Enemy (Arc 6)

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The door slammed shut.  The impact rattled her thoughts.  Double vision, triple vision, vertigo, but all cognitive, her thoughts alone.

One breath blurred into the next, the space between breaths stretched on, adding together, piling onto one another until she realized she was suffocating.  She coughed, gasping and wheezing for air.

Panic surged in her breast.  A bird’s flutter of emotion, beating harder and more frantically, until it filled her.

Then, unsustainable, it was gone.  Was it the drugs they were pumping into her that quelled the fear?  Did they worry that enough fear and anxiety could tax her brain and kill her?

Or had minutes passed, or hours?

She screamed, thrashing against her bonds, a cage custom-molded to her body.  The scream bounced off of the walls, joining the fresh screams as she caught breath.  A momentary catch, a drawn-out process of panting for breath?  Both?

She tried to figure out which it was, scanning her memory, gathering clues, and lost track of time.  She gasped for breath again, having let herself slip, letting the time between breaths become too long.

Heartbeat, she thought.  She fixated on her heartbeat.  The steady pulse, accelerated by her fear.  It was meditative, calming, a rope to cling to as she drowned in this new sea.

They stole my sanity, she thought.

They stole my mind from me.  They’ve hobbled my brain as surely as they crippled my body.  Until I can get this fixed, I’ve forever got one additional ball to juggle.

There were tears in the corner of her eyes.  She struggled again against the bondage, fierce enough she was certain she would hurt something.

She had to adjust her mental clock, taking into account the exertion, how it affected the heartbeats she was counting.

The lighting seeping in through the crack beneath the door had changed.  Was that the flicker of torchlight, or had she been down here long enough for things to change?  A different load on the systems of the Academy, leaving more power to go to the lights in the hall?

Her heartbeat had calmed, she realized, but she was still using the same measure, her judgment of how many seconds or minutes had just passed was dashed to the wind.

Someone moved in front of the door, a shadow passing through that slice of light.

Unable to find the words, she screamed at the door.  It was a futile thing, a cry for help with no expectation that that help would come.

Everything she tried, it was making things worse.  She was in the Bowels, a place where she’d spent a fair amount of time, and she knew how deep they would have put her, how thick the walls were, and how far the trip was to get to the surface.  Even once she was there, she would be surrounded by soldiers, she would have to pass through the checkpoint, and pass more soldiers on the road out of the city.

It was akin to being beneath the ocean, the weight of all of that water pressing down on her, crushing, wearing her away.

Three more times, she lost track of her breathing.  Her stomach gurgled, but it wasn’t hunger.  It was suction and air, as a tube worked at the side of her stomach, removing waste, tarry and black.  She felt a pressing need to go to the bathroom, but it never got better or worse.  Tubes coiled up inside her bladder, most likely.

Again, she screamed and thrashed.  She wanted to hurt herself, to find some avenue to rub herself raw, do some damage, out of some hope that she could make that damage severe enough to end her existence.  It would be a form of control, a way of taking charge of her own destiny.

But it was futile.  She’d been trained as a doctor, finishing her education here in Radham.  She knew what the tarry black waste meant.  She had a bloodspur in her.  When her blood pressure was sufficiently high, the device would bleed her, dumping the blood into her stomach.  New or artificial blood was fed in through tubes.  She couldn’t bleed herself out, not realistically.  If she was wounded, the bloodspur would cease working, and the wound would take over its duties of slowly emptying out the blood the tubes gave her.

She was exhausted but unable to sleep.  Again and again, she struggled, because there was nothing else to do with herself.  Again and again, she lost track of her breathing as she got too deep in thought.

Tears streaked down her face.  She recovered.

She screamed again, howling to see if she couldn’t scream her voice raw.  The seam in her chest where they’d done surgery threatened to pop from the strain.

The door opened.  The light was blinding.

Had she been in the dark that long?  Or was it drugs and a perpetual state of blood loss?

The Duke and his coterie.

“I’m sorry for the delay,” he remarked.  His expression was placid compared to hers, as she panted for breath.  “I wanted to have a conversation with the Lambs.”

She stared at him, uncomprehending.

“Do you remember the terms of our last discussion?” he asked, his voice eerily smooth and deep.  Artificial.

“Yes,” she said, and her voice was hoarse.

“I’m going to ask you a question.  Yes or no answers only.”

“Yes,” she said, again.

“Will you provide the locations of each of the other cells?”

She considered for a moment, but again, time threatened to slip away from her.  After half a second -or was it a minute?- the Duke turned to leave.

“Yes,” she said.  She opened her mouth to speak, then remembered his warning and closed it again.

“What is it?”

“I don’t know where Percy is.  Cynthia handled the coordination between groups.”

“I see,” he said.  He gestured at a doctor, “The mask.”

“You said I had permission to speak!” she cried out, struggling, trying to pull her face away as the doctor lifted the tube and the grasping bloodsucker toward her mouth.

“I didn’t say I’d favor the answer,” he said.  “Take some time to think it over.  I hope you’ll come up with clues about his whereabouts.”

The tube slid down her throat.  The device locked around her jaw and the back of her head, connecting to the table.

The lights went out, and again, the door slammed shut.

This time, she still needed to regulate her breathing, but it was through the nose alone.  She couldn’t scream, she couldn’t measure her breaths.

There once was a girl named Mavis.  People all around her got sick, half the people in the town she grew up in.  It got worse and worse, people hacking and coughing, until the Academy arrived.  The best doctors, checking, giving care, not unkind people.

Had everything gone according to plan, it would have been a positive experience for her, a reason to respect and favor the Academy.

Except Simon Weltsch had fought in the war, and he said there was a more sinister explanation.  The Academy had made them sick, testing a drug on the village’s population without permission.

She never found out if that was true or not, and as head of communications for Radham, she’d made use of every resource available to her to try and find out.  It wasn’t to say Simon was spewing utter nonsense.  After becoming a student, she had researched the testing of drugs on communities, but the casualties were low to nonexistent, the rate of advancement high.  Without paperwork or records to tie back to her community in particular, it never quite hit home to the point that she could get angry about it.

She wished she could say that Simon Weltsch’s unexplained and gruesome death had woken her up to reality.  It was accepted across the community that the Academy had done the deed to silence the dissident, but everyone was healthy and nobody had wanted to stick their head up, Mavis among them.

She’d eaten dinner with her parents, gone for long walks and talked with her friends, and flirted with boys.  As she came of age, she started studying, and earned a place at the Academy, abbreviating her name as soon as she fixed on her preferred area of study.

No, Avis’ problem had never quite been with the Academy.

Her first winter holiday back home, she had been excited to share her tales of being at the academy.  Avis had met with friends for tea.  The boys who’d been farmers and laborers trickled into the bar, and she’d remarked on how few were turning up.  Then she had heard.  No, not gone to war.  Had it been that, she might have been able to justify it as necessary evil.

Three nobles had come into town, young ladies not much older than she was, gallivanting around.  The noblewomen had asked for the company of young men, and the young men had not been in a position to refuse.  When they left, they took the most handsome with them.  Avis’ girlfriends had joked that it wasn’t much loss, the noblewomen being so attractive, but she hadn’t missed the emotion beneath the words.

There had been only one letter back since the boys had left, and it had read like it had been written carefully, so as not to offend any who read it before it reached home.

It had taken some time for Avis to come to terms with her feelings over that.  Life had gone on as normal, with some farmers getting help from the community to make up for the labor their sons weren’t providing.  Where war was a necessary evil, this didn’t feel evil at all, and it most definitely did not feel necessary.

It hadn’t been the blow that destroyed her loyalty to the Crown, but it had been a wedge, and every story or idea that touched on the Crown drove that wedge in deeper.

Avis stared into the Duke’s eyes.

“Do I need to repeat the question?” he asked.

She opened her mouth, then closed it.  She felt painful bumps here and there where the inside of her mouth had been rubbed by the gag.

She nodded.

“Will you tell me the location of your loved ones.  Your mother, father, siblings, cousins, and the friends you wrote to while you were first studying in the Academy?”

“Yes,” she said.

She’d given up.  She was defeated.

“Your father?”

“He’s in Iverchester.  With my mother and youngest sibling,” she said.  His eyes seemed to swallow her up.

“Your older sister?”

“She said she would… she could find work in Burry, teaching.”

“Your friends?”

“Janice is in Chells, Tory is in Uskham.”

She could hear the damning scratch as the details were taken down by a doctor in the back.

“Please,” her voice was so quiet she could barely hear it.  She stared at the Duke’s collar, “My lord.  Anything else you want to know, sit me down, take me out of here, I’ll share it if you fix my mind.  Please.  I will do anything you want.  You’ve won.”

“Except sitting quiet and giving only yes or no answers, or answering my questions,” the Duke’s voice murmured back to her.  His tone was gentle, a light rebuke, and Avis couldn’t shake the notion that this was what it sounded like when a father told their child that cookies were for after dinner.  The Duke’s voice, rich, deep, and authoritarian, was as a child imagined their father sounding.

“You hurt children, Avis.  Kidnapped them off the streets, my streets, and put them on the table.”

“That wasn’t me.  It wasn’t the people I was working for.”

“A blatant lie if I ever heard one,” the Duke said.  He kicked something under the table that held her and then changed the angle, lying her flat.

“Cynthia was hurt, Godwin killed.  The group is in disarray, there are two factions now.  One side wants to stop the Academy, the other wants to stop the Crown.”

“And which are you, Avis?”

“I’m not- not anymore.  I won’t go against you again.”

“Stop stating the obvious.  Of course nobody ever goes against me a second time.  Answer the question.  Which are you?”

“I was –was- against the Crown.  The others, the ones who want to hurt the Academy, they’re desperate, they’re angry, they want to win an ever-escalating contest of strength.  They have other ideas in mind.  Breaking rules the Academy won’t.”

One of the Duke’s doctors was positioning a tool, a mechanical arm, so it was poised above her head.

A needle speared straight toward her.

Her breathing picked up.

“You coordinated for them.  Passed on messages.”

“I did, but-“

“You’re bending the truth to put yourself in a better light, Avis,” the Duke said.  “You convinced yourself that Percy’s actions were acceptable.”

“No.  But it wasn’t like he listened when I sent a letter.  If I’d reacted or tried to take action, I risked my life.  I had to play along, hope the others would coordinate, pull the two groups together.”

“I know of other things you’ve been complicit in.  The white plague in Danes, the ravager of Arwick.  You believe in what you’re doing.  Short term harm for long-term betterment.”

“It- yes.  It’s not so different from what the Academy does?” she made it a question.

The Duke’s expression changed, the light smile fading away.  “The sacrifice of a child?  No, I suppose not.  I do suppose it falls on my shoulders.”

She wanted to inquire about that, but the movement of the machinery and the swaying of the needle occupied her attention.  She didn’t find the voice to question what he meant.

“The difference is you failed in the end,” the Duke said.  “There will be no betterment, only harm.”

The mechanical arm with the needle came down, dropping a solid foot.  It jerked to a stop a half-inch from Avis’ eye.

A doctor gripped her eye in between gloved fingertip and thumb, forcing her to look straight at the needle.

The mechanical arm dropped another inch.  Avis didn’t even have time to vocalize a response.

“I believe in justice,” the Duke said.  “Punishment where it’s due.  I told you the rules, you had enough time to consider them.  This is your punishment, just as your decision as a whole have led to you being in this room.  If and when it comes to pass that my work ends in more harm than betterment, I hope my reckoning will come.”

Avis managed to find the breath to speak, as a doctor manipulated her other eye, forcing her to stare up at a second needle.  “Please.  How long have I been here?”

The second needle came down.  Her eyes were speared, locked into position.  There was no pain, not physical pain, but she knew the effect this would have on her mind and her already impaired ability to track time.  She felt the gag slip into place, slithering down her throat.

“How long have you been here?  I think that would be telling,” the Duke said.

The door slammed.

She woke, which was a strange thing that had been happening lately.  She wasn’t supposed to sleep, but she took it as the resiliency of the brain, finding a way.  Her entire body hurt, and she had a headache unlike any she’d ever had before.

She moved her eyes, and her vision was blurry.

Avis raised her arm, as she’d tried to do so many times before, and this time the restraints didn’t stop her.

Pages were scattered around the room.  There was a matchbox sitting on a table in the corner, but it looked as though the slamming of the door had generated a gust, blowing it away from the stack of papers it had been weighing down.

Her movements were ginger.  She remembered what she’d been told, about alterations to her joints.

Her muscles should have atrophied.  Her joints were disabled, the bones shaved or implants put in to make them easy to dislocate.  She could feel the pain, which meant the drugs to dull pain were no longer coursing through her, and hadn’t been for a little while.

She staggered across the room, nearly falling.  Bending down, she picked up papers.  Each was one half of a sheet of paper that had been torn in half.

The order of them was hard to decipher, and the blur in the dead center of her vision made it harder still to read.  Ingrained into her by years of education, the habit of reading made her eyes want to slip onto each line of tight cursive writing, instead of holding above the line, piecing together the meaning of each statement.

The Duke has been visiting you less and less.  I have been visiting you more and more.  Soon, I think, he intends to visit you, to make you useful.  If I acted any sooner, you wouldn’t have been strong enough.  If I acted too late, you would be his.

She gathered sentences here, fragments there, not sure on the order of the pages, not when she could barely read.

Injections to your shoulders and hips.  Minor repairs, some minor surgery.  I accessed channels outside of your room, that I knew would feed into your blood supply.

Hands shaking, she sorted through the various pages.

Do not look for your family or friends.  You will only find unhappiness at best, and fall into the Crown’s trap again at worst.  Be wary in seeking old acquaintances, though reasons are different.  What was a war between two sides has become a war between three.  Old friends may not be friends anymore.

She trembled, hands unable to find the gap between two pages.

The advised escape route is the drainage tunnel to Claret Hall.  From there, you should be able to reach the Tower by using the dark avenues between the storage buildings.  The Tower will get you high enough to glide over the wall.


Internal components and tubes have been removed on this visit.  I leave you my words, which I hope you will burn, and a present for the winter holidays, admittedly belated.

Two seasons, Avis realized.

I need to act, and I have no freedom.  We’re speeding headlong into disaster, and you’re the only person I can think of who could pass on a message.  Burn the papers if you have any gratitude for your freedom.

The writing, she realized, was digging deeper into the page as the writer had gone on.  Intensity, urgency.  She could recognize the difference between papers now, the thickness of letters and amount of excess ink.  She’d already read some of it out of order.

She found the last piece of paper.

The tallest hill outside of Radham.  It has a view of the approach.  The message is such: It is time to step in.

Avis stared down at the paper, then crumpled it, and set it on the table, being careful to put a match to every part of it.

While it burned, she set to looking for her gift.

It was tucked in a corner – a small box.

She reached inside, and she withdrew wings.  Not hers, but similar.  The bends in the wings had hook-like fingers.

She put them on, feeling them bite into flesh, a little less merciful than her old wings had been.

A single revolver and a trio of syringes, each one capped, sat on the bottom, tucked neatly in the corner, stowed in the gap just left of a set of clothes.

She’d had enough time to think, trapped in a hell of her own making.  The Duke’s words rattled around in her head even now, taunting her.

She changed clothes, pulling off the hospital dress and donning the provided clothes.  Loose pants like a sailor might wear, boots, and a harness top she could wear with her wings.  She touched her head and found her hair short.

Dressing didn’t make her feel more human.  She felt cold inside.

Her hatred for the Duke had cooled from a burning hatred to an ice cold hate.  She wouldn’t bat an eye if she had an opportunity to hurt him.  She knew she might destroy herself for the chance.

Yet, even though she was able to collect the syringes, she found herself hesitating when it came time to collect the gun.

She’d hurt people in a casual way, facilitating what she had.  Letting Percy do what he had.

So easy to do when she was in the stride of it, but after having had time alone with her own thoughts, it didn’t sit nearly as easy.

She turned away, hauling open the door, feeling grateful as her shoulder withstood the strain.

The gun was left behind.

Rather than let the door slam, as it had innumerable times before, she gently closed it.

It was the dead of night.  There were no people on the staircase leading up and out of the underground labs.

She was as quiet as the situation allowed.

It was dreamlike, and her altered state of awareness didn’t help matters.  She wasn’t convinced this wasn’t a hallucination.

Her body was light, she’d altered her bone structure long ago, removing sections of organs to lower her body weight while maintaining the same rough frame.  Her diet while lying on the table had been different, but it hadn’t added any pounds that she could notice.

She flexed her wings as much as she was able, given the narrow space between railing and wall, and continued to ascend.

Passing a hallway, she saw a pale expanse, rather than dark, barely-lit hallway.

Her heart skipped a beat as she realized what it was.

Gorger made noise as he hauled himself out of the hallway, a matter of feet behind her.

As quiet as she’d been, Gorger was loud.  He covered surprising amounts of ground, feet tromping on stairs, one hand regularly reaching up to seize handholds, moving like a loping gorilla rather than a very obese giant of a man.

She found the needle, squeezed out the air in the syringe, and she jammed it into her own heart.

Strength, energy, perception.  It flowed through her quickly, as fast as her heart beat.  She was able to move faster, more securely, using her light body to its fullest, as the pain faded away.

Absolute terror at what awaited her if she were caught gave her the extra push she needed.  She knew she’d rather fall and die than get caught, and that gave her the courage to step up onto the railing, wings spread, and leap, aiming for a hole in the wall.

Gorger saw what she was doing.  Rather than give chase, he slammed his hand against the wall, hard.

The underground labs rumbled.  Things began to fall into place, a domino effect expanding out in ten different ways from the place Gorger’s hand had struck the wall.

But the underground labs were built around a massive silo, a cylinder set deep into the ground, and the effect had to reach around the edges of the cylinder.

She didn’t hesitate, even as she saw the slab of stone falling into place.

She passed under the slab, full speed, wings spread, and the slab came down behind her.

With no time to waste, knowing Gorger would be calling the alarm, she ran for Claret Hall.

She passed through one section of tunnel that had no lighting.

And she was back on the table, unable to move, body paralyzed, unable to breathe.

A dream?  A hallucination?


She floundered, struggled, and hauled herself to her feet.  Without her face down in a half-foot of water, she was able to breathe again.

Only a flashback.

She was still running, still making her escape.  But it was too easy to slip back into that same timeless place she’d spent so long.

There were so many questions and not a one of them mattered.  Who had rescued her, why?

By fighting forward like this, obeying the letters, she was risking doing the exact same thing that had gotten her in this mess in the first place.  Reckless action, lack of forethought, approaching her future at a run, without watching her step or paying attention to what happened in her wake.

She was in Claret Hall, she realized.  This was tricky.  The way out meant coming up out of the wine cellar, into the building.

She’d plotted escape routes enough that this wasn’t too hard.  Into empty offices, through the washroom.  A window large enough for her to fit through.  She passed into a shadowy space between buildings, and crossed to another.

A distant alarm was getting picked up by closer buildings.  As it was heard and people found the switches, the alarm was passed on.  It swept past her, and people in uniforms started to exit building in groups.

Soon, the stitched would be roused and directed.  The Academy’s security would quintuple at the very least, and she would have nowhere to go.

She was so fixated on watching what was going on that she didn’t wholly connect to the fact that she was tramping on something that crunched underfoot.

Frozen grass.  Patches of snow caught mid-thaw, frozen over by rain.

It would have to be spring.

Three seasons, all in all.

It was a realization that spurred her on further, into the labyrinthine maze of warehouses and storerooms.  Driven by fear, she made a break for the tower, the biggest open space yet.

She was glad her wings were black, and not white as the old ones had been, as she approached the door.

People left the Tower in a group.  A small army of stitched.

She danced away to the side, taking cover against the side of the building.

They were spreading out, organizing into groups.

She had no place to go except up.

With the hooks on her wings and her own frozen fingers, she scrabbled for a grip on the surface of the tower.  She climbed, cold stone and petrified wood leeching her body heat with every moment of contact.  Fingers scraped raw against mortar and frost, and she hauled herself up, circling around to put the body of the Tower between herself and the rest of the Academy.

Her perception of time was something of a blessing and a curse.  It let her climb more carefully, devoting her focus to the moment, but it felt like she was climbing an endless, infinite tower.  Blood ran from fingertip to wrist and down to the crook of her elbow.

As she got higher up, there were more windows.  She gauged her ability to glide over, and she had doubts.

She couldn’t even guess at her chance of getting spotted, were she to climb up and over.

Avis decided to compromise, raising herself up, so the bottom of the window was at eye level, peering left and right.

No movement.

She climbed, and was standing with stomach to the glass when she saw him.

A single figure, a boy.

One of the Lambs?

No, this one had red hair.

Paralyzed, she finally managed to move, raising a hand, finger pressed to her mouth.

The boy only stared at her with amber eyes.

It unnerved, and it made her think of the wrongs she’d committed, the children Percy had used, that the Lambs had executed so thoroughly.

As if recoiling, she threw herself back, twisting so her belly faced the ground, wings extending, and glided.

Avis didn’t pass over the wall, but she was able to grab it.  She heard shouts and calls, and heard a trumpet, then hauled herself over and beyond, as guns fired from a distance.

She was free.

She’d escaped, but she didn’t feel free.

She made her way to the tallest hill, feeling trepidation.

There were three figures waiting for her.  When she landed, it was to crumple into a heap.  She didn’t even raise her head.

A hand reached for her.  She flinched involuntarily, and the hand withdrew.

She knew who the hand belonged to.

“Fray,” she said.

“Yes,” Fray said.

“We were trying to contact you for a while,” Avis said.  Her voice didn’t sound like her own.

“It’s been a while, Avis.”

Avis nodded.  She fidgeted, because being too still made it feel like the walls of that room were closing in.

“It’s- I’m supposed to tell you…” Avis started.

She didn’t finish.  Her voice broke.  She curled up into a ball, folding her wings around herself.

“I know,” Genevieve Fray said.

Another hand touched her, and this one was very warm in the cold winter.  She flinched, at first, but this one was persistent.  It became a hug, and the hug was welcome.

“You’re with the right people,” Fray said.

Avis shook her head.


“I can’t- I’m not a soldier anymore.  I couldn’t touch the gun.  I can’t be part of this.  I can’t stand the Crown but I can’t fight them either, I-”

“That’s fine,” Fray said.  “You don’t have to, to stay with us.  The Crown States have two major factions who are trying to destroy the Crown, they don’t need us.”

“What are you doing?”

We’re saving humanity,” Fray said.  “Come on.  Let’s go.”

Rather than Fray, it was the giant of a man who offered Avis a hand.

Staring at his hand, she felt he was kindred, gentle.

Looking in his eyes, however, she saw a terrible anger, no doubt worse for her being reflected in it.

That was as comforting as anything.

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96 thoughts on “Enemy (Arc 6)

  1. I think I like Avis.

    Was that Ashton there in the window? Or one of the Duke’s new Lambs, perhaps.

    I wonder who Fray’s mole in the Academy is? Sounds like someone that agrees with her ideologically. Could be Gordon, but the new wings suggest a doctor. Hayle, maybe, but Hayle is completely committed to the Lambs project, which can only exist with Crown sponsorship…still, he’d probably act if he was aware that Fray isn’t a rebel but something else. Could it be Lillian, maybe?

  2. Wait a minute. Multiple seasons have come and gone.

    I’m absolutely willing to believe Jaime was a smokescreen so no one is ready to read that Gordon died in between arcs.
    Or that 7-1 will be like 5-1; first half is remembering Gordon’s degradation, last words or lack thereof, and how he doesn’t get buried but repurposed because the Academy doesn’t believe in waste.

    Then second half he makes out with Lillian again.

    • Nah, Sy gets to help Lillian change clothes, then it’s Mary’s turn for the makeout.

      Let’s face it, Sy’s the sort who gets killed because of romance. Just can’t keep from attracting people, but can’t keep his mouth shut.

      • There’s no way that the Duke just let her go. Especially since he left a lamb standing guard to watch the escape. I agree with the homing beacon theory or maybe all this is still partially happening in her brain?

        • I doubt the Duke is still in Radham if its been seasons. She was probably set to the side and a traitor took the opportunity to break her out.

  3. Typo thread:

    Ends with a left double quotation mark instead of a right double quotation mark:
    “I did, but-“

    “Tower” is capitalized everywhere but here:
    she made a break for the tower

    “Academy” should be capitalized:
    excited to share her tales of being at the academy

    • More typos:

      – “just as your decision as a whole have led to you being in this room” -> “decisions”

      – “and people in uniforms started to exit building in groups” -> “the building” or “buildings”

      Other stuff:

      – “That wasn’t me. It wasn’t the people I was working for.” -> (shouldn’t it be “It was”?)

      – “Where war was a necessary evil, this didn’t feel evil at all, and it most definitely did not feel necessary.” -> (It’s maybe the first event that made her oppose the Crown, so I don’t understand that reaction.)

      • “It wasn’t the people I was working for” is correct, though she’s being economical with the truth. She considers herself aligned with the anti-crown faction that doesn’t believe in indiscriminate biological warfare, as opposed to the anti-academy faction that is trying to top the Academy in atrocity.

  4. Okay so i guessed that fray was going to rescue avis the moment the duke left her to her fate, because theres no other reason to keep the focus on her. Im wondering whos the mole.
    A character we dont know?
    Ibott, as the outside bet?
    Also, jamie makes my heart hurt. I absolutely did not see that coming.
    Its possible that jamie has pushed the lambs, or some of them, away from the crown. Gordon dying would help even more. Helen is really the wildcard. Lillian and mary will probably follow sy. Not sure about ginger kid, i do think hes Ashton.

  5. Nine months? Gordon will be dead or almost dead unless something weird happened D: And Jamie… ;~; I hope the Duke dies a horrible death.

    “Her body was light, she’d altered her bone structure long ago, removing sections of organs to lower her body weight while maintaining the same rough frame.”

    Did she do the surgeries herself, or have someone else? Probably the latter, but I wonder how likely it is the Academy would let someone work on flying without much supervision. Anyway, I like Avis. Poor broken girl.

    • Id think she did it herself, or she had it done by rebels outside of the academy. She spent a long, careful while doing sabotage. Putting in flammable floorboards and such. Hell, its possible she did it herself, one floorboard at a time, over months or years. She was pretty entrenched in the academy. Any thing is possible in a long enough time period

    • I hate to say this because I loved Jamie as a character and want to see more of him, but killing Jamie isn’t as monstrous a move on the Duke’s part as it seems. From last chapter:

      “I was very cognizant of Jamie, who hadn’t had that permission to explore the options he’d dipped his toe into, and of Lillian, who knew about Jamie, but was a far worse liar than Jamie was.”


      ““We’re growing, my lord, we’re still young, we’re not fully developed. Jamie’s improving by leaps and bounds, Lillian’s getting better. We’re evolving the team dynamic.”

      “‘Evolving’ may be the wrong word,” the Duke said. “Going by reports and what I’ve seen, things might be trending in the opposite direction.”

      He’d noticed. The realization almost took my breath away, stealing my ability to argue.”

      I think there’s a strong implication from this and other passages that the Duke knew about Jamie’s rule breaches, so I’d bet the decision to kill him wasn’t just about punishing Sy, but was more of a two-birds-with-one-stone thing.

      Why was Jamie forbidden to learn about medicine and acquire certain skills? I don’t think it was ever spelled out directly, but I’m guessing it was to prevent exponential self-improvement. When Avis refers to “Breaking rules the Academy won’t” in this chapter, I’m assuming she’s referring to Percy’s cloning project, among other things. Just like in Worm, rapid exponential power gains are one of the lines that separate “bad” from “existential threat to humanity”. The Crown and the Academy aren’t willing to use nukes, and Jamie was starting to move down a path that would lead him to becoming one.

      The Duke is too smart a character to kill an asset as powerful as Jamie off, just to punish another asset like Sy (who’s arguably equivalent in tactical value), without having additional reasons as well. I think the reason here is actually restraint: unwillingness to let Jamie become something that would cross one of the few lines the Crown respects.

    • I wonder what nine months will do to Sy’s memory. Did Jaimie ever do a self-portrait?

      Also, I can’t help but wonder if the Duke arranged to have Avis set free. A) Just because he’s a noble doesn’t necessarily mean he supports the crown. B) If Avis’s mind has adjusted to fit the Duke’s goals, then maybe she’s worth more to him now on the outside.

  6. I maintain that Avis should have committed suicide (by destroying her brain), or fled, immediately once her betrayal was uncovered. Instead, she fought a futile battle against the nigh-immortal Duke, lost the fight, and then everything.
    The rebellion has made errors of this sheer magnitude throughout the story. That makes it impossible to take it seriously as a formidable enemy.

    Remind me again of why Ms. Fray kept her promise with sylvester not to act for X months? Such bargains should only work among people who are equally trustworthy, whereas Sy is notorious for defecting in Prisoner’s Dilemmas.

    > It unnerved, and it made her think of the wrongs she’d committed, the children Percy had used, that the Lambs had executed so thoroughly.

    I love how this single sentence illustrates both how few people in this story have a conscience, and that the Lambs are definitely not among them.

    • I don’t think it was ever a question that any rebellion against the Crown is doomed to failure. They have too much power, too many resources, and advance too quickly. Any war they take part in is one where they’re always one step ahead. The rebellion doesn’t look like a threat because you’re seeing them from the perspective of the villains.

      Considering Fray’s specialization is long-term strategy, I doubt she would’ve accepted that promise if keeping it hindered her plans in any notable way. Either waiting for the Lambs played into her goals, or she agreed to what was effectively a mutual cease-fire so she could have more time to add the finishing touches on something.

      It’s going to be fun if the Lambs ever find themselves aligned against the Crown.

    • It didn’t really require Sy to keep up his end though. As long as he lets her walk away all she needs to do is drop off the map, something she was more than capable of seeing as the only reason the Lambs caught up with her the first time was because she’d already accomplished her primary mission and was dealing with secondary objectives at the time. As long as she doesn’t do anything similarly over the top, the Academy is stuck dealing with a populist uprising while she gets to sit on a beach somewhere in the Caribbean sipping mojitos on the beach reading the latest issue of Sins Against Nature Monthly secure in the knowledge that while the Academy has enough resources to win a war of attrition, it isn’t going to send multiple super weapons on a wild goose chase until the greater conflict is dealt with. As long as her plans aren’t time sensitive, she can afford to wait, and the Academy can afford to wait as well. What the Lambs want and how much one can trust Sy to hold up his end of a deal don’t matter at all in this equation, as long as the Academy holds their leash she’s safe.

      As far as Avis being an idiot, I really have to agree. She should have just lit the tower on fire and let the Ghosts range through the Academy trying to take as many people as they could. She still might have been caught, but she doesn’t strike me as the kind of ideologue that would take their own life rather than risk capture. Die a martyr in a futile and ultimately meaningless fight, yes, drink hemlock because she was found out, not so much.

      • > She still might have been caught, but she doesn’t strike me as the kind of ideologue that would take their own life rather than risk capture.

        Avis was sufficiently concerned about her family to hide her, and she must have known she’d be interrogated, kept alive against her will, and tortured if captured. That was obvious to both her and us readers. From that perspective, she absolutely couldn’t afford to take *any* risks of being captured alive. And yet she did, for reasons I just don’t understand.

        • Ah, that’s where we running into a disconnect. I don’t remember reading anything that mentioned her trying to hide her family, and the Duke asking for that information struck me as less “we won’t be able to find them without you” as “it’ll take significantly less time to find them with your help.” I’ll agree that she should’ve run when she got the letter from Percy 2.0, at which point her escape would have been all but certain, especially if she had left the Ghosts behind to sow havoc in the Academy proper.

          Anyway, thinking about how easy it was for a bunch of mute experiments to get into the Academy made me about how both sides of this fight are utter incompetents. The rebels should’ve used a bunch of clones with their GI tract removed and replaced with a bag full of deadly neurotoxin, ordered to wander into various Academies and find the highest concentration of people possible and release their payload. It’s unlikely that sufficient protective gear will be available at a moment’s notice outside of a lab set up specifically for testing chemical weapons, and if they used something fast acting like VX ,there wouldn’t be enough time to provide antidotes for all exposed. If they could actually produce VX itself, a single experiment would likely be enough to render most of an Academy uninhabitable by running a couple of lines from said stomach bag to the palms of its hands, and then having it touch as many surfaces as possible, hand rails, food supplies, etc before its captured. The Academy’s security is far too porous, and the rebels are far too concerned with flashy weapons of war.

          • The rebels don’t seem to be up for indiscriminate biological/chemical warfare. That’s more the Academy’s thing.

          • I think she started on her escape when she got the letter. She didn’t have that much of a head start and needed to ready her flying apparatus, take her combat drug and poison, send emergency messages, and light the building on fire and let it burn enough to provide a distraction and give her some good thermals to glide on.

        • Avis was planning to flee and escape, and had already taken one poison that she believed could not be counteracted by the Academy before it killed her, and had a second one ready for use.

          It would be convenient for the rebellion if all their members were sufficiently fanatical to install and use instantaneous self-destruct mechanisms when there was any possibility of capture. Unfortunately for them, they mostly use humans with survival instincts who by and large won’t commit suicide unless they’re completely certain they’ll be captured and tortured, and sometimes not even then. It can’t be helped, they just have to compartmentalize information so that when people inevitably do get captured, the damage is limited. Like how Avis doesn’t know where the Percies are.

        • “From that perspective, she absolutely couldn’t afford to take *any* risks of being captured alive. And yet she did, for reasons I just don’t understand.”

          What is it about this point that has you so hung up? Can’t you just alter your headcanon slightly to allow for whatever notion you’re fixated on?

          Like, pretend that Avis DID inject herself with an immediately acting poison, but the Duke was just as fast with a universal antidote in a built-in syringe under a fingernail (it takes 10-15 seconds for an IVed substance to reach your brain, so this is plau

          • It’s an issue of asymmetric information: from the very moment Avis betrayed the Academy (years ago?), she had time to plan her escape / suicide. In contrast, the Duke an the Lambs only had, what, less than an hour to think things through and react. In other words, it should have been impossible for Avis’ plan to fail, barring incredibly unexpected circumstances.

            So the precise point I’m hung up on has nothing to do with Avis’ _method_ of suicide, and everything to do with her failure to go through with it. Anything the Duke could do to keep her alive, she should have been able to anticipate.

          • By all indications in the text, her method of suicide would have been completely sufficient for the Radham Academy doctors. She is unfamiliar with the full capabilities of the Duke’s personal doctors, and clearly underestimated them.

    • The part about the Lambs having executed the children really shows she’s still in self-delusion mode. Just because the children’s brains were used as a basis for the ghosts does not mean that they were still the same individuals. Just like killing stitched is not killing the individual that was the stitched a second time.

      • I don’t get why you’d say that. We never saw the Ghosts when they weren’t in fight mode. Avis has knowledge of the process, and she thinks that they were the children. Why do you disagree?

    • She did add the condition that she could make allies and such during the six months, so this suggests that she considered that ultimately it wouldn’t set her back too much.

      Also, keeping your promise even with notorious defectors will get you the reputation for keeping your promise, which might be helpful later.

    • I do not think the lambs lack concience, per se. Jaime definitely had one, and Lilian does too- they demostrated it multiple times with their kindness. Helen is too alien for us to be sure, but she does seem to have an (alien) perfect world, which would coincide with having a concience.Sy has a mix of “the ends justify the means” and “denial probably because Hayle brainwashing” .He never killed if he felt he could help it, even if it would be easier that way, and he genuinely cared about the kidnapped children.He may have done multiple evil things (though I only remember shooting the medic) but his worldview certainly shows a man with concience Gordon… well, he hasn’t shown much of a concience, but he IS the only one who wanted to go with Fray. Dunno about Mary, though, but even she cares about a few people (Percy, at first, then the lambs) deeply.

      Note I do not think the lambs are “evil” as much as “tragic” concidering the circumstances, but even villainous persons have concience. They have shown proffesionality, though, not amorality.

      • Jamie is pretty okay. Lillian’s kindness can be interpreted as situational weakness. Helen enjoys murdering people slowly and had no trouble with the idea on turning on Ibbot, and while Sy doesn’t present anything obvious (besides manipulation) he’s perfectly fine messing with people in Rhadham when the punishment for academy failure is death. Gordon was considering Team Fray because he wanted to live longer and Mary’s been conditioned (by Sy) to care about the lambs.

        EXCELLENT protagonists but they’re pretty evil.

        • Once more, I never said they were “good people” , thats anothe argument (still maintain they are “tragic” rather than “evil”, but the results are the same, so thats a discussion for another time)

          What I did say is that they do not lack conciense. Even outright villains have concience sometimes, and every lamb has shown sighs of having one (however unproffesional Lily’s is, however alien and basic Helen’s is, however self- deluding and “end justifies any means” Sy’s is and however self serving and egotistical Gordon’s and Mary’s is.

          A morality one would disagree with =/= lack of concience. A clearly villainous morality =/= lack of concience.

          • But… I didn’t say they were good at all, instead my paragraph presented a perspective on the chapter that represents the Lambs as evil instead of tragic. Their story is pretty tragic, but I still see the lambs as evil and self-serving for the reasons presented above.

          • Sigh. Them being “tragic” or “evil” was not the point of my post, but if you want to discuss that, very well.

            They are indoctrinated children soldiers who just try to survive.They are too houng to question authority.except maybe Helen, who is a different species and is morev “blue and orange morality” than good, evil or tragic).They literally do what they do because their only other choice is to die, with Sy being the only exception, being a token mad well intentioned extremist, a kind of “villain” I would hesitate to brand as evil. As long as the children are too oung to question, it doesn’t matter how atrocious they are, the fault lies with their indoctrinators.

            They are just children trying to survive. Saints would rather die, but saints had life experience. They are no Saints, but also no more selfish than normal people (ironically, Sy,Lily and James seem to be altruists, even though Sy’s worldview and utopia is kinda a paradise for selfishness, with Gordon and Mary being selfish and Helen alien). I do not know what alien planet you come from, but nobody wants to sacrifice himself (being suicidal is different) even Jesus didn’t want to.People just feel like they have to do it because their alternatives are worse, and then they do it with dignity,but that is after they are old enough to formulate an opinion.If you tell the average person “kill or die” he’ll kill, much more if you have indoctrinated him (whether he’ll kill efficiently or hesitate until its too late its another story).There may be many who wouuldn’t, nowadays, but they are a product of society’s advancement.

            In summary: they are just child soldiers, tools in an awful plan created by a twisted society.

    • I don’t think the Lambs ‘executed’ in the sense that they rounded them up and killed them, I think she is referring to how the Lambs took out all of the echo-location clones (that were created from children Percy took).

  7. A three season timeskip after that whammy of a chapter? Harsh.

    About how long would it take a new Lamb to mature? Because if they can be done in nine or so months, we might’ve had a look at the new one.

    Also, sounds like the Duke just admitted to offing Jamie there.

  8. I’m shocked that the Duke would let her go.

    In practice, this comes out to ‘I’m shocked that the Duke would leave her in a position where it was even remotely possible for her to escape’ (potential external aid notwithstanding).

    • I’m guessing that the reason it was possible is because the Duke sees the potential harm that could be done if she escaped to not be worth the resources necessary to devote in order to make it impossible. In the end her escape DID require a mole who did surgery on her, left instructions, and her getting through gorger and the catacombs.
      It would take a lot more to make it impossible even if a mole helped her. Especially 9 months after she apparently stopped being useful.

    • Personally, I suspect her escape is something sneaky. I’m just wondering just how many layers of sneaks with their own agendas were involved with that… And, if she’s got some form of homing beacon installed.😛

    • Also, potentially, new Lambs. New lambs that Sy resents for not being Jamie. Maybe some absent old Lambs. Lots of possibilities here.

  9. The Duke’s expression changed, the light smile fading away. “The sacrifice of a child? No, I suppose not. I do suppose it falls on my shoulders.”

    Duke confirmed for sabotaging Caterpillar and killing Jamie as a punishment for Sy

    • With the amount of time that has passed it could mean anything. It could mean that he gave an order to the lambs that resulted in one of them dying. The next chapter could for example be missing a lamb other than Jamie.

  10. Given that the royals are effectively immortal, how can they not have problems in that there are too many of them. Given an immortal lifespan, and any non-zero level or reproduction, then basically the entire population should be the royals…

    • It’s only been that way for roughly a century… Definitely not enough time to change much regarding the fraction of the population who are royals.

      • And the real problem isn’t how long they live. It’s that there are no real checks or balances on their power. Sure the young men in Avis home town could have refused to entertain the noble ladies, and go with them. But then… Well you can’t just offend a group with the power to do horrible things to you, that will never have to worry about consequences for it.

    • I imagine it is getting to be a problem. I expect it is being somewhat resolved through suicidal and kin-murdering tendencies. Duke mentioned he did a lot of fighting at home; this could be interpreted as political jousting or as literal duels to the death. Duke also mentioned young nobles might want to be Lambs, suggesting many of them already aim to put themselves in dangerous situations.

  11. It’s interesting that the time perception thing didn’t mess up her breathing or her heartbeat. I’m no neurologist, but aren’t heartbeat and breathing both tasks regulated by the brain? Also, I wonder if we’ll learn more about the ratios. Hmm, I wonder what boats are like in Twig…
    …Anyways, thank you for your writing, Wildbow, and I think I can safely say you put me through time warping torture every time you make me wait for a chapter.🙂
    Note to self: Build a team of writer lambs that work tirelessly to produce the most amazing writing.

    • Breathing and heartbeat are regulated by the autonomic nervous system. It’s easily possible to alter her conscious perception of time without messing with that.

    • It did mess with her breathing though, didn’t it? It seemed to go on quite about how she had to think about her breathing or it would get messed up.

      • Because panic and stress directly work on the limbic system to increase heart and breath rate thanks to the cascade effects triggered by increased cortisol, norepinephrine and adenalin, not messed up temporal perception.

        She was beginning to panic, knew it and was trying to take steps to not to go into all-out anxiety attack mode, in short.:/

          • Um. Yes-no? Breathing exercises and heart rate control are effective physical roadblocks in the path of the physiological-psychological feedback loop aka “the decending anxiety spiral”. But, “forced meditation”? Deciding to practice your own breathing exercises to keep time and/or control your panic isn’t forced, as such… Even if the stressful situation is being forced on you.:/

  12. Gordon is dead, and Ashton has taken his place.

    I don’t believe the Duke was so careless. I believe he had a tracker implanted in her and allowed her to escape, to see where she would go.

    “White plague”, “ravager” – no, the rebels cannot claim the moral high ground here, at least not the anti-academy faction.

  13. The escape also seems allowed. Someone in the academy reduced the guard and let her go.

    That said, I’d lo’ve for hayle to be the mole

    • I don’t know who it’ll be. Hayle might have decided that Frey is the better choice for the better brain that is supposed to save the world. I wouldn’t rule out one of the Lambs. Hell even the Duke is possible, using her to track down other parts of the rebellion.

      It seems like half the worlds problem is all the people trying to save it. Mostly from each other.

  14. I’m a bit ashamed when I realize that in the last chapter, I was so caught up with Jamie’s death that I forgot this Avis was being tortured terribly in the Bowels. Readers tend to get so caught up in the main characters that everyone else tends to just fade into the background, despite how much worse their fate is.

  15. Helen is the mole. Actually, Ibott is, but Helen is following his commands.

    Helen intrigues me. Her false, cheery attitude has been around so long, we all forgot Ibott forced her into it. She might hate them all. She’d be the perfect mole.

    “Who’s the best mole in the world?”
    I am, she thought, smiling sweetly.

    • Yeah, that’s always been in the back of my mind. Since she’s completely vat-grown, there’s no real way of telling what’s an act. Any normal human cues for that, even how she behaves when no one she has reason to decieve is watching, don’t necessarily apply.

      However, I think HelenxCake is pure.

  16. Really enjoyed this chapter. There’s a lot of layers of intrigue going on.

    Wildbow – administrative question: are WordPress errors such that we should start to expect 1 AM EST chapter postings? I 100% endorse any outcome that is lowest stress/highest productivity for you (and apologies if asking is even a stress point), but I just wondered if you had some rough guidance?

    Keep it up – really enjoying Twig! Thank you!

    • To be entirely honest, I started uploading at 12:15 instead of 12:00 because I got a ~lot~ less errors doing that. I think aiming for a time when so many others are uploading, WordPress gets a little finnicky. But 12:15 became 12:20 became 12:30, and a patch of insomnia & other hassles happening in the background made 12:50 happen a few times now.

      Going to try and amend my schedule so chapters roll out earlier. Sorry for the hassle, bakerjake.

      • I dunno, it sounds like perhaps AIMING for 1AM might be a better schedule. Obviously that’s up to you and how well it works with everything else in your life, but choosing a target that would accommodate all of your existing data points sounds like a winning proposition. (Especially if you can post-date uploads so they go visible on a schedule instead of immediately — then if you ARE done by 12:15, you hit the button and go to bed if you want.)

  17. It’s official. Fray is the true heroine of the story. The lambs are just part of the story, and we see it from their perspective. They’re cool and all, but honestly? I’m rooting for Fray.

    • I’ve felt that way for a while. Honestly, at this point, any sign of the Lambs turning out to be the Ultimate Force for Good in this story would constitute a twist for me.

      • Good and evil are subjective, no one is the villain in their own story, and no one can agree what the best path to utopia is, because that’s politics. And no one ever agrees with the other side in politics.

        What observable change in their behaviour would make you say that the lambs are a Force For Good now?

        • If they themselves do not objectively think that they’re evil, they themselves, I repeat for emphasis, then props to them for amazingly silent consciences.
          As for Force of Good, I mean if it turns out that they are instrumental in saving the world, like Blake was in Pact or Taylor in Worm. I’d also be floored if they could achieve something selfless.

          • But they are NOT really evil, see my comment above on “evil vs tragic”.

            Also, they have acted selfleshly multiple times- you mean something cliqueless, as in, something for someone they do not know and/or like.

          • “If they themselves do not objectively think that they’re evil… then props to them for amazingly silent consciences.”

            You seem confused about how this works. Are you familiar with the Fundamental Attribution Error? It’s like this: a woman is rude to you in the grocery store. So you think, “wow, what a bitch! I bet she cuts people off in traffic too!” To you, her behavior is a reflection of who she is as a person.

            But SHE is thinking, “oops, I totally didn’t mean to be rude to that guy, but someone called in sick at work and I’m basically doing two jobs, and because of my newborn I haven’t slept through the night in over a week…” To her, her behavior is a reflection of the stressful week she’s been having.

            See how this applies to the Lambs? You see Objective Evil, where they see A Situation Where We Had No Other Choice. For example.

          • storryeater, i have read your comment and agree that maybe they have a conscience. But i still think they do bad things for the sake of being bad sometimes. I would, too, given their skill set. Warren Peace, I get you. However, if you follow that woman around for an year and keep seeing her cutting people off, you’d be in a good position to justify your inductive inference, to, uh, strain your metaphor. These Lambs are not capable of acting in the interests of any but their own. They are ‘evil’ in a way i rarely see in real life, akin to terrorists, completely contravening the idea of the basic good nature of human kind. The things they do, with the exception of (the now possibly late) Jamie, make it difficult for me to even feel bad when someone gets one over them. This is one of the few stories where i actively root for the ‘antagonists’, whoever they may be, assuming you could even refer to the Lambs as protagonists.
            Even in books where the main character is actively evil, like, um, Prince of Thorns (evil boy genius, monarchy-it’s what popped into my mind, alright? I don’t control these things), I very, very rarely have the active dislike i have for the Lambs. I don’t know why, specifically. But i’m pretty sure i’m not attributing characteristics to them they don’t deserve.
            If your grocery store woman made it a habit to be rude all the time because of successive stressful weeks, then rude she is, justified or not.

          • Hope that was coherent, and i’m not raging out over how difficult it’s becoming for me to keep reading these chapters. Whenever i write a long comment, i feel like i’m raging out.

          • Problem is, I cannot think of one evil action they did that was not for the sake of survival, unless you count not going with Frey, from one grey to another, and of only 2 victims that were actually not grey enough to justify the lambs fighting them.(the soldier and the doctor).

            When given a choice that does not involve sacrificing one of them, they tend to pick the neutral or the good choice.Again, more like child soldiers than like terrorists, goverment agents or sadistic villains.

    • Fray is a pretty horrible person all on her own, honestly. I get the feeling that a story from her perspective would have a lot of self-delusion, and not the fun kind we have with the Lambs.

      • Why, what’d she do?
        She contaminated a lot of water supplies, but that was something the Academy was going to do anyway, and they could have fixed it if they’d wanted to. She just made their move for them.
        She was going to let Warren maul the lambs, but the lambs were literally a weapon deployed against her. It seems entirely reasonable in context.
        I can’t think of anything truly horrible.

        • She did, but she also released information on it and did it in a way that got a whole lot of people killed because they left the radius of their local antidotes. She could have just released the information, but that would have reduced the effects.

        • She started a war. Regardless of whether or not we think it justified or necessary, to intentionally start a war is to take responsibility for the ensuing deaths.
          She’s overall unconcerned about all the harm and death that occurs because of her, so long as she’s taking the shortest route to achieve her goals. This mindset is typically indicative of someone who will commit great evils, if they haven’t already.

    • Frey was the heroine of the originally-posted version of the story (prior to Pact), so it’s hardly surprising that she’d still read as a heroine in this version.

  18. Man, Twig has been getting visceral. In a few senses.

    I love actual stakes and plot progress, so these last couple updates have been a real treat. Whatever the future holds, I look forward to it.

  19. Right up to the moment we saw Fray, I was expecting this to be a twisted loyalty test set up by the Duke. Pretend to give the prisoner a way out, to see if she takes it.

  20. Everyone is so desensitized by Wildbows writing that no one bothers mentioning this girl getting NEEDLES INSERTED IN HER EYES TO LOCK HER EYEMOVEMENT. I mean, I’ve read some pretty messed up things Wildbow wrote but just reading that gave me the shivers! Well done Wildbow, it’s been a while, but you managed to freak me out on a whole new level again!

  21. Okay. Let’s consider some things.

    Sy appears to originally have been a separate project to test the limits of Wyvern, which was then folded into the Lambs project after Ashton and Evette failed. The academy used Wyvern to fill in a gap in the Lambs project – presumably, Sy’s social manipulation skillzors were supposed to have been covered by Ashton (which sounds like a male name, and makes me suspect that this is who Sy is currently filling in for, with Lillian filling in for Evette; it could be the other way ’round, of course, but the base probability is 50% that Sy is filling in for Ashton and the fact that they’re both male is very weak evidence for Sy filling in for Ashton. Given the lack of other evidence, this seems reasonable to me).

    Now Ashton is getting revived (but not Evette!)…

    And Jamie just end-of-lifed.

    This makes we wonder if the Academy is now planning to use Wyvern to fill in the new gap in the Lambs project. Meaning Sy will become the new Project Caterpillar mobile probe.

    And makes Symie the canonical pairing, har har har.

    • That would be kind of fascinating, actually, especially if they load Jamie’s memories into his head. If it’s a person with memories from both, then can it be said to be either of them?

      Sy’s new theme song if that happens:

    • Hmm, I love the idea of Jaimie finding purchase in Sy’s head somehow, but I worry easy access to radical longterm memory might change Sy as a character too much, with too little effort on his part. I wonder if Sy could learn to draw?

  22. With all the talk about good and evil, I feel it needs saying: the choice to support the Academies or the Crown cannot be objectively said to be evil. The choice to do evil in the name of either certainly is, but to choose the status quo over an uncertain future is normal. Leads to fewer deaths in the short term as well, which is as good an indicator as any as to the morality of an act. As the Duke was saying, if the rebellion loses in the end then all they’ve managed to do is commit a bunch of atrocities.

    Now then… I don’t buy it. I was waiting for a bait-and-switch from the timeskip onward, and the “flashback” may still have been real. Too easy to convince her nine months had passed when it had been days. Too easy to feed her a hallucination. [Mysterious Surgeon] did such a good job fixing everything else, why would there be blurry spots in her eyes?
    Probably wrong, but I don’t think there was a timeskip.

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