Lips Sealed 3.6

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The hallway was wide enough that Jamie and I could have held hands and stretched our arms out to either side and only barely touched both walls.  The ceiling was high enough that Sub Rosa didn’t have to stoop down to avoid banging her head.

Gorger filled the entirety of that space.  His physical structure was organized to let him move forward at a good speed with the use of his arms and legs.  Abrasive skin, thick enough that bullets would be stopped or slowed, resistant to fire, resistant to chemicals, and immune to all known forms of disease.  His body was hostile to parasites, and his stomach was a holding chamber for tough specimens, a compactor for smaller ones.  His weak points had been minimized, and the ones that could be buried deep within his center of mass were.  The remainder of him was self sustaining and built to last.  Raw mass and power for the sake of such.

No exit.

We backed up until we were nearly touching him.

“Hi Gorger,” Gordon said, “Good to see you, mate.”

“Mm,” Gorger grunted.

“You’re in our way,” I said.

“Mm,” he grunted.

Sub Rosa was approaching, one hand pressed to the one side of her head where the injuries were more severe.  She moved in a jerky fashion, unpredictable, lunging and lurching forward in a zig-zag fashion, every movement violent, and the convicts were keeping their distance.

“Don’t suppose you can back up?  Or squeeze over to let us by?”

“Mm-mm,” he grunted.

I almost took it for assent, but I looked back and saw his head, pulled back into his neck and shoulders, as protected as he could get it, moving from side to side.  Rolls of fat moved with the action.

“Bloody hell,” I said.

“Who are you?” the woman that had been working with Gladys asked.

“Official Academy problem solvers,” I said.  “So all of you shut your mouths, be quiet, and let us solve this problem.”

“Sy,” Gordon said, with a warning tone.

“Untie her,” I said, not taking my eyes off of Sub Rosa.  “Reload, shoot more?”

“Out,” he said.  Then to Gladys, he added, “Got more bullets?”

“In my coat.”

“Rats,” I said, with emphasis.  “Mary?”

Mary gave me a look over her shoulder.  It wasn’t the Mary I was used to.  She looked a little uncertain, even.  Lost, hurt.  Her confidence was still shaken from earlier.

“You with us?” I asked, my words carefully chosen.

“I’m with you,” she said, stumbling a bit with the odd placement of the words.

“I know I’m thinking about ways out.  Jamie’s wracking his brain for anything in her files we could use.  Gordon’s thinking about what to do if worst comes to worst.  If I know you, you’re thinking about what to do to hurt her.”

Mary broke eye contact, looking at Sub Rosa.  Thirty feet away, twenty-eight, twenty-six… not moving in a straight line, the experiment was periodically reaching out to touch a wall and steady herself.

Mary nodded.

“Hurt her,” I said.

“What are you talking about?” Gladys asked.

“I don’t-” Mary started.

“You can do it.  And it’s going to be awesome.  I promise,” I told her.

“What is she going to do that six bullets couldn’t?” Gladys asked.

Come on, Mary, shut this girl up.  Please.

Mary was already stepping forward.  Her fingers touched the sides of her legs, reached up beneath her Academy uniform skirt, and plucked knives free.  Her right hand stayed at her leg, fiddling for a second, while still holding the knife.

A coil of something dropped from her upper thigh to her ankle.  She rotated her foot to position it, then kicked it up into the air with her toe.  She caught it out of the air, not breaking eye contact with the incoming Sub Rosa.

Sub Rosa was close enough that Mary could have reached her in three or four running paces.  The experiment paused to touch the wall for balance and twist to stare at us with her good eye.

“Oh god,” Gladys said.  There were similar utterances from the others.

“Oh god,” Lillian echoed her, but she added a, “Please, Mary.”

Mary let the loop uncoil, extending into a crazy mess that sagged to her feet.  Her wrist made three quick circles, and then she threw, right as Sub Rosa made her final lunge for us.

The knife sank into Sub Rosa’s eye socket.

The woman barely flinched.  If anything, it egged her on.

Mary turned, having already drawn a third knife, one meant for close-quarters fighting, and held the blade, extending the handle above her head while using her other hand to throw the second knife.  It was a fierce throw, and it wasn’t aimed toward Sub Rosa.  It was aimed the light above us.

The light flashed as it broke, and shards of glass joined sparks in raining down onto our heads.

Two more lights further down the hallway went out.

We were cast into relative darkness.  I saw Sub Rosa’s form in only the split second the light flashed.  She was stricken, rearing back.

I heard her hit the floor, rather than seeing it.

“What the fucking hell?” the convict leader asked.  He’d seen Sub Rosa drop too.

I threw my arms around Mary in a hug.

“Careful,” she said.  “Don’t touch the wire.”

Wire.  Tying the knives together.  One knife in Sub Rosa, one in the light socket.

“Knife fell,” Gordon said.  “You’re safe.”

“Good,” Mary said.  “Let go of me, Sy.  She’s not dead.”

I let go of Mary as quickly as I’d grabbed her, backing away to give her exactly as much space as she needed.

A small flame appeared.

In a moment, there was a second flame.

I heard her throw it more than I saw it.  A small vial, hurled in Sub Rosa’s direction.

It didn’t hit Sub Rosa, but the wall above her.  Glass broke, and the liquid ignited before it landed on her, where it promptly spread out to cover a fair amount of surface.  We were soon treated to a view of Sub Rosa, midway through the process of finding her feet.

She didn’t scream.  That was the eeriest part.  It was an almost silent dance, thrashing, arms flailing, striking the wall with enough force that I could hear mechanisms rattling, wanting to kick into motion and seal this section off.

“Great,” I said.  Sub Rosa was stumbling around, largely blind at this point, but she managed to touch a wall, find some orientation and stagger toward us, while struggling to wipe away the flaming liquid with her hands.  She only partially succeeded, and her hands ignited.  “Now she’s on fire.”

“More fire?” Lillian asked.

She handed something to Mary.  Mary hucked it at Sub Rosa.

Whatever it was, it ignited marvelously.  It made Sub Rosa’s movements more frantic and crazed.

“Not helping!” I said.

“She’s not dying!” Mary observed.

“She can’t,” Jamie said.  “You’re looking at two lifeforms.  The cocoon and the woman.  The cocoon keeps everything going, no matter what.  Only way you can make her dead-dead is if you utterly destroy the medulla oblongata or utterly destroy the heart.”

“Tell us that sooner!” I said.

“You were busy electrocuting her and setting her on fire!”

She was close, now.

Gordon threw the pistol, tossing it over Sub Rosa’s shoulder.

The sound made her stop, twisting.

She began moving in the other direction.

“No!” the convict leader shouted.  “The little bastards are behind you!  Don’t be fooled!”

Sub Rosa twisted back around, but staggered, leaning against the wall.  I could smell the burned flesh, now.  There was an acrid undertone to it, something chemical.  One of the tubes of fluid that had been pumping in or out of her was emptying contents on to the floor.

I fixated on that.

“The tubes?” I asked.  “Weak point?”

“The fluids adjust chemical balances,” Jamie said.  “Without them, she’ll die.”

“Great!” I said.  “Mary-”

“In a few days or weeks.”

Hell!” I said, frustrated.

The sound of our voices was getting her attention.  She was still burning, still in agony, largely blind and bleeding from open wounds in her skull.  She even had brain damage from the bullets, probably.  But she was lurching our way.

“Lillian?” I asked.

“I don’t- what?”

“Ideas!” I yelled at her.

“No!”  She said, a non-sequitur.  As if she was refusing to give them, rather than having none.

But, short of an actual idea, it was the best response she could give.  Short, sweet, and to the point, letting me move on to other options.

“Gladys!” I called out.  “If you know what she is-”

“I don’t!  I know who she is but I don’t understand any of this!”

“It’s your dad’s work!”

“Uncle’s!  My uncle’s work!  And we don’t talk!”


“Helen?” I tried, though Helen was more about instinct than anything else.  “Anything?”

“Yes,” she said.  “But can’t just yet.  Gorger?  A hand?”

“Mm,” he said.

I realized he’d backed up a good ten feet.  I joined the others in making haste, working to put as much space between us and Sub Rosa as possible.

In the gloom, lit only by the fire that still licked Sub Rosa’s upper body, I could see Gorger twisting, revealing and then extending a meaty hand.  Helen hopped up to it.

“Up,” she said.  Gorger raised her up toward the ceiling.

I saw her reach up to pry at a ceiling panel that Gorger had just revealed.

Bring an entire block down on us?

Beside me, Mary whipped more knives at Sub Rosa.  It was pretty ineffectual.

“Gordon,” Helen said, very simply.  “Please help.”

Gordon did, abandoning his Shipman, stepping on Gorger’s face for a foothold before stepping onto Gorger’s arm, then moving up to the hand, standing beside Helen.

Sub Rosa was too close.

There was nothing predictable about her movements.  She was broken, not thinking clearly, if she was thinking at all.  Yet, if I was going to save the others, I had to take the gamble.  Not once, but twice.

In moments like this, I had to have a simple set of goals.  If I didn’t, I tended to overthink.

Goal one… don’t get hit.

“Keep at it!” I called out.

Then I dashed for Sub Rosa.

One long arm flailed, reaching low to the ground.  I saw it coming, but even then, there was precious little I could actually do about it.  I was fast on my feet, and it wasn’t an asset here.  To actually stop moving, I tried to drop low, sliding, but ended up flopping onto my back, my tailbone cracking hard against the floor.

The hand swept just above me.  She stepped closer, and her other hand came perilously close to touching me.

“Little bastard’s at your feet!” the convict leader howled.

I supposed I wasn’t his buddy anymore.

Sub Rosa was blind, but she could apparently hear.  She bent low, hands groping.  I rolled to one side, bumping up against the wall.

“Your right!” Baldy-beardy called out.

I scrambled back, toward my compatriots and the other scientists, as Sub Rosa fumbled toward me.

The flames were dying down, and her eyeball was revealed, bloodshot, oozing, but it didn’t look nearly as damaged as I’d hoped.  Poor woman, not being able to blink or close her eyes while her head and upper body were on fire.

I saw the eye move, focusing on me.

Another throwing knife struck Sub Rosa.  She twisted, looking away from me to see Mary.

I used that chance to dart close, moving past Sub Rosa, putting myself between her and the convicts.

Goal two: distract her, buy the others time.

I still had the knife I’d gotten from Mary.

Gripping the knife in both hands, swinging it from behind me, over my head, and forward, I slammed it into Sub Rosa’s back, near a point where it looked like things unfolded from.  Closer to her own tailbone.

I was already backing away, moving clear when she swung her hand my way.  Her hand hit the wall hard enough to leave cracks and do some substantial damage to her.

Goal three, optional: don’t die while seeing goal two through.

“Little bastard.  Lied to us, didn’t you?!” the convict leader bellowed.  “Killed Old Craig!”

That was Mary, not me.  Throwing her knife as we made our getaway.

But I made you look like a fool, you fool, and you can never forgive me for that.

“What I told you wasn’t all a lie!” I said.

I had to leap back to avoid Sub Rosa’s swipe.  She turned her back on the others while pursuing me.

Leaping back unfortunately put me closer to the convict leader and his three remaining cronies.  Baldy-Beardy, Shaggy-Beardy, and the woman convict, who looked especially wary and concerned.

“Remember everything I told you before!?” he roared.  “I’m going to do worse, you hear me!?”

“Then she continues her rampage, she kills you, and everyone dies!” I said.

“I don’t care!  I’m going to make it slow!  If I have to suffocate down here, I’m going to take my time with you!  You’ll crave the times I’m making you twitch with these spikes, because at least then I won’t be carving bits off you!”

Ticked off Academy experiment on one side of me, ticked off Academy experiments on the other side of me.

I backed out of the way of another swipe.

I saw the convict leader smile.  A mean, sadistic sort of grin.  A cat grin.  As much as the younger kids at the Orphanage liked to coo over kittens, I knew what cats really were.  I was aware that they were one of the rare species out there that killed and tormented other animals to death for their own amusement, be they barnyard cats or house cats.  One cat, left to its own devices for a few days, would chalk up scores of kills that it didn’t eat, and not all were vermin.

Cats were detestable, viewed objectively.

I could respect that side of cats.  I didn’t like seeing those same elements in a man three or four times my size, especially when that man was pissed off and using the Academy-designed weapons that had been built into his body.  Left to his own devices, I had no doubt he could amuse himself doing exactly what he’d threatened.

A tink sound marked the collision of one glass bottle against the ceiling.  It dinked off of Sub Rosa’s head and clattered to the floor, a few feet from me.

“It was supposed to break!” Mary called out.  “Is it broken!?”


I only had a few feet of space, now.

The convict leader stopped, grinning at me, arms spread wide.

“Come on!” he said.  “Right into my waiting arms!”

I moved in the opposite direction, toward Sub Rosa and the fallen bottle.

I got a foot from the bottle when her arm came down, overhand.  I stopped just in time to avoid having it come down on my head.  I snatched for the bottle and missed.

“What are you doing!?” Mary called out.

“Trying to grab-”


I moved out of the way of Sub Rosa’s reaching arm, which meant throwing myself belly first into the long flaps of skin that surrounded her legs.  My head was only a short distance from the fire that still burned at her left breast.

Her arms came down to embrace me, wrists crossing behind me, hands reaching out to block my escape routes, or to clutch at me if I tried to slip by.

It was a smarter action than many of her actions had been recently.  Was she recovering?  Was she more able to think, now that she wasn’t on fire?

I stopped to think, to try and process a way out, and the conclusion I came to was that I might have managed it if I hadn’t stopped to think.

Mary hadn’t thrown another bottle or vial.

Something about this one, she’d hoped to use it.

I felt the fingers close around me.  In the split-second before I was heaved up off the ground, I kicked the bottle, sending it skittering along the stone floor, in Mary’s direction.

Sub Rosa hauled me up, her wrists uncrossing as she did, turning me upside down in the process.

I could have cut her face if I had the knife, but I’d left it embedded in her lower back.

Held aloft, I was face to face with her.  Well, face to upside-down face.  Or vice versa.

It hardly mattered.

“If you really want to hurt Shipman, I can tell you how,” I told her.

There was no response, no recognition.  She moved one hand to grab me by the ankle, then swung me back over her shoulder.  I realized where I was, fumbled for my knife, and didn’t find it.  She changed the angle she held me, and I realized what she was doing.

This is the part where she swings me into the ground and dashes my brains out.

That’s kind of fitting.

It was eerie, the quiet that came over my thoughts, even as my body was caught in the grips of almost pissing itself, hand scrabbling for a knife that I cognitively knew was out of reach, my heart pounding, breath catching in my throat in preparation to say something, or maybe to scream one last time.

For the first time in a very long time, my thoughts weren’t noisy or conflicted or stumbling over each other in a constant interweaving.  My brain was a spot of tranquility in a setting of fire, meat, blood, and chaos.  That world moved in slow motion.

I wanted to say something witty, but the words caught in my throat, because I didn’t have enough time, because I knew the others would take my words for more than they were supposed to be.

Instead, I let out a long sigh, and I felt my body find the stillness, or something approximating it.  I stopped searching for the knife.  My arms dangled.

I heard the crash.

I felt her tense, moving me, swinging me up and forward.

She released her grip.  In the end, I wound up doing a backflip or two before cracking my head on the floor.

I saw her move, her hands clutched into claws, back arching.  Foam was bubbling up where the liquid had landed.

She was covered in burns, and burns hurt.  Whatever Lillian had provided for Mary to throw, it was one of those things that stung like nothing else when poured over an injury.

I knew, because Lillian had used those ones on me when I’d spent the day annoying her and happened to get hurt in the field.

It had taken me a few times to catch on.

I lay there on the ground, belly up, staring at Sub Rosa.

“Move, you imbecile!” Gordon bellowed.

“Run!” Mary shrieked.

Oh.  Yeah.

With the passing of that endless quiet, I felt almost sick to my stomach.  My body felt disconnected, as if I were at the controls of some monstrosity of flesh and metal and something had jarred me, leading me to forget which lever moved which extremity.

I figured out the controls.  I flipped myself over, crawled, then ran away, while Sub Rosa was still standing there, twisting in place, as if there was some specific configuration of her body that she could discover that would make all the pain stop.

We just keep making her madder.

Gordon and Helen had opened up the ceiling.  Gladys, Helen, Jamie and the other scientists were already up, and Lillian was in the process of climbing up Gorger’s arm.

It struck me that the ceiling escape route wasn’t an escape route at all.  It wasn’t a ventilation tube or anything of the sort.

No.  That would be one of the channels that gas, water, or other sterilization measures would use to cleanse an area of any ongoing problems.

Sub Rosa knew the security measures.  She knew how to disable them, and it stood to reason she knew how to enable them.  I’d seen glimmers of residual intelligence in her.  However much damage those bullets had or hadn’t done, I didn’t like the gamble we were making here.

I hope Gorger can handle this, I thought.

Except Gorger is one of those measures.

Mary made her way up.  Gordon, ever the gentleman, averted his gaze as her skirt brushed past his head.

I still had to scale Gorger’s arm to reach the ceiling.  “Go!” I called up to him.  “Help me up when you’re up!”

He obeyed.  The moment Mary was clear, he hauled himself up.

Sub Rosa chased me, though it was hard to tell.  With the fire dying, the world around me was rendered in black and slices of a grey that was best described as almost-black.

Funny thing, when being chased, when one had to run toward the threat.  Much as Gordon had, I had to step on Gorger’s body to get up to his shoulder and arm, though I was a touch graceless in the process, dropping to all fours to find a surer grip.

Sub Rosa drew nearer.  A few feet away, reaching around the arm for me-

Gorger dropped his arm, swinging clumsily at her.  I nearly lost my balance, grabbed at his thumb, and when I felt myself nearly falling, all the same, I stuck a foot out, planting it on Sub Rosa’s face.

It made for a terrifying moment.

What drove me to move, the thing that set every nerve to firing well before Sub Rosa lashed out or before Gorger started raising me up toward the section of ceiling where the stone tile had been pulled free, was a horrible, core-of-my-being fear of that alluring quiet I had experienced.  I felt that uneasy sickness accompany my movements as I made my way up.

I found Gordon’s reaching hand, slapped my wrist into it, and gripped his wrist.  With his help from above and Gorger’s from below, I found my way into the shaft.

Looking back over my shoulder, I saw Sub Rosa backing off.

I saw her point.

“You’re kidding me,” the convict leader said.

Another point, a sharp gesture, pointing.


They were her measure against Gorger.

I saw the convicts approach Gorger, spikes held out, jabbing, their movements uncertain.

I saw Sub Rosa turn, lurching down the other direction, to the far end of the hall.

We needed to get as much distance as possible from them before that measure worked.

“Sy.  Are you okay?” Jamie called back.

“Head hurts.  Tailbone hurts.  Body hurts.  I legitimately thought I’d die,” I said.

“You and us both, Sly,” Gordon said.

I thought of Mary.  Of how despondent she’d been.  She needed a win.  “Mary saved me there, I think.  Or Lillian did.  Or both.”

There was only silence.

“For the record, Gordon, you’ve officially lost the right to call me out on mistakes and bad calls.”

“We needed to save Gladys.”

“Right, because we’ve never had to deal with acceptable losses before.”

“Who are you?” Gladys Shipman asked.  “I know that girl interviewed me before, but none of this- What was all that?  What acceptable losses have you dealt with before?”

The channel was narrow, only about two and a half feet by two and a half feet.  Two of the others further up had some light, and it reflected off of moisture that clung to the walls and floor, giving me some illumination.

Of course, all I had to look at was Gordon’s butt.

I really hoped that Sub Rosa didn’t manage to activate the sterilization protocol we were presently navigating.  I didn’t want the last thing I saw before I died a fiery or drowning death to be Gordon’s butt.

Mary’s butt?  Maybe.

Lillian’s butt?  Now that would be my pick.  I imagined Lillian would hate it if she died knowing I was staring at her butt.

I felt giddy after my near slip from death, and the musings on butts of all things made me giggle a little.

“Gladys,” Gordon said.  “You said you knew her?”

“Yes.  Anyone who’s been down here for twelve or so years knows her.”

How old are you?” Lillian asked.


“Your uncle had you down here as a kid?” Helen asked.

“Yeah.  I heard the stories.”

“Who is she?” I asked, impatient.

“She’s the woman who built the Bowels,” Gladys said.  “She made the initial decisions on how to design Gorger, though she didn’t do the actual work.  Which is how she operated, really.  Or so I heard.”

“Not useful,” I said.  “Clarify, explain.”

“I am,” Gladys said, her voice sharp.

I was glad I didn’t have a view of her butt.

“She made this place, she designed the security, she designed Gorger,” Gordon said, voice calm, as if trying to guide by example.  “And when it all came down to it, she became an experiment?  That’s dedicated.”

“It’s… no,” Gladys said.

We stopped, and I managed to avoid headbutting Gordon.

“No,” Gladys said.  “She didn’t make this place.  She oversaw it all.  The deep excavation of the shaft and individual labs, she decided the protocols for security and what Gorger needed to be, and she decided who got to work in the Bowels.  She was the overseer more than anything.”

“But?” Jamie asked.

I snickered to myself.

“Ignore him,” Jamie said.  “What happened?”

“It’s a long story,” Gladys said.  “I only heard bits and pieces.  I remember seeing her as a kid.  I’ve seen pictures that are mounted in the stairways at Claret Hall.  She was a tyrant.  She demanded security protocols that nobody could follow, and canceled working projects when those protocols weren’t followed.  Everyone hated her, and it got… it got bad.  A lot of things that are wrong with Radham Academy today, they can be traced back to her.”

Helen managed to open the grate.  Easier from here than there, apparently.  Light flooded the shaft from the lit hallway below.

Helen dropped down.  We began to edge forward, each of us dropping down, one by one.  The adults would be able to catch the rest of us.

It was painfully slow, and I didn’t know what was going on with Gorger and the woman that had decided how he would work.

When I finally dropped down, Gladys was still explaining, “I didn’t put the pieces together until I saw her.  I knew she died down here… not so long ago.  More and more, as time went on, she became an administrator.  But she was always this horrible tyrant.  Things have been better since, less stringent, workable.”

According to your uncle, I thought.  It was a biased, one-sided story, and I didn’t like Gladys enough to take her side.

Still, I kept my mouth shut for Gordon’s sake.

“She died, and my uncle always said these cryptic things after…”

“He kept her alive,” Jamie said.

“Yes,” Gladys said.

“He kept her alive, eyes open, mouth clamped shut, trapped, with her brain mostly in working order,” I elaborated.

I saw the woman who’d worked with Gladys raise her hands to her mouth.

“Yes,” Gladys said, and it was a testament to her humanity that she sounded as upset as she did.  Her fingers clutched at her lab coat, right over her heart.

Gordon reached out to take her hands, reassuring.

I was right!  I cheered in my head.  Go, Gordon!

“Look,” Lillian said, pointing.

Ever the killjoy.

Gorger’s back.  He was retreating.

“We need to go,” Gordon said.

There was no disagreement.

But, being the last one down, furthest back from the direction we wanted to go, I also happened to have the best view of the group and our surroundings.

On Gordon’s back was a bug.

Looking down on me, I saw two.  Akin to a honeybee, but black from head to hind-end.

“Bugs,” I said, almost absently.

I saw Gladys turn, her eyes widening.

At the vent above us, more swarmed.

A scuffling sound echoed.  We were being followed.

The scuffling became a snuffling, a snort, a grunt, and then a nails-on-blackboard scrape of something against stone.

I saw one of the other scientists in our group blanch.

She’s letting everything out, now.

How fitting, that the woman who argued so fiercely for better security down here was the one exploiting it all.

We didn’t dare shout, for fear of agitating the swarm or luring something after us.

Silently, collectively, we ran.

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57 thoughts on “Lips Sealed 3.6

  1. Here bee the Typo Thread!

    his center of mass were.
    -Unfinished sentence?

    Sub Rosa was approaching ,
    -Extra space before comma

    as much distance as possible from them as possible before
    -as much distance as possible from them before

    Gordon’s Butt.
    -Was this capitalized on purpose? I wouldn’t be too surprised if it were…

    • More typos:

      – “Jamie’s wracking his brain” – should be “rack his brain”; Google agrees

      – “It was aimed the light above us.” -> aimed at

      Not quite a typo, but still worth mentioning: “Gladys, Helen, Jamie and the other scientists”
      These other rescued scientists weren’t mentioned anywhere before in this chapter.

        • I know. I just meant they not seeing them mentioned throughout this chapter gave me a slightly wrong mental impression of the scene.

          On the one hand, it makes sense from Sy’s perspective, since people that can’t help right now might as well not exist. On the other hand, these people *should* be able to help, either by being capable of fighting, or by providing information similar to Gladys’.

  2. If designers leave a bug in the system, they’re generally planning on exploiting it.

    I suppose this is how Whiskers, the critter that can’t get past two people at the exit, escaped. People stopped bothering with security measures.

    The Academic world is cutthroat, but its really nothing like this. So if you’ve just gotten a position at a University don’t let this lull you into a false sense of security.

  3. Well, seems she was right about security being patchy at best – how the hell was the uncle able to keep her around as an experiment if everyone with any seniority knew her face ?

    I get a feeling this isn’t going to end well.

    • Why be wasteful of a perfectly functional body that could have benefits for the Academy? Never mind any security issues that might arise, we don’t care (enough) about security here.

    • Petty vindictiveness of Office Politics & Workplace deviance, how else do you get back at an obstructive Safety Officer espicially when they’re right?

  4. I like kitten mittens, Sy :< You *butt*.

    I am very surprised by Sub Rosa's cocoon. This thing is healing her major injuries in a matter of seconds, keeping her _alive_ despite having multiple stab and gun wounds and having had her entire skin burnt to a crisp. This thing is insanely powerful, whatever it is. Sure, everything in the academy is insane and insanely powerful, but she is practically immortal. I can only guess the reason this technology isn't widely available is cost. I also wonder why Sub Rosa is named that.

    SECURITY GOOD. THIS IS WHY YOU KEEP HIGH SECURITY STANDARDS. Morons. I wonder what Gladys means by Rosa being the cause for most things that are wrong with the Academy, though. Hoping to get more info on that.

    • This is also a case of people designing security to work against attackers from the outside (i.e. experiments that don’t know how this works, or terrorists trying to hurt the academy), and end up actually helping attackers from the inside.

    • Keep in mind that just because she’s right about that doesn’t mean she’s right about everything, or not a total bitch. She may have helped foster some of the Academy’s other nastier traits.

    • “I am very surprised by Sub Rosa’s cocoon. This thing is healing her major injuries in a matter of seconds, keeping her _alive_ despite having multiple stab and gun wounds and having had her entire skin burnt to a crisp. This thing is insanely powerful, whatever it is.”

      I don’t think it’s like that. If you picture her visible body (around 8’4″) as an exoskeleton, the ‘woman’ part was probably completely untouched by any attacks and has no wound to heal.

      I see it as a giant fleshsuit that regenerates damage massively, and provides its ‘rider’ with essentials. All the extra tissue draping her as clothes probably store what’s needed to work it out. And it’s pumped with fluids (medicine/nutrients?) to keep it alive, else it eventually breaks down from its own insane metabolism.
      So, injuries are useless, but the rider experiences the suit’s pain. Likely some sort of direct nerve connection between the two to improve response. Exploitable as a weak point ?

  5. I was legitimately concerned Sy could die for a moment there.

    I wonder how Gorger is going to fair. Judging by how well Rosa’s done so far, I assume the convicts are going to be effective against him, but will they actually kill him, or just immobilize/incapacitate him for a while? I imagine if he’s bullet proof they won;t be able to get the spikes through his skin, so I’m guessing the latter.

    • No, There’d be some future-vision version of Taylor inserted somewhere in the movie/game, and that actress would play Rosa, here. Or possibly the same actress, if enough time had passed between movies.

  6. Gladys is biased. They’re working with potentially nuclear-weapon scale WMDs down there, the security has to be tight. Of course, if the academies are competing amongst eachother, and researchers of each academy are competing among themselves, it would stand to reason that corners would be cut.

    I’ve done work in a lab environment, and it is VERY easy to be tempted to cut corners safety-wise while working. Is Sub-Rosa trying to demonstrate just what might happen if the safety systems failed, just to prove a point?

  7. The Academy should intigrate Shipman’s actions into campus policy, have the Faculty hunt each other down for experimenal subjects.

  8. So, the bugs are one of the experiments that were in this corridor I assume ? I can’t really imagine them being a security measure.

    • As a wild guess, I’d say the bugs have paralyzing venom stingers and instinctively attack anything with blood in it. Releasing them after things get out of hand, then sending reinforcements of a more human-like variety to eliminate the threat while it’s immobilized, might be a more or less viable security measure.

      Then again, maybe their venom is just a deadly toxin.

  9. I think the Overshot that Percy was talking about was eventual loss of control of frankentech by the Academy.

    And then you consider that the Lambs are cognitively enhanced almost-humans and they’re just letting them run rampant, even to the point that Sy is interfering with top-end Radham politics. They’ve created more than one sentient being capable of things that they likely didn’t even imagine. It’s quite possible that they are in fact already not in control.

    • Nod. It doesn’t seem unlikely to me that the experiments are already calling the shots, from behind the scenes.

  10. Riiiiight. Being strict and a tyrant when developing Super-weapons and other WMDs on literal colossal scales is worth a near-endless lifetime of imprisonment within your own “body”.

    Gladys, your uncle was a prick.

    Sooo… still not explaining sub rosa’s plan or motivation. She already killed her creator, so why kill everyone that knew her too? Is it just people that knew her, or people that knew what shipman was doing and didn’t say anything? Some sort of vigilante justice of doom?
    Or is she working on orders?

    Also… shipman…. what the hell. WHY did you turn the chick you hated into an unstoppable killing machine??? WHY WOULD ANYONE DO THAT?! Especially if she’s remaining conscious. You didn’t think she’d want revenge????

    Gladys, your uncle was an idiotic prick. Also- stop being a bitch. I know I’m being biased because we’re seeing things through sy’s eyes, but seriously, now’s not the time to be abrasive.

    Sooo…. in twelve years, no one did any upgrades or replacements of the security measures?

    Lastly- hehe… butts.

    • I always wonder about those overly complicated revenge or punishment schemes that at some point involve making them an immortal killing machine. Serously you don’t see how that’s going to turn out? Never make your revenge complicated. Shoot them dead, or piss on their grave or something. Otherwise you spend twenty years ruining some poor girl’s life thinking she’s the daughter of the asshole your wife ran off with only to find you she’s your daughter, and the asshole has the best laugh he’s had in years.

      As for the late doctor Shipman, mad scientists often have egos that are both huge and easily bruised.

      Poor Sy. At just the age to be interested in girls butts, but not yet quite having figured out why.

  11. The Academy cut corners on security. The Academy cut corners on security, and then didn’t do anything to fix that when it became clear that there’s a deep rooted conspiracy working against it. It cut corners on security in a situation where it had legitimate cause to worry about its workers going rogue. It cut corners on security while it was housing what the Director himself called a Superweapon.

    I don’t know how this came to pass, or why this came to pass, but somebody, somewhere needs to be smacked with a Darwin Award.

    The timing mentioned here is pretty interesting. The Academy was built in the last generation, with Sub Rosa as a major contributor. It also makes Sub Rosa fixing Sy’s hair…interesting. Given that Sub Rosa was kidnapped twelve years ago, and the Lambs are about that old, odds are she didn’t know that they were experiments. So why did she let them live? Did she have children of her own?

    • I think she wasn’t disappeared twelve years ago; Glayds has been coming to the Bowels for twelve years and Sub Rosa was captured relatively recently, maybe a couple years ago at most. Certainly, she apparently knew the location and exact security measures for the convicts, who don’t strike me as a twelve-year project.

      • With the apparent state of security measures and Shipman’s brilliance she probably overheard the convicts. They have been infiltrated by a conspiracy working against them, and have a second conspiracy composed of disgruntled former members working against them. They have apparently not improved the security measures in over a decade, and are cutting corners on those out of date measures.

        Not having improved your security measures in over a decade would be unacceptably bad for Reddit or Twitter let alone a freaking military facility that has massive security breaches!

      • “Hey mom. I’d feel bad about trying to kill you, except that you started it. And I can only assume that you consigned me to be an experiment from birth. You butt.”

    • I understand the knee-jerk sympathizing with the security advocate, but corporate culture has taught me that security based objections serve the same role in project planning as allegations of child abuse do in divorce negotiations. That is, they are the nuclear option, and bringing them up results more often in a scrapped project than it does in a safer project.

      Fundamentally, the problem is that no one can argue against them, nor allow the other side to propose the most extreme one. It is corporate suicide to take a position against security (since that would make you responsible if anything happened), ergo any security request, no matter how nonsensical, wins the day. Similarly, if they get the last word on security then they get the rep as responsible, while you sound feckless. Consequently, the healthy functioning of the project planning system requires that security concerns be addressed entirely under the table, by the implementation team.

      If Sub Rosa was a tyrant of a project administrator, as Gladys indicated, who used “Security Concerns” as her mace, with which she bludgeoned the scientists who actually produced solutions, then its not surprising that they resented her.

      I concur with you that she wouldn’t deserve the hell that was inflicted on her (unless, of course, her security systems involved people treated similarly, which seems likely), but she probably needed to go. (From the perspective that the work of the Academy needed to continue. Given that its a dystopian nightmare factory, perhaps we should applaud anything that retards their efforts, including power mad administrators.)

  12. Wow did Sy get close to death this time. I’m glad that gave us perhaps the clearest illustration yet of how Sy deals with his emotions, namely, blanking them out while he’s thinking, as in this quote.

    It was eerie, the quiet that came over my thoughts, even as my body was caught in the grips of almost pissing itself, hand scrabbling for a knife that I cognitively knew was out of reach, my heart pounding, breath catching in my throat in preparation to say something, or maybe to scream one last time.

    Later on, Sy is lost in thought for eight whole paragraphs after the crash that had initially seemed to signal his demise, and then Gordon’s “Move, you _imbecile_!”

    Overthinking, indeed.

  13. I really liked how you suborned the trope (escaped monster has preternatural skill defeating security systems) and how Sy ends up talking about acceptable casualties as a way of dealing with an irritating white coat.

  14. I see a problem with electricity trick that Mary knifed out
    (my explanation is lengthy but i can’t find more elegant way to describe this problem):

    In real world, there is a reason why tazer shoots not 1 but 2 darts with insulated wires at each. A very good reason actually. 2 wires is not for redindancy – it is bare minimum for a thing to work. Insulated wires for tazer are mandatory too (as described it seems Mary is using uninsulated wire – choking string or something).

    The most basic reasoning against burning someone with only one wire from my own experience: when I was a kid and I was trying to put scissors in electrojack (AC 220V) to be hit by current (yeah, kids are crazy). So what happened was when at first i’ve put one end of scissors in a hole – it didn’t feel like anything. It was only when after some tens seconds of “boredom” I reconcidered and attached both ends of scissors to both holes of jack – when CRACK-CRACK – a shock and awe came to me (and never ever again i will repeat that stupid thing… no Darwin awards here no-uh, thank you).

    And that is the way electrocurrent works is – is that you MUST HAVE a circuit for current to flow. One flow-in, one flow-out – one of the basic things you learn in engeneering training. The thing that Mary pulled out – that was an analogue of putting only one end of scissors in only one hole of a jack. It doesn’t feel like anything, as much as I remember.

    Well, yes, it is not a full story and there ARE some deadly funny traps with safety that you must be aware of – a wet ground and moisture can work as a wire for exapmle if it reaches to the same power source you keep your one wire from. Or when a moisture finds a wire with insulation defect… And there are more… But as much as I can see none of those “traps” apply to Sub Rose situation.

    What must be said is that – MAYBE grabbing in hand a HIGH-voltage hotwire like from ETL could be dangerous – especially if ground underfeet is wet and/or compromised – but nobody use ETL voltages for light bulbs. And even there is a zillion birds that sit on ETL lines and feel OK and fancy. Until they try to sit on both lines at once 🙂

    Another thought is that putting knife in lightbulb socket will likely lead to short-circuit. Shirt-circuit =

    (if there is a fuse in power network) = then fuse will kick in and kill the current through lightbulb (and a part of network the fuse is watchdoging).

    (if there is no fuse in power network) = then knife part between + and – getting hotter, and as consiquence, all knife is getting hotter – but definitely no current is transfering to Sub Rose by a wire.

    • I’m not sure what kind of 220V socket you were messing with (there are like a dozen different types), but typically there are three holes: hot, neutral, and ground. (Three-phase will typically have four – a ground and three hots, 120 degrees out of phase with each other.) The hot is the only one that carries dangerous voltage. If you poke scissors into the neutral or ground holes, nothing of note will happen. If you poke scissors into the hot, it will ground out through the scissors and through you to earth ground, and you’ll get zapped. This does not require the scissors to also be touching the neutral or ground, and in fact will probably zap you harder if they aren’t, because then going through you is the voltage’s only option for getting to ground, so you’ll be getting the full dose of current rather than only part of it.

      I once accidentally did to myself basically what Mary did to Rosa here. I was sheetrocking, we’d taken out the electrical fixtures until we got the sheetrock up, so there were loose wires dangling from the light sockets and so on. My boss had assured me that he’d turned the breaker off. I discovered he hadn’t when the end of the hot wire from the overhead light socket brushed against my temple, and it grounded out (I could feel the path the current took) through the right side of my face, neck, down my right arm, and into the frame of the power screwdriver in my hand. It was US 110VAC, so not super-unfriendly, but still, it was awfully tingly, and the right half of my vision went white until I broke contact. That was the last time I trusted someone else when they said the breaker was off.

      And, yeah, there should be fuses or circuit breakers to prevent really dangerous levels of current, but I really wouldn’t put it past the Academy to have foregone such things as unnecessary inconveniences. I mean, they’re not exactly Safety First around here, and you never know when you might need to put a couple mega-amps through something and yell, “It’s alive! IT’S ALIVE! MUAHAHAHAHA!”

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