Esprit de Corpse – 5.5

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I watched Helen and Gordon chatter, joining in now and again with a comment.  The topic was our etiquette and presentation class.  It still put me off, having known Helen for a few months, how she could switch from eerie deadpan to animated and normal, demonstrating the very subjects that Gordon was bringing up.  The two of us gave her tips, and she demonstrated each of them with an uncanny accuracy, shaping and refining her body language, tone, and overall presentation.

They were as different as night and day, at the fundamental level, human and inhuman, but they had still found a connection.

I realized we had a fourth member present.  The new kid.  Quiet.

“Have you had the class yet?” I asked him, to make conversation.

He shook his head, then raised a hand to push the glasses up his nose.

“They make us do it, so we can fit into more situations, and so we don’t embarrass Mr. Hayle, I think,” I said.

“Seems like Helen and Gordon took it to heart,” the boy said.

“Yeah,” I said.  “They know their stuff.”

“You don’t?  I’m still trying to figure everyone out.  I think I understand them, Gordon more than Helen, but she’s-“

“An experiment,” I finished.

He nodded, looking guilty for even saying it.

“To answer your question, I think they’re trying to decide if I should keep going or if I’m a lost cause.”

“Oh,” he said.

I cracked a smile.  “I’m more interested in the professors than anything.  They find really interesting people, four so far, and I’ve made it a challenge for myself to see how fast I can get under their skin.”

“I’m starting to get the picture,” he said.

I smiled wider.

“I still feel so lost,” he said.  “And I’m not catching up.  I sleep sixteen hours a day, I have more appointments than anyone, I have less time in class, less time with the rest of you, it’s not helping.  They say it’s going to get better, but…”

He trailed off.

“Whatever happens, we’ll help,” I said.  “We’ll understand.  Honest.”

He probably wasn’t aware how much doubt came across on his face.

There was something he wasn’t telling me.

“I’ll start,” I said, smiling.  “I’ve completely forgotten your name.”

“I’ve told you four times.”

“Yeah,” I said.  “What is it, again?”


“Jamie,” I said.  I closed my eyes and tried to commit it to memory.  “They tell me this will get better too, as they fix the dosages.  And it is.  But right now it sucks.  I know what it’s like to feel like you’re falling behind.”

“Speaking of,” he said, “I think I’m dozing off.  I can barely keep my eyes awake.  Those two talking is putting me under.”

“Then sleep,” I said.  “I don’t mind.”

“I’m afraid to sleep, sometimes,” he said, his voice soft, still watching them.  The sudden onset of fatigue was obvious.


“Sometimes, I fall asleep, and when I wake up, they’ve got me hooked up, and there’s nothing I can do before they throw the switch.”

I remembered the chair, the cloth-covered tanks.  I’d snooped.  I’d met Ashton and Evette, in a way.  I’d seen the aftermath, the labs where their remains were interred.  Evette dead before she even awoke, Ashton an effective abortion, left in a tank that now smelled of formaldehyde.  On bad days I’d slept on the floor in their rooms, or stayed up all night with them, talking to them, knowing they couldn’t ever respond.

That thought on my mind, I spoke without thinking, “Whatever happens, as long as I can help it, and I can help a lot of things, I will not let them do that again.  At the very least, I’ll wake you up before they take you.”

He smiled for the first time.  A real smile, anyway.  “You sound so serious.”

I reached out and took his hand, squeezing it hard enough that it made my own hand hurt.  When that wasn’t enough, I grabbed it with my other hand, squeezing his between the two of mine.  “I am.  I’m promising.”

“I owe you for one good nap, then,” he told me.

“You don’t owe me anything.  That’s not how we do this.”

“I stand corrected.”

“And that’s a promise that applies to every nap, every time you sleep.”

He frowned a little, eyes opening more as he studied me.

“We’re going to go live somewhere else starting this summer.  Until then, I know how to get out of my room.  I know where your room is.”

“It’s not that important.  You’ll get in trouble.”

“It is important,” I said.  “I’ve promised, and I can’t break my first ever promise to you.  Not when we’re all going to be together for the rest of our lives.”

He nodded slowly.  I thought for a second that he was nodding off.

“Who were you, before?” he asked me.

“Before all this?  Don’t remember.”

“I can’t imagine that.  Isn’t it scary, not knowing?”

“I found my file, I read it.  I know they didn’t expect me to look for it, so I don’t think it was a trick,” I said.  “I wasn’t anybody special.”

“That’s hard to believe.”

I shot him a look.  “That line is so lame.  Oh, I don’t even have words-“


“So lame!”

He gave me a light push.

“Unforgivably lame!”

He pushed me harder.  I nearly fell from the edge of the table I was sitting on.

I settled down, still laughing, dragging my fingers down one side of my face.  Gordon and Helen were staring now, but I hadn’t distracted them sufficiently to break the stride of their conversation.

“What can I do for you?” he asked me.

“Never say-“

“Forget what I said!  Really.  What can I do?”

“Nothing,” I said.

“It’s okay if you can’t do what you said.  I’ll understand-“

“-I’ll do it.  I promised.”

“Then I want to know what I can do to help you.  I’m going to find a way to help you, Sylvester.”

I shrugged, shaking my head.

“Nothing bothers you?  Nowhere you need help?  When I first met Gordon, he said you have a hard time after your appointments?”

“Oh, did he?  Yeah, I guess.”


“It hurts,” I said.  “It hurts so much it makes me feel like there’s nothing else.  After, I feel like less of a person.  More like I’m a piece of metal, thrust into the fire, over and over.”

“And they’re hammering you into shape?”

“No,” I confessed.  “Mostly, I get to hold the hammer.  There’s that, at least.”

He was nodding off, now.  Slumping forward.

I could see the ridged scar running up from the collar of his shirt to the nape of his neck.  His head had been shaved for the last surgery.  It was still so short that I could see his scalp.

“Wish I could help, somehow,” he murmured.  I gave his shoulder a push, and he roused enough to shift position, leaning back against the wall, the ends of each leg dangling off the edge of the table.

“Nothing you can do to help,” I said.  I didn’t speak my thoughts aloud.  Except maybe talk.  Beats talking to Ashton or Evette, at least.

He was already out.  He’d fought it and lost.

Now it was more like talking to Ashton.  I murmured to myself, “It’s up to me.  I’ve got to get used to it somehow, make friends with the pain.”

I nearly fell as the other two urged me through the door.  Jamie let go of me to close the door, very softly, and Helen wasn’t strong enough to hold me up.  She did what she could to ease my collapse to the floor.

Pain.  I’d thought I’d achieved a serious tolerance to it over the years, but the very real imagery suggested a lapse.  I’d nearly passed out, drifting into memories.

Was this what it meant to see my life flashing before my eyes?  It was as good a starting point as anything else.  I didn’t have many memories of things that came before.  Some games with Helen and Gordon, some antics after I broke out of my room, time with Evette and Ashton.  Less meaningful things.

“You with us, Sy?” Jamie asked.

“Yup,” I said, putting all my effort into sounding casual as I let my head sink back to the floor.  I was in a kitchen, I realized.  Checkered drapes at the window.

The small pinpoint of pain had spread and expanded until it felt like my stomach was three times the size, filled with agony.  It wasn’t swollen, though.  It was a regular, too-skinny tummy with a hole in it and a lot of blood leaking around it, into my shirt and the top of my pants.  I had blood that had dripped around the side of my body and into my butt crack.

This kind of agony was something I was used to, though it limited how I could move and pull my thoughts together.  Blood in my butt crack somehow drove the point home better than my life flashing before my eyes.  It was a signal that things were horribly, horribly wrong.

People should never ever have blood in their buttcrack.

“They’re close,” Helen said.

“I know,” Jamie replied.  He stared down at me.  “I’m going to find a way to help you, Sy.”

I nodded.  I winced as I inhaled and swallowed at the same time and that somehow made the wrong thing move, touching on the area where I’d been shot.  “We should go.”

“We should,” Jamie said, “But we need to stop the bleeding, at the very least.”

“Need Lillian, but she’s too far away,” I said.  I blinked with more force than was needed, because I didn’t want to have my eyes close and stay closed.

A very deep, male voice cut in, “Who’s Lillian, and what the hell are you doing?”

I saw Jamie go limp, his head bowing.  Defeat.

Helen, of course, was Helen.  I looked over in the direction she was staring, and I saw a man in the doorway of the kitchen, a wife and child behind him, staring.

I looked back to Helen, and tears were falling down her cheeks.  Crying on command.

I met Jamie’s eyes, then spoke, “The Academy’s attacking.”

I watched the expression on the man and woman’s faces.  The wide eyes of the child, who was young enough to be of indeterminate gender.  The man was young.  He’d probably had the child in or just after his teens.  He was like an older Gordon, if Gordon had a weak chin.  His expression changed as he wrestled with fear and trying to summon his courage.

He only needed a push.

“Help me,” I said.  My ability to almost take the pain in stride made it more difficult to find the piteous tone I needed.

He rushed to my side, twisted around, and told his wife, “The kit!  It’s under the sink!”

The woman took the little kid with her as she left.  Hopefully to get the ‘kit’.

“They attacked in the street,” Jamie said.  “You heard the gunshots?”

The man nodded.  “We were looking out the window at the other side of the house.”

I spoke, wincing as I did, “They looked like the resistance members.  Black coats, black shirts, those rifles-“

“Exorcists,” Jamie said.

“I saw one standing there.  His face changed, eyes and nose and mouth and ears going all wonky,” I said.  “Then he saw that I’d seen him, he shouted something, a signal, and then he shot me, before he started shooting at the crowd.”

Tension lines stood out in the man’s face and neck.  He didn’t move his eyes from the bloody hands that were pressing down on my wound.  It damn well hurt, but I could push through the pain, I could find the presence of mind to lie.

Might as well foster paranoia and propaganda while I’m lying here bleeding.

“They looked normal?”

“Yes,” Helen said, still crying.  “It scared me.”

The man didn’t budge.  I could imagine he was processing, trying to grasp the situation, and what the course of action should be.

His wife came down, with a large kit and no child trailing behind.

“I don’t know what to do,” the man said.

“I do,” Jamie said.

He did?

I watched as Jamie opened the kit.  I could see the label on the lid.  It was the sign of some Academy or another, ironically enough.  A full kit for medics.  Many had been sold to the public after the last war.  By the time another war rolled around -this one, as it happened- there would be better kits, with better tools and components.

He moved with a quiet assuredness as he picked through the various things.  I watched him, periodically blinking with more force than was necessary, breathing shallow breaths to keep my stomach from hurting.  He gathered special pliers and a long syringe with two handles, powders, and metal clamps.

He met my eyes, and there was an awful lot communicated in that look.

Among them was an unspoken agreement.

Had I let slip that he was trying to figure out Latin, after our little trip down to the Dungeons with Sub Rosa, Jamie would have gotten in serious trouble.

This was something else entirely.

“Never done this before,” he murmured.

“You said-” the man of the house started.

“My dad is a doctor,” Jamie lied.  Then he told the truth, saying, “I’ve watched and learned.”

“If you’re not sure-“

“I’m sure,” Jamie lied, again.  He lied for a third time as he said, “I was talked through procedures worse than this.”

You’ve seen, you remember, you piece it together, I thought.

“The powder smells different,” Jamie said.

“Could be old,” the man said.

Jamie made a face, then tossed the powder.  He rifled through the kit until he found a liquid, instead.  He set a match on my chest.

“Uh,” I said.

“Sorry,” he said.  “Going to have to do it like it’s done on the battlefield.”

“You’ve never seen a battlefield, you butt!”

“I’ve heard,” he said.  He didn’t respond to the insult.  I realized how scared he was.

The problem with this piecemeal knowledge.  He knew the moves he needed to make, but he didn’t have a foundation.  One day, all going according to plan, he could have that foundation.  He couldn’t trust a medicine that smelled different.  But that he could even figure out the right tools, that he was this far along, and he’d kept it a secret?

The Academy couldn’t know.  We were forbidden.

The man moved his hands.  Jamie took the scalpel to my injury, opening it up enough for the pliers to go in.

He looked so terrified I couldn’t bear to look at him.  My head dropped to the floor, and I reached out to pat his knee, grunting and gasping now and then as the pliers moved.  A small sound escaped my throat as I held my breath.

“Isn’t there something you can give him?” the man asked.

“No,” I said, a moment before Jamie said, “No.”


“There!” I jumped in, and the volume and suddenness with which I’d spoken made the pain explode through my abdomen.  I groaned, long and loud, clenching my fist and squeezing Jamie’s knee hard, making little sounds with every pant.

“Easy,” Helen said.  She gave my forehead a pat, and pushed hair out of my eyes.  It was sweaty, and stayed out of the way.

“Talk to me,” Jamie said.  “I’m not good enough to find it on my own.”

The man spoke up, “You can’t possibly-“

“Close,” I said.  “No, other direction.”

“I feel it.”

He found it, he got a grip on it, locked the pliers’ grip, and he pulled the modified pliers free, a bullet the size of a grape held in the prongs.

I wasn’t privy to the particulars of the clean up job, but he dumped the contents of the bottle in, daubed it around with a swab to get the parts the match couldn’t reach, then seared the bleedy bits with the match.

“Now I’m hungry,” I murmured, as I smelled the seared flesh.

“But we just ate,” Helen said.  “We had treats!”

“I was joking.”

She gave me a disapproving look.  The tears had dried up, and she was smiling a little.  All an act, of course.

He glued me together and closed me up, using the clamps to hold things in place until the glue could set.

“I’m not sure how much blood you’ve already lost,” Jamie said.  “There’s no aqua nucifera, and I wouldn’t trust it if there was.”

I nodded.

“Don’t move too quickly,” he said.  “You’re going to be weak.”

“Like that’s anything new,’ I said.

He put the tools aside, leaving a bit of a mess.  The man looked a little concerned, as if things didn’t add up, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.

Helen gave me a hand in getting to my feet.  The man and Jamie moved to the kitchen sink to wash their hands.

I still had blood in my butt crack.  I probably looked like a wreck.

“There haven’t been more gunshots,” the man observed.

“There was one with a knife,” I said.  “One with claws, and one with some weapon on a chain.”

“A censer,” Jamie said, looking over at me.

I gestured for him to ease up a bit.  I saw him nod.

Riding a high.  He did what he wasn’t supposed to do, he even succeeded and saved me, hopefully.  Whatever special kind of person Jamie might’ve been, he was still a person.  He got a rush of adrenaline from a success like that.

It didn’t show that much, though.  Jamie was quiet and reserved at the best of times.  He cleaned himself up, leaving his sleeves still rolled up, and grabbed his bag.

“I should go,” the man said.  He turned to his wife.  “If we’re under attack, I need to do something.”


“They attacked a child,” he said.  “If we’d been out instead of here with Edmund-”

She nodded, spooked.

I let the drama play out while I gently prodded my stomach.  I pulled clothing back into place, wincing at the pain, took a cloth from beside the sink and began to wipe at my shirt where it was all bloody.  Jamie handed me my jacket, then helped me pull it on.

I was well and truly ready to take something for the pain now, now that Jamie didn’t need help to find his way to the bullet.

The man went to a cabinet, and came back with a gun.  He took a moment to put it together, checking for various components, most definitely not a person with more than a few hours of practice, and then gave his wife a kiss.

“Be healthy,” he told me, “Thank you for the warning about the attacks.  Will you look after my wife?”

“Of course,” Jamie said.

“Good man,” the soldier said.

“Sir!” I cut in, before he could head out, gun in hand.  He paused, and I told him, “Warn others.”

He nodded, then headed out the door.

I pointed, and the others nodded.  As the wife stepped over to the door to lock it, peering out the window to watch her husband, we headed out the front door.

There was nowhere to go but forward and out.  The residential road had people gathered in clusters, talking, and we used them for cover, watching.

“Stop,” Helen said, but it was less the order and more than fact that she grabbed us and hauled us back that stopped us.  Breaking our forward momentum.  I jerked, and my stomach clenched inadvertently.  I bit back a gasp of pain.

The crack marked a bullet striking something hard.  I didn’t see where.

“Go!”  I called out, “Go, go!”

We hurried as much as we were able, with me hurting and sucking at everything.  An alley offered cover from the gunshots.

They had a gunman that could see well enough through the rain to target us.  He was sharp enough to notice us just moments after we’d emerged from the house.

“Jamie,” I said.  “Where is he?”

“Don’t know.”

“You know where he was?  First shot?  The one that hit me?”

“Some idea.”

“And the shot just now?”

“Less that I know where he was, more… I can eliminate possibilities.”

“Eliminate,” I said.  We hurried down the alleyway.  There were people there, more clusters.  I studied each group, watching for potential trouble.

The others had to have heard about the gunshot.  They’d look after Lillian, if Lillian was even in danger.  She was well camouflaged.  Short of them killing every child in the town of Whitney… which wasn’t impossible…

“Fuck,” I said.

“Are you okay?” Jamie asked.

“Not that,” I said.  I knew my voice sounded more tense than it usually did.  “We’re stuck.”

“We’ve been stuck before.”

“We need to get out, rendezvous with the others.  We can’t do that without stepping into an open area.  If we stay put, the other two might track us down.”

The rain was coming down harder now.  I wasn’t quite able to hope that it was making life harder on our enemies.

“If we think about the things that make them stand out,” I murmured, “Nose, eyes, the guy with the scarf might just be fingers, touch, and the guy Jamie shot is probably ears.”

“Was,” Helen said.  “Past tense.”

“I’m not willing to bet anything,” I said.  “There might be a fifth, taste, and I’m going to assume the one Jamie shot is alive until we see him dismantled on some Academy autopsy table.”

“Five,” Jamie said.

“There are more than five senses,” Helen said.  “Balance, sense of one’s own physical state…”

“It’s possible,” I said.  “But these buttheads aren’t even supposed to have three pieces of work this good, let alone four or five.  Experienced soldiers, each with custom modifications?”

“Academy work,” Jamie said.

“Traitors,’ Helen said.

I nodded slowly.  “That changes things.  I don’t feel so good about Helen going after one.”

“I can do it,” Helen said.

“Probably.  And you’re going to have to,” I said.  “But I don’t feel good about it.”

She nodded.  She was holding herself in a way that I was pretty sure was Helen for ‘anticipation’.  Her expression was still normal, smiling, but her body was ready for the attack.

“Let’s head in Lillian’s general direction,” I said.  “In case the others can’t cover her.  And because it’s the direction they’re liable to be going in.  We assess the situation, then we go in.  If we spot one, we bait.”

The two nodded.

We moved.

Through winding alleys, awareness of our surroundings pitched to a painful degree.  I wasn’t at my best, and I was focusing my thoughts and my own un-altered senses on every gap, readying myself for an attack at any moment, knowing it was futile even if I was fast enough to react.

We paused at a pile of debris, while Jamie turned his attention to figuring out a plan that worked, then went down a side-alley.  The street was packed with soldiers.  Another side alley was mostly empty, wagons that were usually there now cleared away.  No cover to hide behind.

As we returned to the four-way intersection, the woman appeared.

Helen indicated, and the three of us crawled into a space beneath a house, belly deep in mud.  I used one hand to hold Jamie’s raincoat down over the injury so it wouldn’t get too dirty.

We were as good as caught.  She had the ability to smell.

I signaled.  We collectively abandoned our attempt at staying silent, and crawled for the other side of the space.  The floor above us scraped our shoulderblades as the ground rose to meet it.  Jamie squirmed out of his backpack.

“Children,” the woman spoke, from just in front of us.

She’d circled around.  She could do it again, as fast as we could crawl.

“You killed Phlegm,” she called out to us.  “My brother.”

Jamie reacted to the name.  He’d connected two dots.

He didn’t seem to have a ready answer.

“I have his belt,” the woman said.

The cans of gas.

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53 thoughts on “Esprit de Corpse – 5.5

  1. It’s so great to see how Jamie and Sy’s relationship started. There’s a huge difference between how he met Jamie versus how he meets people now. Is that age, skills, or just Jamie being part of the Gesalt? He did bring up the two failed members a lot.

    • Despite everything he says and does, Sy has always seemed to have a great deal of care for those he feels are like him. Look at how quickly he wanted to bring Mary into the lambs, how he was horrified when he learned his pestering about the badge almost cost the chance for Ashton or Evette to be reactivated, and how his first response to learning Frey was ODing on Wyvvern was that he had a sister. Sy definitly can emphasize. Just not with normal people.

      • Oh, I think he can and does empathise with quite a few outside the Lambs, experiments and assorted odd balls. Hayle takes up room in his head, Lacey did, too. Some of the orphans at Lambsbridge itself did, too (not that you’re ever going to get him to admit that). And, I don’t think anybody would describe what he thinks about Reverend Mauer counts as “distant”: kinda creepy, sure… but, cool, calm and collected it ain’t.

  2. The cans of gas are the spirit of the corpse? No? Okay.

    I wonder, why didn’t they follow the children into the house, especially accounting that they were vulnerable? I don’t think killing or capturing children would do worse for public image than what Sy could do.

    Why couldn’t Helen tell Sy where the bullet came from? She couldn’t have possibly seen or heard the bullet and react fast enough to save her friends. She must have seen their assailant.

    Amazing chapter! The introduction was quite heart warming. Those two are very sweet.

    • For what it is worth, it seems that medicine in Twigverse is far more impressive than I gave it credit for. I was complaining about Mary going from critical to going on a hunt on her own in a matter of minutes. Here we have a very similar case (though Sy might still be critically low on blood). That’s scary, you know. I don’t (I do) want to see how awful a battlefield would be, with people going down and being brought up probably a couple times per battle (in a really, really bad battle). And if they survive, hey, you just get to do it again.

  3. One dynamic i’m finding very interesting is how the use of different characters of the team highlights how they cover their various weaknesses and synergise their strengths when they’re all together.
    In this chapter they clearly miss Lil. The presence of Gordon (or Mary, who I see as Gordon part 2 with abandonment issues and kinky weapon concealment techniques) would have been great as well. Cornering them would have been much harder, for one. And imagine if it had been Gordon whose wrist had been grabbed in the dining room XD. He probably could have just left with the gentleman in question in tow.

    Taylor, Blake and even to some extent Rose were essentially one-man-wrecking-crews. The fact that the Lambs, especially in their Not My Final Form states so clearly need each other is a great change.

  4. That said, I do find that these three (Helen, Jamie n Sy) are the most situationally dependent for their strengths/weaknesses. This makes them weaker overall i feel. A medic is always useful, especially a combat medic like Lil. Gordon even managed to net one for a date (Good job Gordon! That bodes well for the eventual action hero “Fuck the academy i can do this on my own” thought process that is so inevitable as to be cliche, coming on, if your girl is a Scientist).
    No argument even needs to be made for Gordon and Mary’s effectiveness.
    Actually, if these three (Gordon, Lil n Mary) were a team on their own…wildbow…i feel they’d do just fine. My three favourite characters, it seems, bring not much more to the table than gimmicks.

    • Personally I’d put Team Sy, Jamie and Helen over the other one. Not in a straight brawl, obviously, or anything of that nature. But in terms of outmanoeuvring or out-thinking one another? I think they’d win quite comfortably. Personally, I think that that’s more important, and that it becomes increasingly so the more you look at the bigger picture.

      Looking back on the serial so far, subtlety and cleverness seems to come out ahead of a more direct physical advantage pretty consistently, in the conflicts we’re focusing on.

    • Sy, Jamie, and Helen bring the mental aspects to the table, with Helen also being physical due to her crazy grappling physiology. Jamie has the memory, Sy has the social manipulation, and Helen has the acting. In the right context (like, in a crowd where not everyone is trying to kill them) they are deadly effective.

      Gordon and Mary are both physical assets, and Lillian is of course the doctor (not necessarily either, but can affect people physically). Gordon’s grab doctor might either simply be a better doctor or a different type entirely. Gordon is of course a scrapper/fighter, and Mary is an assassin. These three or four are significantly more useful in a fight or when detaining a target, whereas they aren’t as actively useful in a social situation as the other three could be.

      So, yeah. Sy/Jamie/Helen might seem like gimmicks at first glance, but really they’re just the other half of the tools needed for the Lamb’s job. You can’t exactly take out a rogue mad scientist if you can’t find him, yeah? Without Sy there’s no way they could’ve stopped Mauer(sp?), and without Jamie the mission they’re on right now could go kaput really fast.

    • Don’t forget that even though Gordon might not have a talent for social engineering, he still packs a whopping amount of charisma. He’s not just the tank, he’s the all-arounder of the Lambs, with no major weaknesses (supposedly, anyway). In a pinch, he can scheme and act reasonably well.

      • The problem is, he’s the glue of the team, but not the expert in each of the fields like the rest. And, when you’re facing adult conspiracies with unknown numbers behind them, being a great Meat Shield and an OK-to-good schemer only gets you so far when your apparent age seems to be sixteen. :/

        • I agree with ewnson. Sy is the glue holding the group together. In fact, if anything Gordon is divisive after declaring that he might’ve abandoned the group to join fray if his morals didn’t preclude him from doing so. Besides, as we can see in the background meeting with Jamie in this chapter, it is Sy who brought him in and made him family, not Gordon. Gordon doesn’t need the group nearly as much as the others due to being older and more complete as a stand alone option. He makes a very good face for the group though.

  5. Taking all bets on who will come in as the cavalry… Today’s longshot special: 33-1 odds on Lillian turning Phlegm into a stitched

    Wait, is there any reason you can’t turn biologically enhanced humans into a stitched?

    • I assume it would be due to the fact that creating a stitched would be a rather specific process done with standard parts, augmenting a new stitched would be simpler than trying to force non-standard parts to work together

      • Fray’s out of action, by negotiation, for at least a month. Besides, why would she? She’d much prefer it if the Lambs joined her (they’re six proven assets that work better in groups, and pretty much each combo is an asset in its own right) but until they do, they’re a threat. If that threat, well, works itself out, so much the better for her plans.

        She’s not coming.

      • I think they can get themselves out of this particular situation through throwing something extremely smell sensitive (a halitosis plagued skunk with diarrhea) or something at Madame Sniffington but there is no way Gordon or Mary is gonna hear multiple gunshots and rumors of children being shot and not come running.

  6. Well we got a bit of backstory didn’t we? And we found out Ashton and Evette’s current conditions. From the sounds of things they were stillborn, so to speak. Makes me wonder how they were modified. And yet we know reactivation was approved for one of them. Cloning? Or starting over?

      • I think it’s more of a comment on how she failed from the start, by the academy’s or experiment’s standards, not that she was or is dead in any sense.

    • And do we think Ashton was a boy or a girl? I don’t think any specific gender has been attached, and it’s a unisex name. I’m leaning towards Ashton being a guy, it’s more popular as a boy’s name, Ashton was meant to be a counterpoint to Helen, and it would have balanced the genders of the original group.

      I’m really curious to see who gets ‘revived’. Evette seems to make more sense, if Sy’s already filling in Ashton’s role (unless they force Sy to re-adapt/ have two people doing that job, which seems unlikely). And (again) if the Evette project remains an “Evette”, then the genders of the Lamb experiments will be balanced again, which sort of seems important, in a weird way.

      I’m imaging that they’ll pick a new kid for the project (in a completely ethical manner, I’m sure) and modify them.We seem to be about an arc or two away from that happening, which should be very exciting to see.

      • Your point about Ashton being a unisex name also applies to Jamie. When I read the chapter where Wildbow obliquely reveals that Jamie is a unich, I suffered from some wild speculations about whether Jamie was, in fact, male! It would have made an interesting plot twist…

  7. As a reply to all of you I’ll say: well, Gordon is OK enough at all those by himself to get by. Mary only seems to have social hang-ups, but excellent otherwise. All she has to be told is to stay in the back lines and she is very effective.
    So with Gordon as the Point Man, Lil as the Medic/Normal Girl in social situations and Mary lurking as the Support, well. All good I think.
    After all, what’s Gordon’s weakness? Being slightly too awesome? Lilian is a much better soldier already than she was in the earlier chapters. Mary doesn’t need much more than a support structure and being reminded she’s awesome. That’s my team.
    How about your team? What are their weaknesses?
    Exactly. Much longer list.
    (And by the way, knowing Helen, the Cake is a Lie. Sorry.)

    • Despite what hollywood and the gaming giants want us to think, combat prowess is not something that is useful in many situations in a civilized setting.

      Mary’s weakness is that she shuts down completely when her part of the plan goes wrong, which basically means she can’t survive the plan’s “first contact with reality” without backup.

      Gordon’s weakness is that he’s not actually good at anything. He’s better than anyone else at the things that they’re bad at, so he ends up doing anything athletic, because that’s the one thing nobody else is good at except Mary in the case of combat, and usually they face more than 1 opponent in those situations.

  8. So…who wants to bet that Jamie could theoretically learn enough to extend his own lifespan, just by watching the doctors work? Jeez, the number of secrets he must have picked up…he doesn’t know the science behind it, but if he can replicate battlefield surgery I bet he could make a passable Stitched.

  9. euodiachloris, first, I think Sy is the glue of the team, not Gordon. Second. I think Gordon is good for far more than that. But most importantly, third: I’m trying for a team A vs team B thing here, not an individual breakdown. As they’re split up right now, it looks like weak vs strong to me. What say you?

  10. Good points about Mary, but Gordon’s there as her backup, and vice versa.
    As for Gordon, I do believe the author explicitly states that he is good at pretty much everything. The fact that he lacks Jamie’s amazing memory or Sy’s Skillful Shenanigans does not translate to ” he’s not
    actually good at anything “. I think they still come out ahead, overall.

  11. Typo thread, quotation mark edition!

    The following lines end with a left double quotation mark instead of a right double quotation mark:
    Gordon more than Helen, but she’s-“
    Oh, I don’t even have words-“
    “Never say-“
    do what you said. I’ll understand-“
    Black coats, black shirts, those rifles-“
    you’re not sure-“
    The man spoke up, “You can’t possibly-“

    The following lines end with a right single quotation mark instead of a right double quotation mark:
    that’s anything new,’ I said.
    “Traitors,’ Helen said.

    • More typos:

      – “_I didn’t speak my thoughts aloud. Except maybe talk. Beats talking to Ashton or Evette, at least._” -> “thoughts aloud: Except”; or un-italicize the rest of the paragraph beginning with “Except”

      – “People should never ever have blood in their buttcrack.” -> “butt crack”

      – “as he wrestled with fear and trying to summon his courage” -> “and tried to”

      – “The problem with this piecemeal knowledge.” -> This sentence no verb.

      – “but it was less the order and more than fact that” -> “and more the fact that”

      Potential inconsistency: “I was well and truly ready to take something for the pain now, now that Jamie didn’t need help to find his way to the bullet.” – I might be mixing something up here, but doesn’t Sy’s poison resistance via the Wyvern formula extend to painkillers?

      And a general note: Variations of the phrase “but he couldn’t put his finger on it” seem over-used in Twig. Similar to “copacetic” or “Fuck me” in Worm.

          • Do you and several other people collectively have only a single buttcrack?
            Each person should never ever have blood in their (singular they) buttcrack. People in general should have blood-free buttcracks.
            This is a really silly sentence, which incidentally makes me wonder about the state of menstrual hygiene products in Twig.

    • I can barely keep my eyes awake. –> keep my eyes ‘open’, although it’s spoken by a child so it might be intended

  12. The impression I get is that Gordon is an unusually good Jack of All Stats, above average but not superlative in just about everything. The other lambs, by comparison, seem to suffer from crippling overspecialization, being superlative at one or two things at the cost of sucking at anything outside their niche.

    That said, the current split seems to be a pretty good set-up for a Combat unit vs a Spy Unit:
    Combat Unit:
    Well-rounded brawler: Gordon
    Weapons expert/Assassin: Mary
    Field Medic to patch them up between scrimmages: Lillian.

    Spy Unit:
    Perfect Actress: Helen
    Social Engineer: Sy
    Walking databank: Jamie

    Also, anyone know of a way to force word press comments to be displayed in chronological order?

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