286: Reflecting Poorly

on September 17, 2008 in Book 10

In Which Sooni And Mackenzie Jerk Lee Around

“Oh, shit,” I said, looking at the number of reflections I’d missed. Twenty-three. I hadn’t imagined it.

“What is wrong?” Sooni asked.

“Looks like my lawyer’s been trying to get a hold of me,” I said. I couldn’t imagine who else would have left that many echoes… unless it was Amaranth? Had there been some kind of emergency? I could picture her getting that frantic, if she didn’t know what else to do… actually, as I thought about it, that seemed a little more likely than it being Lee Jenkins. I didn’t know what could have prompted him to try so many times over the course of one night… I mean, had that little impromptu interview really been that bad? If he was pissed, wouldn’t he have left one long rant or something?

Well, there was no sense sitting there speculating when I could find out. As much as I didn’t want to know, I took a deep breath and took the plunge… metaphorically speaking. Well, I took the breath literally. I mean, I literally took a breath.

I invoked the echoes.

The first echo was from the Chester Howell guy, the one from Pendragon and Associates, telling me that Lee was expecting a message about who they’d picked to arbitrate any time now, and he wanted to move forward as fast as possible so I should clear some time on the weekend.

After that, I might have predicted the next echo: an update from Lee.

“Hello, Mack, it’s… five after nine on Friday, Calendula 9th. I guess you’re in class right now, but give me a shout back when you get this. They’ve picked a Philomenes… Philomenes of Utter Hall, called Philomenes the Adjudicator… in case you can’t tell, this guy is an elven oathspeaker. He’s done a lot of work in Prax and the surrounding provinces, so we’ve got a file on him here and I’ve sent around for some more information, but he looks to be acceptable. He has a reputation which I think will be very favorable to us. Well, it should. It might. I’ll tell you what, I’m rambling here. Give me a reflection when you have a chance and I’ll go over it in more detail.”

That was two down, and nothing terrible… only twenty-one left to go.

The next one was also from Lee.

“Mackenzie, I’ve got the TV on and your name’s been coming up,” he said. “Nothing bad, and nothing that’s your fault, but I just wanted to touch base in case you’re watching, too. I know we spoke about this the other day, this situation with Ms. Delia Daella and the newspaper, but if there’s been an arrest I have to advise you to maintain a little bit of distance. You’re not going to help anybody by getting involved in this.”

The next one was him, too.

“Hey, I just saw you on TV… I guess you’re not in class, but you must not have the mirror on you. Listen, I gave it to you for a reason, so please try to keep it with you during the day. What you did at the press conference? That was fine. You don’t have to talk to any reporters, and in fact it’s a good thing if you don’t. You just showed up to support a friend. That’s got no bearing on anything. Of course, Philomenes being an elf… well, we’ll try to hold him to his reputation for fairness. Seriously, though, reflect me back. Please.”

I considered stopping there and reflecting him right away. I could tell him that I hadn’t watched the rest of the echoes because he’d sounded pretty urgent. Would getting it firsthand be better or worse than watching the play of captured images? Before I could make up my mind, the next one came on.

“Just trying you again because they showed you going back to your dorm… I thought you might be in range of the mirror. Hey, your friend has some sense of humor. ‘We don’t know who the father is.’ That’s funny. In all seriousness, though, it’s probably best not to say anything. Anyway, none of this is really important to your case… not compared to them naming the arbiter… and I don’t mean to nag, so I’ll just wait for you to return my reflection, unless something big happens.”

The fact that the reflections continued was a pretty good indicator that something big had happened, from his point of view. I had a couple ideas what might have qualified there… considering that there were eighteen echoes left to go, chances were they were both right.

“Ms. Mackenzie, I’m watching a greater divinity talking about you on INN,” he said in the next reflection. “Let’s talk.”

Something was starting to feel off. I’d only left the mirror behind Friday night, but these echoes had started at just after nine on Friday morning… I’d had the mirror with me. Had I accidentally silenced it somehow? But it wasn’t like I played around with it invoking things at random…

“Ms. Mackenzie, I could see that the woman from Channel 7 ambushed you, but that little interview wasn’t wise. I know it wasn’t directly about your arbitration case, but I’m going to have to advise you to answer any further questions with ‘no comment’ or by directing them to… you know, you get in touch with me and we’ll put together a statement.”

The end of that one reassured me… I’d been starting to worry that Lee Jenkins or his firm was rethinking his involvement. After all, they wouldn’t get paid if I blew the whole thing somehow. The face that came up next was from the Howell guy again.

“Hi, it’s Chester Howell again,” he said. “Lee’s off, uh, screaming… something’s up with our mirrors, so you might be getting a lot of echoes at once, or you might miss them entirely. We’re still figuring things out. Anyway, if you could please return Mr. Jenkins’ reflection at your earliest convenience, he’s got some things he’d like to go over.”

Well, that was a bit of a relief… I was off the hook for the missed reflections, and possibly for my public gaffes. Though, upon reflection… no pun intended… that probably wasn’t the most mature response, to be glad my lawyer couldn’t be mad at me when whatever damage I’d done was still there.

But of course, the lawyer was supposed to be on my side. If the whole world went to hell, I’d want somebody professional-looking to smile and tell me he could fix it, not scold at me from the other side of a desk.

The next reflection took me completely by surprise.

“Miss Mackenzie, this is Loretta Parker, Channel 7… we spoke earlier? I realize your responses were off the cuff and maybe you didn’t come off as well as you might have wanted to. If you’d like to sit down sometime and clarify your answers, go ahead and give me a reflection any time.”

The next one was from another reporter, offering to give me a chance to tell my side as a rebuttal to Channel 7’s coverage. So were the next four. The one after that was Howell again.

“Hello, Ms. Mackenzie, Chester Howell… sorry to contact you so late, but this is just to give you some advance warning… there was a mix-up lifting the veil that had been placed on your mirror, and the filter that was cloaking you from the media may have been lifted. Mr. Jenkins wants you to deactivate the mirror and bring it in for a little check-up. If you could please give us a reflection back from another mirror, that would be great. I repeat, do not use this mirror any more after getting this echo.”

I closed the mirror. The snap was like a sigh of relief… I didn’t have to see what fresh horrors awaited in the last few echoes. They were probably all from reporters…

Relieved as I was, I had to wonder what was with the hard line approach to the compromised mirror… okay, maybe I couldn’t handle media contact but all I had to do was not answer it… I could handle that, right? It also didn’t explain why I couldn’t use the mirror to reach out.

“Hey, can I borrow your…” I started to ask Sooni, but she was already holding it out to me. It seemed she’d heard at least the gist of it. “Thanks.”

“You are welcome,” she said.

“Lee Jenkins, Attorney at Law, Pendragon and Associates, Enwich,” I told her mirror. I didn’t have to wait. There was no swirling fog… his face appeared instantly. It looked like he was in his office. It didn’t look like he’d shaved.

“Uh, hi,” I said sheepishly.

“You aren’t using the mirror we gave you, are you?” he asked.

“No, I borrowed one,” I said.

“Has that mirror been out of your possession for any length of time?”

“I left it in my room overnight when I went out last night, but I had it with me all day,” I said.

“When did you go out?”

“Seven,” I said. “On the dot.”

“And you had it with you at all times before that?”

“I think so,” I said. “Why?”

“Somebody interfered with its operation in a fairly major way, and we’re trying to determine if that happened on your end, or on ours,” he said.

“I didn’t get any of those reflections,” I said. “I watched the echoes, right up until the one from Mr. Howell telling me not to use the mirror… there were a bunch of reporters right before him, by the way.”

“I suppose it was too much to hope that we were the first ones to notice,” he said. “Be specific, though. How many is ‘a bunch’?”

“Six,” I said.

“One or two might have been determined enough to get a rise out of the half-demon after seeing how well that played that they’d sit there plugging away until they suddenly found you,” he said. “But six is a bit too big of a coincidence…”

“Yeah, uh, sorry about that,” I said. “She just kind of jumped out at me, and I didn’t want to be rude… and you didn’t tell me not to talk to reporters, if it wasn’t about my case.”

“Yes, but I did tell you to use your best judgment,” he said.

“But Mr. Jenkins, sir, that was Miss Mackenzie’s best judgment!” Sooni said from off to my side.

“Who’s there with you?” he asked.

“I’m here with Sooni… Ms. Hoshinotama… and, uh, one of her friends,” I said, swinging the mirror around to show him.

“Oh, sweet Khersis, don’t do that to me!” Lee shouted.

“Oops, sorry,” I said, turning it more slowly back to face me. “I forgot you get…”

“Motion sick,” he said. “At this point I’m running on espresso with enhanced caffeine. My poor stomach can’t take it.”

“Sorry,” I said.

“Look, this business with the media and the mirrors is all secondary,” he said, waving his hand. “It’s a distraction. We’ve got our arbiter. We had a little sit-down yesterday, and all the parties are ready to go forward so I’d like to get to work. We can’t actually have you come down right now…”

“The reflection from Howell said you wanted me to bring the mirror in,” I said.

“We did,” Lee said. “Yeah. But we’re having some necessary work done right now, with regards to our communication difficulties, and the office wouldn’t be a comfortable environment for you right now. I can send a courier to the school to collect the mirror…”

“I’m actually in town right now,” I said.

“Oh? Where are you?”

“The Crystal Palace.”

He sucked in his breath.

“Ms. Mackenzie, please don’t take this comment amiss, but I hope you’re not spending big now in anticipation of a payout later,” he said.

“No, I’m not,” I said. “I wouldn’t… I know there are no guarantees.”

“Then I’ll say nothing more about it,” he said. “What are your plans for today? Are you going to be at the Palace for… say… the next half hour?”

“I think we have to check out soon. We were going to go window shopping and get some lunch,” I said, trying to emphasize the word “window”… not that he cared about my spending habits, but I wanted to give some impression of responsibility after my screw up with the Parker woman.

“Do you know when and where you’ll be eating?” he asked. “It’s important we get the mirror back.”

“I don’t really know the town that well, I was just going to see what looked good… but I could just drop the mirror off,” I said.

“That isn’t going to work.”

“I couldn’t just leave it downstairs?”

“Right now, the whole building is warded,” he said. “And there’s divine energy everywhere, to boot.”

“What?”

“I’m really not able to go into that, but it’s important we get that mirror back and get you a clean one,” he said.

“Did somebody curse your mirrors?” I asked. “Or… is it just mine?”

“We’re sorting it out,” he said. “Wait, the Crystal Palace has concierge service…”

“You know, we could always just eat lunch here,” I said. For some reason, the word “concierge” made my stomach go all floppy. I wasn’t the sort of person who dealt with concierges. “You said half an hour?”

“No, this will be so much easier,” he said. “I’ll just give you a billing number to use, and you can have it expressed it over.”

“I… I don’t know, Lee,” I said. “Wouldn’t it be simpler to just have somebody come pick it up?”

“Oh, no, this is very simple,” he said. “You just tell him that you have a package that needs to be delivered to… oh, you aren’t feeling intimidated, are you?”

“I… um… kind of,” I admitted.

“The guy’s there to serve, Mack,” he said. “He’ll spend most of his day dealing with clueless tourists or classless assholes. He won’t bite, or look down his nose at you because you don’t know the right way to send a package, or whatever. You can ask him to recommend a restaurant while you’re at it.”

Right. I would totally be able to pull that off without looking, sounding, and feeling like a gigantic fraud.

“Mack?” Lee said.

“I… I…”

Sooni grabbed the mirror out of my hands.

“Khersis fuck!” Lee swore. Well, it sounded like he’d been having a bad day.

“What is the billing number, please?” Sooni asked pleasantly. She was sitting on the corner of the bed with a pad of paper balanced on her knee. When Lee recovered from the shock, he rattled it off. “And the address?” She took it down as he gave it. “And should it be sent to your attention? Very good. Thank you so much, Mr. Jenkins, sir. I am going to hand the mirror back to Miss Mackenzie now.”

“Well, I guess that’s taken care of,” Lee said. “The university’s going to be sending over an interrogatory… that’s basically a questionnaire they need you to answer. It’s kind of like written testimony. You’ll have to answer them in your own words, but we’ll be going over them together before we send it back. There really isn’t anything else to say right now.”

“In one of your echoes, you said you were going to tell me something about the elf guy’s reputation,” I said.

“Oh, right,” he said. “Philomenes. He’s known for being very a straight forward and down-to-business type. That’s good news for us, in that everybody wants a speedy resolution and he’ll force the opposing counsel to stay on-task and not bring in a lot of irrelevant side issues or file a bunch of pointless motions to try to wear us down, but potentially bad if he feels you’re wasting his time.”

“Why would he feel that way?”

“He has a low level of nonsense tolerance, is what I’m getting at,” Lee said. “Just something to keep in mind. If you and Ms. Hoshinotama can get that mirror sent back, I’ll have a replacement waiting at your dorm when you get back, and we’ll hash out a face-to-face meeting as soon as it’s convenient. In the mean time, just try to avoid reporters…”

“Sorry,” I said.

“No problem,” he said. “Thank Khersis that wa… no, I don’t mean that. But be glad you’re alive, and that most people are talking about something else.” He shook his head. “Over a hundred thousand, they’re saying now…”

“What?”

“Sorry, I got off topic,” he said. “Have you not been watching the news?”

“Yeah,” I said. “But one hundred thousand what?”

“That’s the current estimate,” he said. “They say it’s only going to go up as more information comes in, and we may never have a full count… a lot of the places that were hit don’t have ethernet or television, or linked mirrors.”

“A full count of what, though?”

“The dead, Mack,” he said.

I stared at him.

“Well, we have got so much to do,” he said, “and you’ve got to get checked out, so I’ll let you go. Thanks for returning my reflection. You ladies have a great day.”

“Oh, yeah,” I said, after a couple of seconds. “You, too. Bye.”

He waved off, and I closed the mirror.

“He was wrong,” Sooni said. “He misheard.”

“I know,” I said. I was sure that she was right, as sure as I’d ever been about anything.

“That many people cannot die at the same time,” she said matter-of-factly. “The bridge to heaven is only so wide, and the gods would not permit it to become overcrowded.”

And that was the point at which I realized that Lee Jenkins had likely not been misinformed, after all. I thought of the illusion map, the miles and miles of inhabited coastline, the devastation they’d shown in single cities… I couldn’t wrap my head around it, but I didn’t see how the toll could be any less than he’d said. Not without resorting to childlike logic which said it couldn’t happen, it just couldn’t.

Suzi was standing there looking utterly bemused. Sooni was smiling placidly at me, serene in her belief that only a few thousand lives had been lost in the distant disaster, if that many. I felt… well, it was hard to say what I felt.

Either my mirror in particular or my lawyer’s entire mirror system had evidently been the target of infernal magic. My public pillorying had been forestalled only because of a monstrous upheaval of nature on the other side of the world. What was I doing? I was going shopping with an emotionally stunted fox girl and her feline servant, who was kind of adorable when she wasn’t torturing somebody at her mistress’s behest.

And that was just what was going on at that moment…

Was it too late to start evaluating my life choices a little?


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9 Responses to “286: Reflecting Poorly”

  1. pedestrian says:

    i’m old enough to remember what came before the millennium. But i have noticed that a lot of people have become rather shellshock and numb from all the tragedies these last eleven years.

    What measures each of us is not simply what we each survive but what we make of our lives going forward.

    Current score: 1
  2. MadnessMaiden says:

    I definitely understand how Mack was feeling in that past bit…poor thing. :/

    Current score: 0
    • Arkeus says:

      ‘Poor Thing’? She has been looking for it. Not that she isn’t being pressured by enablers all around, but it’s still her being incredibly dense.

      Current score: 0
      • Pamela says:

        Do you even like this story?

        Current score: 3
        • P says:

          Honestly? No. However it is extremely well written, and the author never does anything without having a purpose. I am finding the main characters to be my least favorite, however this is due to the nature of the beast as it is. The main character is supposed to be weak willed so that the author can put her any situation with ease. This works and it lets the author explore many different volatile topics in the same story. I like this. I don’t like how unrealistic the consequences are for the character. After Mackenzie screws up so many times in what is supposed to be a three week or so period I find it very hard to sympathize with her. At what point do you say, ” Alright. Maybe this time… Think it through before you open your mouth “. I know I am being overly harsh. I am aware that there are reasons for everything she does. It just seems off, and it is difficult to see the Mackenzie that started off in her shell in this oversexed cannibalistic ballistic absent minded self deluding under appreciative class skipping persona she has taken on. P out.

          Current score: 0
          • P says:

            jesus christ, my old comments are disturbing. in my defense i was a closeted trans woman who hadn’t come to terms with myself and was dealing with a very high level of self loathing. i can’t imagine what i was thinking when i wrote this creepy stuff and it feels like an entirely different person than me, but my life choices since writing that comment have established me as being every bit as clueless as mackenzie and my guess is that mackenzie (and steff’s) characters hit a little too close to home and some of my feelings about myself got taken out on this story and my latent interest in bdsm paired with feeling like any sexual feelings made a deviant predator probably didn’t help either.

            anyway, i’m sorry. this story is part of why i’m in a better place in my life now and i really appreciate it. it’s very important to me and i appreciate ae for her work so much.

            Current score: 10
  3. Reader says:

    I just remembered that Mother Khaele made an offhand comment foreshadowing the tsunami. I realized this when Sooni made her “That many people cannot die at one time.” assertion and it reminded me of the goddess counting off deaths.

    Current score: 4
  4. Truth says:

    Shit, I was on the beach in Thailand reading Harry Potter when the 2004 tsunami hit. I spent a month setting up tent villages that people are still living in now. This brought up rather bad memories.

    Current score: 5
  5. fedback says:

    So the pitchfork nos goles around spying on people┬┐

    Current score: 1