493: Chat Room

on March 5, 2011 in Uncategorized Chapters

In Which Mackenzie Finds Room To Talk

I couldn’t get anything but out-of-office echo traps from Lee, which was worrying in that special way that only something that had any number of perfectly reasonable, perfectly innocuous explanations could be.

It was the weekend, after all… and even if his lack of availability had anything to do with recent events, it could be nothing more than him wanting to keep his head down for a few days, or have a chance to step back away from things.

He had a life outside of work, after all. Maybe this wasn’t universally true of lawyers, but it was in his case. He was planning a wedding, or at least he was party to one that was being planned… and that was just one more reason why it wasn’t necessarily suspicious or remarkable that he wasn’t around to take my reflection on a Saturday morning.

If some shadowy figure I didn’t recognize was answering his mirror and telling me that I should not concern myself with the whereabouts of Mr. Jenkins, I would have known that something was definitely going on and I shouldn’t trust anyone or anything, but with nothing but an ordinary canned image popping up and telling me how much he values his generic client or associate’s time… well, that didn’t give me much to go on.

If I had any real reason to be suspicious of the mental healing center, I would have just not gone… but it was in the same innocently menacing category as Lee’s absence. Steff and Dee vouched for the woman, there were all sorts of legitimate reasons she might have been available to answer at three in the morning… and really, if there was some sort of sinister shadowy something or other at work, wouldn’t they have gone out of their way to not be suspicious?

My brain wanted to fill in something like “unless they knew I’d think that”, but I wasn’t so far gone into the depths of paranoia as to believe that somebody might have instructed Lundegard to act suspiciously in order to lull me into a false sense of security.

Anyway, the really big shoe had already dropped… if there was an agenda at work here, it would be a little one. The school looking for information to use against me seemed like one possibility, and the reason I’d wanted to talk to Lee. In the absence of his advice, I supposed that I would just ask for a statement of confidentiality in writing so if they tried to do anything with anything I said we could turn it around on them.

It didn’t even have to be any bigger than one person… maybe “Teddi” was writing a book or something.

In any event, with no real chance of a literal ambush or anything concrete I could put my finger on, it seemed like the best thing to do was just go in. I could always leave, if it wasn’t on the level… it seemed like it would be tantamount to legal suicide for the school to keep me in the mental healing center against my will, given the facts in my case against them.

As soon as I thought that, though, it occurred to me that there was something more of a precedent for holding someone in a mental healing facility against their will. Okay, an extension on the side of the student healing center wasn’t exactly an asylum, but it didn’t seem completely inconceivable that the professional mental healers the school employed would be capable of making the determination to have someone put away for good.

It seemed mostly inconceivable that they would, for all the reasons that I’d told myself it was unlikely that imperial agents would make me disappear and more. Power had its limits, even when it was being abused. Without someone like Embries trying to get rid of me, I doubted the school could pull something like that off… and I knew Embries didn’t want to get rid of me for the simple reason that I was still walking around, and I was pretty sure there weren’t two entities with his level of power and influence intimately tied into the school’s administration.

I doubted he would have stood for that kind of competition. I doubted the school would have stood long after it, either.

So it was that after a lot of hemming and hawing and a little bit of sleep that I found myself walking into the waiting room of the mental healing annex. It wasn’t like the waiting area of its physical counterpart… it was an actual lobby. There was a small, contoured wooden desk near one wall, but nobody sitting behind it. The other furniture seemed like something you’d see at a mid-range inn… comfortable-looking chairs with backs and armrests, neither identical to each other nor mismatched.

I didn’t get a chance to find out how comfortable they were, though, because a woman in a purple outfit that looked like something between an exercise suit and pajamas popped into view in far doorway.

“Miss Mackenzie,” she said, smiling blankly and pleasantly. It wasn’t quite a question, but it didn’t sound definite.

“Ms, please,” I said.

“Are you Miss Mackenzie,” she said, still smiling and still not quite asking. Brown bangs moved as she tilted her head slightly, and I glimpsed some indistinct runes. I was too far away to read them and didn’t want to stare, in any event.

“Yes, I’m Mackenzie,” I said. That seemed like a good compromise between causing her distress by giving her an answer she couldn’t deal with and sticking to my wands when it came to biased naming conventions.

“Teddi is waiting for you,” she said. “If you will follow me.”

Her unchanging facial expression was somewhat disconcerting, as was her lack of inflection. Two had a somewhat unmodulated voice, but in her case it wasn’t so much that she couldn’t inflect as she wasn’t acquainted with when and why to do so. This woman’s voice just sounded like she was stuck speaking in a soothing tone, with results that were anything but.

“Have you worked here long?” I asked her as I followed her into a hallway.

“Sometimes,” she said. She didn’t elaborate and I didn’t ask.

The room she took me to again reminded me more of an inn or lodge than anything else. It was big enough that a somewhat intimate and informal class could have been taught in it, and I supposed that maybe that did happen… skilled subtle artists were rare enough and mental healing was a demanding enough vocation that it seemed likely the professors did double duty.

The golem didn’t follow me inside but just knocked on the doorframe.

“Ms. Mackenzie to see you, Theodora,” she said.

“Thank you, Audra,” a woman said. I hadn’t immediately spotted her because I hadn’t known where to look. She wasn’t behind the big oak desk, or sitting in front of the fireplace, or on any of the chairs. She’d been seated on the floor in the corner, in what I recognized as a meditative position. “Go get some lunch.”

Audra turned and left with an abruptness that would have garnered some words about manners from Two.

“You’ll have to excuse Audra,” Theodora Lundegard said to me. She was wearing a brown tunic-like blouse with some beadwork on the front and a pair of tannish leggings. She had a metal band across her forehead, sort of like a very minimalist crown. There was some kind of crystal set into the middle of it, covered with a network of metal lines. “If she isn’t polite, she also isn’t exactly rude. Her ways are simply inflexible, and they were set by someone who didn’t consider manners to be important in a golem. Also, please call me Teddi… only Audra and my mother call me by my full name.”

“Your mother’s responsible for her ‘ways’?” I guessed.

“Oh, no,” Teddi said. “She tried her best… well, her hardest… to get Audra to behave the way she thinks a servant should. She’s very well-preserved, but she’s from an age when even making golems that looked human was sort of daring. Audra is, I mean.”

“But she eats?”

“And breathes, and sleeps, after a fashion,” Teddi said.

“How long has she been working without a meal break?” I asked.

“We’ve been working since a little bit before noon,” she said. “We had breakfast then. She’s good at filing and things. Please, come in.”

I realized that she was sitting in the middle of a semi-circle of stacks of papers.

“Does she belong to you now?” I asked. My internal debate on whether or not to distrust “Teddi” was not alleviated at all by the revelation that her family owned a golem that was at the very least pre-Republican… and that she was making use of Audra, despite her barely-concealed distaste for her mother.

“To my family,” she said. “I don’t have any power to free her, Ms. Mackenzie, but I believe she’s happier when she can get out and do things.”

“Have you ever thought to ask her what would make her happy?”

“Many times,” Teddi said. “Many times I’ve thought I’d figured out a way to ask her in a way that would make sense to her and that she’d be able to answer. My mother… when she didn’t tell me I was foolish for even wondering… always told me that Audra is always happy, she’s just made that way, but I’ve watched her carefully and I think there’s a difference between when she feels… fulfilled, and when she doesn’t.”

“Well, that’s convenient for you, if you have a lot of filing to do,” I said.

“If I didn’t want Audra, my mother would keep her in the china hutch,” Teddi said. “She only needs to eat when she’s active, and she’d only be taken out to dust herself. I don’t exactly work her fingers to the bone, Ms. Mackenzie, but I don’t let her feel neglected or useless, either. I wonder, do you always care this much about people you’ve just met?”

She got points for saying “people”, but then if she knew anything about me at all she’d know I had a golem for a friend and roommate.

“Not always,” I said. I finally closed the door and began to move nearer to her. “The truth is, I don’t notice most people, individually. But Audra sort of… well, she was standing right in front of me and talking to me. I couldn’t help noticing her. Once I noticed her, I cared.”

“I don’t normally use her as a receptionist,” Teddi said. “But it’s sort of a weird weekend here, and I suspected that you wouldn’t give her any problems so I sent her to fetch you.”

“Were you trying to show me how open-minded you were by hanging out with a golem?” I asked.

“Not exactly,” Teddi said. “I had a feeling you might have difficulty opening up to me about your life, so I thought I’d show you something of mine. Audra was my companion, growing up. She did a lot of the raising of me. I can see on your face that you’re trying to imagine what that was like. It wasn’t bad.”

“How much money do your parents have?” I asked. Being raised by a golem nanny was almost a cliche, but I didn’t know that it actually still happened… at least, not among the common folk of the Imperium.

“My parents? Not much,” Teddi said. “My family has a lot of money tied up in land, mines, and various investments. The house I was raised in belongs to a trust. The house I live in today is, too. So does Audra.”

“So only the trustee or trustees could free her.”

“No,” Teddi said, shaking her head. “There are all kinds of protections built in, to make sure the ancestral properties can’t be sold off, the family’s capital can’t be invaded, and the house golems can’t be transferred, sold, or freed. More recently purchased ones have more flexible terms, but the originals… including Audra… are bound to the family.”

“What happens if the family dies out?”

“There are various theories,” Teddi said. “But no one’s really sure.”

Talking about Teddi’s family wasn’t necessarily making me trust her more, or even like her… I couldn’t say that I disliked her, but her background was as alien to me as another plane. I could see the conversation moving smoothly from her background to mine, which was no doubt what she had in mind, but I didn’t want to be distracted from my concerns.

“Isn’t there any paperwork I have to fill out?” I asked. “At the… other place… they won’t even talk to me without giving me a form, any more.”

“Of course,” she said. She rose to her feet. “Would you like to sit down? You can sit anywhere you’d like, I can make myself comfortable anywhere in the room.”

The air temperature was comfortable, but after a moment’s thought I decided to sit in a chair near the fire. I’d never lived anywhere with a fireplace that was in regular use… my grandmother’s house had fireplaces built into some of the rooms, but the chimneys had been blocked off during some modernization and she wasn’t the sort of person to have an illusionary one put in for show. She’d just painted them, bricks and all, like she thought she could paint over a hole in the wall and then used them as little alcoves for knickknacks.

“The fireplace makes you think of something,” Teddi said as I sank into a chair. She sat down on the footstool in front of the one facing it. “Not exactly pleasant, but not unpleasant.”

“My grandmother’s house,” I said. “I don’t have a lot of fond memories of it, but I lived there for nine years. I didn’t come here to talk about her… specifically, I mean.”

“I imagine you have a lot of things on your mind,” she said.

“You have no idea,” I said. “So, what do I have to sign?”

“I made a record for you before you got here,” she said. “That’s all that’s necessary, unless and until we begin any healing. At the moment, we’re just talking. I like to have a bit of an informal chat, so we know what we’re doing with each other, before…”

“I don’t want to do anything informally,” I said. “I want a record.”

“You don’t trust me,” she said. Her face was more responsive than Audra’s, but only just… I could tell that her reactions were deliberately muted instead of non-existent.

“I just wonder if you had some kind of instructions on me,” I said.

“What, like ‘handle with care’?” she asked.

“I just mean… you got back to me awfully quick,” I said. “I wondered if anybody had told you to, you know, be available to me.”

“That’s my job,” she said, as though she would have responded just the same to any other student who reached out in the middle of the night.

“At three in the morning?”

“Not every morning, but I tend to stay up late Friday nights,” she said. “A habit from my student days that I never grew out of. I saw your a-mail right before I went to bed. I knew if it was urgent, you’d be waiting for my reply so I wouldn’t have to wait around to see if you responded. Mackenzie, even if I had been given some instructions concerning you, my priority would still be simply to help you. Not ‘just the same as’ any other student, because you’re not any other student, but neither is anyone else.”

“I didn’t a-mail you, though, I a-mailed the center,” I said.

“It forwards to everyone when there’s no one in the office,” she said.

“And no one else answers messages from a Harlowe girl?”

“If you don’t think you can trust me, I can see that someone else helps you,” Teddi said. “Or I could refer you to someone in town. I’m afraid you’d have to pay, but there is a student rate.”

“I don’t distrust you more than anyone else, at the moment,” I said. It was actually kind of pleasant to talk to her, though I didn’t want to say that just yet. I didn’t know her and she didn’t know me, though obviously she knew of me, and she probably knew quite a few specific things about me. “Are you able to read my mind?”

“Possibly, with practice and care,” she said. “If there’s something you want me to delve into your psyche for, we’ll have to do that over the course of many sessions, and I’ll need another healer to act as a… well, spotter, I guess. There is a procedure for it.”

“Have you ever done this… ‘procedure’?”

“Not as such, no,” she said. “We used the technique recently in another situation involving a potentially dangerous mental contact, but it didn’t directly involve a half-demon. We pulled it off successfully.”

“How confident are you that you could do that on my brain without getting hurt?”

“We work on minds, not brains,” Teddi said. “I’m confident that we could stop it before any harm was done, to you or anyone else. I couldn’t promise you results, in other words, but I can promise you safety. Exposing myself to risk isn’t responsible healing. Is there something along those lines that you would like to investigate?”

“No,” I said. “I was just… well, when you said ‘just the same as any other student’, you kind of echoed what I was thinking. I’ve been told that casual contact with my brain… mind… would be bad, so it surprised me.”

“Learning the subtle arts, as they relate to others’ minds, teaches one to read other things,” she said. “Facial cues, body language… and to recognize patterns in thinking even when we can’t see thoughts. I try not to make too many assumptions about what’s going on in a patient’s head, but to a certain extent it just comes naturally… and if you hadn’t been thinking that, well, the phrase wouldn’t have been out of place.”

“Can I ask a question?”

“You may ask any number of questions on any subject that strikes you,” Teddi said.

“That thing on your head… does that do something for your telepathy?”

“It’s a filter of sorts.”

“To block out my infernal nature?” I asked.

“It does that,” she said. “But you know, a filter isn’t the same thing as a wall… we sometimes define filters by what they keep out, but really what distinguishes one filter from another is what it lets through.”

“And what does that one let through?” I asked.

“Emotions, mostly,” she said. “When I’m wearing this, I’m more strongly empathic than I am without it, even as I have less access to thoughts and images. I might use it as a diagnostic tool with any patient, or when someone has privacy concerns but still wants the advantage of my insight.”

“But you have to wear it, around me,” I said. I could see where she was trying to put me at ease by suggesting she wasn’t just wearing it because I was a half-demon, but the fact that there were other reasons she might use it with someone else didn’t actually change the reason she was using it with me.

“If it bothers you, I could take it off,” she said. “But wearing it allows me to relax, and I think I can help you best if I’m relaxed. But if you’d be more comfortable without…”

“I’d rather know that you’re safe,” I said, and she nodded.

“Do you worry about that often?”

“Your safety?”

“People’s safety,” she said. “Other people, I mean. Around you.”

“Maybe not enough sometimes,” I said, thinking back to my hungry spell earlier in the year… and the wacky hijinks with my pitchfork. “I could do a lot of damage, being careless. And I am careless.”

“So have you done much damage?”

“Some.”

“But you’re careful, even with people you’ve just met… people you don’t really trust and aren’t sure you like,” she said.

“I worry,” I said. “I’m not sure that’s the same thing as being careful.”

“You haven’t asked me about a form again,” she said. “Most students are happy to find out they don’t have to fill anything out.”

“Is everything I tell you confidential?”

“With the usual restrictions,” she said.

“Meaning?”

“We live in an Imperial Republic,” she said. “No citizen or agent of the Republic can compel me to breach the bond of confidentiality.”

“But agents of the imperium might,” I said.

“Ordinarily this would be where I would say ‘but I can’t see that happening’.”

“Are you going to say that this time?” I asked.

“I don’t see it happening,” she said.

“You aren’t prescient, are you?”

“Not even a little bit,” she said. “I don’t have to explain what I meant, do I?”

“No,” I said. “I got it.”

“As far as I know, the Law operatives packed up shop and left campus in a hurry the other night,” she said. “Some rather conspicuous blank spots in my awareness disappeared then. And I think the IBF left before them. None of that means there isn’t any official interest in you, but no one’s waiting to rifle through my filing cabinets as soon as you’re gone.”

“Would you tell me if anyone was?”

“I probably wouldn’t be allowed to, but I certainly wouldn’t sit here and tell you otherwise.”

“Even if you were ordered to?”

“I wouldn’t lie for my country,” she said. “And that’s the truth… and, no, that would only be treason if I were actually being ordered to do so by a duly-appointed imperial authority. Otherwise it’s…”

“…empty defiance, which is protected in the Bill of Prohibitions,” I said. “I wasn’t actually thinking that it was treason.”

“Oh,” she said. “Well, sometimes I guess wrong. You seem like the sort of person who has a lot of… for authority.”

“A lot of what?”

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m used to being able to fill in gaps by projecting things and letting the listener’s mind fill in a word that fits to them. You don’t respect authority, exactly, but the way you behave towards it is quite a bit like the way someone who does would.”

“I obey authority, you mean?”

“I was aiming for more of an emotional connotation,” she said.

“You aren’t used to communicating with someone without using telepathy,” I said.

“Imagine you found yourself suddenly lacking a letter,” she said. “One letter. Maybe not the most commonly used one, but there are only twenty-seven letters in the alphabet. How many letters, besides the sacred one, could you carry on a conversation without using? A vowel would trip you up immediately. A consonant might take longer for you to feel the lack… say you lost Q, for instance. You might be able to talk for a while without stumbling, but then something happens and quite quickly you find yourself in trouble.”

“So most of the time when you’re talking to someone, they think you’re saying things that you’re not actually saying?”

“But I am saying it,” she said. “If I could just think at someone with something like this is what you need to hear from me and have their mind sort it out, my job would be easier but a lot less satisfying. Whatever someone ‘hears’ from me, I am saying it to them, whether they’re hearing with their ears first or their mind.”

“It’s different with me, though?”

“Not in a bad way,” she said.

“I don’t want to be someone’s special challenge,” I said.

“Every patient is a special challenge,” she said.

“I think you know what I mean.”

“You were raised human,” Teddi said. “You’re a basically shy person. You’re Magisterian, and if you didn’t grow up on the plains, you grew up in the wetlands or the edge of the badlands. Pax is your native language. If we didn’t have similar childhoods, we at least have a frame of reference for each other. Your mind is essentially mammalian, and you think one thing in one direction and dimension at the same speed that I think. Ms. Mackenzie, whatever minor… interface… problems we have with each other, you are not my special challenge for this semester, believe me.”

I blushed at that. There I was, more or less assuming that the sphere revolved around me alone… I really should have known better. She was seeing Steff and any other student in Harlowe who felt like having his or her thoughts examined.

“It’s not just the demon thing,” I said. “I mean, I think maybe a lot of what I want to talk to you about ties back in that, but I don’t think it’s just the, you know, practical problems that presents that might be a challenge.”

“I expect so,” Teddi said.

“There are some things I can’t talk about,” I said. “They’re… pretty big.”

“Are these things we should be working on talking about, or things we should be working around talking about?” she asked without missing a beat.

“Around,” I said.

“Alright, then,” she said. “It’s your time, Ms. Mackenzie… if you understand that you’re going to be spending more of it to make less progress and you still say you can’t talk about what’s bothering you, then I have no objection.”

“I’m not saying that just to be difficult,” I said.

“I’m not, either,” she said. “I mean it. If there’s something you can’t talk about, we’ll work around it. It will slow us down, but slow progress is still progress.”

“When do we start?” I asked.

“Well, you really do have excellent timing… I’m free the whole rest of the afternoon,” she said. “Though that means we will need to get the paperwork squared away.”

“You don’t have any other appointments?”

“I did, but I canceled them,” she said. “No, not because of you.” That time she was spot-on. “I canceled them yesterday because I wanted a chance to get my files back in order, but you seem to prefer a little distance for now and I don’t think you’ll take offense or think I’m not paying attention if I’m sorting while we’re talking.”

“Something happened to get your files out of order?” I said.

“I couldn’t possibly say,” she said. “But I can say you do have excellent timing, Ms. Mackenzie.”

“Do you always address your patients formally?”

“Usually, I can pick up on a patient’s preference after trying it once,” she said. “You’ll have to tell me if you prefer something else.”

I thought about it. The “Ms. Mackenzie” thing was making me feel too much like I was in a classroom, or that I’d been called into someone’s office. But I was kind of hesitant to just ask her to drop it… the people who called me Mackenzie were among the people who knew me best and the ones who knew me least. I thought about Dee’s habit of introducing herself.

“Call me Mack, please,” I said. I felt in some way as though I was trying the name on for size. “For now.”

“Okay, Mack,” she said. “If you’ll move over to the desk very briefly, we’ll get you signed in and have a little talk about goals and then we’ll begin.”


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65 Responses to “493: Chat Room”

  1. Marian says:

    “Call me Mack.” Hate the name, LOVE the line.

    Current score: 1
  2. erratio says:

    Ugh, when Mackenzie gets all excessively paranoid and rules-lawyersy like this it makes me want to smack her head *so hard*. Can’t she ever do anything the easy way?

    Current score: 0
    • drudge says:

      I think it’s justified here. LAW may not have been seen after she left, but everyone else thinks they pulled out days ago. Kent seems like he’s not giving up on her just yet either.

      She’s got enough amoral slimeballs who want to control her that she doesn’t need to give a new one any ammo.

      Current score: 2
      • Morten G says:

        Also, Teddi pretty much spells out that the law guys were rummaging through her files and that’s why she has to sort them now.

        Current score: 5
        • Rey d`Tutto says:

          If they are either actually “Out To Get You” or “Keeping An Eye On You”, you are not paranoid. If the thread exists, it is simple precaution.

          Or, more plainly stated, Paranoia is a Trait that has been “Naturally Selected” for (i.e., the paranoid have a higher chance of reproducing as they are generally cautious).

          Current score: 3
    • JS says:

      No, she can’t. 🙂 That’s part of what makes her a very realistic character. 32 years on and I very regularly make things much more difficult than they need to be, more fraught, harder to sort through. I see myself in her, for sure.

      Current score: 0
  3. zenjack says:

    hmmmm . . . first 😀

    Current score: 0
  4. Burnsidhe says:

    Mack does have reason to be wary. Just because we’re aware she’s the protagonist of the story doesn’t mean that things will always go in her favor.

    This is not excessive paranoia. This is reasonable caution. If you don’t think so, do this little exercise. Write down for yourself all the reasons that Mack has to be cautious of others, both in a legal and personal sense, and then write down all the reasons that Mack should trust Teddi immediately and without reservation.

    If you have to, for the first part, reread Tales of MU from the beginning.

    Current score: 0
    • erratio says:

      See, I would agree with you if Mack hasn’t been like this in situations where she had far less reason to nitpick. In other words, justified paranoia is still paranoia, and just because her paranoia sometimes matches up to reality doesn’t mean that it’s well-directed either. Being antagonistic to the person who’s been vouched for by your best friends, one of whom is a telepath who has ‘overlapped’ with the person in question? Jumping on her case over her ownership of a golem? How is that even relevant to her very real concerns that Teddi might be acting under orders from above? It’s just.. antagonistic. Which is something that Mack is all too good at, often at all the wrong times and to no good effect.

      Current score: 0
      • Burnsidhe says:

        Have you ever been in therapy yourself? Because this, to one degree or another, is exactly what happens when someone, anyone, first sees a therapist.

        Mack is behaving normally. She’s feeling Teddi out, testing her reactions, and trying to decide whether she really can trust Teddi.

        Current score: 1
        • The Dark Master says:

          Just because your talking to someone you don’t trust/like is no reason to be rude. Mackenzie is being very rude, she could talk about where she is comming from, or being inquizative in a nice way, but it does sound like she is interigating Teddy.

          Current score: 0
          • Arakano says:

            Which is ALSO something very common in therapy sessions, trust me. My dad is a therapist, and he tells me it happens very often. A true professional like Teddy knows not to take it the wrong way, or she is in the wrong job. You don’t become a therapist in order to see people behave their most polite and self-controlled, really… 😉

            Current score: 1
          • ShadowKat says:

            @ The Dark Master: therapy is supposed to be a safe place. patients don’t tend to feel safe until they sound the therapist out a little bit. a lot of that does have to do with challenging societal norms like ‘rudeness’ because how the therapist handles the situation will determine if the client feels comfortable in the space.

            Current score: 1
            • The Dark Master says:

              I don’t think Amaranth would agree.
              .
              For me, I generally think people should just be polite. Thats just me.

              Current score: 0
            • beappleby says:

              And we all know that Amaranth is The Smart One, right?

              Current score: 0
        • erratio says:

          Yes, I have been in therapy. While I definitely tested my therapist at the beginning and periodically during therapy, I can’t imagine being so downright hostile to someone who is giving their time to help me, even if I’m paying them for it. In fact it’s probably fair to say that my annoyed reaction is half “oh boy here we go again with the defensive hostility” and half “how dare she be so rude to a therapist of all people”

          Current score: 0
          • Helen Rees says:

            I have this thing about ‘appropriate’. If someone throws that word at me, I get lawyerly and hissy, and pretty much insist on them defining what they mean in words of one syllable.

            Because in bosses I’ve had over the years ‘appropriate’ has meant pressuring me to drink heavily, or lie to clients, or do things that made me physically unsafe – and when I protested, I was then accused of being ‘inappropriate’.

            It’s a good idea to find out where the boundaries lie, before you find yourself polited into a really tight trap of a corner.

            So there. Yah, boo sucks and etceteray.

            h.

            Current score: 0
            • good for you for standing up for yourself in those job situations. If more people did, things might get better.

              Current score: 0
      • arsenic says:

        I think the “ownership” thing is a bit of a hot-button issue for Mack. Think about how carefully she’s helped Two along in becoming more independent and in avoiding distress over conflicting rules! Think about how important Amaranth’s ownership of Mack is to Mack. Mack sees a golem like Audra and thinks, “What would I try to make sure she’s happy? What would I do to make sure she’s free-willed? What would I do to help her get along more smoothly and normally, since that would probably be important to her?” Mack is WAY more aware of how to treat a golem well than the average person is, and considering what we learned about Audra (not free, owned for a long time, at risk for being distressed by common conversation), it’s perfectly understandable for Mack to be concerned for her. She relates to her, and she feels protective of her, and she’s keenly aware that most people don’t care or understand enough to do much to help Audra. I’m glad Mack spoke up about it. It gave Teddy a chance to show her trustworthiness and to see that side of Mack.

        Current score: 0
        • JS says:

          We only have Mack projecting behavior from Two onto Audra. Teddi doesn’t say anything about whether or not Audra would be distressed by any turn of conversation.

          Current score: 0
          • beappleby says:

            I definitely don’t think Mack would have had such an instant reaction to Audra before she knew Two.

            Current score: 0
  5. 'Nym-o-maniac says:

    “The golem didn’t follow me inside but just knocked on the doorframe.

    “Ms. Mackenzie to see you, Theodora,” she said.”

    Interesting that she changed the form of address there. Did she just belatedly pick up on it after Mackenzie corrected her?

    Also, typo report: “I couldn’t get anything but out-of-office echo traps from Lee, which was worrying in that special way that only something that had any number * perfectly reasonable, perfectly innocuous explanations could be. ” *should have an of, I believe.

    Interesting chapter. I’m definitely liking Teddi- she’s professional, but in that personable type of way.

    I loved the part about mentally projecting an idea instead of picking a word for it. The number of times I’ve wished I could do just that…

    Current score: 0
    • Laurie says:

      Maybe she had been told to fetch Miss Mackenzie, and was only going to get Miss Mackenzie. But after that part of her orders were satisfied, she felt she could refer to Mack as Mack obviously preferred.

      I didn’t even catch that when I read it.

      Current score: 1
      • ShadowKat says:

        @ Laurie: in her amail to Teddi, I think Mackenzie calls herself ‘Ms Mackenzie.’ in any case, Teddi knows that is how she prefers to be addressed. Teddi wouldn’t have given Audra instructions to ‘get Miss Mackenzie.’

        Current score: 0
        • beappleby says:

          Perhaps her need to be correct overrode Teddi’s phrasing, but Mack’s response reinforced it enough to confirm it. Or maybe she only felt she had to say it in front of Teddi…

          Current score: 0
    • The Ms. from Audra was a mistake on my part, but after reading another reader’s interpretation I’ve edited the story to better reflect the limitations of Audra’s programming.

      Current score: 2
  6. Fairyblue says:

    Ah, refreshing pages in the wake of insomnia never stops paying off.

    Current score: 0
  7. Amelia says:

    I’m guessing Audra has two different standing orders: first (whether from Teddi or an older one) to greet people (and ascertain identity etc) by the “appropriate” form of address and second (from Teddi) to introduce people by whatever appelation they seem to find most comfortable.

    So she has to call her Miss Mackenzie but when she takes her into the office she can use the name Mackenzie has indicated she would prefer.

    This is very weird for me: I’m studying counselling and all the time I’ve been reading this part of my brain’s been wondering what method Teddi uses.
    I thought it was Person-Centred but it’s obviously also goal driven.
    Presumably it’s really some completely different MUniverse based system but my stupid brain won’t shut up.

    Excellent chapter anyway.

    Current score: 0
    • Helen Rees says:

      ooh, have you looked at Viktor Frankl? Paradoxical intention – love that. Think that would go down a storm in the muniverse…

      Current score: 1
    • Ha! That was honestly a mistake (too used to writing “Ms. Mackenzie”), but I like this basic idea so much I’ve made one small edit to the story to reflect a conflict better.

      Current score: 1
  8. Erm says:

    twenty-seven letters in the alphabet. How many letters, besides the sacred one,

    I might have missed it earlier, but this might be the first time establishing Kh as the Latin transliteration of what is actually a single extra letter.
    Since it’s already established to sound different (Anankha), I wonder what it’s pronounced like…

    Current score: 0
    • Burnsidhe says:

      I think it’s a hard H. The back of the tongue makes contact with the palate and then drops while you aspirate.

      It’s a sound that’s almost entirely non-existent in English, but common in languages from Gaelic, throughout most of Eastern and Central Europe, the Middle East, and Russia.

      Current score: 1
      • Cadnawes says:

        That’s what I’ve been going with, having a bit of a Gaelic bias. Ancient near Eastern languages have two versions of the sound- the one that is usually written in English as Kh is more glottal than pharyngeal. (wetter and deeper in the throat.) Yep, I’m overthinking this.

        Current score: 1
        • zeel says:

          the 27 letter thing was mentioned before (don’t ask me where). there was a reference to the “Kh-A-B-C’s” at one point as well.

          I do wonder what the Kh looks like, and what it is actually called in pax. A sounds like aye when you day its name, and B like bee. what is the name of the Kh?

          Current score: 0
          • 'Nym-o-maniac says:

            I believe it’s been called “khee” in-story? Can’ remember which chapter, though…

            Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              People have said “Khee” in place of “Jee” which is used as a euphemism for “Jesus”. In story “Khee” has a similar purpose.

              I don’t think they ever said the Kh was called a khee, but I may be mistaken.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              well more commonly spelled “gee” (with a “g” substituted for the “j”)

              Current score: 0
          • You say the “name” of the letter like “Khee”. Khee-Ay-Bee-Sees.

            Current score: 2
    • erratio says:

      Aspirated K, like in the word “can’t”, as opposed to the non-aspirated K like in “beak”. If you grew up with a language that makes that distinction properly (unlike in English, which doesn’t), then they would sound as different to you as the difference between D and T. Otherwise, the difference will seem negligible or nearly impossible to hear properly.

      Current score: 1
      • erratio says:

        AE originally had a page somewhere on the site where she explained this, I’m not just making it up, I swear :p

        Current score: 1
        • 'Nym-o-maniac says:

          I remember that, too.

          No idea where it was, but…

          Actually, I think it was in the comments after the Ark(h)anite thing, where she was all “the letter kh is reserved for gods” or whatever? IDK if they’re still there, though…

          Current score: 0
      • I love people who know the words to explain that. 😛

        Current score: 3
    • Greenwood Goat says:

      Nope, it has been mentioned more than once, and I wrote a treatise speculating on its form and derivation last year.

      Link to treatise. Enjoy!

      Current score: 0
  9. Mackenzie says:

    oh wow. This chapter was… just posted. I’m used to being years behind, but no. no I’m just caught up. SHit, man, and perfect timing too. I must have finished the chapter before it minutes before this one was uploaded.

    Also, Also, I was being frustrated with the never ending aspect of this book because often when I read it I get stuck reading for hours and never catch up. And since it’s 4:30 in the morning, I obviously should be asleep, but I’m not sure I would have gone to sleep if there were more book to read.

    I’m so glad I get to sleep now. I have work in the morning. Luckily my boss reads tales of MU too!

    Related to the story- this reminds me of some of my interactions with therapists. I think it is a believable depiction of a complex personality. I also think it is unprofessional of her to talk about her own life, or to treat so many people who know each other, but I think she does all right at it.

    Current score: 0
  10. Zathras IX says:

    Audra may not be
    The only one here whose ways
    Are inflexible

    Current score: 0
  11. Null Set says:

    “Okay, an extension on the side of the student healing center wasn’t exactly an asylum, but it didn’t seem completely inconceivable that the professional mental healers the school employed would be incapable of making the determination to have someone put away for good.”

    I think that should be capable, not incapable.

    Current score: 0
    • The Dark Master says:

      There are three negatives in that thought. Good formating dictates that the sentence needs to be cleaned up, but maybe Mackenzie would put a bunch of negatives in her sentences…

      Current score: 0
      • beappleby says:

        The uncertainty certainly fits her uncertain state of mind…

        Current score: 0
  12. Excellent chapter. It certainly answered some of the debated points from last chapter nicely and also gives a bit of insight into Teddi as well as perhaps opening up an exploration of a little more of Mack’s personality as well.

    Teddi certainly reminds me of my own therapist. In a good way. She’s personable, and I like how she’s approaching Mack with an openness that allows Mack to see her as a person and perhaps a potential friend rather than as a ‘representative figure of authority’.

    Having Audra meet Mack and bring her in and seeing how Mack reacted to Audra, her concerns about Audra and even Mack’s line of thought and inquiry was a smart move. It helped her establish a baseline about how Mack relates to other people and at the same time offered Mack insights into Teddi as well which could be seen as Teddi extending trust and openness which in turn could breed more of the same from Mack. The interviewing Mack did regarding Audra, and Teddi’s responses show us, and hopefully Mack as well, that Teddi sees individuals as people, no matter what their background. I’d say she was showing that ‘we’re all human when you scratch the surface’ but that doesn’t quite fit in the Mu-sense.

    Teddi’s treatment of Audra and her responses to Mack’s questions show that while she was raised to see a golem as property or as an appliance, she does not, and is actually concerned about Audra’s feelings. Mack can appreciate that, while not liking the situation, and it may serve as a touchstone for budding respect for Teddi in that she(Mack) is aware now that while the situation with Audra is difficult Teddi is going out of her way to do the best that she can for Audra. Much like Mack did her very best to help Two when first meeting her. Hopefully in some fashion Mack picks up on that hint into Teddi’s nature and realizes it extends to her, and any other person that might come to Teddi for therapy. After a fashion, once Mack gets past some of the paranoia formulated from the current situations that there is a lot of potential here for she and Teddi to become friends, or at least to have a very good professional relationship.

    I’m wondering if Mack might not be able to help Teddi with her desire to help Audra more than Teddi already has with ensuring that she is ‘happy’ or ‘satisfied’ with her life.

    Current score: 0
  13. Fuller says:

    Great chapter, and DAMN I wish my campus’ mental health center was open on the weekends.

    Current score: 0
  14. Bilbo says:

    Just a thought.

    If Mack even tried to write down an account of Embries eating Iona, she couldn’t move her hand?

    As well as trying to write a spell that would protect her from Embries’ influence ?

    Or is he so confident that he didn’t bother blocking that path?

    And she can picture the event in her head, but no telepath or empath could see the event or feel her horror at the memory ?

    Or… could an empath feel her horror, but looking into Mack’s mind find a suspicious blank?

    It might only take one curious snoop like Violet to get together enough experts to block Embries.

    Say the Sidhe got involved. Think the dragon can block their Sight ?

    Current score: 0
    • Ducky says:

      I can’t imagine where Mack would find enough power to override a greater silver dragon’s influence. And the spell’s power would have to come from somehwere.

      Current score: 0
      • Burnsidhe says:

        Embries is a Noble Silver Dragon, not just a Greater Silver.

        Current score: 0
        • To clarify because it might not be apparent from the story (D&D geeks might be able to read between the lines, but it’s not explicit), but “noble silver dragon” is redundant, as “ignoble blue dragon” would be.

          Current score: 1
      • drudge says:

        Well Aderick DID just mention that a human can do what gods may not be able to by channeling that same gods power. Not to mention Martha already fighting an Emberies level dragon to a standstill.

        Which still begs the question of “where the power comes from”, since the list of gods Mackenzie can and Will deal with who’ll give her power doesn’t seem large. Of course, there’s always the other greater powers mentioned in “on a hill”. But then there’s no other dragons nearby, and I doubt Mack wants to deal with some kind of archfiend.

        Current score: 0
        • beappleby says:

          It’s Embries, not Emberies. Just a heads-up, because you seem to have the name wrong a lot.

          Current score: 1
      • Sore says:

        Have we ever got a firm read on Mack’s Daddy power-level tho?

        Dragons may be the most powerful -native- beings on the material plane but maybe a powerful demon is an equal? After all, Daddy seems to have some kind of stratagem for one day challenging the gods, after all. So either he is nuts or powerful enough he thinks he can achieve the steps to his goal without getting smited :/

        Current score: 0
  15. Dani says:

    > and quite quickly you find yourself in trouble

    She was doing so well without q’s until then. 🙂

    Current score: 1
    • Burnsidhe says:

      You can do without Q’s, but you can’t do without keews. Or maybe it’s just a kwestionable analogy.

      The point is well taken, though. Sometimes I wish I could just “beam” a concept/thought to another person’s mind, because there are times when I can’t easily express it in words.

      Current score: 0
    • Mickey Phoenix says:

      I read that as quite deliberate on Teddi’s part, and it’s one of the many things I like about her.

      Current score: 1
  16. beappleby says:

    This was a delightful read.

    One typo that I noticed:

    I can seen on your face that you’re trying to imagine what that was like.

    Current score: 0
  17. KrataLightblade says:

    It might be weird of me but this is one of my favorite chapters so far and I actually look forward to more like it.

    Mostly because I have a thing for psychology (magical or non!), and I love seeing minds explored. That’s part of why I love this series in general. (There are other parts too, but I’m being PG right now, SO THERE)

    Anyway, I’m really loving Tales of MU, and I’m looking forward to more. Thank you for making this available to us.

    Current score: 0
  18. Kaila says:

    I read ‘Call me Mack’ and think Huzzah! Breakthrough!

    If a small one.

    Current score: 0
  19. Cadnawes says:

    I’m a little baffled that people keep harping on Mack’s bad manners. Firstly, where was she supposed to have learned GOOD ones? Her grandmother taught her not to lie and to keep quiet, but that’s about all.

    And while early on she really had a hard time knowing how to politely disagree, she seems to be over that by this point; and the people she really pulls out all the rudeness for kind of have it coming. Would any of you be polite if you found out a father who didn’t raise you now felt justified in LIVING IN AND ROUTINELY READING YOUR MIND? Or any of the people involved in the events of the night before? For all she knew, she was about to be disappeared and the RA was letting it happen and threatening Two along the way. Now that just happened and she’s feeling out a telepath; one who owns a golem and is tangentially affixed to the healing center that left a devout Khersian in charge while she slept against her voiced misgivings.

    Its amazing she can muster so much as an honest “good morning.”

    Current score: 0