Black Sheep – 13.4 (Lamb)

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Helen handed off Nora to Lacey and Lillian’s care.  She stretched, testing each and every one of her joints from fingertip to shoulder, shoulder to neck, then testing each muscle and segment all the way down her spine to her legs, legs to toes.

She felt a brief moment of bliss in the sensation of being.  The stretch was akin to giving herself a hug.  There were no sensations quite as fulfilling and thrilling as when she wrapped herself around someone and felt them fighting her, straining and stretching inside her grasp.  Stretching was like straining and stretching against herself, fighting and testing herself.  Every pop and cartilage-against-cartilage realignment of a joint went hand-in-hand with a rush of feel-good hormones.

It was like getting a hundred teeny tiny bites of tart.

The thought made her realize she was hungry in a way that had nothing to do with food.

Languid, smiling easily, feeling as relaxed as she ever had, she looked at Mary.  Hard Mary, rigid, eager in a very different way.  Mary was standing by the door, which was ajar, peering through the gap to the street outside.  The muscles in Mary’s arms and legs were tensed, and she was ready to move or attack at a moment’s notice, if someone’s head outside turned the wrong way, or if she saw an opportunity.

Helen approached Mary and, being careful to avoid the blade Mary held and to keep from impeding Mary’s view, slid one arm behind Mary’s neck and the other behind the small of Mary’s back, and embraced her.

She felt the prick of Mary’s blade against the side of her neck.

Just as carefully as she had embraced Mary, she backed off.  She leaned in close to give Mary a peck on the cheek.

“You’re riled up,” Mary said.  She hadn’t taken her eyes off of the gap between the door and the doorframe.

“It’s contagious,” Helen said.  “I’ve been antsy for months now, and being around you and Lillian could calm me down.  Being around Ashton could calm me down a lot.  But Ashton isn’t here, and neither of you are calm.  Mary is tense and I can smell how uncalm Lillian is-”

“Ahem,” Lillian said.

“-and I can hear her breathing as if she was breathing right in my ear, and it makes me restless and it makes me want to embrace someone.”

“I’m ready to act, but I’m calm,” Mary lied.  “As calm as anyone is while being tracked by a small army.”

Helen smiled.  “Uh huh.”

She felt the blade move fractionally.

“The adjusted drug regimen from Ibbot might be responsible for your mood,” Lillian said.  “If I could pare it down any without him catching on during your next appointment, I would.  Maybe you could tell him the truth?  That you’re lying to him about your emotional states.  If he keeps adjusting in response to falsehoods, something bad could happen.”

“I’m not lying to him,” Helen said.

“He’s lying to himself.  Yeah.  You know what I mean, Helen.”

Helen smiled softly.  “The day I tell him he’s wrong is the day he’ll decide I’m not worth the trouble.”

“Okay,” Lillian said.  She sighed, looking at Nora and Lacey.

They had already had the ‘none of this gets repeated to the Academy’ conversation a few times.  At least with the details regarding Helen, Lillian felt confident letting Lacey overhear.  Lacey had no love for Ibbot.

Lillian spoke, “Do your best, and please don’t kill Sylvester, Helen.”

Helen didn’t let the smile falter.  “I’ll try not to.”

“Thank you.”

Lillian’s breathing wasn’t as hard or intense as it had been, earlier.  The mention of Sylvester normally quickened it and drew her focus, but Helen was very aware of the fact that the subject of Sylvester dying had stopped all that.  Sobering and concerning to Lillian.  It mattered.

An imaginative part of Helen’s brain conjured up the notion that if something did happen to Sylvester, then Lillian might stop breathing altogether.  Lillian liked him a lot, even now.  It would break her heart.

Helen would have to try very hard, to not break Sylvester too much and break Lillian’s heart in the process.

“Lara wants to talk,” Nora said.

“Hold on,” Lillian said.  “We’re not sure if Sylvester is listening in.  Let’s wait until-”

“He’s not listening in.  He’s over there.  Or he was,” Nora said.

Mary turned her eyes away from the crack in the door.  Lacey moved away from Nora to better see Nora’s face, her expression serious.

“Okay, honey,” Lillian said.

Helen could see the change in Lillian’s body language, she could hear the shift in breathing, and she imagined she could hear the increased speed of Lillian’s heartbeat.  Her own heartbeats increased in response.

All of this was so enjoyable and so terrifying at the same time, like the thrill of standing on a ledge.

“Abby: Duncan’s asleep.  But Quinton is okay.  The rest of us are okay too.”

“Give Quinton a hug for me,” Helen said.

“Abby: Okay.”

“Let’s keep it serious,” Lillian said,  quiet.  Then, louder, she said, “Sy was there?”

“Ashton: Duncan got gassed.  Sylvester wanted to talk.  He talked with Duncan, then with me, then with Emmett.  Emmett told Sylvester he was willing to negotiate, using what you told him to say.  Then Sylvester disappeared.”

“Oh, okay, wow,” Lillian said.  “Too many things to ask and respond to.  Is Duncan okay?  Do I need to treat him?  Do I need to treat any of you?”

“Ashton: Sylvester said he would wake up with a bad headache.  I don’t think we need you.”

“Alright,” Lillian said.

“Ashton: We wondered if we should tell you right away.  We didn’t want to distract you when you’re in trouble, and Lara said you weren’t out of trouble.”

Mary spoke, her voice low, so she wouldn’t be heard by anyone outside, “We’re not, but it was right to fill us in.  When in doubt, more information is best.”

“Ashton: I remember you saying that to Duncan.  But the reason we decided to share was because we asked a woman and she said some things about the people chasing you.  It sounds like the people Sylvester provoked and was fighting with, the really dangerous people, they work for the Devil.  He’s the leader of the biggest gang and it sounds like he’s still out there, unless Sylvester got him and the ordinary people don’t know yet.”

“Then we have a target,” Mary said.

“A distraction, not a target,” Lillian said.  “But we can discuss that.  Anything else, Ashton?”

“Ashton: No.  Except it sounds like the children who didn’t leave the city or hide in the houses of people they know might be at a place called the yard.  We were going to go in the morning.”

“Good.  Sleep.  Take care of Duncan.  Get him to drink lots when he’s awake.  We’ll touch bases and ask questions when everything is wrapped up.  But it’ll be redundant and unfair if we discuss the Sylvester situation before Duncan is conscious.”

“Ashton: Okay.”

“Okay,” Lillian said.

There was a brief pause.  No further messages from the others.

“The false Lambs accomplished what we wanted,” Lillian said.  “He’s showed himself and revealed his hand, a little.”

“But we’re tied up here,” Mary said, moving the door to peer through the gap.

“You know him better than I do,” Lacey said.  “Why did Sylvester run?  Why not take the offer and talk to Emmett?”

Helen, Mary, and Lillian all started speaking at the same time, each with their own interpretation.

Lacey held up a hand, indicating for them to be quiet, then pointed at Helen.

“He’s introducing himself,” Helen said.  “He wants to greet the little ones, show off, let them know who he really is.  He already started, leaving Quinton and the other animals for them.  But if he ends up staying and asking about what Emmett knows, then their first impression of him is about that as much as it is about anything else.”

“Disagree?” Lacey asked Mary and Lillian.

“Not wholly,” Mary said, while Lillian shook her head.

“You both look like you want to say something.  Mary?” Lacey asked.

“It’s part of it.  He exposes himself to danger, the longer he’s there.  He wants to act, leave an impact, and move on.  And we can’t forget that he has schemes in play.  We’re inside an organism of his making.  He has to tend to it, keep it fed, keep everything in alignment.  He’s probably running everywhere, trying to keep an eye on the Devil, on us, on the new Lambs, and on everyone that’s working for him.”

“Good,” Lacey said.  “Lillian.  Your thoughts.”

“It ties into what Helen said.  He’s trying to prove something.  Not just to the false Lambs, but to us.  He wants to show that he’s okay, that he’s strong.  He can’t negotiate with Emmett until he knows what Emmett wants and he he’s in a position of power.  So he’s backing off.  We put him on the back foot.  It’s a good thing.  Hopefully it’s a thing we can leverage later.”

“Predicated on dealing with the Devil.  Even knowing he’s a distraction,” Mary said.

Lillian sighed.

“Do you disagree?” Mary asked.

“No.  Can you and Helen handle it?  Or at least get us started?”

Mary glanced at Helen.

“I want to kill,” Helen said.  “I’m antsy.”

“We can handle it,” Mary said.  “The group that was following us backtracked a few minutes ago, there are a few stragglers.  If we deal with the stragglers, we can follow the others.  Maybe back to the Devil.”

“I don’t think we should go after the Devil just yet, unless it’s to gather information,” Lillian said.  “That was a lot of people he had running after us there.  We don’t know what kind of resources he has.”

“We’ll move as a group,” Mary suggested.  “You’re Sy’s most likely target, besides Duncan.  You stay close.”

Lillian nodded.

Helen hugged her arms, felt the joints stretch as she used her own strength to the point that she was almost damaging herself.  She felt the faint, tart-tasty rush at the sensation.

Too many parts of her brain were hungry for that sensation, and squeezing herself and stretching herself weren’t enough to sate that hunger.

“I’ll get set up first,” Lillian said.  She undid the clasps on the container she’d brought with her.  “Just in case.”

Helen fought back the eagerness by squeezing herself harder.  She’d been on the boundary of damaging herself, and now she crossed those bounds, squeezing enough that skin would bruise and muscle would be damaged.  She would be sore all night.

But it was important to keep the mask in place.

It was just her and Mary.  Helen felt that this was when Mary was most Mary and Helen was most Helen.

She was good at watching faces.  She was good at seeing how people moved.  Mary was a puppet guided by the hand of an expert puppeteer, one that had made her graceful and forceful in her movements, dangerous and stern to behold, held aloft by strings of razor wire.

It was with this keen eye for movement and expression that she saw a flicker of fear on Mary’s face.  Not because Mary had seen a daunting enemy.  No, Mary had looked back to see if Helen was keeping up, which was sometimes a problem.  Helen had let the mask of smiles and cheer drop away.  With no obvious targets to go after, she felt like a dog that had had its bone snatched away a few times before she could seize it.  Teased, frustrated, overeager now.

As Mary had looked back, she had seen the naked hunger on Helen’s face, and Helen, in turn, had seen Mary pick up her pace and move a little further away.

“Soon,” Mary said.


She didn’t like running.  She wasn’t good at it.  The ones who had gotten ahead of them had ended up too far ahead.  Too hard to trace, and there weren’t enough other leads to follow.  They hadn’t been able to follow them back to the Devil.  Perhaps if Ashton and the other false Lambs hadn’t reached out, they might have left sooner.  But Helen was glad that Ashton had called.

Mary’s hand went up, gesturing.

Helen took the direction, scaling the side of a building.  Hooks at her wrists and the base of her toes helped provide the leverage.  She hugged the wall, stretching to reach higher, and reduce the number of times she had to lift her own body weight up to the next point.

The roof had a heavy overhang, and she had to reach back and up to make contact with it.  She gripped the underside of a board that pointed down to the ground, hard enough that her fingers bit into the wood, then let herself swing away from the wall.  She folded herself up and over the edge, then hugged the roof as she moved up and across it.

This… this was okay.

She looked back, and she saw Lillian, Lacey, and Nora trailing behind.  The group settled into a position just around the corner.  Lillian signaled to Helen, and Helen signaled back.

In the other direction, there were people.  Three men, a stitched, and a woman in a lab coat that was holding the leash of a medium-sized warbeast.  It looked canine or feline, sleek and built for running, and it had a mane that suggested something lion was in it, but it had the raw size of a bear, not a dog.

One of the men, the woman, the stitched and probably the warbeast were all Academy.  They were talking with the two other men, who looked rougher around the edges.  Criminals.  All three men and the woman were smoking.

The stitched looked strong.  It had a gun, four-barreled, and each barrel looked big enough that Helen could have put her fist into it.  A hand cannon?

This was better than okay.

While Mary got into position, moving around a building so she might be able to get at the chatting, smoking group from the other side, Helen watched them.  She looked at the expressions on their faces, the fact that the Academy group and the criminal group didn’t seem to entirely get along, the way they moved and looked frustrated.

Her lips parted slightly.  She watched them and drank them in.  The beautiful parts of them, the ugly parts of them, and all the warm, wet parts of them that she couldn’t see.

She shivered, and she put a smile on her face, watching through half-lidded eyes.

Piece by piece, she worked out how they were put together.  The humans were easy, but there were little clues.  One of the criminals limped.  He’d been hurt earlier.  He kept shifting position as he leaned against the wall, putting all of his weight on one leg, while trying to find a good position for the sore one.

The handler in the lab coat didn’t like the criminal who stood nearest to her, she didn’t laugh at his jokes, but her eyes were the same eyes that Gordon and Mary had had sometimes, before they would use all of the ingenuity and cleverness that they had learned from the Lambs to slip away from everyone’s sight.

There was an intercourse in the way those two looked at each other.  It was a given that they would enjoy each other’s company.

The stitched was harder.  He was built Bruno big, sturdy, and strong, so that he could use that cannon without falling over.  Reinforced all over.  Taking him apart and breaking him down would be a puzzle.

And the Warbeast.  She had to study the way the light from nearby streetlamps struck its muscle, showing where the muscles were and how it moved.  Where did the muscles begin and where did they end?

She suspected it was hungry.  It had been running earlier.  A faint sheen of sweat had collected on its fur and made its mane clump in strands.

Helen watched, and she felt at peace.  She studied them, and she found herself becoming intensely fond of them.  She wanted them.  She wanted to feel the way their clothes rubbed against sweaty skin, the way that that fur felt, with the sweat on it, and how, when she crushed it, it rubbed across hard, Academy-designed muscle.

Next to actually sating the instincts and impulses she had been created to have, being this close and imagining it was fine.

Mary was in position, standing inside a house, not four feet from the warbeast, with a wall and window separating them.  None too soon.  Helen might have gone in herself, if she’d had to wait any longer.

Mary signaled.  Helen signaled back.

Within a few moments, they were both making long series of gestures, reading what the other was gesturing at the same time they gestured themselves.

A negotiation.

They stopped.  Helen checked the coast was clear.

Then she let herself fall from the roof.

She knew how her own body moved.  She knew how she was put together.  She’d been awake and alert enough times as she was taken apart and examined from the inside out.

Heavy impacts could make her bleed, but it was hard for one to deliver lasting damage.  She landed on the street, letting joints dislocate with the impact, and pushing her jaw to dislocate as well.  Cartilaginous bones flexed rather than break.

She landed as a crumpled mess, twitched violently, and then went still, one eye open and staring, her jaw dislocated on the one side.

“Good Lords!” came the response.  Then, after a moment, less surprised and more shocked, “Good fucking lords.”

“That’s one of the ones we were chasing.  Where the hell did she come from?”  Criminal, by the roughness of his voice.

“Doesn’t matter, I don’t think,” the man from the Academy said.

Helen remained where she was.  She constricted muscles around one of her hearts and forced it to stop.  She let the other one slow.

“It matters.  It’s fucking weird.  Dead little girls don’t just appear out of nowhere.  The hells?”

“Language, my man,” the Academy man said.

“What do we do with it?”

“Feed it to the warbeast.  Maybe leave some pieces around for proof?  Can you do that?”

The woman spoke, “I could.

“You don’t sound pleased at the idea.”

“No.  I’m not, really,” the woman said.

Helen waited, patient.  Mary was waiting too.

After a moment, the warbeast began pacing closer.  the woman walked a short distance behind it.

Its head drew nearer.  Beautiful, lovely creature.  It sniffed.  Helen longed to bury her face in its body.  It was engineered life, fine tuned, like the intricate pieces of a watch, but it was about killing and violence, not time.  Killing and violence had brought it into this world and killing and violence would take it out, and it would be beautiful and it would become art as the circle closed.

She ached for it.

But for this, for this moment, she could put the eagerness away and be dead.  She could delay the gratification.

An idle part of her wondered if Ibbot ached.  If he experienced this.

She was his Galatea.  The woman carved according to his design.  She was to be the woman that would serve him and be his, in a way that an ordinary woman could never be.  Child and wife and partner and yet neither.  Impermanent.  He delayed his gratification by nearly twenty years.  She would become the woman he had wanted, and she would die a few years later.

She hated him and loved him, for that, as she lay dead on the street.  The warbeast opened its jaws, used massive canines to lift her arm, and then to drop it.  It fell limp to the ground.

“What the hell is wrong?  Order it to eat her.”

“I did,” the handler said.  “But we created the hunter warbeasts to hunt.  They get a diet of living prey.  They don’t eat carrion.”

Helen’s eye didn’t move as she stared at the warbeast, but she gazed on that beautiful chimera with adoration, with her own satisfaction brimming over at the knowledge that she had acted out her death sufficiently to fool the creature, and with the full knowledge she was about to destroy this creature that she loved a little.

The handler whistled, and the warbeast turned to go.

Helen moved, relying on locked muscles to hold limbs rigid where joints were dislocated.  She stroked the creature’s mane.

It jumped as if she’d stabbed it, startled now that the carrion was alive.  Her fist closed on the mane, and she hauled herself to a standing position.  One side of her jaw still dislocated, she bent over the thing, kissing it between the eyes.

It tried to bite her, turning its head, and she moved with it, hand going to the other side of its mane, her body contorting to stay out of the way of its jaws.

Her legs went around its neck, and as it moved, trying again to bite her, she shifted her grip up its head, embracing its muzzle, clamping its jaws shut with one hand.

Near her, the Academy man died, his throat slashed.

Mary appeared in the midst of the collected group, her attention on the stitched.  She moved an arm and pulled on razor wire, pulling a gun from the hand of one of the criminals.  She’d picked the right one.  Helen was glad.  She was worried the gestures hadn’t been exact enough, what with their different perspectives.

The chimera shook its head, trying to dislodge Helen, and with each movement, she shifted her grip.  Fingertips pushed past fur and into muscle and bone, finding holds there.  It turned its head, trying to pull back and away, and she forced its head to remain turned.

“Shhh,” Helen whispered, as the creature tried shaking its head to get it back into a more normal position, and she used that to turn it even further the opposite way.  She peeled off a shoe and twisted her foot around to pinch the creature’s carotid artery between her toes and the ball of her foot.

Once the artery was pinched, it didn’t take long.  It weakened swiftly, and as it stopped fighting her, she was able to adjust her hold, leveraging most of the muscles in her body to twist its head further, until the connection between the skull and the spine could no longer be maintained.

She rose to her feet, making sure to do it in a way that might unnerve those who remained.

There were only two.  The handler was working to undo the coil of chain that she had wound around her own wrist, so she wouldn’t have to hold the leash with her hand.  The second was one of the criminals, now lying on the ground, a bola around his ankles.

“You said you wanted these two.  I’m not about to question how your mind works.”

“It feels like cheating, this way,” Helen said.

“Don’t complain.  I could have killed them while you were kissing that creature.  This is me being nice.  You asked for these two, they’re yours.”

“You’re lovely,” Helen said.  She reached for the warbeast’s leash, pulling herself herself along it hand after fist as she followed it to the other end.  She looked at the handler.  “You’re lovely too.”

The handler released herself from the chain and stumbled back, while Helen lunged forward.  As if unsure that Helen would catch her quarry, Mary drew an arm back, as if to throw something.

But Helen’s fingertips caught at cloth.  She pulled that cloth into her fist, and seized it.  She had her target.  There was nothing the woman could do, now.  She could pull back and tear the cloth, but even if she did, Helen would draw forward more than she drew herself away.

Helen hauled herself closer, wrapping an arm around, and dug fingertips into the small of the woman’s back.  She drew herself close, her temple pressing against the handler’s cheek.

“Hello,” Helen greeted the handler.  “You’re going to come with me and answer questions, and then I’ll make this fast, okay?  You won’t take any more than five minutes to die.  But only if you listen.”

“What the fuck?” the woman asked.

“I want to hear you say ‘yes’,” Helen said.

The woman reached to her waist.  Again, Mary moved like she was going to throw something.  Helen moved herself into the way and grabbed the woman’s wrist before she could fully draw the knife.

“You said they were mine,” Helen said, pouting.  “Stop acting like you’re going to interfere.”

“Alright,” Mary said.  She put her weapon away and raised her hands, surrendering.

“As for you-” Helen said.  “I thought we had a compromise.”

She squeezed the wrist of the hand that held the knife until she felt things start to break under her grip.  At the same time, pressing her body against the woman’s front, she ground her fingers into the small of the handler’s back, digging into flesh in the same way she might work them into hard clay.  Blood welled out.

“He’s going to get away,” Mary observed, hands still lifted in surrender.  “You have about a minute.”

The woman’s clutching hand did nothing to break Helen’s grip.  That failed, she dug fingernails into Helen’s face.  When they didn’t penetrate, she scratched, hard.

The damage was mild at best.

Helen had been been made to do this.  Ibbot wasn’t a stupid man.  He knew victims would scratch.  They would gouge at eyes and search out weak points, try to strangle her or beat her until she was forced to let go.

He had made her so that the damage she dealt would far outpace what little damage they could do to her in turn.

Her fingers dug in deep enough that she could wrap her hand around the column of the woman’s spine, with all of the related systems and bundles.  Somewhere in the midst of all of this, the handler had fallen to the ground.

“Crawl,” Helen said.  “To him.”

The handler became the handled, as Helen walked, bent over, gripping the woman by a handle that the woman dare not break or test.  She used mostly hands, not legs, to move toward the Devil’s man, who was only just getting free of the bola.

Too slow, too slow.

“Grab him.  Hold him,” Helen said.

There was hesitation.  She adjusted her grip, tightened.

Reluctantly, the handler obeyed.

“Forward, climb further up.  That’s good,” Helen said, once the handler was lying across the man’s legs.

They’d been looking at each other, making silent promises they would be together later.

Now they were together.  There was beauty and art in that.  Both had lost the use of their legs, by bondage or by breakage.  Whether it was sympathy, reflection, balance, or whatever it was, it made sense to her.

She made sure to break one of his wrists, before seizing the other.  She held it firmly as she twisted his arm, then used her legs and other arm to bind herself around the two of them at once.  She adjusted the screaming woman’s position.

“This can end quickly,” she said.  “But you’ll want to stop screaming and start talking.  Tell us about the Devil.  Where he is, where you were supposed to go after you were done here.”

His face a mere handspan from the handler’s, the criminal blustered out a blunt, “Fuck you!”

Spittle flew from his mouth as he said it.

“If you’re okay here, I’ll make sure the others know where we are.”

“Okay,” Helen said.

She turned her attention to the man, hand flat against his belly.

She spoke, her voice soft enough it was almost drowned out by his constant cussing.  “I’m very very excited, because I get to see a friend I haven’t seen in a long time, soon.  And when I get excited I want to break people.  Usually I start from the outside in.  I break the fingers, then the hands, and then the arms.  Today, as excited as I am, I want to try something different.  I’ll reach inside of you, work past muscle and fat, and I’ll grab your organs, one by one.  I’ll start with less important ones, and I’ll crush them in my hands.  Then I’ll grab vital ones, to see what they feel like while they’re alive in my hand, and I’ll do that for a little while, until all the damage that I did in getting to them adds up and you expire.”

He’d stopped cussing and started listening.

Her fingernails made the initial dig into the flesh of his belly.

“I’ll talk!  I’ll talk!  Lords of the fucking Crown Kingdom, I’ll talk, just- please don’t.”

Her hand trembled there, against his stomach.

“I’m not very well,” she confided to him, her voice a whisper.  “And the people who would usually settle me down are preoccupied.”

“What?” he asked, bewildered.

“Nothing.  Never mind me,” she said, smiling.  “I’m going to try to be nice tonight.  You can talk, and I do my best to hold off and not squeeze bits of you into pulp.  But do try to be thorough.”

She reached up with a bloody hand to brush at his cheek, leaving a streak there.

She shifted position, still holding the woman tight against her back, and laid her head across the criminal’s chest.  It was as if he was her bed and pillow, and the handler was her blanket.  Flesh and blood and pain and warmth all together in an artificial womb she had pulled in around herself.

He spoke, telling her about the Devil, and she listened.

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53 thoughts on “Black Sheep – 13.4 (Lamb)

    • That description of !corpseHelen just suddenly shifting to stroking the warbeast. Everybody like “Huh?” and in seconds, Dollbreaker was snapping the neck of their warbeast.

  1. I’m going to laugh so hard if after the Lambs arc someone asks Sy why he disappeared on Emmett and Sy’s just like “The gas made me thirsty lol”.

  2. I want to be horrified, but I’m not sure if it’s actually surprising that these sorts of things happen when Helen is involved. A few things that stood out to me in the chapter, in no particular order:
    1. Helen mentioning that Lillian still really likes Sy makes me happy and hopeful that my favourite ship is still possible. (And then I remember that the author is a well known sadist, and that these hints at Syllian still being possible should make me more worried than hopeful.) I have an intense anticipation for Lillian and Sy’s first conversation together.

    2. Helen’s comment about “seeing a friend that [she] hasn’t seen in a long time ,” also makes me happy that she hasn’t really internalized Sy being an enemy of the academy. I’m really hoping this whole arc (or series of arcs) plays out where the lambs feign a convincing attempt to extract Sy and Jamie, and then they have a nice, real, friendly conversation afterwards, and figure out future plans together, and where each group stands.

    3. Lillian’s bit about the false lambs was interesting, too. I wonder how many of the new comers (including, perhaps, Duncan) are false lambs? And, also, the group is convinced that their ruse with Emmet and the so-called ‘false lambs’ succeeded, but knowing Sy, I could definitely see him out-manoeuvring their ploy.

    At the same time, though, if he is really convinced these are new lambs, I’m afraid to consider how gutted he might feel to find out that they actually aren’t lambs, and I could even see him being wounded that the Real Lambs would try to manipulate him on that matter.

    4. I am also relieved that the group learned that the people that went after them were from The Devil’s gang, and not from Sy. I was afraid they might escalate their response to Sy, if they were convinced long enough that he was sending those men after them.

    5. Finally, Helen’s slip-up about not being very well is alarming, to say the least. I wonder if it’s anything to do from the aftermath of Sy and Jamie’s defection? I don’t think we’ve had too much a look on the Lamb’s relationship since the defections, especially immediately prior to this mission.

    Overall, really kind of loving this arc so far. I’ve been on the edge of my seat waiting for the Sy/Jamie/Lambs reunion, and this arc is being very fulfilling.

    5. Hlen

    • 1- Lillian’s feelings for Sy aren’t going to vanish that easily. But they are going to get complicated.
      2- Let’s not forget Helen has a… Unique view of the world. Her giving a good hug to a friend is not a good thing for the friend.
      3- Sy is going to be soooooooo dissappointed in the senior lambs when he finds out they consider the new kids false. The only one he considers false I suspect is Duncan.
      4- And now the Lambs are better informed. Still going to be a real mess though.
      5- I think it’s because Ibbot’s fucked up her hormonal balance. He’s misreading things so she’ll stay complacent, and he’s too dumb to realize the importance of psychology.

  3. Typo thread:
    Mary is tense and I can smell how uncalm Lillian is-”
    -Should possibly be ‘You are tense and

    He can’t negotiate with Emmett until he knows what Emmett wants and he he’s in a position of power.
    -he he’s

      • And we realize Ibbot getting mad at Duncan for being aroused around naked Helen was more than just Duncan’s lack of professionalism, Helen is supposed to be HIS.

        • I’m remembering one of the stories from the only time I ever watched 1,000 ways to die. An artist who decided to screw the statue he’d sculpted. Then got his dick stuck, and had it fall off the table on him. Ibbott is looking to be even more stupid.

        • Thing is, it does make a sort of disturbing sense that ibbot always planned on fucking Helen. Her killing method it sort of grossly sensual, and she sort of thinks about it in a peusodo-sexual way. So if Ibbot, Mr monster expert, was going to make his perfect woman (a la Pygmalion myth) it makes sense how he would combine the killing and the sex… Ick. Kinky motherfucker. Or experiment-daughterfucker. But this chapter highlighted why I love the Twig verse. On one hand we have prime nightmare fuel monster Helen, and on the other we have the even worse nightmare fuel monsters of the people who make such fucked up experiments- and why.

          Dr Ibbot, or, how I learned to stop worrying and fuck the monster

    • She promised to try not to kill.
      Nothing was said about breaking. Or twisting. Or stretching. Or tearing. Or wrenching. Or mangling.

      It’s going to be so much fun!

        • She’s probably well aware. And, will try to be a considerate friend. But, I suspect bloody Ibbot might have screwed her over on this one.:/

          I hope she gets to take some of her excessive bloodlust out on the Devil. Sure, I’m not convinced even he has managed to earn an over-eager Helen, but… he’s certainly due some artistic karma.😛

  4. My very favorite chapter Wildbow ever wrote was 10.x with Alec. It was fucked up and creepy and you could tell he was a broken man pretending to be human. This is my new favorite chapter.

  5. Aye Simwae how Horrifying.

    You know what I find more disturbing? Helen is going to be Ibbot’s wife. There’s just something really not okay about that.

    Not to mention she’ll probably kill him.

    • I hope when Helen eventually kills Ibott she does it with, like, a handgun, or asks Mary to do it for her. Because killing is such a good feeling for Helen and killing Ibott the way she kills people she actually likes killing…I think it would soil that good feeling for her, you know?

      • She’s mentioned before that he isn’t strong, so she has no feelings about him. If she decides to get rid of him (if she CAN decide to get rid of him), I doubt she’ll be picky about how it happens.

  6. It worries me that Helen’s way approaching situations is still somewhat straightforward. She limits herself by being too close and too personal to her targets. By concentration only her own arms and hands and legs and body as tools of influence, there is only that many creatures she can touch and experience with those. She still doesn’t have anything instrumental in her arsenal – to lever, to reach, to connect from afar to pause, to control movement of creatures in 60m around her. Perhaps that deffect of her development stems from her close relations with Mary, and Mary being too helpful without niticing what harm she brings. Mary’s razorwire and knifes work well to pin creatures of interest in her steel reach. Thus, there is no need for Helen to adapt. It’s wrong. She’ll never have as much fun as for example Sy had with those three doctors or with whole cities. -_-

    (Not that I have anything about her friendship with Mary – she really need a friend’s hug sometimes – but it’s just a somewhat unfortunate how those good things tangle and heap.)

    Although her idea with handling a spine and urges to tie situations in expressive ways do give some hope. Not completely expressive but a step in a right direction. If Ibbot’s unfortunal surge of delusion would not kill that kid, she could become something really expressive.

      • Yes, that’s not enough. Because Lambs and their enemies change, evolve. This book consists of covert operations with common deaths of those who lost in conflict or just being on the side of one.

        If someone stays the same he has less options and cards to put on the table. He wouldn’t survive. So yes, I do think that stagnation equals to being ‘not enough’ to control one’s destiny.

        Besides, she was never described to be critically slow. She is definitely slow compared to specialized assault specialists like Gordon and Mary. And as Sy is fastest to run among Lambs, it can be said that she isn’t fastest runner among them.
        >Helen wasn’t human, and as fine a piece of craftsmanship as she was, there were tradeoffs when playing to different strengths. Jamie just wasn’t quick or coordinated, he stumbled, I caught him, he faltered, and I pulled him onward.

        But as her slowness in other aspects was never mentioned directly to impede Lambs and affect their plans, it can be assumed that her speed is not her disability but rather something. Being displayed as exagerrated ambush predator, I assume that she can ‘hug’ someone extremely fast.

        Many characters in Twig exploited their basic abilities to cheat and gain more “tools” in their deadly repertuare. If you thing about – I remember only one account of human killing tiger barehanded and having no injuries (martial artist used element of surprise and confined space to one-hit tiger to the nose), and only one account of human killing lion barehaded while taking serious damage (circuis strong man grabbed lion, lifted him overhead and threw to the ground with lethal landing for big cat) – and in both cases those were exeptional and expeptionally trained specialists. But then there are lots of stories of damaged big cats who couldn’t hunt normally and they had to hund human as weakes prey… and here body count goes in tens. Human body is not that awesome compared to other superpredators. Yep and we humans know that. That’s why we use tools and pack tactics, and other smart tricks…

        For example being patient, strong, observant with sensetive touch makes nice base for a sniper branch of development.

        Even casual revolver can be used to drop tens of people on the ground and with a leasure of them being wounded Helen could have her fun with not two but with a ten.

        Canister with stunning and gas mask could give comparable results.

        Helen could gain more pleasure and fulfillment of her nature that way with more creatures to experience their guts and skin + with more variety.

        And those were just straightforward basic ideas. You could find something especially f*ked up, horrible and beautiful if you spend more time thinking about.

  7. Based on how everyone (including Sy) seems to be underestimating and dismissing the Devil I think he’s going to do something big. Like kill one of the new lambs level big. Maybe even a main lamb (or Duncan).

    • He’s good at scheming, he has control over large sections of the city and access to its resources, and there’s no way he’s a pushover in combat. The Lambs have Helen, Mary, and Emmet for combat and any one could probably take him and some goons on head-to-head, but their resources are limited to what they were able to bring and their main schemer is currently defected, so actually causing any significant damage to the Devil isn’t likely. Lillian and Duncan are smart, but they aren’t the right kind of smart this situation needs and they lack the resources to wear him out. Sy is exactly the right kind of smart to break the Devil’s hold over the city and he has a fair amount of resources, but he lacks the outright combat ability he’d need to take the fight directly to the Devil and goons and finish them off.

      I think the Lambs (Sy included) are in a position where they cannot beat the Devil without joining forces. Problem is, Sy made it clear he can’t go back and the other Lambs have only enough force to take him but can’t touch the Devil. Can’t join forces, can’t win without joining forces.

    • Are people underestimating and dismissing the Devil? Personally, I feel like he’s been hyped up a lot in-story, so I’m still waiting to see him cause Sy and all the Lambs a bigger challenge than the Baron and Twins. Thus far he’s only really blown up the train station, with Sy getting the blame/credit, and sent a lot of minions after the Lambs.

    • I don’t see them as dismissing. They’re just prioritizing right now. It’s not that they don’t see them as a threat; both Sy and the Lambs have separate objectives that they want to accomplish, and it’s just that the Devil was never one of those objectives. They just see him as an obstacle that needs to be overcome. No overestimation, no underestimation, really.

      Also, the Lambs really have no information on who the Devil actually is anyways, so I doubt they’d underestimate a threat they have virtually no intel on.

  8. And I thought Helen was a little bit disturbing before she her hormones were messed with…

    I feel like the way Helen talks about Ibobt here is more emotional (“hated him and loved him”) than it’s been in any of her other chapters, or what she’s said about him to the other Lambs. An effect of the drugs? Character development? Just the fact that we’ve only seen two and a bit chapters from her, and a monster’s feelings can be complicated too?

    I’m trying to work out how Helen feels about Sy, at the moment. She’s said she’s always wanted to hunt him, and give him a special hug (which is sort of to be expected from Helen, and sort of a compliment) and she called him a “friend” here (which is also not really surprising, but nice to see from our reptilious cat). But the thing that’s really going through my head is that I’m getting the impression that Helen’s desire to not kill Sy comes more from not wanting Lillian to be upset than it does from not wanting Sy to, well, die. Which I guess makes sense, given the way talked about she talked about liking Lillian in her last viewpoint chapter but still, I kinda hoped there’d be a bit more loyalty.

    • This is how loyalty works for her. Her emotions are inhuman and seriously messed up. The only person she likes that she doesn’t want to kill is Lillian, and she’s confused about that emotion and doesn’t understand it.

      She wanted to kill Sy even before he defected (and I don’t think she cares very much about the defection). She wants to kill Mary. That’s just how she works. She suspends it for the sake of working on the team, and she would miss them after she killed them, but she still wants to feel them break beneath the force of her hugs. Mary was concerned about Helen’s actions several times in this chapter, and she was right to be.

      Helen is likeable and she works well with the team, but she’s truly a monster. Lillian could probably fix some of that, but not when she’s going right back to Ibott.

      • Oh yeah, she’s an adorable little monster who wants to murder the world all right (although definitely less adorable here), but I think it’s fair to say that she has capacity for “warmer” emotions than “oh, wouldn’t it be lovely to pop your still beating heart like a grape?”. Earlier on in the story I was never one hundred percent sure whether I was projecting those more positive emotions onto Helen because of her acting skills/ because I wanted them to be there, but the way she feels about Lillian provides a more concrete proof of that capacity to just like people for the sake of liking them (however tiny that capacity is).

        What I meant was I had hoped that Helen’s warmer, more human feelings toward Sy outweighed her “I want to wear his skin” attitude (even though it’s a mark of respect).

        The impression I’m getting from Helen here, though, is that while what she wants to do – separate from what she’s ordered to do – is avoid killing him, that’s because her “human” desire to avoid making Lillian sad is stronger than the desire to give Sy a comforting hug.

        And that’s lovely, don’t get me wrong, but I’d wanted Helen’s desire to avoid killing Sy and the rest of the Lambs to stem from her valuing them being alive more than she valued a nice satisfying murder (if that desire did indeed exist, which I’ve never been /completely/ certain of). I wanted all the Lambs to cross that minimum threshold of warm feelings, and be protected by a little more than the Academy’s rules (not that I’d ever expect/want Helen to not also feel like a little bit of murdering. She wouldn’t be Helen if she wasn’t vicious underneath everything).

        It’s sort of like… I don’t know. Finding out that the glass is half full, where previously the existence of the glass itself was ambiguous. I’m glad to know Helen’s net desire isn’t to kill Sy, but I wished that that came on Sy’s own merits.

        I mean, I still love Helen to bits and all, but on the cat-reptile scale she’s definitely moving more towards the cold blooded side.

    • I suspect him messing with her and doing damage because he just can’t accept that brains can learn to do the maximum with the minimum to go beyond spec has rather tipped her over the edge in her opinion. She loves some of what he can do for her, but hates that he won’t stop to damn well ask.

      As well as that, she’s got to dump the hormonal surges somewhere: pegging the guy doing it to you for some hate-love is not just a rational move, but a typical response.:/

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