Taking Root 1.3

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The syringe was fancy, glass with silver leaf at the ends and at the plunger.  The glass had turned smoky where it had once been clear, and only the faintest trace of the original contents were still inside.  Thicker around than any three of my fingers put together.  It probably cost twenty dollars, if not more.  A good week’s wages.

Somewhat vindictively, I pulled out the plunger until I had the weight balanced, put my fingers on it, and sent it spinning wildly on the desk, periodically rustling scattered papers or sending them floating over the desk’s surface, riding a thin layer of air.  Traveling across the desk, it struck an identical syringe, eliciting a pair of high, sweet songs from the ringing glass.

It didn’t break.  Shame.

I stepped over to the window, my feet kicking up more papers as they might stir leaves in the fall.  I was at ‘the Hedge’, the colloquial term for the wall that encircled the Academy.  A great deal of the wall wasn’t large or tall at all, but it rose in places, and the corner of the Academy closest to Radham had a hospital built into it.  Through the hospital, students bought their turns at getting training and locals bought care.  The view was of the wall itself, the Academy on one side, Radham on the other.

About the only thing that was the same about the two places was that it was raining.  A light rain, but enough that just about everyone had their hoods up.  The boys and girls on the Academy side moved as though they were all in a hurry.  They were all tidy, hair well looked after, white uniforms clean.  Their bookbags had flaps over the top to keep the rain out, and the buckles that kept the flaps in place each had the university’s symbol on it, a full-face helmet in profile framed by red leaves and ribbons.

Almost but not quite a badge of office.

Outside, watched from a distance, people moved as though they were mired in tar.  They found their way eventually, but there was no clear direction, even in a city that had been built with a plan in mind.

I didn’t enjoy looking, but there wasn’t much else to be done.  I’d read the books, I’d read the various papers, and I’d slept.  Seven days I’d been cooped up here.

I felt a chill, and rubbed my hands over my bare arms.  My skin had been replaced where the enzyme solution had devoured it, and while the pigmentation was very slightly different if I looked for it, it remained sensitive, not yet used to heat and cold, to the rubbing where seams of clothing touched it, or to idle scratches.  I kept my shirt off, but that meant being colder, and though it was dawn and spring had sprung, it was gloomy outside.

I held the back of my hand up to the edges of the window, letting the sensitive skin feel the movements of the air.  Slowly, so as not to disturb the air with my own movements, I moved my hand along the point where the window glass met the frame.

I felt the point where the breeze came through as though ice had touched the new skin.  Pulling my hand away, I tore the end off one page of paper and popped the paper into my mouth before setting the syringe to spinning at full speed once again.

The syringe rattled as I got the motion wrong, and the rattle prompted the papers under the cot to rustle.  Not because I’d moved or because I was going anywhere.

Periodically, someone came to talk to me.  I was already figuring out their schedules.  Going by the time of day and the schedules I’d observed over the past week, they were past due to arrive.

Being past due meant they were up to something.  I was tense, chewing on the little bit of paper, listening past the patter of the rain on the window and the sound of the syringe spinning on the desktop.

I could hear the murmur of speech, too far away and muted to make out.

I recognized Mr. Hayle’s voice.

“-Or worse than before?” I could make out the tail end of the sentence.

“More or less the same, professor.  But as intractable as he gets, his behavior differs from month to month.  This time, he wanted to be alone.  Very much so.”

“I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that it followed so quickly off the back of another incident, or the pain he was experiencing.  Make a note.  If we’re bringing another student on board to oversee the Wyvern file, that would be a good way to bring them up to speed while doing something constructive.”

“Yes, professor.”

There was a pause, pronounced, then a knock on the door.


I didn’t respond right away.  Reaching up to my mouth, I pulled the wad of paper out, then jammed it up against the gap in the window where it was leaking cold air.

“I’m here,” I said.

The door opened.  It only opened a few inches before it hit the toppled bookcase that barred the way.  The rest of the floor was carpeted in scattered papers, fallen books, and various folders.

I angled my head to one side, and saw Mr. Hayle do the same, peering through the gap.  He looked at me first, then the bookcase.

“How are you?” he asked.

“My head hurts,” I said.  It did.  It hurt in a very different way than my body had.  My body had been effectively burned by the enzymes, and burns hurt more than just about anything.  My brain, however, it felt like it had been poked, prodded, beaten and kicked into the dirt, then made to do a marathon after the fact.  The burn only hurt the parts that were burned.  This was the sort of pain that made everything hurt, and promised more pain every step of the way for the rest of the journey.

A hollow, empty, tired hurt.

“I can well imagine.  How in the world did you pull over the shelf?”

What he was asking was how a boy who weighed four point seven stone could pull over a floor-to-ceiling solid wood bookcase with half the books still on it.  Mr. Hayle might not have been able to knock it down in the prime of his youth.

“I pushed the upper corner,” I said.  “Then I dropped a book into the gap so it couldn’t go rock back to where it was.  Pushed again, dropped more books in.  Kept at it, and eventually it tipped.”

“You scared the wits out of some of my colleagues.  They thought a part of the roof had fallen in.”

“We thought something had escaped,” a woman’s voice in the hallway said.  “It was like someone had kicked an ants nest, people scurrying around to find out what had gone wrong.”

I couldn’t resist smiling a little at that.

Hayle smiled, though only half was visible through the gap in the door.  “Ah, there we go.  Your expression was so cold I thought we’d somehow lost you, Sylvester.  I don’t suppose you could think up a way to lift the shelf back into place?”

“Probably,” I said.  “I could get started soon.  It would take a while.”

“I was hoping to have you out of there sooner than later,” he said.

“Why?” I asked, without missing a beat.  I knew I sounded hostile, cold as he’d put it.  I didn’t care.

“Your… the Lambsbridge gang has asked for you.  I myself would appreciate your help.”

My eyebrows went up.

“I might see if Douglas here can-”

“Why?” I cut him off.

“Excuse me?”

“Why do they need my help?”

“That, Sylvester, is a question I’m more than happy to answer, but I don’t feel like detailing it all through a door.”

I frowned, reaching up to scratch my head, looking around.

Hopping up onto the back of the bookcase, I approached the door, examining the frame and the door itself.

“As I was saying,” he said.  “I could ask Douglas to try pushing on the door-”

I seized one of the syringes, paused to set the other one to spinning, just for the heck of it, and headed over to the cot.

“-he should be strong enough to move the bookshelf, don’t you think, Lacey?”

“I think so, professor,” the woman on the other side said.

“Now that I think about it, my concern is damaging the door.”

“It should be okay, I think.”

“Okay, Douglas, come here…”

When I glanced up, Mr. Hayle wasn’t looking through the gap.  It was probably awkward to keep in that position, right up against the door.

I put my bare shoulder under the bottom of the cot, using my whole body to lift it up.  The metal of the cot’s frame was cold against my back.  I set the syringe on the floor and slipped to one side to let the cot drop.  The leg came down to break the glass.

The noise made something under the bed move, flying out to the corner by the door and bookcase.

“Stop, Douglas.  Sylvester,” Mr. Hayle said.  “What was that?”

“Allow me one minute,” I said, absently, picking my way past the pieces of glass.

“I’m sure Douglas could get you out.  I’m not sure what you’re doing there, but if we could minimize the damage and the explanations I have to give my colleagues that are working here in the Hedge, I would appreciate it.”

“Damage is done,” I said.  If only to the syringe.  I shifted my position, lifted up the cot again, and repositioned the plunger-end of the syringe.  “I’ll be fifty seconds.”

I imagined him repressing a sigh.  All I heard, however, was a, “very well.”

A doctor using a syringe had to put their fingers into two metal loops just by the plunger.  My target was the loop.  I moved out of the way, and let the leg of the cot fall.

I twisted and worked the loop until the metal gave way, then raised the cot again.

Using my hands, I folded the broken bit of metal in two, for a long length of metal.  I collected a fallen medical text, and it was heavy enough I could barely hold it in one hand.

Placing the long bit of metal on the underside of the hinge, pointing up, I gave it a solid whack with the book.

The pin that held the hinge together popped up.

Another whack made it pop out.

The other hinge was high up enough that I had to stand on my toes to reach it, even with the bookcase under me.

I gave it the same treatment, and the pin came free.

“Okay,” I said, swiftly backing up, “Done.  Push.”

I very nearly stepped on the glass from the syringe, before arresting my movement.  My leg and bare foot stayed up, and I caught my balance, tipping over, twisting, and then throwing myself at the desk with the still-spinning syringe on it, just to have something to grab.

Around that same moment, someone pushed on the door.  Without the hinges, it simply tipped forward and fell onto the back of the bookcase.

Mr. Hayle was there, wearing his uniform, including the black lab coat with a hood, and I spotted the red headed woman in the white lab coat, who I knew only as Lacey.  Shapely, thirty or so, and wholly dedicated to her work.  Unfortunately.  I suspected the first-name-only was supposed to endear her to me, but it really didn’t.

“I’m glad you’re okay, Sy,” she said, her voice soft.  Trying too hard to be gentle.

Mr. Hayle picked his way past the door, stepping onto the back of the bookcase, apparently intent on surveying the damage.

“Sir,” Lacey said, suddenly sounding concerned rather than gentle.

He turned.

“There were two glass cases in the room.  They were inhabited.”

Mr. Hayle froze.

“The snake and spiders?” I asked.  “They’re around here somewhere.  Something was under the bed.  It’s pretty close to you.”

“They don’t concern you?” Mr. Hayle asked.

I shook my head, then wished I hadn’t.  It made the general kicked-into-the-dirt pain in my head come back.

“I won’t come any further then.  If you’d find a shirt and come out?”

I nodded.  I collected my shirt from the bed and pulled it on.

All things considered, he seemed remarkably at ease over the damage I’d done.  I wondered who the office belonged to.

“Walk with me,” he said.  “Douglas, please listen to Lacey as she instructs you about putting the shelf back in place and catching the smaller animals.  Lacey?  Bring him to my office in the tower when you’re done.”

“Yes sir,” Lacey said.

She reached for me while I passed, and I jerked my shoulder to strike her hand away rather than let it rest on me in anything resembling reassurance.

Mr. Hayle hadn’t missed it.

I buttoned up my shirt while we walked.  I was wrinkled, my hair greasy and sticking out at the ends.  I might have looked feral.

“You don’t like her.”


“I could tell you she’s a lovely, vibrant young lady, but that’s not the question, is it?”


“I didn’t think so.  Let it be what it is, then.  Tell me, honestly, do you feel up to working?”

“I’m rarely honest,” I said.

“Then give me a convincing lie.”

“Yes, sir.  If they need my help, I’ll give it.”

He frowned a little.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“The night I dropped you off, I gave them a task.  It is perhaps the most important job that the Lambsbridge project has been given.  One only your particular group can do.”

He’d had my attention.  Now he had my curiosity.

He probably knew me better than I was willing to admit, if he was getting to me this quickly.

That, or my defenses were down, and I was giving him more clues than I’d intended.

“I positioned them at the Mothmont ladder school to investigate a problem, and they’ve run into a block.  No forward progress.”

“If I’d known I’d be going to school I don’t think I would have helped you move the door.”

“Then let me tell you why you opened the door.  Three weeks ago, a student at Mothmont killed his father, then himself.  The victim was a Crown State Senator.  Autopsies didn’t indicate any particular chemicals or abnormalities.  Nine days ago, we had another incident.”

“Another Mothmont student.”

“Yes,” he said.  He paused as we passed a pair of students in grey lab coats.  Graduates.  The red and silver of the Radham Academy crests they wore on their breasts were stark against the muted fabric.

“Hello, professor,” the girl of the pair greeted Mr. Hayle.

“Good morning, Heather, good morning, Daniel,” he replied.  We continued walking.  When they were out of earshot, he resumed his explanation.  “A house burned with four individuals inside.  Charred bodies of a lawyer, his wife, and his politician brother were autopsied, and trauma suggests they were cut with the intent of disabling, limiting their movements so they couldn’t escape the fire.  Ankles, knees.  The daughter of the lawyer was found in a separate room, a Mothmont student herself, but the cuts were different.  A day later, there was a third incident.  The day I appeared at Lambsbridge to talk to you.”

“Three makes a pattern.”

“The third incident saw the son murdering his father, grandfather, and mother, the father and grandfather were, again, prominent.  Military.  He set fire to the crime scene and sat in the midst of it to burn up.”


“Beg pardon?”

“What was the murder weapon?  Do they know?”

“The father and grandfather were killed with a sword that had hung over the mantlepiece, both were in their beds.  The mortician believes the mother fled and tried to fight back.  She had defensive wounds  and a weapon of her own in hand.  She lost the fight.”

She lost.  That was interesting unto itself.

“You’re sending us after killer children,” I observed.

“I would call them assassins rather than killers.  You understand the concern here?”

We’d reached the end of the hallway.  Mr. Hayle opened a closet and retrieved my cloak and shoes from within.  I started pulling my outdoor clothes on.  “It doesn’t look good.”

“No, Sylvester, it doesn’t.  Mothmont was made and supported by rich and powerful individuals with the premise that younger students would graduate from there and move on to the Academy.  If they couldn’t pass the entrance exam, they would continue their studies at Mothmont until they could.  Only the best in teachers, facilities, and students.”

“Except for the parent murdering part,” I noted.

We began our way down.  There were more students in the stairwell, four men clustered at one window, smoking, two women sitting on the stairs below.  Both scooted over as we came down.

One of the women smiled at me as I descended.  Twenty and beautiful and wearing a white lab coat that suggested she was still a student.  Almost an older Helen without the Helen-ness.  When I met her gaze, my expression flat, her smile dropped off her face.

Mr. Hayle spoke in a low voice, his head turned to make sure nobody above us was listening in as we continued down the spiral stairs.  “Being different tends to draw attention, whether it’s being inferior or being superior.  Mothmont, being superior, has clearly fallen under someone’s eye.  We would like this to stay out of the public’s eye.  The only reason it hasn’t, I believe, is that the third incident happened halfway across the country.  Given a fourth incident or time for rumors to spread…”

“…The cat would be out of the bag.  I get it.”

“This isn’t quite like any of the tasks I’ve given the Lambsbridge project, but it’s one I feel you’re suited for.  That said, it is sensitive, Sylvester.  Lives are on the line, the people who know and are paying attention matter, and the reactions if others found out could be disastrous.”

“I get it,” I said, again.  I knew I was more irritable.  I had the information I’d wanted, and now I was finding myself slipping back to the point I’d been: feeling the ache in my head and resenting everything for existing.

“Each major department was given a share of funds to go toward major projects.  Rather than devote my funds into one project, I devoted them to six very different projects.  The plan was for the six to form a whole.”

I nodded.

“It’s unfortunate that only four of you proved viable, but you’ve turned out well, you each show more and more promise as you develop, but you remain one member of a unit.  A gestalt.  Your group is feeling your absence, and they feel it strongly enough that they went out of their way to ask for you.”

“I’m touched,” I said.  I wasn’t lying about that, but my thoughts were more on the fact that I’d get to rub it in their faces.  They needed me.  I could be smug about it.

We reached the first floor.  He held the door for me, and we passed through, heading straight for an office.

The grey-coat doctor that had given me fresh skin greeted us, exchanging brief pleasantries with Mr. Hayle before getting down to brass tacks.  I shouldn’t spend too long in the sun until a few weeks had passed.  Never mind that the sun rarely showed its face around these parts.

My thoughts were already on the situation at Mothmont.  I was a week behind the others, and time was already proving to be of the essence.

It wasn’t Mr. Hayle that dropped me off, but his student Lacey.  One of three students assigned to me.  It made for a very quiet, uncomfortable ride to Mothmont.  I did my utmost to make it uncomfortable for her, glaring at her.

To her credit, she seemed to have difficulty meeting my eyes.

“Professor Hayle suggested I take you to get your hair cut,” Lacey said, summoning some courage and meeting my gaze.  “So you’re more presentable.”

“It isn’t long.”

“It’s long enough to get untidy very easily,” she said.  “It wouldn’t take long.”

“No,” I said.


“No,” I said, again.  “Don’t suggest it again.  There’s a reason I want my hair like it is.”

“I’m sorry,” she said, raising her hands.  “I understand.  How about food?  You barely ate at all after you locked yourself in the office.”

“I ate plenty,” I said, meeting her eyes.  “You didn’t find all the spiders that had been in the glass case, did you?”

She was stricken with a paralyzing sort of alarm at the idea.

She seemed to shake it off, and she managed a titter of a laugh. “You’re messing with me.”

I looked out the window, and very casually remarked, “It’s sort of disgusting when a woman as old as you are tries to giggle and act like a little girl.”

I didn’t look at her to see her reaction.  That would have taken away from the effect.  My peripheral vision suggested she’d reacted as if I’d slapped her full-on in the face.

“Don’t talk to me like we’re friends,” I said, still not looking at her.  “I’m your job.”

“You seem to have civil conversations with professor Hayle, Sy- Sylvester.”  She’d switched to the long form of my name at the last second.

“Yeah,” I said.  I met her eyes.  “I respect him, if nothing else.”

Three students had hands-on roles with the Wyvern project.  With me.  I had no idea how many were peripherally involved.  Looking at Lacey, one of the three students, I couldn’t see any trace of a smile on her face.  The look in her eyes was a mixture of dislike and pity.

Pity.  And she wondered why I hated her as much as I did?

“I see,” Lacey said.  “Understood.  Can I ask-“

I tensed a little, leaning forward with my hands on my knees, and I heard the hitch of hesitation in her voice.  A momentary pause.

“-Why now?” she finished.  “I won’t say there haven’t been incidents in the past, but why are you suddenly taking issue with me today?”

“You can ask,” I said, and I left the statement hanging.

She turned her head, looking out the window I’d been staring out of a moment ago.  Apparently she wasn’t too surprised at the non-answer.

“Every day for the last week, you knocked on the door, you tried to talk to me, to reassure, to offer food, sheets or clothes.”

“And you wanted to be left alone?” she asked.

“I did, but that wasn’t it.  Give a man a gun, tell him to shoot his neighbor or he gets shot.  The first man we put in this situation does it without a care.  He pulls the trigger.  The second man cries and moans, he begs his neighbor for forgiveness, then he pulls the trigger.  The third man cries and moans, begs for forgiveness, and pulls the trigger, and the fourth man takes a bullet because he won’t bring himself to do that.”

“The second and third men are the same?”

“Oh.  Right.  The first and second man went home and went to sleep and rested easy,” I said.

She worked through it aloud, summing up, “First shoots without a word, sleeps easy.  Second man asks for forgiveness, shoots, sleeps easy.  Third man asks for forgiveness, shoots, but doesn’t sleep.  The fourth dies because he won’t shoot.  You’re going to tell me the first man is the best of the four?” Lacey asked me.

I gave her a disgusted look.  “No.”

“The third, then.  You’re implying I’m the second?  It’s a pretty massive, incorrect assumption on your part, Sylvester, if you think I sleep easy,” she said, and there was a touch of heat in her voice.  I’d upset her a little.

“No,” I said, calm.  “I didn’t say anything about someone being better or worse.  They can face the situation any way they want to.  They’ve got a gun to their head, it’s their choice.  You?  Maybe you’re like the second man, maybe you’re like the third, but you definitely don’t have a gun to your head.  If you’re being nice to me, it’s for your benefit, not mine.”

I leaned back, turning away from her, my attention returning to the window.

Human nature.  If I’d simply said it, one line, one sentence, she wouldn’t have listened.  But I’d gotten her thinking, pulled her in, and then forced her to face it.

The remainder of the coach ride to Mothmont was blissfully silent.

Mothmont turned out to be an interesting building.  Four stories with a steep, slanted shingle roof, it took up a third of a city block, it had no yard that I could make out.  The walls were eggshell pale, and the ivy that crawled across the brickwork was dark, almost leafless.  It wasn’t in an end of town I’d frequented, but even among nicer buildings with gargoyles that spat out water from the gutters and built-in stables for stitched horses, it stood out as something prominent.

A woman was waiting for me by the arching entrance that led into the building.

Lacey didn’t say a word as I left the coach, pulling my hood up to shield off the rain.

“Sylvester, I take it?” the woman asked.  She was buxom, the word was, businesslike in a pink jacket and short dress, brown hair curled at the sides, with a touch too much makeup.

“Yes ma’am.”

“You have manners.  Good.  I’m the headmistress.  Let’s have a look at you.”

I pulled down my hood.

Somehow she didn’t look particularly pleased.  I was a little scruffy.

“Come, inside,” she said, guiding me with a hand at my back.

She led me in past the front office, pointing me to the boy’s bathroom.

“Uniform on the chair by the sink.  Take a moment to wash your face before getting dressed.  I’ll bring you a comb so you can tidy your hair.”

I nodded, and I did as she asked.

The uniform turned out to be white.  White slacks and a button-up shirt with short sleeves and a straight, stiff-necked collar.  The white of it was likely a nod to the Academy.

I hated white.  I’d seen too much of it, and it didn’t suit.  My hair was black, and even with grease or glue or whatever else I put into it, the ends would curl up and it would find a way to break loose.

I made myself as presentable as possible, knowing it wouldn’t last.

I stepped out of the bathroom and presented myself to the headmistress.  She knelt before me and smoothed out some of the clothing, picking at one piece of lint.

“It suits you,” she lied.  “You look like a young gentleman.”

Two lies in two breaths, straight to my face.  I almost liked her.

“It’s lunch time.  You can introduce yourself to the others.  The afternoon classes are all dedicated to biology.  On Fridays, we visit the Academy.  Now, a boy named Jamie was staying at the orphanage.  Do you know him?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“You’ll be in the same classes as him, and you’ll sleep in the same quarters.  You should find him sitting under the tree in the yard, I think.”

“I’m not surprised.”

“This is strictly temporary, you understand?” she asked.  “I don’t want you to get your hopes up.”

“I understand, ma’am,” I said.

She straightened, looking down at me.  “Mrs. Earles believes you might be motivated to try harder, seeing what we have to offer.”

“I think I will, ma’am,” I said.

“Go on, then,” she said.

I went.  A woman stood by a gate, opening it to let me through.

The building formed a square, with the yard in the center, the precious pupils safe within.  A glass was erected with trees grown to support it at the corners, keeping those beneath dry.  The glass roof itself crawled with vines and small flowers.

Youths aged seven to fifteen were gathered within, many playing, or gathered in groups.  Blankets were laid out here and there for them to sit on, so they wouldn’t get their uniforms dirty.

Just as the students of the Academy had possessed a refined, polished air, these students looked proper.

It didn’t take me long to find the others.  Gordon was in the company of the boys, a larger group.  Helen was among the girls.  Jamie was under one of the trees at the perimeter, book and pen in his lap.  He’d seen me before I saw him, and was on his feet in a moment.

Lillian, I found off to one side, with an obese girl and a taller, skinny, buck-toothed man who looked to be about fifteen.  Gordon whistled, sharp, and got her attention.  She quickly said her goodbye to her two friends.

We collected.

Gordon took one look at me, and I saw genuine worry in his eyes.  “You had an appointment.”

I nodded.

“I’m sorry,” he said.  “We’re supposed to be there for each other when it counts.”

“You didn’t know it was coming.  I didn’t either,” I said.  “At least I don’t have to worry about it for another thirty days.”

He looked unimpressed.

“You’re intolerable after an appointment,” Jamie said.

“I’ll try to be intolerable in a useful way,” I answered.  “Let’s get down to it.  I heard you got stuck.”

“Wait, before any of that, did you come alone?” Gordon asked.

I frowned.  “I got dropped off by Lacey.”

Damn,” he said.

“We’d hoped Hayle would come too,” Jamie said.  “I thought he’d be more concerned at our lack of progress.”

I looked between the two, confused.

Gordon frowned.  “Look, we’re more than stuck, Sy.  We’re in danger.”


“They know who we are.  They’re onto us,” Helen said, and her voice was soft and entirely unconcerned.  That wasn’t to say there wasn’t cause for concern.  It was just Helen.

“Five attempts on our lives in the last seven days,” Jamie said.  “And the way we figure it, that means they’re either very, very clever…”

“Or rogue elements from the Academy,” I said.

Jamie nodded.

“Talk to us,” Gordon said.  “Let’s hear your ideas, fresh eyes, before we start giving you reason for bias.”

“Alright,” I said.  “Knowing what little I do, I don’t think the kids are killers.  I don’t think they’re assassins, either.  They’re tools.”

Gordon nodded.  The others were still.

“The killings are steadily improving in quality.  That suggests the kids are the weapons, and the killer is out there,” I said.  “and I think you know that already.”

“We do,” Gordon said.

“What you don’t know, and why I think you’re stuck, is that you’re too prone to patterns.  You have your own way of doing things, but it’s too rigid, when your enemies are hiding in the shadows.  You need to shake it up.”

“You have an idea how, I imagine.”

I smiled.

The pain in my head was going away by the second.

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134 thoughts on “Taking Root 1.3

  1. One thing is that at least for me, there’s no mobile website anymore. The first chapter was fine, but since then it’s only been the desktop version. It’s deal-with-able, but not ideal.

  2. What is this appointment, and why did it make Sy’s head hurt like that? It has to happen every month, apparently. What about everyone else, do they have appointments as well?

    • At a guess… they’re kids. Their brains are supposed to develop fast. Assuming that’s still true, whatever’s being done to shape their thought patterns and personalities needs to be done often and repeatedly to make it stick.
      Alternatively, their brains don’t develop naturally, so again they need prompting every so often
      Option 3, invasive equivalent of a brain scan

      • Makes sense that Sly in particular would be “intolerable” after an appointment, since he seems to be designed to be a rogue with little concern for himself and others.

    • Seems like the appointment isn’t totally regular, otherwise it wouldn’t have come as a surprise. But there’s at least 30 days between appointments. Why?

      • If, as other people have suggested, and they’re experimenting on them, that might be a way to get the various chemicals out of their systems so the next injection won’t interact with the previous.

  3. Well, this scenario is worrisome. My quick guess is that the killer children are actually disposable clones and the real kids are at the bottom of the local river or something, but it might also be a brain parasite or something that the autopsy missed. It’s also notable that the last two both set fire to the building, which would make identifying oddities more difficult. It’s almost impossible the autopsy would miss them being stitched, so that’s probably not it.

      • Something that enable hypnotism? It may not be a very fancy bit of biotech. And since Hayle works with the mind something that alters the mind without altering the brains phsyology, would make him a good choice to head the investigation.

  4. Oh, also, on root 1-2 the “next” at the top of the page doesn’t link to 1-3, unless I tested the link before that was changed and went to the root page and found 1-3 after it was changed.

  5. Typo:

    “Wait, before any of that, did you you came alone?”
    – should be “Wait, before any of that did you come alone?”

  6. I like the addition of the calender and the table of contents being a drop down menu. It makes it quick and easy to find out what days we have updates, and the new table of contents on the side save a lot of space now.

    Also I give it like 4-6 arcs before the kids take down the people that made them. In man’s nature to create monsters, and in monster’s nature to kill their makers, you know how it goes.

    • I agree, the revisions to the banner are great — pretty, functional, informative at a glance.

      To me it seems that the kids killing the people who made them is about the furthest conceivable goal at this point in the story… So a few arcs away seems like a pretty reasonable time of completion for Wildbow.

  7. Okay, so I didn’t get that whole thing with the syringe and the cot&adopt. Can somebody explain that to me, please? Thanks.

    That last scene…yes. I know it’s unproductive, but all I could think was “Taylor,” and then, “or at least, the same Wildbow style that made Taylor so amazing.”

    So we have Sylvester actually caring about his teammates (being touched), where we thought he was mostly cold toward them earlier. I’m going to say he likes them all a lot, even Lil, the different one.

    And on that difference, we get a bit more of a hint here! A gestalt, you say? I’m thinking collective consciousness would be too literal, and impractical to set up as a reveal. But then, what would be the point of simply splitting talents among six—or, as it happened, four—”parts of a whole”? Definitely not a whole a la “Russel,” but it’s just interesting that all Wildbow’s stories so far seem to focus on identities of the self, with their most literal elements being just this: a literal sharing of self in some way or another…with its own twist every time, of course.

    That whole piece about the gun felt very cops-and-robbers in significance, like it’s going to be cited multiple times. Or maybe it’s just going to be some crossroads type of scene with Lacey where she or Sy remember/reference it. Cliche as hell, but brilliant if done right, I’d say. And we all know whose specialty that is.

    So I think it’s safe to say that this story is going to be amazing. Killer children with a possible Chessmaster behind them, and an MC who’s showing the beginnings of becoming/being a Chessmaster in his own right. And of course, as we all know, we’ll be reminiscing in a few months about how Sy’s problems were so simple back then.

    • I’m guessing that the cot was used to bend a metal bit of the syringe, and the metal bit was used to pop the pins out of the hinges. Wasn’t that clear the first time around, but rereading it helps.

      I was thinking the exact same thing with Taylor!

    • Yeah, the syringe stuff was a bit difficult to understand. I feel like that’s a pattern in Wildbow’s work, where it gets so detailed in the physical specificities that I have trouble picturing it all in my head.

      Anyway, here’s how I think it went down: Sly separated the metal handle of the syringe from the rest of it. He then bent this metal so that it was strong enough to break the hinge on the door. He popped the syringe metal under the door, and then used a book to apply the right amount of pressure to get the hinge off the door. He did this to the other hinge, so that the door was removed without it getting broken (even though he broke a syringe in the process).

      • I don’t know about it being a pattern, but the very detailed examination/perception/narration of physical events fits into my still vague soup of suspicions about what’s really going on with these children.

        Also, I think you’ve parsed it correctly: Sy makeshifted a chisel and hammer out of the syringe and his environment, and then used it to knock the hinges loose.

      • It’s a door hinge with a pin. (Just google image search “door hinge” to see plenty of examples.) Usually a nail, a screwdriver, another pin, or some other similar strong, narrow thing is used to remove the pin to take the door out of its frame.
        Sylvester bent the metal piece from the syringe to be able to set it against the pin and pound it into the hinge tube in order to push out the pin. The hinge plates, door, and frame were not damaged at all; the plates were not ripped out of the door or the frame.

    • re: the cot & door — the door couldn’t open all the way, so he had to remove the hinges to let it fall open. To do that, he smashed the syringe with the cot to get the metal of the handle/plunger part (the two loops you put your fingers through when depressing the plunger). Flattened the metal so it was long and thin, like a chisel or screwdriver. Placed the metal against the pin of the hinges, and whacked it with the textbook to remove the pin.

    • Sy wanted to be alone after his appointment, so he tipped the bookshelf over in front of the door to keep it from opening. Then, when he needed to get the door back open, he busted up a syringe so that he could use the metal bit as an impromptu chisel to get the door back open.

      Yeah, it took me two re-readings to figure that out myself.

      • He didn’t chisel the hinge off the door. He left it easily repairable by simply removing the pins from the hinges. Just do an image search for “door hinge” to see the type of hinges used. The pin that holds the plates together can be removed by popping it out of the interlocking tubes. It’s one easy way to open a locked or blocked door if the pin is on your side of the door.

    • Well, the whole quote was:

      “I’m touched,” I said. I wasn’t lying about that, but my thoughts were more on the fact that I’d get to rub it in their faces. They needed me. I could be smug about it.

      Take that as you may.

    • What I picture for now is that all the kids were engineered/modified too work well as a team, even without a real “hive mind”

  8. Interesting. Will this be semi episodic? The Lambsbridge Gang given a mission and executing it? If so, I like the premise.

    Sylvester strikes me as a creepy, calculated, trouble making child. I believe (from the little we’ve seen so far) that he may suffer from Squall Syndrome.

    For those unaware, Squall is the main protagonist of a 1999 videogame. Throughout the game, the audience is made privy to his inward thoughts and come to understand his personality and depth. Although the audience constantly hears his concerns and reasonings, when it comes to actual dialogue, he is cold, mostly silent, and aloof. Upon reflection of Squall’s actual words, and not just his inner monolog, one realizes that the hero was kinda a jerk throughout the story.

    So far, I get the same sense with Sy.

    • To be fair, many players thought that Squall was a jerk throughout the story even with access to his inner monologue.

      (In Sy’s case it seems more understandable considering that he seems to be getting forced through extremely painful experiments and examinations against his will. I would have trouble being polite to those people, too.)

    • My expectation is it’s going to start out somewhat episodic-ish, and get progressively less so as things come together. More likely, I think, is that up until now their lives have been kinda episodic and now we’re jumping into the end of that, the point in their lives were they have one big problem, rather than lots of little unrelated challenges.
      To be honest, I kind of like that Sy’s a bit of a jerk, and I very much think that he’s coming off as cold and aloof to others mostly on purpose, which to me makes for a cool character – one who’s very aware of how other people see them and manipulate what they show to the world

      • For me he almost comes off as a sociopath, which could make sense if they were created to be efficient detectives. i can’t help thinking about Sherlock Holmes.

    • Honestly, I have the feeling that we actually aren’t that privy to his thoughts. Other than the explanation on why he used his words with Lacey the way he did in the cab and his first glance judgements of people we see precious little of what he’s thinking about. Every action he takes doesn’t have its reason revealed until we deduct it after the fact. Every word he says is as hard for us to judge if it is truth or lie as it is to the Mr. Hayle.

      To be honest, I have difficulty liking him. He seems sullen and untrustworthy and we don’t really get any greater insight to his motivations. Yet.

  9. Really wondering what happened to the other two children, that apparently ‘weren’t viable’. Were they moved somewhere else, or (most likely) killed? And if they were killed, did Sy know them beforehand? He doesn’t seem to have any feelings about that, or express that many feelings at all, but maybe that’s simply his thing, a bit like Helen. Also, he seems to know or have studied quite a bit about human nature, judging from his talk with Lacey.
    Mr. Hayle seems like he’s talking about the group to Sy more clinically than he thinks he is, while at the same time still trying to get to know his ‘projects’.

    • I’m curious about them as well. What part of the gestalt were they intend to play? Why we’re they deemed not viable? What instabilities are caused by the missing two? I’m liking the story so far though!

  10. Wait a minute. . .

    the university’s symbol on it, a full-face helmet in profile framed by red leaves and ribbons.

    Are we talking more of a knights helm or a motorcycle helmet? Is it orange?

    Could this be the start of the long anticipated Sir Fuente cameo we’ve all been waiting for!?!

  11. Sylvester is an adorable problem child.

    His reaction to the gang asking after him was perfect. “They want me! Yay!” and “They need me! I’m going to make them admit they needed me!”

  12. – This is intriguing. I don’t know what to make of the radical tone shift. Feels much less focused on atmosphere and horror than what’s come before it. Now we’ve got something that’s got more of a procedural vibe. Yes, awful things are happening to people, but we’re not seeing them, we’re merely being told about them afterwards.

    – Manufactured evil children who pretend to be regular schoolchildren is anime-ish, though admittedly I don’t watch enough anime to pinpoint why.

    – I made a much bigger deal out of the wall in the last chapter than I really meant to. But it’s shown up again here, so maybe I was onto something. Don’t have any theories about the significance yet, other than the somewhat obvious idea that Sly is walling himself off from others, Lacey most of all.

    – Mr. Hayle gave a lot of exposition in this chapter, which may be part of what gave off the procedural vibe (procedurals tend to give a lot of exposition, in order to continuously explain to the main characters what’s going on in the story of the week). It’s definitely forgivable, because a lot of what he said was so interesting.

    – For instance, each major department has its own project. I think the Academy is only involved in science-y stuff (I’m basing that mostly off of what I remember from Boil), but it would be interesting to see what projects might be created by a math or history department.

    – The gestalt idea is interesting. Brings to mind Theodore Sturgeon’s More Than Human. I’m sure there are other examples of the ‘small group mind’ concept in pop culture, but that’s the only one I can think of at the moment.

    – Hayle calls the murder-kids assassins, not killers. Sly, in his beautifully infinite supply of sass, later points out to his friends that he’s pretty sure the murder-kids aren’t killers OR assassins.

    – The headmistress saying that Sly has manners genuinely made me laugh out loud.

    – So, black coats are for important people, grey coats are for Academy graduates, and white coats are for students?

    – From the bookshelf to his hair to his desire to shake things up for the team, Sly has proven that’s he’s an agent of chaos.

    • I have a pretty strong suspicion that the shift in tone is intended to convey some information about just how these “appointments” are influencing the functioning of the Lambsbridge children’s minds. What, precisely, we’re supposed to glean, I’m not quite sure yet. Have some suspicions that I might speculate more freely on later.

      • That is an interesting catch and sounds like a good possibility. Perhaps the appointments are meant to speed the mental development of the child projects in some way or another.

    • I’m pretty sure they mean each major department of the Academy.
      Judging from Boil the other sciences have fallen a bit off the wayside.

    • About the anime thing: A lot of anime I’ve watched (this includes Kill la Kill, Panty and Stocking, Elfen Lied, and K-On) many shows takes place in schools. That may have something to do with it.

  13. And we get yet another reference to sets of 4. I see it as:
    Helen- 1st man, shoots and feels no regrets
    Sy- 2nd man, complains, shoots anyway, no regrets
    Jamie- 3rd man, complains, shoots anyway, deep regrets
    Gordon- 4th man, refuses to shoot
    I guess I’ll be making a post like this on all the sets of 4.😛

  14. Hayle actually has a whole department dedicated to managing the kids? Huh. I guess it’s probably more along the lines of one professor having a personal project and taking on grad students than it is a bunch of professors working together.

    I can’t help but feel that letting Sylvester know that he’s essentially irreplaceable at some point was a serious mistake on Hayle’s part. Sylvester pulls the stuff he does because he knows he can get away with it, and it’s probably only a matter of time before he gets one of the grad students killed because he hates them.

    This also suggests that the Lambsbridge orphanage contains four super children and twelve regular children, unless the others are part of a different project. Is it so inconvenient for Hayle to house them at the Academy? Or maybe it’s a concern of environment.

    • Given the pity Lacey was willing to dish out (and which would probably set the others, not just Sy off), odds on… that the “project” picked the orphanage for raw materials and not just as a convenient means of housing.😐

  15. Hoho, we got a mystery on our hands!

    Is it weird that I’m picturing Sly as a young, dark-haired Leonardo Dicaprio?

    Something about his demeanor and appearance just clicks with him.

  16. I’m amused that Lacey not only named the first man as the best on her first guess (seriously, Sy, I’d be disgusted, too), but that she didn’t even consider naming the fourth. She literally went over all the others without even considering him!

    My guess would be that she was actively preventing herself from considering that option.

    • From the Boil snippets, the Academy turns a share of students into pathological backstabbers so they get better/more credit. Lacey being in a pretty good spot right now, it’s likely she has a closet labeled ‘skeletons’ somewhere.

    • Considering the fourth is just plain stupid (under most scenarios). Finally, Lacey did not consider the first man to be the best. Lacey guessed as to what Sylvester would say is the best. She gave the answer that, given her model of Sylvester, Sylvester would have given.

  17. IF there were six kids and everyone brought something different to the group, then does the loss of two of them mean, the group now lacks significant talents for what their original tasks would have been?
    Maybe those missing “parts” of the group are like blind spots for them,
    and Mr. Hayle is trying to compensate with new additions to the gang like Lillian.

  18. Mothmont / Mothsmont

    I can’t articulate why, but the first chapter felt disjointed to the point where if I didn’t know the author, I would have put the book back down.

    Chapters 2 & 3 were much more readable and looking forward to how things develop.

  19. My first thought of the chapter was: “so this is why Sly got hurt!” I thought he got hurt in order for him to have access to his files, and whatever else he might find at the Academy. The fact that he had an “appointment” conflicts with this, but it seems as though they weren’t expecting said appointment even if it is monthly. And what is this appointment? I think it must have something to do with the syringes.

    Three makes a pattern :3 And the labcoat colour seems to indicate prestige. Maybe… MAYBE. It indicates how many things you have torn open and messed with! You get one white labcoat when you start, and as blood, grim, feces and whatever accumulates, it turns dark :3 …… Ew. I disgusted myself.

    Is the sword hanging a reference to the sword of Damocles? If so, there is double irony in there. First, I find it interesting and somewhat ironic that rich, powerful people would set themselves a reminder to be afraid. Second, it seems as though the metaphorical sword ended up coming down on them; they did have reason to be afraid.

    I didn’t like Sy’s explanation for why he dislikes Lacey. “Different people react differently when under pressure. Since you aren’t under pressure to be nice to me (and I assume you do it for your benefit instead of any humane traits) I dislike you”. There is no connection between either statement. I don’t fault Wildbow for this, because characters are allowed to say things that don’t make much sense, and it was explained that Sy set things up looking for a reaction. But I didn’t like it anyway.

    Last thing. I love, love, loved the idea of a glass ceiling being held by trees. It’s genius. It’s amazing. What a lovely little detail. I like how this shows the applications of the work at the Academy. Modifying things like trees is so mundane now, that it can be done for the sake of architecture. I want to see a painting of this, I really do.

    Thank you for the chapter!

    • I thought that what Sly was getting at was not that he disliked her because the presumed lack of pressure, just that overall he saw her as acting in that way to put her own mind at ease more than to try to help him. Now the extended thought that people only do nice things ultimately for their own peace of mind is a staunchly pessimistic standpoint that probably hits Sly’s outlook pretty solidly on the head.

    • My interpertation of the four man experiment was that the four men did something horrible because they were forced to, and then they compensated in different ways. They had the right to deal with it in however they chose because they didn’t have a say in participating.

      Lacey is different because she is doing/ is complicit in some truly horrible things, but she isn’t being forced to do so. No one put a gun to her head and made her be a mini-Bonesaw. Sy dislikes her because she could, by all rights, have been fourth man *without* getting shot, and she opted to be number two or three instead.

      …Thinking about it, does the number disparency between Sy’s experiment and the stated number of subjects seem odd to anyone else? I mean, in a world like this, you would think that there would be an industry standard for the generally accepted number of test subjects you ought to use for any given small group study.

      Thinking about it some more, there’s at least a fifth man in that experiment- the experimenter, who put a gun to everyone’s head and told them to shoot their neighbor.

    • It might be helpful here to contrast Sy’s reactions to Lacey vs. the headmistress. He dislikes Lacey’s pity and condescenion and self-serving sympathy.

      The headmistress?
      > “It suits you,” she lied. “You look like a young gentleman.”
      > Two lies in two breaths, straight to my face. I almost liked her.

      I’m not yet sure why Sy prefers someone lying to him, but it’s certainly interesting.

  20. Nice.

    I like the detective-like approach, the investigative side of searching out and identifying threats within the Academy rather than just the physical dealing with them.

    Mothmont is interesting to me. I recall in Boil someone getting kicked out from the Academy because her dissertation wasn’t good enough; does someone with a background good enough to get into Mothmont get to try again if that happens, or does their safety net go away once they actually get in?
    It feels as though I really need to read Boil again, and see if the protagonist getting kicked out there was because of a (limited) scholarship, not being able to pay to stay longer. The premise there… somehow I can’t find Boil, though. Concerning.

    ‘They’re tools’: easily surmisable from the description of what happened, one way or another. *nods*

    I’m bothered by that I didn’t follow the end of the gun situation metaphor. Is the ‘being nice to Sylvester’ the shooting or the apologising? Maybe the apologising, something that doesn’t help the person who’s going to be shot… Lacey could be described as ‘having a gun to her head’ in terms of pressures to succeed or fail/drop out, but that’s not directly relevant in any case (I think?)… there’s the question of what /would/ be for Sy’s sake, what he would actually be happy if she did (other than not treat him with pity and fake caring). Let him out? Overturn the Academy somehow to get human rights for his gang, or try? Also, arguably all altruism is a fulfilment of the altruist’s own utility function, but–or rather, and so–actions can still be treated as for another’s sake. Apologising to someone doesn’t help them if you’re going to kill them, /but/ anaesthesia can be helpful to someone undergoing mad scientist experimental surgery, and sheets/clothes can be helpful to someone who feels cold particularly painfully following skin replacement. If someone who’s going to perform inhuman experimental surgery on oneself doesn’t raise the success rate by using anaesthesia, but does so anyone so that you will be more comfortable, then is that person resented for doing it for their sake, not for one’s own? Then again, this abstract level of consideration is moot if we take into account Sy’s observations of Lacey’s pity/dislike/etc. and assume that it can be treated as a given that she’s not doing it out of altruísm, and that he can tell. In that case, we could predict that someone who did the exact same things wouldn’t be resented by him if that person actually wanted to help him, even if it was also that person’s job. Hmmm. There’s still a gap though where those emotions and the apologising/shooting metaphor have to be overlaid to make sense, which they currently aren’t in the description of the four hypothetical people. Hm.
    ‘you definitely don’t have a gun to your head. If you’re being nice to me, it’s for your benefit, not mine’: this especially doesn’t seem to follow. If one didn’t have a gun to one’s head, wouldn’t that make one’s positive actions less for one’s benefit than if done out of self-preservation..? Unless that’s saying ‘so you’re choosing to take the negative actions’, which loops back to the question of what negative actions she’s doing that he’d want her not to do…

    Thinking more generally, as well, about the ‘appointment’s. Something like regular necessary maintenance, also stopping the four from killing Hayle and fleeing?

    As a final thought (returning to my second paragraph), the attempts on their lives conveniently make it easier to get leads and trace cause and effect back to the ultimate culprits, but also lower the amount of investigation that needs to be done and plunges the context into physical beat-or-be-beaten territory again. (Well, let’s see how it goes. I’m particularly curious about the exact method used regarding the ‘tools’.)

        • I was not, figured it’d be a shot in the dark but saw mentions of “the fulfillment of utility functions”, the use of anon and the lengthy analysis and thought it might be a spur of the moment late night dissection😄

          • Well, going by the use of anon, even if it was him, he wouldn’t be likely to admit to it, would he?😉

          • Good attempt at a mind screw Bart but Eliezer doesn’t strike me as someone with the ego to act flattered about having been mistaken for himself.

    • I wish I could have analyzed the situation this much, but what I thought was that he didn’t like her because she *didn’t* have a gun to her head—wasn’t forced by anyone to participate in the appointments he so despises, which seem pretty torturous—yet she still had the gall to pity him and convince herself she felt sorry for her involvement.

  21. I loved Syl’s hijinks this chapter. His attitude is so refreshing for a main character. “I’ll try to be intolerable in a useful way”. Like a younger Tattletale…

  22. I’m pretty sure that somewhere in the future one of the Lambsbridge Projects will ask Hayle, “Does this unit have a soul?”.

  23. I like Sylvester’s tantrum because it seems pretty clear that it’s just that, a tantrum from a child who has an abnormal amount of reasoning abilities and adults who are willing to cut him a lot of slack on property damage. Mr. Hayle wasn’t too disconcerted by it, and treated it as almost normal, even when Sylvester almost endangered his life by releasing spiders. It’s Sylvester lashing out without direction after a traumatic experience, looking for some form of acknowledgement from his creator. That Mr. Hayle doesn’t give Sylvester that acknowledgement and instead provides him with a task is an interesting way of handling it, but I could see it backfiring as Sylvester does more and more extreme things to test the boundaries.

  24. The kids have a distinct adventuring party dynamic going on. Gordon is the tank. Lillian is the healer. Sly is obviously the rogue. I’m not sure about the others, yet, but I’m sure we’ll learn more about them soon enough.

    • Helen the ‘femme fatale’, capable of impeccable deliberate outward display of emotion while either possessing total emotional self-control or lacking normal emotions (and thus capable of abnormal extremes of calculated ruthlessness, contrasting with the ‘honey trap’ ability to deceive others)?

      Jamie is the main enigma so far… probably going to be revealed at some point, maybe at a dramatic moment depending on his nature.

      • Jamie might follow The Hulk’s nerd-berserker (nerdserker?) formula – nice and bookish when calm, stays away from the action to keep an ace hidden ready to jump in and save the others if push really comes to shove.

        But I don’t think this will be the case. Too stereotypic.

  25. It’s interesting… It looks like Sly’s built for cunning and plotting, to the point that he gets cranky and uncomfortable if he doesn’t indulge in it.

    Which explains the slack they’re cutting him. Can’t really get upset about it if he’s functioning as built.

  26. I couldn’t help but notice the mention of patterns in this chapter directly after a conversation in the comment’s sections of the previous chapter regarding Wildbow’s writing patterns. Maybe a way for Wildbow to acknowledge that conversation?

  27. So the color of a doctors coat tells how highly ranked he is. Sorta like the belts of martial artists.

    I suspect that Mr. Hayle has a certain amount of clinical detachment, but curiosety as to what Sy will do. I suspect he’s not surprised per say, because Sy is acting within expected parameters.

    And finally am I the only one who hears Gesaelt, and thinks combiners from Transformers?

  28. “Two lies in two breaths, straight to my face. I almost liked her.”

    For some reason, this line made me think of Regent, except more sociopathic. I kind of like it.

  29. Sigh. Really? Really?? Stitched need to be recharged every now and then, see scene with the kids stumbling through the city to the orphanage, reference horses, bolts, spine. The appointments are obviously for recharging, and maybe for other things like mental adjustment, hardware upgrades, software installation, etc.

  30. When your enemy hides in the shadows, either you hide behind them or you leave no shadows. Or you go out and eat some pizza. With extra pepperoni and extra cheese. Maybe sausage, but it can give me heartburn. You don’t want to burn a heart. That’s why you grill one on low, or maybe bake it. I don’t recommend the microwave for that sort of work. Too thick a muscle.

  31. So, here’s my wild mass guessing, courtesy of everyone’s favorite substitute version of the Malkavian Madness Network.

    These kids have had their brains altered. It’s similar research to what Hayle is doing. In fact, it may very well be Hayle doing it. He’s hacking the brains of the school’s kids because members of their families are threats to him and his work. They have doubts, maybe, or see him as a useless money sink. So he silences critics and at the same time finds a situation where he can send his kids in, have them participate in a guerrilla exercise, and further show the advantages of human-like weapons that can blend in and think well enough to engage in asymmetrical warfare and/or assassination.

    • That’s an interesting idea. Or perhaps it was a graduate student of Hayle’s, or maybe the woman that Hayle stole the idea from in the first place.

      • Could be a coverup. Somebody unleashes something that’s ending the world or doing a lot of damage or something. These families know about it. Hayle kills them, then sends in his own team so that the academy higher-ups can show they’ve got someone doing something about. Plus, if Hayle’s sending his team in to stop it and they have difficulty like so far, then it seems to show he has nothing to do with it.

        • Good pun up there. It could be all Hayle’s own design, I’m just speculating. Conceivably, at this point, anyone could be behind it.

          Urpx, znlor gurer’f n ynj svez oruvaq nyy bs gur gebhoyrf. Nsgre nyy, abobql fhfcrpgf gur tebhc jubfr orvat cnvq sebz n cbegvba bs gur jvyy naq jubfr choyvp nvz vf gb cebfrphgr gubfr erfcbafvoyr… Znaa vf irel erfcrpgnoyr nsgre nyy naq Yrjvf frrzf fb avpr naq Yrivar vf whfg fb uneq jbexvat, gurl pbhyqa’g or vaibyirq.

  32. I do not know why people think these children are psychopathic.Sy seems more like throwing a tantrum,and,moreover,he seems to think some great injustice was done to him.

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