Chapter 71: Fragmented Thinking

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

In Which Mackenzie Gets A Piece Of Ian’s Mind

It did take me a while to get to sleep, though I think that had more to do with the fact that it was still on the early-ish side for me than any stress or anxiety. I was glad for Ian’s presence. Now that he’d voiced his own anxiety, he was outwardly calm… his presence kept me centered and grounded, something to focus on besides the fact that I was lying there awake.

When I fell asleep, there didn’t seem to be any time elapsed at all before I started dreaming… or rather, there didn’t seem to be much of a transition from being awake to being asleep and conscious that I was dreaming. I went from feeling fairly alert and awake in bed to feeling fairly alert in a dream, just like that… it felt artificial. I hadn’t done it, which meant that if I wasn’t imagining things than something had imposed it on me from outside.

I wasn’t really comfortable with the thought of either the owl-turtle thing or my father being able to nudge me into sleep, or even deeper sleep. The former would definitely be better than the latter, and could possibly be excused by the fact that it would be facilitating a meeting that I’d asked for… but it still felt like it was pushing a boundary, if not crossing it.

The scene I “awoke” to was an empty room. It was roughly dome-shaped, though polyhedral rather than actually round. The wall faces looked like some kind of dull, dark metal and they were welded and bolted together. It gave the impression of a fortress. There was one spot, as big as a double-doorway, that had been patched over and reinforced.

“I hope you don’t mind that I took the liberty of setting up some basic security precautions,” the voice of the owl-turtle thing said.

I turned around and it was sitting perched on a pedestal that was now in the middle of the space.

“It’s a nice touch, but if dreaming about walls could keep my father out, I’d think Teddi would have suggested that long ago,” I said.

“The walls aren’t the big deal,” it said. “They’re how you’re seeing the big deal. I’ve actually borrowed the technique from Dee. Right now, your mind is a fortress… not as strong as hers would be, of course. Probably not even strong enough to keep a determined intruder out. But strong enough to keep anyone from watching without taking the time to break through in an obvious kind of way, and strong enough to give me enough time to skedaddle.”

“This is subtle arts?” I asked, confused

“If you call adamantine plates and girders ‘subtle’,” it said.

“I was under the impression that you can’t just learn a telepathic skill without having the underlying potential,” I said.

“Well, item one: you’re not learning anything,” the owl-turtle thing said. “More so than usual, I mean”

“Hey!” I said.

“I mean I brought the structure with me and I’m imposing… maybe ‘superimposing’ would be the better word… it on your dream. Item two, you may or may not have any potential to reach out and affect someone else’s mind, but you definitely have the potential to affect your own. Dee’s power means she can project her mind fortress out over a whole area around her.”

“So this is something I could learn to do on my own?” I asked

For the first time, I began to really see how the owl-turtle thing could actually help me, beyond its own somewhat vague notion of doing reconnaissance… when I’d made up my mind to seek it out, it had been with the thought that it couldn’t hurt to ask and that having it around would keep the more unwanted guest nervous.

“Sure, it would be as easy as learning how to build a model castle blindfolded and with no sensation coming from your hands,” it said. “The pop-psi version is that you just think ‘brick wall, brick wall, brick wall’ and you can keep telepaths out, but that only foils people reading your surface thoughts, and it doesn’t actually stop them from doing that, it just leaves them disappointed if they wanted to learn anything other than what you think a brick wall looks like. Or how the words sound in your head, depending on your thinking style. The point is that actually building a wall requires you to be aware of and sensitive to the material you’re building it out of.”

“Is there any way you could leave the pattern in my mind?” I asked.

“It’s not self-sustaining,” it said. “I’d have to take up permanent residence in your mind, and even then I could only assert it when you’re asleep.”

“Even that might solve the immediate problem,” I said. “And it wouldn’t have to be permanent residence.”

“Wouldn’t necessarily be up to me or you,” it said. “Dee’s all ‘my burden is my own’ about me right now, but I don’t necessarily want to give up my perch in her mind long enough for her to reconsider. She might decide that it’s a blessing or the will of her goddess, and then I’d be stuck. Not that I have anything against attaching myself to you, but I’ve got bigger plans for the future. I want to stay mobile.”

“You aren’t… doing something to her to make her want you around, are you?” I asked. That didn’t seem like its style, but I mostly had Dee’s own word to go on as to what was and wasn’t its style.

“Just being my lovable old self,” it said. “It’s just my luck that she’s a big enough martyr that the less she wants me around, the more she thinks she needs to hold onto me to keep others from suffering. And before you get your lack of feathers ruffled, I’ve been trying to show her that’s a load of malarkey since I showed up. You may be a masochist, but she’s got a real jones for suffering.”

“I wouldn’t call them masochism. I can enjoy pain and humiliation,” I said. “I don’t enjoy suffering.”

“No, it’s just a hard habit to break.”

Actually being in the presence of the owl-turtle thing, I found it a lot harder to set aside my dislike for it than it had been in the heat of the moment in my previous dream. I remembered what Dee had said about dislike being part of its nature, but knowing that didn’t lessen the feeling or make it any easier to ignore it.

Working with the thing could prove tricky, I realized.

“If it helps,” it said, “remember that liking and trusting aren’t the same thing. You can like someone without trusting them. You can trust someone without liking them. If nothing else, you can trust someone to be true to their nature.”

“I don’t know what your nature is,” I said.

“Well, you know I’m mostly the product of minds that you trust,” it said.

“Two’s probably the most trustworthy person I know,” I said. “But you said it: people can be trusted to be true to their natures. Two’s nature is… I don’t want to say ‘limited’ and I don’t want to say ‘different’. Well, if it came to it, I wouldn’t necessarily trust myself to accidentally create a persistent dream-entity that would do me no harm. And Two… she has her own way of understanding things. It works, but it can lead her to some interesting places.”

“She’s very straightforward,” it said. “You know that.”

“But she doesn’t seem to have any better of an understanding of you than we do,” I said. “Isn’t that weird? You’re so… unlike her.”

“She was trying to make something she didn’t understand,” the owl-turtle thing said. “She did a good job. She put all the parts of herself that she didn’t understand… like the functions that her creator inhibited or buried… into me.”

“So you could be a bunch of negative impulses,” I said. “She doesn’t go around killing people. She doesn’t play cruel tricks on her friends.”

“When I said ‘all’… figure of speech,” the owl-turtle said. “When somebody offers you all that you’ve ever wanted, you don’t assume they mean every stray desire that crossed your mind ever. She put parts of her mind that she didn’t understand into me.”

“Did that remove them from hers?”

“Not so you’d notice,” it said. “She was pushing them away, but no more so than she normally does. You know, Dee’s right about the language thing. I can communicate a concept much better in her mind than in yours… when she’s not dreaming in Pax.”

“This is kind of interesting… ish… but it still isn’t giving me a real handle on what you are,” I said.

“Why not judge me by the things I do?”

“Like reading my mind?” I said. “You chimed in awfully quick when I was thinking about how much I like you”

“Reading?” it said. “No. I’m standing in it. Noting your mood is no more invasive than noticing the color of the wallpaper.”

“That can be pretty invasive, depending on what room it’s in and how you got there.”

“Look, lady, you called me,” it said. “And don’t think I don’t appreciate it. Being summoned, I mean. It’s a step on the road to major entityhood. It’s acknowledgment, if nothing else.”

“I’m not planning on making a habit of it,” I said, with a touch of deja vu

“You weren’t planning on calling me the first time,” it said. “It seems like you’re doing an awful lot of not planning lately.”

My own words had already stirred the memory of my early morning conversation with Agent Kent. This didn’t make me more receptive to the owl-turtle thing’s analysis of them, though. If it wasn’t completely off-target, it was just telling me what I already knew.

“I’m taking some initiative,” I said. “I might not be doing a lot of long-term planning, but plotting out a route before I figure out how to steer doesn’t make sense.”

“No argument from me,” the owl-turtle thing said. “But if that’s how you feel, maybe you shouldn’t make so many bold pronouncements about what you’re not going to do. It seems to me that saying you’ll never do something is about as long-term a course of action as you could hope for.”

“Technically, it’s a course of inaction,” I said.

“Saying what you won’t do is another way of framing what you will do,” it said. “Anyway, you want a token of my goodwill? Let me introduce you to an ally.”

“You have allies?” I said.

“You do,” it said. “Turn around.”

I did, thinking that it needed privacy for some reason… but I found myself looking into the face of Ian, about six inches in front of mine. I yelped and jumped backwards, and he did the same thing.

“What’s he doing here?” I said

“Happy to see you, too,” he said.

“Call this a token of my goodwill,” the owl-turtle thing said.

“I can dream of Ian on my own,” I said

“But do you?” it said.

“What?”

“Never mind,” it said.

“It’s got a point, babe,” Ian said.

“When do you ever call me ‘babe’?” I asked

“Okay, you’ve got me there.. but I’m not sure I’m a dream,” Ian said. “Okay, from your point of view, you could be dreaming I’m saying that. But from my point of view… I have a point of view. I don’t think dreams are supposed to have that. But I don’t have a real clear memory of how I came here, and the last… well, a lot of stuff I do remember seems like it’s from your point of view. Okay, probably am a dream, come to think of it. Also, don’t think I drop pronouns that often. Don’t remember doing that.”

“You’re quicker on the uptake than I’d expected,” the owl-turtle thing said.

“It’s weird to remember things from someone else’s point of view,” Ian said “It stands out.”

“I wouldn’t know,” the owl-turtle thing said.

“So this is a dream,” I said. “I mean, he is a dream”

“The night we met, I told you there might be some permanent side effects to the connection you forged with Ian,” it said. “This is one of them.”

“You mean there are others?” Ian asked. “Uh, that might be something we.. she… should know about.”

“I mean there might be others,” it said. “But you are definitely here because of one. That night, your auras overlapped in a way that there’s a little piece of you inside each other.”

“So, wait,” Ian said. “Does that mean we’ve been affecting each other’s thoughts all along?”

“Not more than usually,” the owl-turtle thing said. “An aura isn’t a mind. Normally it would be completely dormant… you people actually pick up bits of aura everywhere you go, or so Dee sees.”

“If an aura’s not a mind, what exactly is… Ian?” I asked. “I mean this Ian.”

“You’ve gone over the brain/mind divide before, right?” the owl-turtle thing said.

“To the extent of knowing that the mind is not the brain, though I’m not clear on what it is,” I said.

“The brain is physical, the mind is mental, the aura is spiritual. Ish. The tribunal’s out on whether or not it’s the soul. The point is, you exist in these three spheres, and the ‘body’ you have in each sphere is like an echo of the others. Necromancy can animate an empty body with a semblance of its personality after the mind is gone. A mind can project an image of a body on the astral plane. Or in dreams. All I’m doing is using your dreaming mind to coax an image of Ian… body and mind and all… from the fragment of his aura. It’s a little trick I learned from Dee. Again, she’s better at it. There are holes in who he should be, and your mind’s patched them at random. But he’s mostly Ian.”

“Is he… I mean, will the real Ian remember this?” I asked.

“No,” it said.

“Are you sure?”

“Do you have any recollection of coming to Dee’s rescue with a flaming lance thing from the back of a motorcycle?” it asked me.

“When did you do that?” Mostly Ian asked.

“What? Never,” I said. “Not that I remember, though it sounds like something I’d love to do… that would pretty much have been the coolest moment of my life.”

Shame it happened to someone else,” it said. “Then he won’t remember this. But you can tell him that he helped. Maybe it’ll make him feel better.”

“Fuck you, too,” Mostly Ian said.

“Hey, I’m trying to help!” the owl-turtle thing said.

“Let’s back up,” I said. “The thing you were talking about with the motorcycle… that was when Dee was possessed by the pitchfork fragment, right? And I… the dream or remnant or whatever of me… was able to physically fight?”

“Not necessarily effectively, but you made an impressive distraction.”

“What you told me before is that I’m not a lucid enough dreamer to really impose my will on things,” I said. “That’s why I’ve never bothered to assert myself to summon a weapon or something to attack my father… I figured he’d have enough control to ignore it and I’d just look stupid.”

“You got that right,” it said. “I mean about not being likely to affect him with your dream of a staff. You could open up a pit under his feet but he wouldn’t dream of falling into it.”

“So to speak,” Mostly Ian said.

“Listen, the longer I stay anchored to her mind, the more in love I’m going to be with obvious wordplay,” the owl-turtle thing said. “It’s just… one of those things.”

“But in Dee’s head… figment-me was able to do more, because it was Dee’s head?” I said. “The idea came from me, obviously, but she was the one… giving it structure?”

“Yes,” the owl-turtle thing said.

“So if you can bring Dee’s skills or discipline or whatever it is that lets her do that to build a wall around my mind or bring forth a person from their aura… you could do the same thing for that,” I said. “If you were here the next time my father showed up, you could give me a weapon.”


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29 Responses to “Chapter 71: Fragmented Thinking”

  1. Iain says:

    That is a brilliant point. Although maybe it wouldn’t work because she would have to believe that it would work. Actually, if she believed the owl-turtle-thing could do it, that belief might in turn strengthen it, making it more of an mobie entity!

    …or I could have no idea what I’m talking about. Brilliant chapter!

    Current score: 0
  2. pedestrian says:

    A.E.
    I am fascinated {classical & modern meaning} by this developing hypothesis of interpreting the structure of personality.

    Your genius is imagineering concepts coherent to the canonical structure of the MUniverse cosmology.

    And skillfully write these ideals to be comprehensible to us, your readers, whose presumptions of worldview are based on a materialist/mechanical cosmology.

    I find it a joy to read such intellectually challenging writing.
    That also appeals to my emotional and spiritual levels.

    Current score: 0
  3. Maahes0 says:

    “Not more than usually,” the owl-turtle thing said.

    should be usual, I think.

    Great chapter.

    Current score: 0
  4. Greenwood Goat says:

    Interesting. And just as well that our strigichelonian is inclined to be friendly. When it explained how Mostly Ian had been created, I immediately recalled (and adapted) that line from The Lawnmower Man.

    “Dream Puddy is in your head now!”

    Horrors! Thinking about it, there will be lots of parallels between The Lawnmower Man and The Owl-Turtle Thing, the main themes being building ability and conquering virtual reality.

    Current score: 0
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      well, all things considered, Puddy in http://www.talesofmu.com/story/book05/123 might be ok (ish) in a situation between mack and mack daddy. Lesser of two evils and all that.

      wow these are good meds I’m on. Ignore me, I think I’m incapacitated.

      Current score: 0
      • Zukira Phaera says:

        of course I’m only meaning before Puddy tried to get in Mack’s pants.

        Current score: 0
  5. Zathras IX says:

    “I’ll see you in my
    Dreams” may not always be a
    Reassuring phrase

    Current score: 0
  6. Iain says:

    OH! Ohhh if there were ever an excuse for Mackenzie to wield a technological weapon like a machine gun or something from MechKnights, this would be it!!
    It’d be like that scene in Buffy where she pulled out the rocket launcher against the medieval demon! >:-D

    Current score: 1
    • Alico says:

      The Judge: You’re a fool. No weapon forged can stop me.
      Buffy: That was then…
      [pulls out a rocket launcher]
      Buffy: … this is now.
      [Angelus & Drusilla run for cover]
      The Judge: What’s that do?

      Ok, blast from the past, I love that scene.

      On the chapter, really like this dream stuff. It is good fun to read right before going to sleep =D

      Current score: 1
  7. readstospouse says:

    I would keep owl turtle thing as far from mackdaddy as possible.

    He’s clearly psychic and ancient, if he knows any way to suck it into his own mind it will rapidly pick up traits much more sinister than love of obvious wordplay.

    Current score: 1
  8. Anthony says:

    Didn’t Mack want to ask the ROTT about what Mack Daddy did with the pitchfork?

    Current score: 0
  9. Christy says:

    Ooh, I can’t wait to ‘see’ the look on Mackdaddy’s face when he sees and feels her hit him with a mental weapon! Go, go, go! Write!

    Current score: 0
  10. Matarael says:

    Somehow, I see things ending badly for Mack if she attacks The Man with a mental weapon. Like, “take matters into his own hands” badly.

    Current score: 0
    • Anvildude says:

      Then again, she’s been taking lessons from Coach “Godkiller” Callahan lately, and though she might not be up to slaying deities quite yet, she’d probably be able to hold her own for long enough to reassert control or at least wake up. And do you honestly think MackDaddy wouldn’t be absolutely blindsided by his ‘daughter’ having actual weapons training?

      Current score: 0
      • Oni says:

        The only reason Mack has any weapons competence is because of her half-demon traits. Against someone with equal/greater innate skills (and many more years using them) I think MackDaddy would shove that little “stick” of hers where the sun don’t shine.

        Current score: 0
  11. Kallio says:

    “I can dream of Ian on my own,” I said

    “But do you?” it said.

    “What?”

    Ouch. Awkward.

    Current score: 0
  12. Lunaroki says:

    Typo Report

    Forgive me if any of these have already been reported but I just don’t feel like reading through all 70 comments before I post these tonight to see if someone already beat me to them.

    EDIT: Okay, there were only 17 comments. The 70 was the chapter number. Teach me to assume just because a caught a glimpse of a number around where I expected one that it’s the number I needed to look at.

    I hadn’t done it, which meant that if I wasn’t imagining things than something had imposed it on me from outside.

    Classic “then/than” swap.

    “More so than usual, I mean”

    Missing period at the end of the sentence.

    “I’m not planning on making a habit of it,” I said, with a touch of deja vu

    Missing period at the… Whoa. Deja vu.

    “Uh, that might be something we.. she… should know about.”

    One too few periods after “we”. Might wanna get that period key looked at.

    Current score: 0
    • Oni says:

      Is it just me, or is 17 comments getting oddly low? It’s been a while: is there some school-related reason this time of year, or something?

      Current score: 0
      • Zukira Phaera says:

        there was widespread tornado warnings/happenings in the states about the time this was posted if I’m not mistaken.

        Current score: 0
        • Oni says:

          Aaahh, thanks. I live in a state where we’ve only ever had one noticeable earthquake in my lifetime, and the strongest hurricanes are known to be “a little windy”.

          Current score: 0
      • Ducky says:

        It is midterms, as well. Also, I just don’t see a terrific amount in this chapter to comment on besides the usual glowing praise for AE and excitement for the next installment.

        Current score: 0
  13. Readaholic says:

    Could be the tornadoes. Or other stuff. It was fun being reminded of Dee’s encounter with the demon fragment. Now I have this wonderful vision of Mackdaddy getting impaled and run over (at the same time, this is in her dreams) by Mack on her motorbike with her flaming lance. Oh, and the motorbike has sooo got to have flames like Ghost Rider. And look like the Dean’s motorbike in The Pratchett Portfolio. Maybe a fusion of Ghost Rider motorbike and Dean’s motorbike…

    Keep this up, AE, and you’ll have me posting bad fan art on DeviantArt, you know. And that will lead to bad MSue fanfic of MU, and I’m trying to spare the world my God/Purity/Relationship/Fixer/Mary Tzu Fanfic – and now I just wasted hours in TV Tropes.

    Current score: 0