Chapter 57: A Simple Plan

on January 4, 2012 in Volume 2 Book 3: Figments & Fragments, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Ian Goes Undercover

Sunday night, we had a comfortably crowded bed. Ian had needed a couple nights of me to himself to feel completely at home in the room, and now that he was over that I hoped to spend a lot of nights beneath him and Amaranth. I knew she wouldn’t spend every night with us, but Ian didn’t exactly have a better deal waiting for him back in his own room.

Even if he wanted more space to himself, he wasn’t exactly going to find it in the standard bunk compared to his side of the queen-sized four poster bed Amaranth had smuggled in for us, at least in Amaranth’s absence. We were narrow people.

Technically, the room belonged to Amaranth and me, but I had a hard time seeing that way. In some ways, it felt like Amaranth’s room. She’d gone through the trouble and expense of decorating it as an actual bedroom, after all. In other ways, it felt like ours… all of ours. The fact that Ian wasn’t technically part of our suite was only because the university didn’t allow that kind of mixing across gender lines. We’d picked Gilcrease Tower specifically for its co-ed floors, so Ian would be close enough that he could live with us for all practical purposes.

My dreams Sunday night were pretty indistinct, which was a good indication that they were just dreams. All the same, I thought I felt something poking around just outside the edge of my awareness. Though since they weren’t particularly lucid dreams, I couldn’t say if I really felt that or if I dreamed that I did… or if, upon waking, I imagined that I had and then remembered it that way.

Ordinary dreams were such tenuous, malleable things. That was part of what made it so easy for an invading mind to seize control of them, especially since the invader’s mind was almost always more awake by definition… but this also made them susceptible to more mundane powers of suggestion. It would be so easy to fool myself if I got all wrapped up in the possibility of what could be happening.

I had techniques for evicting a presence from my head, though they were only as good as my willingness to use them and in the heat of the moment… more particularly, in the dream-heat of the dream-moment… it seemed like I was too easily distracted to be trusted as the only line of defense. What I needed was some kind of alarm, something that would let me know for certain if my mind was touched while I slept.

Possibly something that could wake me up at the first sign of trouble… as long as I could remove it easily if I started to get sleep-deprived… but even just something that let me know for certain when I woke up normally would help.

Otherwise it seemed like I might go crazy wondering if the things I thought I felt were real, and I would never know if I was doing it to myself or if I was being dancing-lighted by either or both of my nocturnal visitors.

There was one person who I thought could possibly help me there, and I was due to be checking in with her anyway… we’d kept things loose after my last scheduled appointment of the spring semester, with the idea of re-establishing a schedule after things settled down again in the fall. I couldn’t say for sure that things were necessarily “settled”, but the lull between when the semester began and when it started to pick up speed seemed like as good a time as any.

I waited quietly in between Amaranth and Ian until they woke up.

“You sleep okay, baby?” Amaranth said.

“Yeah, mostly,” I said.

“No surprise visitors?”

“I thought the potions took care of that,” Ian murmured, obviously less sleepy than he sounded. Amaranth gave him a something between a light shove and a very slow slap on the shoulder.

“Not that I can tell,” I said. “But I’m not sure.”

Amaranth frowned.

“That could be a problem,” she said.

“Yeah,” I said. “I’m working on a solution.”

“Oh?”

I stopped, because I heard Dee inside the bathroom… or rather, because I heard the water running and nothing else. Like a lot of the students who’d come out of Harlowe Hall, Dee and I shared a mental healer. Theodora Lundegard had gained a reputation for the hard-to-handle cases, which included the difficult ones, the unusual ones, and the hard-to-care-about ones.

“Yeah,” I said. “Excuse me for a second.”

I knocked on the door.

“I apologize, but this chamber is in use but shall be vacated shortly,” Dee said from within.

“I don’t need the bathroom,” I said. “I just wanted to ask you if Teddi knows about the, uh, owl-turtle.”

There was a pause, and then the door opened and Dee came through. She was wearing a floor length dark blue night gown… though I noticed the hem only touched the floor when it was across the threshold from the bathroom to our carpeted one. Telekinesis had its little advantages.

Ian pulled the blankets up over himself. I realized that I was also naked, but it was a little late for modesty. Dee and I had both seen each other naked before, and she didn’t equate it with intimacy.

That didn’t stop me from blushing a bit, but making a big deal out of would have made the whole thing more embarrassing.

“Yes,” she said. “I am uncertain if she believes in its existence as an entity, though she assures me that she believes that I believe in it. It is a peculiarly unreassuring assurance.”

“Well, I might be giving her independent testimony,” I said. “I want to talk to her about ways to be sure if it… or anyone else… is coming and going.”

“It was definitely present in my dreams last night,” she said. “Though perhaps it would be a mistake to assume it can only exist in one place at a time. It has told me in the past that it believes it could replicate itself across multiple minds but chooses not to do so, for fear of losing its ‘specialness’ and creating rivals for itself… but perhaps some intermediate step exists before the full-fledged duplication.”

“No pun intended,” Ian said.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Fledged,” Ian said. “It’s a bird. Ish. Thing.”

“Ah,” Dee said. “I must confess, I do not know what that word means outside of the idiom.”

“…something to do with feathers,” Ian mumbled.

“Fledgling is what a bird is after it’s a hatchling,” I said.

“It’s when a bird is developed enough to fly but still learning,” Amaranth said. “Though I guess full-fledged would be when it gets past that?”

“As… illuminating… as this digression may be,” Dee said, “I believe it is a distraction from the issue at hand. The owl-turtle thing has not been forthcoming on the subject of its interest in you, beyond admitting that it did cross into your mind.”

“What did it say when you asked?” Amaranth asked.

“Its exact words were that it was a private matter and I should direct my inquiries to Mackenzie if I wished to know further,” Dee said. She turned to me. “I believe it was fully aware that we had already discussed the matter and that I was looking for information that you do not possess, though I have enough experience with its games to know that if pressed on that point, it would claim that you and I collectively know all that we need to between us if only we would realize it. It is a most frustrating entity.”

“Have you ever considered giving the damn thing back to Two?” Ian asked. “I mean, if it uses your telepathy to get around, it would basically be stuck there, right?”

“That wouldn’t be fair to Two,” I said.

“Well, it’s not fair to whoever it lands on,” Ian said. “But Two made the thing. If it belongs anywhere, I think it would be her brain. Or mind. Or dreams, or whatever.”

“I weighed that as an option,” Dee said. “But I am uncertain that I could effect a safe and effective transfer on purpose… and I did take the owl-turtle thing into myself when I unwisely attempted to aid her with her dream problems. That I succeeded in that goal in any fashion is an accomplishment I would not undo.”

“Well, as martyr complexes go, that one seems pretty benign, at least,” Amaranth said.

“I also think of the future,” Dee said. “If the owl-turtle thing were returned to Two, it would simply exist in her mind indefinitely. She would be bound to it for the rest of her dreaming existence. Within my mind, there is the chance for progress… be it an evolution into something useful, or a lessening or removal of the burden. And I must confess that the longer I reflect upon it, the less certain I am that removing it would be wholly beneficial.”

“You can’t actually like it,” I said.

“Baby, no one’s completely unlikable,” Amaranth said.

“To the contrary, I believe that may be one of its inherent traits,” Dee said. “If only because its creator felt no fondness for it and her mind shaped it. But as little as I care for it, I believe it can be useful… and it is a new thing.”

“So?” Ian said. “Aren’t there new things all the time?”

“Forgive my imprecise command of an imprecise language,” Dee said. “But, no. It is not a new thing in the sense that a new pair of socks is new, or even in the way that a new type of socks would be. It is a new thing in the way that the first pair of socks ever was.”

“Interesting analogy,” Ian said.

“It is early and I have been engaged in laundry,” Dee said. “My point is that I am coming to the conclusion that to rid the world of the owl-turtle thing would be a… well, it would fall somewhere between a sin and a missed opportunity.”

“Um… have your conversations with it helped you reach this conclusion?” I asked.

“It is a staunch advocate for its own continued existence, but it has never raised this point in its own defense,” Dee said. “The idea originated within my own mind.”

“Um… point of order,” Ian said. “Wouldn’t any idea it had also originate within your mind?”

“Yes, but this one came from me.”

“How can you know for sure?” Ian asked.

“I have been trained from an early age to recognize external insinuations,” Dee said.

“Except this wouldn’t be external,” Ian said.

“When we were dealing with my pitchfork, you told me that when an idea is planted inside someone’s mind, their mind will figure out how to slot it in naturally and then just sort of roll with it,” I said.

“I did say something of that nature,” Dee said, shifting a little uncomfortably… which meant she was really uncomfortable, or else it would have been completely unnoticeable. “But… I do not believe that is the case here.”

“You don’t know, though,” Ian said.

“I believe it to be true, but I will by no means discount the possibility that I could be wrong.”

“Anyway,” I said, “I’m going to talk to Teddi about any kind of external countermeasures I can use.”

“Don’t you think she would have mentioned them when you were dealing with your father?” Amaranth asked.

“Maybe, but I didn’t ask,” I said. “And I was looking for things I could learn because I didn’t have any money to spare. But if my head’s going to be turned into a carriage hub, I think it’d be worth it… actually, I think even just keeping the man out would be worth a few coins. I just didn’t think of stepping things up any until something else changed.” I shrugged. “It’s an idea, anyway.”

“It’s more than that,” Ian said.

“Oh?” I said.

“It’s a plan.”

“I don’t know if I’d go that far,” I said.

“I’m not saying it rises to the level of an intricate multi-layered scheme,” Ian said. “But that’s probably one of its better features, honestly. Less that can go wrong. I mean, Teddi will either be able to help you or she won’t. There isn’t much room for hijinks there.”

“I have to say I can see no fault in your intended course of action,” Dee said.

“Do you have to say it, or must you confess it?” Ian asked. Dee glared at him. “Sorry,” he said. “I’m naked under here, and insecurity makes me feel testy.”

“No pun intended, I am certain,” Dee said. She bowed to him, and withdrew from the room.

“That was rude,” Amaranth said to Ian.

“It’s banter,” Ian said. “I don’t mean anything by it.”

“It’s like what he does with Steff,” I said.

“Right,” Ian said. “Except I don’t mean anything by it.”


Tales of MU is presented this month by Amy Amethyst.


Tales of MU is now on Patreon! Help keep the story going!

Or if you particularly enjoyed this chapter, leave a tip!


Characters: , , ,





33 Responses to “Chapter 57: A Simple Plan”

  1. 3023ogilvyd says:

    I liked the sock analogy. Reminds me of a Simpsons quote.

    “Like a sock maker working on a top secret sock that—”
    “Will you stop staring at your feet!”

    Anyway, quick typo report:
    “It would be so easy to fool myself if I got all wrapped up in the possibility of” –cuts out.

    Current score: 1
    • fka_luddite says:

      I thought that might have been intentional. An ellipsis would have helped.

      Current score: 0
    • Lunaroki says:

      Typo Report

      Technically, the room belonged to Amaranth and me, but I had a hard time seeing * that way.

      Seems to be missing an “it” after “seeing”.

      Amaranth gave him a something between a light shove and a very slow slap on the shoulder.

      Technically the “a” after “him” doesn’t belong, though I could see Mackenzie constructing the sentence that way in her head easily enough. It’s the way a lot of people would do it.

      Amaranth frowned.

      “That could be a problem,” she said.

      “Yeah,” I said. “I’m working on a solution.”

      “Oh?”

      I stopped, because I heard Dee inside the bathroom… or rather, when I heard the water running and nothing else. Like a lot of the students who’d come out of Harlowe Hall, Dee and I shared a mental healer. Theodora Lundegard had gained a reputation for the hard-to-handle cases, which included the difficult ones, the unusual ones, and the hard-to-care-about ones.

      “Yeah,” I said. “Excuse me for a second.”

      ***

      “I apologize, but this chamber is in use but shall be vacated shortly,” she said.

      “I don’t need the bathroom,” I said. “I just wanted to ask you if Teddi knows about the, uh, owl-turtle.”

      The way this passage reads is slightly confusing. I’m pretty sure something got left out between Mack asking to be excused and Dee responding from inside the bathroom. The way it currently reads one might almost think it was Amaranth speaking there instead of Dee, which would be terribly confusing since her manner of speech is much different from Amaranth’s. I’m guessing Mack got out of bed and went over to knock on the bathroom door or something?

      That didn’t stop me from blushing a bit, but making a big deal out of * would have made the whole thing more embarrassing.

      Seems to be missing an “it” before “would”.

      Current score: 0
      • Erm says:

        It confused me as well, but given that Dee can hear every word spoken on the floor (if not the building), perhaps she responded to “excuse me for a second”. It’d be weird, of course, since Dee mostly ignores things not addressed to her, out of politeness.

        Maybe there’s a “Dee?” missing in the dialogue somewhere, or, as you say, a knock.

        Current score: 0
      • Luke Licens says:

        Dropped word alert:
        “It would be so easy to fool myself if I got all wrapped up in the possibility of ”

        Whoops, somebody already caught it. 😛

        Current score: 0
  2. Zathras IX says:

    Everyone should have
    A comfortably crowded bed
    On a Sunday night

    Current score: 1
  3. Tigger says:

    “if I was being dancing lighted by ” – does not make sense to me….

    “As… lluminating… as this digression may be,” – illuminating?

    Current score: 0
    • Lunaroki says:

      Took me a minute to parse that one myself. It’s a reference to the D&D spell Dancing Lights, an illusion spell that creates… lights that… dance in the air. The lights can be manipulated by the caster to confuse, distract or bedevil other characters. Here the name of that spell is being converted into a verb form implying a similar technique.

      Current score: 0
      • Greenwood Goat says:

        Same experience. I did wonder whether a hyphen might help.

        Current score: 0
      • Chris says:

        The verb form (well, in this case the participial form) should be ‘dancing-lighted’, both because that’s the regular way to form verbs from compound nouns and because in this case it aids understanding.

        Also, there appears to be an ‘i’ missing off ‘illuminating’ here: “As… lluminating… as this digression may be

        I adore Dee in this chapter.

        Current score: 0
        • 3023ogilvyd says:

          I actually assumed being dancing-lighted (I agree with the hyphenate form, now that it’s been brought up) was a reference to the technique of being gaslighted, which involves psychological torture at the hands of an unseen malefactor, usually involving surreptitiously changing things about one’s environment, leading the victim to convince herself that she’s going insane.

          Current score: 0
        • zeel says:

          I assumed Dee just pronounced it that way, for some weird cultural reason no doubt.

          (or it’s a typo)

          Current score: 0
        • Sean O'Braun says:

          I agree with the dash. 🙂

          Current score: 0
      • Brenda says:

        Shouldn’t that be “luminating” rather than “lluminating”?

        Current score: 0
  4. Peter says:

    loved the “testy” -no pun intended interchange.

    Current score: 0
  5. Zergonapal says:

    Interesting, so Dee makes analogies based on what she is doing at the time? Is there past evidence of this?

    Current score: 0
    • Eris Harmony says:

      Most people do. It was what was freshest in her mind (outside of the conversation about the owl-turtle thing) so it was the easiest analogy to grab hold of.

      Though I wasn’t aware that Dee wore socks…

      Current score: 0
  6. Prospero says:

    “I stopped, because I heard Dee inside the bathroom… or rather, when I heard the water running and nothing else.”

    Maybe just “I stopped, because I heard Dee inside the bathroom… or rather I heard the water running and nothing else.”

    or rather “I stopped when I heard Dee inside the bathroom… or rather when I heard the water running and nothing else.”

    or else “I stopped, because I heard Dee inside the bathroom… or rather, when I heard the water running and nothing else I knew it had to be Dee.”

    Current score: 0
    • Krey says:

      I was bothered by this sentence as well, though on second reading it does work as is. Having the becausewhen match might make this more easily understandable though.

      Current score: 0
      • Prospero says:

        Maybe, thinking about it the original could have worked without a comma but the agreement of terms with “because” works really well for the flow. I’m not sure I would have thought to mention it but that I’ve been going over my copy of “Strunk and White’s” recently.

        Current score: 0
  7. Riva A. says:

    The possibilities are endless!

    Current score: 0
  8. Leesai says:

    Paragraph 5 appears to be unfinished. Otherwise, great chapter! I loved that they were able to make Dee uncomfortable.

    Current score: 0
  9. Erm says:

    “… insecurity makes me feel testy.”

    “No pun intended, I am certain,”

    …testes? Or was it something else?

    Current score: 0
  10. wocket says:

    “I have to say I can see no fault in your intended course of action,” Dee said.

    “Do you have to say it, or must you confess it?” Ian asked. Dee glared at him.

    …Was Dee supposed to say “I must confess” there?

    Current score: 0
    • I think Ian was making fun of Dee’s speech patterns, saying that she only ever says “I have to say” or “I must confess”, instead of just normally saying it.

      Current score: 0
  11. Krey says:

    hehehehehehehe testy…

    Sorry, mentally I’m still 14.

    Current score: 0
  12. Dave says:

    More than an Idea … less than a Scheme … it’s a PLAN!

    Current score: 1
  13. darius says:

    will there be any stories coming with two being more than mentioned?

    Current score: 0
  14. anon y mouse says:

    “but making a big deal out of would have made the whole thing more embarrassing.” – out of it?

    Current score: 0
  15. Lunchbox says:

    I didn’t receive a notification email about a new chapter 🙁

    Current score: 0
  16. erianaiel says:

    Mackenzie did not realise is, and Amaranth may not have either, but she just gave her owner a huge gift. By getting out of bed and not even realising she was naked, she showed she is one step closer to the ideal that Amaranth lives by.

    Current score: 1
  17. pedestrian says:

    A Plan
    A Man
    Aidan

    Current score: 1