454: Local Weather

on July 31, 2010 in Book 16

In Which The Truth Is Veiled

I went back outside to tell my “bodyguards” about the news and found Pala fuming under a tiny storm cloud, a short distance away from where Steff sat on a stone bench, who was managing to look both proud of herself and frustrated at the same time.

“You!” Pala said when I came out. The cloud dissolved, though the demi-giantess was already drenched from its downpour. I wondered what the water would do to her nice sweater, and how she could be comfortable with it plastered against her skin like that. “I will guard your body, but I am not doing anything with her body.”

“Um… what’s wrong?” I asked.

“Why are you staring at my bosoms?” she asked.

“I’m not!” I said. “I was… concerned about your sweater.”

“Oh,” Pala said. She glanced down. “Oh! I rained on it… do you see what you made me do now?”

When I saw her reaching down and grabbing the bottom of the shirt, I had a single brief, glorious vision flashing through my head of her peeling it off in one fluid motion to reveal first a flat, well-toned stomach and then… well, the vision didn’t last that long before reality informed me that she was awkwardly wrestling the sodden garment off, to reveal an only slightly damp white blouse underneath.

“My uncle warned me about people like her,” Pala continued. “Well… not people just like her. I do not think Uncle Hallbjorn has ever heard of people like her. But he has heard of other people who behave like people like her, and he warned me about them, and I think his warning would be a good one for people like her as well.”

“That’s about the fifth time she’s said that,” Steff said. “The first two times she repeated it, it got longer. After that she started paring it down a bit. She used to go on and say…”

“That is, it would be a good warning for people like me about people like her,” Pala continued. “I mean, a good warning to give to people like me…”

“What exactly did you do to her?” I asked Steff.

“…about people like her.”

“I didn’t do anything to her… I just made her a bet,” Steff said. “On the subject of spatial relationships. Specifically, what would or would not fit where.”

“You should know better than to suggest such a thing to a young woman,” Pala said. “And you should not engage in such things yourself, either. My Uncle Hallbjorn says that young women should not gamble.”

“Oh, we don’t have to wager money,” Steff said.

“I do not have any money, anyway… I lost it playing cards.”

“Would you like to earn some?” Steff asked her.

“I thought your uncle told you not to gamble,” I said.

“Yes!” Pala said. She stomped her foot. It was probably a good thing she was standing on the soft ground to the side of the path… if she damaged university property, we’d probably all share in the blame somehow. “Because I lost all my money playing cards. Uncle Hallbjorn probably should have told me before that, but I’m afraid he isn’t very clever.”

“Well… anyway… it looks like this may all be over soon,” I said. “There’s an a-mail going around that there’s going to be a press conference at five.”

“Think it’s worth ditching Hart’s class over?” Steff asked. “I mean, I know I’m not supposed to encourage you to skip classes, but this could be important…”

“I’d still rather not,” I said. “History’s one of my favorite classes, and I’m really not sure where I stand with Hart. If they thought it was important enough to send out an announcement, they’ll probably put the important parts in another one. Even if most students are done with their classes by five, they can’t expect everyone to get to a TV, and they probably don’t really want everyone to show up at the admin building in person.”

“You are going to history now?” Pala asked me, frowning down at confusion.

“No, my next class is logic,” I said. “It’s still not for a little bit, but I wasn’t really… the library’s kind of stifling right now, and I thought you two might want to know about the press conference.”

“Well, you should not be standing out in the open until then,” Pala said. “If you are done in the library then I will be taking you back to Harlowe.”

“I think I’d rather stay in the library, then,” I said. I wouldn’t be any more or less alone with my uncomfortable thoughts back at Harlowe, and as far as I knew, nobody was trying to spy on me in the library.

“Okie dokie,” Pala said. “As long as I know where you are.”

“I think I’ll go inside for a bit, too,” Steff said. “The company’s easier.”

“What exactly did you think was going to happen with her, anyway?” I asked her as we headed back in.

“Exactly? Well, I did have a pretty detailed scenario in my mind,” Steff said. “It started with a series of friendly wagers that escalated until she ended up being my personal pretty pretty pony for the rest of my life.”

“Did you really think that would work?” I asked.

“Hey, I haven’t given up on the idea of having your head hanging on my wall someday,” Steff said. “And if I can get Pala back to Kilrest, I could make that deal that much sweeter for you, because there would be no need to breed you if we had a giantblood in the stables. Quarter-demon/quarter-ogre would be wicked awesome, but giants get serious cred from ogres. The fact that I could throw a saddle over her would make me basically the most badass person ever to them. I mean, talk about your epic mounts.”

“Steff, the idea of having Viktor’s baby is so far from being the reason I don’t want to be your zombie sex slave,” I said.

“You wouldn’t be a slave,” Steff said. “Well, you would be, until you died and became a zombie, at which point your will… and soul, if I did it right… would be bound to me, which would make slavery kind of a moot point. But really, there are worse lives than that. At least you’d be with someone you love.”

“Steff… I don’t think some fantasies are meant to come true,” I said. “Or be shared.”

“You’re the one who asked,” she said.

“About Pala,” I said. “And I don’t think that one’s going to come true, either. I don’t think you have a chance of even… you know, getting anywhere… with her.” Phrases that had passed through my head and been rejected as beyond my ability to pull off included getting with and nailing. “Much less turning her into an ‘epic mount’.”

“Oh, come on, Mack,” Steff said. “Look at her… I can’t believe she’s ultimately going to be much harder to get into bed than you were.”

“I can,” I said. “First of all, she’s straight…”

“Oh, you know… I think I’ve heard this story before ,” Steff said.

“Okay, but I get the feeling that she’s from a very different background,” I said. “It sounds like her family is very protective of her.”

“I think ‘raised by a fundamentalist ex-paladin’ would probably fit into both of those columns,” Steff said. “And look how you turned out. Trust me, it’s the ones who start out really uptight who eventually run wild.”

“I didn’t ‘run wild’,” I said. “I… opened up to a few new possibilities, that’s all.”

“Opened wide,” Steff said.

“Is the library really the best place for this conversation?” I asked. We weren’t talking loudly, but what we were talking about and where we were talking about it seemed to count almost as much as actual volume, in my head.

“Again… you started it.”

“Okay, well, let’s just drop it, then,” I said.

“Alrighty,” Steff said. “What do I know? I’m just the assistant bodyguard… and a darn good one if I say so myself.”

“How so?”

“Well, you know the saying: set a thief to catch a thief,” Steff said. “And so if you’re trying to protect bodies…”

“I think the point is to protect the people before they become ‘bodies’,” I said.

“People are always bodies,” Steff said. “Corporeal people are, anyway. Though I don’t know… I could probably objectify ectoplasm if I tried. It doesn’t seem like it would be hard. Well, I mean, it’s ectoplasm, so it wouldn’t… ack! I think Pala might be contagious.”

“Better give her a wide berth in the future, then,” I said.

“I don’t think she’d fit in a narrow one. Why are you so anti-Pala, anyway? I thought you’d be drooling all over her,” Steff said. “Which you kind of did back there, but you did it while looking at her like she was some kind of insignificant little giant insect.”

“She’s so not my type,” I said.

“As if you wouldn’t let her spank you,” Steff said.

“As if she’d be into that,” I said, feeling my cheeks flush with heat at the thought… both sets.

“As if that’s even the point,” Steff said. “Besides, I have a feeling that would be easier to arrange than my fantasy… we’ll just tell her you’ve been naughty and ask her what she thinks should be done.”

“I don’t think she’d fall for that,” I said, trying to imagine how that would even work. She’d have to kneel beside me… unless she picked me up and laid me across her knees?

“No, but you’re trying to picture it, aren’t you?” Steff said. “I bet you haven’t had a good spanking in days. Amy’s probably slacked off because of the whole ‘campus in crisis’ thing.”

“She’s not exactly slacking off,” I said.

“No, but she’s not exactly giving you what you need, either,” Steff said. “Let’s face it, she’s not a natural disciplinarian. Okay, she’s good at the motions, but the mindset doesn’t come naturally to her. She’ll never give you consistent punishments, Mack… on the other hand, I can give you eternal torment. It doesn’t get much more consistent than that.”

“You’re not even trying to make it sound appealing,” I said.

She shrugged.

“Hey, it’s a rough gig, but it’ll either appeal to you or it won’t,” Steff said. “I’m betting that by the time I graduate you’ll have realized that it does.”

“Then you’re going to be waiting a long time to find out you’re wrong,” I said.

“Good thing I’m known for my patience, then,” she said. “At least I think I’m known for it… I don’t usually stick around long enough to find out for sure.”

In fact, she didn’t stay at the library for very long, whether because she had a class to get to or because she was bored, I wasn’t sure. Pala walked me to my logic class, waiting outside while I went in. She wasn’t the only bodyguard in the hall, either… after having used a mirror on Monday, Sooni had returned to class in person, a fact which made me feel a surprising amount of relief.

She was wearing a very conservative outfit by her standards: a blouse with a dark blue jacket and a matching pleated skirt that stopped just above the knee, with a slit up the back for her fox tail but overlapping folds that closed up below. Maliko was wearing a similar, but somewhat simpler, outfit in gray as she had been during the previous class.

Sooni’s outfit was topped off with a scarf and veil that covered her face. Despite her furry ears and mountain of braids, I wondered if it was actually her, or if her father had provided a stand-in to act as a decoy… this was the first time I could remember Sooni not coming over to say hi or deliver a random threat, or at least look at me when I came in.

What must her parents think of the situation on-campus if they’d go that far for his daughter’s protection? If they were that overprotective, I’d be surprised they let her go to school halfway around the world, particularly at a mid-continental one and not one of the eastern universities.

Still, even if it was a stand-in that meant that he wasn’t planning on yanking her out of the school entirely. She’d have to be back when the current crisis was resolved, which would probably be soon. This was a bit of a relief to me. Maliko I would rather do without, but Sooni’s company was…well, she had her good points.

She had points that were better than her worst points, anyway.

Some of those points seemed less appealing once I’d realized that sex with her was out of the question, after our “date”… she didn’t even really know what it was, or what it really signified. The idea of lesbianism horrified her, except when she believed it was required by the plot of the comic book or animation she thought she was the star of. There was just no way I could take advantage of someone like that. The ethical problems aside… and I wasn’t sure that I could articulate those behind “it feels skeevy”, or that I needed to… I didn’t think I was equipped to take the lead in something like that.

My fantasies about Sooni had all revolved around her domineering personality, her ability to walk all over people. Sooni in the inn room had been uncertain, vulnerable… it was kind of touching, but not really arousing.

The professor started class by stiffly reading an announcement that there was going to be a statement for the student body from school officials and representatives of the Imperial Bureau of Finding at a press conference at five that evening. So apparently there was somebody in the office who realized that many students didn’t check their university a-mail accounts regularly.

After class ended, I waited around to see if Sooni would try to say anything to me. She didn’t, but as she went past I got a slight glimpse of her face around her eyes… and saw fur. So I had been right… it wasn’t Sooni. Unlike her nekoyokai “friends”, Sooni had smooth and bare skin.

The imitation was flawed in other ways. While the decoy had a tail like Sooni’s, but it didn’t swish nearly as much when she walked. Her backside was very similar in shape but she didn’t have Sooni’s walk down. She was much too prim and proper… when Sooni wasn’t stomping around in anger, she was slinking around like the fox she resembled. This woman, whoever she was, just… walked. The visual resemblance was so good it had to be a complex illusion or full-body glamour, which left me wondering why her face had come out furry.

“Hey!” Maliko said, hitting my head from behind with her logic textbook. “Quit staring!”

“Quit hitting me,” I said.

“Sooni is not allowed to speak to you but she wanted me to tell you…”

“Where is she, really?” I asked.

“What? You are so weird and stupid,” Maliko said. “And… weirdly stupid and stupidly weird. Sooni told me to tell you that you need to hurry up.”

“Hurry where?”

“Hurry to find things out and tell them to her so that she can solve the murder,” Maliko said.

“How am I supposed to tell her things when she’s not allowed near me?”

“She says she can’t think of everything!” Maliko said, snarling with a fury that I guess was probably an accurate reproduction of what Sooni had said when Maliko voiced the same objection.

“Yeah, well, you can tell Sooni there’s no need,” I said. “I have a feeling the whole thing’s going to be solved soon enough anyway.”

“Yes, she thinks so, too,” Maliko said. “That’s why you have to hurry up, so Sooni can solve it before anybody else does.”

“Yeah, I’ll get right on that,” I said.

I had the thought run through my head that I could have just told Sooni what I knew and let her be the big hero of the hour, but of course there were numerous reasons that wouldn’t have worked. Aside from the simple fact that I hadn’t had any contact with Sooni, any explanation she came up with for how she had come to know the nature of mermaids would be as ridiculous and flimsy as her typical outfits, which meant that the actual story would come out rather quickly.

No, Lee had been a much better choice than Sooni to entrust with the truth. His solution had been surprising and a little bit self-serving, but it was the best bet for my anonymity and safety. I supposed I’d have to get in to wait until I could find out what was said at the press conference before I knew how well his plan was progressing, or if it had progressed at all.

I wondered if Hart would have to read an announcement about the press conference, and tried to imagine how he’d take the intrusion into his class time, especially since the only way it would make a difference was if some of his students opted to duck out on his lecture.

When I got to Early Republican History, I realized that I’d been wrong about the last but right about Hart having reason to resent interference in his class time. There was a flat box TV set up on a rolling cart at the front of the room. Unless he’d suddenly decided to take a more multimedia approach to teaching then it seemed like we’d be getting to see the press conference after all.


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31 Responses to “454: Local Weather”

  1. Andrea says:

    YAY! Can’t wait to see the press conference 🙂

    Current score: 0
  2. xaddom says:

    “Sooni and had returned to class”

    Just a little typo.

    Current score: 0
  3. Computer Mad Scientist says:

    I see Maliko is practicing her adverbs. 😉

    I’d completely forgotten about Sooni’s demand for detective work. Yeah, that would have probably ended in something idiotically convoluted and pissed off an entire species at both of them.

    If the faux fox is under a glamour, then why the veil? Couldn’t she have been given Sooni’s face?

    Current score: 2
    • capybroa says:

      Mack needs to stop thinking with her vag and start keeping as far away from Sooni as possible. That girl is bad news, especially with her family involved.

      Current score: 1
    • Kalamorda says:

      It is Sooni, just without the hair removeal treatment Kai was forced to apply.

      Current score: 1
  4. Zergonapal says:

    I think the glamour was just the colouring. Besides disguise isn’t just a dye job, you have to act the part or people see right through it.

    Current score: 1
  5. Chris says:

    “Tuesday: Pressing matters are resolved.”

    Hehehe. Almost didn’t notice that one.

    Current score: 0
  6. Peter says:

    I’m guessing four more installments before the announcement

    Current score: 0
  7. C8H9NO2 says:

    Haven’t we had enough hints about Sooni’s fur treatments and skin to make it patently obvious that there’s no stand-in here? That’s what she looks like without the treatments. As for the walk, it was an affectation before, she’s not doing it right now. The tail, she’s not happy about her situation for the moment at all, so that explains that.

    Current score: 0
    • l0stZ says:

      Does Sooni “shave” her fur off her face? If she does, how long does it take for it to grow back (its been close to a week since the incident)?

      Setting Sooni’s identity aside, is Steff’s dream to breed Mack with Viktor new or was it mentioned before?

      Current score: 0
      • Greenwood Goat says:

        Growing back a full coating of fur, even just face-fur, takes weeks. Of course, they might not have to rely on natural means. However, there’s more to an anthromorph’s face than just a coat of fur: there’s the length of the muzzle, the configuration of the teeth, the shape of the nose (and the wetness of it – most of us have external mucous membranes), the presence of vibrissae (tactile whiskers), the position and configuration of the eyes, the presence of labial grooves or clefts, and so on. None of this has been accurately described for a kitsuyokai in their natural state. It might be that Sooni used depilatory cream to make her face fit at MU, or used her still-putative innate abilities in shapeshifting or illusion casting. Either way, it looks like her father put a stop to it, along with her freedom of association.

        Current score: 1
      • Kevin says:

        I believe pitchfork possessed Mack suggested it.

        Current score: 0
    • Jennifer says:

      I have apparently missed all of these hints – links?

      Current score: 0
      • Lara says:

        There have been hints in a few chapters, such as Mackenzie noticing that Sooni sometimes has a slightly “caustic” smell on her skin, and the bandages on Kai’s hands. Readers have pieced this together to mean Kai applies the hair removal cream, and so lost the hair on her paws, but because that’s not an “injury”, it couldn’t be healed and the fur needed to be left to regrow naturally.

        Current score: 0
  8. Lunaroki says:

    Typo Report:

    The ethical problems aside… and I wasn’t sure that I could articulate those behind “it feels skeevy”, or that I needed to…

    Somehow I don’t think “behind” is the right word here. I think “beyond” is the word that was meant in this case.

    While the decoy had a tail like Sooni’s, but it didn’t swish nearly as much when she walked.

    The “While/but” combo doesn’t work. It leaves the sentence feeling unfinished. One or the other needs to go.

    I supposed I’d have to get in to wait until I could find out what was said at the press conference before I knew how well his plan was progressing, or if it had progressed at all.

    I can’t make heads or tails of the inclusion of the phrase “to get in” in this sentence. Perhaps it should be removed?

    Current score: 0
  9. Erm says:

    … I wish I could say that’s the first time I’ve seen the words Epic Mount used in that context.

    Current score: 2
  10. Zathras IX says:

    Objectifying
    Ectoplasm likely makes
    It corporeal

    Current score: 1
  11. Dirty Carrie says:

    Pala is a rainmaker… ;D Love it!

    Current score: 0
  12. Dazey says:

    Wow Mack is kind of a creep to be walking around staring at peoples breasts and objectifying them into a “domineering” fantasy. If she was a guy she’d be that weird guy who skulks around creeping girls out.

    Current score: 0
  13. Dazey says:

    Also that sexual harrassment of Pala by Steff is So Not Cool.

    Current score: 2
    • drudge says:

      Mack and co generally aren’t cool in any sense of the word. They remind me of a group I know. The sort of people you’d want to deck on principle if nothing else.

      Current score: 0
      • Dazey says:

        @ Drudge – they aren’t too bad but I’m truly astounded that for as long as this storyline is going on nobody has bothered to stand up to Steff that sexually harassing a woman who has repeatedly asked her to stop doing so is WRONG in every sense of the word.

        Current score: 4
        • drudge says:

          Which is why you punch them once. If I honestly thought they were smart or compitent enough to carry out half the shit that gets talked about they’d get more.

          Even removing Steff, Amaranth is a timebomb waiting to happen and Dee just stupid-ed her friend into critical condition without going into anything else about her. Of course if anyone in that circumstance was in any way intelligent.

          Really the only reason I’d deck them to begin with is the fact that they’re constantly going on about things everyone they don’t know doesn’t want to see, hear about or know about by any extent. On paper you sound sexually free. In execution you wind up being a loud, obnoxious slut.

          Current score: 0
          • Arakano says:

            No offense, but just beating people who talk about things you don’t want to hear about is So Not Cool, WRONG in every sense of the word, etc. etc. I mean, I agree that I would probably not be all THAT comfortable around that group, but I do not beat up people I am uncomfortable around…

            Current score: 1
          • capybroa says:

            The fact that you think that sexual promiscuity is a valid justification for aggressive or even violent behavior tells me that you probably aren’t the most sensitive or compassionate person in the world, but keep in mind that “punching” the person whose harassing you is rarely a valid option, particularly if the person doing it is larger and stronger than you, as is true for most women who encounter this situation.

            Current score: 2
  14. Dazey says:

    @ Drudge

    I don’t think violence or name calling is the answer, and I don’t feel that simply being who you are and having PDA with your lovers in public is anything bad. I have a big problem with the way Pala is being treated here because she obviously wants no part of their dynamic and is only associating with them because of a class requirement and yet she has to put up with constant sexual harassment and mockery from Steff and nobody seems to care enough to stand up for her.

    The one thing Pala has going for her is being a bad ass so I hope that if Steff doesn’t stop or tries to escalate it into attempted rape that Pala will lay some smackdown on the girl and show her that sort of things only works with CONSENTING partners.

    Current score: 1
  15. pedestrian says:

    Our Mack needs to man up with Steff, in front of Pala, and demand that bitchy boy stop harassing the young woman. If for no other reason than to stop interfering & distracting Mackenzie’s bodyguard from attention to her duties.

    Even if Steff is too AD&D to keep such a promise, Mackenzie would gain serious points of respect with Pala. It is always a good thing when your bodyguard considers you worth shielding.

    Current score: 1
    • capybroa says:

      Steff is a girl.

      Other than that, I agree.

      Current score: 1
    • Lara says:

      Woah, Pedestrian… yes, Steff is being rude by continuing to hit on Pala when she’s not interested, but misgendering her is not an appropriate response. Her gender identity has nothing to do with her bad behaviour here, and is a pretty cheap and gross shot to take.

      Current score: 1
  16. JerK says:

    I dislike Steff so much. Such a selfish and self absorbed person. Not to mention super creepy. She’s just a step above Puddy at this point.

    Current score: 0