Chapter 59: Facial Recognition

on January 12, 2012 in Volume 2 Book 3: Figments & Fragments, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Mackenzie Makes An Unexpected Cameo

Class effectively started a few minutes late, but we did get our presentation. I would have liked the chance to ask Eloise more about her geomap and see some more of what it could do after class, but she disappeared pretty quickly. I imagined that maybe she was going to go have words with the dwarves who’d rented her the space for it, or to blow off steam.

I made it through the gauntlet of Callahan’s melee class by keeping my head down and powering through it. I was glad that it was my last class of the day… there would be days when I would be really worn down by the time I got to it, but it gave me plenty of time to get over a bad beginning.

The design drawings that Steff returned to me at dinner really were sketches, but they were good sketches, with intricate shading and a lot of detail work. Most importantly, she had absolutely nailed the look I was going for.

“Thank you,” I said. “You’re a lifesaver.”

“I prefer the term ‘deathkeeper’ or ‘soulbinder’, but I guess ‘lifesaver’ is halfway accurate from a certain point of view,” Steff said. “Just remember our deal.”

“Remember your part of it,” I said. “Somewhere safe and private.”

“Right,” she said. “Do you think there’s any chance you could do it in slow motion?”

“Burn my clothes off… in slow motion?”

“Isn’t there some kind of elemental manipulation you can do?” she asked. “Like, a slow burn?”

“Yeah, if you want to watch my clothes get kind of singed,” I said. “Slow burn equals cool burn.”

“Well, maybe we’ll start slow, then, and build to a jaw-dropping climax,” Steff said. “Are you going to have a problem with me capturing some images of it?”

“Of me being full-on demonic and then naked?” I said. “It’s hard for me to imagine two things I would enjoy the thought of floating around less than that.”

“It won’t be floating around,” Steff said. “Just my own one private copy, for personal use. Archival purposes only.”

“You’re getting a live show,” I said.

“You know I’m not picky about that part.”

“Yeah, well, it’s what you agreed to and what you’re getting,” I said.

“But I am definitely getting it, right?” Steff said. “I mean, these fulfill my side of the bargain? Let’s be explicit about this.”

I looked at the pictures. Where’d I’d originally suggested a merman, she’d drawn a mermaid… this was probably her idea of a sick joke, but it was mild from her. Anyway, I couldn’t really complain since I’d put a merfolk in there to begin with. I hadn’t even thought about it. It was just one of those things people put in aquariums.

The only real problem was that the mermaid was naked and human-looking from the waist up. That was accurate to their usual habits and presentation, but might present some marketing difficulties.

“Can you do something about her nipples?” I asked. “I don’t want to do the shell bra thing because that’s playing into a stereotype.”

“Right, let’s not stereotype the anthropophagous monsters we’re using to evoke warm fuzzy feelings of enchantment-under-the-sea-ness,” Steff said.

“Okay, I wasn’t thinking when I put the merman in, but I’d still rather stay true at least to how they present themselves to the surface world,” I said. “Just maybe put some jewelry on her, or reposition her hands or something?”

“How about this?” Steff said, and she pencilled in a stand of seaweed plastered to her chest, and then some similar ones around the rock the mermaid sat on so it didn’t look so random.

“That’s perfect,” I said. “Yes, definitely, you’ve earned your reward. Quest complete.”

Steff’s grin was priceless.

“You have no idea how happy I am to hear that,” she said.

Monday night was relatively untroubled, but though I didn’t remember even a tiny fragment of a dream I woke up with a certainty that I’d been observed while I slept. The feeling was too strong for me to write off and was with me as soon as I woke up, but it had even less foundation than my suspicions of the night before. This was the worst thing about dream problems: they made even less sense than real ones.

There was something almost taunting about it. I could force myself out of a dream if I knew it was happening. I was good at recognizing dreams, and as far as I knew I had a perfect record for spotting the ones that were being sent by an intruder. But if nothing happened that I could feel or identify while I was asleep, I could do nothing about it… allowing me to realize my headspace had been violated after the fact just seemed to be rubbing that in.

I acknowledged the possibility that I was being paranoid. Not in feeling like someone had been watching… that certainty had came out of nowhere. If it wan’t true, something must have planted it as a suggestion.

But it was possible I was being paranoid in ascribing motives. Maybe whatever method of penetration was being used couldn’t be done without leaving some kind of trace that would be noticed when I woke up.

Unless that was what someone wanted me to think…

I was inclined to blame my father over the owl-turtle thing, because the thing didn’t seem like the type to creep around and play this kind of head games. That wasn’t to say that it couldn’t be manipulative, but its conception of itself as a champion of self-awareness meant it would probably be less sneaky about it.

That was assuming it was on the up-and-up. I was more inclined to suspect my father, but there was something satisfying about laying the blame at the owl-turtle-thing’s feet.

Of course, it was possible that some third force was impinging on my sleep, knowing that there were two ready-made suspects for the blame to fall onto…

If just two nights of this was enough to have my head whirling around like this, I didn’t want to find out what a week or two would do to me. But I decided that no matter how I felt this morning or the next one, I was going to push all concerns about what may or may not be going on in my head to the back of the shelf.

I couldn’t be certain of anything on my own, and I couldn’t do anything about it, so there was no point in getting worked up about it.

I did check my a-mail as soon as I could Tuesday morning. I found a reply from Teddi asking me if seven on Thursday evening would work for me. I might have liked something sooner, but I hadn’t asked for anything specific or said it was urgent so I sent her a message back saying that it would work. I also sent an a-mail to Lee Jenkins to tell him I would like his lawyerly opinion on the letter that Professor Ariadne was apparently circulating.

With all that was going on in my head, I had a harder time paying attention in my lore and history discussion class. It was a participation-based class so I managed to throw out the answer to a couple of pretty obvious questions Professor Hart threw out to try to encourage discussion, but I had a hard time offering or taking in anything substantive.

I got my focus back in my first afternoon class, when I walked in and noticed two things that were missing. The dwarf-made model for the coronation sword that had been given pride of place among the various items Professor Stone had on display for inspiration was gone, and so was the girl who’d been a little too interested in it.

My heart sank. Trying to steal from dwarves was dangerous on a level that bordered on suicidal, but I wasn’t a big fan of disproportionate punishments. I’d almost had my own ass sold to a fairly deranged slaver as a result of a lopsided deal with a dwarf… my own carelessness, but it hadn’t left me with a positive opinion of the traditional dwarven standards of fairness and justice.

“I’m afraid the coronation sword has been removed ahead of schedule,” Professor Stone said at the start of class. He sounded genuinely regretful, though that could have meant a lot of things. “Our rare opportunity to study it up close will probably be all the rarer for a few generations. I did not become a teacher because I enjoyed lecturing, but let me take this opportunity to say that seeing a beautiful work of art should inspire you to create something of equal magnificence.”

“I heard someone stole it,” Nicki whispered to me. There were other murmurings around the room that I imagined were of a similar content.

“Just to prevent any rumors: it was not taken by thieves though, in fact, an attempt was made,” Stone said. “The sword’s protections were sufficient to stop the thieves, one of whom was apprehended shortly thereafter and released on a private bond. The vice-chancellor assures me that the other would be dealt with internally and then expelled.”

Knowing the vice-chancellor as I did, I couldn’t help but feel like this might be less benign a fate than it sounded. I wasn’t the only one who looked at the vacant spot where the overly inquisitive Ms. Anderson had been.

“To forestall any further rumors: Ms. Callie Anderson was not one of the thieves, but as I understand it she had at least a tenuous connection to some of them,” Professor Stone continued. “I believe she has withdrawn on a temporary holiday for her health, pending the negotiation of a satisfactory cure. Let us say no more on the subject! You should all have some designs for me, I think. I’m a little behind in my preparations for today, so instead of collecting them and moving on, why don’t you form into groups by table and present your designs to each other? Collect written feedback from at least two people, and then decide what changes, if any, you’d like to make. When you hand your work in Thursday, explain what you changed or didn’t change, in regard to the feedback, and why.”

Nicki and I immediately turned and handed our papers to each other.

“I bet some of the dwarves here tried to steal it,” she said. “I mean, they’re boy dwarves, so they’d be the enemies of the Schwertgriffs, right?”

“I don’t think it works like that,” I said. “I mean, male and female dwarves fight each other, but I don’t think they jockey for position or go for symbolic or strategic victories. Anyway, the Underhall went on some kind of lockdown over the weekend.”

“That could really go either way, though,” she said. “I mean, if they were working with the thieves, they’d be expecting retaliation.”

“I don’t think Professor Stone would have brought the sword into disputed territory.”

“Please,” Professor Stone announced to the class in general, “focus your attention on the subject hand. There is little to be gained in idle speculation, and there is nothing moe I can tell you than what I have already said.”

“What does ‘private bond’ mean?” Nicki asked me, a little more quietly. “Is that like out on bail?”

“Sort of,” I said. “It means there’s an agreement between a person and someone with standing in a case, where they’re basically not pressing charges on a certain condition. They used to be really common but it’s really easy to abuse them and turn it into extortion, so now they’re only allowed in certain conditions and have to be done through a tribunal. I’d guess in this case it means someone’s paying a hefty ‘fine’ to Clan Schwertgriff, possibly annually.”

“Wow,” Nicki said. “And the other person only got expelled.”

“Well, we only know that they weren’t caught and arrested,” I said. There was no reason to burden her with my suspicions. “They might be paying, too.”

“I guess,” Nicki said. She looked at my paper. “Wow, this is really good… this is… it’s not Steff’s art, is it?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Why?”

“Oh, it’s just weird that she drew something and nobody’s like all impaled or decapitated or something,” Nicki said. She pointed to the mermaid sitting on a rock. “I’d expect her to at least have a fish hook through her cheek or something.”

“I take it you’re familiar with her ouvre,” I said.

“Well… I know she has a lot of pictures of you.” She blushed. “When I said I’d seen you naked… I haven’t actually… I just… um, anyway, that’s how I recognized her drawing style, because of the mermaid. That’s how she always draws you. You know, minus the seaweed strands.”

“What do you mean, the pose?” I asked. I’d never made a habit of flipping through Steff’s sketchbook, but I’d seen her doodling me in a variety of positions, none of which looked half as comfortable or pleasant as perching on a jagged rock would be.

“No, not really the pose, more your face and the shape of your body and, um, breasts and stuff,” she said.

When I looked at the mermaid, I was surprised I hadn’t seen it sooner… and once I saw it, I could not unsee it. Steff had modeled the mermaid off of me. No, that was putting it too mildly: she’d used me as the mermaid. It was a drawing of me with a tail for my legs and a bit of seaweed obscuring my nipples.

“Oh, fuck!” I said.

“Please, class, let’s keep a certain level of decorum in our discussions,” Professor Stone said, exactly as if it hadn’t been any one person who had just screamed profanity. This transparent attempt to not single me out left me feeling more embarrassed than if he’d just said something to me.

“You didn’t notice?” Nicki asked.

“I didn’t think to look at her face,” I said. “And her hair’s all floaty… mine hasn’t been even this long for all that long, and I don’t spend a lot of time looking at my own boobs.”

“No, you’ve got much better ones to look a… oh, I didn’t mean it like that!” she said. “Yours are very nice. I mean…”

“It’s okay,” I said.

“Well, at least you have time to fix it,” Nicki said.

“Yeah… oh,” I said, and it occurred to me why Steff had wanted me to explicitly validate the deal with her. I hadn’t thought that was weird because we were both used to the idea of affirmed assent.

But it meant if I noticed her insertion and wanted her to change it, she could refuse… or hold out for something else. She’d given the pictures back to me knowing it was possible I wouldn’t catch it at all until it was too late and I had to turn them in as they were, but that probably didn’t bother her.

“Sorry,” Nicki said.

“What for? If you hadn’t said anything, I probably wouldn’t have noticed.”

“But now you’re gonna be all mad at her,” she said.

“Less mad than I might have been if I noticed it when I got it back,” I said. “Or if Professor Stone noticed and commented on it. Anyway, I did kind of twist her arm into doing this. I mean, I made it worth her while, but maybe I should have taken the hint that she’s not fully comfortable with the idea of having her artwork submitted for a grade.”

“I don’t think we’re being graded on artistic ability,” Nicki said. “And she sure isn’t, since she’s not in this class.”

“Yeah, but she still probably feels exposed,” I said. “I’ll apologize for pushing her and ask her nicely if she’ll alter the mermaid. If not, I’ll change it a bit myself. Make the face a little less distinct. It won’t look as good, but like you said, we’re not being graded on artistic ability.”

“Um… since you’re going to change it, do you want me to write down that the mermaid looks like you as my feedback?” Nicki said. “Because then you’re half done.”

“No,” I said. “The last thing I want is to leave a paper trail.”

“Okay,” she said. “I’d better find something else to put, then.”

“Yeah,” I said.

We both turned our attention fully to each other’s projects. Her sketch for her mirror was a simple picture of a standard public mirror with slightly more rounded corners and a dotted outline around it showing the margin for illusions around it, next to a picture of the same mirror with a fancy scrollwork design around it and one where the mirror was wreathed in flames. The scrollwork in particular was pretty sharp.

She had additional pictures showing a mirror with a face in it going “Blah, blah, blah” and vital statistics about the person hovering in little bubbles around it. That was a cool idea, but I thought it was a little busy and the position of everything seemed random. For my written feedback, I suggested something more condensed and to the point hanging beneath the mirror, with the possibility that the user could expand it to get more information showing up like as sidebars. It was less quirky, but arguably more useful.

Once we finished with each others, we had to find someone else to exchange papers with. I ended up with a guy who looked like he’d started from the same sort of ground that Nicki and I had both started with, a plain and functional sword that was illusioned up to be all fancy. He’d gone one step further, though, and dropped the real sword entirely. His product was a hilt that could project an illusion around itself, complete with a phantasmal blade. Taking Professor Stone’s advice, he’d presented the facts about his product as advertising copy.

The Phanblade 250 is the ultimate weapon in non-lethal self-defense. It’s light. It’s portable. It’s safe indoors and out. Never injure yourself or your loved ones even temporarily with a personalized white list. Customize your blade and trade designs with your friends.

Phanblade 250 may not be effective on mindless constructs or undead. Damage restrictions may apply.

He had a page and a half of notes that sketched out how the enchantment would function, in general terms, which wasn’t actually required but it seemed like a good idea now that I was looking at it. Technically until we got to the product we actually had to produce we could probably hand in ideas that were completely unfeasible as long as the reasons for that had nothing to do with aesthetics, but I had a feeling that Professor Stone would prefer that we stuck to things that could actually come about. Using the television’s own illusion spells to show an aquarium seemed pretty self-explanatory, but I decided to add at least a brief mention in my own notes about it.

For my feedback on the Phanblade 250, my first thought was that I would have more use for it personally if it wasn’t limited to swords, but telling the guy that he should make something else instead didn’t seem to be actually addressing the product in front of me. Then I realized that if he simplified the actual physical part of the hilt… drop the cross piece, just basically make it a short grippy stick… then it could become part of an axe handle or a staff or the haft of a mace as easily as it became a sword hilt.

I wrote out some brief words to that effect and handed it back.

“Thanks,” he said, looking at them. “I think I’m probably going to stick with the sword hilt, though. It’s simple and iconic.”

“A full sword hilt is simpler than just a straight grip?”

“I mean the concept is simpler, easier to graps,” he said. “Easier to sell people on. That’s my instinct, anyway.”

“Fair enough,” I said.

I looked at what he’d written on mine.

Cool idea, but using the creator’s face for the naked mermaid seems a little weird.

“Is there any chance I could get you to write something else?” I asked.

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67 Responses to “Chapter 59: Facial Recognition”

  1. Let’s hear it for timely updates. 🙂

    Current score: 0
  2. Tigger says:

    Typo alert:
    “there is nothing moe I can tell you” – more?

    Otherwise, fun chapter. Hopefully that will teach Mack not to thoroughly look over things that she asks of Steff!

    Current score: 0
    • Brenda says:

      I think you mean “not to not thoroughly look…”

      Current score: 0
      • Tigger says:

        I think I actually meant “to thoroughly” or “to not”. I get to typing in a hurry and my brain can’t keep up.

        Current score: 0
  3. Tyrius says:

    “The vice-chancellor assures me that the other would be dealt with internally and then expelled.”

    My wife is now wondering why I fell off my computer chair laughing. Brilliant… just brilliant

    Also – “I mean the concept is simpler, easier to graps,”

    You typo’d grasp

    Current score: 1
    • Zarflax says:

      Sheer genius!

      I’m sitting in a train, had to really hold back to not laugh out loud and cause a scene… ^^

      Current score: 0
  4. Null Set says:

    “The vice-chancellor assures me that the other would be dealt with internally and then expelled.”

    I see what you did there. ಠ_ಠ

    Current score: 1
    • Kaila says:

      Yes, but who/what’s internals, and expelled as what sized pellet? From an owl? A cat? A dragon?

      Current score: 0
      • Null Set says:

        I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a currently cat shaped dragon.

        Current score: 1
        • Oni says:

          Would make sense. Dragons and treasure, after all; I wouldn’t be surprised if the V.C. was in the vicinity of the sword at the time.

          Current score: 1
  5. Riotllama says:

    Heh. Dealt with internally and then expelled. I dealt internally with a burrito for lunch yesterday and plan to expel it soon.

    Current score: 4
  6. Greenwood Goat says:

    Okay. Yay for timely updates!


    “…nothing moe I can tell you…” – more?

    When I read…

    “The vice-chancellor assures me that the other would be dealt with internally and then expelled.”

    *dissonant beat* *click* Bwah ha ha!

    Just how Embries would think of such things. Of course, Mack probably suspects that he was the one doing the internal processing, rather than just wishing he was. I’m sure he lamented privately over missed opportunities when he received the report, but whatever his considerable abilities, he can’t be everywhere at once. If he had been, he would surely have taken both mice – one for now and one for later!

    Anyway, it looks like the clan have been shown enough gold to dissuade them from direct action against Seth and his family – for now. Callie Anderson might not have been involved at all, but her name clearly came up. Dwarven clans might not be inclined to give the benefit of any doubt (except, perhaps, to make it look like an accident) so she might be staying out of the way until any such doubts are allayed.

    Mack really needs to do something about her self-image. Even if you can’t recognise your good points, you ought to be able to recognise your own face, even if it is on a mermaid’s body.

    Current score: 0
    • Brenda says:

      She was focusing on the mermaid’s chest, not her face. It’s not as instantly recognizable.

      Current score: 1
      • Jennifer says:

        Mack WOULD focus on the chest of the mermaid rather then the face, it’s definitely one of her… habits.

        Current score: 1
        • SongCoyote says:

          Mack: “Whoa, TITS!”
          Anyone: “Um, dear… those are *your* tits.”

          Current score: 5
  7. Jennifer says:

    Great chapter, I really enjoyed it. But one nagging question grabbed me near the middle and somewhat distracted me until the end:

    Does the fact we skimmed over the history/lore class mean we don’t get to hear the Shift discussion????

    Current score: 0
  8. Billy Bob says:

    LOL: “dealt with internally and then expelled”

    As in eaten by a cat then pooped out. Nice.

    Current score: 0
  9. Anthony says:

    Remove the crosspiece on the phantasmal sword hilt? So did Mackenzie just invent the lightsabre?

    Current score: 2
    • Lunaroki says:


      Current score: 0
    • Eris Harmony says:

      Wonder if you could then add various effects to the blade as part of the different illusions, like cauterizing wounds (or maybe freezing what it touches. I like ice, even if Mack doesn’t)

      Current score: 0
  10. Lunaroki says:

    Typo Report

    “How about this?” Steff said, and she pencilled in a stand of seaweed plastered to her chest,

    Not 100% certain on this one but I’m thinking “stand” should be “strand”, although maybe it’s alright as is.

    The vice-chancellor assures me that the other would be dealt with internally and then expelled.”

    Tense disagreement between “assures” and “would be”. Either the former should be “assured” or the latter should be “will be”. It just seems to me more reasonable to expect that Professor Stone would have his sentence thought out more carefully than Fred did in the previous chapter.

    “Please,” Professor Stone announced to the class in general, “focus your attention on the subject * hand.

    Missing the word “at” after “subject”. Unless of course they are studying a hand as their subject, in which case the sentence works fine as is.

    Current score: 0
    • Burnsidhe says:

      Stand is actually correct. Most kinds of seaweed grow in clusters on the sea floor, and that’s usually called a stand.

      Well, it would be if it were actually anchored to the seabed.

      Current score: 0
      • Brenda says:

        I don’t think it’s actually growing out of her chest…

        Current score: 0
        • Zukira Phaera says:

          Just has to be near enough that it could reasonable wave over her and obscure the nipples.

          Current score: 0
    • fka_luddite says:

      The construction “assures”-“would be” while unusual is not necessarily wrong; effectively the clause introduced by “that” becomes subjunctive.

      Current score: 0
  11. Chris says:

    “I take it you’re familiar with her ouvre,” I said.


    Nice to see Nicki again, and ‘dealt with internally’ is hilarious.

    (edited for html fail)

    Current score: 0
  12. readstospouse says:

    I also loled at dealt with internally and expelled.

    I’m going to pretend though, that a little folk stepped in to rescue her from the careless neglect of her idiot boy. They seem big on teaching people lessons, see the crippled elf queen bee(atch).

    Current score: 0
  13. Anne says:

    I loved the chapter and noted the following… Not that I’m alone 😀
    and there is nothing moe I can tell you


    concept is simpler, easier to graps,”


    Current score: 0
  14. anon y mouse says:

    “For my written feedback, I suggested something more condensed and to the point hanging beneath the mirror, with the possibility that the user could expand it to get more information showing up like as sidebars.” – like or as, maybe?

    Current score: 0
    • Daremonai says:

      I read that as “like (for example) as sidebars” – more a colloquialism than a grammar or typographical error.

      Current score: 0
  15. Zathras IX says:

    Cunning linguistics:
    Schwertgriff is Dwarvish/German
    For “hilt” (a “sword grip”)

    Current score: 0
  16. Iason says:

    Timely updates (and updates in general) YAY!

    Thank you for a nice chapter. The story seems to flow really well.

    Arms stuck in YAY-position.
    (typing difficult, yes)

    Current score: 0
  17. Author_Unknown says:

    How could he only notice the face was the same… is he blind? Or was he just being diplomatic with his comment?

    Current score: 0
    • Burnsidhe says:

      He probably hasn’t actually made a study of Mack’s nude breasts, whereas her face is always exposed.

      Current score: 1
  18. Readaholic says:

    Om nom nom! Makes we wonder if Embries WAS the cat. Or at least made the cat carry the mouse, still alive, back to him for his own personal enjoyment. I also get the feeling that he enjoyed the pun.

    Current score: 0
  19. Nyysjan says:

    Again i end up asking myself, just why does anyone bother with Steff?
    There should be a limit on how much crap you take from someone before you decide that they are not worth it.
    But, then again, i never was a fan of her in the first place.

    But, to avoid being completely negative, i also think the “dealth internally and then expelled” was pretty awesome joke.

    Current score: 0
  20. N'ville says:

    Typo, that so far seems to have been missed where Mack is going over the sense of invasion in her dream=

    “If it wan’t true, something must have planted it as a suggestion.”

    Should be- “If it wasn’t true,” Letter “S” missing.

    Otherwise, good fun, Steff and the mermaid, where Mack hadn’t seen that it was her face, just priceless and so typical of Steff.

    Everyone else has commented about Dealt with internally , or now there is a thought, should that really mean infernally?
    Good joke there.

    Current score: 0
  21. Mad Nige says:

    Could Mack rescue the mermaid image position by suggesting the ‘improvement’ that the mer-person illusion be cast in the image of the owner (as both personalization and anti-theft)?

    I feel stupid ‘cos although ‘dealt with internally’ tweaked my attention, I didn’t make the proper connection.

    Current score: 1
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      I like that, a personal id imprinted on an item. Maybe give it a ‘reminder stance’ please return me to *insert name, or drop me off at the nearest (insert location) so I may be returned* that comes up as the mer-person filling the screen unless the facial recognition is made.

      Current score: 1
      • mafidufa says:

        I think that would work very well with Nicki’s mirror but it seems like a weird feature to have on a TV.

        Current score: 0
        • Zukira Phaera says:

          I was kinda thinking on the smart phone or even old style portable tv level with it.

          Current score: 0
  22. Sage says:

    Typo: graps = grasp near the end.

    Overall an awesome chapter. I love Steff’s sense of humor.

    Current score: 0
    • Christy says:

      I personally think it went too far. Mack has just been portrayed as another human-eater, the part of herself she hates with a passion.

      Current score: 0
      • Lyssa says:

        On the bright side, Mack doesn’t seem to have made that connection herself. But I agree that aspect of it makes it even more tasteless.

        Current score: 0
    • Lee says:

      I also think she went too far with it. :I Mack asks for a merman, and instead Steff draws her naked and portrayed as a human-eating race that she had several close encounters with? It would be like /knowing/ what happened with Embries and then drawing her with a dragon. Douchey… and I say that as someone who normally finds Steff amusing.

      Current score: 1
  23. Erm says:

    The vice-chancellor assures me that the other would be dealt with internally and then expelled.


    Current score: 1
  24. Erm says:

    Cool idea, but using the creator’s face for the naked mermaid seems a little weird.

    It’s even funnier because I saw that coming. 😛

    Current score: 0
  25. Dave says:

    I’ve been picturing Mackenzie’s public mirror as being a bit like this one. The mermaid could be part of the screen saver.

    Scroll down to the end of the article and admire the scroll-work!

    Current score: 1
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      That was awesome, thanks for sharing. I am in serious lust of that now.

      Current score: 0
    • Lyssa says:

      Nicki did the public mirror. Mack’s is a television.

      Current score: 0
      • Zukira Phaera says:

        now if they just worked together on something I bet together they could have an intelligent mirror (er smart phone?) as a possible project.

        Current score: 0
  26. Trystia Indraea Olyphis Farrower says:

    You know, I have to say that ‘naked mermaid’ seems to be about as tautological as ‘nude nymph’, emphasizing, in my opinion, the racial views of humans on campus. Saying something like that implies that merfolk ought to wear clothes like most humans do, and that their cultural norms are thus less valued than those of humans.

    As for the whole big deal about Mackenzie being the model for said mermaid, why? It wasn’t even unheard of back during high school to submit self-portraits for the really high level art classes that were attired in a manner that didn’t meet dress codes, and I’d think it to be even less of a problem at the college level, though I stopped bothering with art classes after high school.

    Current score: 0
  27. Lana says:

    Steff actually makes me kind of uncomfortable when she shows up. P:
    She definitely has some skeevy issues, and everyone (except Ian) really seems to like her.

    I think Mack’s love of self-deprecation and non-lethal harm makes her think it’s all sexyfuntimes, but I get this odd feeling that Steff would do the same stuff even if Mack -didn’t- feel that way.

    I really am not sure how the reader is supposed to feel about Steff, which kind of makes it even worse, but I think I agree with Ian on this one.

    Love the story though! It’s one of the only regularly updating things I have remained with for so long. 🙂
    I look forward to the every new chapter! <3

    Current score: 1
    • Lyssa says:

      Yeah, Steff is a real asshole. I’m not very fond of her, myself. She doesn’t seem to be that much better than Puddy most of the time, except that Mack likes her anyway for reasons that don’t seem very sensible to me.

      Current score: 0
      • Lana says:

        I agree with you completely. 🙂
        A comparison to Puddy was even in my first draft of that comment, but I took it out because I didn’t want people focusing on just that.
        Puddy definitely has gone further in some ways, so I didn’t want to seem like I wasn’t taking that into consideration, but Steff is just as bad in others. I actually find her even creepier, and not in “the good way”. 😛
        Sometimes it seems like we’re supposed to really find her cool and edgy or something and I think that’s why she seems worse to me. The stuff she does to/tells Mack sometimes makes my skin crawl.

        I’m thinking we’re probably supposed to feel this way, and maybe someday Mack will notice it for herself too, but it’s not really all that obvious.

        I guess that’s one of the dangers of writing about such deep mindsets/kinks/etc. It’s hard to show an unbiased view without seeming like maybe you support it sometimes.

        Though I could have it all wrong of course. x3

        Current score: 0
        • Lyssa says:

          That pretty much sums it up to me. Puddy was much more of a rapist sort of mind (obviously) but it seems like Steff is just an opportunistic sort, which isn’t much better. There are enough things that she would be willing to do whether Mack liked it or not, and plenty of things that she pushes knowing that Mack doesn’t like them. Add into it the fact that she would be pretty cheerful if Mack died and you’ve got a really unlikable character, from my point of view.

          Current score: 0
          • Gruhl says:

            I do get the feeling that while Steff does the creepy act very well, it is in part bluster to make her feel self-confident or something. But future will tell and only AE knows.

            Current score: 0
            • Nyysjan says:

              I agree that her actions are, in part, possibly a very large part, bluster to look more confident and less like a victim.

              But, to me atleast, that does not make her anymore likeable character, or even more tolerable.

              She still feels like someone nobody in their right mind would stick around for any length of time.

              Current score: 0
      • Eris Harmony says:

        I think the main difference between Steff and Puddy is a sense of boundaries. Steff has issues that she is well aware of, and she certainly tries to stay on the far side of the line delineating ‘creepy’, but at worst she seems to test boundaries a little too much. She also isn’t nearly as manipulative as Puddy–you won’t see her trying to smother Mack and then making Mack feel guilty over defending herself.

        It’s also a little hard to tell how her interactions with Mack go. I tend to read them as more teasing–she knows Mack isn’t up for it, and Mack knows she isn’t entirely serious. But I can see how it would get read differently.

        Current score: 0
    • I really am not sure how the reader is supposed to feel about Steff

      I wish I could write every character so well.

      Love the story though! It’s one of the only regularly updating things I have remained with for so long.

      Thank you for writing the nineteen words I most needed to hear tonight.

      Current score: 1
    • Dan says:

      Who really likes her? Amaranth is kinda daft, Mack is only a marginally better judge of character, and has the hots for her. Two and Dee, honey, etc, aren’t exactly her bffs.

      Current score: 1
  28. pedestrian says:

    I am surprised that an semi-open campus has feral? house? cats prowling around. If the wards did not interfere with that level of natural predator I would think whatever fills in the ecological niche for coyote would also be patrolling. And they consider cats to be food-to-go.

    Steff has Viktor of course, though that relationship may be cooling. And Steff has shared interests with the other Necromancer students. There would be strong competition for fresh corpses and bragging rights to getting to be first in line to necrophilliate a new body. Study buddies with benefits?

    No, you do NOT want to know about ANY of the hijinks medical students get up to with corpses. Stop thinking about it, I mean it! You’re going to puke up your breakfast if you don’t stop thinking about that.

    Current score: 0