Cat out of the Bag 2.3

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“I- I- Um,” Walter started.  He winced as Helen changed position, repositioning and squashing Walter’s future children in the process.  “Agh.”

“Start talking, Walter,” Gordon said, “We have all day.  You most definitely don’t.”

“I’m think- thinking,” Walter said.  “It’s kind of hard when-  Ow!  Augh.  I might… throw up.”

“I wouldn’t,” I commented, still giving our man a cold, dead look.  “Every second counts.  You need to give us something your father won’t.”

“What- who are you?”

“That’s not helping you, Walter,” Gordon said.  “You need to focus on the answers, not on coming up with questions.”

“I… what do you want to know?”

“That’s another question!” Helen chimed in, chirpy and cheerful, sounding just like a little girl on Christmas morning.

“Urrgh!” Walter grunted.  He kicked, twisting, very possibly deciding the momentary agony was worth pulling himself free of Helen’s grip.

He was underestimating how strong Helen’s grip could be.

The pain was bad enough that he did follow through on his promise of throwing up.  I winced a little in sympathy.

Mary leaned closer to me.  She murmured in my ear, “Why didn’t you send her after us like that?”

“Her musculature and joints are different,” I murmured back.  “In configuration and type.  Mostly, she’s bad at exerting a lot of strength very quickly.  She’s almost weaker than me when it comes to throwing proper punches, and that’s with her being bigger than me.”

“She’s almost weaker,” Jamie remarked, leaning in to join the conversation.

“I said almost!” I protested, annoyed.  “Geez.”

“Give her a few years and some practice, maybe she’ll be dangerous in a scrap,” Jamie said, ignoring me.

“If she can get her hands on someone, we’re good,” I said, not taking my eyes off Helen.  “You could use a prybar and you wouldn’t make her let go, and the sudden strength she can employ lets her take advantage of any openings.”

We watched our man flounder.  He was only just finishing puking.

“I-I thought there was going to be a trial,” Walter finally said.

“Who do you think we are?” Gordon asked.  “We’re your trial, Walter.”

Walter managed to focus, raising his head to peer at Gordon through disheveled red hair.

“We’re the Judge…” I said.  Really, really, hoping someone else would pick up the tail end of the statement.

“Jury,” Jamie said.

I love you, Jamie.

“And executioners,” Mary said.

You’re awesome, Mary.

“If need be,” Gordon tacked on.

Eh.  You’re alright, Gordon.

It made sense, to give the man a little hope, maybe, but I would have rather ratcheted up the tension another notch or two.  As it stood, the man looked like he couldn’t wrap his head around the idea, and Gordon’s softening of the blow wasn’t helping to hammer it through and make Walter’s situation crystal clear in his very confused mind.

“Executioner?”  Walter asked.

“You intentionally freed your little project, Wally,” I said.  “Gorger is out doing what Gorger does.  You know what Gorger does, right?”

“He cleans up messes,” Lil said, when Walter didn’t respond quick enough.

“He cleans up messes,” I said, staring Walter down.  “Well, Gorger’s doing just that.  But while he’s away, we’re here.  Filling in his shoes.  Are you going to help, Wally, or are you going to be a mess that Gorger’s temporary replacements need to clean up?”

I saw the light dawning in Wally’s eyes.  The realization.

Yeah.  You’re in a much, much worse situation than you thought.  All the pieces are fitting together.  You were wondering who these children are, and now I’ve connected the dots for you.  The only way it all makes sense is if we’re with the Academy, same as Gorger is.  When we talk about being possible executioners, you now know we’re telling the truth.

Now how are you going to react, knowing more than just your balls and dignity are on the line?

It was visible across his body.  The adrenaline rush, the fight-or-flight response.

He was a big guy, and as launched himself into a mindset that was all ‘survival’, the pain of being crushed between the legs apparently disappeared.  He flipped himself over, so he was on his back rather than all fours, and kicked at Helen.

I winced at that.  Not because Helen couldn’t take a bit of abuse, but because Ibott would get fussy and maybe hit me again.  That last bruise had taken a week to fade.

Helen was like a rag doll, sagging, leaning heavily to one side, letting herself be flexible enough that the relaxed motion absorbed the impact more than her head did.

Walter lurched forward, slamming Helen against the wall, forearm against her throat.

Mary started, as if she was going to run forward.  I put my hand out, stopping her.

Walter was tall, and he was muscular, probably someone who did sports to get away from the hassles and stresses of spending much of the week in the Bowels.  With his ruddy complexion, it was probably something like horseback riding or a field sport.  His belly suggested that it wasn’t all muscle, either.  Women tended to like a guy with a barrel chest, broad shoulders, and Walter was very much that.

All in all, our man was fourteen stone, maybe.  Maybe as much as seventeen.  Helen was less than half his weight, and he was leaning hard, the vast majority of his weight pinning her down, pressing down on her windpipe.  It made for an awkward, hunched position, as Helen still hadn’t let go of him.

Frantic, a little nervous, Walter looked back over one shoulder.  Worried about being attacked from behind.

Gordon hadn’t moved from the side of the table.  Lil, Mary, Jamie and I were all by the door.

Nobody was moving a muscle to react.  Even Mary had relaxed at my suggestion.

“This is looking more like a mess that really needs to be cleaned up,” Gordon commented, calm.  “Don’t hurt him too badly, Helen.  Even if he doesn’t decide to talk, the Academy could use him for raw materials.”

I couldn’t resist smirking at that line.  It was a good one.  Very Gordon.

Walter turned back to Helen, and found her smiling, sweet as she ever was, while he tried and failed to crush her throat, strangling her.

Slowly, he began to slip, huffing, panting, tearing at the eyes.  His arm moved, jerking.  He started to groan, and the groan became a scream.

Then he broke away, releasing her, falling onto his back.  One of his legs was twitching, as if the pain was bad enough it couldn’t stay still.

Helen released him, then grabbed one leg, holding it still while she wiped the blood off of her hand, where it had seeped through cloth.  She apparently didn’t think he was up to putting up a fight.

She flashed a smile to our little group by the door, rubbing at her throat.  She didn’t seem to be having trouble breathing.

Gordon, for his part, stood over Walter, looking down.  Walter would be seeing him upside down.  The man was heaving in breaths.

“People died, Walter,” Gordon said.  “The blame is going to fall on your shoulders.  Other students are going to think it makes them look bad.  The Academy is going to want to make an example of you.  Just to be safe.  Because this sort of thing can’t happen again.  Not with regularity, not ever.”

Walter shook his head.

I chimed in.  “When a mistake happens, that’s bad.  But intentional sabotage?  Boy oh boy, Walter.  Not good.”

“And… I’m supposed to talk, get you to take… take it easier on me?”

“That ship might have sailed,” Gordon said.  “But given where you are right now?  Circumstances and all?  I’d really recommend trying.”

“They… we spent a long time talking about it.  Hypotheticals.  What if.”

“What if you let something loose?”

Walter nodded.  “We, my dad and I, we… I almost didn’t attend the Academy.  There were problems, my… dad never liked it.  But we thought I’d join, I’d see how it was, what could be done.”

“Destroy it from within?”

Walter made a face, like he was going to laugh, but there was only pain and agony instead.

“Well?” Gordon asked.

“No.  We didn’t think that big.  The Crown has come closer than anyone, anything, to actually controlling the world.  The Academies are what let them do it, mostly.  I’m… I’m strong, smart, but not so damn deluded that I think I can destroy them, damn it.  Damn it.”  His voice cracked with those last two words.  Emotion.

“Take them down a peg, maybe,” Gordon said.

Walter nodded a little.  He let out a little whimper of a sound, looked over toward me, Jamie, and Mary.  “Was going to steal some books, make a run for it, go to another country, sell the knowledge for enough to get rich.  My father had everything ready, I thought.  But I didn’t get far enough.”

“Every student thinks about how much they could get for the sort of knowledge the Academy has,” Jamie said, holding his book and the file that Hayle had given us.  “Not many actually try it.”

“It’s suicidal,” Lillian said.  “You had to know you’d get caught.”

“We talked ourselves into it,” Walter said, he gave us a smile, one that was awfully sad.  Self-pitying.

“Just you and your dad?” Mary asked.  “That’s as far as it went?”

Walter made a sound of pain, by way of response.

“Doesn’t really make sense,” Mary said.  “Him going this far, using his own son as a tool, then discarding his son as soon as he got caught.”

It doesn’t make sense because it’s a lie, I thought, tensing up a little bit.  Maybe we shouldn’t make Wally think too hard about it.

Walter wasn’t responding.  I wondered if he was in the process of passing out.

“Why did he care so much about the Academy?” Mary asked.

Still pushing…

“He… he’s powerful, he’s rich, but he’s only a man in the middle,” Walter responded.  “Servant to the people, servant to the Academy.”

“Servant,” Jamie echoed him.

Walter nodded.

“And it bothers him so much he’d sacrifice you as a pawn,” Mary said, her voice soft.

Was Mary clutching too hard to her past, failing to see and interpret this situation for what it was?

If it was the case, if I couldn’t fix it, then she was useless to us.

We’d have to discard her, and I’d have to admit to Hayle that I’d been wrong to invite her.

I was in the process of trying to analyze that situation when I realized that Walter hadn’t replied.

I looked at Jamie, then Gordon, then Helen.

Were they all thinking the same thing I was?

I decided to prod, knowing it was no longer Mary that was risking pushing him too far and shattering our deception here, but me.  If I got this wrong, it would be my fault.

I looked at Lil, “Want to step outside and pass that on?  If Wally Gund’s daddy is that angry, it’s something they can use in the interrogation.”

Lil frowned, but nodded.

Gordon withdrew the key from his pocket and threw it.

Our field medic moved to catch it.  Mary seemed to sense that Lillian would miss, and caught it instead, before handing it over.

Lillian smiled at Mary before letting herself out.

Our man, crumpled on the ground, fearing for his life, red faced and sweating, was watching the door, focusing on Lillian, who had just left.


Why did it feel like Walter was the one concerned with this lie about his father standing up?  Not about himself, not about reconciling who his dad was, or the betrayal…

He was lying about something.

Gordon opened his mouth to speak, I moved my hand, where it was right by my pocket, a small spreading of my fingers, and the motion was enough to catch Gordon’s eye.

“Tell me, Wally, do you really think what you’ve given us is good enough?”

“It’s true!” Walter said, suddenly alarmed.

People rarely sounded more like they were lying than when they protested like that.

Maybe,” I said, stressing the word.  “But it’s not the whole truth.”

“I don’t know what you want from me,” he said.

“Me?” I asked.  I stepped closer, spreading my arms a little.  “I don’t want much of anything.  I admit, it would be easier if you talked and gave us something juicy.  I could take whatever you said to people who matter, and that would make for less clean up work for us.  The only thing that matters here is you.  The only one you can depend on is you.  The one who suffers the worst the Academy has to offer, if you don’t convince your jury here…”

“Me,” he said.

I nodded slowly, putting my hands in my pockets.

“You’re not supposed to talk about what happens down in the Bowels of the Academy,” Helen said.  “But people do it anyway, don’t they?  You know the sort of things the Academy can do.”

He was starting to break, now.  I could see it.

Before long we could well have a grown man weeping.

I could have said it was okay, if only because he’d killed people by releasing Whiskers, but the truth was I didn’t care all that much.

I didn’t feel bad, no pit in my stomach, no pain for my fellow man.

Maybe a bit of sympathy pain for what Helen had done to him, but that was something else altogether.

He was only another job.

The door lock clicked, and the door opened.  It was heavy enough that Mary had to help Lil to pull it open.  She rejoined us.

I held my hand where Walter couldn’t see it, and beckoned Lil.

She hesitated, most likely because she didn’t trust me, but she did eventually summon the courage to come close.  I leaned close, and managed to make it look like her bringing her mouth to my ear was her idea.

To Lil’s credit, she got what I was trying to do.  She whispered in my ear, “It’s really creepy being out in the hallway alone.”

I nodded, smiling.

“Don’t smirk,” she whispered, sounding annoyed.

I turned to Walter, as if it was a logical progression from the whispering.  “Your dad is talking.  There are others involved.  He hasn’t named names, but he will.”

“He-” Walter started.  He stopped himself.

“He what?” I asked, noting that Walter hadn’t told me I was wrong.  “You don’t think he’ll say?”

“I agree with my friend there,” Gordon said.  “I want to do this without blood and cleaning.  It means I can go back outside and enjoy the nicest day Radham has seen since last fall.  Your father will talk.  He’ll continue selling you upriver, and he’ll name names.  Do us all a favor, here.  Talk.  Share what we need to share, our Academy student over there has the skill and the tools to mend some of the damage Helen did to you and give you complete and total relief from the pain, you get to live, and we get to go out and enjoy a very nice day.”

“I don’t-” Walter said.  I was suspecting we’d pushed him too far.  He wasn’t operating like he should.  “I…”

“There is no good ending if you don’t wake up and act,” Mary said.  “Stop thinking of him like a father.  Start focusing on yourself.  That’s all you should do right now.  Focus on you.

“And us,” I pointed out.  “Judge, jury, blah blah.  Getting on our good side is smart.”

“I don’t-” Walter said again.

Is he completely broken?

“I don’t need her help,” Walter said, looking at Lil.  “I’m Academy trained.  I’m older.  I can do the work myself.”

Got him.

“You’re assuming we’ll let you have tools to attack us with,” Gordon said.

Walter paled visibly, making the redness in his cheeks, chin, and the center of his forehead more pronounced.  Fear.  He was in the palm of our hands.

“Sorry,” the man said.

Gordon’s voice was calm, gentle, “It’s fine.  You can have everything you want.  We’ll let you patch yourself up, administer the medication.  We can even leave you something, if you want help sleeping, so you don’t have to lie awake wondering what’s going to happen.”

“We can’t let you leave, of course,” I said.

“Of… course, yes.”

“Now, before we get a call and a knock on the door saying that your father spilled the beans…” I said, trailing off.

Walter hung his head.  “It wasn’t father who instigated it.  He and I were roped in together.  My access, my father’s money and resources.  My friend, he works on other projects, but he was part of it too.  Keller.”

He seemed to find the singling out of his friend the hardest thing to do.

“The instigator was a man called Reverend Mauer.”

“He’s local,” Jamie said.

“As of recently.  He wanted more access to… he dislikes the Academy.  He says it’s a perversion.  Which it is, but-”

“Are you calling me a perversion?” Helen asked, still in her best ‘good girl’ voice.

Again, Walter paled.

I signaled Helen to back off, a flick of my fingers, as if I were shooing something away.  Hands behind her back, she sauntered backward until she stood in a corner.

“Keep talking,” Gordon said.

Walter nodded.  “It’s not about stopping the Academy.  I don’t think anyone can do that, even the Academy itself.  Even the Crown.  But if we could make people wake up, let them know what’s happening inside the walls of the Academies, here in the dungeons, other things in other areas…”

He trailed off, as he stared at Gordon.

One of those other things.

“…There’s no way you let me go,” Walter belatedly realized.  He looked at each of us in turn.

“You killed people.  Academy students.  Some were connected, some weren’t.  Some of the people you tried to wake up are going to die, if we can’t stop…”

“Whiskers,” I said.


“Yeah,” Walter said.  “I thought…”

He was acting like he was very, very tired.  I might have suspected blood loss, but it was more likely his emotions had taken too many turns, and now he was running out of steam.  It was defeat that was the telling blow, here.

“You weren’t thinking,” Mary said.  “You don’t seem like a man with a plan.  You were convinced to take action, your dad joined in.  Your friend, too.  How do you step back and realize what you’re doing is wrong, when everyone around you is caught up in it, agreeing with it and spurring you on?”


“When you think back to the person or thing that was pushing you forward the hardest, stepping in when you started to have doubts, was it the Pastor?”

“Mauer?” Jamie asked.

Walter nodded.

“You told him things you shouldn’t?” Gordon asked.

Another nod.

“Things the Academy would prefer were kept under wraps.”


Gordon looked at Jamie.  “You know where this guy is?”

“Yeah.  Hear about him sometimes.  If I think about it, I think I even know his routine.”

“Good man,” Gordon said.

“Tell us about the monster, Walter,” I said.  “What was the end goal?”

“Means to an end,” Walter said.  “That’s all.  We wanted to do work on senses, but we couldn’t get budget without giving the Academy a weapon.  We made… Whiskers.”

“Making it a weapon, you had to justify it,” I said.  “How it operates, how it’s meant to be used.”

“Low cost from raw to vat.  Relatively short time.  They come out at half size, and steadily grow over the course of days as long as food is available.  After a few more development cycles, we thought it could be something we mass produced, dropped or deployed near enemy lines.  Up pressure, soldiers can’t go to use the latrine alone, have to move in groups of two or three if there are full sized ‘Whiskers’ around.”

“Just tell us it’s not pregnant,” I said.

Walter shook his head.  “Male.”

I exhaled in relief.

“No tricks to catching it?  Weak points?”

“No,” Walter said.  “Fire, maybe.  Even then, I’m not sure, and it can sense heat from one hundred and fifty meters away, even ambient body heat.  I don’t think you’re going to catch it.  I don’t think the Academy is going to catch it.”

“But you said something about other development cycles,” Lil said.  “Why?  If it’s that good, why did it need more work?”

“Lifespan,” Walter said.

“Tell us it’s hours,” I told him.

He shook his head.  “Weeks.  Maybe months.  We never got around to it with this version.”

I exchanged glances with the others.

A long moment passed, and nobody volunteered any more questions.

Gordon walked away from Walter, gesturing at Lillian.

Lillian, for her part, stepped over to the table, reached into her bag, and fished out a syringe and two small pills.  They were lumpy; she’d probably made the pills herself.

“Needle for the pain,” she said, as she continued rummaging in her bag.  “Pills for sleep.  I’ve got a fresh, sharp scalpel I was saving for surgery.”

“Lillian,” Gordon said.


“No scalpel.  Nothing he could use on himself.”

“But-  Oh.”

“Hayle or the other professors might want something more from him.”

“The syringe is probably a bad idea too,” Lil said.  “I’m going to use it and then take it with me, okay?”

Walter nodded.

“You won’t grab me?”

He shook his head.

When Lil turned around to double check, it was me she looked at.  I was a little surprised.

I nodded.

Lillian ejected a bit of fluid from the needle, bent down and used her fingers to measure spacing, touching the base of Walter’s gut.  She jabbed the needle in, then depressed the plunger.

He didn’t move or grab at her as she finished up and backed away.

She fled back to us, double time, finding safety in the assembled group.

Gordon opened the door, we stepped out into the hallway, and we waited while he locked the door.

“Mauer lives and works at the church on Flax avenue,” Jamie said.

“We’ll update Hayle before we leave,” Gordon decided.

We moved in formation, heading for the spiral staircase.

“Mary,” Gordon said.


“That was good work.  Really.  I had doubts, but… good job.”

Mary didn’t seem able to find words.  She nodded, a little too fast.

“I thought you were going too hard on him, but turned out to be just right,” I commented.

She had to turn around to give me a smile, and it proved to be a hesitant one, as if she thought I might pull a ‘just joking!’ on her.  But I didn’t say anything more, and she smiled again, with the expression sticking this time.

Jamie reached out and tapped Mary’s head with his book.  She flinched, maybe a bit too much, but then she saw his small smile.  The playfulness.

He hugged his book, and she turned away, walking with a bit more bounce in her step, close enough to Lillian that their arms touched.  The camaraderie there was already established.

Helen, walking beside me, was the only one who didn’t say anything, but she was the furthest one from Mary, in a manner of speaking.

Still, I didn’t need to interfere.  Better to let her have her taste of the group, like this.  If we could give her a sense of belonging that she hadn’t had with the puppeteer, there was a possibility that he could come back, reaching out, and she wouldn’t want to leave.

As a group, the six of us headed up the stairs, back to the closest thing to daylight that Radham ever got to enjoy.

Off to see our Reverend Mauer, I thought.  He has the ears of the masses, a way with words, and a hell of a lot to say.

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77 thoughts on “Cat out of the Bag 2.3

  1. I had to reread that to make sure they didn’t just give him a lethal injection and sauntered out.
    Sy’s little mastermind schemes getting tangled around the other Lambs’ plans is kind of funny, especially given how terrifying it must look from the outside.

  2. I almost want to see Jamie’s books burn – just to see what would happen. What would happen when Jamie gets mad….

    Also, why does Sy calls Lillian by her full name instead of the “Lils” as before?

    • That was one of my thoughts, too. Although they’re clearly outsiders on account of being experiments, this is the first time we’ve had protagonists who started out on the side of The Man. I noticed it last chapter, too, where they were joking with Dog and Catcher — in some ways it felt like Worms’ chapters with the Wards.

      • I gotta say, this dynamic makes it feel more interesting. With Pact, it felt like there was never a chapter where blake wasn’t the underdog. Worm, of course, did a pretty great job of balancing.

      • My question is: Will they stay with “The Man” or will they defect. Looking at these characters it’s not totally unreasonable to assume that they stay at the Academy.

    • That, and (though possessing a strong valuing of and loyalty to friends) _without_ a strong do-gooder sense of ethics/justice/’right’, as least as far as we’ve seen so far. A pleasing change of scene!

  3. So, from the “Crown” and the general English-ness, I stand by my belief of “Super biotech British Empire.” They probably just reconquered their lost colonies with the power of Frankenstein.

    Doesn’t quite explain “dollars.” Does anyone know the British Empire’s policies towards foreign currencies? I know they tended to act as guarantors of trade and would try to keep their traders very much under their control…

    • It also fits with the use of stone as a weight measurement. What do they normally use in Canada? As far as I was aware stone is mostly used in the UK, with pounds in the USA and kilos elsewhere. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently trying to write my own stuff: what measurements to use? How do you choose without damaging suspension of disbelief? I think the worst option would be to use some kind of imaginary measurement that you then have to explain (“He weighted 12 shenkels.”), but if you have an international audience on the internet there’s no one system that everyone finds intuitive.

      • Since most English language movies are made in the US. Most people who use other measurements are still somewhat comfortable with us style imperial measurements or at least used to them being used. As far as imperial vs metric. Stones isn’t used as often even in the UK anymore. Doctors offices all ask for your weight in kg, and they are used to seeing metric anytime they travel. I would still stick with us measurements unless you are trying to set the story in Europe though, since other countries are used to it and Americans definitely aren’t.

      • Ounces, pounds and stones are now almost entirely phased out: Britain has been metric for well over twenty years. The process started in the 60s (some industries and research fields started even earlier) and got official in the 80s.

      • What do they use in Canada? Well, “stone” is a foreign term for body weight here. It’s exclusive to the UK, as far as I can tell. In Canada, if you ask someone how much they weigh, they are almost always going to answer in pounds. We use kilograms for official measurements, but pounds are still used regularly for lots of things. Go to the store, and meat and grocery prices are shown in cost per pound predominantly, with cost per kilo (or per 100 grams for higher-priced items) shown as well in a smaller font. Interestingly, though, we have no idea how much an ounce weighs, and have think about it to remember how many ounces there are in a pound (if we know at all).


      • Pardon? If we’re talking world in which the American Revolution and War of Independence never occurred, the British Empire would not be using a slang term for the Spanish dabloon as established, local currency. It might be still around as the dabloon (depending on how the Spanish territories fare), but the dollar as you know it would not exist at all.

        However, if we’re talking an Anglo-Dutch Empire (say, if things with William and Mary had gone radically off-script, or something)… things may be rather different. 🙂

          • Where do you get that from? Mary Shelly didn’t have a lot of American in her system… Her alternate-self could well have been born, regardless of Revolutionary success/failure/none of the above. :/

          • Hm, point. I forgot the divergence point isn’t just 1821, it’s “Shelley figures out how to raise the dead in 1821,” implying some different life experiences on her part.

          • Let me put it another way: in a world where the French, American and Haitian revolutions either didn’t take off the ground, stalled or just produced failed states that all turned back to their various crowns… where would the Romantic movement be? What discipline would the mad, bad and dangerous to know experiment with ideas?

    • The real question is, why isn’t the entire world under the Crown already? From what is implied in this bit, the non-crown nations are lagging when it comes to biotech, and from “The Enemy” we know that the Academies guard their secrets jealously.

      I suspect that if “guns and steel” tech in the twig-verse ever reached WW1 levels, the bio-tech monsters of the British Empire would become far less effective.[1]

      [1] From what is implied, I suspect the general technology level outside biotech is only 1850s level at best.

      • Maybe they just haven’t gotten around to it? You don’t conquer the world in a day. Or maybe the rest of the world isn’t as backwards as we are led to believe. Maybe their weaponry is better, as you suggest, or tackle the whole biotech thing from a different angle (cultivating viruses and bacteria and selecting for most dangerous?)

        • There’s also stability issues as far as maintaining rule, even with biotech. Not to mention that if biological weapons only require information and rudimentary tools to make then limiting the volume of equipment they field is really important to ensure that they stay a step ahead of everyone else when weapons and techniques get inevitably stolen.

      • From the “Indian Empire” mentioned a little while back, I’m guessing that they’re a little held up by independence revolts.

  4. Sy is very dependent on having a group to back him up.

    Some point over the course of this story he’ll have to go an extended time alone.

  5. Really, really loving Helen here, smiling sweetly while someone’s trying to kill her. Just there. Smiling…
    The whole judge, jury, and executioner thing was adorable. I like how the interrogation seemed somewhat light-hearted, where they take it seriously but not overly serious.Wonder how their attitudes will change, if at all, when things get worse.

  6. My heart skipped a beat when Lillian went out alone. “Oh no… next thing our group is going to find is a blood smeared wall, with bits of gut and fat clumped all over it”. I was really, really worried! She was all alone, which is what this monster likes. Glad she is safe.

    Thank you for the chapter! I wonder if Wally is having future children… Nah, the Academy won’t let him go :/

  7. Someone care to give a “stone” to lbs conversion or something?

    Also, 14-17 stone seems like a terrible estimate for his weight.

    Good job jamie and mary!!! I’d be PISSED if no one continued that for me.

  8. I’m thinking Reverend Mauer, Daddy & Walter are going to get an upclose and personal experience as target practice for Academy Projects or subjected to processing into parodies of religious icons.

  9. Nice interrorgation chapter. We find out a bit more, and it seems like Mary is figuring out her own methods, even if Sy was worried a bit. We also go confirmation that the Academy is most impressed by weapons. I wonder which will come first, the Crown trying to take over the rest of the world, or the collapse that keeps being predicted.

  10. I have a question that’s not related to twig, but I didn’t know where is to put it without making its chances of being answered near-zero.
    It’s a worm-related question (rot13’ed for obvious spoiler-ific reasons. If you are unfamiliar, go to ** and copy-and-paste the following to decypher it)

    Fb, va jbez, V erzrzore gurer orvat pybarf bs Zbagba naq inevbhf fvorevna-vfu cebwrpgvbaf (fhpu nf bar gung ybbxf yvxr znagba uvzfrys engure guna n srznyr). V nyfb erzrzore gung jura gnlybe ynfg(?) fnj gurz, fbzr bs gur cebwrpgvbaf jrer nyernql gbhpuvat gurve znagbaf. Fb, zl dhrfgvba vf jung unccrarq gb gurz? Be zber fcrpvsvpnyyl- ubj qbrf bar xvyy/orng gurz? V qba’g *guvax* gurl jrer cerfrag qhevat gur onggyr ntnvafg fpvba, ohg V pbhyq or jebat. Vs V’z evtug, gurl jrer orngra fbzrubj, evtug?

    The reason I’m asking is because for a really ….unique school project, I need to come up with viable ways to defeat and/or kill someone who has a similar power to siberian (nf va, fvorevna’f cbjre, abg znagba’f novyvgl gb cebwrpg n fvorevna). From what I gather from the info the professor gave us, it’s pretty much the same power as described in worm, and I (along with my partner who also read worm) instantly thought we were actually talking about siberian at first.

    I need to develop an actual feasible method and detail it in my report, so “God powers to ignore this person’s power!” isn’t viable, as in the setting we’re given- something similar to “manton effect” is universal and absolute (but only applies to people with powers), so other made-up powers can’t directly impact the body of the person with the power. The examples given were- Sumner can throw anyone without powers with his telekinises. He can, however, throw a powered person’s clothes, or cause a powerful gust of wind to throw a powered person. Also, If someone had an ability that is “to crush anyone”, it would not apply to powered people, since the power itself is being directly acted upon a powered individual. However- someone with super-strength can crush a powered person, because the power is being activated on the weilder themselves, and the crushing of a powered person is only an effect of the action- not a direct effect of the power itself.

    There IS extra credit if I can find a way to beat/kill this person without using superpowers, which is what I originally was aiming for- but my partner and I have hit a road block and we’re just trying to figure out SOMETHING.
    I can do all the evil math-ish calculations and required resources myself, I just need an idea to start from.
    Help? Please?

    • Just brainstorming here:
      —Cbjre tbg n enatr? Zbir gur cebwrpgbe.
      —Cebwrpgvba nssrpgrq ol tenivgl? Tenivgvp ohooyr gb pbagnva vg. Rira rnfvre, qebc vg va n qrrc, jvqr ubyr naq qebc n ohapu bs fnaq ba gbc bs vg – jvgubhg obgu tbbq bevragngvba naq tbbq qvttvat fxvyyf, vg jvyy cebonoyl gnxr ybgf bs gvzr sbe vg gb svther bhg ubj gb trg gb fbyvq fhesnprf vg pna hfr.
      —Zrff jvgu gur cebwrpgbe (qehtf, fyrrc, qrngu, qvfgenpgvba, rgp.).
      —Jung frafrf vf gur cebwrpgvba ehaavat? Hfr qrovyvgngvat fbhaq, synfuonatf, qnexarff svryqf, fxhax fcenl, rgp.
      —Jung frafrf bs gur cebwrpgbe pna or sbbyrq? Vyyhfvbaf.
      —Vf gur cflpubybtl bs rvgure cebwrpgbe be cebwrpgvba xabja? Oevorel, oynpxznvy, guerngf, qvfgenpgvbaf, erqverpgvba, rgp.
      —Gehzc cbjref: pbclpngf, ahyyvsvref, zvaq pbageby, cbegnyvat (cebonoyl zber).
      —Xabja jrnxarff? Cebwrpgvbaf znl or qvfehcgnoyr ol yrffre cbjref.
      —Xrrc njnl. Tbg gjragl crbcyr, rnpu bs jubz pna qvfgenpg vg sbe n frpbaq? Frg hc n ebgngvba.
      —Fhzzba Pguhyh. Tbg fbzrguvat ryfr bs rdhvinyrag anfgvarff lbh pna qverpg? Yrg gurz cynl jvgu rnpu bgure.

      • Most of those won’t work. Mind control/copying/nullifying (number 7) is ruled out by the setting’s rules, and nyfb, vg vfa’g n cebwrpgvba va guvf fpranevb, fb lbhe 1fg, 3eq naq 8gu fhttrfgvbaf qba’g jbex.
        Fvorevna pna vtaber tenivgl, naq pna rkgraq vaivapvovyvgl gb guvatf vg gbhpurf fb vg qbrfa’g arrq n fbyvq fhesnpr gb fgnaq ba, fb ahzore 2 vf bhg.
        4 naq 5 frrz ivnoyr, 6 qrcraqf ba ubj zhpu lbh xabj nobhg cfrhqb-Fvorevna’f onpxtebhaq/cnfg/qrfverf (bgurejvfr lbh pna’g guerngra/oynpxznvy rgp.).
        9 eryvrf ba gur cebwrpgvba orvat rnfvyl qvfgenpgrq naq cerggl fghcvq, ohg pbhyq jryy jbex va gur fubeg grez.
        10… frrzf ernfbanoyr, gubhtu npghny Pguhyuh jbhyq or xvaqn fghcvq nf lbh jbhyq unir yrg Pughyuh vagb gur jbeyq.

    • Blind the Siberian-esque individual with darkness or smoke, or hfr Pybpxoybpxref cbjre ba ebcr/punvaf gb ovaq gurz (which was an idea suggested in-story), or just slow down time in that area (unless that is against the rules in the 4th paragraph).
      You also might be able to get them to enter some kind of pocket dimension/other dimension/go through a portal to another world and throw away the key. However, gur cbpxrg qvzrafvba zvtug abg jbex, nf Pnpur nggrzcgrq gb hfr uvf cbjre ba Fvorevna naq snvyrq.

      • Just an update to everyone who responded- THANK YOU!!!

        We felt soooo stupid for not thinking of poison/getting rid of oxygen around the person. The pocket-dimension one was another good idea, but we couldn’t just whisk him away, it had to be an open portal and he’d have to enter it, instead of just some “poof-and-you’re-gone” thing.

        We could have had the portal open directly underneath the person, which solves the “not directly affecting other powered people” problem, but we weren’t sure how to start the equations, probability theory, and physics behind it, and the other option (poison gas/taking away oxygen) was easier to calculate and gave us the extra credit for not needing another powered person.

        Our solution was to bring him into an enclosed area on the higher floor of a building, then set fire to the place starting at the ground floor. Before the person became aware of the fire, use a fire-extinguisher on him to displace the oxygen around him, which disorients him and limits the oxygen his brain is receiving, thus allowing him to not make decisions as accurately as he normally would. In theory, by the time he recovered, one just needs to exit the building, and the floor he’s on should eventually crumble, dropping him into the parts of the building where the fire is the worst, and since he was already oxygen-deprived at that point, he is less likely to think of smashing the ground to get below the fire and escape through the foundation under ground. In the event of him running out in full force and escaping the burning building, toss some CS grenades his way (or other chemical that reduces ability to breathe, in case his power protects from CS specifically, as it’s basically just a bunch of tiny sharp particals that scratch and iritate the lungs) before he can recover and catch his breath.
        He’ll either pass out, die, our become a non-issue for a time.

        I can’t believe neither of us thought of anything like that before, so once again- THANK YOU SO SO MUCH!

    • Gur Fvorevnaf jrer xvyyrq ol Grpgba qrfgeblvat gur tebhaq haqre gurz, ybfvat pbagnpg jvgu gur Obk gur Fvorevnaf jrer ubyqvat (juvpu pbagnvarq gur Znagbaf), naq gura gur Gunaqn qebccrq n Fxlfpencre ba gur obk. V’z fgvyy nfxvat zlfrys jul gurl qvqa’g unir n Fvorevna va gur Obk.

      For your question, it depends if the person still is affected by gravity. Some ideas here:
      Nssrpgvat gur tebhaq nebhaq gur crefba, gung frrzf gb or gur orfg jnl. Rira vs Fvorevna pbhyq cebwrpg ure cbjre ba gur tebhaq, vg fgvyy unq ab hayvzvgrq enatr.

      Gel guebjvat gur crefba, nybat jvgu gur tebhaq ur vf fgnaqvat ba rvgure va gur bprna be n ihypnab. Rira vs gurl jba’g qvr vg jvyy arrq n ybg bs gvzr sbe gurz gb rfpncr. Be orggre, uhey gurz fgenvtug vagb gur fha. Rira vs gurl pna’g qvr, gurl nyfb pna’g qvr.

      By the way, I have my own question to Worm and I would like to use the opportunity to ask (even if it requires more or less Word of God):
      Ubj fzneg vf Penjyre. Ur bsgra npgf nf n zvaqyrff oehgr, ohg jvgu uvf cbjre naq zbgvingvba ur qbrfa’g arrq gb, vg jbhyq rira unez uvz gb or pnershy. Fb ubj jnf ur zragnyyl.
      Nyfb jnf uvf zvaq punatrq ol uvf cbjre?

    • You should ask on the Wildbow subreddit, this is the kind of thing that gets great responses there.

    • To make it easier to read these long rot13 spoilers, I wrote a free chrome extension to decypher it in-place. Hope it makes things easier!


  11. More than anything, what interests me about Twig is the character arc of Sy. Wildbow’s previous stories were about gur znva punenpgre fnpevsvpvat ure be uvf uhznavgl va beqre gb npuvrir uvf be ure tbnyf. Fl vf nyernql vauhzna, fb uvf nep pnaabg or gur fnzr. Rot13 encoded because possibly spoilery about Worm and Pact.

      • That makes sense, and its what I’m leaning towards. Either way it shakes out, it should be interesting.

    • Can someone explain the code for the gibberish. I’ve seen it in alot of these comments and I feel kinda left out of something.

      • Don’t worry- it’s not nearly as well-known as you think.

        It’s a relitively simply Caesar-cypher that is short for “Rotate by thirteen”. Basically, you take each letter and move it to the thirteenth letter after that. “abcd” and “mnop” become “nopq” and “zabc” respectively.

        You can go to in order to cypher/decypher text. You are warned though that something rot13’d will likely contain spoilers and/or things you don’t want to read.

  12. Bit off topic, but anyone know of a firefox extension that will automatically decipher rot13? Copy and Pasting non-editable text is a royal pain when you’re reliant on a keyboard and screen reader to use the Internet.

  13. Keller, eh? I’m sure he’s a different character entirely but i can’t hep but to imagine a faerie torture apprentice running around. I wonder if he specializes in nervous systems.

  14. Am I the only one who really wants to read about warfare in twigverse, with Whiskers’, Dog, Frankenstein, and associates fighting ordinary soldiers?

    • I wouldn’t rule seeing something like that out before the end. Though change ordinary soldiers with helpless citizens fleeing in terror.

      Come to think of it, would there even be ordinary soldiers anymore? Or would they give them at least a little modification before sending them off?

  15. “Jury,” Jamie said.
    I love you, Jamie.
    “And executioners,” Mary said.
    You’re awesome, Mary.
    “If need be,” Gordon tacked on.
    Eh. You’re alright, Gordon.

    Ah, Sy. You’re still my favorite Lambsbridger.

    Mary really doesn’t know what she’s doing. Sensible, understandable, but maybe Sy should have coached her before she started coming along to interrogations.
    Speaking of whom, I really like how Mary’s past is showing so clearly through her dialogue, how she chooses her barbs. I wish more authors could do stuff like that.

  16. I am starting to get the feeling that the phrase “I love the interactions between the characters” is going to become an old one. The way they play off of each other an react as a cohesive unit, the way that even though they show doubt in the past and Know of their screw ups they still trust each other, that Gordon defers to Sy, the way they play their naming game even in the middle of it. Still children to some extent but a cohesive unit that knows how and when to work with each other. God damn I’ve missed this story

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