Taking Root 1.8

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“You’re bleeding,” Lillian noted, touching my chin.

“Someone shoved a door into me,” I said, glancing back at Gordon.

“You’re welcome,” Gordon said.

“Thank you,” I said.  “I appreciate the rescue.  The sentiment, anyway.”

Now it was his turn to shoot me a look.  I was going to say something, but Lillian grabbed my chin, lifting it up.  She patted at it with a pad that smelled like something burnt.

“We almost missed you,” Jamie said.  “We went to the yard, then we were going to split up from there.  I didn’t think you’d be straight down from the dorm room.”

“I saw the smoke at the chimney,” Gordon said.  “I thought it was the kitchen, but Jamie knew the layout better than I did, and we found our way down here.”

“Good as my memory might be, I’m not in top form when I’ve just woken up.  We went to the wrong end of the hall.  There are multiple furnaces for different sections of the building.”

Slow to get things moving, I thought.

“I feel terrible I almost fucked up,” Jamie said.  “It would have been better to follow you first, then gone to get Gordon.”

“They would have seen you and adjusted the plan,” I said.  “This would have gone worse if it was the two of us instead of just me.”

“How’s that?” Gordon asked.

“She could have hurt Jamie to pressure me, or done it the other way around.  Being alone, I could build a rapport.”

“You could have gotten shot,” Jamie said.

“When push came to shove, she missed.  I think there was a reason she missed.”

“More than her being pressed for time?” Jamie asked.

I nodded.  “She’s been imprinted with set behaviors, but she’s still human, with hopes and fears.  Right now, she’s uncertain, very possibly more than she’s ever been in her whole life.  Her creator more or less had a monopoly on how she behaved.  Grow a child in a vat, imprint them with behaviors that fit the grand plan, stick them in school to surround them with people to mimic and model themselves after, step in now and again to reinforce, shape behavior and train.  I’m the first real challenge to her reality.  I’ve got her questioning things.”

“You make me question my reality,” Gordon said.

“Ha ha,” I said.  Lillian examined my hands, turning them face-up.  She had to squint to see, but she put the powder on the bases of my palms, where I’d scuffed them on the floor during my fall.

“What’s the next step?” Jamie asked.

“Sy’s call,” Gordon said.

“I gave her ideas and things to worry about.  I don’t think she’s going to check in with her compatriots here.  It would increase the chance of running into us a second time.”

“You don’t think she’s confident about their abilities?” Gordon asked.  “She threw that hatchet like a pro.”

“She’s confident in her abilities.  But that’s not where I hit her.  It’s called dissonance.  You believe one thing deeply enough that it’s central to your identity.  Then something, me, steps in to challenge that belief.  It’s a hell of a leap of faith to go from believing something and understanding how much of the world works, to saying ‘I don’t know’.  Some deny, and you can get stupid-as-hell behaviors from those who see something plain as day but deny it because it conflicts with something they believe.  Some get angry, some distract themselves until they can figure out how to deal with it… but very few will turn around and throw themselves headlong into more questions.  More dissonance.”

“If she’s not going to her old friends-” Jamie started.

“Which would force her to face the questions,” I cut in.

“Or coming after us-“

“Risks even more questions,” I added.

Jamie frowned at my interruptions.  “She’s going another place, another route.  Who is she?  How does she operate?  Will she try to escape her worries by fulfilling her mission?”

“I told her that if she tries, she might well lose herself to her imprinted behaviors.  I don’t think so.  She’ll want answers, I think we should track her and get some answers for ourselves.”

“She just covered her trail pretty well there,” Gordon said.  “Is it even possible?”

“It’s possible,” I said.  “We know where she’s going.  She’s going to pay a visit to her creator.”

“Which would be great if we knew who he was,” Jamie said.

“It would,” I said.  “It’s not going to be in the school.  If it was another kind of project, maybe it could be hidden, but if I’m right, and these are clones grown in tubes, then it’s too big a task.  Even ignoring that, she’s trained.  That takes time, and it takes space.  You need room to swing weapons around or practice your aim with a pistol.  A school with thirty members of faculty and over a thousand students isn’t going to give you that.”

“Off-campus, can’t be too far away,” Jamie said.  “How often would this training happen?”

“Training, instructions, shaping behavior,” Gordon said.  “I’d guess once a week?  Can’t say.”

“If they are vat-grown,” Helen said, “Then they’d need training on other fronts.  How to be human, basic niceties.  How to use silverware, how to talk… it might not take too long, but they need to be able to pass.”

“A house,” I said.  “That’s more what we’re looking for than where.”

“With a kitchen, clothes…” Helen said.

“Room to move around,” Gordon said.  “It’s not a small house with walls shared with anyone else.  Neighbors would get suspicious and complain about the noise just as much as anyone else.”

“And,” Jamie said, “There’s the question of how you make a child act well enough like their former self to pass muster with the child’s own parents.”

Gordon frowned.  “I really don’t want to run away with the wrong idea here.  If we go chasing after a wild goose, we might not get another opportunity to get them.  How sure are you, Sy?”

I leaned against the wall.  Lillian finished checking me over, and moved over to Gordon.  She began unbuttoning his shirt.

“How sure?  Um.  It fits.  The little detail thing that Jamie was oh-so-recently trying to get me to focus on.”

“He wasn’t there for that conversation,” Jamie said.

“Wasn’t he?”

“No,” Jamie said, very patiently.

Gordon grunted as Lillian pushed his shoulder back into the socket.  She had him go through a range of motions, extending his arm and moving it around.

“Well, Jamie was talking about the little things that we don’t necessarily pay attention to, that still register in the subconscious.  I made a point of calling Mary an experiment, part of my trying to build a rapport with her.  She never called me out on it or sounded uncomfortable with the idea.  I don’t think she’s ever had illusions about being anything else.  She paid a lot of attention when I talked about roles, identity, labels.  Part of that is going to this school, but part of it is that she’s acting out a role, and has been for a long time.  Whatever’s going on with her, it runs deep.”

“One student died and was autopsied,” Gordon said.  “The rest burned.  Wouldn’t a clone turn up on autopsies?”

“Moment I heard about the remainder being burned, I thought maybe they missed something in the first autopsy, and our puppeteer went out of his way to risk a second close call.  But I don’t know for sure whether it would show up.”

After a pause, we collectively turned to Lillian.

“It depends on a lot,” she said.

“That doesn’t tell us anything,” I said.

“Don’t be a butthole, Sy,” Jamie told me.

I rolled my eyes.

“If he tried to accelerate growth, which he must have, then there’s a good chance something would show up.  There are chemical ways to promote aging.  Hormones, substances, alter the seventh ratio.  But those substances turn up, and they have effects.  Any drug is like a puzzle piece.  We flood the body with puzzle pieces of a particular shape, and intend for those pieces to fit into a specific place and enact a specific function, but you can’t stop it from connecting to other sites, enacting other functions.  It’s how we get side effects.  We control it with how we deliver the medication and other factors, and some of the best graduates of the Academy have it down to an art, making it so one drug only affects one thing in one way, but that’s a delicate balancing act.  That’s without getting into the fact that a badly made clone might be more prone to wear, tear, and side effects.”

“Is our guy that good?” Jamie asked.  “Enough to have the aging drugs down to an art, hiding symptoms from an autopsy?”

“We don’t know,” Gordon said.  “But if what Sy said is true, I’d say he isn’t.  He has one area of focus and he’s giving his all in pursuing it.”

“Okay,” Lillian said.  “The second method is more complimentary, then.  Altering the fundamental pattern of the clones.  Humans mature at an exceptionally slow rate.  We saw people try this a decade ago in the Indian Empire.  Crown scientists tried to make a slave class that grew to maturity, with a specific level of intelligence.  Domesticated humans, strong, playful, good natured, attractive, and obedient.  If I’m not mistaken, they tried a lot of things, including imprinted behaviors.”

Like Mary?  I raised my eyebrows.  “How did it go?”

“How do you think it went, Sy?” Gordon asked.  “Do you see slaves everywhere?”

“That’s not saying it didn’t work,” I said.

“It’s pretty damn indicative,” Gordon said.

“Guys, guys,” Jamie cut in.  “Focus.  Please.  We need to figure out a direction to go, here.”

“It involves other problems,” Lillian said.  “Like the drugs and hormones, it’s an art unto itself.  It requires precision of a different sort, and a broad kind of knowledge.  There’s prior work to draw on, other projects that tried similar things, but there would be signs of the attempt that would crop up in an autopsy, unless the work was perfect.  Change one thing in the pattern, and it has ripple effects throughout the organism’s development and makeup.”

“I didn’t realize it was that difficult,” Helen said.

“Oh my god.  It really, really is,” Lillian said, eyes wide, the incredulity she wasn’t voicing clear in her expression.

“Again, if our puppeteer was that good, why the hell isn’t he already employed by the Academy and earning a small fortune for his talents?” Gordon asked.  A rhetorical question.

Many of us were nodding.

“Got any more suggestions, Lillian?” Jamie asked.  “Because this is good.  Very useful.  But I don’t think it’s screaming ‘this is our guy’.”

“For accelerating aging?  Those would be the best routes,” Lillian said.  “There are others, but I think I’d be wasting our time.”

“Then we’re stuck,” Gordon said.

“No.  Not exactly.  There’s a third possibility,” Lillian said.  “Maybe more, but I’m only thinking of three.  It kind of complicates things.”

“Go on,” Gordon said.

“Don’t,” Lillian said.  “Don’t accelerate the aging.  If you need them to age, you make them age by letting time pass.”

“Mary is twelve,” Gordon said.  “He’s had this plan in the works for twelve years?”

“Yes,” Lillian said.  “Except not exactly.”

I opened my mouth, and Jamie shot me a look.  I closed my mouth before he called me a butthole again for my poking fun at Lillian.

“I said it complicates things,” Lillian said.  “Because our ‘puppeteer’ could strike a balance.  Some natural aging.  Some hormones or changes to the pattern.  The more he relies on real time passing, the less he needs to accelerate the process.  Maybe this project has only been in the works for nine years, or six.”

“Meaning there could be clues,” Gordon said, “Ones that slipped through in the autopsy.”

Lillian nodded.

“More time to develop them,” Helen said.  “Either he inserts them while they’re young, where a half-socialized clone might go unnoticed amid rabid and rambunctious first graders, or he waits and he observes their real counterpart, and he trains the clones to mime the behaviors in his off-hours.”

“Yeah.  We were wondering why he picked Mary,” I said.  “Her parents don’t seem important.  But if this project has been in the works for a while…”

“Maybe we should be looking at who they were,” Gordon finished for me.  “Or who they were supposed to become.  Our puppeteer was taking stabs in the dark, this could be a stab that missed.”

“I can look into that end of things, given time,” Jamie said.

“We might not have a lot of time, but go for it,” I said.  “After you direct me to wherever student records are stored.”

“By the front entrance.  Below the front office.”

“Good,” I said.  “Great.  I’m going.  It’s better if I’m not here.  Assuming Mary hasn’t communicated anything to her fellow clones, they’ll assume I’m dead.  Play it up, act upset and distressed.  Stick together, try to keep them distracted and occupied.  Best case scenario, they’ll still think I’m dead and I can catch them off guard when I’m back.”

“If you do, don’t try to fight them,” Gordon said, his expression blank.

“They’re trained, I know,” I said.

“That, too,” Gordon said.

I frowned, but I was already heading toward the stairs, so I turned on the spot, switching to walking backward, if only to make my expression as clear as possible.

“Lillian,” I spoke up.

She looked at me, a crease between her eyebrows.  Annoyance, worry?

“That Academy know-how you just dropped on us?  That was good.  Smart stuff.”

If anything, the crease between her eyebrows deepened.  Her mouth moved, the start of a frown.

I didn’t see the rest of it.  I headed up the stairs, taking them two at a time, very nearly silent.  I ducked low and peered into the darkness to check the way was clear.  Only when I was on the move again did I spare Lillian’s expression another thought.  I’d given her a compliment, and she’d reacted like I’d slapped her in the face.

Dissonance, I realized.

The school’s prison-like elements turned out to make being stealthy remarkably difficult.  The rooms were large and every single one, bathrooms excepted, had a window, either facing out into the street or inward, at the yard.  I couldn’t very well turn on the lights without the room illuminating and risking that people half of the Academy’s rooms could see through their windows.

My movements through the front office, thus, were done with the benefit of and detriment of darkness.

The doors, I had to assume, were locked.  At the same time, people were far worse about attending to windows.

Water ran down over me and through my hair while I scaled the wooden branches and twigs that grew into and around the masonry.  It was far finer than the usual, not quite branches but not so thin as to be ivy, it was thorny, to discourage children in the yard from climbing on it, but it was still a place where I could find handholds, if I was careful to do it.

All the same, I was left bleeding in no less than five places; I couldn’t always see the thorns in the dark.

I reached the window and teased it open.  I slipped inside, then closed it behind me.

Glancing outside, I didn’t see any lights going on, suggesting that a faculty member might have seen the dark shape scaling the paler wall.

Jamie had told me that the records were kept beneath the front office, and my experience with the headmistress had suggested the office’s location.  Rather than go straight for the records, I found myself in the room between the front entrance and the principal’s office.  Typewriters sat on desks where the secretaries were stationed, benches lined one half of the room, and desks and cabinets of papers and supplies filled the other half.

The principal’s office, once I found it with its name plate on the door, proved to be unlocked.  I was glad I didn’t have to go out and back in again.

The interior of her office had a desk and chair, cabinets, some pictures meant to impress parents more than please herself or her students.  There were prominent faces I couldn’t name depicted on the wall.  Gradutes of Academies.  A ‘this could be your student in ten years’ thing.

But I knew that however good she was, few people remembered every detail about every single one of the people who worked under them.  If some of her staff slept in the building, some slept out, she still needed a means of contacting them.

I found a box of notecards, filled with teacher’s names and mailing addresses.  I took it with me.

Humans were complex creatures.  Add the rewriting of patterns, augmentations, grafts, revival, drugs, and everything else, and ‘human’ became an awfully unclear term.  Every new discovery meant the introduction of things that had never been done or discovered before, more things that muddied the waters.

Or bloodied them.

My ‘gang’ was muddy and bloody both, but they were fairly simple, with defined roles.  Here, in this, I was the odd one out.  If all five of the other projects were successes, I might never have been given the go-ahead.  It was sobering, to know that the foundation and excuse for my being rested on the backs of two corpses.

Two who were like me.

I’d been asked, once, how I could predict people as I did.  Jamie, I think, had raised the subject.  My answer had been simple.

Humans as a species were like a collection of bugs in a box.  Left alone, it was hard to predict how they’d move, or the patterns that would form.

Shake the box, and it generated chaos.  Maddened, they would seek to escape, butting their heads against barriers.  They would turn on their closest neighbors and strike out.  Even seek to kill.  In their frenzied movements, they were very predictable.

Jamie had been very quiet after that response of mine.

But it was true.  It worked on many levels.  Force people into darkness, then offer them a light, and they were a moth to a candle flame.

The darkness that surrounded Mothmont wasn’t my darkness.  It was meant to work against me.

But it was darkness I could use.  The headmistress was worried, and I very much doubted she was sleeping after so many of her students fell ill.  Many of them had rich and powerful parents.  She’d been driven into a corner.

Taking a blank piece of paper from the drawer of her desk, I placed it on the top, and I penned out a simple statement with a fountain pen.

The Academy would like for you to please order a quarantine.  Your students are to be fully examined in the wake of their illnesses, regardless of whether they fell ill.  Take care that it includes one and all, and that it is by members of the Academy. 

None of the blame in this lies with you.  Provided you speak of this letter to no-one, you have nothing to worry about.  All will be well.

Giving the moth her candle flame.

The only way this situation could go sour was if something happened to my group, or if more of the puppeteer’s Bad Seeds decided to make a break for their families.

The quarantine would keep that from happening and it would force our adversaries into a corner.  If there was something they were trying to hide from an autopsy, they might well be uncomfortable with a full physical examination.

The only danger was that she might not listen.

Let it never be said that I couldn’t have fun.

I opened the fountain pen and took a second to work it out.  There was a syringe by the ink bottle.

I hated needles.

But I didn’t hate them so much that it would stop me.

I took a minute to empty the pen with the syringe, and then took another minute to refill the syringe with blood from a thorn-puncture in my palm.

I penned out an illegible signature in blood.

Let her think about that.

I locked the door,then locked all but one of the windows.  Removing a shoe to wipe at the drips of water on the floor, retreating while I covered my tracks, I found my way to the remaining window and drew out a bit of thread from my sleeve and cut it with a letter opener, which I pocketed.  I carefully looped it around the latch-end, leaving more than enough slack – there was a good foot between my hand and the loop that sat around the latch’s arm.  Only tension keeping things from falling to mess and disaster.  Pointing up, the latch was unlocked.  A simple turn meant it fit into a waiting cradle, and resisted attempts to open the window.

I climbed out of the window, then eased the window shut.  Pulling on the thread with the knot, I worked the latch down, until it sat in the cradle.

I pulled on one end of the thread, and worked it out of the gap in the window.


Let her wonder who at the Academy would be leaving her a message signed in blood, in a room with all means of entrance and egress properly locked and sealed.

Hopefully while she was wondering she wouldn’t be telling herself she couldn’t risk the quarantine.

I headed down one floor, sticking myself with a few more thorns on the way.  I was thoroughly soaked by the time I reached the set of windows on the ground floor.

The letter opener slid between windows to lift a latch.  I let myself into the records room.

The benefits of an organization being as hoity-toity as Mothmont were that they kept good records.  I had what I needed in two minutes.  Mary Cobourn.  I tucked it into my waistband behind my back, and pulled my shirt down to cover it.

I exited through a window opposite the one I’d entered, stepping out onto the street beyond Mothmont.

The rain poured down on me and the notecards.  I didn’t care.

She had them categorized.  Staff was a category.

Of that staff, two thirds were women.

I found myself fumbling through the cards that remained, wishing Jamie were around.

Jamie would know the names of streets better than I did, even in an unfamiliar end of town.

Still, we knew they were close.  If these students were paying regular visits, they had to be slipping away in the evenings, or when others were making their special visits to the Academy.

House, I thought.

I placed two cards back in the box when the addresses suggested apartments.

Another card, McCairn’s, proved to be too far away.  Poor bastard probably had to travel a ways every morning and night.

Unless he was staying at the Academy like he had tonight.  Either way, I felt confident in ruling him out.

Richards, Harper, Mason, Kelly, Caldwell, Percy, and Blankenship.

I moved at a quick pace through the rain, favoring the parts of the street where the lamp-light didn’t shine.  The only soul who saw me was a large man that was walking a near-empty cart of bodies through the streets, ringing a bell with a low tone.  Coin for bodies.  The area here was too nice for it to be lucrative, compared to areas closer to the orphanage where people couldn’t pay their way out of being sick.  I guessed he probably only did a walk-around once a month or once every few weeks.  Often only at night, because of the reactions the wagons drew in public.

If our puppeteer wasn’t entirely alone, there could well be a few adventurous sorts who might do the reverse transaction, lightening the wagon.

I considered for a second, then caught up with him.

It was so very human of him to be startled by my sudden, quiet appearance.  I thought for a second he might have messed himself, but the smell came from one of the bodies.

He seemed immune to the smell.  He wore a heavy rain-cloak that trailed down all the way to his calves, and was thin, with lanky hair suggesting he perhaps didn’t eat most nights.

Maybe he was doing his rounds here because others had edged him out of another territory.

“Has any one person delivered a number of children your way?” I asked.

“Children?”  He frowned.

“Boys and girls, about my age, or a little younger.”

“Dunno,” he said.

I badly wished I had some coins to spare.

“These street names,” I said.  I held up cards, pointing.  “Where are these?”

He gave me some quick directions.

“Any with big houses?”

He shrugged.  “Most.  Why?”

“Work with me, I’ll make it worth your while.”

He scoffed.

I remained still and silent, hoping that he might come around if I was serious enough.

He didn’t.  At the end of the day, I was only a child, half-drowned in the heavy rain.

“Out of my way if you don’t want to get run over,” he said.

I stepped closer, and I stuck the letter opener into his crotch.  Not hard enough to pierce anything, but enough to let him know there was a point to it.

I didn’t say or do anything.  I remained where I was, a blade held close to a part no man wanted to lose.

I waited, once more, not moving or making a noise, hoping he would come around this time.

My hand went up, holding the soaked cards with their running ink.  He caught my wrist, and for a second I thought he had me.

I pushed the point a little deeper, and his entire pelvis moved back.  I was careful to keep the blade in place.  I suspected the point might have hooked on a tag of skin, incentivizing him to stay right where he was.

There was a growl to his voice as he said, “Trellis is closest further down that way.  Then Yarrow, a little to the right, then in same direction, then Olds which is a hard right.  You’ll see the other two streets if you stick to Olds.  Biggest houses on Yarrow.”

I nodded, “Let go of me, now.”

He did.

I twisted away, withdrawing my letter opener, and splashed off into the rain.

Trellis was dark.  The buildings looked more like apartments than anything else.

Yarrow was where I found my prize.  Mr. Percy’s residence.

The lights weren’t on, but there was a candle flame on the second floor, and as ever, the branches were inviting in how they offered me places for my hands and feet.

I got as close as I could to the window where I’d spied the candle flame, where it rose from a steeply sloping roof, and I listened.

“…the boys!?” Mary’s voice rose at the end, a question.

There we go, I thought.

And she was using the words I’d given her, using my labels.

I sat back and listened.

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124 thoughts on “Taking Root 1.8

  1. Oh man, six chapters in two weeks is rough. Much better when I can space it out more. But I didn’t want to do three chapters in week one, and there’s no other way to meet my obligations when you guys have paid for what you’ve paid for.

    I don’t say it enough (though I’d say it every minute of every day if I were able to without it impacting other things), but I really appreciate the support. Patreon now sits at $2,050, give or take a few dollars, and that’s amazing. You guys are awesome.

    Just to let you guys know, Twig is now on Topwebfiction and Webfictionguide. I’ve already received one very nice ‘first impressions’ review. Will be editing the links above when I’m able. It would be really cool to see Worm, Pact and Twig sitting in the top three spots, if only for a little while. As for banners, it looks like the artist I was going to tap for the task is busy with real life and other work obligations, so it might be a bit of a wait (and takes time for Chris P. of WFG to put the banner up there anyway).

    In other news, Worm was voted #27 (tied for that space with several other serials) for most popular Fantasy books on /r/Fantasy of Reddit. That’s kind of cool, and very weird. I’ve said so elsewhere, but as cool as Worm is, I was an amateur when I wrote it and some parts feel amateurish to the point where I cringe when reading them, and it’s strange to see it up there with published works.

    Am traveling tomorrow, though, and a good night’s sleep tonight seems like a very good idea to me. That in mind, please forgive me if I’m slow on implementing any edits. Refresh the page and double check that any typo notifications haven’t already been made. I didn’t feel too out of it today, even being a little overworked, so I don’t anticipate utter disaster, typo-wise.

    Thanks for reading, guys.

    • I didn’t notice the reddit thing in time to vote, but I have to emphatically insist you earned it. Flaws aside, Worm is thrilling and evocative as hell, addictively tense, and (of particular note to fantasy fans) the setting is flat out world class. There’s a reason the fanfic community has exploded like it did.

    • I wonder, since you mention the reddit thing, have you considered submitting your stories for something like the Hugo awards? No idea how they work, or how likely a “first draft” is to win, but you could get an incredible amount of exposure from just participating.

      Congratulations on being so popular within reddit, and let’s get you to the top of TWF!

      • True. Wildow is more than entitled to take some months off. I was pretty surprised to see Twig start emmidiatly after Pact.

    • I’ve been meaning to ask you this for a while: you’ve been writting pretty much non-stop since 2011. Shouldn’t you had taken at least a month to relax and recharge? Given the amount of work you put into your serials, I am shocked that you did not took time off between serials.

      • It’s one of the realities of being an online content creator. I’m competing with millions of other sites that want my audience’s attention, I’m competing with my audience’s real life demands and concerns and distractions, working to entertain you guys and get you to come back in 2-3 days for the next installment.

        If I take a break, then readers wander off. They find other things to do, or they get out of the habit of checking in to see the site, and Twig or Worm or Vent or Pact or Bolt become something that sits on the bookmark menu, never getting clicked. Consistency, frequency, quantity and quality are critical, and must each be balanced, because a 100% in each is next to impossible.

        So my view is that if I stopped for a length of time, I would lose readership. I even see significant drops if and when I have months where I only do one Thursday chapter, or none (as I did in the summer of 2014). Stopping altogether would murder my numbers, and that would murder my forward momentum in a meta sense, as I rely on new readers (or replacement readers as some drop away) to get me new readers and spread the word via. word of mouth. Losing that would mean I stop making as much money and that’s stressful. I’m doing okay, but even people who are doing okay don’t want to lose a significant portion of their income.

        In a writing sense, well, writing as I do has an advantage in that it keeps me thinking about the work. Some have expressed surprise that I’m able to keep (most of) it straight in my head, but I don’t go an hour without thinking about the writing on some level. What do I write next, how does X and Y fit together, how do I phrase Z scene, how do I get past this snarl or that conflict of interest, and so on and so on. I’ve said in the past that I spend 10-16 hours a day writing, three days a week. In reality, though, being a writer is a constant thing. That’s not bad, but it can be hard for some to get, when I’m distracted and thinking about the story while other things are going on.

        Taking a break means disconnecting from that pattern. I’ve had a two week break (that was preceded by me doubling my workload so the chapters would go up nonetheless) and have sometimes done the same on smaller scales. Each time, my work suffers. I get flack every day, sometimes every hour from one channel or one means or another for how much one arc of Worm sucked, and I don’t like the work I put out immediately in the wake of that arc. That’s an immense amount of grief for what wasn’t really a vacation (spent a week in a cabin with my brother, his fiancee, my mom, and my one year old nephew), but even the best chill-out time ever wouldn’t be worth that amount of grief. The Conquest arc dragged on because I was distracted and trying to write three weeks worth of chapters ahead of time (this time for my brother’s wedding), and I don’t like that part of Pact or how it impacted the story, either. I did get some chance to unwind during those two weeks, but it really, really wasn’t worth it.

        As a rule, and this is partially to do with my personality, the relaxation of the break tends to be outweighed by the stress of preparing for it and providing content to cover for that break. Skipping the ‘write content in the interim’ part is going to break my stride, decimate my readership, and make me unhappier than it makes me happy, while hurting me financially.

        Whether someone makes webcomics or youtube videos or writes serials, if they’re aiming to do this professionally, they should seriously consider that there really aren’t ‘vacations’ as part and parcel of this career track. And I’m okay with that. I’m happier and more relaxed just steadily moving forward than I am getting a break.

        • I see. I obviously cannot speak for all your readers, but I would not lose interest if you took a break, nor would I revoke my patreon contribution if you took time off to recharge. I hope eventually you get the breakthrough you deserve, so you can afford do take more time off. I any case, the most important thing is that you feel happy and enjoy your work, despite the schedule.

        • Your not unique in feeling it’s best that you keep working at writing at all times, otherwise it’ll suffer. Quite a few famous authors were always working one way or another on something, and one writing tip I’ve heard is to spend the first hour after you wake up just writing something. I also recall Arthur C. Clarke saying he wrote non-stop from 8 in the morning to 5 at night every day.

        • Thanks for the stories, I love them. I hesitate to say “take a break” if only for selfish reasons, I want the stories that I love to keep coming. 😉

          It seems to me that you’re probably going to get a dip in readership around the summer anyway, just because most schools will be ending then, people will be heading out for summer camp, summer vacations, etc. I only have four and half weeks until I leave to get things set for my summer job and internet connectivity is somewhat spotty for me out there. I’ll catch up as often as I can though.:)

        • Man, flack every day, sometimes every hour? That really sucks. I don’t remember any part of Worm I disliked very much, although I’m not very picky. I almost can’t even imagine that there’s an arc that so many people consider that bad. I’m curious, which arc was it?

          Anyways, I hope you don’t feel too discouraged by it. It’s just the nature of the internet. For whatever flack you get, don’t forget that it’s only a small fraction of your readership. It’s probably only a small fraction that posts anywhere at all, in a positive or negative light.

          • The arc Wildbow is refering to is called Scarab. It is the one where jr trg n uhtr gvzrfxvc naq trg vagebqhprq gb gur arj Raqoevatref. I belive the the arc Wildbow said he also didn’t like out it turned out is the one with the Fynhtureubhfr 9000 (which comes after Scarab). Personally, I don’t find any of those arcs awful, but I do agree they are the two weakest links in the whole story.

          • You didn’t know about those?

            Seriously now, they might be in the works and real to him, but they’re not full stories for us… yet. Give him another couple years. 😉

    • Honestly, the raw, amateurness of Worm was part of its charm. As much as I’m hoping you get it published one day, I hope the editing process doesn’t remove that raw charm that set it apart from other sci-fi/fantasy works.

    • Dude, first off, yeah, six chapters in two weeks is kind of insane. Second off, I think the main reason you think Worm is amateurish is because it’s your first work. Go into a random comic book store and buy five random titles. You’ll feel much better about yourself.

  2. Hm. The psychology terminology Sylvester uses in the first part of the chapter is interesting. I don’t think a lot of it came into real use until around the nineteen-fifties in our world. Whatever deficiences in neuroscientific knowledge Hayle’s disgrace is causing, it’s clearly starting from a point where they have a distinct and perhaps modern theory of the psyche.

    • He’s formidable, certainly. But there are adversaries I’d be more afraid of, at this point. His preferred method of applying chaos, creating pressure, and then exploiting the openings that shake loose is a versatile one, but it has weaknesses and limitations (some of which we’ve already seen, others of which I’m sure we’ll see as the story progresses).

      I’m not going to add him to the class of Do Not Engage scary types until I see just how limited he is to his limited role. If he can break out of his normal MO and still retain the kind of mastery he’s displayed so far, this may well change.

      • Which has also been the dominant Blake strategy… Although Blake did not theorize it that much, because that would have been something like planning ahead.

    • If you’re on the same chess board as Sy, don’t bother cheating, he can cheat better than you can, and he changes the game regularly as a matter of course. Your only shot is the pigeon strategy.

    • Chess is an area where he would be fairly weak, as long as you didn’t listen to what he was saying. He is good when he can play the person, not the game.

  3. Also, I remember Lillian’s “dissonance” from Pact. It’s nigh-identical to Rose’s withdrawal from Blake whenever he acted like a sympathetic character.

    Therefore, I posit that she’s being trained to see Sy and the rest of the Lost Lambs as subhuman, and Sy acting outside of the role of “manipulative bastard” screws with that.

    • I don’t think Lillian’s being conditioned or anything like that. (From what we’ve seen) Sylvester’s a manipulative kid with a perverted view of people. If I were Lillian, I wouldn’t take a compliment from him at face value. I’d probably assume he was trying to spite or manipulate.

      (Heh. Lost Lambs. I like it)

      • It’s true. Sy’s no Blake, with his chronic hero syndrome and penchant for biting off more than he can chew. Of course, it can still be a little of both, especially given the fact that Sy, Gordon, Helen, and Jamie will all die in their 20s.

        (Thanks, I thought it couldn’t be worse than “the Blakeguard,” and that was a pretty good name, all told)

    • She’s bright, in the Academy very young, has skills she knows how to use (and uses well), has a broad knowledge base… but, honest praise from a sodfer sends her into outright cognitive dissonance because there’s no way she’s ever really going to be that good? Girl probably has the world’s worst emotionally abusive education Mama/Papa driving her on. :/

      • No, she’s experiencing that because there’s no way that Sy, being the big jerk that he is, would make an honest compliment, so either he was being uncharacteristically nice, or she missed something and didn’t patch them up as well as she could/should have, or something, she must be missing something (or so she thinks).

  4. The line “Water ran down over me and through my hair” was put there just for the people who thought he couldnt get water in his hair, wasn’t it??

    Also, what was up with that dissonance with Lillian? I will have to reread…

    • Dissonance: up to now (in the story) he never acted nice towards Lillian, kind of conditioning her to expect only criticism from Sly. Then he compliments her and that’s contrary to expected behavior. Which means Lillian is asking herself ‘did I hear correctly? How is he messing now with me? Was that a true compliment?’ and so on.

    • I feel like Wildbow edits his chapters to account for what people are talking about. Some of the stuff that Sy’s crew were talking about with regard to the clones reminded me a lot of what people in the comments were saying.

  5. I fear this may be a little redundant but I Feel I just need to say it again. I really like this cast. The more interactions we have and opportunities to learn about The Gang, the more I’m liking them.

    “If they are vat-grown,” Helen said, “Then they’d need training on other fronts. How to be human, basic niceties. How to use silverware, how to talk… it might not take too long, but they need to be able to pass.”

    Speaking from experience?

    Sylvester earns some Style Points for the Anonymous Letter signed in Blood. He also gains a few Bond Villain Stupidity points for using his own blood in a setting where blood and body parts are constantly being examined.

    • If those thorn pricks actually drew blood, then an forensic analysis team would pick it up from the thorns he used to scale the wall. It’s an ID that he’s already given up, so no point in further obfuscation on that front. Besides, If they were really intent on finding the identity of [Scribble] they’d ask the Academy guy about it, until then, he’s just an anonymous tip.

      It’s a gamble, sure, but so is everything else about the letter. (Can’t be sure Gordon/Helen/Jamie wouldn’t have some irregularities show up on an Academy investigation, for instance.)

      • All I’m saying is that the blood signature is an unnecessary style move, like (what I assume to be based on the internet tropes, I haven’t actually finished a film) Bond Villain.

        I’m not criticizing the move, just pointing it out. My midnight reading comprehension tells me it was more so for show and fun than actually useful verses the inherent risk.

        • Well, to be fair, if he is found, so what? We don’t know that there are blood records of everybody, especially the experiment kids, and I’m sure the Doctor… (Hayle, was it?) would be able to blow off an investigation or at least lay a smoke screen.

          I would be more worried about there being something especial in his blood that might raise eyebrows, or give a competitor or “enemy” (we don’t know who the bad guys are) an advantage.

          • If his blood is analysed, so what

            There may be something special in his blood that might raise eyebrows, or give a competitor or enemy an advantage

          • Well, if there are no records they could possibly try to match the blood samples they can get from everyone with the one left in the syringe or on the thorns. But that could require a competent and cool-headed investigation, and Sy’s gambling on nobody doing that (i.e. the Headmistress seing the letter, freaking out, and not showing it to anyone).

        • It’s just more fucking around with minds, because the headmistress will be asking the same questions ‘why signed in blood’?

        • The question here is, who’s she going to ask? The Academy? The one she has reason to suspect left a message in a fully locked room?

          If anything, she will believe that whoever left this message is pretty damn skilled, and probably has a lot of influence at the Academy. She will see going to the Academy for answers as going above her station in this case, and will avoid doing so, especially after weighing the risks of simply following the letter’s instructions.

          I’m reminded of Locke Lamora in what Sly just pulled off here.

        • I think he mainly did it to be intimidating to discourage the headmistress from telling anyone about the letter at all. You don’t mess with people who sign their name in blood.

    • Also for the part where he went off after Mary alone after implying that he was going to just check the records. Although, given the gang’s comfort with one another, everyone might just be expecting that.

      • Sylvester seems to like going further than his stated intentions. Not enough occurences to call it a pattern/MO yet, but getting there.

        It makes following his thoughts quite interesting, really.

        • It’s getting to habitual levels, yes. And, the way he does it looks primarily unconsciously driven: he throws rather complex wrenches in for kicks that part of him must have spent time computing, even if it’s not always let the rest of him in on it. 😛

    • The primary organizations (police and whatever the legal system is in that area, as well as Mothmont itself) who might be inclined to examine the blood are affiliated with the Academy. The Academy has reams of paperwork and files on him, and they’re the ones who sent him (and friends) there in the first place. If anyone is able to track it down to him specifically, Sylvestor has nothing to fear. If anyone is able to narrow it down slightly to “human with enhancements”, well, he did get into a room that is apparently completely locked, without really leaving any traces, and those vines of course couldn’t bear the weight of an adult, so… yeah, human with enhancements is probably spot on.

      Besides, I don’t think the Headmistress is going to want to show the letter to anyone.

    • Percy’s a teacher that was mentioned in 1.6, who was one of the two people sitting really close to the headmistress at lunch. Apparently he wasn’t Academy-trained, and teaches the younger years from the books.

      That would give him a good position to monitor his clones while they were at school, for sure. Since they seemed on target about a teacher being involved, I’m really wondering what, if anything, they’ve completely overlooked about the situation. Still, lots of new information to speculate on.

  6. Mmm. I only wonder why Sy went after Mary, rather than regrouping with the gang and then going after Mary. There is precious little he can do alone, and by his hypothesis of Mary acting as to avoid dissonance, I doubt he’ll get much of an opportunity to talk.

    If Sy needs back-up, he won’t get it. Jamie might figure out where to go, or he might not.

    • I bet Sy can run away faster than Percy or Mary could catch him, and now he has positive proof that Percy is the one behind it. Mary is likely to be sent back to the Academy tonight, so that her suspicions can be soothed. Besides, he’s not planning on going back tonight — the Scooby-Dooby-Doo’s are supposed to be feigning being upset about his “disappearance”.

    • Listening on that conversation will give him leverage on her and a better feel of the situation. He shouldn’t go farther than that, so no need for backup.

      Also, the other Lambs have to stay away from him to keep the illusion that Mary dealt with him and keep “the boys” occupied.

  7. So, an Indian Empire exists, and is implicitly distinct from the British empire that should be ruling India at this time. Did the Mughuls never fall in the Twigverse?

    • With an 1820 divergence point, the Mughals would have been at the height of their decline with everything that mattered basically owned by the British East India Company, I think? I’m thinking that they probably were able to acquire mad science that made the 1857 revolt successful.

  8. I find it interesting that Sly couldn’t remember that Gordan was not in the room for his talk with Jamie, and Jamie had to remind him of that, in a tone that indicates this is common.

    I think that part of his memory retention was sacrificed to enhance his manipulation and observation skills? It makes sense, to keep them all dependent on each other, to have them lose bits that the others cover, to make them much more reliant on covering the gaps for the others.

    So Sly lost memory and maybe strength too, gained manipulation of others/objects and creativity.

    Helen and Gordon got social blending in/acting, while Gordon got strength and Helen got something else? Not too sure yet what they lost, perhaps creativity for Helen? She seems to depend on the others to clue her in to what mask to don as the perfect actress.

    Jamie got Memory and lost speed. He seems slow to react to quickly shifting circumstances, as he forgot to put the book away in time, and speed in reacting is probably not as important for the walking memory banks to have.

    Anyone else think they have figured out what the others have had enhanced and taken away from? Please add to this comment so we can figure this out. 🙂

    Also, I do wonder if they had to have some parts of the brain rededicated to the new enhancements and that is why they lost some stuff and were designed to cover each other like that, or if that was also just a part of the experiment and they could have just made one person with all the skills? I think its likely that they probably would have made a perfect person if they could, so probably only small tinkers with the brain to get better in some areas by a lot.

    • I suspect that most of the work done on brains (at least with the Lambsbridge gang, but maybe also more generally in this setting) is more like neurochemistry than neurophysiology. I may be off the mark, but the repeated mention of fundamental ratios and the adjustments to them suggests that the Twigverse’s understanding of Academic sciences (or maybe even the “real” underlying metaphysics) is abstract and mathematical; organic systems of all kinds are built up from material or energetic primitives that combine and recombine to give rise to macro-level observable behaviors.

      When your craft is exercised by fiddling with things at the root of their reality, getting a twig of a particular shape is going to be tricky (though not impossible). I think this difficulty would ramp up rapidly with more complex systems like a brain. Therefore, I’d posit that the Gang’s brains behave in different ways without significant changes to the physical structures of the brain. After all, there’s already a lot of progress to be made in getting a perfectly normal brain to behave differently while remaining within the original operating parameters. Trying to introduce wholly new structures and functions seems less viable than convincing the brain to apportion its resources among various tasks in a different way.

  9. You know, as interesting as Sly/Sy is, I’m actually really interested in Lillian’s story as the odd-girl out of the whole group.

    Whenever they talk to her, it seems like it’s very practiced and thought out, almost unsure. Just a bit interesting to note.

    Sy’s thought are rather chaotic themselves, which ties into his bug metaphor, or they have a line of thinking that is shuffled enough that they merely appear chaotic to someone without the proper angle.

    I found the descriptions of his entering/leaving of the buildings to be a tad confusing in how he got there. The body-guy also seemed to imply he was riding something, rather than walking.

    • Let’s just say I am very interested in Twig’s Interludes, or whatever the equivalent is going to be this time around.

  10. “Glancing outside, I didn’t see any lights going on, suggesting that a faculty member might have seen the dark shape scaling the paler wall.”

    Might just be me but that reads a little oddly. Gives the impression that the lack of lights is suggestive of someone having spotted Sly, when that’s clearly not the case.

        • I second the comma-removal, but another approach is ‘any lights going on, which would have suggested’.

          While noting possible corrections:

          ‘bleeding in no less than five places’ -> ‘bleeding in no fewer than five places’
          (discrete number, rather than a quantity)

          ‘I had what I needed in two minutes. Mary Coburn’ area: it might be good to include a noun about the form of the records, to indicate that ‘notecards’ can’t refer to them. When I saw the mention of notecards soon afterward, I assumed that was referring to what he was dealing with at the moment got confused about whether Sy was carrying a box of records out of the records room or not, until I went back and confirmed the unrelated box of notecards with the names+addresses. (Mainly my fault for reading too quickly.)

          Non-suggestion comments:

          Happy to see Lillian’s input on the autopsy! *smiles*

          Experience with romance fiction is telling me that her confusion about Sy is a herald of romantic tension. Possibly not, granted, and there’s also the question of whether Gordon will influence anything there. I’m happy no matter which way those things go.

          Also happy about more clues about the six’s background. Ralph Stein isn’t the sixth, then, since ‘two corpses’… but then who is he?

          Percy being the controller has pretty much convinced me that this is a Conan Doyle type subplot, rather than a Christie type; we get to see the detective carrying out an investigation, but not deduce the same deductions in parallel (unless there’s some way of predicting Percy as the controller beforehand that I overlooked).

          *excitedly looking forward to the next part!*

  11. “I took a minute to empty the pen with the syringe, and then took another minute to refill the syringe with blood from a thorn-puncture in my palm.”
    Probably meant to fill the pen with blood there, not the syringe.

    • Pen with ink > syringe with ink > empty syringe > syringe with blood > pen with blood
      It’s implied by the first steps being explicitly described.

    • ” I couldn’t very well turn on the lights without the room illuminating and risking that people half of the Academy’s rooms *away* could see *it* through their windows.” – Would be my tentative suggestion, otherwise it isn’t the room illuminating specifically that is at risk, but the people seeing in the general sense out of their windows.

  12. So, we learned some interesting things about (what Lilian believes) their biotech is like. Firstly, it’s interesting that she thinks that a standard autopsy would detect accelerated growth, and apparently not just by noticing that the bones do not show healed mircofractures from spending over a decade in use. I’m not sure whether that means their autopsies are very thorough or their accelerated growth techniques are not especially good. For this particular task, it would obviously be preferable to switch off the growth acceleration once at the target age, so the technique must leave detectable signs even once the trigger chemical is gone. Quite possibly it causes neurons and such to grow when they normally wouldn’t, or otherwise causes things to grow in the wrong pattern, maybe causing early puberty or skipping puberty.

    Also, they apparently do not have the ability to install skills and such when creating things in vats. Or they do but only with severe side effects that make it nonviable for general use and highly detectable.

    With what we now know about the timeframe of the plan, the motive is getting fairly puzzling. That’s quite a long way in advance to target people, and he can’t be micromanaging enough to genuinely attempt a mass slaughter of important people. Also, if he’s doing most of the work off-site it’s not clear why he’d only put them in Mothmount. Though it’s quite possible he didn’t.

    • I’m sure it’d be very easy to simulate healed microfractures. You’re growing things like crazy in the first place, so just smack the test tubes around regularly, and whalaa!

  13. I see others are discussing improvements to the text, but I don’t see a defined typo thread, so…

    Typo Thread:


    notecards (2)
    usually note cards

    door, then

    • “our puppeteer went out of his way to risk a second close call”
      “our puppeteer went out of his way to not risk a second close call”
      In other words, the controller did something different to prevent the possibility of another close call.

    • Consistently you punctuate an incomplete sentence with a hyphen, as in “If she’s not going to her old friends-” Jamie started. Also in the next chapter I note the same for the conclusion of an interrupted sentence, “-isn’t making me feel any better!”

      That’s wrong, should be an em-dash (or if you want the speaker to pause, not just be interrupted, an ellipsis).

  14. Maybe it’s just the math geek in me, but I’m really wondering what the other Wollstone ratios are. I know the Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci sequence(one of the most popular ways to generating rational approximations of the golden ratio) are found all over the place in nature, but I can’t think of any other ratios that have such importance attached in real-world biology.

    Also, after marathoning all of Worm and the first 7 arcs of Pact, it feels nice to be reading twig serially from the beginning.

  15. So Sy managed to Dissonance Mary. And inadvertantly Lillian. Wonder when he’s going to get dissonance himself.

    Also if I read it right he’s a fill in for the two non-viable children?

    • Seems like it, so I guess they might have been meant to do something like what he does, or his skills are an attempt to make up for the lack of the non-viable kids.

      My wild guess is that one of them was kinda like what this Evette was described as, maybe more focus on some sort of planner, with the other more in line with what Sy said about shaking a box of bugs.

      But eh, I wouldn’t bet any money on that being even close to right.

      • I think it was on purpose. He just got done saying how he was purposefully doing that to Mary, and why, and then he looked back to see what Lillian’s reaction was after he did it to her.

      • The fact that his internal narration was initially confused by Lillian’s reaction implies that he wasn’t expecting that sort of response, and, by extension, the dissonance that caused it. The fact that he realized that it was dissonance later on confirms it- he would have known it was dissonance from the start if that was the reaction he was going for.

  16. So, as far as Sy know, the two “missing” from the group are indubitably dead, or there wouldn’t have been a reason to make him.

    Now taking bets on them not really being dead after all. 😉

    • Hasn’t it been explicitly said that dead humans can be brought back to life (or at least, “life” as a stitched) in this universe? That was one of the major Belfort’s of the century, right?

      • At the least, a voltaic person’s brain works very differently from a living person’s. Also note the thinking machines, and that they use living brains (optionally with inconvenient bits cut out) rather than once-died brains. In this case, other disadvantages aside, it’s fairly safe to assume that aspects of brain function essential for the project (e.g. ingenuity, creativity?) would have been seriously-to-unsalvageably impaired by death.

  17. Sy is pretty scary, here. He reminds me of the unholy offspring of Jack Slash and Tattletale.

    The comment on how Sy was made because of the failure of two other projects is…interesting. Professor Hayle implied that the group was originally designed with the idea of all six children working as a group, and that’s also been the running implication up until now. This, however, suggests that Sy was something of a bug patche that was greenlighted when it became clear that the other two weren’t going to make it. Maybe the project that made Sy was originally intended for something else, but then got adapted to fix the holes generated by the other two projects’ failures?

    This also implies that Evette wasn’t one of the other projects- the narration talks about the backs of two corpses, which implies that Sy had never even met the two failed projects. If Evette was one of the failed projects, she almost certainly would have come up when Sy thought about it here.

    Sy’s handling of Lillian is odd. In the first chapter, he spends a lot of time rankling her, and his contempt for the other assistant made it seem like the way he was acting around Lillian was due to a similar feeling. Here, however, he shows Lillian genuine respect, making it clear that he thinks of Lillian in a different way then he thinks of the other assistants. I’m beginning to suspect that the reason why he was so hung up about Lillian being an outsider in the first chapter was because he’s planning on changing that. As this chapter shows, she really does fulfill a vital role, and her personality balances surprisingly well with the rest of the group. The entire group would benefit greatly from making her a true member. Especially if they want to escape the Academy

  18. I have to say, there’s a lot less bad language in this one than in Pact. Yes, yes, I understand that many people cuss and that cussing in a story can be used to highlight how “edgy” a person is or how “bad” they are, but I’m just not a fan. In real life, I think the width and breadth of the English language give far more room for expression than chanting the same four or five words all the time as though they’re some sort of mantra that will somehow improve one’s life. I much approve of the way this story is going (not just in that vein, in all ways).

    • I think it’s because Sy and the others aren’t any older than 12 or 13, while in Pact, Blake(in the very beginning that I’ve read so far) is already 20. They’re still children, albeit enhanced in some ways, so it makes sense that they’d swear a lot less, if at all.

  19. So, Sy just stabbed a person with a letter opener precisely hard enough to pierce his pants but not cut the skin underneath. It was a flawless success. How can he pull that off, and still be bad at fighting?

    • Exactly. Someone that dextrous and good at climbing around and general parkour can’t be bad enough to consistently, always, get soundly beaten in every fight. He should have won one by now. I think it’s the long con, so that if or when he tries to run for it, nobody will expect him to be able to fight his way out of a wet paper bag.

    • It might be a mental block. He seems to have a lot of dexterity, even more fine physical control, and at least passable strength. However, his failure at combat seems to be genuine- he considers it a credit to himself when he takes several hits from Ed, and in this chapter he gets nervous when the man grabs him, even though he should, by all rights, have the upper hand.

      The fact that Sy himself doesn’t think that he could fight off the man points to mental tampering of some sort. Probably a part of his limitations designed to keep him dependents upon the Academy.

  20. “I couldn’t very well turn on the lights without the room illuminating and risking that people half of the Academy’s rooms could see through their windows.”

    It appears as if you started writing this sentence one way, changed your mind, and things got a little garbled. Or maybe the end of one sentence and the beginning of another were deleted, leaving two sentence fragments connected. Whatever happened, it’s odd and probably needs poking-at.

  21. Quick grammar thing: “farther” is for talking about physical distance, while further is for more abstract stuff. So, “He descended farther into the basement,” vs. “He descended further into madness.”

    Made here with “Trellis is closest further down that way.” I think it’s happened in some of the earlier chapters, too, tho I can’t remember the specific examples off the top of my head.

  22. Why does everyone think Sy was only created because 2 other children were unviable?

    My read on it is that all 6 were created,Sy was too chaotic and unpredictable,so he would be terminated,if there weren’t 2 projects worse off than him ,thus making his creator need him in order for the experiment not to crash and burn.

  23. I’m a little late to start reading, but I’m loving it so far. Smart characters that know how people work have always been my favorites!

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