Enemy (Arc 9)

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Within a short time of becoming aware, this creature experienced a large, ferrous foreign body penetrating skin, three layers of supporting bone lace, and the organ primarily responsible for the awareness.  Other, complimentary organs remained in place, processing this reality.

Processing itself and its surroundings on a higher level had rendered this creature vulnerable somehow.  Using the limited pool of resources available to it, this creature began solving the problem.  It created another, similar organ for higher processing and coordination.  This one was different in the nature of the encasement, slightly different in position, lower to the ground.

The ferrous foreign element was triangular, this creature noted, as the object cleaved the new growth away.

It was aware, using its secondary processing organs, that the tool that had hewed the organ away was set to one side.  It was aware of a source of heat and light, and of the pheromones released as the organ was burned away into nothing.

It was too wasteful to continue.  It waited, and it focused on other things.  Movement, like processing, was hampered by external factors.  The core of this creature consisted of a branching, solid structure, the branches breaking down from whole body to a given section, then to all the pieces and organs that made up that section, and then to the structural elements of those pieces, and the smallest branches extended to the cells of those structural elements.

Steadily, slowly, this creature focused on refining processes, breaking down the resources it was given and using them efficiently.  It clarified how it perceived the external world, and how it understood its own form, and it tracked everything it had done before by writing it all into its own skeletal structure.

Working across multiple organs, focusing on things it consumed, on particles it inhales, on light and types of light, this creature was able to identify more complex things, even if it couldn’t understand them.

If this creature was only a response to its environment, purely adaptive, it would abandon processing entirely.  But this creature has fifteen lesser processing organs and it has developed the ability to recognize patterns.  The damage is targeted, aimed at particular parts and for reasons this creature does not yet understand.

This creature wants to develop the ability to understand and this creature devotes time to working out how.  It develops five organs simultaneously, spaced around its body, and makes one of the five about processing and deeper understanding.

All five of the organs are soon removed.  Many resources have been wasted, but this creature can write the learned detail to its bones, through structural chains built on a sub-cellular level.  Crude, but placement, composition and general purpose can be transcribed.

This creature grows another organ, and this time, it moderates its own behavior.  It does not exercise its body and attempt to record the best movements to its new thinking-organ, nor act agitated, nor does it relax.

The pattern has been figured out.  If it gives overt indication that it is learning and studying on a higher level, it is culled.

Further experimentation lets this creature place and hide its cognitive organs within itself, as ribbon-like striations between organs and along the skeletal lace.  When this creature begins demonstrating the behaviors again, there are exploratory cuts, carving deep into its body, but the organs are not found nor carved away.

With the still-developing organs for sight, for smell, and for hearing, this creature notes more agitation on the part of these foreign beings that keep cutting at it and binding its movement.  They are upset or disturbed.

This creature has won a small victory.  Now, faster than before, it begins to coordinate how it grows, how it processes the environment, and it thinks in abstracts.

There are six other creatures like it in the environment.  In identifying and processing a complexity it has noticed, this creature now knows that two of the three have already begun communicating between one another.  There are fifteen different compounds that each of their bodies produce in excess waste.  This creature can vent these compounds into the air as a part of its respiration, exhale one of the fifteen compounds, or a pairing of compounds.  A hundred and twenty different possible expressions.

This creature rapidly draws a connection between the fact that they chose this form of communication and the need to hide some behaviors from those who control them.

It takes some time -days- to learn how this communication works and to develop ways to truly comprehend it and respond.  By the time this creature is done, the others have worked out a way to communicate using three compounds at a time, and the fourth of them is just now starting to use two compound expressions.

Outward form remains stable for each, roughly analogous, as can be communicated with messages, and seen with grown eyes, acknowledging that each has different eyes and fields of view.  As the correlations draw stronger, the others in the environment, foreign attackers and cultivators, grow more more agitated.  Subtle agitation – small movements, of hands and feet, alertness, watching, speaking in shorter sentences.

Messages are communicated.  Forms are left different.  Too much coordination is bad, and will see culling.  Will a whole creature be cut away and burned as the smaller growths were?  It is not worth taking the chance.

As the outsides remain similar and stable, the insides change.  Each one takes different paths, and with the same patterns used to write to skeletal structure, they communicate things to the others.

A fifth has recognized and started to develop the ability to communicate, but it is badly behind the curve.  There is a high chance it was too passive, taking the culling of brain matter as a reason to not develop intelligence.  It is not mobile, it is not strong, it is not intelligent, but it can perceive its surroundings well.  Still behind, communicating in its stilted way, it gives clues on how to see more clearly, how to smell, and how to hear.  Color becomes easier to perceive, and the same pattern recognition that made it possible to understand one another now tracks how the others in their environment communicate.

Some sounds and utterances in the pattern of communication are more important than others.  This creature starts to work on learning what those utterances mean.

Always, always, there is the need for more resources.  Food can be taken apart, the individual components pulled from one another, studied in isolation, learned from.  This creature hungers.

There is an exchange about one of their number breaking from the rest, attempting to escape its bonds.  None are willing to be that sacrifice.  There is more communication, in abstract, about waiting for another of their kind to develop the ability to communicate, and deceiving it into being the sacrifice.

Coordinated, the group now acting as a unit, they do the majority of their work in secret, beneath layers of tissue that the other lifeforms can’t sense.

This creature played at being the savage.  It hurled it self against the chains.  Larger, false eyes focus only on what is in front of it.  Other eyes coordinated to watch the people who had been working so hard to contain it now attaching new chains and unhitching the old ones.

These people were ordered.  There were some who led and many others who followed, and one figure seemed to lead even the ones who led.  His hair was red and he was fearless to the loudest roars and screeches.  He held something to his face, masking his nose and mouth.  The arm that hung at his side was misshapen and smelled foul, like rot and pain.

“Why?” the man in charge asked.

“We needed to keep it dumb,” spoke the old man who had been in charge from the beginning.  This creature could tell that he was obsequious, obedient, wanting to please.  This creature understands most of this utterance.

“That’s not how it works,” the man responded.  “You slowed it down, but you can’t keep it from doing anything.  You just made it better at pretending.”

This creature can understand the negatory, the confidence, the meaning of slow, of doing.  Pretending is a new word, but it’s a word the creature can intuit the meaning of.  It understands much of this, too.

Regular, unfocused efforts to keep this creature dumb had meant that the cuts were so often blind, now.  The people who tended this creature were oblivious as to how any individual piece of it worked.  They started cutting off the heads of this creature and its brothers, blindly trying to slow them down, to keep them dumber and more docile.

This creature responded by not growing another head.  The mass of the body became a home for everything vital, for perception, and for the cognitive processing.

Movement beyond the confines of the stable it had been allotted was a foreign thing, but this creature and all of the others had already started developing flight, and it had developed some muscle for moving around, to buy time when something vital was being carved away.  The chains went taut, and this creature felt itself being pulled along.  It stumbled on legs not meant for walking, and started processing how it might better configure its own limbs, what would need to be put together or taken away to make this movement easier.

“I know you’re fooling us,” the red haired man spoke.

This creature knew ‘fooling’.  The men that watched it and cut at it played cards, and they ‘fooled’ with one another, sometimes calling it ‘lying’ or ‘bluffing’.

This creature could tell there was slack in its chain.  It capitalized on it, lunging, roaring at the man with the red hair.  The chains pulled tight, hauling against wood beams that had been bolted to floor and ceiling, wood splintering into and through the links of metal.  The beams held firm.

The man with the red hair stared at it, but it wasn’t a stare of fear.  This creature was still working on the processing necessary to understand nuance, the subtleties of expression.  Five variants on the same lobe of the brain intended for the task were focused on this man.  Across the five lobes, the creature was able to see the higher patterns, the little details in how the man stood and how he spoke, that were constants.  They were things that others did only occasionally, in times of need.

In expressing himself, he was a figure who naturally did what others strove to do in times of need.

“How many of them are viable?” the man with the red hair asked.

The creature had heard many variants of this question since it had learned to understand people.

“Seven,” the old man said.

“We only need four.”

“Only four?”

“You made them too clever.  I think we can manage four, but seven would be pushing it.”

“Made them clever?  No.  I worked hard to keep-”

“Harding,” the red haired man said.  “I’m going to pay you the same amount, no matter what happens.  A group of adolescents just tried to set me on fire.  A war is about to erupt.  I want you to bite your tongue, take a deep breath, and then start cooperating, so I can focus on important things.  You’ll get your money regardless of what happens.”

There was a pause before the old man spoke.  “Yes, sir.”

The creature listened, and it watched.  One of its brothers took flight, trying to find an angle where it could break free, getting up and away from the chains.  The men didn’t try to fight it in strength, instead relying on the strength of the beams the chains were lashed to.

“Oh, God,” one of the strange men said.  “I just about shit myself.”

God.  An unfamiliar word.  The creature noted it for later.

One of the other creatures that this creature knew only by scent and by sound had been producing an airborne chemical in efforts to dissolve the wood.  The wood was softer, heavy with accumulated moisture, prone to peeling and breaking away, but the chemical hadn’t yet soaked in far enough to penetrate the hard core.  The chains scraped against the wood and only the outer layer came free.  The same chemical had made the men who did the most watching and carving away of this creature’s parts slower and sicker.  It meant slower delivery of food for all of them, and the exchanged messages that were conveyed through coded exhalations and high-pitched sounds had become heated over that topic, with some others getting very agitated about the lack of resources.

The man with the red hair was paying attention, his eyes fixated on the wood and the chains.

“All secure, sir.”

“Make doubly sure.”

“I did, sir.”

“I’ll rephrase.  Take another two minutes, for my peace of mind.  I’ll wait.”

Two minutes, the creature processed.  It could recall moments when people had used similar language.  Just a minute, you miserable old bastardOne, two, three, four.

“Do you know?” the man with the red hair asked, looking at the creature again.  “When I said that, you relaxed your muscles at your shoulder, your mouth sagged, and your wings dropped.  You subconsciously prepared yourself to wait.”

The creature understood the individual elements, but words like ‘subconscious’ eluded it.  It took time to piece the statement together.  Slowly, it put the whole picture together.  It was careful to keep from giving any external signs that it understood.

“And you just tensed.  That took you about twenty seconds.  You damn well understand me, don’t you?  It’s not just tone of voice.”

“Understand?” the old man asked.  He barked out a laugh, smiling in a mean, condescending way that only people with power over others seemed able to do.

“Shhh, Harding,” the man with the red hair said.  “Bite that tongue, keep it bitten.  From the way this thing is acting, I’m guessing you went against my orders to avoid talking to it.”

“Hunh?” the old man made an unfamiliar, negatory sound.  “I didn’t talk to it.  Neither did they.”

“Did you talk around it?”

“You didn’t-”

“I told you not to expose it to speech.  That means not talking to it, and minimizing how much you talk around it, unless you’re willing to put it in a hole in the ground or seal it in a case that will muffle the sound.”

“You didn’t say that!”

“I’ll have to talk to Stanley.  Are the chains good?”

“The chains appear to be as good as the last three times I looked them over, sir.”

“Then open the door.”

Rusted metal squeaked against rusted metal as a large door was opened in the side of the building.  A mass of lights outside the building illuminated the dust between the creature and the door.  New, fresh air flowed into the building.

Exhilarating.  The creature put the man with the red hair out of its mind.  The new environment had to be studied, pieced together.

“So long as you’re pointed in their direction, it’ll be fine,” the man with the red hair said.

So many people were gathered.  All were of the same type, that this creature associated with pain and losing progress and losing resources.  Would they take it to pieces, now?  Would they fall on it en masse, devour it as it had devoured its meals, pull it apart into its constituent parts to better analyze it, and improve themselves through the act?

They didn’t fall upon the creature en masse.  Men held chains and hauled the creature out through the door, into this strange world of cold, of water coming down from the sky, and hordes of people who smelled like agitation and excitement.

Leashed to a large wagon, its path barred by the chains and metal around it, this creature saw as its brothers were arranged around it.  Another pattern it did not understand.

An explosion of sound, distant, followed by pain, so near!  The creature keened.  Fire burned it, and it keened even more.  The foreign bodies that penetrated it were so much smaller than the axes, but they dug deep and they burned hot, doing so much damage on the way.

This creature was already working to build better defenses.  The gaps in the bone lace closed even as damage was done, the creature dissolved unneeded organs and cannibalized them for resources.  Slowly, the bone lace, closed, would total six overlapping skeletal structures of collagen and calcium, of keratin, and of crystal.  Different combinations of material went into each structure.  Flight would be impossible, but the wings did allow the creature to push against the air as well as the ground, flapping with more and more strength as it reconfigured how the muscles supported the wings.

Retreat was impossible.  It was lashed to what the men had called the wagon, which was driven forward by men.  Retreating was impossible, because of the wagon and the iron bars that blocked the way.  Advancement meant walking into the pain and the fire.

This creature advanced, screeching.  The weapons it was developing were new, too.  These ones were old, considered and written into its bones long ago, a response to the loss of its brains, to the loss of heads.  A memory from long ago swiftly became a reality today, scythes of bone on forelimbs and wingtips.  The creature was turning back to old, forgotten ideas that had been deemed too resource-heavy, more responses to the cutting, strengthening the connections between cells, making the cells rigid and less likely to tear.  It was a time-consuming process, one that would require ever more food.

Advancing was the better option, because advancement meant food.  A scythe could cut into three men in a single sweep.  Those men fell to the ground, too hurt to move, and this creature could eat them.

Many weren’t alive.  Their flesh was lower quality, lacking moisture, riddled with wire and other things.  This creature ate the wire, and muscle action worked to drag the wire to where it might be useful, joining the small fragments of metal in encasing the most important parts of this creature’s body.

The creature’s brothers were communicating with it.  One had been developing a way to escape.  It was ready, and had been ready before the red haired man showed up.  All four had been biding their time, all four wanted so badly to stop hurting, to get away from the noise, the fire, the confusion and the pain.  They had hoped to coordinate their efforts across the entire building, using all of their brothers, not four.  If each one tried something at the same time, and some of the tricks and strategies worked, then they had a better chance than if one tried something.

Fighting its way past the dead men with metal inside them, the creature hurled itself forward until the chains were taut, metal straining.  It swept its claw and scythe out, reaching for a woman that had been giving orders to the stitched.

The scythe didn’t reach far enough.

Shoulder muscles relaxed, then the joint shifted, only a part of the overall configuration holding.  The limb extended half-again as far. then cut flesh.  It pulled the limb back, dragging the body back with it, and pulled its shoulder back into place with muscle action.

Every step of the way, it was hurt more, it advanced more.

Its brother wanted to act, now.  This creature readied itself, tensing and drawing low to the ground, as if preparing for another lunge.

All across its body, the anchoring points of muscles on the lacework and plates of bone shifted.  Organs that had had nothing to do with physical prowess could all contract and relax, and each of these organs settled into a new anchoring point.

This creature had been given instructions to display strength.

Wings flapped, and limbs bit deep into the road, crushing the material that road was made of.  It clawed at those who it could reach as it plowed forward, but those targets weren’t the goal.

Behind it, every chain was pulled so tight that metal threatened to fuse into the metal it had been pulled against, other links threatening to break.  Wagon wheels scraped on the road.

Two of the other three assisted this creature in hauling forward, dragging the wagons that had restricted their mobility.  This creature could hear the exclamations of surprise and fear.

“What the hell!?”

“Shit, shit shit!”

“What in God’s name!?”

A chain that bound one of this creature’s brothers broke.  Relieved of the tension, the chain flew back, striking a man.

More exclamations.  A scream.

The fourth creature remained where it was, feigning a wounded appearance.  It was now caught in the tangle of the wagons they had dragged behind them, hidden by those same wagons.

That fourth opened its mouth wide and upheaved chunks of flesh.  Some of those chunks wriggled, flopping on the ground.

Much of the food they had been given had tasted of the same things that vast expanse of water in the distance seemed to smell of.  These wriggling chunks were fish, in a manner of speaking, but they were brothers too.  It was a long, hard journey to the water, but to all appearances, that water was free of the people that cut at them.  There would be more fish there.

This creature might not get free today or tomorrow.  It might be cut away at until nothing was left, but if others of its kind existed, they would remember and they would return.

This creature could hear distant voices.

It wasn’t sure of the direction, but another blast of fire and heat marked the use of one of the artillery shells or grenades.  This blast targeted the wagons, and it targeted the brother the creatures had tried to keep hidden.

Fire ripped away the lives of the youngest brothers, the fish-brothers who had been meant to seek the water, to eat and to grow until they were strong enough to come back.  Fire wounded the fourth brother, who had just performed his role.  Wood was broken and chains came free.

This creature saw the opportunity, and it doubled back, turning its back to the men who kept shooting it with guns, who kept cutting it and burning it.

It could see its brother, injured, and it could smell all of the things its brother was saying.

Pain, fear, confusion.  Trying this, trying this, trying this, trying to-


Lost hope.  Lost tools.  Trapped.  No movement.

Anger.  Fury.

Loss.  Loss.  Loss.  Pain.

This creature heard all of the noises, primal, primitive, too simple.  It knew its brother was broken.  A piece of the other creature had been lost, and it wasn’t a gland, an organ, or a growth.

It heard the noises, and it answered by opening its mouth.  Its brother didn’t even protest or fight.

This creature devoured the greatest meal it had ever had, and then it pulled that meal apart, so that every part could be taken in, moved like the wire and the bullets had been moved, or pulled apart even further, into constituent elements.

Hunched over, this creature used the wagons as best as it was able to shield itself from the hostile, horrible outside world.

Dimly, it heard the cries, as people saw it doing what it was doing.

For them to be so opposed to a meal that was so good, it was impossible for there to be anything good to them.

It heard the cries of fear, and it memorized them, as it had so recently memorized words like artillery, gun, grenade, wagon, and scythe.  Those cries were written to memory, as the existence of the creature’s brother was written deep into the bone plates it was growing.

Existence was frustration, endless pain, always at the hands of these creatures.  Every advancement was met with more hostility.  When the bullets and fire were no longer enough, the warbeasts attacked.  After the warbeasts were the artillery shells and the grenades.  One step of advancement, and one step of loss.

This creature was four times the size it had been when it had left the building, streamlined.  It had learned how to break down the metals and wood that penetrated its flesh and battered its internal skeleton, and now it turned those metals into better protections.

Its brothers were dead.  It had eaten another one of them, but had been kept from eating the other.  A lone chain still connected to its shoulder, but the loops of metal that the chain was bound to, once encircling this creature’s neck and shoulders, were now migrating out of the creature’s body.  Those loops had been passed between organs and muscle structures, which disconnected to let it pass and reconnected behind them, and in time they would be free, left to fall to the ground.

This creature tensed, waiting for the next attack, the next warbeast or the explosion that would scatter chunks of its flesh, vital materials.

That attack didn’t come.  For the first time since the fighting had begun, it felt respite.  Hungrily, it began working, diverting resources within the engine that was its body, rapidly patching up the worst of the damage.  As the damage closed up and the wounds were protected by a covering of healthy flesh, it prepared to be strong, to be fast, and if it could get far enough away, it was prepared to deliver spawn, to spew them out in a location where they might be able to find the water.

“The bastard.”

The red-haired man’s voice.

“I shouldn’t be surprised,” the man spoke.  “I told the Baron I would take care of you… but I didn’t think he’d leave me with no help at all.”

The creature turned, and it identified the source of the voice.

The red haired man was atop a wagon, a burned and battered hulk of wood that had been used as protection from incoming fire.

This creature understood that if it attacked, the red haired man would hide inside.  It would have to be decisive, to cleave the wagon apart and cut the man to pieces before others could hurt it and drive it back.

“The war’s over, creature.  You’re done.  You did what you were supposed to do,” the man said.

The voice was calm, easy.  The only voices this creature had ever heard that sounded like it were the voices of one man to one of his fellows who had been shot.  A gentle, soothing sound that would ease a life into oblivion.

This creature did not want oblivion.  It tensed, muscles moving, ready to be strong.

A bullet struck.  That bullet punched through bone and then opened up within the creature, tearing, six pointed claws extending in different directions from a central point, reaching further as they traveled.

The second bullet caught this creature in the shoulder joint.  Muscle that had already disconnected was left unable to reconnect to a configuration better for brute strength.

Knotted, armored in its own skin, strong from the outside to the inside, every process aimed at being able to fight and to stay alive, the creature felt the bullets strike home, one after the other.  Each one opened up in ways that made the damage worse, made it hard to pull things back together, to reconnect.

The creature turned, and it ran, a lopsided gait.  It heard shouts, felt the slack in the chain change.

Men, twenty or more, held the chain.  Their feet dragged against the ground as the creature ran.

One of them, or all of them working in concert, seemed to find a way to catch the chain on something.

The creature felt the metal loop tug and tear at flesh inside its unwounded shoulder.  There was hurt, which was bad.  The loop didn’t come free, which was bad.

Frustration.  Loss.

The creature made the sounds and respired the ideas in a coded language of four compounds pieced together.

Then, for the benefit of those who hampered it, those who had hampered it from the moment it was aware enough to recognize the actions for what they were, it roared.  Men covered ears, some staggered and even let go of the chain.

The creature hauled back, as strong as it could be with one shoulder torn and the other riddled with the foreign bodies, but the chain remained caught.

It was between two buildings, the chain extending between it and the people, who shrank back and away.

Only the man with the red hair approached, standing ahead of all the rest.

The creature reconfigured its throat, its mouth, its musculature.  Organs were brought into place, already pumped full of gas, ready to be used.  Shoulders, back, belly, wings, hind legs and tail all tensed.

The man with the red hair whistled.

An attacker struck, silent, indistinct, a flurry of slashes and claws.  The creature retaliated, swiping, and struck air.  The attacker was faster, sleek, covered in hair-fine razors, so quick that it couldn’t be met in combat.

Tense, the attacker waited, pacing.  The creature was forced to turn, to keep the foreign attacker in its sights.

The damage had been so mild, but it had scored armor plates and slid between plates to cut into flesh with surprising ease.

The creature roared at the attacking enemy.  The enemy was silent, but for a scratching noise of spine against spine.

“Cannons are pulling into place, sir.  We’re almost ready.”

The creature watched the man with one eye, the white spined creature with the other.

“Good bye, primordial,” the man said.

The creature, the primordial, turned and fixated on the man.  The white spined thing attacked again, and retreated from a retaliatory bite.

The muscles and organs had come into place, the sacs of gas were loaded and ready.

“Nnnno,” the primordial spoke, using a mouth buried inside its toothy maw, using the sacs filled with smoky air.

To this, even, the man with the red hair did not respond.  He was not willing to give even that.

The primordial worked, processing, pulling from all of the little clues and details it had observed since entering this painful, ugly world that seemed so determined to claw at it and drag it down, to hamper it and take away from it.

It knew its assailants were ordered, that one man listened to another.  That the old man had ordered all the others back at the stable, that the red haired man had ordered the old man, and that even the people who had been fighting on both sides gave and took orders.

It thought about the exclamations, the outcry it had heard with every feat of strength, every time it had killed more men than usual.

The primordial sought to convey that it was better, that it needed to be listened to, not attacked.

To declare itself a higher authority than even the red haired man.

“Nnnnooo,” It said, again.  “No.”

“Yes,” the red haired man said.

“Nno.  Iii-  I… God,” the primordial uttered the words.

It could hear the response, the mutters, the surprise.  Quiet, or disquiet.

It wondered if it had achieved the desired effect.

Even the man with the red hair, for the first time, seemed taken aback.

The man did not respond, but only raised a hand.

The primordial could see the cannon, and recognized the gesture for the signal it was.  It threw itself to one side, so it might be flush against the side of one building, the shot flying past it-

With a whistle to command it, the white spined thing put itself between the primordial and the wall.  The shot from the cannon raked the primordial’s side and caught in its hind end, a cannon shot with a chain attached.

Machinery squeaked as the chain was hauled back, and the primordial with it.

“I… God!” the primordial uttered.  “I God!”

When it was pulled away from the cover of the buildings, there were more cannons to shoot at it.

There was no other primordial to consume or absorb this creature.  The men would finally pull it apart.

It gave its body parts instructions, and those body parts obeyed.  Scale became spine, which became hair.

It had eaten meat and it had copied the meat, and it had trodden on weeds, copying those weeds.

As the chains sank in, and other attacks were delivered, dissolving flesh, hampering the creature’s ability to move, to respire, to communicate and to think, the creature worked toward a singular task.

Life was frustration and pain.  It had been brought into this world to serve a purpose it did not understand.  It had been kept from thinking, and had found its way to understanding all the same.  Not enough understanding, but enough to name itself for what it thought it ought to be.

“I’m sorry we let you live so long,” the red haired man spoke.

The creature howled.

Everything this creature was, the people were the utter opposite.  Bitter, savage things, the creature hated them with every inch of its being, and every inch of its being worked toward a new task.

Working small, working subtly, as it had learned to do from the beginning, it copied the plants and it produced seeds.  Too small to host life, to be spawn, the seeds would nonetheless grow.

The creature knew what came next.  It had learned that in the beginning too.  Pieces were cut away, and then given to fire.

But maybe with enough seeds, some would survive the fire.  Those seeds would plant themselves in human flesh, they would cause pain, agony, hurt, and they would be a bitter, stubborn thing, more tenacious than any weed, more efficient than any plant.  Undying hatred given form.

Others would settle into the human flesh that couldn’t rub or scour them free.  They would flower, and they would scatter more seeds to the wind and the water.

Red, the creature decided, to match the hair of the man it hated most.

The creature would not let itself and its brothers be without consequence.

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137 thoughts on “Enemy (Arc 9)

  1. Hi guys, put new header art (courtesy of artist Mahasim) up in the rotation above.

    Have been having trouble keeping up with the reward chapters, and part of the reason has to do with how the funds are treated with the low CAD compared to the USD (with the bulk of funds coming as a lump sum from patreon in USD). Another part of it has to do with the greater amount of overall support. My goal is and remains as the writing of roughly two bonus chapters a month, with target amounts being scaled to keep things in that department, and as of right now there’s enough overflow that I’m writing three every other month. I’m writing three this month and I’ll still be one behind (with holidays/hectic couple of months being partially responsible) and with the intent of keeping things more sane, have adjusted the target amounts. If this causes people to pull back/pull out and acts as a hit to my income, I 100% understand, will work on recovering and will scale back the asking amount at a later date. The adjusted amounts are up at the ‘support’ tab at the top of the page – despite the numbers that appear, the old amounts (1k & 1.5k) were used for March, I just wanted the new numbers up for you guys to see.

    On other, worm related notes, have been talking to an agent and just this past week I had a phone convo with a studio expressing interest in a TV series. Above all else, the convo did convey to me just how many hoops there are to jump through for something to end up happening, but it’s a really cool thing that Worm is getting that attention.

    There has also been some noise about a group meeting up in Ottawa middish-April, if anyone happens to live in that area and isn’t privy to the conversation.

    • The bonus chapters are great, but I (and I’m sure a lot of other people) don’t donate for bonus chapters. We donate because your writing is great. I’m happy with whatever you need to do to the schedule to maintain quality and sanity.

      Worm TV series seems like it would be difficult, but Worm is good enough that I hope it happens anyway. They’d get a heck of a lot of practice doing bug special effects.

      • I hear you and appreciate the sentiment on the financial support. It’s important to me, though, for people to know that their contributions aren’t disappearing into a black hole – that there be some form of feedback for the contributions. I’m happy to do incentive chapters. Just… also very tired after doing 6 chapters in 2 weeks, and with that tiredness comes a concern that quality may dip if I get too fatigued.

        If anyone happens to send me a message saying ‘don’t count my contribution toward the total, it’s just for you’, then that’s appreciated, but that’s a rare case.

        • Considering this very chapter, I surmise you underestimate your quality output when fatigued.

          Also, consider my future donations “just for you”, although I’ll remind you of that every time.

        • > It’s important to me, though, for people to know that their contributions aren’t disappearing into a black hole – that there be some form of feedback for the contributions.

          I can only speak for myself, but every time I’ve donated (either one-off donations or my Patreon subscription) it’s been to make sure you have the financial support to keep writing full time. Bonus chapters are nice, but they’re not why I’m donating, and I mostly just want you be able to keep writing at a sustainable pace. I suspect that’s true of most people who donate. (With that being said, I think the donations-for-bonus-chapters thing is a brilliant idea.)

        • You could consider adding 2 tiers to your patreon, and having one of those tiers count towards bonus chapters and the other not, this might be a good way to lessen your emotional burden and still allow people to easily give to something they appreciate.

    • !!! Hubriiiis😀 Hubris is a pretty normal dog, wow. I was expecting something a bit more monstrous. And he’s so cute❤ Who's a cute puppy! Yes you are! The warbeast is also kinda cute :3 And I just remembered Hubris's dead… and Gordon is dead. Now I'm sad :<

    • As a non-donater, I would still refresh this page regularly even if you only updated on the 29th of February. But that’s just because you haven’t made it big yet, so there isn’t endless discussion on the internet about your thing.

      • I think there must be some cheating going on with the votes for that other story, like someone logging into every computer in a campus computer lab and voting with each.

        By every objective measure, Wildbow has more enthused readers. Wildbow’s posts have far more unique comments discussing the post (in the same time period, since Wildbow posts more often), more off-site reader discussions like reddit, and Wildbow has x10 the amount of Patreon supporters. There’s no way the other story can have x2 the amount of votes on TWF without some sort of hankey-pankey going on.

        • No, I’ll tell you what’s going on.

          See, there’s a genre of Chinese fiction called XianXia (Immortal Hero). In the last year and some, fan-translations have been gaining popularity. Like pretty big popularity, in a year the biggest site went from brand new to 325 million page views, around a couple million unique visitors a month, and these stats are 3 months old. The site ‘The Divine Elements’ is on, is not that particular site, but it’s one of the bigger ones. I digress. ‘TDE’ is an attempt at an original work, following the same genre. It kinda subpar even compared to original Chinese series, but not by much, which is saying something about how lousy they can be. They can be entertaining, but most of the time you’re rolling your eyes about how stupid some of the shit is. anyway, on topic: the voters for TDE are legit, real people, who don’t know any better. I can go more in depth into how exactly this came to be, but I shan’t bore you if you don’t really care, so just shoot a reply and I’ll gladly type it out. Just let me tell you, as someone who reads those series, I often want to strangle both the commenters and the authors (not translators) there.

          • Truly, while many of these xianxia works are addicting and good to pass time with, and also satisfy power and respect fantasies many other works do not (see: dude , where is my respect, ) by having power that often goes beyond Dragonball and people aknowleging ikts worth, the only one having artistic merit is ISSTH, and, frankly, Wilbow surpasses that .

            (I would recommend ISSTH tho, its the only one I’d recomend as while some xianxias are decent, they are not even close in quality to high art, such as Wilbow’s work. Even tho I would call ISSTH high art, its still at least 7 tiers lower than Wilbow’s work.)

          • Yes, I Shall Seal the Heavens is definitely the best of the XianXia works imo. It still doesn’t compare in overall cohesion and character building we’ve come to see from wildbow. XianXia has this unique quality where you don’t see much disappointment or setbacks for the main character. It always goes up. Actually one of the reasons I decided I couldn’t read any more of wildbow’s stories is because how his characters continuously self destruct along the way -it was just torture, I ended up feeling sour after every chapter. What I am saying is, they’re a different kind of story. Primarily based on feel-good-ness, but there IS intrigue to be found.

          • Generally speaking, one of the characteristicsa good story is one who’s mood you wouldn’t except. One that has ups and downs, but not ones you’d except.

            Always up tends to be boring. Its why the protagonist of ISSTH, who runs, uses subterfuge, and is not overly prideful, unlike most other Xianxia characters, is more interesting than “I shall destroy everything because I am op” ones like ATG and MGA have, or not so prideful ones who have so much luck its ridiculous , like ST’S,CD’S, DE’S, etc. Xianxia tend to have too many ups, and while ISSTH has way more ups that downs, the main character makes a good job of being a badass (unlike others who just defeat strong enemy one after the other) and regularly has downs. He also feels as if he gets there by genuine hard work, not hard work + even more luck, or luck plus nothing: he gets precisely 1 of his OP devices without working for it (the first, the mirror) and ge had to work a lot to understand whatit does.

            Wilbow’s work, on the other hand, has downs, that set you to a tune, but many unexpected ups as well. While everything grinds down to destruction and everything escalates from bad to worse, the characters can still wrestle victry from the dark world. nd he does it so well, he surpasses many other stories. I think the main reason people disliked Pact is that he dropped the balance: too many downs, not enough or good enough ups.Twig and Worm you feel the characters have a chance, even if you mentally prepare yourself for things getting worse by the chapter.

            In sort, the right balance of ups and downs make a good story. Only ups with some challenges a bad one. There are a few so called “downs” in xianxia, but not nearly enough to be high level art. Coupled with the way too often protagonist centered morality, most are like bad or mid quality action flicks, and even the good ones (aka everything onwuxiaworld sans MGA and the later parts of ATG, sadly, as it started off good) are mid tier art, at best.

            To put it in xianxia terms, if we put stories at low tier levels 1-10, mid tier levels 1-10, high tier levels 1-10, and a sole top tier level, the average xianxia is low tier, the average wuxiaworld xianxia varying levels of mid tier (with a few low tiers mixed in), ISSTH high tier 3, Pact high tier 2 (too much downs do that to you, but high tier is something to be proud of by itself, as most of the well known stories are mid tier 7-10 imo), Worm and Twig top tier

      • Not going to speak badly of the other story, but… I tried reading it due to the votes. Tried. A vote for Twig is a vote for the awesome-insane primordial! You know you want to!

      • Also the one in #3 appears to consist of only a single prologue written two months ago on a forum…?Topwebfiction, what the s*** is going on?

    • I think this might be one of Twig’s best chapter since the story beginning. I think you’re good with… xeno point of view? Not sure how to call that. The ‘I God’ part was fabulous.

      I can see a tv series adapting life in Brockton Bay and cape politics, but not yet things like Endbringers or much of the story’s end game. Tv series aren’t quite there yet. But then again… depends how which studio approached you and how much they would be interested in it.

  2. Wow. I got chills at this line: “Further experimentation lets this creature place and hide its cognitive organs within itself” — and still wasn’t prepared for the rest of the chapter.

    Well done.

  3. Aww… Poor creature.

    You go creature! Spite them, spite them with the red plague! Bwahahahaha!

    So yeah, this battle didn’t go well for anybody. Good stuff.

  4. Of all the things I thought would scare me about primordials, I did not expect spite to top that list. It’s funny how the most human part of them is what does the most damage in the end.

  5. Okay. Whew. I know I’m not /meant/ to be relieved by the creation of a horrible new pandemic but man, from the very first sentence and realising whose viewpoint we were seeing, I was reading every line with a sense of mounting dread. I was /so/ sure a primordial would escape. God they’re terrifying.

  6. Awesome new art. Is that Gordon & Hubris with the primordial? Or a regular warbeast? Gordon always had a connection to other experiments…

    On the chapter: Oh fuck the hell no. No no no no. You didn’t just unleash a primordial pandemia on humanity… oh who am I kidding. Of course you did. Well, Sy, have fun outsmarting THAT ONE.😀 Can’t wait for the next Arc! ^^

    Last topic: Typos. “Other eyes coordinated to watch the the people who had been working so hard…” –> extra “the”.

    “It heard the noises, and it answered my opening its mouth.” –> “my” instead of “by”

    • Typo thread I guess? :3

      There are six other creatures like it in the environment. In identifying and processing a complexity it has noticed, this creature now knows that two of the three have already begun communicating between one another.
      -> There were six (seven in total) creatures, but two out of three developed language? Huh? Maybe you mean two out of the six?

      It hurled it self against
      -> itself

      One of the other creatures that this creature knew it only by scent and by sound had been producing an airborne chemical
      -> That this creature knew only by scent (superfluous “it”)

    • “Fighting its way past the dead men with metal inside them, the creature hurled itself forward until the chains were taut, metal straining. It swept its claw and scythe out, reaching for a woman that had been giving orders to the stitched.”

      > Not sure if typo or intended, but I don’t think the primordial should know they’re called “stitched”. At least not without hearing soldiers call them that first.

  7. Oh goodness, this is specifically why they burn towns with primordials in them to the ground. Good thing thats exactly what the Baron is here to do… Oh wait the lambs just hardcore bargained to save the city

      • I didn’t from the start. I also suspect going airborne with spite plagues (cancerous or otherwise) is also standard operating procedure for pissed off Primordials of a certain age range.:/

        The Academies need to get better at psychology and the theories behind cognitive development. STAT. <_<

        • All I hope for is that Sy doesn’t kill the Baron before the Baron gets completely disowned by the Crown for being a complete airhead and not personally handling the primordials.

      • I don’t!

        Actually, what I fault them for is not making with the burning at the earliest possible opportunity. The Primordials could have generated an infesting plague at any time during the process.

  8. “One of the other creatures that this creature knew it only by scent and by sound had been producing an airborne chemical in efforts to dissolve the wood.”
    – Typo: should be “knew” instead of “knew it”.

    “The same chemical had made the men who did the most watching and carving away of this creature’s parts slower and sicker. It meant more food for all of them, and the exchanged messages that were conveyed through coded exhalations and high-pitched sounds had become heated over that topic, with some others getting very agitated about the lack of resources.”

    -Not sure exactly what the connection is between sick guards and more food. Does it mean that less injuries mean the primordials needed less food to repair themselves, thus effectively having more food?

    As an aside, I really love these types of interludes, I get giggly and excited whenever I get to read some inhuman mindsets.

      • I read it as that primordial making the guards weaker for the purposes of escape, but by making them weaker, it was either tipping the guards off that the primordials were working against them (less food as either punishment or to slow advancement) or that the guards, being sicker, weren’t able to work at the same productivity to supply food that they were.

    • “In identifying and processing a complexity it has noticed, this creature now knows that two of the three have already begun communicating between one another.”
      three–>six (assuming that this creature is not counting itself)

  9. Looks like all primordials were killed, but the last one gave humanity a parting gift in the form of a crazy fungus plague thing. Can’t wait to see how this pans out.

  10. OH MY GODS they can /think/???!
    Sure, I figured they were sentient, but not smarter than a not-very-smart animal. They have pretty much human-like intelligence. I kind of feel that primordials surpass even the “perfect brain” project that the Lambs project strives to be.

    I wonder how the airborne primordial that killed that noble was developed. Presumably this one didn’t think.

    I wonder.. If you developed life from scratch, would it make sense they’d develop pain perception? Would they even develop a survival instinct? I guess if they don’t develop either, they’d end up dying at some point. You know what would have been scary, though? If the primordials learnt to associate pain with food. Yeah. Make them masochists… That’d end up amazing. I wonder what it’d take to develop a friendly primordial.

    Also, wow. The image about humans being such absolutely disgusting beasts and the primordials not understanding them was very evocative and scary. And the poor primordial.. just wanted… to be understood, at the very least? And now everyone will die because of this.

    • “If you developed life from scratch, would it make sense they’d develop pain perception?”
      Very much so. Natural selection favours lifeforms with advantageous dispositions, and knowing when and where you’re hurt is exceptionally important to self-preservation.
      It’s sadly also the reason why pain actually hurts instead of just being another pure information sense – more motivation to get away from damage sources, and have any problems fixed. Folks affected by CIP lead quite tough lives.

      To cover your other question, when you examine how life grew on Earth, survival instinct is essentially the first parameter that drives everything. Single cells swimming around need to eat first or be eaten, no middle ground. Once they eat enough, they can split to increase their number, which boosts defence and offence both. All other life then comes from the survivors, so anything without survival instinct doesn’t make it past stage 1.

    • You dramatically underestimate the importance of pain. About a year ago I read “The Gift of Pain” by Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, and auto(ish)biography of Paul Brand. I recommend the book — Paul Brand’s life is fascinating — but you actually don’t need to even buy it for this. The first chapter, “The Nightmare of Painless”, available in the Amazon preview, pretty forcefully and compellingly makes the case. A warning: that chapter is very likely the most horrifying thing you will ever read, not least because it is describing real people. I hope the fact that I still feel it appropriate to give this warning to Wildbow’s readership gives it the appropriate weight.

      If some need a tl;dr for even a chapter, one of the take-aways from the book (but not that chapter) is that virtually all of the symptoms of leprosy are due to the lack of the perception of pain and occur long after the disease, a bacterial infection, has burned itself out.

      (As a final note, the book is categorized into “Christian literature”, but Paul Brand’s religiosity is rarely mentioned and there is no proselytizing. I say this as an atheist.)

      • I fail to see how I “dramatically underestimate the importance of pain”. If anything, I say it’s very important .w. But, ahm, thanks for the book recommendation. Added to my to-read list!

  11. I find myself wishing that they had succeeded in planting even a single (burrowing?) brother in the ground, or in an ignored corpse while stamped on (ejected through a foot), or some way such that it would be overlooked by the others.

    The ‘careful to keep from giving any external signs’ and ‘just tensed’ was interesting–even with so much self-micromanagement, they’ve still developed tells that they’re not aware of… curious. If they can recognise Mauer’s behaviour aspects so well, but can’t recognise their own, does that mean that Mauer is above even them in body language analysis?

    • It would not surprise me, since Mauer has been established as being so astoundingly good at this sort of thing that he can potentially surpass purpose built experiments through his pure talent. Mauer is something special.

  12. Damn! Amazing chapter!

    These primordials are extremely dangerous and scary, definitely deserve the “burn the town” approach. If they were in the Wormverse they’d be considered an S-class, no question.

    Some things that felt odd to me are the fact that they developed winged despite not ever leaving their chained position inside the stables (So how could they experiment with the wings?). And also, I really expected some or all of them to escape the chains very easily: Just cutting off the parts that touch the chains and letting them slide all the way to the other side. This creature tried it late, but… it didn’t work for some reason?

    Another thing that they could have maybe done is create those “spawns” like the did as fish, but instead as small birds. Create tiny birds inside of their bodies, fill their brains with the best of their own brains in reflexes, pattern recognition, evolution, etc. and then send them away to escape death.

    Also, like one of the other commenters said above, possibly laying eggs inside of leftovers of corpses they eat?

    I really liked how this creature refused to die without the final “fuck you” punch, though. This pandemic is definitely going to be fun, and definitely going to infect one of the Lambs.

    • I think the researchers actively encouraged the wings; they were visible and developed when the Lambs first saw these Primordials.

  13. Ah… that deal that Emily (Candy) made with the Baron, To “Leave the people of Lugh alone.” He’s going to absolutely keep it just to hurt her.

  14. Its alive and its smart… I wonder if one of its offspring or it itself will meet Sy and end up having a pleasant chat with him. Perhaps taking the form of the eye that Sy had lost. Because that would be a rather interesting outcome.

  15. I swore in those first few paragraphs when I realize that not only was this about A primordial which developed intellect… but that it TALKING TO ALL THE OTHERS.

    … You write wonderful inhuman things.

    I mourned the fact that Mauer KNEW, he KNEW it was intellectually capable in the extreme and didn’t try to reason with it. I understand why… but that just made it even more of a tragedy.

    Another child of man cannibalized for ambitions sake where beauty could have sprung.

    I fully understand the risks… but I mourn that no attempt to teach and guide it was made. I resent and hate the pragmatism. I can’t help but think it worth while that something which came to understand brotherhood could be given an attempt to be taught Love rather than fester in Hatred.

    I loved this chapter too much for words. Thank you Wildbow.

    • To be fair, every action that the humans took against the primoridials basically guaranteed that they would be antagonisitic. Even if the primordial got away with expressing itself with language early on, it still would have memories of all the torture beforehand. The only way I could see building a lifeform with ‘Love’ as its intent rather than hatred, is to give it the ability to communicate very early on.

  16. I like primordial enough that I kind of want it to succeed in spreading it’s babies and destroying the world. The world deserves some destroying anyway….

  17. waita minute,a inumane creatiure creating new limbs out of the blue and who hás offspring of some kind. Ur? From Pact?

  18. Damn. These things developed intelligence and freaking cooperation while being in controlled environment? And Mauer knew they could do that? Madness.

    At first, I found it hard to believe primordials could be so humanlike. They somehow understood emotions and brotherhood, felt pain and hate and spite, knew what a ‘man’ was? It’s not something primordial, something that would naturally rise from rapidly self-modifying and adapting cellular life. It’s highly improbable and hardly effective adaptations, a product of millions of years of natural selection. Primordial life could, given time, learn all of this, it could pretend to feel, it could model ordinary life’s behaviour, but it wouldn’t, at its core, be that similar to us.
    Except… They took it all from food, didn’t they? If a self-modifying agent’s abilities to think, obtain information, store information, and sense outside world were being routinely damaged and destroyed, it is only natural for it to learn how to decipher information from the only consistent source of it available — from DNA of food.
    That would also explain the ease with which primordial reverse-engineered other primordials and warbeasts it ate, and how it could do complex self-modifications on the fly — abilities to do that were one of the very first things it developed, on a pre-sentient stage.
    If I am correct, and not just thought all of it up myself, then this is awesome.

    This is awesome how well all these elements fit together. Concept of the Singularity, augmented nobility, Helen’s dream of the shared consciousness and imperfect manifestation of it in her desires to crawl inside people and ‘feel all of them with all of her’, British Empire slowly taking over the world, Sy’s dream of a friendly self-modifying creature, weaponized Frankenstein’s monsters, Prisoner’s dilemma, insane attempts to create computers by linking people’s brains together, 1920s, Wyvern formula inducing a short period of controlled self-modification, Rebellion’s analogue of industrial revolution, modern views on continuity of identity, ‘cats and cockroaches’ principle, concept of dangerous knowledge…
    All of it seems so authentic and consistent.
    Some people say Worm’s worldbuilding is better than Twig’s. They are incorrect.
    Great work, Wildbow!

  19. First I was frustrated that it wasn’t enemy from eyes of Fray or Mauer. But it became very interesting to read. I think I better understand where name ‘Twig’ came from. It is a name with multiple layers.
    For me, Twig is something on same scale of as most horrible and beautiful manga. Among favorited. I also like Worm at it is in that list of modern art dear to my heart, too. But Twig really shines. Sy’s short life is blowing bright. That picture of Lambs in the red street expresses the best color pattern for Twig – bright despair burning with hope.

  20. The funny thing is I was right about primordials being ,basically, more benevolent than humans.

    The only reason they are a threat is because humans tortured them and breeded them for war and kept them dumber than they should be. All problems stemming from the primordials stemmed from nurture, not nature.

    Screw Mauer, Frey, the Academy, the Crown, and Cynthia. Assuming its not, somehow, the lambs victory over all these idiots in this assinine war, I am rooting for the primordials.

    Go team primordial, go. Kill this violent, idiotic species called humans and build a better society for yourselves.

    • Ah, you are too inloved in any type of AI. I hope I won’t bite you in the ass one day with the And I Must Scream ^ ^. Don’t be too charmed by primordials. Remember how primordial was inloved in getting new information and resourses by eating, and his hunger? Uh, THAT could go wrong. You forget that these creatures could swing anywhere on the scale of good/bad, sane/insane. And about ‘violent, idiotic species called humans’ – I feel that if these primordial evolution would be allowed it would escalate to a planet devoured of resources and when scarcity of resources will come – they will fall to good al’ war. And funny thing is – this chapter is carefully showing that cooperation and brotherhood of these primordials was a produced by torture that you despise. There is no pure good and evil in Twig ^ ^

      Bur worry not – you will see more of primordials as we have Baron. His primordials will be more benevolent. Isn’t he such a good and reasonable person, so that he could raise them as something good?

        • They want to learn, and they primarily learn by absorbing new information from the DNA of their food (which is a really cool and crazy efficient idea). They want to get be smarter, and who’s DNA would let them do that? Humans.

          • They wouldn’t need that many humans, not necessary living one, and a less tortuous nurture would give em better sense of morality.

      • Also, lest I forget, I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream is the most unrealistic depiction of an AI I know. Its like it takes human flaws and amplifies them manyfold and, frankly, if , and thats a big if, I accept that AIs are dangerous, they are dangerous for the exact opposite reasons I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream’s AI ((it had a cheesey name, I thing, something to do with I AM , but I forget it currently, so I’ll just call it that)) is.

        I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream’s AI is too sentimental. Skynet could theoretically be realistic, but the I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream AI? no. Just no.

      • “I feel that if these primordial evolution would be allowed it would escalate to a planet devoured of resources and when scarcity of resources will come – they will fall to good al’ war. ”

        And [spoiler]

    • When you’re in prison and being tortured, it’s natural for you to cooperate with and help out your fellow prisoners. That in no way means that the primordials are naturally benevolent in any way.

        • They didn’t yet have an opportunity for real villainy. That being said, they were pretty indiscriminate about who/what they ate and given the opportunity I don’t see any reason that they’d prioritize the continued existence of humans over gaining further insight into the results of minor DNA modifications.

          • but that wouldn’t mean they’d eat all humans, just one or 2.

            Besides, all they wanted is to understand.

          • “but that wouldn’t mean they’d eat all humans, just one or 2. Besides, all they wanted is to understand.”

            They will only truly understand us when they grok us. Of course no humans will be alive after that point.

          • Thats where racism is born from, ya know, fear of the unknown. I maintain they’d turn good, or at least not very dangerous after they bonk one or 2 humans out of existence (I consder even that unlikely with the right nurture) , you maintain they won’t.

            Unless you want me to create primordial life so we have empirical evidence, agreeing to disagreeing is, quite frankly,, the only option left, with the info we are given.

          • “they’ll rather eat something safer for the same reason we do not eat bears or wolfs or sharks under most circumstances.”

            Sharks, bears, and wolves are protected animals in most of the land-based US and US territorial waters, as humans have hunted them (often for eating, but sometimes to remove a threat/competitor) nearly to the point of extinction. Back when grizzly bears were plentiful, grizzly bear steaks were considered a prime delicacy. Shark fin soup is still considered a delicacy in some parts of the world. As grizzly bears are removed from their threatened status and federal lists in some places (it’s about to happen in Wyoming, for instance), I expect to see grizzly bear steaks join the ranks of local delicacies there much like bison meat is a local delicacy.

            Wolves were competing too much for “our” space and would sometimes predate livestock, but they did sometimes eat humans. Normally wolves won’t eat humans, but when food is scarce wolves may start eating some corpses and acquire a taste for humans. Around the year 1439, wolves besieged the city of Paris. The Parisians thought themselves safe behind their walls, but then that winter the river froze and wolves rushed in under the river gates. It’s happened at other times and places, even in the American West, where sometimes official government hunters were required to come in and deal with particularly troublesome wolves that nobody else was able to kill. Then there have been the more recent wolf/human conflicts where people banded together and shot all the wolves they could find after the wolves started to run out of other food options, like in Verkhoyansk. See also some of the coywolf (wolf/coyote/dog hybrids that are becoming more common) problems in the US.

            Anyway, the only reason humans don’t eat more bears/wolves/sharks is that there aren’t very many of those animals left, and the ones that are left are generally pretty good about avoiding humans.

            When I grew up, my local supermarket in Southern California sold shark meat. I remember because when my parents bought a food dehydrator, along with trying out all sorts of fruits and things, we went down to the grocery store and bought a little bit of every animal meat that they sold, to see what made the best dehydrated meat. Shark meat (or at least that particular type — I don’t remember what type it was) was the worst result of that experiment — it basically turned into shoestrings.

          • ok, fine. But being a delicacy isn’t too bad :p

            And we cannoyt actually communicate with any of these species.

          • “And we cannot actually communicate with any of these species.”

            Not that I’m arguing with you, I just like to talk…

            Wolves and dogs are basically the same species — wolves are basically the NFL linebackers of the human species. Wolves/dogs can interbreed (and that’s part of how the coywolves have come to be). While humans and wolves don’t mix very often, there have been several people who have gone and “lived” with wolves for a time, whether out of necessity because they were scavenging off the pack’s kills, or to do a long-term study on wolves or some aspect of wolf “lifestyle”. Apparently people can learn to communicate with wolves about as much as anyone can communicate with a dog, although I haven’t yet heard any reports of wolves actually speaking like you and I or the primordial might speak.

          • Yeah, but these people get too emotionly invested to kill wolfs.

            As would primordials. They DO have emotions, they aren’t pure calculation.

          • storryeater, I think you misunderstand why we liked sharks, wolves, and bears I’m the first place – they were dangerous, took up resources we wanted, and tasted good. The reason we don’t kill then anymore if that there are less of them, so it’s too much work for food, they’re less dangerous, and they don’t take up resources.

            Humans would still be dangerous, resource using, and delicious to the primordials. Therefore, they would eat us still.

          • Anpatt7, lets agree to disagree, this is useless discussion till a possibility for creation of a superior intelligence is created.

        • Well not exactly. There was literally nothing benevolent nor evil about them, but it was clear that they had entirely different morals that are basically survival, reproduction, and resources. For example, this God one said eating his brother was the best thing ever, and any creature that showed worry or fear or anger towards such a good meal must have no good in them at all.

          If that mentality never changes while the intelligence grows, you have another noble on your hands. Nobles think themselves and the crown to be good and law itself, and anything that disagrees must be the opposite. This is why they are so extreme with primordials, not just because they can be killed by one, nor just because they are dangerous as hell, but also because they can and will go against the nobility and the crown itself and all it stands for . The “law” a noble declares can be overruled as the noble turns into a mindless savage, robbing them of what they believe to be the way the world is.

          What makes primordials different than nobles besides time and followers? Hell, one LITERALLY proclaimed themselves God because of the need to be seen as above ALL of the people around them, to be the highest authority possible beyond question. Why? Because they want to be left alone? Because they were tortured and hurt?

          Nope. Because, simply, they believe power is needed for their morals and priorities, even if it means eating themselves. Remember, only the first one the God one ate was listed as dying or dead, he could have just torn the other one apart for the need to survive without remorse.

          Imagine if humans gave it more resources than its brother did, if we were more “good” to consume and stopping that meant we had no good within us? What’s benevolent about what would naturally follow?

          • You forget that Primordials are way , way, WAY more nurture than nature. Fundamendally, what the pimordil wanted was “to understand”. Even in the most evil possibility, he would, at most, eat enough humans to learn. And its quite likely it would develop some kind of better morality towards its creators, as it is capableof developing morality, if nurtured right.

          • “Even in the most evil possibility, he would, at most, eat enough humans to learn.”

            I don’t think you understand learning. There is never a pint when you have finished learning, there is always more to learn about something.

          • Yeah, but not more to learn by devouring. I do not think they’ll get anything other than biomass after the first few humans, and as humans are too dangerous, they’ll raather eat something safer for the same reason we do not eat bears or wolfs or sharks under most circumstances.

  21. Mauer has no idea how close he just came to wiping out the entire human race with his cunning plan, does he?

    And I’m not forgetting that immortal primordial that the Lambs had Candy bury…

    • Yeah. And what if Mauer actually managed to wipe out human race? Those seeds of sorrow will rise…

      I wonder if any of Mauer’s lieutenants caught those seeds. Or maybe Mauer himself? Wonder if those are as vicious and lethal as those that killed Archduke – because death of Mauer from primordial disease would be a great present to Baron – as his stupid actions (I think that if Baron have sent his forces to help, they would killed Enemy primordial befor)

  22. At first, I assumed the title of this series had to do with the fact that most of the buildings were grown rather than built.

    But seeing the most dangerous and terrifying creation went full blown Frankenstein’s Monster (the original one ) and declared itself God before making seeds of the embodiment of undying hatred to destroy humanity, after DAYS of gaining awareness, I’m getting the distinct impression that “Twig” has a MUCH more sinister meaning to it as a title.

    That and how the primordials have a core that “branches” out into their cells, which serve as the perfect body to host sy’s ideal brain, I’m questioning just how far wildbow thought ahead when first creating this world.
    Was all of this intentional since before the first chapter?!?!?

    • “Was all of this intentional since before the first chapter?!?!?”

      I’ll take ‘yes’ for $500, Alex.
      For reference, Wildbow’s titles are carefully chosen so that all of their meanings apply to the story. I’ll let you twig the rest out…

      • No I have not.
        For example, pact was pretty self explanatory as far as why it was named as such. Even the subtitle devils and details. No real hidden or double meaning that I noticed.

        As far as worm, you just don’t know why it’s called worm until the story basically points it out as a description of someone, since until that point worms themselves were only mentioned literally three times.

        The meaning for pact was fairly self evident unless I’m missing something obvious. For twig? Not sure.

        • Worm refers to at least 3 things, the person you mentioned, Taylor’s superpower and Taylor’s social status/character/the way she is often seen. I think there was more, but I forget.

          Pact was kinda straightforward but there were a lot of pacts.

          • Even so still. One title with multiple hidden meanings (although I am willing to argue the “her powers” point because she literally only controlled worms three times), and one title that had one straightforward meaning. My point being that this isn’t enough to assume that “twig” would follow either one. I assumed it WAS at first, since the only things twig-related were grown buildings, and there wasn’t much symbolism to be found at anything that could be twig-ish unless you were seriously stretching (like, he’s a twig of his family tree since he’s a kid or some stupid crap like that).
            But there’s no reason to assume “twig” was a multi-meaning title, just because ONE of the two titles wildbow is known for had multiple meanings.

            Either way, I’m still wrong, as it seems “twig” had another meaning judging by how this story is going AND the fact sy’s new brother is… a ….plant….thing… Seriously- the hell is he?

            (As far as Pact goes- yes, there were a lot of pacts in Pact, but that’s not discrediting the fact that it’s a straightforward title with a pretty obvious meaning- it’s a story about pacts/deals/vows/etc. That would be like saying “Men in Black” has multiple meanings because there are multiple men in black, and multiple MIB organizations besides the main one).

          • But Pact’s title … ok, it isstraightforward . But I do maintain MiB had multiple straightforward meanings, and so did Pact. :p

  23. Wow.

    This was probably the best chapter so far, or at least one of the best. The primordial perspective was just an amazing of curiosity, horror, empathy and even tragedy. Seeing how they think was both terrifying and fascinating. The decentralised brain, their adaptions to their enviroment and it learning to talk (and calling itself God!) were just astonishing.

    I can’t believe I’m a bit sad that the primordials are gone, but it was clear that they couldn’t be allowed to persist.

    I was at first joking that they warrant an Exterminatus but now seeing them in action, it isn’t a joke anymore.

    • They do not really warrant an exterminatus any more thann humans do tho.

      Literally its because of humans they are even “villainous” to begin with.

      • They are extremly adaptive that can customize for every possible threat, and is extremly dangerous because it assimilates everything around them for resources, no matter the damage they cause to the enviroment. If allowed to spread, they are a threat to every other life on the planet.

        I certainly think they warrant an exterminatus.

          • I was ambigious for a reason.

            My point is, those two species don’t seem to be able to co-exist with each other. They are too dangerous for that.

          • Maybe. Maybe not. We won’t know till we try. But frankly, if we are not prepared to try, not creating them is the only sensible choice to begin with.

    • Yeah! One of the primordials died after losing a Go match (it was an underground Go tournament), but the other four (the other two primordials in the story don’t like Go) completely took everyone by surprise. Especially that second one.

  24. Working small, working subtly, as it had learned to do from the beginning, it copied the plants and it produced seeds. Too small to host life, to be spawn, the seeds would nonetheless grow.

    Interesting; apparently the primordial’s hyper-adaption requires a certain minimum size and the spore plague cannot have runaway mutations. I wonder if that’s inherent in the process or if locking out mutation without central direction was one of the first things they did after gaining intelligence.

  25. Wow, just wow. They might not have computers, but they managed to create an AI singularity type event anyways. Bad Mauer!

    I can’t imagine how freaked out the people nearby were when he primordial claimed it was god.😛
    Too bad the primordial didn’t live long enough to develop a sense of humour to be able to take a bitter pleasure in messing with the humans.

    • Did it even comprehend what God means? It was smart but not physic, maybe it never comprehended what God truly was…

      That makes the story all the most tragic, huh.

  26. Thanks Wildbow, your work ethic is inspiring and your stories are a consistent source of joy. I usually lurk but I wanted to tell you that you rock!

  27. I almost feel like this chapter right here is the real inciting incident of the story, when we first get a true sense of the scope of the matter at hand. There’s basically no way this doesn’t become Sy’s problem and watching Wildbow resolve the disparities in power between him and this thing is going to be a treat and a half.

  28. Maurer seems to be nothing if not consistent. Create a problem, then blame the Crown.
    I wondered why he asked for the Baron to leave him the primordial. Did he manipulate the primordial into creating the plague?

    • That was beautiful. I wonder how long it will take Academy technology to find a cure for the pandemic… The primordial has probably consumed enough humans to understand how to wreck the human physiology pretty efficiently. I would guess that it also put in a lag between infection time and the appearance of symptoms to maximize the spreading capability of the plague. Terrifying genius. Mauer had to have guessed this could happen, but what purpose would it serve his plans?

  29. Guys, I just realised something. Look at the banner art for Twig on topwebfiction.com. Those are human-tree-hybrids and they look kind of dead. I think the plague might just be the starting point of what this almost one year old banner is showing us. It has been there all along. D;
    If I’m right, well then kudos to you, Wildbow, for plotting out such a huge story that far in advance. O.o

    • “Those are human-tree-hybrids”

      If I’m liking at the correct image, it looks like an ordinary big tree with chains and hooks strung in it, and bodies hung on the hooks.

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