Nox @time_parad0x
Chapter 01 - The First Follower

Informational:

Taylor in this fanfiction has a power that is strongly inspired by the manwha "Solo Leveling", it is based on a Korean light novel by the (English) name of "I alone level up".

For all of you who don't know it a short summary of it:

It is essentially a story about a guy in a world where gates to monster realms emerge randomly. If those gates aren't closed in a timely manner, they break a week after they first appeared, and the monster on the other side inhabiting the dungeon can pass through and attack the human world.

To close those gates and to prevent the monsters coming through from happening hunters are sent past those gates to eliminate the dungeon Boss which results in the gate getting closed.

The main character of the story has the nickname "The world weakest" after an accident inside a dungeon where his party gets nearly wiped out he has a second awakening and gains Gamer Esque abilities which allow him to grow stronger (something never before seen in this world) and makes his way to the top. Without trying to spoiler too much he ends up being pretty much a Necromancer ... able to bring dead enemies and allies back to "un"-life under his control, those "minions" are under his gamer system and also able to grow like the MC.

It is quite a good read – in my opinion, it is what "the gamer" should have been -

This story despite what I wrote above won't be a crossover, despite me having been tempted to make it one – Substituting the Endbringer with those gates as conflict engines used by the entities, but decided against it. Because IMO it would have shifted the whole inter parahuman conflict towards conflict between the parahumans and monster ... and would have resulted in some kind of monster hunter story. Don't get me wrong they are enjoyable but such a story would have lost a lot of what I find makes Worm a good read. The many different groups and their clashing goals, which is why I decided against it.

So this story will be mostly Worm with Taylor having a different power. This will not be a standard "gamer" fic, despite the source material having status points skills level, etc I will refrain from using any such visible numerical stats, even though Taylor's power and those of her minions will be able to grow.

But I find the whole number-crunching distracts from the story, there are those who are writing and attempted to write a gamer fic who got the balance right but there are also those which I personally found focused too much on it and the story suffered for it. I don't think I would be able to get the balance right, which is why I won't even try.

to summarise:

This story will be about a Taylor who in essence is a Necromancer. You will find her power to have a strong resemblance to the one of Glaistig Uaine, with fewer restrictions and certain other aspects. If you liked stories like "Manager" by Seraviel "The Reaping" by Para_Docks or "Exponential" growth by X0ll0X you might like this one, I by no means try to imply that I'm as good a writer as them but I intend to do my best and try to avoid the pitfalls such stories include – don't know if it will be successful but I intend to try.

Furthermore, this Story is an AU: I will take some liberties with the powers and the backstories of certain characters I intend to point it out when I do so, to avoid lengthy discussion of where I screwed up.

Update schedule: Since I failed in the last few weeks to keep up with my own release schedule ... and I don't think it will get better short term ... I can only say that I try to release the first few chapters on Sundays in the coming weeks ... but since I doubt I can keep this up long term ... release frequency will slow down and updates will be irregular I intend to alternate in between all my 4 stories ...

This story will be crossposted on Sufficient Velocity and Spacebattles.

Furthermore, since I'm no native speaker of the English language I would appreciate it if somebody would be willing to beta-read/edit my stuff to give it at least the semblance of readability.

Disclaimer: I don't own Worm

Chapter 01 - The First Follower of the Queen of Shadows

Sunday 16.08.2009

"Dad, I'm off to visit Emma," I said in a raised voice so that my father could hear me in the living room.

"Taylor, you just got here, don't you wanna relax a bit. Emma is still gonna be there tomorrow."

I just rolled with my eyes at my father's response.

"Dad," I started incensed at his suggestion.

"Okay, okay," he said. Recognizing his defeat but make sure to be back for dinner."

"Gotcha"

I slipped into my shoes, opened the door, and started walking towards Emma's house. I had trouble containing my excitement. It felt like forever since I last saw her. I had to force myself to walk at a natural pace and not run the whole way. I couldn't wait to see her again, talk to her, exchange the experiences we gained.

Thinking about it, this was the longest time we were apart since the day I met her. It has always been the Holidays and leave of our families during that time preventing us from seeing each other nearly every day. But this time, my stay in the summer camp was longer than the previous instances.

How I missed her; my best friend, my sister in all but blood. No, there was more to it than just me missing her. If I was being honest with myself. I was frightened by witnessing mom dying. My first encounter with death, which made me realize how fickle life really was. It could end from one moment to the next. I was terrified of being left alone. Who was to say that if this could happen to mom that this couldn't happen to Dad or Emma. They were all that I had left in this world. It nearly killed me losing mom. I didn't know what would happen to me, in case, I would lose one or both of them, too.

That was the very reason why I had to make sure, had to see with my own eyes that Emma was okay. It nearly gave me a heart attack back in summer camp as I was talking to Emma on her phone, and the connection was suddenly interrupted. At that moment, I was confronted with the memories of that day. As the same thing happened with mom, only for me to...

I had to collect myself. Nearly two months have passed since it happened, but the slightest reminder of her. Being it her shoes, her favorite coffee mug, anything really, that was even remotely connected to her triggered flashbacks. Moments we shared together, something to be desired really if it wouldn't always be a remembrance, of the fact, that there never will be any more such moments in the future. This realization, which always occurred after those flashbacks made them so very painful. My Dad must have gone through the same thing.

At first, I was angry at Dad when I saw him packing mom's stuff away. We even got into an argument about it shortly after her death. After a few days of constantly experiencing moments of bliss followed by painful wishfulness. I understood why he did it, I didn't agree with it, but I understood where he was coming from.

Therefore I absolutely had to make sure that Emma was alive and well. After unsuccessfully trying to reach her again, talking with Dad over the phone back then helped in order to reassure me of her well being. He told me that she is okay and that I was just overreacting, that there has to be a totally reasonable explanation for the interrupted call.

Despite that, I didn't sleep a wink that night.

Something that I was able to verify the next day when I called her at home. I was told that Emma broke her phone while talking to me and that everything was well. I wasn't able to speak to her directly, because she was out with her big sister. But Aunt Zoe, Emma's mother, assured me that she was okay and I shouldn't worry so much.

I believed her but couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. A feeling, that started to fester the next few days. Whenever I tried to call her at home and didn't get to talk to her. She either wasn't home or was otherwise occupied in a way, which prevented her from talking to me.

Because of this, the very first thing I did after stashing my stuff in my room was leaving to visit Emma, to satisfy myself that everything was truly in order.

Occupied with my thoughts, I didn't even notice myself nearing my destination until I could already spot her house. As I got closer, I saw Emma on the front porch together with an African American girl that looked to be around the same age as Emma or myself. The fact alone that I saw her in good health lifted my mood, and I couldn't help myself from smiling. I was so glad to see her, there was so much I had to tell her. I could barely wait.

They noticed my approach. I saw the girl saying something to Emma but was too far away to make out the words. I walked past the gate and followed the path, up to the stairs where Emma and the girl stood unmoving.

I started to greet her,

"Emma," but wasn't allowed to continue because the words

"Who the fuck are you?" were thrown in my face. I wouldn't regard myself as the most socially apt person around; that was Emma's role. Despite that, even I could pick up the hostility and distaste in those words.

I looked at Emma, waiting for her to somehow react to this, to reprimand this girl for her behavior, but nothing happened. She couldn't have missed this, could she? Something wasn't right here. My good mood and my smile faltered.

"We're friends. Emma and I have been friends for a long time."

The unnamed girl smiled at my statement.

"Really?"

She didn't say anything else, but the way she said it as if she was privy to some information I wasn't, combined with the confidence she radiated, increased my unease.

I echoed her words

"Really?"

I turned in Emma's direction. I thought it prudent to ignore this girl for the time being. I needed answers.

"What's going on Emma?" I asked, "I haven't heard from you in a good while. Your mom said you weren't taking calls."

I could see her hesitating, weighing her options. She looked like she was fighting an inner battle. I could see that whatever it was, she contemplated in her head was unpleasant for her. I decided to help her like she had helped me.

Whenever I was about to lose myself and embrace the temptation of tranquility the Abyss inside of me promised, she was there and somehow brought me back from the brink. It must not have been an easy self-imposed task. Since only grazing, a memory of mom made the prospect of being swallowed into its depths an idea worth considering.

Thinking back on it, she did it by distracting me with a question or a statement regarding something I was interested in.

Emma was on track to become a model... Before I could come up with something to say about fashion. I noticed that her hair was cut short and not arranged in a bun, which I remembered her wearing at one point in the past. It made me realize once more, that she could make everything look good on her and this new haircut wasn't any different.

That's why I told her so.

"Nice Haircut,"

Confident that I found something to get her out of her funk, she could talk hours about hairstyles and what was necessary to get them to match outfits. As I, hoped I got her attention with this, so I added

"You manage to make any style look great."

Emma closed her eyes, she took a second to shake of whatever was bothering her. Then she smiled back at me and stepped down a stair to get closer to me. She lifted one arm and put it on my shoulder. I did the same intend on wrapping Emma in a hug. But I couldn't get close to her; the arm she placed on my shoulder held me at bay. I was confused.

"Go home, Taylor. I didn't ask you to come over."

The smile I was wearing vanished. Her words hit me like a sucker punch in my guts. Where did that come from?

"It's… it's never been a problem before. I'm sorry. I was just excited to see you, it's been weeks since we even talked." I tried to justify myself.

"There's a reason for that. This was just an excuse to cut a cord I've been wanting to cut for a long time."

"I… what? Why?"

Even more confused about what was going on, I tried to make some sense of this situation.

"Do you think it was fun? Spending time with you, those past months? I wanted to break off our friendship a long while back, even before your mom kicked the bucket, but I couldn't find the chance. Then you got that call, and you were so down in the dumps that I thought you'd hurt yourself if I told you the truth, and I didn't want to get saddled with that kind of guilt."

How could this be? I admitted I have been a mess, I hurt but wouldn't everybody when losing their mom? I wanted to tell her that she helped me get better, that now that I was no longer reigned by grief, it could all go back to as it was before. But I didn't, because it wouldn't be true. Not after what she told me just now, there was no going back from those things she said. I started wondering if the Emma I knew, called my best friend, spent my time with, did even exist in the first place, or if it was just a carefully sculptured mask she wore to deceive me.

"So you lied to me, strung me along."

"You lied to yourself more than I lied to you."

I responded with the only response that came to mind and seemed awfully appropriate given the situation.

"Fuck you!"

I turned to leave when something hit my leg. I stumbled and could only prevent myself from falling down by catching the gate for balance. What the?

I turned my head, to find the source of my near mishap and saw one of the girl's feet stuck out to trip me, displaying a smug grin. Emma was standing next to her impassive and just watched.

If her words before weren't enough to clinch it, this definitely was. The last remnants of hope I had that she might come around, that we could restore something resembling the friendship we once had out of ruins of the one she just destroyed, died and were burned to ash.

I couldn't believe it; that all those years, in which we were inseparable, shared joy and grief are over, that Emma, like mom, was leaving me. The one key difference being, she did it out of her own free will. She decided to abandon me, to spit on everything we had together.

I noticed how the Abyss tried to entice me, offering me a place of bliss, I resisted the temptation. No easy task, doing this while losing control over my feelings.

Something I absolutely couldn't permit; there was no way I was gonna collapse into a sobbing and crying mess in front of her. I was not giving her this satisfaction. It took some effort, but I managed to push back the feelings which were in the process to overwhelm me and got back my bearings, at least for the moment.

I looked one last time at Emma, one last chance for her to come after me to apologize before I started running. I saw not even a shred of regret in her features, and that hurt more than I thought possible.

I didn't care which way I went. I just wanted to get away, as far as possible.

I didn't know how long I ran. I only stopped when my body refused to continue. I had stitches in the side, which made even walking a painful endeavor. I decided even though the physical pain and discomfort proofed to be a nice distraction from the true ache I felt, that at some point, there was no more running away, and I had to face it.

Leaning against the nearest wall while trying to regain my breath, the storm of emotion; I tried to keep away caught up to me. I was hit by them with their full force. They were so intense that I was overwhelmed near instantly.

I slumped down beside a wall and couldn't help myself but cry.

I was not sure how long I wailed like a Banshee. But the state my summer camp shirt was in, damp from the tears I shed, it must have been quite a while. The reason why I found my way back to reality wasn't, that I was able to cope with my various feelings, but that I noticed two guys in their early twenties approaching me.

That set off the alarm bells in my head. They crossed the street without looking, not that it would have been necessary given how abandoned this area was, and directly walked towards me. I wiped the tears out of my eyes and did my best to clean my glasses. For the first time since I got here, I took in my surroundings.

I recognized some landmarks in the distance, which helped me narrow down my position to somewhere in the docks. I found myself in an unfamiliar region; my wandering eyes were searching for somebody I could turn to for help to my great concern, nobody else was around.

This situation did not bode well for me, not in the slightest.

I looked back at them and did my best to assess them, and their motives and fear crept into me. It wasn't their Asian descent, nor the fact that they were well-toned, that incited this reaction; it wasn't even the weapons I could spot at this distance they had tugged in their belts, but the very fact that they wore Red and Green bandage around their upper arms.

Representing the colors of the Asian Bad Boys, ABB for short, a criminal gang. Amongst other things, they were known for kidnapping young girls and forcing them into prostitution. I considered if I was perhaps overreacting and misread the situation, but taking in their posture, the sleazy grins they wore on their faces as if they just won the jackpot tells me otherwise.

Which they did from their perspective, even I could concede this point. Lone white teenage girl obviously distressed in an abandoned neighborhood, I was a prize too tempting to ignore.

Now fully comprehending the danger I found myself in, I had no time to spare. Since those two closed the distance to around 30 feet, I sprung to my feet and started running as fast as I could.

A fast look over my shoulder told me that I got a head start, they obviously didn't expect me to bolt. But that didn't mean I was out of the woods, not by a long shot.

They were slowly gaining on me as if this wasn't bad enough already. I noticed myself getting tired, without a doubt, the consequences of my earlier running.

I realized that I wouldn't be able to get away from them. If I couldn't lose them somehow. I initially thought that maybe running towards the Empire Eighty-Eight controlled part of the town might dissuade them from following me, but as things were, at present, they would catch up to me, long before I could even get close.

Since I was unfamiliar with this area, I normally wouldn't have risked it, turning into a side street out of fear that it might turn out to be a dead-end. Unfortunately, I had no other choice. Because there simply was no way I could outrun them on passable terrain.

At the next intersection, I turned into a side street. On both sides along the street were factory premises. However, the buildings they consisted of had their backs to the street, which offered me no avenue to exploit; no way to get on the premises. Therefore this wasn't what I hoped for; no access to reach difficult terrain or anything that might provide me with a chance to shake them off.

I noticed that there was a crossroad further ahead. I had to reach it. This was my only chance. I pushed my body, which was near exhaustion, beyond its limits. My legs ached, my lungs burned, despite that, I didn't stop, I couldn't give up. I ignored my body yelling at me, to cease abusing it, and made my way to the crossroad, where I turned right, going with my guts. Not because I didn't try to plan ahead. But because I was unable to, the buildings left, and right were blocking my view further ahead. As a result, preventing me from seeing anything that was not right in front of me.

I had no way of knowing which way to turn and since I could literally feel the breath of my pursuers on my neck. I couldn't stop or slow down even for a second to make an educated decision.

As it turned out, I should rip out my own guts. They were completely unreliable. Instead of running towards a way out of my predicament, I found myself running towards a dead end. My will to continue wavered what was to be expected, with no apparent way out. On the other hand, I was surprised as I stumbled and nearly tripped. I forgot that the only thing that kept me going was my willpower, and with it faltering, my body did too.

Despite my better judgment that I already lost, I wasn't willing to acknowledge defeat, not now, not ever.

I was on the last dozen meter the street had left before it reached its end, when I saw that on my right side, that the building ended.

The fence spanned the short distance between the building and the exterior wall I was running towards, deadlocking the streets in between them.

I spotted a small hole in the fence, barely big enough for a gangly girl my age to pass through, nowhere near big enough for my pursers. I mentally apologized to my guts for doubting them and used up every ounce of energy I had left to speed up. Because I knew a centimeter might make the difference.

When I reached the hole, I didn't dare slow down and dived full run for it. I heavily scraped my hands and knees on the floor and bruised my whole left side by crashing into the fence.

I was able to squeeze myself a few dozen centimeters further through when I felt something impact with my lower body. I whipped my head around and saw one of my pursuers lying awkwardly on my legs, trying to get ahold of me. I kicked out right away in the hopes - to get him off me.

Meanwhile, I was clawing my fingers into the soil in an attempt to pull myself on the other side. My feet hit something, and the weight on my legs disappeared. I lost no time and used the sudden reprieve to crawl as fast as I could. I was nearly through when I suddenly felt an iron grip on my left ankle.

I turned myself on my back and saw that one of the guys was holding his bleeding nose sitting near the fence, while the other was essentially lying on the floor with one hand extended through the hole and had grabbed my ankle. My frantic attempts to wiggle myself free were unsuccessful. Even worse, I was slowly dragged back towards the fence.

I already saw myself in their clutches with nothing to lose; I resorted to a desperate move. I leaned forward towards my foot and coiled around his arm. I grabbed it holding it in place, knowing that my nails wouldn't be enough to inflict any serious damage, and bit down on his arm as hard as I could.

The metallic taste of blood entered my mouth, and my teeth came to a stop on something hard. I ignored the realization of what I was gnawing on to the best of my ability.

Only as I heard him scream out and he frantically tried his best to get free of my grip did I release his limb, more than happy to oblige. In the process of him retracting his arm, he somehow made me lose my shoe. For a moment, I was considering to get it back. But to do that, I had to get back in range of his hands. Since I barely managed to escape from them the first time around, I decided against pushing my luck.

A shoe was a small price to pay for my continued well being. A short glimpse through the meshes at my pursuers told me that this was far from over. If anything, then this only strengthened their determination to get their hands on me.

I struggled to my feet and took in my surroundings for the first time. I found myself in some kind of abandoned loading area. Left and right were terminals used to load trucks.

The reason, which led me to believe that I was in an abandoned area long before this manufacturer stopped producing anything, was the fact that I went through a fence to get here, not through a gate or something similar.

That begged the question of how I was getting out of here, there was no door aside from those on terminals, and I doubted I was able to open the padlocks I could make out hanging at the roll-up doors, and even if I could; I was not sure I could get them opened up. They looked like they have seen better times being partly rust corroded.

I didn't give them a second thought and wandered deeper into this area. My persistence paid off. Near the wall at the end of the area, I saw a small window behind some crates roughly 10 feet above ground.

Not a height I could reach without some aid, which those crates might be able to provide me with.

There were two rows of stapled crates towering around 20 to 30 feet high with some empty space in between them and the building with the window. When I got to them, I started to knock them over by continually ramming my shoulder against them. It was slow going, not least because I had to make sure not to bury myself under them. But also because I lacked the strength to do it faster.

By the time they toppled over and generated a heap in front of the window. I no longer had any feeling in my shoulder. I grabbed a small wooden slate that pried out from one of the crates and started to climb them.

I carefully made my way up to the window, intent on preventing the collapse of the heap. I used the slate in my hand to smash in the window and remove the remnant splinters on the windowsill. Then came the hard part. The crate I was standing on elevated me to the height of the window, but there was still was more than a foot of space in between me and my goal.

Furthermore, the heap was quite unsteady. A sudden shift of my weight, like reaching for the windowsill would require, would undoubtedly result in the crate falling down and myself with it. Therefore destroying any chance, I had to get out of here.

This left me with only one option jumping, but given the exhausted state I was in and the fact that my upper body strength was lacking even before that was taken into account, I didn't think the chances of succeeding were very high. Despite this, I had to try.

I threw away the slate and took a deep breath. I crouched down as far as I dared, the shaking heap below me had me second-guessing my decision at every turn.

When I was convinced my footing was semi-stable and would allow me to exert enough force to propel me over the chasm, I pushed myself from the crate with everything I had.

My jump landed me with my breast on top of the windowsill. Immediately I slowly slid down until my arms and head were the only thing on the other side, and as I feared, the strength in my arms wasn't nearly enough to raise the rest of my body over it. Mainly because I lacked any leverage.

There was nothing my hands could hold onto. I struggled, hoping, to somehow succeed. Regardless I was moments away from having to let go when one of my feet found a small foothold. It wasn't much, a small indention in the wall.

It took a lot of effort, but somehow I got my other leg over the ledge, and from there. It was fairly easy to get up the rest of my body on the windowsill.

Sitting there, I wanted nothing more than to rest. I was at the end of the rope; my whole body hurt.

My pursuers were nowhere to be seen. However, this didn't soothe my worries in the least.

For all I knew, they might know this neighborhood like the back of their hands and were circling around to get me from another direction, which meant I couldn't afford to stay still for even a second. I had to keep going.

My tattered body got underway. I slowly lowered myself down feet first from the windowsill, it was torture for my scraped hands and my exhausted muscles, but I thought this to be worth it if I could preserve my ability to walk. Which a jump from around 10 feet onto concrete might not.

I vowed to myself if I should survive this, I was so going to train. There wouldn't be a teenager around in better shape than me.

After I let myself fall the rest of the distance, I found myself on the floor of an empty warehouse. There were some catwalks alongside the walls, and in one corner, I saw an enclosed space built out of concrete with windows and a door in it. I saw something like this a dozen times in the past. This had to be the office of the supervisor.

I started running towards it and was able to take one step when I felt a piercing pain in my left foot. Damn!

I lifted my foot and ripped out the glass shard I stepped right into. It left behind a deep and painful cut inflicting near unbearable pain whenever my foot made contact with the floor.

To make matters worse, the blood on the floor left an easy to follow trail. That was what I got for getting careless. Although I tried to prevent exactly this scenario from happening - injuring my foot - when I climbed down from the window only to make one heedless step to invalidate all previous precautions. I could hit myself for my stupidity.

It took forever to limp to the office. When I finally reached it, I was genuinely surprised to find the door unlocked. I refrained from scrutinizing this piece of luck. I knew better than look a gift horse in the mouth.

I rushed over to the desk and the phone I had hoped to find on it. I grabbed the receiver and was in the process of dialing 911 when I noticed the absence of the dial tone. Shit -

I inspected the phone and saw nothing wrong with it until I got to the cable, which turned out to be gnawed through. Double Shit -

I looked around to find anything that could turn out useful but came up empty-handed. The only thing left except the phone was some documents. There wasn't even a stapler in one of the desk-drawers.

When I left the office, I came face to face with my Pursuers in the center of the hallway. They were walking towards the office, trailing the bloody footprints on the floor. The moment they saw me, they displayed a sadistic smirk.

I backed away from them, deeming it a bad idea to get back in the office with no way to barricade it. With no one knowing about my situation and on their way to help me, this would be a futile attempt anyway. It would only prolong the inevitable, not prevent it.

I loosely trailed alongside the wall, weighing my options. They must have gotten in here, somehow. If I could get past them to the opposite side of the warehouse, I might get out. But that was easier said than done.

They already made some distance between themselves and were starting to herd me. On top of that, they didn't look winded. Fuck – The longer I waited, the worse the situation was gonna get.

I feinted to run in one direction and sprinted in the other. I barely made it a few dozen feet when I realized I was not gonna make it. I was hardly fast enough to get away from them, and that was before I stepped into a glass shard. Now, with this injury hampering my movement, they didn't even have to try to keep up with me.

Their strategy was transparent while one of them tried to cut me off; the other followed me at an angle edging me closer towards the wall. I suspected they wanted to get me into the corner opposite from where they came from. I tried a few times to feint, hoping for them to fall for it, thereby creating a chance for me to break through. Unfortunately, they didn't slip up.

On the contrary, they played it safe, treated this like a game, a hunt, and I was their prey. I couldn't stop their advance; the closer they got, the more fear I felt.

Suddenly there was a hand on my shoulder disrupting my balance resulting in me tripping. I painfully fell on my already scraped hands. Before I even got the chance to throw off my dizziness rough hands grabbed me from behind and twined around my midsection, and in doing so disabling my arms, panic overcame me.

"LET ME GO!" I screamed at the top of my lungs.

I kicked out and struggled in this vice grip holding onto me to somehow get free. I threw my head around in the hopes, to somehow get a hit on his face, but nothing I did made a difference.

He started to drag me towards the wall. My best efforts in my panicked state to shake him off were utterly unsuccessful. They only served to slow him down. The moment the second guy was able to get ahold of my legs as my kick missed him. They had it even easier with no leverage to speak of it took them no effort to drag me to the wall.

They pressed me face-first against it. One of my arms painfully bent on my back. I tried to turn around, to push myself away from the wall with my other hand. To my dismay, the hard grip on that arm's shoulder didn't allow for my weak attempts, to be anything but.

The one holding me down said "Now we gotcha," with a thick Asian accent.

"You shouldn't have run. Now we gonna hurt you before we play." said the other one with a sadistic undertone in his slightly less accentuated voice.

They both chuckled at this, it was a laugh full of ill promise, and my body reacted with getting goosebumps. Was this all I amounted to, to end up as the plaything of these guys wasn't there anything I could do? At the exact moment, I asked myself this question, I was hit with the realization, that I hadn't tried everything, yet.

Funny how that worked, I went out not only to visit Emma intent on checking on her, but also to talk about what happened to me when mom died. I never got around to let her in on this secret. At first, I just thought my mom's death was getting to me when every physical contact with somebody let me create a connection between them to the Abyss inside me.

I instinctively knew that I could let the Abyss reach out for them, let it drag them inside of it. But I never allowed it to do so, scared of what might happen.

I suppressed it to the best of my ability and tried to forget this possibility even existed. I was afraid of what I, with this darkness inside of, me might be capable of doing. After all, I had more than enough on my plate to be reckless with something I didn't fully comprehend.

I yielded to the desire of the Abyss once, when I felt the same thing while petting a squirrel in summer camp. I could feel how tendrils of pure black made contact with something that would be best described as some kind of essence and ripped it out of him, the suddenness of this and due to surprise, I clamped down on the Abyss with all my might.

I got it to release its hold on the essence before it could be devoured by it. But at that time it was already too late. The squirrel died in my arms with an expression of unadulterated terror etched on its face.

I was terrified of what I had done of what I could do should I happen to lose control, even for an instant. After this, I never even considered using this ability ever again. I buried it in the deepest part of my mind and built walls around it in order to forget it was there - until now.

The guy, who was not pressing me against the wall took out a knife and brought it near my eye. Even without my glasses that I lost somewhere during the struggle, I could clearly make out the blade. I pulled my head away, resuming my efforts to get away, struggling against the grip of his friend.

A sharp pain originated from my scalp as a hand grabbed my head and found leverage in my hair. My head was pulled back and then slammed against the wall. The hit dazed me, and the short opening this provided as I was trying to regain my bearings. He managed, with my resistance momentarily suspended to fixate my head.

Grinning he said.

"Pretty eyes aren't needed where you are going."

I didn't want to kill them, but what I wanted even less was to be blinded and suffer whatever they intended to do to me after this. I was about to allow the Abyss to consume them when I noticed, that there was something else it desired close by.

Hoping that this might help me without having to resort to murder, I allowed it to reach for it. Whatever this was, it was only loosely connected to something and came loose with even less effort than the essence of the squirrel did. As it was dragged towards the Abyss I noticed that there was something inside of it.

It was difficult to grasp its nature, the closest association that came to mind was some kind of shard. I wasn't able to get a better look before it disappeared into the black void. Instantly I felt refreshed, stronger. Furthermore, the Abyss grew, but there was something else that changed. Suddenly I could sense a presence lurking under the surface of the Abyss.

The knife came closer to my eye. He was brandishing it in front of it relishing in my fear, enjoying the power he had over me.

"Cry girly, cry" he mocked. "Perhaps then I will stop after one"

In my stubbornness, I just glared at him. I wouldn't give him the satisfaction... Instead, I tried to get my head out of his grasp.

Despite this newfound strength revitalizing me, it still wasn't nearly enough. I couldn't do anything against the vice-like grip holding me in place.

The knife came dangerously close to my eye, and I just wanted them to stop.

Before I had the chance to release my hold on the Abyss a second time - no matter the consequences - the hands holding me went slack. I saw the one holding the knife slump against the wall and then slowly gliding down against it. He stayed there lying down. I turned around and saw his friend sitting in a heap behind me. They both looked like some puppets whose strings were cut.

A few feet standing behind us was a dark figure. It was difficult to make out any details without my glasses. But looking at it - No, it was definitely a she. I was reminded, somehow, of the Abyss.

Furthermore, there was this feeling that I got. Telling me, I had nothing to fear from her.

I was able to get out a weak thank you before the receding adrenaline in my system and the hardships of the day finally took their toll.

My vision grew dark, and I was falling forward.

I woke up with a start. That was some crazy nightmare, I thought to myself. I used the crook of my right arm and wiped the sweat from my forehead. It had been a very long time since I last slept that poorly and was sticky with sweat the next morning. With my left hand, I reached for my glasses, expecting to find a top of the drawer right next to my bed, only for my hands to reach into thin air.

I removed my right arm from my eyes and blinked the sleep out of my eyes. I slightly turned my head only recognize my surroundings as the very warehouse I dreamed of getting attacked in.

My heart rate accelerated within seconds. Shit - that wasn't a dream. I bolted upwards from my lying position panicked looking around, expecting to be attacked at any moment. Only to notice, a hand softly being placed on my back.

I jumped in surprise and fell forward from my sitting position. I instantly scrambled away, as I turned around, I came face to face with a woman. I was shocked not because she was sitting there cross-legged without a care in the world or that she was stark naked.

No, I was shocked because she was completely black from head to toe, and I didn't mean she was dark-skinned. I literally meant she was black, like being made out of pitch-black absence of light kind of darkness. She had more in common with a shadow than a human being, and I would call her a shadow if not for her eyes, which had this eerie teal coloration.

The woman who I pegged to be in her early twenties just sat there watching me.

It took me a moment to get my panic under control and my heart rate to slow down.

The woman sat there cross-legged and unmoving, and it dawned on me that my head must have rested in her lap as I woke up.

"Did you save me?" I asked her.

I didn't get a verbal response, but I felt [affirmation]. What the... How could I sense her response? Shouldn't I have noticed being an empath telepath or whatever I needed to be for such thing some time ago when I was in close proximity to people or was this something else? Could she be the one projecting her response in order to communicate?

Only one way to find out, I closed my eyes and concentrated. I could feel the Abyss inside of me, but there was something else, something new. A tendril, some kind of tether came out from the darkness. With my mind, I followed it to its end and found this woman connected to it - it was like an umbilical cord.

No wonder she gave of this familiar feeling; it wasn't a result of sleeping in her lap. But of the fact that she is somehow was a part of my power.

But why wasn't I able to summon her before, what was different.

The only thing that came to mind was the essence I allowed the Abyss to consume. Was that it? But what does that mean?

I decided to shelf this question for the moment. I considered getting out of here to be the more pressing matter. But first things first, where were my glasses. I looked around in search of them and nearly got a heart attack when I saw blurry outlines of bodies next to a wall. It took me a few moments to soothe myself after I noticed that they weren't moving.

I stood up, thinking it prudent doing it slowly and carefully, not willing to risk losing my consciousness again. My legs were a bit shaky but I deemed them steady enough not to give out on me. I was about to walk over to the bodies when the woman stepped into my field of vision. She knelt down next to me and presented me with my glasses.

As if I was her liege and she a knight sworn to protect me -

It seemed that she responded to my desires. I took my glasses from her hands and put them on. With my eyesight restored, my suspicion became a certainty.

Nevertheless, I had to make sure. I walked the last remaining feet separating me from them and knelt down next to them. It only took a short touch on their neck to confirm, what my eyes had already told me, that they were no longer alive.

A closer look revealed that both of them were hit with something that penetrated their bodies from behind and inflicted heavy damage - killing them near instantly. I drew that conclusion, because of the distinct lack of blood around their bodies.

Blood that should be all over the place, especially on me. Standing as close to them as I was, I should have been dowsed in it, but there was barely anything to be found on my clothes, and what little I did was definitely my own.

Therefore, if their hearts were still beating when walnut big holes were put into their bodies at the exact same spot their hearts should be located. This also explained why they went down this fast. But who...? my head whirled to my companion.

"You did this." I accused.

I sensed a [affirmative] from her.

"Why?" I asked the response I received consisted of [protect] [obedience].

Protect I understood if she is somehow a creature of my own design, it made sense that she would protect her progenitor. The obedience part, on the other hand, eluded me unless she answered my call for help.

Was this the reason she killed them because I was about ready to do the same? Was my subconsciousness demanding this of her. Did I force her to kill in my name? Did that make me a murderer?

All those questions came to the forefront of my mind. I noticed my heart rate accelerating and my breathing to come faster - I was panicking, and my field of vision shrank, dark edges moving closer to the center constricting it.

I braced myself against the wall and tried to calm myself - taking deep breaths.

It only took me a few moments to get my racing heart back under control, and with it, my sight returned back to normal. I pushed myself up from my kneeling position against the wall and raised to my feet.

The dizzying spell I was expecting, luckily remained absent. I gave the bodies next to me another once over.

Calmed down with my mind back in working order, it suddenly didn't seem like such a big deal. After all, I killed them in self-defense, and they undoubtedly would have done unspeakable things to me, so their death was well deserved.

Somehow I was far less bothered by this realization than I should be - at least I thought so. I took a life even by proxy. I expected to be affected by it to be a sobbing mess, despite it being justified.

Obviously, my power was able to kill - the squirrel was proof of that. It even looked like it was an integral part of it. It was designed to kill... I only used it how it was meant to be used. So I did nothing wrong right?

Still, I found it disturbing that I was seemingly unfazed by it, and I was not sure how I felt about it. For the moment, I decided my lack of reaction was owed to physical, mental, and above all else, emotional exhaustion.

Aside from me nearly fainting, which seemed owed to be more to the state my body was in than anything else, I was strangely okay with the situation.

I closed my eyes for a moment to sort my thoughts, and in doing so, my senses picked up on something. There were two essences exactly like the one I sensed before right in front of me. They were similar to the essence of the woman, the Abyss absorbed, untethered.

I could feel them clearly at a distance. They were far more easier to make out, feeling stronger, less pale in comparison. I could sense how the essences were only loosely tethered to the bodies, ripe for the taking.

I pondered a moment about what to do. On the one hand, it would be useful to get a better understanding of my power. On the other hand, I felt like I was about to desecrate their bodies. Then I remembered what they tried to do to me and my qualms vanished into thin air.

Besides, how often would I come across some valid targets to test my power on - This was a great opportunity I didn't want to waste.

Nonetheless, I decided to experiment with just one of them. I closed my eyes once again and only concentrated on the sensation I got from my power. I loosened the grip on the Abyss and allowed it to reach after one of the essences.

It instantly came loose and got dragged deep down into the well of never-ending darkness. Just like last time, when it was over, I felt a rush come over me. The same sensation of feeling refreshed, and somehow stronger, more complete.

I also noticed another presence hidden beneath the surface of a growing well of darkness, representing my power. What I didn't sense was another shard inside the essence like it was present in the woman. I wondered what that was about. I tried to summon this new shade, and I could feel how he left the confines of the darkness and assumed a human form.

I opened my eyes. In front of me stood a naked pitch-black replica of the guy who held me against the wall. He like the woman possessed teal colored eyes. I also could sense his intention, which I could summarize to [will to serve] without any intervention from me. He fell on his knees in front of me.

Apparently, my power allowed me to enslave the dead, to force them to serve me and do my bidding. I suspected as much -

The fact, that I was able to kill with a touch barely registered in comparison.

It made sense that I could - How else would I get my hands on fresh corpses - but for the supplemental of my power to be killing people with a touch was disturbing on so many levels I didn't even know where to start. Couldn't I have gotten a cool superpower like Alexandria? Hell, I would picked controlling bugs over this. On second thought, wasn't the grass always greener on the other side of the fence?

The only saving grace seemed to be, that I didn't have to kill myself. I could revive the dead in general. Otherwise, how else could the woman be explained? Thinking about her, I had to wonder where did she come from?

I was in an empty warehouse, not in a cemetery. There shouldn't be any corpses here or anywhere nearby, at all.

She must have been murdered and disposed of right here. It was the only explanation that came to mind and made a certain amount of sense.

Meaning her body had to be somewhere close by, either in the walls or the ground.

I glanced around, hoping to find the spot where the woman's body must have been hidden. While doing so, I noticed that the body of the gangbanger whose shade was kneeling in front of me was gone.

The only thing left was his clothes lying on the floor.

It seemed like my power grabbed more than just the essence. Was that the reason the squirrel back in summer camp looked a total mess after I canceled the extraction? Was the body released during the absorption process like its essence? A sobering thought.

On the plus side, that made my power a little less creepy if it dissolved the corpses. On the negative side, I now lacked a body.

Shit – that meant calling the authorities and explaining to them what happened was now out the window. I might have been able to explain their deaths by saying a parahuman saved me. Telling them, that I saw a black shade appear who killed them. It was even the truth.

I doubted they would have looked too deep into that. Since The wounds they suffered - at least to me - looked similar to high-caliber gun-shots the police might even have come to the conclusion that there was no Parahuman involved.

With a body mysteriously disappearing - there was no way this would hold up to scrutiny.

I mean - I could tell them I saw them shot ran away... called them and when I would return with them I would fake being surprised one was missing... a reasonable assumption would be that he wasn't dead and just walked away.

With him seeing my face this could even get me protection from the police from possible retaliation.

I stopped this line of thinking - For it to work my surprise and fear of retaliation had to be believable, but I was never a good liar I would be seen through in seconds by people whose job it was to detect lies. Furthermore, there were no tracks leading away from here and trying to fake it... no that was a monumentally bad idea.

Any CSI team would see the tampering from a mile away.

Two dead bodies, shot with perfect precision in a warehouse by an unknown dark-clad vigilante, with no traces of how he got in. And if that wasn't enough one of the bodies vanishing into thin air...

The police wouldn't even have a choice than to forward this case to the Parahuman Response Team to handle.

Which then would open up another can of worms, because if my omission at least had a chance to get past the police, I was not sure the same could be possible with the PRT. They are specialized in incidents like this. They would not only notice my lying but ask themselves why I would do so. The natural choice would be to assume I was a Parahuman and did this.

Having grown-up in Brockton Bay, I know about the dangers involved in being a cape, whose identity is public knowledge. The Fleur incident came to mind. Brockton Bay's very own cautionary tale in this regard. Although it happened when I was still in Kindergarten was a matter of common knowledge not only locally - Being shot in your living room as a member of a hero time made national news.

So I couldn't risk it, I couldn't allow someone to even suspect me of being a parahuman. Otherwise, dad and I would be in danger of being shot at home, possibly even in our sleep. This was not even factoring in what would happen if I somehow got away with this.

The ABB would seek revenge. Only being on record as a victim of their attack and a witness of them being killed wouldn't dissuade the ABB.

They would come after me and be it only to interrogate me about the one who killed their two members. They had a reputation for doing such things...

Ultimately, this meant I was out of options, and there was only one path open for me going forward. I had to get rid of the other body, too. I had to conceal this ever happened.

I directed the darkness within me to absorb the other bodily remains. This time I kept my eyes open. I wanted to see my power at work.

Hence, my eyes saw black tendrils emerging from the shadows closest to the body at the places they made contact with the body, darkness spread. Within moments it became shadowy translucent and slipped right through the clothes and other items to be swallowed up by shadow.

I was so distracted by this sight that I nearly missed the feeling of elevation I experienced the moment the light representing the essence became part of me.

I concentrated on this new part of me and with a slight push, brought it back into the open. An instant later in front of me materialized a naked version of the corpse. No saying he materialized would do the process I witnessed no justice, he alighted from the shadows on the floor as if his body was slowly formed out of it, he essentially grew out of the shadow.

Apparently, my powers were the stuff nightmares are made of.

When the deed was done I turned to the woman – "I don't know if you can comprehend what I'm telling you. But I'm sorry. With your body gone I doubt the ones responsible for your death can be held accountable any longer. I became an accessory to your murder."

At that, I sensed [gratitude] from her. So my shades keep some form of sentience, but it seemed to be suppressed. Another question I was gonna shelf for now, like the fact, that my power used positive reinforcement to get me to absorb and reanimate people.

My immediate concern was to cover my tracks. I commanded my two male shades to display what items they had on them and were now lying in the heaps of clothing on the floor. They laid it out in front of me. The list encompassed two cell-phones, two wallets two lock knives of good quality, a butterfly knife, cigarettes, a lighter, a pistol, and a spare magazine.

The last two items made me wonder why they didn't use them. Well not important, I put that down under the I got lucky and they were idiots category. I returned my focus back to those items, funnily enough, one of them carried my lost shoe all this way with him.

For some reason, I doubted he did that out of the goodness of his heart - no matter. I untied my shoe from his belt and then took the wallets from the floor. I was interested in their ID's. I couldn't keep calling them guy one and guy two in my head.

The one, I found to be a little taller was named Takechi no Kurohito, and the smaller one was called Akazome Emon.Therefore I named them Kuro and Aka. Since neither of them protested I decided to keep the one hundred twenty-three dollar I also found in their wallets.

During the time I put on my shoe, I ordered the guy to use their clothes to wipe the floor in an effort to erase the blood trails I left behind. Following this, I had them bring their former or was it still living self belongings into the small office? Either way, for a moment, I considered taking one or both of those good knives with me but decided against it.

I had watched enough episodes of crime series in order to know that those are the kinds of mistakes that get you caught.

When they finished their task, I made sure that there was no fire alarm in the office and that there was nothing flammable in the vicinity of it.

I had no intention to accidentally burn down the whole neighborhood together with the evidence.

That left the question of what to do with the gun and the magazine, it didn't seem to be the greatest idea to throw live ammo into a fire.

I was reasonably sure I could place it far enough away from the starting point of the fire I intended to set, to be long gone by the time the flames reached it.

But that would still result in the ammunition going off, which undoubtedly would draw attention to this place.

This would defeat the whole purpose of my actions and therefore wasn't something I could allow. Having no prior knowledge of handling weapons I ordered Kuro the owner of the gun to get all the bullets.

I didn't know what I suspected he would do to fulfill my orders, certainly not him handling the weapon as if he never did anything else in his life. He made it look like have seen it done in action movies like it was child's play, what on second thought it probably was - given the fact he could do it.

Did I just insult my shade? He was a part of me, did that mean I insulted myself in the process? Naw – I decided it would be for the best I forgot this happened.

I didn't not only have the world's most nightmarish powers but as it seemed also the most confusing ones.

As I watched Kuro remove all those bullets from the magazine into his hand one escaped the grasp of his already overfull hand. Standing near him I tried to catch it but missed it by a hair's breadth. To my surprise, I didn't hear the expected clang sound of the bullet hitting the floor. I withdrew my outstretched hand and saw the bullet hovering a few inches above ground in the air.

I slightly turned my head and saw the woman in the process of slowly lifting her hand, which the bullet seemed to understand as a request to land in her palm.

I was totally baffled. Since when did my shade have super-powers.

Apparently, since the very beginning Taylor, I answered the question to myself.

What made a lot of sense, something that should have been obvious in retrospect, what else could have made the holes in Kuro and Aka's bodies. I suddenly felt stupid that I didn't question it earlier.

I smiled, that presented a great possibility to get rid of the bullets. A lot better than burying them somewhere.

"Can you destroy them without letting them go off?" I asked her.

I received an [affirmative].

"Then do it," I ordered.

She exerted her power, and I watched how the bullet liquified, correcting not the whole bullet, only the metal the bullet was made of. The gunpowder was left behind in her palm while the metal assumed the form of a droplet and was hovering a few centimeters above.

My smile grew a lot wider.

I made her do this with all the other bullets and every other metal object including the gun and the knives they had in their possession. It took her no effort whatsoever doing this to all the items simultaneously.

We left the gunpowder and the metal blobs with all the other things behind in the office and then set it on fire.

As it turned out, my suspicion proved to be correct. Kumo and Aka gained entry through a damaged roll-up door on the opposite side of the warehouse.

In my defense, that was something, you had to actively search for, or know it to be there, or you risked overlooking it. Like I nearly did, and probably would have in a hurry.

Since merely the bottommost part was loose. It could be pushed sideways to allow someone to crawl through.

That left me with the problem of what to do with my shades, I couldn't just walk home together with them. It would immediately out me as a cape and all this covering up I just did would just have been a waste of my time.

Perhaps I could somehow return them into the Abyss. I closed my eyes and concentrated on Aka, the most useless of them so far and therefore the one I could get over losing if I were to screw something up. I followed the umbilical cord that connected him with the Abyss and demanded that he return to it.

He vanished. I could still sense him lingering under the surface of the Darkness, waiting for me to command him. I ordered him to reemerge, and he did once again tethered to the Abyss.

I opened my eyes and tried to make out the connection between us with my eyes but found I couldn't, no matter how hard I tried. Therefore, I concluded that this umbilical cord was the way how my consciousness interpreted my power. In the same vein, I could sense essence, being represented, as gaseous lights.

Following this logic, the shard I earlier felt being part of the woman must have been a representation of her power. I wondered why I perceived them as separate entities when the Abyss took them in and not as a whole?

Another question for later, for the moment, I deemed it not as important. Rather, I unsummoned all of my three shades and crawled outside.

I was immediately blinded by the sun. Nothing, a few blinks couldn't overcome. I left the premises out onto the street. A short orientation stop, and I was on my way home.

My walk home was uneventful if I didn't count the aches and injuries I felt with every step I made. They were by no means impairing, and the intensity of the pain was relatively mild, especially after getting my shades.

All things considered, it could be a lot worse. In no small part, thanks to my power, I suspected using it to claim people either had a small healing effect or I was now healing a little bit faster than before because I remembered the abrasions on my hands to be a lot worse initially.

I should know by tomorrow which of my theory was true, for now, I was just glad that I didn't look as bad as I could have been. I took out my keys, a painful undertaking with the condition my hands were in, and unlocked the door. I opened it and came face to face with Dad.

Authors Note:

Contain excerpts from Interlude 19.z.

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