Cut to the Quick – 11.5

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“He modified the Smythe Bullard,” I said, under my breath, “He filed down the seam.”

“Catcher likes to fiddle with his gadgets.”

“It’s my go-to practice lock when I’m re-learning and I can’t get it.”

“You can’t get it because it’s your go-to,” Jamie said.  “Muscle memory.  I run into snags like that, things that should feel natural that catch me every time.”

“So I should forget?  If I had a fresh dose of Wyvern, I might be able to, but-”

“Keep at it,” Jamie said.

Five locks down, six if I included the hand-lock Catcher had placed on my left hand.  I was almost done freeing Jamie.

On my sixth attempt, probably owing to the fact that my previous attempts had scratched a faint groove in the tin of the lock, I was able to get that hair of traction I needed to get the lock to start rotating.

I turned around to check the next lock – the cuffs were like manacles, attached to his upper arms, with a bar running between them instead of a chain.  I’d seen it as Catcher had pulled it out of his jacket.  The lock was more about strength and having a configuration that could be neatly packaged together than it was about being fancy or hard to crack.  I shut my eyes, and did it by feel.  Three pins to lift.  Nothing complicating my attempts.

I could hear the guard making his way down the hall.  He didn’t even have the courtesy to walk slowly.

“Got you,” I said, gripping the bar so it didn’t fall apart and clatter to the ground.

“Give me the picks,” he said.  I took a second to put the lock down.  Before I’d even set it on the bed, Jamie had snatched it from my hand.  He grabbed for the picks.  “Hurry.”

“Hurry, you say, like I haven’t been,” I griped.

“The fellow across the hall is getting worse, fast enough that I can tell,” Jamie said, under his breath.  He removed the first lock at my wrists, then tugged the next lock down.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that I can remember what those welts looked like when I last saw them, and I can look at them now-” Jamie said, pausing as he looked over my shoulder, picks still working at the locks.  “They’ve spread.  More spots, old spots are bigger, and there are dark centers to the biggest ones.”

“Right,” I said.

Jamie removed the second lock.  The clatter momentarily drowned out the guard’s footsteps.

“Damn,” I said, quiet.  “Did he put all of the easy ones on me?  Is this like the barber with the bad haircut?”

“No complicated ones so far,” Jamie said, his voice a hush.  “Same ideas apply to most.  Moment I run into one with an unfamiliar concept, though, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

I heard a sudden shout, then a string of cuss-words.

“It hurts,” the sick man mewled the words.  I leaned forward to see better, only for Jamie to jerk me back in his direction and continue picking.  The guard was a matter of six steps from our location.

Jamie very quickly and quietly removed the cuffs he’d been picking.

“Stand back and away from the bars!  Move!  Now stay there!”

There was an edge of panic to the man’s voice.

The guard strode past us, straight for the door, not even looking our way.  I shut my eyes and shook my head.

We hadn’t been fast enough.  Now things got harder.

“I’m stuck,” Jamie said.  “There’s a lock I don’t know how to crack.  I try to apply tension and it just rotates.  I think I have to have it at a specific rotation with specific pin placement?”

“I dealt with one of those.  Do a full rotation, tap the first pin as you go around, see if you can find the space it’s supposed to go into.  Once you get it, hold it as steady as-”

“I already did the full rotation.”

“Then do the second pin.  The tallest pin will end up being the one that works,” I said.

“The rotating cylinder is sitting inside another cylinder.  It might be that both cylinders have to be at the right rotation?”

“What?” I asked.  I tried to twist my head around to see.  “How the hell does that work?”

“I don’t know!” Jamie said.  “And hold still!  I’m checking and I think there are a few false notches to catch the pin.”

Catcher’s gravelly voice came from the other end of the hallway.  “Having fun?”

“He can hear us,” I said, speaking quieter.

“I can, Sylvester,” Catcher said.  He sounded smug.

“You’re a butt, Catcher!”

“I had those custom made, you know,” he said.  “Call me names all you want, Sy.  You’ll still have your hands bound behind your back until I hand over the keys.”

Keys.  Plural.

I glanced at Jamie.

“There’s only one slot for a key,” Jamie said.  He double checked, moving my arms this way and that.

“Cylinder nestled in one cylinder… one key nestled in another key?  Mechanical key, changes form as the other key slides in.  A wedge shape, or-”

“Got it in one, Sylvester,” Catcher taunted me.

I knew what the problem was, and I knew just how unlikely it was for Jamie to figure out a way to pick the lock.  Alone, at least.

“Do me a favor,’ I said.  “Help me get a good look at the thing?  I might be able to get my thumb around and hold something or jiggle something.”

Jamie slid the cuffs as far down my wrists as they would go.  They’d been around the thickest part of my forearm, and now sat around my wrists and a portion of my hands.  Jamie held the cuffs still while I contorted my shoulders, striving to see around behind me to the cuffs.

The guard who’d been walking the length of the hallway returned.  He carried a stepladder and a sheet that could have been a flag if the dimensions were different.  It bore a asclepius symbol in white, snake wound around rod, contained within the belly and head of a red bird that had its wings outstretched.  The bird was crowned in red.

“Quarantine,” Jamie said under his breath.

“Guard,” Catcher said, his voice carrying.  “You should know the boys in the cell behind you are escaping their restraints.  They will be out of their cell shortly.”

The guard turned, giving us a look.  Jamie didn’t even bother to hide his lack of restraints.  I could see the guard’s expression change.  He was young, fresh faced, with eyebrows that had been plucked very neatly.  He was handsome, but a very artfully and effortfully put-together sort of handsome.  I suspected there were girls out there who very much liked that.

“I’ll get to it in a minute,” the guard said.  He stepped up onto the little ladder and hooked up one corner of the sheet on the wall.

“Help me!” the man in the cell begged.

The man ran his hand against the edge of the sheet as he stepped down off the ladder, fixing it to the wall.  He then walked to the other side of the cell, then stepped back onto the ladder, hooking up another corner and sealing another side of the sheet.

His efforts to seal the bottom edge of the sheet were frustrated by the man’s hand sticking through the bars.  Fingers clutched at one bottom edge of the sheet, fierce tugs coinciding with pleading cries.  The soldier had elbow-length gloves on, but he still seemed shy of the reaching hand.

“Can’t figure this,” Jamie said.  He let go of the shackles.

My attention went back to the shackles, my wrists, fingers and thumb working to move the shackles back up to where they were more comfortable and weren’t squeezing my hands.

No.  No…

“Give me your foot,” I ordered Jamie.

“My foot?”  Jamie raised his shoe, while I stooped down.  He got my intention immediately, and put his hands on my shoulders, setting the shoe on the chain of the shackles.

I had to fight to stay upright and not have Jamie’s whole body weight drive me backward with my knuckles and fingers striking the ground behind me.  It got even harder as I felt the damage the shackles were doing as they were driven down and past my hands.

They slid down past my hands clattering to the floor.

The benefits of being small.  The cuffs had been cinched as tight as they could get, and they were still too big around.

Jamie had the remaining shackles off a moment later.

I gingerly rubbed my wrists and arms, with much of the gingerness coming from the fact that I’d scraped off much of the flesh at the base knuckles of each pinky and thumb.  I was bleeding a fair bit.

I flashed Jamie a grin.  His returning smile was more reserved.

Right.  The quarantine.

The soldier was just finishing up.  Jamie and I turned our attention to the bed.

I removed the case from the pillow.  Jamie, meanwhile, moved roughly half of the collected shackles to the upper end of the bed.  He folded up the top sheet so it had the shackles in it, while I moved shackles into the pillowcase.

“They’re up to something,” Catcher observed.

“I know!” the soldier said.  he was still working on sealing the sheet in place.  Not a perfect seal.  But if there was anything airborne, it would help to keep things contained.  The glue at the edges of the sheet would also slow smaller parasites.  “I’ll deal with it in a minute.  Hell, if you lot couldn’t have waited another ten minutes to start getting sick and causing trouble, I could have finished my shift.  Now I’m stuck in this quarantine with you for the next three to twelve hours-”

His words elicited insults, shouts of dismay and other commentary from the collected prisoners in the little jailhouse.

“-while the next shifts lock down the building.  It can’t be easy.”

The jeers and insults continued.  Some people were throwing balled up paper at the soldier now.  Some of that paper was wet.

I glanced at the little toilet in the corner of our cell.  I knew where the other prisoners were getting that water.

I was glad I’d kept the biggest of the lockpicks.  I turned my attention to the cell door, both picks in hand.

It didn’t take long.  There were no tricks.  Only an inordinate number of very heavy pins.

“They’ve opened the door,” Catcher observed, his tone patient.

The soldier was still ignoring us.  The sticky part at the edge of the sheet had stuck to the man’s arm, and he was doing his damndest to hold on to the sheet.  With the clumsy gloves he wore, the soldier couldn’t retrieve the sheet.  All his efforts were doing was keeping the man in the cell from tearing down the sheet altogether.

I hefted my sack of shackles.  I paused.

A month ago, I’d moved the ring at my thumb to my finger.  It felt out of place there, but it being out of place was a good thing.  It made me aware of it, and colored my actions.  I might have paid far more attention to it, had Jamie not been around, but he was, and for most occasions, that was sufficient.

This was different.

I rapped my knuckles against the back of his head.  “I got you.  Sack of shackles to the back of the head.  Brains splattered out across the floor.”

He twisted around, giving me an incredulous look.

“We’re going to help you, and relieve you of your keys,” I said.  “Then you’re going to take about five or six steps that way, and we’re going to lock you in the cell we were just in.  Agreed?  Because the alternative is that I pick up this sack, or you stop doing what you’re doing and deal with both of us at once, and… you don’t want to do that.”

He shifted his grip on the sheet, rising to a standing position, and kicked at the bars, trying to strike at the man’s hand.

The red blotches on the wrist were angrier than before.  Now that I was close, I could see the protrusions at the center.  Like Jamie had said, there were dark spots in the center of the largest, ugliest spots.  Each spot had a little spine sticking out of it, barely thicker than a hair.

“Maybe you’ve got a whole line of people who’ve said the same thing, but I don’t think my pride as a soldier of the Crown will let me do that,” the soldier said.

He winced and ducked his head a little as someone threw sodden paper at his face.   It smacked against his temple.

“I’ll tell you what’ll happen if you press this,” I said.  I indicated Jamie.  “He and-”

I indicated the hand, “And he are going to keep you occupied while I walk away.  I’m going to go to the cells, and I’m going to open them just like I opened mine.  Then it’s going to be… three and a half against one.  I’ll open another cell, and it’ll be four and a half against one.  Do you see how this goes?”

He diverted his attention as he focused on keeping the man from tearing down the sheet.

“I’m playing nice.  I don’t play nice very often,” I said.  “Please don’t make me take the other course.  Because at least one of the guys I free is going to hurt, maim, or kill you.”

I could see him draw in a breath, puffing himself up, tensing as he drew together the courage to stand up to me and face his fate.

“Take the offer,” Catcher said.

The soldier looked over.

“I’m on your side,” Catcher said.  “I want to take them in, keep the peace, maintain the quarantine.  But this isn’t worth fighting.  You won’t stop them, and you won’t change their minds.  The best you’ll be able to do is take out the one with the glasses fast and tackle the smaller one with the mouth.  But it’s not worth the risk.  Poison, hidden weapons, deceit, surprising displays of skill… let them help you, for all of our sakes.”

It was perhaps the most I’d ever heard Catcher say in one go.  His rough-edged voice made him sound like the grandfather to end all grandfathers, but was still strong enough to be a dad or an army sergeant.  He commanded attention when he wanted to, which was relatively rare.  Most of the time he simply used his voice and a few choice words to scare messes into the pants of people he was tracking.

I saw the soldier set his jaw, then turn his back to Jamie and me, bending down to adjust the cover.

“How important is this damn thing anyway?” I asked.  I stuck a leg through the bars to step on the sheet with the toes of my shoe, adjusting as needed to give the soldier slack when necessary.

“It’s important,” the man said.  “Don’t let him touch your skin.”

“Won’t,” I said.  “Even odds it won’t affect me.”


“It hurts!” the man inside the cell screamed.  He reached for another part of the sheet and I stepped on his fingers.  I shifted my weight to trap them for the seconds the soldier needed to fix the sheet in place.  Jamie was fixing part of the sheet that had come away from the wall.

“There,” the soldier said, as I pulled my foot back and he pressed the sheet down.  The prisoner’s hands pressed against the sheet and pried against the place where it met the floor and found no leeway.

“It’s inside my veins!” the man’s cry was ragged.

The soldier stood.  He faced me.

“You going to cooperate?” I asked.  “Stick to your word?”

“I didn’t make any promises,” he said.

“Okay,” I said.

“I’m going to cooperate,” he said, before I could say anything further.  “But I want you to listen to me.”

I nodded.

He dropped his voice so that others wouldn’t easily hear.  “The warbeasts that came back from Lugh?  They had some skin problems.  The skin problems became growths, and the growths flowered.  We think that it spreads by air once it flowers.  But we’re not sure.  We can’t know yet.  It’s still early, understand?  You need to stay, until they know.”

“I know the approach the Academy takes to problems.  I’m- ” I said, stopping short, before indicating Jamie, “we’re one of those problems.  They burn everything down.  They kill the bystanders.  It’s what they tried to do in Lugh.”

“I was in Lugh,” the soldier said.

“So were we,” Jamie said.  “You know it’s true, then.  You know what they’ll do here, if it’s that serious.”

“I trust they’ll find an answer,” the soldier said.  Stubborn to his core.

“I don’t,” I said.  “How long do the symptoms take to show up?”

“I don’t know,” the soldier said.  “It’s random.  That one there in the cell was fine for hours.  No sign.  For others it was quick.  Within an hour.”

Of course the people who’d designed this thing had gone that route.  It had to be as nasty as possible.  I wasn’t an Academy student, but I’d spent enough time around the doctors to know the basics.  Diseases that killed their patients too fast killed off the populations before those populations that could spread them.  Diseases that took too long left too big a window to be cured.  But something variable?

Assuming this disease even killed.  Assuming it was a disease.

“There’s no reason to assume it’ll have spread to any of us here,” I said.  “No reason to believe it was airborne.”

“We can’t know,” the soldier said.

“I do know that if my friend and I stay and let ourselves get caught, then we’re going to get dragged back to the Academy and for all intents and purposes, we’ll be dead.  We’re going to make a break for it.”

I glanced at Jamie as I said it, almost but not quite making it a question.  He nodded at me.

The soldier shook his head.  Then he walked over to the cell Jamie and I had occupied.  He started to shut the door, and I hurried to put my foot out, blocking it from closing.

“Keys,” I said, holding out my hand.

He folded his arms.

Man.  For a pretty-boy, he was stubborn.  Bulldoggish.

I reached past the door and to his belt.  He didn’t fight me as I lifted the key-ring free of his belt.

Quickly, I walked down the length of the hallway.  I surveyed the prisoners as I passed them, giving them a quick read.  Then I began unlocking cells.

“You could break out of that cell,” I observed aloud, as I drew nearer to Catcher.

“I could,” he said.  “But I told the Academy I would cooperate with its every order.  They’re looking for any excuse to take me in after I deliver my quarry.  I think they think they can grill me for information on Fray.  I’m not going to give them anything they can use.”

“They’ll cheat you anyway,” I said.

“They’ll try.  I know how these games are played, Sylvester.”

I nodded slowly, then turned to the next prisoner and unlocked the cell.

“My group isn’t the only one after you two,” Catcher said.  “They’ll be on you the moment you’re outside.  There are others who were watching and waiting to see if we failed and if they could swoop in.  Scavengers.  They’ll brave the quarantine because they think they’re immune, like you or me should be, or because they’re reckless.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said.  He took a step back away from the door, then sat down on the bed.

That was that, then.  He’d warned me.  The rest was up to me.

As I walked away, I heard him mutter, “I can’t believe you slipped those cuffs.”

I grinned.

Warily, the prisoners were gathering in the hallway.  A pair of them were advancing on the cell that held the soldier.

“Touch him, and we’re going to have a problem,” I said, in my best ‘authority’ voice, hoping to impart something similar to my voice that Catcher had managed with his.

I was a little surprised when they listened.  Mauer would have been proud.

“You listen to what we say,” I said, indicating Jamie again.  “You stay close, and we get free.  They won’t have too many armed men handling the quarantine, so listen to me and be smart about this.”

Nobody talked back.  A few people shifted position, clearly uncomfortable.  The ones I’d have to watch.

It reminded me of my motley group in Lugh, though these guys were mostly thugs.  I found myself wishing I had a regular supply of people to draw from, instead of having to constantly work with improvised groups and read the people I was commanding to look for the tells.  It would be so convenient.

I looked at Jamie.

“Thinking about the building layout,” he said.  “We’ll want to go around to the side.  They’ll be setting up the main quarantine point out front, something on each of the ground-floor windows, doors barred, barricaded and sealed.”

I nodded.  “Punch through?”

“Punch through.”

I addressed the group.  “We move on the side door.  Disable but don’t hurt or kill the guards.  Once we’re through, we go our separate ways.”

There were a few nods.

Jamie and I worked in concert to push open the doors at the end of the hallway opposite Catcher.  There was a sheet erected to seal the doors, much as one had been used to seal that particular cell.

“This is a bad one,” Jamie said.

“Yeah,” I agreed.  “Fray?”

“Might be.”

Jamie ended up leading the way, negotiating our path through the hallways and stairwells.  We caught some brief glimpses of people, but with only a little wariness and care in how we picked our path, Jamie, the five enlisted criminals and I were all able to slip by without hearing any call of alarm.

We started down the hallway, and Jamie raised a hand, warning.  He pointed at the door and gestured for my benefit.

End of the road.

I picked the two biggest guys.  “You two through the door first.  They won’t have that many guards.  One or two doing the seal, probably.  Get your hands on their guns before they do.  If they’re wearing the gloves, they’ll be clumsy.  Be confident, be fast, and grab them.”

That got some nods.

I raised my hand, fingers extended, and then dropped it, giving the go-ahead.


Funner still to have two beefy bastards charge down the hallway and through the door, with Jamie, me, and the other criminals right on their heels.

The effect was surprisingly anticlimactic.  The guards outside were dealt with fast enough that Jamie and I didn’t even get to play a role.  I reached for one’s belt and collected a gun, then grabbed Jamie’s wrist, tugging him along as we changed course, using the short wall that surrounded the police station for cover as we put some distance between ourselves and the door.

People were staring, but their attention was on the bigger criminals and the fight.  There were other soldiers and doctors approaching the building, likely to help with quarantine measures, but we were small and we were non-threatening.  There weren’t enough people on the street or near the building to point the finger at us and let out a cry of warning.

The convicts I’d enlisted had been the ones with the tattoos and the body language that had suggested they would follow orders.  They hadn’t been the types, going by my gut, that I’d felt would easily slip the noose and escape into the city.  Maybe one or two would, given some luck, but that was a dim ‘maybe’.

Given the unlikeliness of the disease spreading by air or proximity or the most chance of chance contact between glove and shoe-sole, pre-flowering, I suspected we weren’t about to be the ones who were unleashing an epidemic.

I didn’t feel great about it, but I did feel great about being alive and free.

“Sy,” Jamie said, cutting into my thoughts.

He had my attention, and with a pointed finger, he directed it.

“What am I looking at?” I asked, as I saw a man walking down the street.  He had a hat and a raincoat on.

“His neck,” Jamie said.

I looked, and I saw.  A red dot, big around as a thumbprint.

I checked the coast was clear, then made a detour, approaching the man.

“Sir,” I called out.  “Sir!”

He turned his attention to me.

“You’ve got the rash,” I said, a little breathless.

“What?” he asked.  “Where?”

“I’m not going to tell you,” I said.  “Because then you’ll touch it and it’ll be on your hands.  But go to the police station, back that way.  They’re distributing the cure already.  If you hurry, you can get it before it spreads and gets painful.”

He looked deeply concerned.

Jamie added, “I hear it’s so painful you can feel it moving through your veins.”

I nodded fervently.

The man reversed course, heading to the police station.

We’d ruined his day, but at least he would be quarantined.

Why was I getting the impression this thing was the furthest thing from being under control, even with this small bit of assistance on our parts?

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74 thoughts on “Cut to the Quick – 11.5

  1. Hm, sounds like it might not be in the water, just the warbeasts. From the warbeasts to the handlers to the city, I guess. And of course then it flowers and possibly spreads via pollen.

    All of Sy’s enemies have a ready source of minions, it’s true. He could recruit Mice to be his pseudo-Lambs, I guess.

    • He wouldn’t be able to sacrifice them well, they wouldn’t follow orders well, and they’d lack brute strength needed for some jobs.

      • It could have ended on chapter 10.x. That was a happy ending. Any other author and it would have. (But I’m glad the story is continuing, even if only to beat sy to a pulp like all wilddbow MC’s.)

        • I don’t understand where the idea the story coild have ended after 10 is coming from. It really couldn’t have ended there unless you don’t think the Academy was important. There’s loads and loads of things still completely unresolved! It would be confusing and unsatisfying as hell to end there! It would mean there was never any reason for Fray, Mauer, or any nobles besides the Baron to have been characters in the first place.

          • On a macro scale yes, but if it’s only seen as Sy’s story on a micro scale and how he finally escapes from the Academy, it could have ended there and everything else was just a bonus or a cliffhanger.

        • Im gonna be COMPLETELY honest… of all Wildbow’s character’s Sy is the one i want most to have a happy ending….. besides [spoiler!] But [Spoiler!!!] did. So can Sy get a KINDA happy ending. Like Lillian manages to SOMEHOW kinda preserve him and some of the remaining lambs in at least a not quite perfect way. … I want her to be with Sy!!! They’re like, the perfect couple!!!

          • For Sy a happy ending would entail re-uniting with the other Lambs in a way that isn’t a conflict, changing the Academy so Lillian can advance and change it, getting it so street kids aren’t victimized whenever there is a war, getting the Nobles out of power, and in general making the world less of a butt. Oh and any time he can get added on to the Lambs lives. Yeah tall order there.

          • Yeah in know. I mean… when i say happy ending, i mean making SOME form of positive impact on the world and being able to spend time/his life with lillian… call me a romantic, but yeah. Also…. if ANYONE can accomplish those goals…. it’d be Sy and the Lambs……. or a primordial…. but yeah.

      • Copious amounts thereof. However, the blobby Nemesis who made the thing will have noticed the use of fire. Hands up anybody who thinks the legacy rash has a very resistant spore-mode? -_-

  2. Sy is so confident, but he’s totally not immune to this =/ I’m actually kind of surprised he’s immune to disease in general, since it’s quite different from poison. I guess maybe the poisons suffusing him are also unhealthy for bacteria and viruses?

    They’re totally going to sneak out of Tynewear and then notice that they’ve acquired rashes. And then… try to track down Fray, maybe? Since they think it was her.

  3. “Shit, shit, shit, fuck,” a young woman’s voice, from a distance away. “The dog is fucked”.

  4. Rashes in the old days were serious business. Too many people in too little space, hands touching everything, no real sense of day-to-day hygiene. Add to this the airborne pollen stage that obviously won’t be stopped by flimsy, hastily-constructed seals? Mr. God the primordial sure picked a good one. The whole “screaming death” stage makes it complicated for quarantines, since people’s natural sense of self-preservation will drive them to hide or get out, all on the slim hope that they’re one of the lucky ones who weren’t infected or are naturally immune, which is how it’ll spread to other towns.

    The only real downside here would be the very obvious end stage, so anyone directing a quarantine would know to start locking people away once they start screaming. But the variable progression speed (that guy went from normal to flowers in a matter of hours) means they aren’t going to catch all of them before they start blooming, and that’s the point when it goes from contact contagion to ‘infect everything within (unknown) radius’. And if warbeasts can act as carriers for it, any random stray animal might also act as carriers. Dogs, rats, squirrels, foxes… they get sick, hide in some nook or cranny, and spew pollen everywhere to infect people all over the place. Even if non-humans can’t reach the flower stage, an infected rat running across your countertop or chewing on the stuff you plan to eat later will infect a household just as quickly. Once it starts infecting the small mammals, no quarantine will keep it out or in.

    Yep, this is going to be fun. The kind of fun I like.

    • >Once it starts infecting the small mammals, no quarantine will keep it out or in.

      Dig a giant ditch around the town. Then fill it with gasoline and light it on fire, and keep the fire burning 24/7 until everything in the town is dead either from the plague, or from the containment measures (likely more fire). That ought to keep everything that can’t fly contained inside the town.

      Also, remember, this isn’t the first time the Crown has danced in this rodeo before, after all; we know from the Duke’s interlude that there was a similar outbreak of Primordial contagions before, that killed everyone in a castle.

      • The Archduke thing was worse, too: it was actually primordial growth, like clonally transmissible cancer, capable of further directed evolution.

        The red rash was stripped of everything that made the primordials themselves scary. Not an act of self-preservation (like i presume the clonally transmissible primordial cancer was) but an act of spite. But being that, it’s probably much better as a bioweapon – because it doesn’t have any tacked-on requirements besides “maximize human suffering”.

        • One thing i never got around doing: a custom scenario for Plague where you play as a clonally transmissible cancer. Those are so cool!

      • Sure, but the Crown’s solution is to go exterminatus on a town. If you’re killing all life within a city’s limits, odds are pretty good you’ll catch the disease somewhere along the way. A ring of fire might work in theory, but only if you could have the ditch dug and the entire town enclosed in less than a day, and hopefully nothing slipped the net before then or you’ll have to do it again for any other nearby towns.

        But as far as standard containment procedures go, things get infinitely more difficult when you need to contain not just all the humans, but other non-domesticated species. Most quarantine procedures just aren’t equipped to handle, say, all the small burrowing mammals that may or may not be living under the local park.

        By all rights, this town is due for a thorough cleansing before its too late. The only hangup is the main characters who, of course, need to get out alive on the slim hope that they’re one of the lucky ones who weren’t infected or are naturally immune.

        • The Crown has biohazard suits of some description; they deployed them with the plague carts in Lugh. The Crown’s solution to this sort of scenario is exactly burning the entire town and everything inside it, and they’ve got the gear to make that work.

          • It’s because the Crwon deployed standard pressures in Lugh, I’m not going to bet on their effectiveness: whatever Nemesis-the-Primordial saw is likely to have been factored into the development of its vengeance… if it could get its cognition around the reasons for what it saw, that is. And, it wasn’t thick: different, sure — but, not thick.:/

          • The Red Plague specifically isn’t fireproof; the mass production of the initial spores was in the hopes that some of them would escape the fire.

          • In short: trying variations to see which would stick. The mire fire-resistant ones were more likely to make it. Standard primordial MO: spam variety along a theme — find what works.

      • What if the primordial spores worked like poison ivy, where if you burned it, the smoke could poison you? That’d be the most likely development I would see for this primordial predicament, although the two work in different ways.

        • My guess? The spores die, but the seeds survive, and remain in the ashes. You’d have to keep it locked down pretty much forever to avoid it being transmitted by wandering animals…

    • So… The primordial’s main thought was designing them to grow in human flesh. Here’s hoping that generic mammals are immune and these specific warbeasts were only infected because their (possibly Academy-wide standard) mix includes human DNA. On that note, any word if Helen has human DNA or if Ibott’s genius involved getting the form right without using the source material?

      • I think it’s unlikely the Academy warbeasts have human in them, and the aquatic ones are probably not very mammalian at all. The only thing human DNA would really have to contribute to gigantic warbeasts would be language and intelligence, and the Academy warbeasts seem pretty lacking in both. .

  5. Is sy going to be eaten by the primordial, share its consciousness- or even quarantine it within his own mind with the help of wyvern-, and then use primordial stuff to create physical facsimilies of the lambs?

    And then they all go on adventures together

    • The red rash was made by a primordial, but it is not a primordial, so it isn’t going to turn biomass of the people it devours into new primordials.

      (But the plague that ate the Archduke probably would have done just that).

      • Not so sure about that. ‘Enemy’ from primordial’s point of view gave me impression that those growths are not children of primordial. I mean if redrot turn people into corpses that turn into primordials – it should have been qualified by dying primordial as ‘children’.

        But it’s final thoughts… those seemed to be concentrated about ‘it’s impossible to make children but it’s possible to create a tool to torment people’. So I think that no primordials shall rise from corpses. Rather, flowers with color like Mauer’s hair will try to mindlessly spread and torment people.

        By the way – it’s unclear what shade of red are those flowers exactly. There was something like ‘red like blood’ in previous chapter (but to be honest, it’s possible that it’s not the final stage of development of Redrot). What I’m trying to express here… could it be that Mauer has anime-colored bloody red hair? Heh…

  6. Oh dear. This plague sounds like a darker and edgier version of Leech Seed. Well guess its a good thing the other Lambs aren’t showing up yet.

  7. Man, Sy is having no luck today. Quarantine going up just as Catcher and Dog show, then they arrange to get him in extremely heavy shackles when he makes a ploy to escape from them, then they’re across the hall from a plague victim, then it turns out they’ve got like the one guard who is not responsive to threats and takes his quarantine duties extremely seriously.

  8. Good job, Maurer, you fuck.

    I really really hope the Lambs don’t show. And I hope Lillian has her meat suit if they do.

    • Meat is meat. Lugh warbeasts were made of meat and now they blossom neat. Suit can help but can it help? If it was designed as bio-hazard suit it can, but if it was not then it’s going to blossom hot. Yet Lillian is a smart girl, she is. She could find biohazard suits in academy and suit her suit into one of those.

  9. Yep, Catcher is a butt. And Wildbow did a little bit better describing how lockpicking works, especially security pins (the notches Jamie mentioned). Security pins are butts to deal with because everything feels as if you got the pin set correctly, so you move on to the next, only to discover somewhere along the way you got fooled, so you start over, and this time your extra care to not get fooled can be a detriment on its own.

    What is STILL incorrect is the fact that Sy still hasn’t mentioned using a torque wrench, which is really as important as the pick itself. The bit with a cylinder in a cylinder would have been a perfect spot to mention it.

  10. “I can’t believe you slipped those cuffs.”

    Sylvester can breakslip those cuffs. He’s on drugs too.

  11. You know…. Would love to see a pretty plague. A plague that covers it’s victims in bright flowers and leaves ghost towns filled with a gorgeous field of pretty smelling flowers that mask the scent of decay and death. It’d be poetic.

  12. Dog and/or Catcher are going to die to the plague aren´t they?😦
    I mean it would certainly fit at this point. Build up a relatable, likable character and then let them die horribly. Sy could never escape Dog and Catcher in the long run otherwise.

    Or Sy saves them and everyone is happy forever. Which is more likely?

  13. Interesting. Thank you for sharing – as for me it was one of those things you look at but don’t understand their meaning.

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