I hadn’t even thought it was possible for him to be angry, let alone to this extent.
  • Power Glows: When Emma kills Cricket, she gets struck by a thunderbolt. Her body gave off a blue electric haze and lightning bolts surrounded her as Cricket’s power, knowledge and memories were transferred to her.
  • Rage Breaking Point: When a group of thugs assaulted Emma, they pulled her out of her father's car, pinned her to the ground, gloated over raping her before selling her into slavery... she stood still. When their leader -Lao- promised that he'd let her go if she picked what chunk of her face they'd cut off, she stood still until they were done. When Lao said that he lied and they never intended to let her go, she went completely berserk.
  • Rise from Your Grave: Emma has to do this in chapter 2 when she comes back to life and realizes that she's lying inside a coffin.
  • Saying Too Much: When Danny talks about how happy Taylor used to be, Emma gets worried, because he's involuntarily implying his daughter hasn't been happy for a long, long time.
    He reminisced some more as I listened, but I wasn’t paying attention to what he said so much so as what he didn’t say. He kept talking about how happy Taylor had been before with the two of us, back in the past, not how she was now. Unease wound itself inside me, as I thought about the implications of what he wasn’t saying, what he had left unstated.
  • Scars Are Forever: Emma loses her nose permanently after the attack in the alley. Her power can heal and regenerate anything but her nose.
  • Sinister Scythe: Cricket’s weapons were two kamas. Emma kept them after defeating her.
  • Spanner in the Works: Emma accidentally and inadvertently causes a gang war only because she was in the wrong place in the wrong time wearing the wrong clothes.
  • Superpower Lottery: Emma lampshades that, if she's willing to go the distance and be seen as a monster for it, she could eventually become a parahuman on the level of the Triumvirate.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: When an ABB member manages to mistake Emma for a new ABB cape, she rolls with that in order to avoid another fight and get some directions by claiming she's from out of town and is following orders from Lung.
  • There Can Be Only One: Emma executes Cricket after understanding that any battle between she and another parahuman will be always to death.
    We weren't both going to survive this. I understood that now, and I could feel something in me slipping away, some last resistance to what I had to do fading. I could feel that same presence in me again, guiding my hands, lending me the strength to do this.
    In the end, there can be only one.
  • To the Pain: Emma kills Yan doing exactly what the ABB thugs were planning to do to her: cutting chunks off her face. And each time she announces what body part she’ll cut off next.
    Nose. Eye. Mouth! Ears!
  • Underestimating Badassery: Gang members always underestimate Emma when they run into her because she’s a little girl. Then they find out that she’s a power-copying berserker with regenerative skills.
  • Unstoppable Rage: It happens to Emma several times in the first arc. She runs into a mook squad, and they threaten her until she goes nuts.
  • Victor Gains Loser's Powers: Emma gains the powers (and memories) of the parahumans that she kills. She killed Cricket and gained her fighting style, her reflexes, and her speed.
  • Wham Line: When Emma asks “What date is it?” she learns that she’s not spent several hours buries. She’s spent nine months.
    I had been gone for over nine months.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Taylor calls Emma out for cutting her arm open without any warning to demonstrate her Healing Factor.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: Emma let Yan cut her nose off because Lao promised that they'd let her go. When Lao showed that he had no intention of keeping his promise, she protested:
    "Y-y-you promised. You s-s-said that – that you would let me go after – after she was done."


You have to understand—I became… something else at that point. I'm not sure if you can even say I was a person anymore. It wasn't… pretty what I did. And the fucked up thing is that those were just the first, that was just the beginning of all this, like the world kept having to throw shit my way. And every step of the way, it just became easier to keep letting go little by little. If being human meant the world still made sense, and the world didn't anymore, then why would I stay human? I mean, what the fuck was even the point?


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