In Which Dee Holds Back

The meeting part of the meeting was obviously over, but we hadn’t really eaten yet so we all had some of the pizza or other appropriate food while Hazel talked to Glory in rather quiet tones about her plans and needs. Hazel stayed behind when the rest of us left, either because there was more to be settled or because there was still pizza left.

Surprisingly, Dee excused herself and went back to join them… I kind of doubted she had any misgivings about leaving Hazel alone with the elven queen now, but maybe she just felt like keeping up the protocol

Even though my future with Glory was now more up in the air than ever, I left the Archimedes Center feeling like it was the most solid resolution I’d had in a long time. What happened next was up to her, and until she made her next move, the whole deal was one less thing that I had to worry about.

“Do you have time to help me do a quick test run with Emily?” I asked Amaranth when we were outside. I’d already told her the parameters of my new understanding with the owl-turtle thing, so it wasn’t completely out of the blue.

“Oh, I would think so,” she said. “It didn’t exactly take long, last time… I can’t imagine you have anything in mind that would take longer.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I mean, ideally I’d be able to remove my external screen a little bit at a time, but even if I take the circlet off slowly it’s not going to work at that… when it’s past the point where I’m technically wearing it on my head, the effect will end all at once. Basically, I just need you to explain to her what’s going on, and let me know if she expresses any discomfort or distress.”

“Why wouldn’t you just leave it off outside and then approach slowly?” Amaranth asked.

“…that honestly didn’t occur to me,” I said. “I mean, the point is to see if she can stand my presence inside her. But yeah, I guess that would be the closest thing I could do to gradually lowering the screen. Hmm…”

“What are you thinking now?”

“Just that I don’t like carrying the circlet in my hands,” I said. “And I like the idea even less if there’s a chance that Emily might lash out in some way… but I’ll need to be able to get it on in a hurry if something does go wrong and I’m already well inside her territory.”

“So I’m going to be your spotter, too, then,” she guessed.

“Exactly,” I said.

“Okay, well, how about you go and get your tiara and then meet me there?” she said. “That way I’ll have more time to try to prepare her for it.”

“This sounds suspiciously like a plan,” I said.

It might have seemed like poor planning to not have brought the circlet with me, but I really didn’t like having it outside its case in my room more than necessary. It might have made things a little tighter if Glory’s business had taken longer, but there was no reason I absolutely needed to do the test before my class. If going back for it would leave me with just enough time to make it to the building in time for class, I’d just have to do it afterwards.

To be perfectly technical about it, I only had to do the test sometime before the owl-turtle thing’s next appearance. Though if it seemed hopeless, I’d want to know sooner rather than later so I could drop the class in a timely fashion… that by itself was reason enough not to put this off.

That, and the sooner I knew where I stood, the sooner I could return the circlet to Teddi and I would no longer be responsible for the safety of an expensive magical heirloom. If Emily didn’t react badly immediately, I wouldn’t go running to return it… and not just because I’d promised not to run with it. I’d keep it next to me during class, just in case there was a delayed reaction. But if I could spend the whole hour and a half class period bareheaded with no adverse effects… yeah, I’d be done with it, and that would be a weight off my shoulders.

Knowing how close I was to being done with the damn thing made it almost perversely more difficult to maintain the slow, steady, careful pace I’d adopted when wearing it. I wasn’t exactly tempted to break into a run, just… pick up the pace a little. It was almost over, I was almost done. In a rational world, this should have made the time it took me to get from the towers to the Emily Center seem like less of a big deal, but instead they were intolerable.

The urge to quicken my pace grew stronger when I spotted Amaranth waiting and watching for me at the junction of the paths leading to the design building. She looked a little anxious… that could have been in anticipation of possible future problems, but I assumed the worst.

“Is everything okay?” I asked her.

“Emily’s… a little scared,” she said.

“You told her it’s going to be okay, though, right?”

“Well… I explained the situation as best as I can,” she said. “But the bottom line is that I can’t promise her it’s not going to hurt, while also telling her that it might hurt a little.”

“But we’re trying to fix the problem that causes the pain!” I said.

“Yes, but from her perspective, it’s already fixed,” Amaranth said. “She understands that it’s the circlet that’s making the difference, but she doesn’t really understand why you have to stop using it.”

“Can you explain that it won’t be available forever, and that we’re testing out something that might do the same thing?”

“That’s pretty close to how I’ve conveyed it to her, but tenses are a bit… tricky,” she said. “The whole concept of time, really…”

“She’s got to have a concept of time,” I said. “Day, night… week days, weekends. Semester. Class periods.”

“Yes, but it’s not really the same concept of time that I have,” Amaranth said. “It’s like a language barrier… a cabbage and an oak tree both see time differently but I could still explain it to them on their own terms, but I’m just not sure how to make a building understand.”

“Okay, well… do you think her fear is going to affect the test?” I asked. “I mean, is she likely to flinch worse, or whatever?”

“Baby… I don’t think we can do the test if she doesn’t want us to.”

“You mean she’s so scared that she’ll keep me from approaching?”

“I mean, ethically… I don’t think it would be right,” she said. “To enter a sentient building without her consent, or to expose a spirit to potentially harmful energy without permission.”

“It’s not that harmful, though… the way it was explained to me, I’m basically like a mosquito bite, or at most a bee sting.”

“If mosquitos were sapient, how would you feel about them biting you without permission?”

“Well, I’d expect a sapient mosquito to understand my skin’s not actually vulnerable to bug bites… but since we’re assuming he does it anyway, I guess I’d think he was a jerk,” I said.

“She,” Amaranth said. “Only female mosquitos bite.”

“Anyway, I take your point,” I said. “But…”

“But what?”

“…well, I was going to say that I have rights, too,” I said. “But I guess not really any that override the basic concern here. My right to an education or even to go to a particular class doesn’t change the fact that it would be wrong to do this, does it?”

My anger at the owl-turtle thing for altering our deal had mostly subsided by the time I woke up, but I found it was creeping back… before, it had seemed like the changes might not entirely screw me. Now it seemed like they inevitably had.

“I’m afraid it really doesn’t,” Amaranth said. “Maybe legally some kind of case could be made, but the resolution would probably be that the university can’t keep you from going into the building, but the consequences would be on you. But we’re not talking about the finer points of law, we’re talking about an entity that’s afraid of pain.”

I sighed.

“Okay… please tell her that I’ll be wearing the circlet today. Keeping it on.” I knew that Tuesday-Thursday were light days on Amaranth’s schedule, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have imposed on her as far as I was about to. “Do you have anywhere you need to be?”

“No, this is an open block for me,” she said.

“Then would you mind staying and trying to reach her while I’m in class?” I asked. “If you can work your way around to an understanding, maybe we can try afterwards?”

It sounded like such a feeble prospect when I said it out loud, but I couldn’t give up… the only thing I could possibly do after this was try to draw the owl-turtle thing out and make it live up to the original agreement, which seemed even less likely to work. And even if it did, even if I ended up with what seemed like a one hundred percent cast-iron mental screen in place, I’d still have to test it somehow.

“Of course!” Amaranth said. “Don’t worry, baby… this is new ground for Emily, but she’s smart, in her own way. I’m sure she’ll come around.”

“I really, really hope you’re right.”

I could have added another “really” or three to that, but even then, it still would have been an understatement.

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22 Responses to “Chapter 171: Freely Entering”

  1. Alico says:

    A truly interesting dilemma. The idea of sentient objects or buildings really does mess with the cultural definitions that we currently use, really. Can you ‘own’ a sentient sword? Does Magistrates University actually own Emily? Would tearing a sentient building down to create room for a new one count as a form of murder?

    As it stands, the ethical questions would never come up in the real world, but they are still interesting to look at!

    Also on the rise in the ToMU world, PETIO. People for the Ethical Treatment of Intelligent Objects!

    Current score: 1
    • zeel says:

      It is extremely weird to think about. The buildings purpose is to have people come inside of it and hold classes. The idea that the building could say “no, you may not come in” boggles the mind. And yet it’s true, if it is sapient it should have that right.

      Current score: 0
      • wocket says:

        zeel, here’s the way I see it: A sex worker’s job is to sexually satisfy people. But sex workers are still allowed to say “no, you cannot be my client”.
        Retail businesses exist so people can come in and buy things, but it’s not unheard of for people to be barred from entering those, either.
        Consent always exists, in one form or another. Why shouldn’t that extend to buildings?

        Current score: 1
        • pedestrian says:

          My wife and I did volunteer work for a NGO that assisted abused, misused, and abandoned women and children with finding shelter and escape. There is nothing consensual about the sex trade. When they are not forced into it by their own boyfriends, husbands, fathers, they are trapped by drug addictions.

          Pornography is a lie. The women are drug addled prostitutes being filmed for the money to buy more drugs with. The sex trade has nothing to do with sex, it is all about the power to exploit and degrade others and the profits to be earned.

          The Emily Building has a limited awareness, as self-absorbed as a child. As the OT AU storyline has begun to touch upon self-awareness without self-empowerment is a cruel affliction. What happens when Emily matures and expands her awareness of the world, the society around her. And, asks herself the questions, “Am I alone?” “What do I want to do with my existence? My future?”

          It would be an interesting development if DI building’s {Divinely Intelligent} began to communicate with one another and developed a community of their own.

          Current score: 0
          • Maxwell says:

            In your experience that is probably correct, and maybe even in 90% of porn videos that is correct, but the adult film actors and actresses I know are quite well-adjusted and happy with their lives and not at all ‘drug-addled prostitutes’. Then again, they actually work for legally registered adult film companies on the up-and-up. Please don’t use sweeping generalizations to insult my friends. Thank you.

            Current score: 2
          • Ixtlilton says:

            Way to be both insanely insulting and belittling to any woman or man who has ever entered the sex work business of their own free will, let alone any pornography actors who do it of their own free will. Unless you have met literally every single sex worker in the entire history of the world, you don’t get to make such rude, insulting, demeaning generalizations. Your words are borderline misogynistic, frankly, implying that any woman who does something you can’t imagine them doing is brain damaged, abused, otherwise “not sane”.

            The horrors of human trafficking and illegal sex trades are real and do not need to be diminished by you comparing them to a grown woman making decisions you don’t understand or agree with.

            Current score: 2
    • Erm says:

      The ethical dilemmas are interesting, but I don’t see the Magisterian legal system taking much of an interest. They already have legal slavery and the slaughter of humans; that doesn’t really speak to them endowing sentient beings with inherent rights…

      Current score: 0
  2. pedestrian says:

    Kinda like trying to explain to a programmer a problem you are having with their code. They ‘Know’ that it works for them. They have a dim view of whatever you are using it for and that it keeps failing on you.

    The programmers get that long-suffering tone in their voice, ’cause you are interfering with them getting back to playing ‘Angry Birds’ or whatever.

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      I am having a hard time figuring out what your talking about. . .

      Current score: 0
      • pedestrian says:

        Z, I think what I am trying to say is. this failure of mine to communicate to you the meaning of my idea is relevant to my failure to communicate with programmers is relevant to the failure of communication between Mackenzie to Amaranth to Emily. A MU version of the game of telephone.

        We are each ‘talking’ from our own perspective and many times our viewpoints do not overlap. Relativism is from singular POVs.

        How about considering this. You drop a mirror and it shatters across the floor. Each piece still reflects the image of the same room but each piece is now showing you a different viewpoint of the same view.

        Current score: 0
  3. Zathras IX says:

    Dee holds back because
    It’s not all that different
    Than when she hold forth

    Current score: 0
  4. Iain says:

    Why does that class have to be there?
    It’s a big campus. Though it’s just one person, it sounds like it’s a small class. Why not move?

    Current score: 0
    • Mike says:

      That’s the Bardic Arts building, right? I forget exactly, but that seems to be the class’s designated area and good luck trying to get a beaurocracy to change anything, especially something as minor (relatively) as this.

      Current score: 0
    • pedestrian says:

      Professor Stone may have specialized requirements for teaching his course and security needs dictated by the value of his displays. He may have a special relationship with Emily, that allows him special access and the use of the facilities.

      And of course, in the MUniverse, the Dwarves are real bugabears about security and protocols and defenses-in-depth.

      Current score: 0
  5. Mist says:

    Do other sentients get the “I don’t have to do it because I don’t want minor pain” option too? Studying always gave me a headache and at school I used to get stitch in my side when running, then there was contact sports.. Oh and standing in queues kills my feet and back… I surely not the only one. Why do sentient buildings get the soft privilege option?

    Current score: 0
    • Lyssa says:

      Because it’s Amaranth, a vegetarian who always try to avoid causing pain to anything alive. Besides, I don’t think empathetic access to a half-demon’s mind compares well to having a stitch when you go running.

      Current score: 0
      • Mist says:

        I refer to the injuries I’m expected to ignore and “just get on with the job”.
        Yet I’m repeatedly told that people can’t be inconvenienced or educated, they have rights etc.
        After all what’s a bit of chronic planar fasciitis if “others” want comfort and convenience.

        Current score: 0
  6. TheTurnipKing says:

    Contact with an infernal mind is apparently more than just “minor pain”. I seem to recall that it’s considered genuinely dangerous.

    Current score: 0
    • pedestrian says:

      And if you really, really piss off a building, it could drop a ceiling on you! Word to the wise….snicker

      Current score: 0
  7. zeel says:

    Interesting article on i09:

    What do you think my reply to that question was. . .?

    I’ll give you one guess 😉

    Current score: 0
    • Burnsidhe says:

      The best system of magic in any fantasy world is the one which best fits as an element of the stories being told. 😛

      Current score: 0
  8. OhPun says:

    “this is new ground for Emily” – very clever. As a sentient building becomes more mature/gains new experiences, does it become topologically more complex while maintaining the same exterior dimensions (like the Koch snowflake)?

    And what are the consequences for Amaranth’s field for her attending University? Is the beer brewed from her field more complex?

    Current score: 0