Chapter 70: Mission Control

on February 25, 2012 in Volume 2 Book 3: Figments & Fragments, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Mackenzie And Ian Grapple On The Loveseat

“Do you mind if we just lie here for a bit?” Ian asked after a while, and though I didn’t seem to have the words in my mouth to tell him so just yet, I really didn’t mind at all.

The floor wasn’t really comfortable or uncomfortable… it was just the floor. The carpeting kept it from being too hard. The fact that it was the floor kept it from being too soft. The fact that it was in our room and at least superficially shut away from the world made it feel secure.

The closeness of Ian helped there, too.

“I hope you don’t mind… you know… doing all this, now,” he said. “I mean, I know you said you don’t want to put your life on hold, but… well, it would be understandable if you did.”

“Is it understandable that I don’t?” I said.

“Perfectly understandable,” Ian said. “But it’s easier to go ahead and do something after not doing it than it is to take it back afterwards. Anyway, I believe you when you tell me what you want. If i was interested in hedging my bets, I wouldn’t be, you know, planning a campaign like that.”

I had to concede that. This was the second time he’d seeded a longer-term activity into our private time together.

“That’s true,” I said, because sometimes it was nice to actually tell people when you conceded a point to them. “But then why do you keep asking?”

“Principle of the thing,” he said. “Harder to take back, et cetera. Anyway, I’m glad that you’re up for it now, when the school stuff hasn’t really started heating up yet… later on we might be dealing with any number of new random crazy happenstances with assorted relatives and entities, but we’ll also have essays and midterms and crap like that.”

“Right,” I said. “So we might as well get in the fun times now, while we still have the chance.”

“If you want to look at it that way,” Ian said. “But I’m thinking we need to get in the habit now while we have the time, so later on it’ll be easier to just keep things rolling.”

“I admire your optimism,” I said.

“Hey, I’m not suggesting we do anything we haven’t done before,” Ian said. “But since we’ve done it all before, we might as well try doing more of it at once.”

I giggled at the images that called to mind… okay, I wasn’t capable of acrobatic feats of carnal whateverness, but as long as Ian didn’t mind taking me from behind I could probably find a position that let me lean over a desk.

“Oh, you know what I mean,” Ian said.

“I do,” I said. “And I have my doubts but I’m looking forward to facing the challenge. Do you mind if we move to the bed, or at least the couch, though? I’m starting to get enough feeling back in my legs enough to know that they’re going numb.”

“Yeah, let’s shift to the couch,” Ian said.

He had to help me to my feet, and then I had to help him not fall over. If we had been any farther from the loveseat, we probably would have just fallen over, but as it was, we managed a soft landing.

“Good thing you weren’t eager to get me into bed,” I said.

“I’m not eager to move on to the part of the night where you go to sleep and some hybrid bird thing or maybe your demonic father crawls into your head and you have to face them down and deal with them on your own,” he said. “And no, it’s not that I don’t think you can handle yourself, and no, I don’t know what if anything I would be able to do that you couldn’t. But you shouldn’t have to go alone, and you do, and that kills me.”

“Ian, I didn’t realize,” I said. “You never said anything before…”

“I know,” he said. “But it hasn’t been an immediate concern for a while… it bothered me before, but it was something that only came up occasionally and unpredictably, so it was harder to worry about it. Now it seems more like a big ongoing thing. I just hate not being able to do something.”

“Telling me that you’d come with me if you could is doing something,” I said. “I mean, if you think about it, it’s basically the same thing as going with me and then not being able to do anything. It’s moral support.”

“Yeah, that’s what you tell the guy who’s otherwise useless,” Ian said.

“If making people feel better is useless, then I think we both just wasted a lot of time,” I said.

“If saying ‘honey, you know I’d love to be there for you if I could’ makes you feel like that, then we definitely did,” Ian said.

“You know what I mean,” I said.

“Likewise,” he said. “Mackenzie, you’re trying to rationally argue away my irrational emotional response. That’s not going to lead anywhere good.”

“So you know there’s no rational reason for you to feel useless?” I asked.

“Well, I figured there was about an even fifty-fifty chance that the feeling was being caused by one of the completely rational emotions, but I flipped a coin and it came up tails,” Ian said. “Admitting that something is an emotional response doesn’t actually make it go away.” He sighed. “And now we’re back to bickering about semantics again.”

“I wouldn’t really call it bickering about semantics so much as… hey, it’s a joke!” I said when I felt him tensing. You know you’ve spent a lot of time in someone’s arms when you can feel them wincing. “Just a joke.”

“The fact is… I’m scared, Mackenzie,” Ian said. “Every time you go to sleep, you could be facing serious danger.”

“Serious annoyance,” I said. “Whatever my father’s agenda for me is, I don’t think it involves killing me. I mean, the fact that he has an agenda for me suggests that he wouldn’t.”

“But that agenda doesn’t necessarily involve your mind and body being in the same place,” Ian said. “I mean, if he wanted to minimize the amount of other influences in your life, then maybe popping your soul into a jar and taking it back to his, I don’t know, lair or whatever… maybe he decides that’s the best move.”

“That would take some serious magic,” I said.

“Which he might have. Anyway, are you a hundred percent sure it would?” Ian said. “Or is it something he could be able to just do from inside your mind? No offense, but you have to figure his mind is stronger than yours, and you’re probably not the first person he’s invaded… he might know things that you don’t.”

“He might… but that’s still kind of a leap,” I said. “The owl-turtle thing seems to have the, uh, birdish-eye view on all this and it hasn’t mentioned any possibilities like that.”

“But it doesn’t know everything,” Ian said. “And here’s something that’s not a leap… possession. You know demons can do it. What if he decides that the easiest way to get your life in order to his satisfaction is to just grab the reins? He’s already there. And I’m not an expert, but the stories say that blood ties make it easier.”

“That’s true, as far as I know,” I said. My grandmother had kept me isolated from her work as an exorcist and curse-breaker, but I’d picked up some of the basics, including the time-sensitive nature of a demonic possession. “It’s not so much ease of access as duration… a body will eventually burn itself out trying to throw out an alien mind… and with a demon riding a human that doesn’t take long, relatively speaking. When the host has something in common with the possessor, it smooths things out. That’s why formerly-mortal possessing spirits tend to follow their own descendants.”

“There you go. You have a half-demon mind and you’re his daughter… so he could probably wear you like a suit and just walk around,” Ian said.

“I don’t think it’s that simple,” I said. “It would be safer and he could probably suppress the symptoms for longer, but… I’m still half not-demon. I’m still not enough him.”

“He could still take hold of you long enough to walk you into the woods and make you disappear,” Ian said.

“But he’s been happy to try to talk me around so far.”

“And look where that’s been getting him,” Ian said.

“Why change things now?”

“Because things are changing,” he said. “Escalating, from his point of view. You’re making mysterious alliances, something’s poking around his defenses, and now you’ve gone and dropped a delayed blast fireball in his lap.”

“Unless he somehow has a mole at Law watching one specific agent, I doubt he knows anything about that,” I said.

“Or he’s got some kind of watch on your grandmother,” Ian said.

“I really kind of doubt that,” I said. “I mean, he’s been in hiding for decades, maybe centuries.”

“Which gives him all kinds of time to get good at keeping tabs on people who might threaten him, surreptitiously,” he said.

“You’re giving this a lot of thought,” I said.

“Thinking about it’s the only thing I can do about it,” he said. “And honestly, at this point I’d stop that if I could. Besides, whether he knows what you’ve done or not, you left him with the impression that you were doing something… that you’d do anything. It doesn’t seem impossible that he’d do some anything of his own, in return.”

“Okay, it isn’t impossible,” I said. “But I can still wake myself up if I have to. In fact, I will, at the first sign of him. No eating around the bush, or giving him a chance to explain. Total shutdown. Maybe that will convince him that things are back to what passes for normal.”

“Maybe,” Ian said. “Just remember that you’re dealing with a killer. We don’t know much about what he can do to you in dreams, but we have some idea what he’s capable of.”

“Well… I do think he was responsible for my mother’s death,” I said. “And Kent said he kills on a nearly yearly basis. I don’t know how reliable his information is, but… demon. Hanging out on the material plane for centuries. That’s going to take a lot of human life to sustain. So, yeah, I guess ‘some idea’ covers it. But again, I don’t think he wants to kill me. He has plans, and even if they don’t involve any actual harm for me… they’re not what I want. He’s not what I want.”

Ian let out a breath.

“Obviously it’s up to you,” he said, “but I think maybe we shouldn’t put it off any longer. I mean, who knows if he lies in wait for you to fall asleep, or if he just waits until the wee hours to be sure, or if he somehow knows when you’re going under… but it seems like you’ve got the best chance of having some face-time with the owl-turtle thing without his interference if you go to sleep earlier.”

“Great… you know, there’s nothing like a little pressure to perform to help me drift gently off on a wave of slumber,” I said.

“If it happens, it happens,” Ian said. “Laying down sooner might lead to sleeping sooner, but you can’t control everything. You do what’s in your power to do and you just… deal with the rest as it happens. Or as it doesn’t. Whichever.”

“You sound a lot more sanguine about that than you did when we first sat down,” I said.

“That’s because I’m talking about you,” Ian said. “It’s fine if you can’t control everything.”

“I have supernatural strength and semi-infernal fire,” I said. “What’s the worst thing that can happen if you lose control?”

“I grow up to be an asshole,” Ian said.

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22 Responses to “Chapter 70: Mission Control”

  1. Ace says:

    Lovely pillow talk–or not. I love the shift from not being eager for the things that happens in Mackenzie’s dreams to happen to thinking that going to sleep earlier might be more prudent.

    Also, since I probably haven’t mentioned this before, I love that Ian doesn’t call her Mack.

    Current score: 0
  2. bangle says:

    Wow. I just totally identified with Ian with that last line. Somehow, reading him voice so clearly one of my own greatest fears (growing up to be an asshole like my father) really hit me. I think I’ve gain some insight into, not only Ian, but myself. Thanks AE. 🙂

    Current score: 2
  3. Anne says:

    Love the chapter. Noted the following typos…

    If i was interested in hedging my bets, I wouldn’t be, you know, planning a campaign like that.”

    If I

    No eating around the bush, or giving him a chance to explain.

    No beating… though it sort of works this way too 😛

    Current score: 0
    • Da9iel says:

      “Eating around the bush.” I just thought that’s what everyone says in this MUniverse.

      Current score: 0
      • cnic says:

        Sometimes it is really hard to tell when AE makes a mistake because she uses so much word play because it could be intentional.

        Current score: 0
      • Daezed says:

        I giggled out loud in public at that line.

        Current score: 0
      • Krey says:


        Current score: 1
      • Eric M. says:

        Maybe it’s a Freudian slip?

        Current score: 0
    • Lunaroki says:

      Typo Report

      I’m starting to get enough feeling back in my legs enough to know that they’re going numb.”

      Seems to be one too many “enough”s in this sentence. Of course being spoken text it may be that’s just how Mack said it, but she doesn’t strike me as the type to say something like that without going back and correcting herself after she did.

      Current score: 0
      • fka_luddite says:

        Try “I’m starting to get enough feeling back in my legs – enough to know that they’re going numb.”

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    • Justme says:

      I think some people do enjoy eating the bush and not just around it … ;P

      Current score: 1
  4. Zathras IX says:

    Possessing spirits keep it
    In the family

    Current score: 0
  5. anon y mouse says:

    “If i was interested in hedging my bets” – If I were interested?

    “I’m starting to get enough feeling back in my legs enough to know that they’re going numb.” – to get enough feeling back in my legs to, or to get feeling back in my legs enough to? (I think one enough is enough.)

    “I don’t know what if anything I would be able to do that you couldn’t” – commas around if anything, maybe, or maybe don’t know of anything?

    “It doesn’t seem impossible that he’d do some anything of his own, in return.” – I think ‘some anything’ is on purpose, but I’ll mention it just in case it isn’t.

    Current score: 0
    • Zergonapal says:

      The domain seems to have lapsed and I don’t think AE is concerned with finishing those stories at this time.
      But hey it saves you some pain, it was getting quite interesting when AE dropped it so you don’t have to experiece the frustration of wondering what happened next :

      Current score: 0
  6. SilentSooYun says:

    “You’re making mysterious alliances, something’s poking around his defenses, and now you’ve gone and dropped a delayed blast fireball in his lap.”

    This quote amuses me greatly.

    Current score: 0
  7. pedestrian says:

    Thanks Alexandra,

    This chapter answers some of the questions about Mackenzie’s and Ian’s relationship that I have wondered about. I agree your word play c’est magnifique!

    A question for other fans. As a newcomer to the A.E. literati, I have been attempting to track down all the different stories. The one I have not been able to access is the 3Seas. The links all lead to and that only leads me to a page of advertising links.

    If anyone has a recently successfully accessed those stories, please post the link on here.
    I will be checking back as my schedule permits.

    Thank you A.E. and thank you readers whose insights challenge me.


    Current score: 1
  8. K-Li says:

    And this is why I like Ian so much better than Amaranth. Marvelous.

    Current score: 0
  9. Asimov says:

    The redundancy may be intentional, but “an even fifty-fifty chance” is, well, redundant. Or it’s a reference to different laws of probability in MU-land that I don’t understand.

    Current score: 0
    • Zergonapal says:

      I dunno, I think that phase has occured before in other literature and Mack would be the sort of person to say that.

      Current score: 0
  10. qwert says:

    No eating around the bush,

    ha, something else on your mind there? 😉

    Current score: 0
  11. pedestrian says:

    Thanks for the heads up Zergonapal, you’re a real zpal.

    I have run into this before, it is frustrating when I become committed to a storyline and it evaporates.
    I still have such a hunger for more H. Beam Piper and the early Jack Vance and more of the Heinlein juveniles and on & on & on!

    We the fans need to be patient and understanding, the authors/artists/composers we follow have their own lives
    and their own issues/conflicts/interruptions/emergencies.

    As you poli-science majors have learned, there is nothing more permanent as “temporary measures to deal with a temporary emergency”.

    Hopefully Alexandra will assemble and publish an anthology
    of all her different projects. Then I can catch up and
    enjoy all of the body of work of her creative genius.

    Current score: 0
  12. Mickey Phoenix says:

    ““I have supernatural strength and semi-infernal fire,” I said. “What’s the worst thing that can happen if you lose control?”

    “I grow up to be an asshole,” Ian said.”

    Dead on target, AE. You just gave me a serious moment of Ian-identification there.

    Current score: 2