Twig is an alternate history bio-punk web serial story by the illustrious John C. Macrae or as he is more commonly known, Wildbow. Imagine a world where instead of the story of Frankenstein somebody actually wrote a manual explaining how to reanimate corpses. Imagine if this happened in the early 1800s and the biological sciences took off in a big way. Now imagine what 1921 would look like. Reanimated corpses called stitches do most manual labor, artificial life is common, and the society is steered by the transhuman nobility who see the common people as cattle. Fueling all of this are the Academies; hallowed institutions that continually push human knowledge forward and maintain a dangerous monopoly on the biological sciences. Or do they? In the midst of this mess we're introduced to the Lambsbridge orphans, a collection of children who run "errands" for the local academy in Radham. In reality they are all experiments meant to test the limits of certain lines of research.
- Gordan, aka Project Griffon, is an ideal assemblage of parts from different orphans. He's tall, handsome, strong, and all around the best at nearly everything. He's often the face of the party, acting the part of the good, honest boy. Gordon is the closest to being the leader of the group; typically taking charge and directing the others when they need it. He's kind of a foil to each of the other lambs in one way or another.
- Helen, aka Project Galatea, is, to all appearances, the perfect girl, blond curls, flawless skin, and a winning smile. Beneath the surface she's the only one of the orphans who was never remotely human in mind or body. She has multiple hearts, a musculature that leaves her with the same fast twitch strength as a typical girl her size and slow twitch strength easily great enough to crush the life out of somebody twice her size, and the psychology of a non-mammalian ambush predator which is actually completely appropriate. Her interests include learning how to act like a real girl, crushing the life out of people she thinks are strong, and eating sweet pastries. Despite not really having the neural architecture for love she at least values the others as a core part of her identity and has repeatedly shown herself willing to risk life and limb for her friends. Helen is interesting because she could reasonably be called a monster but that doesn't stop her from being a worth while character.
- Jamie, aka Project Caterpillar, is the bookish nerd of the group and with good reason; he has an eidetic memory. Jamie isn't fast or strong or particularly scary but his capacity to remember everything he's ever experienced makes him extremely useful not only as a walking encyclopaedia, but also as the teams GPS, and life logs. To top it all off he's a superb artist who can quickly draw images from memory. He's best friends with Sylvester.
- Sylvester, aka Project Wyvern, has received regular, high doses of an experimental drug, Wyvern. Wyvern makes its users minds more plastic allowing them to learn faster, be more creative, mold their own thoughts and feelings to an otherwise impossible degree. It also tends to overwrite existing memories in the process. As a consequence Sylvester is a boy with no past who can be whoever he wants to be learning and unlearning in weeks, days, and hours what takes most people months, years, and lifetimes. Who would you choose to be if you could be anybody? Sylvester chooses to be obnoxious. If Gordon is the hero, Helen the femme fatale, Jamie the scholar, then Sylvester is the rogue, the clown, and the bastard. A master manipulator, with extremely sensitive instincts around danger, and the abilities to multitask, improvise, and adapt like nobody else Sylvester rounds out any deficiencies the team possesses. Despite his joviality, and devil may care attitude he seems the most afraid to lose friends. He's also the protagonist and point of view character.
- Lillian is a perfectly normal human and Academy student who acts as the team medic. At the beginning of the story she's pretty green and can just barely keep her cool in the life and death situations the team sometimes finds itself in. As someone who isn't an orphan and is only their for the extra credit she's not warmly welcomed by the rest of the team at first. Sylvester picks on her mercilessly.
The team, who become known as the Lambs of Radham or just the Lambs, act as spies for the Academy by rooting out any examples of Academy science not in service to the Crown. They do so not out of any since of duty but simply because they each require Academy science to keep themselves alive and functional. The Academies hold power over more lives than just the Lambs. The lives of everybody from bureaucrats to butchers has been touched in some fashion or another. Trees grow meat, the middle class have stitched house staff servants, and people have their genes edited for cosmetic reasons. Behind all of these changes stand the Nobility, bankrolling the Academies and receiving the best fruits of their effort, divesting themselves of humanity to become stronger, faster, and smarter.
Twig is a story about characters growing up in an unfair world. The Lambs serve an evil empire with the excuse that humanity's hope lies at the end of the Academies's conquest of nature. As the bodies pile up, and it becomes apparent there is no low the Crown won't sink to to extend its power, there excuses fall away. The world they're creating won't be worth living in, but with rebellion being met with swift death at best and the literal strongest empire that ever existed before them is fighting even an option? Would you go along with the enslavement of all life on Earth if it meant the only family you've known gets to live?
Twig was recently completed. It can be found here but I warn you now, this is among the darkest stories I've ever read and the protagonist is morally ambiguous from start to finish. I take no responsibility for any anguish you suffer from reading it.
IRON NODER X: XTREME XCELLENCE