Comic 1157 - Go see the worm

Posted on 31st Dec 2018, 12:57 AM in Like a Bullet from Behind
Go see the worm

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Author Notes:

Morgenstern 31st Dec 2018, 12:57 AM edit delete
You decide that, given the risks and the possible time limit, you're going to hold off on messing with time. There's too much that could go wrong, and you think you can find a way to deal with Carpenter and Nil without it.

You ask for a status report--has Dr. Finch learned anything from the head spider and the weird... spinning... spine thing?

"I have learned..." Dr. Finch winces before admitting, "surprisingly little. That spinal cord is... incredibly complex, layers upon layers of only vaguely familiar materials interwoven at a microscopic level. The way it disperses impact, the way it shifts minutely to increase how aerodynamic it is, it's... it it it's equal parts fascinating and frustrating. I would love to know what that technology was originally for, because I highly doubt that kind of brilliant engineering was poured wholly into a single foe for a deathtrap only a handful of human beings would see."

"Human beings...?," Fuse mutters. "So it's alien, then?"

"It is undeniably alien," Dr. Finch replies. "It was reconfigured into a shape recognizable to us, presumably for the gimmick of Bunker X, but I cannot be convinced that spine was designed as a spine. It is a weapon, plain and simple, with a human skeletal aesthetic. That head spider..."

He smiles, lightly, to himself. "That spider may well be worse. The acid that composed its blood is unlike any I've ever seen--I'm almost hesitant to call it an acid, proper. The creature's organs utilized it, it was... it it was part of the thing's natural biology. The monster's organs, suffice it to say, are vastly different from our own as well. It's all... surprisingly rational, on its face, I'm only befuddled trying to imagine what could necessitate the adaptations it has--if that's what they are. It could be, like the spine, engineered. It's..."

He adjusts his glasses. "Difficult to gauge, without more context. Obviously, its biology was rearranged to imitate a foe you'd faced in your personal history, but only from the outside. Inside, that creature was... something else entirely. The lining of its arteries, the way its brain functioned, every aspect of it on close inspection is, frankly, not of this world."

Liz's face shows a sign of... something, you can't really tell. It flashes by only briefly. "So you're not sure if the acid blood is a natural adaptation, or if the whole thing was grown in an alien lab, then."

"No," Dr. Finch replies simply. "If it merely... contained that fluid, I could pin it down as evolution, a self defense mechanism owing to a hostile extraterrestrial environment, but the way its entire body is... built around it, I can't even begin to guess if this creature--in any other format, in any other guise--exists wild in the universe, or if that ludicrous anatomy was cobbled together purely as a synthetic weapon."

"If I'm gettin' this right--" Michelle begins, "That head spider coulda been based on a real alien... or it could be a living thing made outta fake stuff? Like those maybe-tube-cops from the same materials as my new arms we were thinkin' about."

"That, yes," Dr. Finch agrees with a nod. "I can't deduce if what comprises it is... artificial, or not, and as a result I cannot hope to speculate as to whether the creature wholesale... well, if it would be real, or the entertained whims of some creative god with a hand in Bunker X."

"Huh," Caius remarks, scratching the back of his head. "That's, uh, kinda spooky."

"Bunker X is kinda spooky," Michelle chuckles, "we just don't think about it much. Gods we don't even know about are watchin' us in there. We ain't even checked behind the door yet."

"Oh, hell," Fuse exclaims, "we haven't, have we? We don't know where Bunker X is. We should, uh... probably get on that."

Speaking of bunkers--has the program set up to find more bunkers found any more bunkers?

"It has been a while, hasn't it?" Fuse leans over, sorting through a few tabs... before pausing. "Yeah. ...We got two more bunkers."

Michelle grins. "Daaamn. They're gonna have to wait 'til Carpenter ain't about to blow us all up, though, or... y'know, whatever he's doin'."

You decide that--for now--you're going to go talk to the silkworm. Fuse should definitely come with you, in case you can start getting the power back online... Dr. Finch might not be a bad idea, either, as he could help explain everything to the worm.

"I'm comin', too," Michelle states. "The worm might mean well, but I ain't lettin' y'all go in there alone."

Caius shrugs. "Heck, I'll go check out what's behind Bunker X. It'll only take a second to look, right?"

"If it's anything dangerous," Dr. Finch replies, "please do not attempt to engage it. We'll stay in touch through Mine."

Caius nods. "Yeah, no problem. I'm jus' takin' a peek."

You, Fuse, Michelle, and Dr. Finch head out into Ilworth, and begin making your way to the power station. Liz organizes the doors so that Caius can enter Bunker X, and then, check what's behind the door while the bunker is sealed off.

Naturally, Caius reaches his destination first.

"Alright," he says, "I'm gonna open tha doors."

He gives Liz a moment to switch them over... and then he pushes the doors open.

Well, he tries to.

There's quite a bit of resistance from the other side, but Caius--with his immense strength, determination, and maybe a little spite after the doors fight back the first time--pushes harder.

After a second or two, he manages to force them past whatever obstacle was keeping them, revealing...


Tall, thick, dense, unhealthy looking grass.


"Oh," he remarks. "That's kinda weak."

Indeed, what had been holding the doors back was just... more grass. It reaches up so high, bending over the top of the doorframe, that Caius can't even tell how tall the grass really is. "Wherever this place is," Caius comments, "they ain't mowed tha lawn in a while."

He reaches forward, beginning to grab the door handles and swing them closed again

when there's a loud rustling,

and something shoves its way through the grass.

Through the open door.

Caius yells, leaping backward, fists balling up. He starts to fumble his way through the ritual to summon his bone armor, when--

he realizes what's shoved its way into the bunker.


a rabbit.

Well, the head of a rabbit, as the mutated animal has grown so big that's all it can manage to squeeze through the doorframe.

It sniffs at the air, more curious than concerned despite Caius accidentally yelling at it. Its three eyes blink slowly.


Caius stops what he was doing, and starts to laugh to himself. "Buddy... you gotta warn me before ya do somethin' like that."

He takes a second to pet the giant rabbit before geeently nudging it backward, pushing it back into the grass and out of Bunker X.

"C'mon," Caius tells it, "this ain't no place for bunnies."

Once the rabbit is entirely outside again, Caius closes the doors. You tell Liz it's safe to switch them back over, so Caius can return to Bunker A.

You relay what Caius discovered to everyone else.

Dr. Finch gives a relieved sigh, a smile, and shakes his head. "Of course."

"Man," Michelle remarks with a grin, "he shoulda at least got a picture or somethin', though."

Along the way to the power station, you ask how the propaganda war against Thale's been going.

"Dunno how effective it is," responds Fuse, "but it's getting out there without a hitch. I don't think he expected us to hit him that way--Lydia said there's been no resistance. The guys that own the billboards look at her weird, but hey, money's money--they don't really question the weird crap we're putting up there. It's... kinda scary, actually, we could put offensive shit up there and nobody would stop us."

"I mean," Michelle shrugs, wincing a bit, "have you seen what people are throwin' up in public? I forget what tier it's on, but one of 'em's got a big ol' sign on the bypass that's like... "Welcome to Tier So-and-So, Mutant Free and SAFE."

Dr. Finch nods slowly. "Brother Hope's televangelism--or indeed, the vast majority of the programming on Theodore Reigns' network... it's all fairly hateful rhetoric, disguised quite thinly as family friendly programming and 'public concerns.' They distort the truth, accuse the weak, demonize the poor, and pass it off as news. For every podcast like Grizwald and Lydia's, there's dozens more with foul, less subtle messages. Those with enough money can very well say whatever they wish, wherever they wish, with little fear of repercussion. They're protected, both by physical means and the media they manipulate."

"Yeah," Michelle adds, "but now we're people with money. Th'same system that was keepin' assholes like Mac, Hope, and Thale in safe an' in power, we can use against 'em."

"That's why the propaganda thing is working so well," Fuse notes, nodding. "The media's supposed to be theirs, nobody thought the people would take control back."

You also ask how general supplies are looking--food, ammunition, all that.

"We're still pretty good there," Michelle replies. "Should be a while before we gotta take another big shoppin' trip."

You arrive at the power station. It's... quiet, a little more quiet than you remember. You all carefully make your way down the hall, to the chamber of the silkworm.

When you arrive, however--


All that's left is a single ghost, sitting on the edge of the overlook.

Fuse is the first to react. "What the hell?"

"H... how?," Michelle asks. "The hell did it go?"

As you approach the ghost, it begins to speak. Its voice is... quieter, than you're used to from the silkworm's projections. It sounds dulled, fading, like it doesn't have much left to deliver its message with.

"I was so certain," the half eaten spirit says.

"I knew all that mattered."

"I had a plan."

"I was ready."

"I felt you flicker and wane, a thousand times."

"In an instant."

"In the blink of an eye."

"In that red place, I felt nothing."

"No energy but yours and my own."

"No sound."

"No air."

"Yet it stretched on forever."

"Nothing and everything."

"I still can't understand it."

"I still can't understand you."

"I realize now that I know nothing."

"It's all so much bigger than I am."

"I was ready for humanity to die."

"I was ready for something new to take this earth."

"Knowing what they are, these people..."

"Knowing what they're willing to do to one another."

"Knowing how much suffering there is."

"I was ready."

"Maybe they deserve it."

"Maybe armageddon is what they're owed."


"Knowing that someone, anyone, like you exists..."

"I cannot advocate it."

"I cannot aid the dying of the light."

"I don't know what I want."

"I don't know..."

"What I am."

"I've left you this."

"This building."

"You can have it."

"And for now..."

"This goodbye."

"I won't help you save them."

"I won't try to stop you."

"This is a war between good and evil."

"I do not belong on either side."

"I no longer know where my place is,"

"In all of it."

"All of this."

"I'm so small."

The ghost flickers and breaks apart, its fragments fading.


Xylas_Incarnum 31st Dec 2018, 4:49 AM edit delete reply
well, GSW's (Giant Silk Worm) officially in neutral territory with their head down. time to get this power station into working order
Nayru9572 31st Dec 2018, 4:55 AM edit delete reply
Well, I don't think we should try to force the worm into this whole war now that it's clearly said it doesn't want to be. But do tell it that when the war's done, or whenever it wants, really, it's welcome to return here. We don't hold any grudges towards it, and only hope that wherever it is, it's doing fine.
Cyanic 31st Dec 2018, 5:02 AM edit delete reply

well, ok, guess we're back to asking the Tradesmen and Pierce about Astral combat and defense.

The love missile probably won't work on Nil, but we don't have to worry too much about that, we have infinity on our side, but also we're gonna need tons and tons of willpower

Maybe have a sitdown with Caius, talk to him about how he's so determined and stuff.

Determination is a fuggen strong force across different universes/multiverses. It can turn back time without limit (Undertale), violate conservation of mass/energy, and make something that has a 0% probability of happening, happen (Gurren Lagann). And evidently, in this 'verse, Determination wins mind battles. We need to talk to Caius.
Guest 31st Dec 2018, 5:23 AM edit delete reply
Could Mine use her blood to find out how to reproduce the monsters' biology? Bone armor made from the spinal thing would be awesome.
Fishbulb 31st Dec 2018, 7:04 AM edit delete reply
Just because we're busy setting up to take on Carpenter doesn't mean we can't send a couple of Blobberts into Bunkers F and G.
Limrix 31st Dec 2018, 7:27 AM edit delete reply
The red did that to the worm while it was slowed? It sounds like it perceived time as flowing normally, which is unsettling. Liz was probably onto something when she raised concerns of the red.

The limiting factor on our combat potential right now is Mine's physical and mental stamina. Given that, and the fact that we don't have much time, I advocate for methods of fighting that maximize potency for the smallest mental drain.
As such, I'll detail a plan for destroying Carpenter's lab.
0.1 We notify Jury that someone might be broadcasting a memetic hazard, and to have countermeasures in place.
1. We begin our assault by hitting the base hard and fast with our blood. From a blood portal set up on the other side of the street, we shoot a blood battering ram to knock down the door and create a surface to portal inside. From there, we continue to portal in more blood, putting it all over and inside everything in the base. We stop up the exterior door so the blood doesn't leak out into the street.
1.2 If we don't end up inside a building, but instead find ourselves to be under some kind of alien sky, we should still flood, but after that we can shoot blood into the atmosphere to begin orbital bombardments.
2. We will create a large quantity of "blood noodles" before hand, the bare minimum of a working golem, basically just muscle rope. The idea is to make the most durable meat robot with the least effort from Mine. If we need to inject a physical presence during the initial flood or any point thereafter, we can send in a squad of our multitude of prefabricated blood snakes.
3. In case this isn't enough, we will also have our mobile strike team ready to deploy. What this means in practice will vary based on how far we get with remote piloting. This strike team will be equipped with whatever portable EMPs and jammers we can acquire.

Here's the justification for this plan: Defenses are meant to be used against threats, not natural disasters. While it's possible Carpenter has some countermeasure against a flood of blood, it's still a powerful first move that he either needs to deal with, or lose his base on the spot. The blood noodles are a concession to the fact that Carpenter might be able to deal with a large amount of liquid, and we will have our strike team ready to deal with anything we can't handle otherwise. There are many other things I would like to do, but this is the simplest effective plan I can think of given the circumstances.

1.1 If we can construct a giant, durable but crude EMP or jamming device, we could send it through the portal as well and shunt electricity from the Illworth bunker through the red to power it.

By the way, there's almost no chance that Carpenter's brain is inside his body, but his hideout is a reasonable location for it.

Lastly, there is a way that we could choose the date for our fight with Carpenter: We could send him an advance notice of our arrival on a certain date. I'm not sure what he would find reasonable, but I think we would need to get at least a week for it to be worth it.

As for things we should do, I think we should send a pigeon to check the staircase at the bottom of the power plant, and go visit Pierce to talk about our spiritual self. Engage in meditation and try to repair our mind. See if he has any tips for that.
Could we have Dr. Finch take a look at the weird cactus we got from Zone 50? It's probably normal, but I'd like to check. Meanwhile, Fuse could go talk to the Juries about how to build robots. Michelle and Caius could go on a scouting run of Illworth buildings to see if there's any supplies worth trading up, like mops, old cleaning supplies, storage media, watches, umbrellas, sharp things, or the like.
Limrix 31st Dec 2018, 8:35 AM edit delete reply
We should also ask Pierce ehat he thinks of singing as a form of magic. Songs are an expression of the soul, and singing a song together focuses the souls of many people on one thing. As opposed to rituals which draw power from a larger entity by force, this would be magic formed through cooperation of many smaller beings.
Kumondo 31st Dec 2018, 12:31 PM edit delete reply
I'll second the plan for handling team Nilpenter. We'll probably hold off for a bit timeframe wise, just to gather supplies and such, but it seems a sound direction to move in.
Mathbird 31st Dec 2018, 11:19 AM edit delete reply
That was a surprisingly mobile worm.
TGWMoC 1st Jan 2019, 3:06 AM edit delete reply
I'm a little proud that I knew what you linked too before I clicked it. (well, I was fairly certain, and right, at any rate.)
fellow 31st Dec 2018, 12:44 PM edit delete reply
The many doesn't control animals, right? I've been saying dog, but rabbit works as well. We could blood the rabit and blood portal it to Carpenter for use against the many.
winger 31st Dec 2018, 12:52 PM edit delete reply
next time we asl the tradesmen we should ask for a book or at least the location of one on how to use astral projection effectively. should be much cheaper then asking for the knowledge directly. also ask if the area outside bunker X is normal sized or shrunken. i wouldn't but it past the tradesmen to make bunker x not to scale with the rest of the world
Kumondo 31st Dec 2018, 12:56 PM edit delete reply
So, firstly, kudos to Morgenstern for another great update. That was VERY smooth handling of a whole lot of details in a rather short period of time. I am impressed.

Second, just a couple of details I want to point out: just because the exit of Bunker X is walled off by grass, doesn't mean there's nothing else out there. We'll want to send an expedition out on a jungle safari eventually. Unrelated, it looks like Illworthoggr (Illogically Large Lepidopteran We Originally Really Thought Hated Our Guts, Given Redemption) looks to have left through a hole in the ground. Technically, we could probably track it down if we followed it, though I don't think we'll have reason to for a good long while. Finally, a moment to appreciate how forlorn the imprint and it's speech Illworthoggr left us is. Beautiful.

On the topic of the newly available bunkers, I look forward to exploring them as they'll certainly have fun interesting things going on inside. However, I'll put a vote out for leaving them alone entirely until after the upcoming battle with Nilpenter. The thing about new bunkers is that they're interesting, but time intensive to handle properly. Even scouting via animals or golems will take more of Mine's limited mental focus than we can really afford right now while we've got so much to work on. Let's save them as a treat for when we've cleared more of the to-do list.

Alright, finally as for a course of action, nothing is stopping us now from having Illworth set up as an actual town beyond taking the time to do it, so let's do it. We've been holding on to the Mars crew for something like a week and a half now, so let's make good on our promise to get them out of the City safely, and finally check off that bit of the to do list. Perhaps as consolation for putting off the biomech project we could work on the trade-up ritual with the run down cars while we're in Illworth for the day?
Kumondo 31st Dec 2018, 2:28 PM edit delete reply
Rampant shower thoughts style thoughts: It'll probably be handy for other projects down the line to have a designated big ritual spot in Illworth for other spells we learn down the line. Something inconspicuous and concrete would do, like a parking lot, basket ball court or school gymnasium, depending on what's available.

Entirely unrelated, I've been trying to ponder a source of income, either substantial one time or reliable long term, other than mooching of Macland and Sharai. Once we've got the power station up and running, could we just, sell off some of the redipusticks amount of energy stored in the ghost bunker?
zophah 31st Dec 2018, 11:14 PM edit delete reply
One of the reasons Illworth was abandoned was because the money dried up. What would happen if, say, two people with a lot of expendable money made a healthy investment?
Memo 1st Jan 2019, 5:36 AM edit delete reply
I agree, and the mars gang should be able to help restore the powerplant.
Limrix 1st Jan 2019, 6:48 PM edit delete reply
+1 to everything but trading up the cars. I think we might be able to refurbish them with redstuff to get biocars, which we could then trade up if we wanted. I don't think it's reasonable to say that we'll have everything in order soon, but we can at least let them camp out in one of the houses.
I think that it's likely that if we open the new bunkers, they will demand our attention for some time, and we can't afford that right now.
Snervalton 31st Dec 2018, 3:57 PM edit delete reply
We should see what the Tradesmen are asking in exchange for information about Carpenter/Nil's plans. It's hard to plan for something you know nothing about.
psychoshen 31st Dec 2018, 9:31 PM edit delete reply
On the off chance the worm can still hear us, a thank you for the building and for thinking things through would probably go a long ways.
zophah 31st Dec 2018, 11:13 PM edit delete reply
Hug the imprint. =)
Verde 1st Jan 2019, 12:16 AM edit delete reply
The ghost is not there anymore to hug, they broke apart and faded away.
zophah 31st Dec 2018, 11:07 PM edit delete reply
This is kind of like what Macland thought. He finally got a glimpse of what Mine truly was and said "@#$% this, I'm out of here."
Guest 31st Dec 2018, 11:49 PM edit delete reply
Make sure Mine gets a good meal, and find something good for recharging the spirit. Maybe play a game with some of our friends?
Michael Chandra 1st Jan 2019, 10:18 AM edit delete reply
Damn, now I want to hug the Worm.
Night Ot Eternity 2nd Jan 2019, 11:31 AM edit delete reply
Just throwing it out there...
Happy New Year 2019!
Best wish to all!
Kumondo 2nd Jan 2019, 5:20 PM edit delete reply
I shall +1 this sentiment.