Stitch in Time – 4.7

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“Wish we were older,” I muttered, hands in my coat pockets, shoulders hunched forward, hood pulled down low.  “Kind of hard to disappear in the crowd when there’s like, fifty kids in a town of fifteen thousand.”

“Yup,” Gordon said.  He was perched on the window ledge, taking his tools out, two small, thin rods.  He put the two of them together into the lock at the outside of the window.  Wrought iron branches and glass.  A quick check on Gordon’s part had verified that the room was empty.

“I’ve counted at least sixty,” Jamie said.  “Sixty kids.  Your count is way off.”

“Oh lords, shut up, Jamie,” I said, groaning.

Jamie stuck out his tongue at me.  I reached out to grab it, only for it to disappear back into his mouth.  I settled for lightly swatting at his cheek instead.

“Where did you learn to do that?” Mary asked Gordon.

“Some rough types in Radham, professional thieves.”

“How hard is it?”

“I dunno,” Gordon said.  “I have a good sense of touch and fine dexterity, so I found it pretty easy.  Sy tried his hand at it too, but he doesn’t keep up the practice.”

Mary looked at me, looking vaguely offended at the idea.  I shrugged.

“How come?” she asked.

“I forget it.  I learn it, and it’s fast to pick up.  Then I don’t have an excuse to do it for a while, or something comes up, like an appointment, and I feel like I’m starting from scratch.”

“Sy can forget how to ride a bike,” Jamie said.

With that, I saw a bit of sympathy from Mary, rather than that vague accusation of before.

I shrugged, hands back in my pockets.

“And we’re in,” Gordon said, taking the attention off me.  He hopped down, and collected his stuff, before sliding the lockpicking kit between his pants and his underwear, hiding the clip behind his belt.

“I still have a few practice locks and some picks in my room back at Lambsbridge,” I said.  “Remind me, I’ll lend them to you,” I told Mary.

She gave me a winning smile at that.

Gordon finished setting up, looking up at the window, the windowsill a few feet up off the ground.

“I wish we were taller, now that I’m thinking about it,” I commented.  “Be nice to-”

Gordon then lunged up to the window ledge with no effort at all.  He caught it, then swung himself over in the next second.

“-Be able to get up there without a boost,” I finished.  He had needed help before, but I supposed one of his hands had been full with the lockpicks.

I moved beneath the window, knitting my fingers together to provide a step for the others.

“No,” Lillian said.  “We’ve gone over this.  If you’re down here while we go up, you’re going to look up our skirts.”

“Pshh,” I said.  “I’ll go up first, then.”

“And then you look down the front of my blouse when I’m climbing over,” Lillian said, accusatory.

Your blouse?  Nah.”

Ah, the look on her face told me I’d struck home.  Indignation, the opiate of bastardly sorts the world over.  That was what she got for being annoying.

“Besides, it’s winter, there aren’t any necklines,” I said, changing the topic before she found the words to yell at me.

Interesting that you’d take note of that so readily,” Jamie said, dry.

“It’s obvi-”

“Guys,” Gordon said, cutting me off.  He was looking down on us from up above, chest resting on the windowsill.  “Pay attention?  And maybe be a little quieter?”

“Boost?” I asked Jamie.

He gave me a hand.  I kipped up high enough that I could grab Gordon’s arm, and he hauled me up the rest of the way.

It made me think.  The difference in our sizes, the difference in our strength.  He was capable of hauling me up off the ground and leaving me dangling.  At thirteen, he looked closer to fifteen or sixteen.  He had a physique, rather than a child’s body that just happened to have fat on it, or minimal fat, as mine did.

While he caught Lillian’s bag and deposited it on the floor, I found myself measuring the difference in our heights.  He was almost ten inches taller than me, if I had to guess.  In the spring, it had been closer to three or four.

It wasn’t that he was growing that fast.  Well, he was growing with a surprising speed, but that wasn’t the whole of it.

My height hadn’t really changed, nor had my build.

I offered a hand in helping Lillian up, realized I was getting in the way more than I was helping, and backed off a little.

Together with her, I surveyed the surroundings.  We were in a dormitory bedroom, but it was nice.  The furniture looked like antiques, or something expensive that would be antique someday.  Four poster bed, a writing desk with leather-backed books on a shelf above it, a bookcase with more texts on it, and a wall-mounted blackboard with notations and formulas on one half, and a to-do list on the other.

Gordon helped Helen up.  She was more graceful than Lillian had been, planting a foot on the windowsill, holding onto Gordon’s hand, then stepping down and dropping to a crouch-come-curtsy on landing.  She gave me a winning smile as she straightened up.

“You’re ridiculous,” I said, my voice low.

“I’m in a good mood,” she said.  “Because we’re on the prowl.”

“You don’t have moods,” I said.

“I have biological imperatives, thank you very much,” she said, prim, hands clasped behind her back, “And one of those imperatives is to stalk and kill.  We’re stalking.  It’s nice.”

“I’m more inclined to blame the chocolate cake from earlier,” I told her.

“Hmph.  That’s one of my other biological imperatives.”

Lillian nodded as if this was the most sensible thing in the world.

“Are you actually developing a sense of humor?” I asked, a little stunned.

She winked at me, then spun around.  “Gordon, do you think we’ll be exiting this way?  Can I hide my coat?”

“Better to keep it,” he said.

“We’ll look more like we belong if we don’t have outdoor stuff on,” I said.

Gordon made a noncommittal grumbling noise.  He helped Jamie up, plucking the book from Jamie’s hands, handing it to me, then helping Jamie through.  I provided the book once Jamie’s boots were firmly on the hardwood floor.

Mary came up next.  No boost.  A short running start, from the sounds of it, stepping onto the wall, and grabbing Gordon’s hand.

As she hopped down, I found myself comparing our heights.

She was a few inches taller than me, but unlike Gordon, she hadn’t quite shaken off the gawkishness of being young.  She had little traces of femininity here and there, promises of what was to come, but she also had natural flourish and style, instilled in her by Mothmont and Percy both.  She was a lady, when she was of a mind to be.

Helen was the inverse, in some ways, a little shorter than Mary, but already taking shape as a young woman.  It was little surprise, but she was the fastest of the girls to develop hips and chest, and she was gradually altering her blonde ringlets to match, inching ever closer to a woman’s hairstyle over a young girl’s, a journey that would take just the right amount of time to complete.  Helen could be a lady, she could be a precocious child, and switched between the two at a whim.  As I knew her, though, there was a wildness to her, as if a genie had bottled up a predator in the guise of a child, and all of the growls and restless pacing was translated into sweet smiles and flourishes, and in stillness, waiting like the spider or the praying mantis, she conveyed nothing more or less than the young woman at ease.

Jamie, like me, still embraced the awkwardness of youth, in frame and face, but he had height.  He’d quietly embraced his own style, with the long blond hair and the glasses, the book forever in his arms, drawing up subtle walls between him and the world, while his eyes peered past, taking everything in.

And then Lillian.  Still young, shortest of the girls now, still awkward in youth and figure.  A step behind, in so many ways, but I respected how she’d come to find and earn her place among us.  She chose clothes carefully, and remained conscious and defensive of her girlishness in a way that Helen and Mary would never have to.

I wasn’t sure what I was doing, studying them, but it was some hybrid approach to measuring myself against them and defining the tools we had available to use against Fray.

This was dangerous territory.  All it took was one person to raise an alarm of sorts, asking questions about why such young children were in a school for young ladies already exiting or out of their adolescent years, and Fray might be able to react against us.

“Any thoughts on the coats?” I asked.

“Been thinking about it,” Gordon said.  “I say coats off.  If we’re traipsing around with this stuff on, they might be more likely to ask questions.  We need to look like we belong.”

“Even if we stick out like sore thumbs,” I said.

“Even if,” he said.

Mary nodded in agreement.  She was already removing her coat.  Lillian, Gordon, Helen and I were a step behind.

Halfway through pulling my stuff off, tightly folding the forest green scarf into a bundle I could put in a pocket, I saw that Jamie was standing by the bookcase, a book open in front of him.

“Jamie?” I asked.

“One second.”

I finished pulling all my stuff off, and handed it over to Gordon, who stuffed it under the bed.  I walked over to Jamie, and glanced over his elbow to see the book he was looking over.

Rows on rows of portraits, with names beneath.  He gave each page only a moment’s glance.

“Left arm,” I told him.

Without taking his eyes off the book, he held out his left arm.  I pulled his jacket free of the arm.

“Right arm.”

I pulled the coat free, then handed it to Gordon.  Like the rest, the coat disappeared beneath the bed.  Mary had already closed the window, and was busy with her sweater up around her ribs, tucking her shirt into her skirt in such a way that it wouldn’t hamper her access to the knife handles that only slightly stuck up from her beltline.

“Key things,” I said.  “Cover?  Anyone asks, we’re prospective students.”

“Girl’s only school,” Mary said.

“Jamie, Gordon and I will cross-dress,” I said.  I saw the annoyed looks, and I cracked a grin, “The school is going co-ed.”

“Nobody’s going to believe that,” Lillian said.  “The woman-only nature of the school is important.”

“Blame it on money and nobility,” I said.  “Some prat lord decided he wanted to go to the school with all the girls, set the wheels in motion.  Only the higher-ups and some important people know.  Anyone asks, we don’t say, but we imply we’re important enough to know.”

There were a few nods.

“Best to avoid being in a position where we have to justify anything,” Jamie said.

“Well yeah, obviously,” I agreed.

Gordon nodded.  “Okay.  That’s the story.  When you’re inventing yourselves, stick to points and names established during previous infiltration jobs.  If possible, let Jamie come up with the details.  He’s best at that.”

“Can do,” Jamie said.

I raised a finger,  “We need to find out what Fray is doing, disarm and disrupt her.  That means finding the lab, the room where she’s staying, or something.”

There were a few nods.

“Finally, Lady Claire.  We need to find her.  Through her, we have access to Fray, information, whatever else.  Depending on what’s going on, we might be able to get clues, or figure out a path of attack.”

“School hours are over,” Lillian said.  “It’s late afternoon, and if Dame Cicely’s is anything like Radham Academy, the girls are going to return to their rooms to change clothes for dinner sometime soon, if they aren’t already.  They’ll go to the dining hall to eat, if they don’t go into town, and then there’ll be a few hours of social activity and studying before people start settling in for the night.”

“Good,” Gordon said.  Lillian smiled at the praise.

“Fray is Lady Claire’s tutor,” I said.  “Claire is a poor student, and Fray is her savior.  That means Claire is devoted, indebted, probably disconnected from her peers.  I’m thinking they’re going to eat out, or eat in their rooms.  We find out where they’re working, try to mark her location, divide our attention between investigating whatever it is she’s doing and keeping track of her.  See if we can’t-”

The doorknob rattled, and I was immediately silent.  All six sets of eyes were now on the door.

A key scratched at the lock, then raked its way into the keyhole.

Just like that, Jamie, Helen, Lillian and I stepped back to the side of the bed, using it to conceal ourselves.  Gordon and Mary advanced, exchanging a brief set of hand signals.

Gordon pointed, formed a fist, jerking it toward his shoulder.  You.  Pull.  That second sign worked as ‘get’, ‘take’, or ‘hold’, depending.

Mary’s response was a ‘yes’.  Fist formed, pumped slightly in the air.

Gordon twisted, looking at Lillian.  A point, then another gesture, a hand waved over his face.

You.  Sleep.  The second sign could mean tired, drunk, it didn’t really matter.  Lillian made an alarmed sound, reaching for her bag, pulling it around in front of her so she could rummage within.  I had a glimpse of the contents, metal plates keeping things rigid and protecting bottles and syringes.

Gordon was already turning and grabbing the chair from beside the desk, approaching as the door swung open.

A young woman, eighteen or so, stepped into the room.  A little heavy, with a hairstyle that didn’t suit her round face, but not without her appeal.  A definite cute ‘girl next door’ type.

She looked at Gordon with shock, as Mary stepped in from the corner behind the door and gave her a hard shove.

The girl stumbled forward, and Gordon swung the top of the chair into her solar plexus.

Have they been practicing, or is this their natural dynamic? I wondered.

Lillian was still searching her bag as the woman crumpled to all fours on the floor, trying and failing to breathe.

Things weren’t so simple as all that.  The girls of Dame Cicely’s were never alone.  Each and every one had a pet, their status symbol, suggesting the kind of work they focused on, and the skills they were able to bring to bear.  The room’s occupant was no different.  It shouldered its way past the door that Mary had tried to close between it and its master.

It looked like a human with all the skin pulled off in a singular piece, bug-eyed without its eyelids, teeth too white against a backdrop of crimson.  The torso had been stretched, making it tall enough its head almost scraped the doorframe.  The arms had been removed and replaced with a row of insect limbs that extended from hip to shoulders, each of the limbs tipped with a wicked looking claw, thorn-like growths running down the length of each.

It noted its fallen mistress and made an alarmed noise.  The sound didn’t resemble anything human or insectile, guttural and wet, like someone in the end stages of pneumonia might make if they had to scream something to save their loved ones from an approaching killer.

It staggered forward, the slow, awkward gait of the body not matching the fluid, precise movement of the clawed arms, each arm drawing back, then stabbing.  Mary dropped low to the ground, started to retreat toward Gordon, but proved it to be a feint, dodging back behind the thing, shutting the door, sealing us in with it.

Gordon shoved the four legs of the chair at it, and two of the claws punched through the seat, no doubt at least an inch and a half of solid wood.  He wrenched his body, moving the chair to one side, and managed to block one more claw that had been trying to reach past the chair to stab at his side.

Lillian found what she was looking for, triumphantly holding up a bottle and needle.  She withdrew a dose, then rose, approaching from around the bed, hesitating a little at the sight of Gordon fighting the graft-monster.

“Here!” Mary called out.

“But-” Lillian started.  “Dose is for her.

“Here!” Mary said, more insistent.  Her first shouted statement had drawn a glance from the creature.  Not having success against Gordon, seeing Mary with nary a chair to protect herself, it started to reorient, moving its arms in preparation to stab.

I saw Lillian look, pausing, not sure what to do, eyes on the space over the experiment’s shoulder that she needed to lob the needle through, knowing an errant throw could hit a wall or the ceiling, or that a moving arm could swat the thing aside.

I snatched the needle from her hand, then moved forward, ducking low to cast it along the hardwood floor.

Gordon, in a last-ditch effort to save Mary from being impaled on a half-dozen points, twisted the chair.  One or two arms were still caught in it, or caught between rungs and the seat of the chair, and the creature reacted, turning its attention back toward him.

Mary had the needle, and brought it up into the creature’s abdomen, pressing the syringe.  One free hand, then the other, went up to catch at three of the thing’s ‘elbows’, holding them at bay, to reduce it’s range of movement.

It took only a few seconds for the dose to work.  It collapsed, landing across its creator’s body, helping to pin her down.

The girl on the floor coughed, as if the cough could bring air into her lungs.

She couldn’t quite look at Gordon, who practically straddled her, or at Mary, who was behind, so she looked at us, alarmed and confused.

I looked away, my attention on the bag, pulling a free syringe from the spot where Lillian had taken the first, then grabbing the tranquilizer.  I pushed both into Lillian’s hands, distracting her from the young lady we’d just assaulted.

“It’s okay,” Helen said.  With Lillian now measuring a dose, me busy with the bag and Lillian, urging our medic forward, Helen was the only one left with our captive’s attention.  “You’re in no danger.  We just need you to sleep for the rest of the night.  You’ll wake up on the floor, safe and sound.”

The young woman opened her mouth to talk, and only wound up coughing again.

“Do you have friends that would come looking for you?” Gordon asked.  “If you’re missing at dinner?  Or after?”

The girl frowned, then after a pause, she nodded.

“Don’t lie,” I said.

She looked up at me, concerned, heaving in wheezy breaths.  I’d only been guessing, but her reaction to me calling her on it was telling.

“That’s a no,” I told Gordon.

He nodded.  “We have an escape route if we need it.  Place to hide out.”

Mary partially opened the door.  “One-sixteen.”

“Remember that,” Gordon said, to the rest of us.

Lillian approached our captive with a needle in hand.  I saw the girl tense up.

“Typhomine,” Lillian said.  “Thirty three point four milligrams, for a person that weighs eleven stone.”

Our captive took that in, then relaxed.

“On your side,” Lillian said, bending down, pushing at the girl’s shoulder.

The girl obeyed, twisting her upper body until she was lying on her side.

When Lillian reached out with the needle, a hand went up.  Gordon grabbed it, holding it down, and Lillian stuck the young woman in the stomach.

In moments, she was asleep.

Lillian grabbed a pillow from the bed and put it under the woman’s head, then another, propped behind her back.

Gordon looked impatient by the time she was done.  Lillian gave him a nod, as if to confirm that she was done.

Think what you want, Gordon, that would have been far harder without Lillian, I thought.  I handed her her bag.

Mary peeked out into the hall, then gave us the go-ahead.

The hall was largely empty.

We moved as a group.  Helen, Gordon, Mary, and I were quick to slip into our roles.  We walked comfortably, casually.  Stealth was good, staying out of sight and being quiet, but the next best thing was to look like we belonged.  Moving with purpose, briskly enough that it looked like we knew what we were doing.  If we looked lost, then others would want to give us direction, or question what we were doing.

“Turn right,” Jamie said.

“How the heck do you know where we’re going?” Gordon asked.

“Photos in the yearbook, outline of the school, what we saw from outside.  It feels like common sense,” Jamie said, quiet.

“That’s kind of scary,” Lillian said.  “I know you could pull out anything you’d seen, but connecting the pieces, now?”

“You have your thing, you practice it.  I have my thing,” Jamie said.  “Not that I’m positive, mind you.”

“Better than nothing,” Gordon said.  Then, not for the first time, he said, “Wish I had that brain of yours.”

“Yeah,” Jamie said, quiet.  “Maybe.”

Mary couldn’t have made the connection.  Even Lillian probably wouldn’t have remembered, it was so long ago I wasn’t even sure Lillian had been with us.

No, the very first time they’d had the exchange had been one of our earliest meetings.  When the Lambs had just made the move from being three to being four, Jamie joining our ranks, we had been learning what each of us were capable of.

I wish I had your brain.

I wish I had your body.

If I remembered the interplay of dialogue between Jamie and Gordon, then Jamie had to, right?

Odd, that he hadn’t brought it up or used the line.  He was acting odd in a few ways, as a matter of fact.  Jamie looked tense, and a side effect of that tension was that he was too stiff, not quite the casual air we needed.

I knew that this particular situation made him the fish out of water.  Improvising wasn’t his strong suit, because improvising required fast reactions and adaptation.  But shouldn’t that have made him more willing to lean on us, stick to the tried and true, the interplay, the jokes, the reminder that we were a team?

I poked him in the side.  He flinched, doubling over a little, then shot me a look.

I rolled my shoulders, then stretched, fingers together, arms over my head with palms up.

“Uh huh,” Jamie said.  He seemed to force himself to relax.

It solved the immediate problem, but it didn’t solve the rest of it.  I wasn’t sure what was up with him.

Double doors at the opposite end of the hallway banged open, a small herd of young ladies in fashionable clothing coming through.  Their hair was nicely done up, and the clothes were nice, high quality, though not loud or attention-getting.  They were fitting the atmosphere of the school, unconsciously adapting.

“More girls visiting their rooms before dinner,” Lillian said.  “Before long we’re going to be surrounded.”

“Being surrounded is bad.  It’s less chance for us to see Fray before she sees us,” I said.

“Yeah,” Gordon agreed.  “Let’s get out of sight.”

“Through the doors, hard right, then stairs, down,” Jamie said.

There was a heavy set of double doors just like the one the collection of Dame Cicely’s students had come through.  Gordon and I each pushed one of the doors open.  We rounded the corner.  There were more rooms to either side, but the hallway was short, and at the end of it were two sets of stairs, one leading down, the other leading up.

“What’s downstairs?” I asked.

“Labs.  They’re almost always downstairs,” Jamie said.  “I don’t know what the layout is, but I doubt they’re going to be too busy if people are going from class to their rooms for dinner.”

“No guarantees,” I said.

If Fray saw us and bolted-

Footsteps on the stairs marked someone or multiple someones coming down the stairs.  We were too far away to make a run for downstairs, too far forward to try and slip through the doors.

Immediately, as we’d done with the young woman in her dorm room, we looked for our exits.

Six of us, and four of us had the wherewithal to check nearby dorm rooms, hoping some were unlocked.

No luck on all four counts.  Stupid school with its scheming, paranoid students.

The girls came down the stairs, and I found myself saying a mantra in my head, as if I could will it to be true.  Don’t be Fray.  Don’t be Fray.  Don’t be Fray.  Especially don’t be Fray’s killer monster man.

The young women were in the company of their pet monsters and stitched, chattering with one another.  None were Fray.  Nor the monster.

But there was one more experiment than there were human girls.

The stitched girl from Fray’s entourage carried a tray of kettle, plates of tidbits and cups.  She saw us and stopped so suddenly that it startled the girls in her company, porcelain rattling on the tray, tea slopping over the side, threatening to spill.

It was a still tableau.

“It’s you!” she said, staring at us.

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65 thoughts on “Stitch in Time – 4.7

  1. This month looks to be bumpy, with me traveling a bit. I’m almost kind of glad that donations were down just a little bit, falling just short of the second chapter release (with one carrying over from last month, there are two updates this month, if there hadn’t been the leftover I couldn’t fit into June, then there’d be just the one).

    Can’t 100% guarantee-promise that I’ll match the schedule on the calendar – just this coming week, I’m on the train tomorrow, staying at my mom’s overnight, appointment in the early morning Wednesday (not sure when it ends), chapter due Wednesday at midnight, I’m expecting to edit Worm on Thurs, which will be a quiet day, then another chapter on Friday. Then traveling back on Sunday, traveling again later next week.

    The entire month is sort of like that, with family stuff and obligations and promises I made. I ended up promising I’d dogsit for two different family members, with a scheduling conflict, finally worked out a plan, but it leaves me without much room to breathe. Depending on what happens, I may have to shuffle the bonus chapters around a slight bit, just if I feel like the writing would suffer for my being busy and distracted. There will still be two bonus chapters this month, not to worry, but I’m just telling people not to panic if the first bonus chapter pops up on the 16th instead of the 9th.

    As an aside, though donations were down a slight bit before, it’s certainly picked up. I’m pleased with where things are at on Patreon, and I’ve had some really nice reviews on Webfictionguide. The support and the generally positive response for Twig is really just excellent in general. The votes, reviews and stuff really do help.

    I do want to throw out an extra-special thank you to those who’ve updated the TV tropes page(s) – outside of the financial support, which I’m endlessly grateful for, additions to TV tropes are probably the biggest thing a reader can do to bring people to Twig or to my writing in general (especially if they are links on a trope’s page pointing to Twig’s TV tropes page, helping people wiki walk their way to the story). TV Tropes is the #1 or #2 source for new readers for Worm and Pact, and is slowly making more headway on Twig as stuff gets added.

    TL;DR, going to be a little busy, some forewarning if Thursday’s update gets moved to next week, I have awesome fans. Thank you guys.

    • >>appointment in the early morning Wednesday (not sure when it ends)

      I knew Wildbow wasn’t just a normal human!

      • The Wildbow-Formula. Enables the individual to create the most awesome and powerful gear, known to common mortals as “plot devices”. Carries a high risk of gore and heartbreak, though. Date of expiration: quarter past never. Hopefully.

    • I am impressed and amazed by your consistency, and I admire your openness as to your schedule. You keep it very professional, so it’s easy to see you take this seriously.

    • Do what you have to do for real life. We’ll love you and your writing anyways.

      Really enjoying how Twig is playing out, its a nice break, compared to Pact’s ever ascending levels of “we’re fucked”, to have some nice spacing to having a story where the characters can just sit and talk.

    • Have been working on tvtropes, though the related page is sadly short. A few extra hands to add links would not go amiss, quantity accounts for more than quality with this sort of thing. Back when Worm was going I would add entries on 10 pages per day…

  2. The cadence of these chapter parts is perfect. It is really difficult to capture the spirit of a ‘page-turner’ when there are no pages, but you have done it.

    🙂 Loving this chapter!

  3. I find my self pausing in the middel of the storie and reaching out for a wikipedia so i can explore this world wildbow has made.
    Theirs so much i want to know, where was the history divergent from what i know.
    I reckon thats what i love best, the hinted at background

  4. Great stuff. I’ve been behind for a while, but finally caught up, and I’m looking forward to each update the way I was back when I was first reading Worm.

    I would go into detail about what I liked, but honestly I’d probably just end up listing everything, so I’ll just leave it at that. 🙂

    Keep up the good work!

  5. “It’s you!” she said, staring at us.

    Of all things, I’m getting Zero Wing vibes here. Probably not done on purpose, but damn if it’s not fitting like a glove.

    Sy: All your school are belong to us.
    Helen: You have no chance to survive make your time.

  6. You used “winning smile” twice in the chapter. Nothing wrong with it, but maybe it was unintentional.

    I don’t know what it is about this chapter, but it feels different to the rest. Maybe it is a bit more descriptive, and it feels as though it uses a bit more varied language than usual? Maybe it’s my imagination, but it was interesting :3

    On the topic of descriptions, everyone differs from my head-canon ;~; Lillian is the shortest of the girls? Mary is the tallest? Jamie is blonde? Aaah! 😛 Good to know more about their appearance at least.

    I half expect the boys to cross-dress in a later chapter now. That’d be fun and funny. Sy just jinxed them all.

    “Think what you want, Gordon, that would have been far harder without Lillian” That’s… odd. Sy is the one who usually mocks Lillian, and Gordon always encourages her. Is Sy perhaps implying that Gordon doesn’t truly like Lillian that much and just puts on a mask for her benefit (and thus the group)? Perhaps I’m reading too much into it.

    • ““Think what you want, Gordon, that would have been far harder without Lillian” That’s… odd. Sy is the one who usually mocks Lillian, and Gordon always encourages her. Is Sy perhaps implying that Gordon doesn’t truly like Lillian that much and just puts on a mask for her benefit (and thus the group)? Perhaps I’m reading too much into it.”

      I don’t think you are, although I read it slightly differently:

      As the Lambs’ main social manipulator, Sy almost certainly nitpicks Lillian to help her develop as a member of the Lambs rather than just to be harsh. He’s complimented her and comforted her recently when he thought it was appropriate or necessary, so I’d say here he’s taking special notice of Gordon’s displeasure specifically because it seems unwarranted.

      Sy’s been worried about shifts in group dynamics this arc, so he’s probably sensing that Gordon (who is likely growing more impatient and action-oriented as he develops further as an action hero) may be reevaluating Lillian’s effectiveness, which in turn might indicate another potential future schism in the group.

      tl:dr; I think it’s less “Gordon dislikes her and is hiding it” than it is “Gordon is starting to think she’s holding us back and that could be trouble later”

      • Not that I disagree with your conclusion, but personally, I read it more as a development of Sy’s character than him having always been concerned for Lillian’s benefit.

        Before, he would always pick on her because she was an “outsider”, and really, I get the impression he had always been a very self-centered person. But he’s starting to be a little kinder and more concerned for the well being of others. Jamie noted it once during the Bowels chapter; he said something along the lines of Sy not having to worry about the person he is becoming, and Sy tried to dismiss it.

    • Sy always seems to have a propensity towards giving credit where it’s due, particularly towards members of the Lambs. furthermore, I think he mocks Lillian more for the reaction than for any ill will.

    • About what I decided too:). Wildbow did reply to a previous comment of mine saying if it’s possible he’ll update the banner if/as their numbers change, what with the resurrections and expiries. I figure that’s our best shot at knowing once n for all.
      Banner art for topwebfiction takes precedence, though.

    • I think Sy and Jamie should be switched. Jamie is described as being taller than Sy, and the figure in the center more closely resembles the long hair. This also makes the girl on the left make more sense (not sure if she’s Helen or Mary, but Helen makes more sense, being around longer), as both of the girls aren’t that much taller than Sy.

      • If you zoom in, you can see that the left-side kid is holding what looks like a book between his arm and his body. Also, the left figure is farther behind than the middle figure (look at their feet), hence why the middle figure is “taller”. Though on second thought, putting them at the same distance would still make the middle figure a bit taller. Weird choice of perspective? Artist’s mistake? Or maybe my mistake :3

  7. “It looked like a human with all the skin pulled off in a singular piece, bug-eyed without its eyelids, teeth too white against a backdrop of crimson. The torso had been stretched, making it tall enough its head almost scraped the doorframe. The arms had been removed and replaced with a row of insect limbs that extended from hip to shoulders, each of the limbs tipped with a wicked looking claw, thorn-like growths running down the length of each.”

    This resembles way too much like those Monster-of-the-week from all those Japanese Henshin Hero shows.

    • >Japanese Henshin Hero shows
      Super Sentai.

      Although the whole skinless appearance reminds me more of a bite-sized colossal titan.

      • I meant Henshin Hero shows like Kamen Rider Series since their weekly villains don’t grow in size.

        Super Sentai would be more appropriate in Twig if associating Sy & Co. with Power Rangers.

    • Crouch-come-curtsy

      Pretty sure that should be crouch-cum-curtsy, as in the Latin “cum,” “with.”

      Autocorrect strikes again? (If so, that’s hilarious. 😛 )

  8. Can someone remind me where lillian came from? I know her specialty is medicine, but I cant remember when or why she came to join the lambs. Wish I had Jamie’s brain.

    • She is a student who is being sponsored by Hayle, so long as she continues to be a member of the Lambsbridge Orphans.

    • Lilian is a student of the academy, not an experiment. She had the skills to join, despite her age, but not the nobility to pay for her tuition. Hayle came up with a … sort of Work-Study-Scholarship program for her- she works with the lambs as their medic and academy-knowledge-liaison, and in return her tuition is payed in full, and almost all resources and doors are available and open to her.

      Her specialty isn’t really medicine, per say, but medicine IS one of the things one learns in the academy. I don’t believe she’s been at it long enough to have a special focus like bugs (gordon’s crush), brains (hayle), senses (whisker’s creators), or WMDs (basically everyone else, including brigs), but she’s getting there. Certain clues, like the lumpy homemade pills make it seem like she’s a good student but clearly still wet behind the ears. I mean, she knows her shit, and the adults keep trying to prove her wrong, but she doesn’t have much actual experience with creating monsters and experiments.

    • Helen should justify all sortas of things with “Biological Imperative”. She wants to go shopping? Biological imperative. Finds something cute? Biological Imperative. Slowly chokes the life out of someone? Biological Imperative.

      • Falls in love?biological impeative.Likes a joke?biological imperative.Hates someone?biological imperative.

        I call bullshit on her not having feelings.

  9. That is a worryingly intelligent frankenstein girl. Has Fray been working on her brain a bit?

    She might be more dangerous than even Sy knows if she can do that.

    • One wonders if at some point we won’t see Stitched start turning on their masters. As it is, Wendy seems pretty smart there, but it may end up just being a programmed reaction.

  10. So… Sy’s memory thing. What are the odds that he’s already told the others when they die, or at least Jamie, and forgotten about it? The reason Jamie doesn’t want Gordon’s body anymore is because he knows Gordon dies first.

    • Jamie doesn’t say that he wants Gordon’s body because he suspects his/her brain is planned to be implanted into Gordon’s body after Gordon’s expiration – and is no longer sure that he/she wants it these terms.

  11. Also, I had gotten, from earlier chapters, the feeling that Sy was an add-on to an existing Lambs project, brought in from a failed project to revitalise an incomplete one. It seems here he was a founding member. I guess it’s time for a reread.
    Or maybe I’m forgetting details, and it’s time for an appointment.

    • Yes and no. Originally, it had been gordon, Helen, Eve and ashton, but the latter two died early on, and if sy had been around when they were, he does’t remember them too well. The original lambs plan included jamie as well, but he tool longer to develop, because they had to clone his brain and part of spine, then graft it back on to him somehow.

      Once the other two died, helen, gordon, and sy were used for the “prisoner’s dilemma” game, and eventually jamie started playing as well, but sy was there first (as they were testing the variety of a child wyvern). Somewhere during or after this, hayle scooped the wyvern project up and included sy in the lambs.

      So no, he wasn’t a founding member, not exactly, but he’s been around and with the lambs since around their beginning, and became apart of them since the start of their missions (at least, the way it sounds when they talk about eve and ashton, it sounds like they died well before the lambs first mission)

  12. I’m curious too. N that username… is it possible that you’re Kenyan?
    If so, jo tukutane tao ju hakuna venye tunaeza have tastes similar hivi na tukose kuhit it off.
    N if, in fact, you’re one of the guys I led to this story, then you should know that your spelling is atrocious :P.

  13. Hm, Sy this chapter made me realize, if he’s not focusing on something while on Wyvern it seems to rapidly erode the related skills. He’s okay with socialization because he uses that every day, but he isn’t going to be picking up many other specialties. The advantage is that his social skills will not erode like that. But what about Frey? What’s she lost being monofocused on strategy and on the run? I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s rapidly losing the scientific knowledge that she gained, the incidental stuff learned as a student but not applied often.

    • Less losing the knowledge, and more losing the skill. You can logically know how to ride a bike, but you can’t logically learn the skill without practicing it. Like musical instruments, you lose the hand-dexterity if you don’t practice, and your skills will degrade over time, even if you remember the notes and what to do to produce certain sounds

  14. So at this point, I’ve pretty much decided that Helen is my favorite character, and that I’m enjoying Twig more than I did Pact. But then again, that’s like comparing Star Trek DS9 to Sliders. Both great shows. And then if you want to thrown in Worm, the only fitting comparison is Firefly, the greatest show ever.

    Also, I know you’re probably not going to see this Wildbow, but since you’ve become my favorite author, it really would mean the world to me if you checked out my web serial, Jolt.

    In case you didn’t see from my last comment, Jolt is set in a world where 20% of humanity has super powers, and 14 years after the disappearance of every superhero in the world, the story follows a new, dorky superhero, a mean girl supervillain, and an elderly, schizophrenic antihero going about their business, and getting in each other’s way.

  15. Hi guys,

    My suspicions were right (read first comment) – stuff got in the way of writing. Went to my mom’s to dogsit for just under a week, and was informed that the dog isn’t well. Have been a little bit distracted and haven’t been able to give the writing my full attention.

    The Thursday chapter will come next week. Best that I take a few days and make sure Saturday’s chapter is good & together rather than write tonight’s & Saturday’s while distracted and produce something inferior.

  16. The “Next” Button on 4.02 doesn’t work.

    I’ve been catching up, and I’ve been really excited for this arc so far. I love Fray as an antagonist and I find the pressure with the pills works really well. I’m liking this arc at least as much so far as the Sub Rosa arc, which really paid off by the end. I’m confident this one will, too.

    Also, what’s with Jamie forgetting something? Did they secretly replace him with a copy that’s close enough to the original to fool the other Lambs (Like Mary was supposed to do?) Or is there a side effect to his treatments?

    Or is the problem Sy’s, where he’s either remembering something that didn’t happen, or mis-remembering something? Ack!

  17. my bet is on jamie having figured out how his project and gordons projects fit together (not figuratively), and being less than enthusiastic about it.

  18. “Jamie, Gordon and I will cross-dress,” I said. I saw the annoyed looks, and I cracked a grin, “The school is going co-ed.”
    I think the first plan would probably have worked better.

  19. I just want to say, I gave your writing a break Wildbow, but I never forgot. I’m glad I have to play catchup now . I think the drought between catch-up was too much to take. Such good stuff! Oh, the humanity!

  20. Looking back on earlier notes, I see that it was noted in 1.1 Lillian was the oldest (13. Gordon was 12. Everyone else younger). Interesting that she is maturing the slowest (aside from Sy).

    And interesting that after the descriptions of Helen and Mary, Lillian was noted to be “still young.”

    Though to be fair, I don’t think we know exactly how old Mary is, and Helen is… well… Helen.

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