Lamb to the Slaughter – 6.9

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The Percy before us was a younger version.  If I had to guess, features had developed differently.  He didn’t wear a lab coat, and his clothes were utilitarian – a shirt with buttons, left half-unbuttoned, and slacks.  He was barefoot.  Beating the heat as best as he could manage.

Dog had positioned himself so his body was between the small children Gordon had rescued and the worst of the gore and death.  Not that it mattered.  They were unconscious, by the look of things.  Helen had a spring in her step as she approached them.

She would do fine as a babysitter, watching over them in case they roused.  It was good that she had something to do while we mulled this over.

As for myself, I walked up to Mary’s side, before dropping down to sit on my heels, bringing myself more to her level.  I didn’t touch or prod her.

“Can he talk?” I asked.

“Yes,” Gordon said.

The remainder of the Lambs gathered in a half-circle around Percy.

“Is he dangerous?” Lillian asked.

“Not really,” Gordon said.  “Dog had me watch him while breaking the vats, the Percy tried to fight me, I beat him.  He tried to run, we broke his legs.  Well, that was mostly Dog, but I got us started.  The moment Dog turned his back, the Percy crawled for a weapon under the table, we broke one of his arms.  I think he got the message.”

“Can I approach?” Lillian asked.

“I frisked him, I don’t see a problem,” Gordon said.

“Don’t have many supplies,” she said.  “But we can at least patch him up.  We were supposed to have one captive, right?”

She paused to roll her skirt up at the waist, until she could kneel on the bloodstained floor.  It didn’t matter.  She was already a mess from dealing with Mary.  Still, appearances had to be observed.

I looked at Mary, who wasn’t really moving.  Her eyes were focused on something I couldn’t see, making little movements as if she was following thoughts more than the current goings-on.

“How many of you are there?” I asked Percy.

He remained silent.

“Yeah, I don’t think you’ll get very far.  He’s a tough nut to crack,” Gordon said.  He was still leaning against the wall, a bit to the Percy’s right, arms folded.  “Pain doesn’t hurt him.  He doesn’t care that much about death and dying.”

“No self-preservation?” I asked.

“Not enough to matter,” Gordon said.  “He lives for the mission.”

I rose from my crouching position, and began to explore the surroundings.  It was a storehouse, and as best as I could judge, there was the big open space we stood in now, with us and the little lab at one and vats lining the path to the door.  The space between vats had been kept clear, once.  Now it held corpses.  Three doors led to side rooms.

“Mary,” I said.

She stirred, twisting to look at me.

I pointed at the open space.  “Training yard?”


“Gordon says he doesn’t know how to fight.  How do they learn?”

“Percy didn’t know more than what a fencing hobby taught him, and he taught me a lot.  He pit us against one another.  If we did well, we got praised.  If we could teach a form or a technique to the others, we got rewards.”

“And you were good at that,” I said, without looking at Mary.


I picked my way over the bodies until I found one that was roughly halfway intact.  I moved the head until it faced me, examining it.  I could see the exposed spines, and I could prod the now-bruised, swollen intact flesh to feel them beneath.  Running my finger one way, it was smooth.  The other way, I could feel the rasp, like brushing against stubble, only sharper.

It was hard not to draw the connection between this and Mauer’s creature.

“The clone of Percy there is conducting the role you were promised you’d have.  Looking after the next generation.  Training them, organizing them, looking after their growth.”

I did look at Mary.  She’d stood and turned around.  Her shoulders were drawn together.  She replied with only a word, “Yes.”

“You would have done better than this guy did,” I said.

Her eyebrows twitched.  Her response wasn’t another rote ‘yes’, this time.  I got surprised silence instead.

Lillian was saying something to Gordon, who was dividing his attention between her and my conversation with Mary.  Jamie was at the desk in the lab, looking over notes and papers.

“Fourteen vats,” I remarked.

“Academy’s vats,” Helen said.

“You sure?” I asked.

“I’m with Helen on this,” Jamie said, still poring over papers.  “They match what we use.”

Helen nodded.

I frowned, turning to take in the space.  “Fourteen clones per generation, one generation every… who knows how long.  Every few months?”

“Something like that,” Mary said.  “I joined the Lambs a year and some months ago.  He would have had to set this up, start it growing, then release them, and train them while starting the next batch.”

“Crap,” I said.  I looked around.  “Fourteen vats here.  He would have had to grow his Percies.  Probably a whole batch, with one ghost to act as a bodyguard for each?  And he’d used himself because…”

I searched for an explanation and floundered.

“Ego,” Mary said.  “Because he needed a source material with a high native intelligence.”

“But it’s still different,” I observed.  “You noticed a clear difference that wasn’t just a change in appearance or effective age.”

“Mannerisms, behavior, the way he holds himself… completely different person.”

I nodded.

It was disconcerting to be having this conversation, cajoling Mary in this way, this department, when I’d spent the first few months around her trying to create a distance between her and Percy.

“I don’t like how these numbers are adding up,” I said.  “Is anyone else feeling it?”

“It’s fast,” Gordon said.  “Very fast, to have clones created, up and running.  I mean, they’re mostly nonverbal, aside from the ability to run through scripts.”

“Didn’t run into that,” I said.

“We did,” he said.  “There are elements missing, but this is a scary amount of progress for, what, months?”

“Months,” I said.  I was starting to see the bigger picture.  I moved quickly between the bodies, turning them over, turning heads, looking for hair color, body type, and other traits.

I found what I was looking for, unfortunately.  A Percy, malformed, with more of the spines inside him.  His chest had only partially developed, spines sticking out, leaving him looking odd at best, horrific at worst.

“Exponential growth,” I said.  “One generation every few months, each one with a Percy that can study and learn from his creator, then go off to start a new cell.”

“Less trained than what he did with us,” Mary said, “But with a great deal of inherent ability, thanks to their echolocation.”

“Which seems pretty heavily inspired by Mauer’s creature,” I remarked.  I snapped my fingers twice, trying to place it-

“Whiskers,” Jamie supplied.

“Thank you,” I said.  “Fail to find and uproot every single cell, and the problem just reasserts itself within the year.  All with the real Percy in the background, patching up problems with the system, revising his work, running interference, organizing the organizers.  Apparently with the cooperation of others.  Mauer included.  Our enemies are banding together.”

We took in the implications, sharing looks, Jamie looking up from his papers, Lillian from the Percy, Gordon, Dog and Catcher gathered against the far wall, and the rest of us amid the carnage of the shattered vats.

Gordon broke the silence, “Dog and I were discussing it while we waited for you.”

“Dog can’t talk,” I said.

Dog huffed.

“He talks well enough.  What we’re thinking is this isn’t as bad as it could be.”

“It’s pretty damn bad, Gordon,” I said.

“It has the potential to be.  But it’s not there yet.  Even if we assume the quick timeline, they’re only just getting started.”

“Only just?” Mary said.  “If we look at the scale, here, it could be fifteen cells in fifteen cities.”

“Hell of a lot better than two hundred,” Gordon said.

“He wouldn’t aim for two hundred,” Mary said.  “Too much exposure, too hard to communicate, too easy for one to get found out and for everything to crumble.  Better to aim for fifty.  Something in that neighborhood is still very hard to wipe out, even with the Academy’s coordinated resources.”

Gordon nodded.  “That makes sense.  Fold the extras into the existing cells for training and reinforcement?”

“Yes.  Until a cell reaches a certain size.  When they do, have them achieve something.  Take out key players, go on the offense,” Mary said.

Gordon had joined the conversation, and it was mostly bouncing between him and Mary now.  I was content to let it happen, the two of them going at it, getting into the details and figuring out implications.  I turned away, picking my way past glass and blood to access the first of the doors.

Bunk beds, not true bunk beds, but crude ones.  Fifteen in one large room, the ‘beds’ simply cloths hooked to posts with metal rings.  I peeked, and I climbed up one post to check the upper levels, but I didn’t find much.  A twist of dead flowers, a trio of small quartz crystals, a stuffed animal, some marbles.

I hopped down.  The others were still talking.

“Food.  Biomass,” Lillian was saying.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“Bottlenecks,” Gordon said.  “Lillian was saying growth wouldn’t be boundless, not forever.  There are factors that control how much they can expand.  They need weapons-”

He indicated Mary.

“They need the vats, and they need biomass.”

I nodded.  I approached the second door and pushed it open.  I wrinkled my nose at the smell.  I was reminded of compost and dying flesh.  The room was unlit, but the shelves on either side were stacked with bottles of varying contents and bags much like the bags that would hold flour.  Food, supplies, and probably formula to fill the vats with.  In the dead center was the carriage with its four stitched horses.  Wires ran down the wooden shelves to the horses, clipped onto the bolts at the horses’ shoulders.  If and when there was a storm, they’d receive their power.

Catcher spoke, “When you talk about biomass, are you thinking of the captured children?”

“In part,” Lillian said.  “But there would have to be more.”

“There is more,” I said.  “Food here.”

“He was making the purchases himself, I think,” Jamie said.

I traced my way through the rest of the building, trying to draw a complete mental picture of how they operated.

“Communication,” Jamie said.  “Not a bottleneck, but it’s something they were apparently very focused on.  The language the creations devised between themselves, ”

Of course Jamie would think of communication.  He’d kept a thumb on the enemy’s line of communication for a while back in Whitney.  His secondary focus throughout the war had been on trying to figure out what the enemy was saying and how.

“Makes sense,” Gordon said.  “It’s their biggest vulnerability.”

“Any signs of anything?” I asked Jamie.  “On that desk over there?”

He shook his head.


“Pens, paper, scrips from purchases of everything from clothes to food to firewood, scripts for the ghosts.  Conversation practice, selling themselves, logs on growth, it doesn’t sound like he expected every single one of the clones in this batch to make it.”

“That’s another upside,” Gordon said.

“Always looking on the bright side of life, Gordon?” I asked.

“Trying,” he said.

With that word and the faintly strained tone he’d used, my head turned.  I studied him in more depth, this time around.

He hadn’t budged from where he stood.  He was hiding that he was in bad shape, and it had nothing to do with what the ghosts had done.  I met his eyes, and it was clear he knew I’d realized.  His expression was stoic as he stared me down.

I turned away, heading for the third door.  Jamie had mentioned firewood, and the clones had needed to eat.

The interior of the third room was indeed a kitchen, with a small personal area for the Percy, complete with room for washing in the corner and an Academy uniform hanging above, dripping into the shallow basket.  There was a wood stove, and food sat here and there.  The window was open, the curtains billowing, water gathering on the sloped windowsill and dripping outdoors.

I put out a hand.  The stove was hot.

Lunchtime had been a bit ago.  Gordon and Shipman had had their meal, we’d set out.  It was later in the day, but it wasn’t quite suppertime, and why start up the oven so early, without even having food out to cook?

“Gordon,” I said.  I had to raise my voice to be heard in the next room.


“When you came in, what was the Percy doing?”

“Not sure.  We were a little preoccupied.”

I searched for tools, found a poker with a bend at the tip, and used it to turn the key that unlatched the door of the stove.  Warm air and ash billowed out as the heat escaped into the only-slightly-cooler kitchen.  They hadn’t shoveled out all of the ash in recent memory.

“The ghosts were waiting for you?” I asked.

“Only a couple.  The rest were on our heels.”

They sensed him.  They stood their ground, while Percy did what?

Busied himself with the stove?

I stuck the poker into the stove, raking it through the ash and the logs.  I saw flakes that suggested paper and proved absolutely nothing, and, after a little bit more digging, moving one log, I hooked onto a thin bit of wood that the log’s weight had squashed.

That piece of wood was connected to another piece of wood, and another, with fine nails glowing pink from heat.  The fire had burned most of everything, leaving only a portion of a circular base, a hinge, and fine constructions of wood.  Decorative more than anything, with space between.

I pulled it free, closing my eyes and turning my face away, and walked into the other room, holding it out in front of me.  I passed Helen and the children.

“…scattered, passing on messages,” Jamie was saying.

“The ghosts we released?” I asked.

“Yeah.  They’ll split up, notify other cells.  Even if we manage to track one, which we probably can’t, we’d find another cell.  What’s that?”

“My counter-theory to your thoughts on how the other cells are getting their intel and warnings,” I told him.  I waved it in front of everyone.  “Any guesses?”

“Birdcage,” Gordon said, a half-second before Mary and Helen said it simultaneously.

“Birdcage,” Jamie said, late, probably to feel included.

“You guys take all of the fun out of guessing games,” I told them.

“He burned the evidence?” Jamie asked.

“He did,” I said.  “I think he burned paper, too, so don’t strain yourself.  Whatever you’re looking for, it’s gone.”

Jamie sighed.  He straightened from where he’d been leaning over the papers.

“Birdcage… messenger birds?” Gordon asked.

“I imagine so,” I said.  “Not a big birdcage, so we’d have to rake the coals to see if there are any more hinges from other cages.  Otherwise, it’s just the one.  You didn’t happen to see a whole flock of birds take off around the time you approached?”

Gordon and Dog exchanged a glance.  They shook their heads in unison.

“Any birds at all?” I asked.

“Maybe,” Gordon said.  “It wasn’t really what we were focusing on.”

“Would be handy if you noted the direction,” I said.  “What’s that they say about messenger birds?  It’s not that they’re clever enough to find their way to their destination every single time…”

“They’re dumb because they only know how to fly one place.  Home,” Jamie finished for me.

“Would be nice to know where ‘home’ is,” Mary said.  “If Percy’s coordinating, the birds would be flying straight to him.”

“You’re making too many assumptions,” Gordon said.  “There are more complex birds.  Ones for war, with strange flying patterns, or more complex flight paths for going between multiple destinations.  The Academy uses them.”

The Academy uses them, I thought.

I looked at the vats.  I thought about the carriages.  The uniforms.

I turned my attention to Mary.

“Our puppeteer sure likes co-opting the enemy’s system, doesn’t he?”

“What are you getting at?” she asked me.

“He’s using Academy vats.  How did he get them?”

“Are you accusing me?”

“No,” I said.  “No, no, no.  I’m asking you, because you have the best insight into who Percy is and how he thinks.  He’s using Academy uniforms, he’s using a convincing carriage of Academy make.  The mice back in the shims thought it was the Academy doing all of this.  What if it was?  In the chaos and confusion of the war, how many people are really checking and double-checking the books, making sure everything adds up and nothing’s going missing.”

“A mole,” Jamie said.

I held up the burned birdcage.  “A little birdy.”

Gordon straightened, stepping away from the wall.

Dog growled at the sudden movement.  Gordon paused.

“Gordon?” Mary asked.  She’d approached the rest of us, stepping away from the sea of dead clones.

“It’s okay,” he said.

I looked at Catcher, and thought about him telling me about how I needed to put trust in Gordon.

“If he says it’s okay, it’s okay,” I said.

Gordon gave me a smile.

“But-” Mary started.

“It’s not really okay,” Gordon said.  “But it’s not getting better and it hasn’t been getting worse while I’ve been sitting around here.  Best thing I can do is get to the Academy.”

“What is it?” Lillian asked.

“Only my heart.  Dog doesn’t like the sound of how it’s beating, and I gotta say I don’t love how it feels there in my chest.  Something stopped working right when Dog and I were running around,” Gordon said.  He smiled a little.  “No big, but I think I’ll have to ask for my team to stop whatever they’re doing and give me my appointment sooner than later.”

“You think?” I asked, at the same time Mary gave him an incredulous, “No big?”

“Nothing we can do about it here,” he said.  “I thought I’d tell you I had to go to the Academy after you figured out where you were going, and I could brief Hayle while you went gallivanting off, but since we’re all going to the Academy anyway, let’s get going?”

I didn’t miss the faintest hint of anxiety in his tone, however well he was working to hide it.

“Let’s,” I said.

Dog was, as it happened, very useful when it came to forging a way through busy streets.  People and horses were daunted by him, and a way naturally cleared as the ghost’s carriage took us to the Academy.  Catcher rode on top with Mary, the others were in the back with the three kids, and Jamie and I were the designated lookouts, standing on a rail at the back, gripping the rail that ran around the top.

The ghosts were nowhere to be seen.  That was, perhaps, the entire point of them, to be evasive and subtle, but Jamie had good eyes, and I could be fairly alert when I focused on the task, and it didn’t make sense that they would be this hard to find.

We passed the Lambsbridge Orphanage and started up the incline to the Academy itself.

I stared at Mary’s bloodstained back.  Her clothing was all stiff where the blood had dried on, and Lillian had ripped it at the side to have more room to work with.  I could see the side of Mary’s stomach, painted in a mottling of blood.

“What are you thinking?” Jamie murmured.

“A lot of things.  It’s how I work.”

“Believe me, I know how you work,” he said.  “I know you’re out here because you don’t want to be in there.  You’re avoiding Gordon and you’re dodging the subject with indirect answers like that.”

“Oh man, Jamie, no.  You sound like me.  Don’t do that to yourself.”

He smiled.  “For most of the day, you’ve had me working to emulate the other Lambs.  You, mostly.”

“We’ve ruined you,” I said.

“Probably.  But what are you thinking?”

“You already asked that.”

“Are you afraid to tell me?”

I sighed.

“You don’t have to.  I know you care about us.  You look after us more than you like to admit.  Keep the balance, keep confidences, push us when we need pushing.  But when it comes to you… well, I see it as my responsibility to ask you if you’re okay.”

“I’m fine,” I said, breezily.

“You’re fine as long as the rest of us are fine.  But we’ve gone without appointments for a stretch longer than normal.  Things that were close to breaking down are breaking down, and it’s a little scary to see all at once.  You’re struggling, Gordon’s struggling.”

“Mary getting hurt had nothing to do with appointments.”

“But she got hurt,” Jamie said.  “And maybe you’re wondering if she would’ve gotten hurt if we were all in top form?”

Now I am.”

“Sy,” Jamie said.  “If something happens, today, tomorrow, in a week, a month, or a year…”

“When,” I corrected.  Odd to be the one correcting Jamie.  “When, not if.”

“When.  Are you going to be okay?”

“I’ve been bracing myself for this for years now.  I’ve known the estimated dates since before we had Mary.  I’ve mourned and made the most of my time with everyone.  I’m fine.  Really.  But I’m not sure the group is.”

Jamie was quiet.  He didn’t look at me, still focused on his job, studying the surroundings, searching for ghosts in daylight.

I swallowed.  “Gordon was ready to leave, you know.  Back with Fray?”

“Things have changed since then.”

“He’s always been more independent than the rest of us.  If something happens, if the group cohesion breaks down, if there are hurt feelings, I really truly believe we might see Gordon break away.”


“You’re not disagreeing with me.”

“I don’t disagree.”

I paused, taking that in.

“Mary,” I said, lowering my voice so I could be sure Mary wouldn’t hear.  “With the way things stand now-“

“With Percy.  Yeah.”

“Yeah,” I said.  Enough said.  “And Helen?”


“I just… I have this horrible image in my head about the way things are flowing.”

“Explain?  I don’t think about things the way you do.”

“She’s loyal to Ibott.  And Ibott is loyal to his aspirations, and Hayle probably told Ibott that if the man wanted an in with the nobility, working on something like Helen would be that in, and now the stars have aligned and Ibott is greedy and…”

“…I see where you’re going.  Nothing concrete.”

“Nothing concrete, no.”

“But it’s believable.”

I nodded.  I felt both relieved and horrified to speak my fears aloud and have them validated.

“And there’s Lillian,” Jamie said.

“I don’t see her running off, but I- I don’t see her staying?” I said.  “I know it doesn’t make sense.”

“I can see both,” Jamie said.  “It depends what happens.”

I heaved out another sigh.

“You’ll feel better after an appointment,” he said.

“I’ll feel tons worse after an appointment.  Don’t lie to me.”

“And after that, you’ll feel better,” he clarified.

“I hope so.”

The side door opened.  The person within waited until we passed another cart going the opposite way, one that held an animal inside, then opened the door.  It was Lillian.

She gave me a fleeting smile before working her way along the side of the carriage, stepping up onto the cover above the wheel so she was beside Mary.

Jamie and I were quiet as we watched Lillian poke and prod.  She said something to the effect of, “-want to do a last-minute check in case someone grades my work.”

Mary patiently sat through Lillian’s ministrations.  She glanced back at us, and rolled her eyes, before a bump in the road made her have to reach out to catch her balance, and grab for Lil’s shoulder, to make sure Lillian didn’t bounce off.

We were at the last leg.  The group at the gate obediently got out of the way as Dog approached.  They remembered last time.  It put a smile on my face.

Lillian hopped down to the step beneath the door, then crossed back to Jamie and I, where we stood on the rear end of the carriage, looking over the top.

“Hi,” I said.

“I wanted to thank you, Jamie.  For backing me up.  I think I did okay, and I wouldn’t have without you.”

“You know it didn’t happen like that,” Jamie said.

“If you’re talking about me having it in me all along, Jamie, I have to tell you you’re full of horse-“

“No,” I cut her off.  “Jamie didn’t help you.”


“You know what happens if they find out he knows this much,” I said, and my tone was grim.  “The project gets canceled.  Or very heavily revised.”

“I know that.  I’m not going to say.”

“Or hint,” I said, “Or thank Jamie, or mention it ever again.  Because it didn’t happen.  It won’t ever happen again.  And if you happen to imagine something like that happening again, in dire circumstances?”

“I’m only imagining it,” she said.

Jamie nodded.

“Good girl,” I said, my voice quiet.  “And Catcher, Dog?  I know your hearing is good enough to have overheard everything.  I’m trusting you two to keep mum.”

There was no reaction from either.

“I didn’t even imagine they were listening in,” Lillian said, quiet.

“They’re good guys,” I said.  “Others aren’t.  Be careful.”

She nodded.  She turned to go back inside the carriage, then stopped and turned back our way.  “When Mary was fading out, she was babbling.”

I nodded.

“You had your chance?  She said that to you.”

“Uh huh,” I said.

There was a long silence.  We passed under the gate.

“Okay then.  I feel like I’m always one step behind,” she said.

“Sy told you something before you performed the surgery on Mary,” Jamie said.  “You have to be proactive.  Step up and find the courage.  Pay attention to the sentiment.  You’ll always regret what you don’t do more than what you do.”

“Technically Gordon said that.”

“You said it too.  It’s good advice.  What I’m getting at is, if you want something, fight for it.  If you’re falling behind, work hard and catch up.  If you want to say something, then say it.  But don’t waver.”

“It’s not that easy,” Lillian said.

“Of course not.  It’s hard,” Jamie said.  “But things worth having are worth the work, don’t you think?”

He gave me a look.  I thought about how we’d talked about group cohesion.


“Yeah, Jamie,” Lillian said.  “I think I understand what you’re saying.  I’m going to think on it.”

“Okay,” he said.

It took her a few seconds to maneuver her way into the carriage without letting the door swing out to hit a bystander on the crowded street.

“She is a bit of a scaredy cat, isn’t she?” Jamie asked.

“I really need an appointment, because I’m not sure I got any of that,” I said.

“She was asking about you and Mary.”

“Uh huh.  I got that much.”

“And Lillian was trying to work up the courage to ask you about you and Lillian.”

“Alright,” I said.  “I don’t know if it’s really that important.  We have bigger things to focus on.”

You have things you’re focusing on.  You’re worried about the group.  You’re worried everyone around you will fall apart if and when something happens.  But this is important to her,” he said, voice firm.  “You can’t string her along forever.”

“I’m not stringing anyone along.  I’m not even sure there’s a string,” I said.  Images of Mary and the razor wires and knives in that little space under the stairs flew through my mind.  “Or there is, I- I’m not sure.  I don’t think it’s fair to ask me to be sure one way or the other when I haven’t even figured anything out.”

“Maybe not,” Jamie said.  He leaned forward, until his chin rested on the hands that gripped the bar at the top of the carriage.  “I trust you, Sy.  You’re smart enough to know when you’ve figured it out, and I hope you’re kind enough to let us know as soon as you do.”

I frowned.

“Us?” I asked.

Jamie’s eyebrows went up over his spectacles.

“You said us, not her.  Not them.  Am I reading too much into it?”

“No,” Jamie said.  “Us is right.  You’ve been spared the Gordon infatuation, he’s very much into girls, as his fling with Shipman suggests.  You’ve been spared the horrors of having Helen be attracted to you.”

He gave me an impish look, smiling, as if expecting me to laugh along with him.  My expression was still.  I saw the expression fade.

Dead serious, Jamie continued, “But half the Lambs have figured out what Gordon didn’t.  Or maybe Gordon did figure it out and that’s why he broke it off with Shipman.  We can’t expect any non-Lamb to really connect with us.  I don’t think it works.  They can’t keep up, they can’t draw close enough.  They don’t understand.  And with only six of us, it’s a pretty narrow pool to pick from.”

“Jamie, no,” I said.  “No.

He nodded.  “I thought as much.”

“I like girls.  I am very sure I like girls.”

“I know.  I knew, before I even said any of this.  But I thought I’d take the same advice I just gave Lillian.  Thirdhand as it might be.  I can hardly call her a scaredy cat if I’m keeping my own mouth shut.”

He was being so cavalier about it.

I had a lump in my throat.

“They can fix that, you know,” I said.

Jamie’s smile was a sad one.  “No need.  I’m okay.”



The word was firm enough to shut me up.

The moment the carriage started slowing down, Jamie was gone, hopping off the back of the carriage, to walk on the road below.

The Duke was waiting, with Ibott beside him.

I put it all out of my mind.  I couldn’t afford distractions.

I had to focus.

We had an errant little birdy within the Academy.  Our mole, letting supplies into the hand of the enemy, taking a hand, partial or in full, of our communications, and co-opting those same communications to serve the enemy.  It was galling.

I was legitimately spooked at the thought of what the Duke would be like if he was angry.

I let my gaze fall on Jamie before I hopped down to walk around the other side of the carriage.

You were supposed to be the one I didn’t have to worry about, I thought.

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143 thoughts on “Lamb to the Slaughter – 6.9

        • Mary/Lillian hasn’t been so much as hinted yet in spite of them being close female friends in mirror of Sy and Jamie…

          • The one true ship is LambsXLambs. After all we have another one in the tree, and this might be them doing well enough to reactivate the other.

            Okay SyXMary is my preffered one, but I don’t want anyone left out.

          • And what a shame that is. I’d really love to just see them interact more. I can only think of one conversation they’ve had on-screen, off the top of my head.

  1. “they can fix that” did he meant the academy can fix infatuations in general or queer deviants in particular?, i mean, this is alternate imperialistic 1920’s, at that time homosexuality was considered a mental disease, it wouldnt suprise me if the crown is that close minded

    • Just from what we know of the Academy, I’d expect any gender or sexual minority to have a baaaaad time. So yeah, I imagine that they would see it as something to fix, presumably through chemical modification or brain surgery. It might not even leave them permanently lobotomy zed half the time if they have enough practice.

      • They can probably switch your team easily enough. They have nonsense biotech, right? I doubt its super complicated. Tehcnobabble technobabble now you are straight/gay.

      • i would believe that any sexual deviancy is rather frowned upon, illegal, will get you beat up, etc, among *humans*. i would guess this does not pertain to most stitched or other experiments. dog and catcher. i would guess a male human having sex with a male sexed stitch is as acceptable as a male human with a female sexed stitch. and stitched can do whatever they want with one another, if they have the urges, without human societal conventions being applied to them, since they are already *less* than human.

      • This makes me think, though that Gender Reassignment Surgery would be child’s play for the academy, if they were so inclined. Heck if they can change the DNA, they’d even be able to do a better job than we can currently.

        • The earliest gender reassignment surgery I’m aware of (female to male) was in 1945…the Academy is probably far ahead of that by now. Of course, given the Academy I’d expect them to just lobotomize trans people instead…

          • I wouldn’t. They work better with the bodies than with the brains. I don’t think they have much problems with queer people. There’s no religious problems with that (the religion is weak and is probably more concerned with something else, maybe the stitched). There is no “we need more children for our country” problem, as they can clone. And there is no “this is unnatural” problem, for obvious reasons.

          • True, but historically speaking prejudices tend to seriously outlast the conditions that spawned them, even in an organization with a focus on advancement, like the Academy. They just take new justifications for the old stuff. I mean, it’s probably no coincidence that the Academy is simultaneously a radical progressive academic organization and led by a monarchy. They might be spurring change, but it’s not exactly social change, is it?

    • It wouldn’t surprise me if the Academy was able to change both homosexual and heterosexual inclinations. I wouldn’t even be surprised if some especially open minded nobles changed them on regular basis.

  2. Typo thread!

    Ends with a left double quotation mark instead of a right double quotation mark:
    “With the way things stand now-“
    “If you’re talking about me having it in me all along, Jamie, I have to tell you you’re full of horse-“
    I said. “No.“

    • A few more typos:

      Either the sentence is unfinished, or it needs a period instead of a comma and a space:
      The language the creations devised between themselves, ”

      A question that doesn’t end in a question mark:
      how many people are really checking and double-checking the books, making sure everything adds up and nothing’s going missing.”

      sooner rather than later:
      and give me my appointment sooner than later.”

  3. Great chapter, especially the last conversation. My feels just got hurt for maximum damage. Jamie/Sy’s conversation kinda reminded me of a pretty memorable scene in Robin Hobb’s Tawny Man trilogy.

    Still… this is just going to end in tears isn’t it?

    • Yeah, that’s a good comparison. The worst thing in both those scenes was just how quietly accepting the character was of it all. The moment it’s brought up, you’re wishing it hadn’t been, because it can only end badly and you know that, and the characters knew that going in, and then horribleness ensues.

  4. I have literally had this conversation. Like, three times. I always get crushes on the straight boys. I know that feel, Jamie.

  5. – Oh dear, the Lambs seem to be sailing headlong into a hurricane. The biggest upheavels in Wildbow’s other works happened in Worm arc 8 and Pact’s ending of act 7, and with each chapter in Twig, we get closer and closer to those numbers.

    – I do have two questionable suggestions for the Lambs’ relationship troubles: polyamory (why can’t Mary have Gordon *and* Sy as boyfriends, and Sy have Lilian *and* Mary as girlfriends?), or cloning (which yields excess Lambs, until everyone is in every relationship they want).

    – I do wish Gordon was more proactive about actually *solving* his problem of dying, rather than toughing it out. Ms. Fray offered him a new lease on life, and he rejected it. That was fine then, when there was still hope that a better solution could be found. But now that we’re getting closer and closer to Gordon’s deadline (literally), that seems like a wrong choice in retrospect. In particular when *none* of the Lambs seem to have made any other attempts to ensure their long-term survival without total dependency on the Academy and its whims (which include the Duke).

    – Loved the Life of Brian reference.

    You’ll always regret what you don’t do more than what you do.

    That’s very true. Book recommendation: Stumbling on Happiness. It’s a pop-sci book by a psychology prof about why we humans are so bad at predicting what will make us happy. One reason is that we have a psychological “immune system” – our minds can re-evaluate bad memories and get to grips with them, but it can’t do that with what-ifs that never actually happened.

    • Well it’s possible that no one Lamb could make the breakthrough required to get Sy to go for a relationship. So they will all need to team up. But yeah, I can see some sort of non-conventional polyamorus group forming with the Lambs. Or at least Helen suggesting it for the solution.

      • The reason I suggested this was simply that most conflicts in romance fiction can be resolved by unconventional relationship arrangements. Granted, such arrangements don’t always work out; but I’m always frustrated when there’s, say, a love triangle, and the obvious solution isn’t even _considered_.

        • Well, that may be because it isn’t always a viable solution. The only case where polyamory is a possible or even correct answer is when all parties in question are A) interested in a polyamorous relationship, and B) have the (very high) emotional stability and maturity required to maintain such a relationship. If there is a love triangle and one third of that triangle is only interested in monogamy, then a polygamous relationship is simply out of the question. In that case, it was never once an obvious solution.

          • By which I mean, if it’s not being considered as a possible solution, then that means it was never a possible solution. The only time it would be considered at all is if it were possible to begin with.

          • You are right. But, the reason it’s often not considered as a solution is not lack of maturity or viability, but rather the fact that it’s a novel concept for most people. Perhaps, once the idea was introduced, the characters would consider it and try it out, and it wouldn’t work. Perhaps, they really wouldn’t like to try it. Or perhaps, things would actually work out. The thing is, in fiction or otherwise, it’s never even considered because it’s not part of people’s world-view, or is equated to cheating.

          • I feel like in this case, it could possibly be a viable solution. Each of them are already very close, courtesy of being a Lamb… Even if it doesn’t work out, I could see them considering it, maybe.

    • Second obvious solution: the party performs so well, the Academy decides it’s worth the expense to revive another one of the failed Lambs.

  6. “You’ve been spared the horrors of having Helen be attracted to you.”

    1- Is Jamie implying Helen was attracted to him? That brings a whole new light to his reaction to Helen eating-fighting-mating fantasy world.

    2- Apparently, being a cake in Twigverse is the worst.

    • Jamie isn’t implying that Helen was attracted to Sy, but rather, he’s listing all people he knows *aren’t* attracted to Sy, thereby implying that the rest of the Lambs are (which includes Jamie himself).

      • I’m sure Jamie knows some really good recipes with his memory so it could totally work. Though if he collaborates with Lillian to make flying mating self reproducing pastries, Helen would be in heaven. She could have her cake and eat it too.

          • @Veldorn (that won’t work will it?)

            i think cake is a pretty common pleasure partner in the asexual community. at least i’ve seem a bunch of❤ cake, me + cake type of action in asexual forums. (anyone feel free to correct me if i'm mistaken, i have explored only briefly.)

            what i wonder is if eating cake is solely a solo activity, or if asexual romantic partners eat cake together in a similar way to one eating cake alone. (less tears, i hope.) of course they eat cake. let's all eat cake and (warning: sex) fuck in the cake mess if you into that.

        • I think of Helen as a strangling monster that sort of looks like a pretty girl. I confess that the notion of her actually mating takes me aback. I guess there’s no reason that she wouldn’t be able too…. It would be super useful for her infiltrate/murder function, and Ibott is a perfectionist. Still though, it seems like people would notice something ‘off’ about Helen if they got that close.

          • We know that Helen at least has mating instinct from her view of the “perfect world,” since mating played a part there, and back in Arc 2 she confirmed that she had also had a crush on someone (possibly a literal one, because Helen) leaving Sy the latest bloomer.

  7. Oh that was… that was something alright. Utterly heartbreaking. Poor Jaime. And that was always going to go poorly too, and Jaime knew it. Man. And then there was that bit of casual homophobia just to rub salt in the wound. Jesus Christ, this is so much worse because it’s Jaime, of all people. He doesn’t deserve this.

    And then there’s all the terrible stuff that’s coming their way that this chapter laid out. And Sy doesn’t really have any sort of trusted confidant he can use any more, in his mind, to get him through it. I feel like I’m watching one of those train wreck videos where you know how horrible it’s all going to be, but you just can’t tear yourself away.

  8. References (I looked them up myself, may as well share): here’s Sy’s first kiss w/ Lillian:

    And here’s a tiny peek into Helen’s perfect world, and how personal attraction fits into that vision:

    > “Everything that isn’t necessary to getting what we want is gone,” she said, eyes closing, as if she was vividly imagining. “There’s an abundance of it all, thanks to science. Food is everywhere and it overflows and there’s nothing to worry about because we have and we want and we take. We’re, and by we I mean people, we’re everywhere and we spill over into one another and we’re all knit together, physically and mentally. It’s an exquisite landscape of things that don’t ever run out to see and touches and tastes and smells and mating and eating and mindless fighting and eating-mating and fighting-eating and fighting-”

    > “Okay,” I said, interrupting. I paused, then when I couldn’t think of what to say. “Okay.”

    > Helen reached down to her plate, used a fingertip to wipe up a bit of frosting, and popped it into her mouth, sucking it off.

  9. yay shipping!!!!!!!!! Sy/Jamie is ON!!!!!!!!!!!! though Mary/Sy is more likely to become canon.

    Also no they’re not ‘just kids’, Lil is 14 so Sy and company are probably 13 already, which makes them on the brink of shippable.

    • Actually… I hate the couple harem animes I’ve seen, they feel like fantasy projections and the main characters are always perfect. I’d love to see a twist to that, with the main character being someone like Sy.

      • In my experience, the main character tends to be some form of idiot; it’s basically the only way to keep it going. If he could actually figure things out, either he’d resolve the plot quickly or become unlikable. The overall characterization is further constrained by the main character needing to be a plausible interest for all the others, so they tend to be friendly, brave, and very bad at noticing romantic interest.

      • The World God Only Knows is basically that. It starts out playing into your expectations, then as the series goes on it breaks each and every expectation you had until you’re basically watching a story about real characters and the MC is legitimately feeling bad and regretful about what he does. Fun stuff.

  10. On a non Sad Gays related note, so it looks like Percy is exponentially reproducing. That theory of him being a one-man Singularity is getting increasingly likely…

        • Populations on continental landmasses (it get’s more complicated on islands, but we ignore that) stay stable, even with more members produced, there’s even a biological rule about it, but I can’t remember the name. That’s because the species can immigrate to new habitats or the surplus population is killed or can’t reproduce themselves.

          • Populations tend to follow a logistic distribution, which models situations where both increasing and decreasing factors scale to population; the growth rate increases as population increases up to a point, then decreases and hits zero at the carrying capacity as loss to predation increases and food is harder to come by. That’s the idealized model; in practice they tend to cyclically grow past the carrying capacity and then drop below it because it takes a bit of time for predators to become more common and the food supply to get depleted.

          • Don’t forget that there are also static factors, the abiotic components, that don’t scale to the population. The numbers of the predators only plays a minor role for the stability of the population, the other biotic components are more important, like food or diseases.
            Of course there are even small fluctuations in populations, but I just counted that to a stable population.

          • Predation tends to help keep the population stable; when predators are removed the population spikes high, depletes the available food, and crashes dramatically.

          • But that’s independent of the number of predators, it’s just their sheer existence that keeps the population in check via the ecology of fear.

  11. Oh… Oh, no… Jamie…I just want to scoop him up and hold him tight. Jamie… Whyyy, WB ;~;

    My emotions during that section went from 0 to 100, then plummeted back to 0 when Sy refused Jamie, then went all the way to negative infinite when Sy kept spewing stupid words. That’s really what pains me the most: not that Jamie was rejected, but that Sy took it so badly.

    Either way, this was a very nice character development and I think it was written and handled really, really well. I’m proud of Jamie. I wonder if this will be revisited later in the story. I don’t mean to question Sy’s sexuality, but perhaps as he grows he’ll find himself questioning it. Though perhaps he won’t have the time…

    Also, Sy, let me introduce you to the wonders of polyamory😀

    • About Sy questioning his sexuality… It’d be the same as if a Gay person questioned theirs. If you want people to accept gay characters, you have to accept straight characters too. Sometimes these sad things happen.

      But the biggest surprise is that Sy is such a damn love magnet.

        • If I’m understanding him correctly, he’s saying that you should accept Sy’s heterosexuality. Saying that he could question his own sexuality is like saying about a gay character that it’s “just a phase”, “he’s growing out of it” or something like that.

          On an unrelated note (which probably will totally derail this conversation anyway), I don’t think sexuality evolves. The most common accepted consensus (even scientifically, but I must admit I don’t have an overview about that field) is that a person always has a single defined sexuality and just needs time to discover that.

          • This may be, but…I know straight people who’ve been convinced they were gay, gay people who were convinced they were straight, for the majority of their lives. To say nothing of a plethora of amazing bisexuals. Old people, too, not people who haven’t examined themselves and their feelings. If sexuality doesn’t evolve, then I think an average individual’s understanding of their sexuality can be sufficiently obscured that it’s hard to tell the difference, and the time that it takes to discover it can be decades upon decades.

          • Compleeetely side-stepping the second point because I don’t want to be dragged into that (it’s not like I have facts beyond my experience and observations to back anything I say).

            Iunno, I see the point you(or were you just explaining?) and Negadarkwing are making. I’ll admit, yes, I’d like to see Samie being developed further, even if they don’t end up in a relationship. But I don’t think it’s necessarily inappropriate, bad story-telling or otherwise be disrespectful.

            On the story-telling aspect, this is certainly going to come back at some point, probably to bite Sy in the arse. This is a pivotal point in their relationship. There are many things that could happen; among them, once Sy has time to calm down and think, he might consider experimenting with Jamie.

            I can see how terrible saying what I said of a gay character would seem, but in this (and our) society, I think most kids grow up thinking they are straight. They often don’t understand their sexuality and aren’t aware of the possibilities, or know they are frowned upon. It’s only with age that people experiment and learn that they like new things. Sy has an opportunity to experiment and there’s nothing wrong with that; it doesn’t take away from him being straight if he doesn’t enjoy it.

            So, yeah. I’d love to see my fave ship come to fruition, and of course gay characters really appeal to me, but I also think it’s a fitting path for the story to take from a narrative and character-development standpoint. I do recognise that Sy is straight, at least currently, probably forever, and I’m not putting that into doubt. But people (and their perspectives of themselves) also change, and everyone has their preferences as to what they’d like to see?

            (Zim goes off to sleep because Zim is making no sense and is tired).

          • For a long, long time you were not allowed to be gay. I suspect many gays convinced themselves they weren’t. But at the same time, even as sociatal pressures ease up, that does not mean suddenly everyone will realize they are gay or bisexual. Hetro isn’t going anywhere. Your Gay? Fine, I’m not, and I don’t care that you are, good luck finding love and happiness. Except for Captain Jack Harkness, but being attracted to him doesn’t make you gay, it means you have a pulse. But like I said, you can’t expect someone who’s straight to change their sexuality to make you happy.

            Sy/Jamie romatically involved would actually sink my two ships. Sy/Mary, and Sy/Jamie friendship. Granted my ships are almost always sunk.

            Is anyone else familar with Katawa Shoujo? I’m getting reminded of Shizune and Misha here.

            Also I kinda wouldn’t rule out Sy ending up alone and missirable.

            But you go to some parts of the internet, and I swear you just can’t find any fanfiction of canon straight couples, since all you see are crack gay pairings. Minor pet peeve of mine.

          • I think that only works if you believe concepts in the human mind are fixed rather than a fluid timey-wimey mess (that’s a technical term from a psych textbook I promise), and that sexual orientations are only to the groups ‘men’ ‘women’ ‘both’ and ‘neither’. as an example: One might be attracted to tall partners and hurting-on-the-inside stoic sorts, which would with ‘normal’ cultural values skew ones attractions pretty far towards men, but if your understanding of strength or the struggles/silencing women face change one may find themselves attracted (with new understanding of same criteria) to more(or exclusively, and just being picky about height) women than men, where an older version with normal cultural values would find nothing to enjoy about women in a romantic or sexual context. maybe someone might just enjoy hearing a partner murmer or gasp as they stuck stuff inside said partner, and the revelation that ‘butts exist’ opens whole new vistas of experience.
            that said; people totally lie to themselves about all sorts of shit in all sorts of directions. so it’s probably just better to be aware of problematic tropes and ask if you trust the writer in question to handle shit. (in wildbow’s case: maybe? I get the sense that the ‘they can fix that’ comment was meant to be not only a gut punch, but a reminder that all the setting’s cool toys are owned by and used by very bad people and this is a dystopia, dammit. just in case we got distracted from the ‘kidnaps children, breaks them down for parts, and is still probably the good guy by about a thousand miles’ nature of the setting by shipping and scheming)
            sorry for talking this much; procrastination induces disharmony and incoherence.

          • @Glassware: The Problem is, psychology is a very broad and difficult subject. We can’t simply cut someone open and then understand how his minds works (at least in this world, I bet the Academy does that regularly), and it’s almost impossible to have control groups.
            And sexuality is an even harder subject, often coloured by personal bias. With social and cultural pressure, the uncountable facets the mind has and other factors, it’s not hard to believe that it takes people a lot of time to figure themself out, especially if they deviate from the norm.

            @Zim: I was just explaining, but I kinda share his opinion, at least partially. I agree that this point will come back at some time, possibly impacting Sy and/or the lambs negative (I mean, it’s a wildbow story).
            And yeah, most kids grow up thinking they are heterosexuell, it’s because they are. Heterosexuality makes still the majority, even with other sexualities becoming more socially accepted. Sy may experiment, but he probably won’t. I mean, he seems very sure about his sexuality, so why should he?
            We’re all here because something of the setting, the plot or the characters appeals to us. Otherwise, why would we read it? But you should not forget that your personal appeals are just that, personal, and most of us don’t share it. But you seem to have a tendency to expect or hope for pairings that appeal to you, regardless of their functionality or probability.
            Naq vs V’z erzrzorevat evtug, lbh nyfb fhccbegrq gur Oynxr/Sry penpx cnvevat va Cnpg, rira jvgu vg tbvat sebz rkgerzyl hayvxryl gb qbjaevtug vzcbffvoyr.

            @Negadarkwing: I have to agree that the number of crack pairings is sometimes perplexing. I mean, TvTropes even has a Trope named Het is Ew.

          • What i forgot, in addition to @Glassware: It’s even unclear what causes different sexualities. There is even evidence that it may have a genetic cause, so it isn’t even a pure psychological field.

          • Also so far every single indicator we have is that Sy is indeed hetroSEXUAL. He does not have the sort of reaction to Jamie that he has to Mary when she’s getting changed, for example. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t love Jamie, it just means there is no romantic or sexual aspect to it on Sy’s end. If Sy were gay, and attracted to Jamie, well there would have been a lot less complications this arc in his relationship with Mary.

            And considering how heavy handed the Crown is (remember sterilizing the poor?) If they decided they didn’t like homosexuality, too bad, so sad.

          • While the Academy may be hardly called anything related to “good”, there’s no believe they are against homosexuality. Just because they are evil, doesn’t automatically mean they are homophobic.
            They even are in conflict with the church, so there propably aren’t even religious reasons for that.

        • @Zim I’m kinda creeped at the comment that Sy should be ‘experimenting’ just because Jaime expressed an interest in him. It’s close to pressuring gay people to “just try it” with people of the opposite gender, or guys thinking they can “cure” lesbians by showing them how great sex with men is. Or refusing to believe people who are asexual because ‘they haven’t even given it a shot’ and that ‘they’ll like it if they’d just get over themselves and try it’. Forcing someone to ‘just try’ something sexually that they have objections to isn’t helping them grow. It’s violating them.

          Like, if Sy *wants* to experiment that’s one thing, but the idea that he should “at least give it a shot” is….gross. Romantic and sexual relationships aren’t new foods that you should try at least x number of times so that you’ll like them.

          Also as others have stated, in all of the chapters of Sy’s perspective he really hasn’t looked at boys with any interest. He had some prime boy butt to be appreciating during the Sub-Rosa arc and all he could think was that he’d really rather it be a girl butt. Even if he was gay/bi and trying to tell himself he was straight, he’d probably at least notice how nice a butt Gordon has.

          His reaction to Jaime’s admission was a little cringe-worthy though. I suspect that if he had had his appointments on schedule, that would have gone a lot better.

          And there’s a thought; since wyvern increases mental fluidity, I would think if anyone’s sexuality could evolve because they just wanted Jaime to be happy, it’d be Sy. But that would be heartbreaking, because that means that Sy really isn’t anything but a reflection of the desires of those around him. I’d be really sad if Sy/Jaime happened like that. And I really liked the Sy/Jaime ship.

          • Eesh, don’t put words in my mouth. I did not say Sy should experiment. I said I wondered if it would happen in the story. As it turns out, I’m allowed to wonder about the paths he and the story will take. As it also turns out, with all due respect to Wildbow, my speculation about Sy’s life is thrice as inconsequential as it would be with a real person, for Sy is a fictitious character. Some people have expressed they wish some characters would just be killed off, and yet that’s not creepy.

            Also, many people don’t look at boys until they are older. I stated, clearly, that I believe Sy when he says he’s straight. But that doesn’t mean his views of himself are rock solid. I only ever thought of boys at Sy’s age. Sy is a kid, regardless of how smart he is, and if he were to lead a normal life, he’ll find himself only discovering new aspects of himself or acquiring new traits more and more. These do not have to be related to sexuality, for what it’s worth.

            All I’m saying I’d enjoy it to see SyxJamie get developed, even if it doesn’t last, and I’m claiming that’s possible without being forced, for Sy is still learning about himself and has never been confronted with this situation before. If that doesn’t happen, all right; the story is no less amazing because of it. I’m not trying to gay-convert Sy, I’m not refusing to believe he’s straight, I’m merely saying that it’s possible he’s views will change after this and I’d enjoy seeing that.

            Would it be so creepy if, about a hypothetical story, I said “this atheist character who has never quite been exposed to religion just experienced a tragic event and religion appeared as a solution on-hand, and it’d be possible and I’d enjoy seeing the story develop in that direction”? Yeah, I don’t doubt the character is an atheist. I say that as one myself. But hey, this person was presented with a completely novel situation and they might discover new or change their minds about certain things because of it. And maybe things will not work out and they’ll lose their faith again, and bounce back, or whatever. Experimenting is part of the process of getting to know yourself. When I said something like that previously, I didn’t mean it was obligatory for Sy to experiment, just as it isn’t obligatory to do drugs, sky dive or become a surgeon. But Sy has an opportunity to experiment, Sy could take it if he so desired and it would be a learning experience.

        • If he so desires, sure, that’s great! Go for it!

          My iffy feeling was more based on ‘he *should* do it (regardless of his own feelings)’ things.

          I’m not sure if the religion-atheism thing is the best metaphor, because one is a taught belief system and the other is a part of a person’s personality. Even in the absence of sex education, people will have a sexuality. If there were no religion classes, people might have vague spiritual beliefs, but they wouldn’t be the same as an established religion. Religion comes from outside forces, your sexuality comes from you.

          • Did I say he should?

            And sure, religion is taught. Sexuality exists on its own. But even if we were to assume sexuality is fully defined and static throughout our lives, it takes time to discover it. Many people aren’t aware that yes, there are other options and you don’t have to just like the opposite sex. A lot of straight people might consider these options and go “naw, that’s not for me”. But I’m sure that if their best friend and brother told them they are interested in them, they’d have second thoughts about themselves.

    • Let’s be optimistic. He may be changing his attention to the bird lady in a minute. Or he just wants to eat those tasty looking children they brought back.

  12. You were supposed to be the one I didn’t have to worry about…

    So does that mean Sy has been worrying about being too attractive to the rest of them? I guess he knows people love a bad boy..

    • Jamie is Sy’s rock. He’s the one that Sy can trust to always be there, with the second-latest expiration date. Sy’s relationships with Mary and Lillian are filled with manipulation and lies, and they could change at any moment. I think Sy really genuinely believed that his relationship with Jamie would never change.

      • Or at least that he’d never have to really pay much attention to what he says and how he acts around Jamie. Now he might feel the same pressure he does with everyone else to analyze what they’re thinking and how he needs to act to keep everything copacetic. I agree, Jamie was his rock and touchstone.

        • Because Sy thought he knew Jamie. Jamie was the one person Sy didn’t have to think about. The one he could count on to just be… Jamie. Their relationship wasn’t just good, it was simple. Sy never had to think or worry about it. Now he does.

  13. You know, it’s funny how even with great revelations of the modus operandi of the enemy, and his resources and the cliffhanger of the Duke waiting for the Lambs, nearly all people seem to care only about the interpersonal relations.

    That shows that even with evil, barely (or even seemingly) human, engineered monsters as protagonists, it’s still their emotions and personality is what catches the attention.

  14. Psychology in general and sexuality in particular are complicated subjects, and most live with a lot of pressure to adhere to what society at large perceives as “normal” despite plenty of evidence to suggest that humans are too diverse for normal to be defined. That said, I do believe, that if sexuality itself isn’t mutable, a person’s understanding of and willingness to accept their own sexuality certainly is, and that while important, a person’s position on the Kinsey scale is just one of a multitude of facets that make up one’s sexuality.

    Also, regarding the discussion of monogamy vs polyamory, I’m of the opinion that humans aren’t built for a monogamous lifestyle(my biggest supporting evidence being that monogamous cultures are a minority across all recorded history and the relatively high incidence in modern times for people living in monogamous cultures to take additional lovers without breaking off an existing relationship), and that if remove the cultural pressure of living in a monogamous culture and people were more willing to be honest with their feelings, you’d have a lot more people willing to consider polyamorous relationships if not outright embracing the concept. Also, I wholeheartedly blame the monogamous cultures of most developed nations for the shortage of stories that resolve a love triangle/dodecahedron with non-monogamous arrangements.

  15. Aww, this was such a sad chapter. I think that the group will split up in the near future, at least in some fashion. Also think Mary might leave with Percy when they finally reach him but mostly it’s the dissolution of the group I’m feeling.

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