September 3rd, 2012
The man named Roy Smith climbed off the old, beat-up boat that had taken him all the way from Japan to the Installation. He was more than glad to get off the old rust-bucket he’d been forced to pay for, since that bitch had stolen most of his funds.
But now, at last, he had arrived. He ran his fingers through his blonde hair as he stepped onto the pier. A group of heavily armed guards in full-body armour walked past him. They’d dispose of the crew of the ship, scavenge it for anything useful and then dispose of all the traces.
On the pier, two women and a man stood. The man and one of the women wore white lab coats, while the second woman was dressed in the same armour as the guards, only without the helmet.
She was tall, fit, and just generally so beautiful that he immediately pegged her as an Adonis-type. The effect was lessened a bit by her completely shaven head and the frown on her face.
The man in the lab coat looked like he belonged into a comic book, playing the mad scientist – he was reedy, had bad hair, bad teeth and oversized, tricked-out goggles over his eyes.
But Roy only really cared for the other woman, the one in the lab coat. She was the reason he had got this far, the reason why he would be able to support their most noble cause.
She was a short Chinese woman, maybe a breath taller than five feet, with straight black hair she’d tied up into a very tight knot fixed with two lacquered chopsticks, a very austere but pretty face and dark brown eyes.
“A good day to you, Mister Smith,” she said with what might have been a smile, offering him a gloved hand.
He took it, shaking it delicately. He didn’t want to risk setting her off – her temper was legendary.
“It is an honour to meet you, Miss Dusu,” he replied with an honest smile.
* * *
“May I introduce our chief of security?” Dusu said, turning to the shaven woman in battle gear. “This is the thirteenth Skulls, our organization’s most highly decorated officer.”
Roy nodded, offering the woman his hand, but she did not take it. “You got the rule book?” she asked with a voice that stood in stark contrast to her cruel, disapproving expression – deep and rich with dulcet tones.
He nodded as he pulled his hand back. Damn, I feel like I should freeze on the spot.
“Then you know the rules. Break them, and I will kill you.” With those words, she turned around and left the pier with quick, long strides.
Man, that’s a fine piece of ass. Though I guess my chances to tap it are in the negative range.
Then again, he might very well be the only other Adonis on the Installation.
Suddenly, the man in the lab coat grabbed his hand from the side of his body and shook it with a wide smile. “Welcome to the Installation, Mister Smith! Don’t mind Skulls, she’s always like this. And don’t be discouraged, even I got to tap that primo ass,” he welcomed him, speaking within a single breath in a high, nasal voice. He had really bad breath.
Roy was unsure how to react for a moment, but Dusu cleared her throat, which made both of them pay attention. “Mister Smith, this is the seventh Geek. He is in charge of the contriving half of the Installation, while I lead the gadgeteering half. Please follow me.”
She walked down the pier, her steps so silent he barely heard her move.
* * *
“The Installation is the second-largest manmade island in the world, and the largest floating island – the whole structure is exactly two hundred and four square kilometers in size, divided into two equal halves with a central section that serves as the command center and the living quarters for all of us, though we researchers get the better rooms in the upper levels, as opposed to the guards and support staff,” Dusu explained with a proud voice as she lead him deeper into the artificial island.
Roy was immediately smitten – his power’s focus was on biochemistry, but he could still very much appreciate the craftsmanship that had gone into the clean, futuristic complex.
“How many people are on the Installation?” he asked, trusting to his enhanced sense of balance to not trip while look pretty much everywhere other than towards the way he was going.
“Five hundred and seventeen, both researchers, guards and support staff. And one thousand six hundred fifty-eight test subjects,” she replied immediately.
“One thousand four hundred and one test subjects. We lost two hundred and fifty seven during the last round of yesterday’s tests on my side,” Geek threw in.
Dusu gave him an annoyed glance. “You burn through test subjects too quickly. We’ll need to purchase a new batch by the middle of the month if it goes on like this.”
Geek raised his hands in a gesture of surrender. “I’ll strive to improve efficiency. Promise.”
“See that you do,” she replied, then turned back to Roy. “The organization usually provides us with more than enough test subjects, mostly from the South Asian or South African war zones. But we still need to be careful no one locates us – our protection is not perfect – so we can’t afford to waste them.”
He nodded absentmindedly. “And I will be working with you, Ma’am?”
“Yes. Your specialisation should prove compatible with my own. Unfortunately, my last assistant proved to be literally too dumb to live,” she replied, frustration seeping into her voice at the end.
“What happened, if I may ask?” What I mean is, did you kill her, and what are my chances for dying that way?
Geek giggled, his goggles shaking wildly. “Stupid little girl, she got a bit too careless working with one of the samples, and-“
“You have samples?!” he all but screamed, stopping in his tracks. “I didn’t know it was possible to extract samples!”
“Oh, it wasn’t for quite a while. But Dusu here figured it out just a year after she joined us, and we’ve been extracting them ever since. Lost nearly half our staff in the beginning, before we figured out how to properly secure them, not to mention all the test subjects we wasted,” explained Geek.
Dusu snorted in a decidedly unladylike manner. “And the little idiot went and still screwed it up.”
Geek giggled again. “At least we got a fine new test subject out of it. And she screams in the prettiest way, I gotta show you sometime, Roy-boy,” he said between giggles.
Roy shuddered a little at the utter callousness in his voice, but caught himself before anyone could notice. Don’t want them to think I’m soft.
“I’ll strive not to disappoint, Ma’am.”
“Do so. I would hate to hand over another assistant for testing. Or disposal,” she said. Then she continued, shaking her head: “And I had such high hopes for the last one.”
“I shall do my best, Ma’am.”
Geek just giggled again.
* * *
They’d parted from Geek a few minutes ago, and Dusu had taken him right through the gadgeteering complex. After a few minutes of walking and taking elevators downwards – the biggest part of the Installation was actually beneath the water – they arrived in her lab.
“This is awesome, Ma’am,” he sighed as he saw all the cutting edge equipment, including…
“Is that one of Sovereign’s Cloning Chambers!?”
“Aye, it cost me quite a mint but I was able to purchase it,” she answered, now far more relaxed than before.
He almost popped the cork right then and there, and wouldn’t that have been embarassing?
“But let’s get to the important part – our work,” she said and walked towards a large circular table that doubled as a screen.
Touching a few buttons on the screen, it lit up and showed… it.
“Oh God, I’ve never seen such a clear picture of it,” he sighed, putting his hands on the edge of the table and leaning in as far as he dared.
She nodded. “We’ve got cameras and access pipes that allows us to get within centimeters of it. We need them, really, to extract samples, hopefully to find a way to wake it,” she explained.
“I… let me take a look? For a few minutes? Please?” he asked, enraptured by the sight.
“Of course. Five minutes, no more, though. We do have a schedule,” she replied, then fell silent.
* * *
The cameras reached all the way down to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, and the soft, almost gentle glow given off by the Sleeper’s body provided enough light to see it in all its beauty.
After a few moments of enraptured non-action, he tapped a few icons that had appeared on the screen, calling up some data on what he saw.
There were, of course, the coils of its beautiful serpentine body, one thousand and thirty-one miles long, roughly three-point-one miles in diameter on average. It wasn’t covered in scales like a snake, but instead had a thick, smooth white skin that looked more like that of a jellyfish. The computer informed him that the current theory was that this was merely its coloration during its hibernating state, and that it would change upon awakening, as any samples extracted also changed their colours in unpredictable patterns.
What was probably the back of its body was covered in crystalline growths that were currently semi-opaque and colourless.
Roughly at the center of the mass of flesh was a particularly thick, tall pile of coils, and atop it rested its magnificent head – it was made of the same crystal as the growths on its back, and he could make out an indistinct humanoid shape where its tongue would be, as well as four pairs of eyes, each the size of a large building, and a single eye thrice that size, situated vertically on the center of its draconic, smooth head.
There were no limbs to be seen, unless its tongue had any.
The Sleeper’s body was still, unmoving, hibernating.
It was everything he could have hoped for and more.
* * *
“It… it’s so beautiful!” he whispered in adoration.
“It is. She is.”
He looked up at her. “She?”
“Quite so. At least, the humanoid tongue in its mouth appears to be female,” she explained.
He gulped, looking back at the monitors.
“And we shall wake her,” he said, then he looked at her. “Why do you want to wake her? If it is not too much to ask, Ma’am.”
She fell silent and turned around, making him afraid he’d overstepped his boundaries. But then she spoke: “You know what I do. What I did. All those projects, all the sacrifices… and nothing came of it. The world is still wretched, still choked by all those disgusting monkeys. I decided that, no matter how hard I worked, I’d never be able to push mankind to enter the true age of metahumanity.”
Turning around, she gave him a feverish look. “We need a gamechanger. Something, someone to wipe the slate clean of all the trash. We need her to push us to the next level.”
He nodded with every word, watching her as she calmed herself down. She’d looked beautiful herself when she spoke of her visions.
“And you? I didn’t inquire about your motivation before, though I know you’re a member of the True Believers,” she continued, back to her usual calm self.
He shrugged. “It’s nothing special, Ma’am. I believe it is Ember’s fate to usher in a new age. And I believe that, if the Sleeper were awoken, she, Desolation-in-Light and Ember shall become a new Trinity that will lead us to… well, to the same goal you dream of – the True Age of Metahumanity!”
She grinned again, stunning him with the unrestrained brilliance of the expression, and gave him an ID card. “Good. Very good. Welcome to the Installation, Roy Smith. And welcome, to the Companions of the Future!”
Votes on topwebfiction are, as always, appreciated: http://topwebfiction.com/?for=brennus
Next up is the mini-arc “Monkey Business”
[“How many people are on the Installation?” he asked, trusting to his enhanced sense of balance to not trip while look pretty much everywhere other than towards the way he was going.]
“And I believe that, if the Sleeper was woken, he, Desolation-in-Light and Ember shall become a new Trinity…”
Shouldn’t Sleeper be a she?
That’s fucking terrifying. That’s endbringer shit right there.
Dusu huh? Well at least she s still alive so Brennus can get a shot at her.
And weirdly enough I m getting a Bond-villain vibe from her something I don t normally associate with the superhero genre.
Okay, I just noticed this now, but the “The Sleeper” tag refers one to two different entries. One of them is this one, but the other one is “Ember of Hope: Little Giants Pt. 8”. That being said, the word “Sleeper” doesn’t show up anywhere in that entry. So does that mean we can assume that one of the people present in that scene in Germany will become the Sleeper? Now taking bets as to who the Sleeper once was.
Oh wait, never mind. I just reread that entry and it’s obvious that the Sleeper existed before Ember. Welp, back to the drawing board.
Hmm, so the world expands again and we see that metahumans are worshiped by some people. Asian warzones speaks to different country borders in your world. South African war zones implies that Sovereign either doesn’t have control of the entire continent or that he allows fighting to continue for some reason. Curious just how he took over and how he keeps the heroes out. I’m guessing giant forcefields that no one can get through preventing heroes, and any rebels, from attacking him directly. Though now we might be able to add cloned metahumans to his force, unless the tech isn’t that advanced since there are problems with just aging them up. We still don’t know if Sovereign is male/female, what race he is, or how old s/he is. If I wanted to take over Africa I would focus on securing scare resources like water, and pull a few humanitarian projects so that at least parts of Africa would be open to being ruled by me. I would focus on some kind of powerful drones with serious firepower that most african armies couldn’t deal with. Then simply make a local group in charge to enforce my will and sic the drones on anybody who doesn’t listen. In regards to Dusu, it seems we have just met Brennus’s future arch enemy. He will have to pull a Superior Spiderman and recruit minions if he doesn’t want to be outnumbered. Excellent chapter, just voted for you for the first time.
Ha, very mad scientist.
You have a big snake-dragon-thing sleeping in the deepest pit she could find, and not only you poke a (very high tech) stick at her repeatedly, but your big idea is to wake her.
Eh, what could possibly go wrong?
And with that disquieting revelation, I have caught up. And subscribed. I’d vote for you on topwebfiction but that would take my vote away from Worm, and well…
don’t worry, I don’t blame you
I always fight with myself every time I have to vote X-P
you guys know you can vote for up to 4 titles right?
(or at least it was 4 last year, I seldom bother because I cannot read the captcha… yeah, I fail the Turing test)
I did not know that.
And I can’t find it anywhere on the site, but when I shifted my vote over to here the counter next to Wildbow’s story did not go down, so it appears true.
Is worm really that good? All the descriptions that I read made it seem like kind of a downer. This series has it’s dark moments too, but they are balanced by a pretty good amount of comic relief and a number of CMoA’s.
Eh, it’s really, really gripping. And thought out extremely well.
It has its weak points, but most of them are masked really carefully.
Still, the ending (so far, we might be surprised yet) sucks.
Compared to Brennus, it has less focus on the characters themselves and their relations, and more on their plans; it’s way darker and all the literary devices are done through characters and always realistically. (all of this could be either a selling point or a fatal flaw, so YMMV)
And… I cannor really say anything else without spoling something I fear.
tl;dr: Worm is about 1.3 KiloEvangelions on the despair scale.
1.7, considering the ending so far
If you like straightforward, easy to understand stories, conventional characters, and good fun entertainment that doesn’t require too much thought or effort, Worm is not for you.
If you like depth and complexity in even the minor supporting characters and villains? If you like convoluted but completely logical and sensible storylines? If you like a well-fleshed out world based on the logical consequences of a single, fundamental change in the way things work instead of a cardboard backdrop solely to serve the plotline at hand? If you like moral ambiguity, genuine danger even to major characters, and generally a very high level of realism? If you like having all of that without ever slipping into bland, “gritty” grimdark-for-the-sake-of-grimdark bullshit, but instead remaining hopeful and idealistic to the very end? And if you have the time to get through about 1.5 million words of that? You should definitely read Worm.
There are many times that it’s kind of a downer. Not because it’s a shithole of a world or everybody dies alone and unloved, but because the world of capes is a dangerous one, nobody can save everyone or fix everything, and so eventually people you care about will suffer if not die. A fight with a Class S threat in Worm (of which there are a total of six when the story begins) will always have consequences. A minor misstep, trusting the wrong person, or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time has the potential to create significant problems down the road even when you aren’t being manipulated by a precognitive telepath. Those who do the most good often have a hard time seeing it, and the greatest of heroes often make sacrifices for the sake of others while the more ambitious or underhanded claim glory and power. Just like the real world, but with superpowers.
One thing that I particularly like about the series is the villains. They’re all… people. No cartoonishly evil moustache-twirlers, nobody just doing evil for the sake of evil, just people who’ve suffered themselves and are reacting the only way they know how, or idealists whose ideals don’t quite match up with those of the “heroes” and result in conflict, or ordinary folk trying to get by but having to work outside the system to do it. Most of the major villains act as PoV characters at least once, and even though you won’t agree with many of them you’ll at least understand why they do what they do if you pay attention.
I should stop rambling now.
Well, okay, there is one who could be said to be cartoonishly evil. But Jack is just so fucking terrifyingly good at it that he gets a pass on that. He’s the kind of magnificent bastard who can lose a war in such a way that all his objectives are completed and the conquering heroes are left weeping over their victory.
worm’s got a lot of downer moments, true, but it’s awesome nonetheless. Try it out, you won’t be disappointed
That is the worst plan. That is the very worst plan.
Aye, it cost me quite a mint but I was able to purchase it for quite the sum,
seems as if you accidently mention the price twice
“the whole structure is exactly two hundred and four square kilometers big”
‘big’ might be able to change to ‘in size’ but otherwise I’d get rid of it. ‘big’ in this usage is something like a double-negative. You already told us the size.
“Five hundred and seventeen, both researchers, guards and support staff. And one thousand and six hundred fifty-eight test subjects,” she replied immediately.
You shouldn’t use ‘and’ to spell out whole numbers, no matter how big they are. If you have a decimalized or fractional addition to a whole number that you are writing, things get more complex.
take out ‘both’, there are more than two things being talked about.
“Five hundred seventeen researchers, guards, and support staff. One thousand six hundred fifty-eight test subjects,” she replied immediately.
Well now apparently cloning is a part of real science in the Brennusverse! Hellooo Macian…
Cloning is easy; real world scientists have been able to clone stuff for decades. The trick is to make it more useful or efficient than just getting an ordinary organism and waiting for it to grow up. I suspect that Sovereign has figured out a way to accelerate the growth process, giving you a viable adult in a short period, but it probably limits the resulting lifespan.
In order for the Macian cloning business we all suspect, you would need to both speed the growth a little without long term detrimental effects, and have a way to transfer minds between similar but unrelated human brains. But that second one is probably easier than some of the other telepathic things we know happened in Basil’s past, so…
“She was the reason he had gotten this far”
he had gotten—>he had got
“And one thousand and six hundred fifty-eight test subjects,”
—->And one thousand six hundred and fifty-eight
“Your specialization should prove compatible with my own.”
“if the Sleeper was woken, he, Desolation-in-Light and Ember shall become a new Trinity”
if the Sleeper were woken
“if the Sleeper werewoken”